On the surface, Elissa Renouf looks like your typical mother of five beautiful, happy, healthy, well-loved children, four boys and one girl, ages 13 to 21. Digging further, you’ll learn their family’s life is a little more complicated than others – four children with type 1 diabetes (two with celiac disease), and one child with epilepsy and suspected brain tumor. Even with the constant on going management of the health issues they’ve been handed, they’ve never lost determination to live as positive as possible.
Q. Tell us what it’s like being a D-Mom to four children with diabetes, and one without?
A. It’s a full time job, but having five kids in general is a full time job. Charlie was my first child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002, at the age of three. My responsibility helping manage my children’s diabetes was a general progression, and every eight months, it seemed like another child had a diagnosis. I wanted a positive, stress-free life for myself and children, so had no other way but to learn to manage and accept it.
Q. How do you help each of them manage their diabetes? How does it differ from the next child?
A. It is important for my children to manage their diabetes self-sufficiently, so I had each of them involved in their management from day one. The more they understood how to manage their diabetes, the better control they could have so they could grow into happier, healthier adults. I taught them how to count their carbs and the glycemic index in food, and that if they wanted food, they would also need insulin. Empowering them to manage their diabetes gave them the confidence to make sound diabetes management decisions the rest of their lives.
Q. With four children with diabetes, how do you keep track of their blood sugar trends and diabetes supplies?
A. When they were younger, I kept a logbook with all of their numbers and time of day, and would sit down after every meal to write everything down. It was easier for me to write it down so I could easily glance down at their trends, insulin to food ratios, etc. It was a big job. During the night, my husband and I would always test our children at 9:30pm and 1:00am, switching off weeks to do the nightly testing.
Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the time your first child was diagnosed, to when your latest child was diagnosed?
A. From the first diagnosis, I’ve always tried to keep a positive outlook on life, not dwell on why so many health misfortunes have been thrust upon our family, or blame myself. More importantly, I try to never blame anything on diabetes, because I don’t want my children being resentful of their diabetes, so I’m careful with my choice of words and how I phrase things. I accept diabetes is there, and it’s just part of my life and theirs. If someone has bad levels that day, it happens. Tomorrow is a new day, and we’ll start over again.
Q. With so much of a focus on the health of your family members, how do you find ways to prioritize your own individual health and well-being?
A. Originally a farm girl, I’ve always loved animals, but I didn’t realize how important they were to me until I was older. When Charlie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we lived on a farm and had a lot of animals. At first, I thought we wouldn’t be able to manage everything, but being with them outside with nature actually helped calm me down and refocus my attention on something else. Starting my own business, Diabete-ezy , in 2004 has been a great distraction as well, and it also empowers me by helping others.
Q. What advice do you have for other D-Parents?
A. Positivity is so important, and upsetting as it is when your child is diagnosed with diabetes, it is manageable. Never blame diabetes on anything, or say your child can’t do something because of diabetes. Yes, diabetes is hard, but if my family can remain positive with the challenges we’ve been handed, then there is no reason why other families can’t do the same. Take care and always try to enjoy life, whichever direction it may take you!