The phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" gets thrown around a lot in the diabetes world. Especially for parents of children with diabetes, striving every day to make the best of a worst-case scenario. Why not embrace it full force?
You could say that's the approach of our friend Stacey Simms, a D-Mom in North Carolina, in penning her first book with the tongue in cheek title, "The World's Worst Diabetes Mom: Real-Life Stories of T1D Parenting."
This new 125-pager is a fun read that's sure to become an instant classic for families entering the Diabetes Community.
With a title like that, how can you resist wanting to check it out?!
TV news journalist turned D-mom advocate
A professional TV news journalist by trade and at heart, Stacey turned to blogging shortly after her son Benny's diagnosis with type 1 in 2006, when he was just shy of 2 years old. Having a toddler with T1D can be a traumatic experience, but anyone who knows Stacey shouldn't be surprised at her ability to tackle this challenging "new normal" and keep a sense of humor about it all.
Her professional background and outgoing personality paved the way for her to become an outspoken advocate for parents and families everywhere. In 2015, she launched the popular Diabetes Connections podcast, offering a great mix of newsy nuggets and parenting POV on life with diabetes. And in 2018, she teamed up with another D-mom advocate and writer, , to launch a new podcast series aimed at diabetes parents in a Q&A format, in which they answer community questions in their unique quirky, informative style.
We're proud that Stacey was actually one of our DiabetesMine Patient Voices Contest winners in 2018, too.
You can now add "diabetes book author" to her resume.
Published just in time for Diabetes Awareness Month starting Nov. 1, her new book hits on so many relatable situations for families dealing with T1D. We found ourselves chuckling and nodding our heads in recognition throughout.
"Not perfect, but safe and happy"
Almost from the start, parents of newly diagnosed T1D kids are put under tremendous pressure to "get everything right," Stacey explains. They're expected to master all the numbers and match food counts and insulin doses with blood sugars just so, but Stacey refused to chase perfection.
"I realized pretty quickly that I can't play that game," she writes. "Perfection is not in my parenting wheelhouse. In fact, I welcome mistakes. It's how I learn. I improve by getting it wrong the first time. I'd argue that making mistakes make us all better."
Stacey of course was active online, interacting with a variety of people on T1D topics. Her approach apparently rubbed some folks the wrong way. "Someone on Facebook told me I was an awful parent," she admits.
"But perfection has never sat well with me. It's also never sat close to me -- without or without diabetes. My philosophy... is 'not perfect, but safe and happy.' I was called out by another parent who vehemently disagreed. It got ugly, as can happen on social media, and I decided to back off. I gave up arguing and wrote, 'I guess I'm the world's worst diabetes mom.' That's when the lightbulb went on."
She had the idea for a practical, down-to-earth book that would share her family's personal journey with diabetes -- that's been full of mistakes and challenges, along with lots of learning, laughter, love, and joy.
It's not a medical guide or a "how to" book either, but rather a collection of stories from her family's T1D life -- ranging from initial diagnosis, to school and camp experiences, switching to an insulin pump from MDI (daily injection therapy), handling vacations, work and parenting balances, and community support.
Especially in this time where you can Google anything and there are so many diabetes books already available, Stacey says she had to ask herself, "How could I really add to the conversation and help?" Her answer was to share a raw account of what it's really like adjusting to life with T1D -- at least one family's honest, uncensored account of the challenges and slip-ups.
And why not embrace the mistakes they've made by making a bit of fun of herself with the book title?
Struggles and resilience
Stacey's writing is clear and entertaining. I must admit, tears came to my eye when reading about the initial diagnosis meetup with the doctor, who asked about Stacey and her husband's careers and if someone would be home with their newly diagnosed son. She replied defensively, but then broke down into tears. And that's when Benny, sitting next to her, reached over, patted her on the shoulder and said softly, "It'll be OK, Mommy." That motivated her to get a grip, as Benny was only 23 months at the time.
It was reaffirming to read how Stacey's professional experience as a health reporter played into her early diabetes knowledge, but how it didn't prepare her for the daily realities of caring for a T1D child. Wanting to better understand her son's plight, she would poke herself with needles just to see how it felt.
They were at a loss to incentivize their son to sit still for pokes, so they tried a bit of bribery. But then Stacey and her husband got worried about "getting into a practice of buying Benny prizes or ponies for every fingerstick or insulin dose." But then at some point she actually wondered: would a pony really be that bad? :)
Stacey jokes how she called her endo's office every single day during the first month after diagnosis. No joke in fact, she really did that. Later when she started blogging, the support and outlet for venting she found gave her more confidence and insight, so she no longer felt compelled to call the doctor every day, she says.
She writes about Benny's initial days on an insulin pump, and I couldn't help but smile reading how she had to remind her son to take the pump off his body before priming a new set, so the extra insulin wouldn't go into him and cause an overdose (been there, done that!). When writing down the instructions for her son, Stacey made the mistake of using the literal words "take the pump off your body first." Little Benny followed it to the letter, removing the pump from his pants pouch, but then not actually disconnecting it from the infusion set. Uh-oh!
Stacey's also writes about her son's love for Marvel superheroes, and how they use the fun phrase, "Hulk Smash" when it comes to diabetes. They told Benny that he was a lot like the Hulk, when his blood sugar was high and that led to anger and mean behavior, but that unlike the Hulk's alter-ego Dr. Bruce Banner, Benny could learn to control the big green guy he sometimes becomes. Love that!
An important lesson that comes through in more than one chapter of Stacey's book centers on resilience: how they've taught their son to roll with the punches, in life and with diabetes, because you never know what may happen and you must be prepared. That's a huge lesson that I learned very young, after a T1D diagnosis at age 5, and I think it's the most important thing for any D-parent to pass along.
Each chapter also ends with a handy "Ask your doctor" section, that includes a list of questions and tips to bring up with healthcare professionals (HCPs) on a variety of topics. Because, you know, you need to keep learning and trying new things. You are never going to perfectly master every aspect of diabetes.
The paragraph that sums Stacey's book nicely is this: "Mistakes and problems can be good lessons. Benny learns that he can handle bumps in the road, with support. Soon enough, he'll be on his own, and he needs to know that most difficult situations with diabetes will not be disasters."
You can find Stacey's book on Amazon for $14.99 in paperback, and $9.99 in Kindle e-book form. But before you go purchase it, here's your chance to win a free, autographed copy for yourself...
A DMBooks Giveaway (Contest is now closed)
Interested in winning your own free copy of Stacey Simm's new "World's Worst Diabetes Mom" book? Here's your chance! We're thrilled that the author has agreed to help us give away TWO free autographed copies to a couple of lucky winners! Here's how to enter:
1. Email us at email@example.com with "DM-WorstMom" somewhere in the subject line to let us know you're hoping to win. Or you can ping us on Twitter or our Facebook page using the same codeword. For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.
2. You have until Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at 5pm PST to enter.
3. The winners will be chosen using Random.org.
4. Winners will be announced on Monday, Nov. 11, via social media, so make sure you're following us!And please be sure to keep tabs on your email and/or Facebook/Twitter messenger box, as that's how we contact our winners. (If they don't respond within a week, we select an alternate.)
We'll update this post to let you all know who the lucky winners are.
Best of luck to all you book lovers out there!
This contest is now closed. Congrats to Kara Byers and Mike Feinberg, chosen as winners of this giveaway by Random.org!