Monday, August 9, 2010

The Frog Before Diabetes

You'll probably get a laugh out of this one. Maybe even a head shake.

But, I hope you also get a little more out of it, too.

Being diagnosed at age 5, Type 1 diabetes is pretty much all I've ever known. My daily D-duties have always been my "normal," and growing up in the 80s without any other friends or classmates who were diabetic, I went through my childhood pretty much alone in dealing with diabetes. This was long before the Diabetes Online Community. And diabetes camp only came around every so often. I did what was needed and lived with diabetes, and grew up to be where I am today.

But sometimes I forget there was a Life Before Diabetes. Five years. A time when I likely lived what some might consider a "more normal" life that I have few memories from and will likely never be able to embrace again. Aside from my parents and family members who were around in those pre-D days, but now live a state away and aren't physically there with me each day, I have no one in my life who was a constant part of my life before the age of 5, before diagnosis. Except one.

Froggy.

He's been with me since those early years, before there was diabetes. Now in my early 30s, Froggy remains a part of my life. He still sleeps in my bed. Often in between my wife and I. Snuggles up with us pretty much every night.

(Snicker away, all you want. I am not ashamed to admit that I, a grown man, continue sleeping with a stuffed animal. I'm secure with my craziness.)

The simple reason: Froggy and I have been through pretty much everything together. We've been together since I was a baby, sporting a sailor outfit and sitting in my grandpa's hallmark red chair. Froggy symbolizes some sense of normalcy, in whatever tangible way I'm able to hold onto that emotionally. Like a security blanket, so to speak.

To the right, you can see a Michael Baby with the First Froggy, which was from what I remember the only Froggy incarnation to have that particular style and look. It was at some point before my 5th birthday when I was diagnosed that a smaller, more modern incarnation of Froggy came into my life. My mom reports that First Froggy's fabric eventually got worn out and the same fabric was no longer made. So, the Second Froggy was born and was a Christmas gift from my grandma in 1982 (when I was 3). You can see him to the lower left, along with both my maternal grandparents. From then on, all Froggies have resembled this one through the years and there've been at least four or five generations that my crafty mom has made for me.

At one time, we had more than one Froggy since I'd sometimes leave him at my grandparents' house, forcing my dad to make the drive back late at night when I refused to fall asleep without him. (Yes, I am an only child). Most of the Froggies have had this similar look: the happy frog holding a red polka dot umbrella over his head. His feet are as much a part of him than anything - I've always found some comfort in rubbing them between my fingers. That is very relaxing to me. His umbrella top has a zipper, which in previous generations had been home to storage of some items I never wanted to be without - such as a blood meter at one time. There were times in my younger years when I carried him with me if I'd be spending the night away from home, as it was often difficult to sleep without him. That obviously changed in high school and college, and there were times when froggy was stored in some safe place for a period of my life. No, he didn't sleep with me in the dorm rooms. But he was there, somewhere, if only in my heart. And he's always come back to comfort me.

Now, the Froggy introduction came long before anyone ever dreamed up Rufus, the Bear With Diabetes who comes along with a JDRF Bag of Hope for newly-diagnosed diabetic kids. Or Lenny The Lion from Minimed. (OR AS OF SUMMER 2011, COCO THE DISNEY MONKEY.) Yes, these characters are cute and kids certainly deserve to have someone like them as they set out on this journey. But even had these characters been around in my young days, and become a part of my D-Life, I'd still be more attached to Froggy who served as a connection to that pre-D Life. He knew me back when, got diagnosed with me, and lived with me in every stage of life.

In a way, you might describe Froggy as some kind of coping mechanism that's been a fixture in my life, one that I've never been able to leave behind. Early Years. Diagnosis. School. Teens. Good Times and Bad Times. College. Marriage. Now, married and in my 30s, Froggy sleeps with my wife and I each night. Some may find this odd, but to me it hasn't seemed odd. Rather, some internal reflection has found this has been a way for me to connect to a "more normal" time in my life, pre-diabetes. Froggy is my Old School Support (as Kerri has VLogged on). A sort of Frog Before Diabetes, and we've been together on this journey every step of the way.

Maybe, just maybe, Froggy someday will be able to also know a Life AFTER diabetes. You never know.

I share our story because it's important to me. But maybe you have a Froggy of your own, or something you'd forgotten about as the years passed. I'd loved to hear about it. Maybe, in some way, you'll want to dig out some old boxes in your attic or visit the parent's basement where some treasures from those pre-diabetes days might still be kept. Those D-Parents out there, take note: tangible tokens from our childhood can mean so much to us Children With Diabetes Who Grow Up. In some ways, this may be all we have to connect us to those days. And that can be important, even if we don't realize it at the time.

11 comments:

Penny said...

Thank you for reminding me of this Michael. Grace was diagnosed at age 6 and she has a few 'buddies' that she clearly clings to for support. They knew her before the 'D'

The poor diabetic said...

I was diagnosed at 19 so it is hard for me to imagine dealing with diabetes at such an early age, however the essence of Effective Diabetes management is finding a synergy in all the tools available to you, so froggy does play a crucial role as well, maybe as a coping mechanism and as a source of comfort, no one can belittle you for that......
(Snicker away, all you want. I am not ashamed to admit that I, a grown man, continue sleeping with a stuffed animal. I'm secure with my craziness.)

Judi said...

When I was a little girl, I had a small “sheet” actually about the size of a pillowcase. It was very old and ratty when I was diagnosed at the age of five. Having to stay in the hospital for six weeks, the hospital staff kept trying to throw this old, ugly rag away every day when they came to remake the bed. My poor mother did everything from pinning it onto my nightgown to taping notes on the bed and the wall. After a bit of time, I was well enough to learn when they came in the morning, I needed to grab my sheet and hang on to it or I might never see it again.

Renata said...

Kelsey was diagnosed at 4 and to be honest,I don't think we have anything of hers from then. Now I feel bad. Marty has only been a diabetic for a year and a half, but he has the pillow case they made for him when he was in the hospital. Shoot, now you are a going to have me going and looking at her stuffed animals this morning when I get her up!

Anonymous said...

I have a teddy bear that I've had since my 1st christmas. He's been with me through it all including my diabetes diagnosis at age 11. Like Froggie, Ted sleeps with me and my husband or used to until our little baby girl was born a month ago. Now Ted stands guard in her crib. I always wondered if I was the only person in my 30's who still slept with a stuffed animal.

Barb (Diabetes Advocacy) said...

Your blog brought tears to my eyes. My son was diagnosed when he was two. Elmo was his pal in the hospital and before. I never thought to make sure we kept it (bad Mom). We do have a well used Rufus that we got from Carol Cramer but sadly that does not give him something from before diabetes forced its way into his world.
Thank you so much for sharing your Froggie with us!

Cara said...

I love Froggy! So cute. Thanks for the comment on my Bee post too, by the way. Two of my very best friends have things from their childhood that they still sleep with. One has a panda bear, the other has a bear and blanket. I think it's human nature to want a tangible connection to something. Life changes more quickly and drastically than most of us would like. So having something like Froggy, Bee, or Bear is a nice little piece of stability. :)

Bennet said...

That is frogging awesome.

Jill said...

LOVE IT!!! :) Kacey is only 2 years into her diagnosis but she was given Rufus shortly after being diagnosed and she has carried him everywhere...to doc appts, to JDRF fundraisers, to JDRF awards ceremonies and most recently to Nags Head, NC for vacation! His shirt and overalls that he came with have been "retired" and last Christmas, Rufus got a present of his own...new bear clothes! :) He sleeps with her every night and she won't fall asleep until he's tucked in on the pillow beside her...sorta like a Guardian Angel. He's a very important part of her D-life and he's become a bit worn and one of our local JDRF chairs offered to get her a new one from our local JDRF and she refused kindly and said "He's just the way I like him!" LOL! I love how you're so open about Froggy :)

Kathleen said...

Hi Michael,

I really enjoyed reading your story! I was diagnosed when I was 5 too. I didn't have a Froggy but have a lot of memories of how life changed after I was diagnosed. I,of course, didn't understand it all but remember how upset and scared my parents were. Friends, family and summer camp helped. Now I'm happy to have found this great network of people all with similar stories who know what its like to live with the big D. I'll be back again to read more!

Take Care,
Kathleen

Four Awesome Tindals! said...

Wow. I'm teary eyed after reading this! (I've been brought to tears a lot lately as I go through everyone's bios and photos for the new and upcoming DYF calendar....) Riley has a few pre-D friends that I know she'll keep around with her. Being diagnosed just days before her 9th b-day was tough on her. One of the things she still finds comfort in is "hanging out" ( I was informed now that she is 10, 10 year olds don't like the word "play" as much anymore!) with her American Girl Dolls. I have a feeling her Samantha, Nikki, and Chrissa dolls have a similar meaning to her as Froggy does to you! I love that you shared this. As a D parent, I will now watch for attachments to pre-D life and be welcoming them with open arms and an open heart! Thank you!