We’re just a week out from Christmas, and today at the ‘Mine we’re excited to feature two special books by a diabetes dad in Boston: one about the first year of his young son’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis, and one about their first Christmas season living with T1D.
Say hello to Michael Suarez, whose son Andrew was diagnosed with T1D nearly two years ago. Their first year was challenging (!), but after making peace with this “new normal,” Suarez was inspired to publish a picture book called “Year One with Type One” to help his own son and others better understand this chronic condition. After seeing incredible feedback from the community, he recently published a second, holiday-themed kids book titled “‘Twas My Type of Christmas.“
Below, Suarez shares his family’s story and what led him to the book publishing scene, in his own words.
*Please read through to the end to enter our the two-book giveaway, too!*
It was the beginning of January 2018, at the coldest point of winter so far. Just as our family was unwinding from the holidays, while dealing with a set of frozen pipes, we came to the conclusion it was time to take our 4-year-old son, Andrew, to the pediatrician to get an explanation on some recent observations. Specifically, we wanted to know why he was peeing so much through the night, helping himself to large glasses of water so frequently, yet hardly eating anything. The news back from the pediatrician suddenly made the frozen pipes and holiday hangover seem totally irrelevant and meaningless.
Andrew was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and had to be rushed to the ER at Boston Children’s Hospital to treat diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication resulting in an untreated high blood sugar level, common for people just learning of their diagnosis. We would spend the next three nights in the hospital, both nursing him to health, while also being inundated with the instructions for the new routine we’d ultimately need to live by for the foreseeable future.
Where do you find comfort in such an uncomfortable position? For our family, the person that gave everyone the most comfort was the one who was most affected by this new lifestyle. Despite being only 4.5 years old, all signs pointed to Andrew being fully aware of how his life was about to change.
Yet HE was the one putting a smile on everyone’s faces.
A children’s hospital can be a nerve-wracking place for anyone, considering the many circumstances that could bring one there. Luckily for us, Boston Children’s has a very calming and welcoming facility and Andrew took full advantage. Their lobby includes: a massive fish tank, a wall-sized motion-detecting monitor, and a staircase that makes sounds on every step. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a therapy dog coming out of the elevator. You better believe that Andrew insisted on taking full advantage of all of these amenities. Not only was he able to amuse himself, but seeing a kid, in his pajamas, having the time of his life put smiles on all of the passerby’s faces in the lobby.
Making the best of the situation for himself and everyone around him wasn’t forced. It was what came natural to him. It’s one of the many qualities of my young son that I look up to. In fact, one of the ways I’ve tried to make the best of the situation myself, is in writing about the experience.
In the same way Andrew amused himself and those around him in the hospital lobby, I hope others can both enjoy and take comfort in reading the story about Andrew braving his first year with T1D.
At 39 pages and published in December 2018, Year One with Type One illustrates many of the qualities I look up to in Andrew, including his bravery, positive attitude, and how he’s able to make himself and everyone around him happy, even in the most stressful situations. Specifically, I’ve included details on the symptoms, the hospital experience, along with describing some of the real-life scenes of him enjoying the lobby as described, as well as his life at home and school.
Here’s an example from the book of how we provide insight into Andrew’s life at home:
This year’s been a process, learning to cope. Shot after shot. Poke after poke. Belly, legs, arms… shots go any which way. We spread them around, since they’re six times a day. Mom e-mails a log to the nurses each week. They check if the carb ratios need a tweak. Mom checks in at night with a lamp on her head, sometimes with a juice box to drink in my bed.
Focusing in on Andrew’s first year allowed me to reflect on how our family has grown from the experience. Writing the book allowed me to document the details, both for us to reflect on, and for others to hopefully relate to. Now, a year after releasing that book, I can reflect on the experience of sharing Andrew’s story with the world.
The diabetes community can relate
The response to the book has been very positive. I’ve received dozens of messages from parents, either in the form of Amazon reviews, e-mails, or Facebook/Instagram messages. The number one piece of feedback I receive, nearly universally, is that the children reading the story all comment on how similar Andrew’s story is to their own. Some parents have even told me that Andrew’s story resembled their child’s so much so that their child actually thought the book was about them. This is great feedback, as it was important for me to capture every detail, and keep every aspect of the story as true to life as possible, exactly so that other children and families could relate.
One particular response that touched us came from an American family stationed in South Korea with a 5-year-old recently diagnosed son. To know that our story provided comfort to someone overseas meant a lot to us! Likewise, reading the stories and feedback of families that reach out to us always puts a smile Andrew’s face.
Another common response we get is how the book helped family members, friends, and classmates to better understand what their T1 child goes through. I experienced this as well, first-hand, as I’ve read the book to Andrew’s classmates the last two school years. I’ve heard feedback from parents of children who went home and told their parents about Andrew after my school visit. This tells me that Andrew’s classmates are listening to and internalizing the story, which was the goal of reading to them in the first place. I believe, there is a general lack of awareness around T1D, and one of my hopes is that Andrew’s classmates as well as the classmates of people who have his book, will get an education and understanding of T1D at a young age.
Year One with Type One has also given me a platform to speak about T1D on a broader scale. Over the summer, I paired up with one of Andrew’s school nurses to lead a session at a continuing education conference for school nurses, run by Northeastern University School Health Academy (NEUSHA). We presented on “Care Coordination for T1D” to an engaged audience of school nurses to provide insight from first hand experience of an ideal partnership between parents and a school nurse. Similarly, I participated on a Q&A panel alongside JDRF’s Teen Advisory Committee (TAC), which is a group of teenagers living with T1D, at another event for active school nurses.
A kids diabetes book for Christmas
With the success, feedback, and opportunities that came from Year One with Type One, I decided to write another book for Andrew and the community. Twas My Type of Christmas takes a somewhat different approach. Being a fictional (or is it?) retelling of the Chris Claremont classic with a diabetes spin, this sequel at 29 pages was released in September 2019. It aims to be a fun book, but also sneaks in some T1D knowledge and terminology.
The stockings were hung beside our bright tree, to be filled with some snacks: some with carbs… some carb free… My parents and sister were snug in their beds, while visions of unicorns danced in their heads.
So far, the community is responding very positively to this new book as well.
The joy our family gets from being able to share these stories with the community represents a silver lining in the grand scheme of the daily challenges of managing T1D. But if Andrew, running around the hospital lobby in his PJj’s, has taught us anything, it’s that it’s OK to find some joy amidst a challenging situation.
Thanks, Michael! We appreciate your sharing the story behind these two new books, which can be found on Amazon — “Year One with Type One” for #3.99 on Kindle and $12.86 in paperback, and “Twas My Type of Christmas” for $3.99 in Kindle and $10.25 in paperback.
But before you go purchase them, here’s a chance to toss your name into the hat to win free copies this holiday season…
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Interested in winning copies of Year One With Type One and ‘Twas My Type of Christmas? We’re thrilled that the author has agreed to help us give away a pair of free signed copies to two lucky winners! Here’s how to enter:
1. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “DM-PictureBooks” 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, Dec. 27, 2019, at 5pm PST to enter.
3. The winners will be chosen using Random.org.
4. Winners will be announced on Monday, Dec. 30, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email and/or Facebook/Twitter messenger box, as that’s how we contact our winners. (If winners don’t respond within a week, we select an alternate.)
We’ll update this post with the winners’ names.
Best of luck, Book Lovers!
Congrats to our winners: Jennifer Byerley and Wendy Albanese.