Terri sat in the GP’s room for the second time that week, this time with her nine year old daughter Caitlin. It was a bit awkward because Terri had only recently bought her son in with boils, after a Google search showed it could be a sign of Type 1 diabetes.
So when Caitlin started drinking a lot and going to the toilet constantly Terri felt a bit embarrassed to turn up again, wondering if this time her daughter could have diabetes.
“I remember saying to the doctor, ‘I haven’t got Munchausen by Proxy (a condition where carers invent or exaggerate illness for attention). I did feel embarrassed going back with a second child I thought could have diabetes,” laughs Terri
At the time Terri was a teacher at Caitlin’s school. Caitlin would pass by Terri’s classroom if she ever went to the bathroom and she’d always stop and say a cheery hello to her mother on her way past.
“I started noticing she was going to the bathroom a lot, until it got to the point that cheerful hello was happening as she went past every 20 minutes or so.”
Caitlin had lost weight and had been lethargic over the last few weeks, and had started losing races she normally would win.
Terri had diabetes on her mind because her own mother had been diagnosed with type 2 at the same age Terri was now.
“I knew some of the symptoms from mum and it all started coming together in my mind,” says Terri.
One afternoon after school Terri rummaged through her cupboards to find her mother’s old testing kit.
When Caitlin’s finger prick test read “hi” she knew she had to go back to the GP, this time asking about her daughter and diabetes.
It didn’t take the GP long to send them straight off to hospital.
Terri says when they got the diagnosis they were relieved in some ways.
“Although we knew this was a serious condition, we were also relieved it wasn’t something more sinister. We thought, ‘ok we can deal with this’”.
A turning point came soon after diagnosis when Caitlin was due to play in a state Rep touch football tournament.
Terri called the coach to say she didn’t think Caitlin could play.
“The coach was adamant and said, “she’s playing.” It turned out she had coached other people with diabetes and knew it could be managed. That gave me a lot of confidence, and since then Caitlin has gone back to her sports and excelled.”
Caitlin self manages now very well, although her parents are always here for support.
“Now she is a teenager she has had some ups and downs, which is apparently common at this age. Dr Harte had to speak to her about it the other day and she is back on track after that.
“We have encouraged Caitlin to not let diabetes stop her life. It’s part of her life and she has to manage it.
“Caitlin is learning that when you do elite sport you need to be upfront about the condition with teammates and coaches. It’s hard for a teenager but she’s learning not to be embarrassed and have the confidence to speak up,” says Terri.