As a mother to two little girls, ages 3 1/2 and 6 years old, I’ve seen firsthand just how easily young children can miss the everyday signals from their body around hunger and needing to use the bathroom.

For a child with type 1 diabetes (T1D), missing signals from your body can be extremely scary, and even lethal, when dangerous low blood sugars hit.

That’s why I was passionate about creating the new children’s book “When I Go Low” (written by me, Ginger Vieira, and illustrated by Mike Lawson).

This book offers a light and thoughtful twist on the stressful and sometimes frightening aspects of living with diabetes, in particular learning about hypoglycemia (severe low blood sugar) through the eyes of a cute character named Jax the Cat and his new friends.

As an adult living with T1D myself, I’m not only aware of my body’s most common symptoms of low blood sugar, but I’m also anticipating those symptoms nearly every minute of the day to keep myself safe — whether I’m walking my dog, sledding with my children, or getting ready for a Zoom conference.

Anyone taking insulin regularly faces this daily, hour-by-hour risk of experiencing mild to severe low blood sugars.

But I’m 35 years old. How does a young child’s developing brain learn this level of awareness to keep themselves safe while taking insulin?

Especially if that child’s parents have never experienced low blood sugar themselves?

For children with T1D, learning about the early signs and symptoms of low blood sugar means spotting it sooner and treating it sooner.

Mike Lawson and I created this book specifically to help children with T1D pinpoint and express out loud how they feel when their blood sugar is low. The aim is to bring the most common symptoms to the forefront of their ever-growing minds.

Jax the Cat and his neighborhood friends (Zed the Mouse, Sherry the Sheep, Penny the Pig, and the Big Group of Little Birds) all share the most common symptom of low blood sugar, too:

  • When Jax the Cat’s blood sugar is low, he feels… wibbily, wobbily! He likes to treat his lows with juice.
  • When Sherry the Sheep’s blood sugar is low, she feels… shaky, shaky, shaky! She likes to treat her lows with raspberry glucose tabs.
  • When Zed the Mouse’s blood sugar is low, he feels… dizzy, dizzy, dizzy! He likes to treat his lows with crackers.
  • When Penny the Pig’s blood sugar is low, she feels… mad, mad, mad! Penny likes to treat her lows with jelly beans.
  • When the Big Group of Little Birds’ blood sugar is low, they feel… hungry, hungry, hungry! They like to treat their lows with a spoonful of honey.

Throughout the book, we emphasize not only different symptoms of low blood sugar but the important steps of listening to your body and noticing the symptoms, and then speaking up about those symptoms to ask for help.

Jax carries a treatment for low blood sugar in his backpack throughout the story, teaching our young readers how important it is to always carry fast-acting carbohydrates with you, like juice, glucose tabs, jelly beans, etc.

Mike and I wouldn’t know just how scary, uncomfortable, and frustrating low blood sugars are if we hadn’t experienced them ourselves!

I was diagnosed with T1D at 13 years old when I noticed I had all the symptoms of diabetes listed on my seventh grade classmate’s poster in preparation for the upcoming school health fair. (His name was Miles. He was amusingly deemed my hero by our peers.)

No one believed me when I said, “Hey! I think I have diabetes!” until I burst into tears a week later and was brought to my primary care physician, where I was, of course, easily diagnosed with a blood sugar of 600 mg/dL and tons of ketones.

Mike’s diagnosis came later, at age 21, where he was first misdiagnosed as type 2 simply because he was an adult. He spent the first few years of his diabetes life struggling to get his blood sugars down because he was being prescribed oral medications for type 2 diabetes instead of the insulin he so critically needed.

In the early years of the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), Mike and I were both avid video bloggers. (Here’s one of Mike’s most popular vlogs, and here’s one of mine, from back in the day.)

Also in our “youth,” we created a few fun projects together, like this silly diabetes rap and a video documenting that time we were both hired by Liberty Medical to make a video about using an insulin pump.

Mike played a critical role in the development and evolution of the Diabetes Hands Foundation and the TuDiabetes community. His exceptional graphic design creativity, passion for supporting people with diabetes, and inarguable likability make him an obvious asset to any diabetes-driven mission.

Today, Mike lives in California and is well known in the diabetes and theater communities for his artistic talents, contributing to organizations and publishing work on his website (including his first book, “Open Your Bag”), daily cartoons from the Abbey Road Webcam, and theatrical production materials.

My first steps in the diabetes community revolved around my happenstance success in competitive powerlifting, striving to show my fellow T1Ds (and dismissive endocrinologist) that this high-maintenance disease can’t stop you if you’re determined to study your blood sugars and learn more about how your body works. At the time, I also worked as a certified personal trainer and Ashtanga yoga instructor.

My passion for health improvement combined with a passion for writing (and a bachelor’s degree in professional writing) has led me to publishing four books for adults with diabetes and countless articles and content for many of today’s most impactful diabetes websites and organizations. I live in Vermont with my two kiddos, our loyal pup named Pedro, and my handsome bearded fella.

Today, Mike and I know we were lucky to receive our diabetes diagnoses when we were older, because living with T1D as a young child is a challenge we wish no child had to endure.

Unless you’re taking insulin and have truly experienced low blood sugar (rather than the cranky feeling of mild low blood sugar people without diabetes may feel when they skip lunch), you just don’t know how awful lows really are.

Mike knows. I know. And we want to help our youngest peers in the diabetes community protect themselves by spotting those yucky lows sooner rather than later.

Living with T1D is hard. Every single day. No matter what age you are. For our youngest T1D peers, we think they deserve an extra dose of credit for dealing with it 24/7.

Seriously, it’s one thing to live with the nonstop demands of T1D as a teenager or a grownup, but I’ve never been more in awe than when I’ve sat in the company of young children with this disease.

The downright courage of young children with T1D is what inspired me to start creating text for a book that would not only give those kids a high-five for their courage, but also offer them a fun way to stay safer as people who need to take insulin every day.

(Have I mentioned how scary low blood sugars can be at any age? I can’t even imagine how scary it must be for parents caring for young children with T1D.)

Taking note of what storyline patterns kept my children’s attention as toddlers, I set out to write this T1D book with a bit of repetition, a variety of enthusiastic characters, and clear explanations of a handful of the most common symptoms of low blood sugar.

But my illustration skills are limited.

While I’ve certainly been inspired by my 6-year-old, Lucy, to work on my illustration skills, I knew there was no one better in the artistic community to join me in this mission than the talented Mike Lawson.

The character Jax

When Mike came on board, he wisely changed my ocean storyline to a neighborhood setting and created the adorable characters of Jax the Cat, Zed the Mouse, Penny the Pig, Sherry the Sheep, and the Big Group of Little Birds.

Mike matched the artistic style with his own photography backdrops and friendly characters to the style of his first book, “Open Your Bag.”

We pitched it to leading diabetes organizations including the JDRF and the American Diabetes Association, but we didn’t receive any replies. So, naturally, we set out to self-publish it on Amazon, and the rest is history!

Now that the book is published, we are hoping to discuss getting more support from the JDRF and the famous Boston-based Joslin Diabetes Center. It offers the simplest of valuable messages: how to stay safer as a young person who takes insulin every day.

But before you click away to purchase, check out this DiabetesMine giveaway…

Interested in winning a free copy of Ginger and Mike’s new book, “When I Go Low”? We thank the authors for helping us give away a copy to one lucky reader. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Email us at info@diabetesmine.com with “DM-Go Low” in the subject line to let us know you’re hoping to win. Or you can ping us on Twitter or Facebook using the same code word. For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.
  2. You have until Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at 5 p.m. PST to enter.
  3. The winners will be chosen using Random.org.
  4. Winners will be announced Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email/Facebook/Twitter messages. (If winners don’t respond within a week, we select an alternate.)

We’ll update this post to announce the winner.

Best of luck to all!

Congrats to D-Mom Catherine Patano, who was chosen as the winner of this book giveaway!