Although we all either have our own D-dads or are a D-dad, many of us consider Jeff Hitchcock to be an honorary member of the family. Jeff is the founder of Childrenwithdiabetes.com, which has become a phenomenal resource for information and emotional support for families since its launch in 1995. Jeff became a D-dad in 1989, when his daughter, Marissa, now 24 and recently married, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was inspired to create a website to help Marissa find "children like her" and in the years since then, the CWD website, the annual Friends for Life conference and the regional CWD conferences have become a second family for thousands whose lives are touched by Jeff and his team of D-superheroes.
In honor of Father's Day (which is this Sunday, in case you forgot), we're honored to bring a few words from the man himself on what it means to be a father of a CWD. Even when she's a married lady...
A Guest Post by Jeff Hitchcock
"Dada." Such a simple yet powerful word. What had been abstract becomes real. It's no longer just a baby — it's a person. It's my daughter. We play with blocks, and the blocks box — maybe that's more fun. We play airplane — she flies! We hug. She's my little girl.
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"Dada" quickly gives way to "daddy." That sounds so much nicer. Firstborns, we say, seem to move a little faster. Twenty months old, commanding language like a grown up. We play outside on the swings that daddy built, but the summer is hot. She's thirsty — a lot. We think it's the heat. It's not. She's now my little girl with diabetes.
"Daddy" goes to camp with her, when she's five. Mommy went first, when she was four, so she knows what to do. She's amazingly independent, confident, and happy. Daddy learns a lot about being a good father. He learns, most importantly of all, that no one should ever be punished for diabetes. It's not your fault. She's now my girl with diabetes.
"Daddy" soon grows up to become "dad." Dad shares his family's experiences with others, hoping she'll meet other girls with diabetes, and always remembering well the lessons from camp and how dad and mom work together to make sure that the girl — no longer little — knows that life always comes first. She's now my daughter with diabetes.
"Dad" remains, but father it is. Being there to help, guiding and supporting in times of happiness and times of adversity. Calling "time-out" for diabetes when needed, and often forgetting what was wrong, remembering what is right. Sitting beside while learning to drive — "brake, brake, brake!" — but remembering the same excitement as the world begins to open up. High school — done. College — done. Moving out of state — done (sad, but happy). She's now the young woman with diabetes.
"Dad, don't panic. I'm 35 mg/dl. If you don't hear from me in five minutes, please call." Dads panic. We always will. I didn't wait five minutes. I called her immediately, and all was well.
Moving back to Ohio — done (very, very happy).
"Father" — it's always "father of the bride." I thought "DaDa" was wonderful. It was. "Father" is better. "Father of the bride" is the best. She's now Mrs. Adam Town.
Someday, I hope to be "grandfather."
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for those touching words, Jeff, and we look forward to a little Marissa or Adam running around, too! Happy Father's Day to you and every dad out there!