Every parent of a type 1 diabetic has heard this ridiculous phrase at least once, if not multiple times...and each time is just as annoying as the first time it was said to us.
"At least it's not cancer....."
Okay, first off, that's like THE proverbial middle finger to any parent fighting an invisible disease of any kind. If you actually say those words out loud to someone, pleaaaaaase understand that if you suddenly get an actual middle finger or angry outburst of expletives, it's well warranted #justsayin
Second, IF you are thinking it, don't say it, even if it may feel like the right thing to say in that moment. It's not. Trust me.
JUST DON'T DO IT!
Whenever you are diagnosed with a life altering disease that takes so much out of you 24/7, it can be easy to think that you have it really really bad, and you probably do. I don't even begin to pretend that cancer doesn't terrify me. It scares the shit out of me.
When we were released from the hospital with Hannah, newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we were trained on how to take care of her to make sure she lives a long and healthy life. High blood sugars can kill her, but so can low blood sugars. The first time I realized the severity of a low blood sugar was our first night in the hospital. The nurse came in at 2 to check her, and I thought maybe it was just part of her job. She let me poke her, Hannah was really drowsy, and the number 53 popped up. I wasn't sure what that meant but as soon as I saw the nurse's face, I knew it must not be good. She immediately grabbed Oreos and had Hannah eat 2. Hannah thought it was pretty cool that she was getting to eat cookies at 2 in the morning, and still it didn't occur to me why this was important at that time.
We hadn't had our day of diabetes education at that point, so I was unaware of how scary low blood sugars are. I don't even remember if I understood the gravity of high blood sugar either, other than it wasn't good for your body for extended periods of time, but overall the gravity of this disease had yet to hit me. It was definitely coming though...like a freight train.
We left the hospital with what was, essentially, a newborn baby; one that would never sleep through the night again. When I say I haven't slept in over 3 years, I mean it. I am turning gray at an alarming rate, my body is literally in survival mode every hour of every day, and my fight or flight response is first nature now...and I will fight over flight...every damn time.
My daughter was handed over to me with this severe medical condition that could take her life at any moment, and instead of a doctor making important life altering decisions, it was me. I wasn't a nurse or specially trained anything. I was a mom.
Understand what I am saying?
It is me.
I make decisions every hour of every day that could affect my daughter for the rest of her life. I administer a medication that is both life giving and life taking. I decide how much to dose, when to dose, and everything in between. I wake up throughout the night, every night, and check her. We have a lot more technology now that helps keep her safe, but the worry is always there. ALWAYS. There are no breaks, no holidays, no forgetting about it. If I forget about it, it could kill her. Simple as that.
Not many cancer patient's or their parents have to make these kinds of decisions on a daily basis, much less every time they take a bite of food. I am in no way downplaying the severity of cancer, or the stress it causes families. Please understand that. I have friends who have been personally affected by the diagnosis of cancer and it is truly devastating. Those who battle it are warriors. Period.
All I care to get across right now is that starting a conversation off with the words "at least" is never ever a good way to show sympathy.
So...if you are looking for something to say to someone, whatever the situation may be, just stick to "I am so sorry." They will know that you truly mean it. Sometimes there's nothing to be said because it just sucks THAT much. Just give them a hug, let them know you are there, and keep the ignorance at bay for a few minutes...