Two Brothers with Type 1 Diabetes
Thatcher Heldring, freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes

Thatcher Heldring

Thatcher Heldring is a freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes, environmental education, and other issues related to children and health. He has also partnered with clients working on literacy, sustainable communities, youth leadership development, and health policy. Most recently he was the Director of Communications and Creative Services at IslandWood, the Seattle-based outdoor learning organization. He is also the author of four sports novels for young readers and the father of a 10-year-old T1 and a 13-year-old T3. You can reach Thatcher through his website at

Our family learned a lot about type 1 diabetes in the weeks after our son Peter was diagnosed just a few days before his third birthday. We learned that there is no cure, and that nothing we did or did not do contributed to the diagnosis.  We learned that Peter could still eat anything, as long as we counted the carbs.

And we learned that, while Peter was the patient, type 1 diabetes happens to the whole family.

Certainly Peter bore the burden of the disease, physically and mentally, while my wife and I took up the work of being another human being’s pancreas. Living through it all, one bedroom over, was Peter’s older brother Jack, not yet six.  

Jack did his best at the time to tell us how he felt about type 1 diabetes, but mostly he did not have the words to say what he needed to say.  I’m here. I’m scared. And I don’t understand why you are spending more time with this stupid disease than you do with me.

Often, Jack expressed his feelings in outbursts, which could be intense, but we see now that he was hurting, like we all were.

Over the next few years, Jack found his new normal, just like we all did, leaving us with two boys who played and fought like ordinary brothers.  Along the way, Jack also found his voice. This spring, he shared his feelings about type 1 diabetes in a This I Believe essay for his fifth-grade class.

I’m pleased to say Jack has agreed to share it with other families – and especially siblings – who are learning to live with chronic diseases.

–Thatcher Heldring

"Different Doesn’t Equal Bad" - An Essay by Jack Heldring

I was about six years old when my life changed completely. My dad picked me up at karate looking anxious. There were tears in his eyes. He hustled me down the hallway. He pulled me into the car. He told me my brother Peter was sick. We were meeting my mom at the hospital. After ten minutes of driving, we pulled into the parking lot. My mom was there looking nervous. That was the day I found out Peter had type 1 diabetes.

I remember feeling sad, confused, and icky from the hospital smell. At first I thought this was all wrong. This was the worst thing possible. Now I know that it could be much worse. We could have not seen the symptoms and never known he had diabetes. He might have gotten much sicker.  Thankfully, when my mom was younger she had a cat named Lucky with diabetes, and that was the only way she knew the signs.

This experience has led me to believe that life isn’t always perfect and that different doesn’t have to mean bad. If you think you have a bad life then there is always someone who has it worse than you. Instead of thinking about what is bad about your life, think about what’s good. Photo of two brothers standing next to one another

Now Peter is a normal boy with a small disability. He can still play sports, go to his friends’ houses, and eat cake. 

I use this in life when I see people on the street doing odd things.  I know they are still normal people. They’re just unique. In a way, everyone is different. But, at the same time, we are also the same. It’s hard having type 1 diabetes in the family, but it’s also taught me to see the world in a new way.  

Living With A Disease

July 27, 2018

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