As we head into Father's Day Weekend, a shout-out to all the great dads out there in our Diabetes Community!
With that, we're thrilled to talk with D-Dads Mark Turner in Colorado and Alan Nolte in Arkansas, who realized that not just moms, but dads parenting children with diabetes need support, too.
They have teamed up to start the new "Dads and Diabetes" podcast. Their young daughters met at diabetes camp (like many great friends do!) and the two fathers developed a friendship, and eventually launched a joint podcast on World Diabetes Day last year (Nov. 14, 2018). They've been recording episodes just about every two weeks since then, so nearly a dozen to date -- covering everything from diet to technology to illness and sports with T1D.
Interviewing Diabetes Podcasting Dads Mark and Alan
DM) Hi Guys! Can you tell us about yourselves and how diabetes came into each of your families?
Mark) I hail from the UK, but currently live in Colorado with my wife Kim, son Ethan (12), and daughter Ella (11). I’m an avid soccer fan, enjoy writing and podcasting, and long walks on the beach. About a year and a half ago, Ella was diagnosed with T1D after going in to DKA and being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Not one of our best days. However, despite the fact that living with T1D is never smooth sailing, every day since has been better than that one! We actually have a history of T1D in our family with two of Ella’s older cousins (one a teen, the other in her 30’s) being in the same boat. So, although it’s not something that we’re experts on – every day is a learning experience! – we did at least have some base understanding of what this meant for Ella and all of us.
Alan) I live in Arkansas with my wife Leslie and our 4 kids: Emilee (21), Lexi (18), Anistyn, my T1D daughter (11), and son, Tagg (8). Anistyn (Anna) was diagnosed in February 2015. She was showing the typical signs of T1D in the few months leading up to diagnosis. We decided to take her in for a checkup and found that her blood sugar was extremely high. They immediately referred us to an endocrinologist at a local hospital where she was officially diagnosed. We were fortunate to catch it “early” before she digressed into DKA. Since then, she has been very 'compliant' and lived with T1D successfully. Over the past few years, the acceleration in technology has only helped us to manage diabetes even more effectively.
What do you each do for a living?
Mark) I'd like to say I head up an outreach program that connects urban inhabitants to rural folks called 'City Mouse, Country Mouse' and that I'd adopted Alan as part of that. But actually, I work for an educational publishing company, supporting schools’ implementations of digital solutions.
Alan) I used to spend most of my time working with foreign-born Americans to assimilate into our culture and speak with a Southern accent. Mark was my first and, thankfully, last client due to him failing miserably (chuckles). Therefore, I threw myself into my financial planning practice which I’ve owned since 1998.
When and why did you decide to start hosting a diabetes podcast?
Mark) We launched Dads and Diabetes last year on World Diabetes Day, Nov. 14. Alan will have his own angle, but for my part I wanted to capture the authentic conversations that he and I were having around how best to support our T1D kiddos. We were scared, confused, unsure of ourselves and our roles within the family as it related to all of it. So, we leaned on each other some, which we both felt really helped. And then we got to thinking, are other Dads feeling this way, too? And if so, are they giving voice to those concerns? All the female-led Facebook groups and podcasts out there seemed to suggest not – and the 'Dads and Diabetes' podcast was born!
Alan) Mark pretty much summed it up! I would only add that he originally pitched the idea of a “Dads Who Hate Soccer” podcast to me one evening while having one of our T1D-dad phone conversations. I initially rejected him… because I love soccer! Anyway, after convincing him that we should probably talk about our diabetic daughters, the seeds of 'Dads and Diabetes' were planted. After some convincing, Mark agreed and the DaD podcast came to fruition. I graciously thank myself for the idea. At, least, that’s how I remember it.
Did you review other diabetes podcasts before starting your own, especially those from fellow parents in the community?
Mark) The only one I listened to regularly was Stacey Simms' excellent Diabetes Connections podcast. Alan and I have since been guests on Stacey’s show, which was more of a thrill than I think she knows! She’s so awesome! The fact I haven’t listened to the other podcasts isn’t a slight on them. I just don’t have the time with life, work, and everything to listen to or read everything about T1D that I might want to. I think that’s one of the reasons I like Diabetes Connections so much, because it gathers together so many T1D threads. She artfully crams A LOT in to a single podcast!
Alan) I actually was a listener of Juicebox Podcast (by D-Dad Scott Benner) before finding out about Diabetes Connections. It was a great help to our family. I then began listening to Stacey's DC and now, it is definitely my favorite. I also listen to our own DaD, of course, because I love Mark’s accent.
What's the experience been like for you both so far?
Mark) It’s one of my favorite creative things that I get to do in my world. As you may have gathered, we try not to take ourselves too seriously which makes the conversations real and genuine. I find the process of recording an episode cathartic in that it reminds me that I’m not alone – and I’m not an idiot! Well, I’m not entirely an idiot when it comes to T1D. Outside of T1D, the jury’s still out. It’s great when I learn something new from Alan, though, or something he says makes me consider a new or different way of doing things.
Alan) I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Regardless of starting the podcast, Mark and I would be having these conversations anyway. So, why not record them? And we’ve both been humbled and honored at the response we’ve received. It just goes to show us that there was a niche that needed more representation. Although I’ve been a T1D for a longer period of time, I’ve learned so much from Mark. He has helped me in understanding more about the technology, for sure. But he has also simply confirmed that T1D struggles are the same no matter of demographics or geography. Mark has also helped me be more “hands-on” in our management of Anna’s diabetes.
I like to think that I’ve helped Mark in more of an “emotional support” sort of way because of our having lived with T1D longer. I have lots of stories that Mark is beginning to experience as time goes on. But overall, I’m honestly not sure how I would be currently dealing with my role as a T1D dad had I not met Mark. He, as well as our listeners, helped me understand that we aren’t alone. Dads, I believe, can have very different struggles when dealing with our T1D kids…especially daughters. It’s nice to have someone I can complain to who “gets it."
What future plans do you have for this D-dads podcast?
Mark) Just to keep going and growing! We’re definitely going to have more guests on upcoming episodes, some from within our circle of family and friends, and maybe even one or two celebs! We also want to round back on many of the topics we’ve covered already to provide our listeners with updates.The wonderful messages we’ve gotten from listeners are really gratifying, so we want to make sure that we do a better job of sharing them out with everyone in future episodes.
We also could really use a generous sponsor or two – the equipment we use, what I’m using in particular, is one notch up from a tin can on a piece of string! So, if there are any lovely business owners out there reading this… call us!
Alan) Yes! Mark needs a new microphone. So please help! But in all seriousness, Mark needs a new microphone. I simply need more time.
If you could give some core advice to other new D-Dads, what would you say?
Mark) Talk.If you’re feeling scared, disorientated, insecure, talk about it. When something goes south (and I’m not talking about Arkansas), we guys have general inclination to try and ‘fix’ it. Don’t talk about it, just get on it and get it done, right? Well, for right now at least, there’s no fixing T1D. It’s out of your control. What’s in your control is your ability to connect with other dads, to talk, share, brainstorm, rage, cuss, cry. It may help more than you know. Oh, and listen to our 'Dads and Diabetes' podcast – you’ll be happy to hear that we’re as clueless as you!
Alan) Mark is absolutely right! I was in the position of letting my wife be Anna’s pancreas instead of jumping in and helping. It caused me to be left behind. Then, I had to much pride to admit that I wasn’t understanding how to care for Anna by myself. That scared me. I confessed it to my wife Leslie and she began helping me, along with Mark, to hold my hand as I became more of the “T1D dad” I should’ve been all along. I’ve since learned that I wasn’t the only dad like me out there. Many others were in my shoes. I spent so much time wanting to fix it, that I let myself miss out on managing it. I’m thankful for admitting that and for having a platform to share what that was/is like.
Mark) I’m always happy to hold your hand, Buddy, especially when you’re crossing the street.
Alan) Aww, thanks! JustAs long as you don’t squeeze my butt.
Thank you both for sharing, and we look forward to tuning in to the Dads and Diabetes Podcast!