I met the S. family (name withheld for internet purposes) while camping in Florida at the end of January. Rebecca S. ran into me coming out of the restroom at Big Cypress Swamp, noticed my JDRF bicycling shirt, and told me her daughter, Sidney, 7, was type-1. I asked if I could stop by their campsite and interview the young lady and mom said yes.
Sidney is just that: a young lady. She was diagnosed at 5, and like all young diabetics finds the treatment process can be difficult. But Sidney has a certain toughness you see in type-1 kids and deals with it all and keeps a good attitude. "I just want to be a normal kid," she tells me, and in all other ways, except being type-1, she is.
Or is she? Sidney is an unusually inquisitive young lady and she and her younger brother, Sam, age 4, almost NEVER argue. Is that normal??? Well, it probably helps that Sam is pretty cool, himself. He was riding a wooden kind of hobby horse/bicycle around the campsite when I visited. And I should have asked him if he wanted to race.
You couldn't NOT like this family and these two kids. Sidney has an upbeat outlook and tells me all about their travels. Rebecca and Dan, her father, have been traveling round the country for much of the last two years. Mom is in charge of the schooling, while dad works on computer programming from their trailer. So far, they've been to 48 states--but will soon head back to Bozeman, Montana where they have lived for the last decade. Sidney will be starting regular school for the first time this fall; and I bet her a milkshake she will love it and do well. She's a sharp kid. You can tell that when you meet her.
So I expect to lose.
Like all of us who have type-1 kids, Dan says the diagnosis was "devastating" when he first heard it and says it's hard to have to stand by and know you "can't make insulin." So we have to hope for a cure and work for it in any way we can.
JDRF has been phenomenal in raising money to that purpose and care continues to improve with each passing year. Sidney, for example, has a pump, which makes giving insulin easier every day. "What color is your daughter's pump?" she asks me when I tell her Emily wears one, too. "Purple," I say. Sidney's pump is pink. She admits she "cries afterwards" when the pump siting has to be changed. But again: Sidney doesn't complain.
She just states the truth.
Just before I say goodbye, this sweet young lady disappears into the trailer and comes back with a present. It's a piece of petrified wood she picked up somewhere out West. She wants me to have it and I promise to carry it when I ride this summer. It will be my talisman, a reminder of all the kids like Sidney who need a cure.
Trust me: riding a bicycle across the United States is nothing compared to being a type-1 diabetic.