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Guest Post: Peer Support, and Mending a Broken Heart.

Anna Floreen was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, and she lives in the Boston area with her husband and their adorable puppy dog.  She’s currently working as the Community Outreach Manager for Glu and travels the country speaking at diabetes-related events.  A champion for diabetes camps and peer-to-peer support, Anna works tireless to build up the diabetes community.  Today, she’s sharing part of a very difficult experience that she went through a few weeks ago, involving the end of a pregnancy dream, the power of peer support, and the slow, steady process of rebuilding.

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Friends are great. Girlfriends are that, “What do you need / what are you craving” after a shitty break up who show up with ice cream and your favorite chick flick. But diabetes friends are speechless – not because they don’t say anything, but because they get it. I realize now more than ever, that those friends who have the “unspoken understanding” of diabetes matter the most to me, at least, right now anyway.

My husband and I lost a very much wanted baby girl five weeks ago – exactly at the half way point of my pregnancy. The loss was nothing diabetes-related whatsoever. It was an insanely rare congenital heart defect in which we did nothing to cause. (Trust me, the guilt of diabetes was most certainly number 1 on my brain cells for quite some time).  It wasn’t however, my parents or best friend that I turned to first to share my horrible, no good, very-bad day news with; it was a peer with type 1. She knew I was pregnant before my mom (Sorry mom – I was in Vancouver), and she helped guide me through every “exit explosion” of morning sickness, the crazy low blood sugars, and all the doctor’s appointments.

She was in the next room when we were given our baby’s devastating diagnosis (she’s not a stalker; we share the same OB/GYN and endocrinologist).  It seemed weird not to tell her. She waited in the parking lot after her appointment to make sure I wasn’t alone, checked in with me daily the week following my surgery. I told her, and other type 1’s about this experience first because they get it. They get what it takes to bear a pregnancy with type 1: the endless overnight beeping, juice box wrappers, and constant communication with care-team members, so of course it makes sense. We crave that feeling of belonging, we’re kindredly connected, and I kind of like that.

Weeks later, as I attempt to grasp my new reality, I’m feeling incredibly thankful to have these peers. Although I am no longer pregnant, Kerri is. And I will be that same rock and shoulder and peer to her if she needs it that she has been to me for the last whatever-the-eff months that was a pretty big blob of blur to me. I’ve learned that it takes a lot of work and homework to prepare and endure a pregnancy, but it’s a heck of a lot better when you have super awesome people to follow along with you.

Never underestimate the power of our peers … especially those with reduced pancreatic function. Sometimes we forget how grateful we are for these friendships, so go text a friend, send them a card, or take a moment to think about the positive power of a peer.

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Jumping in to confirm that Anna has been a tremendous support resource for me and my family as we’ve navigated infertility and pregnancy, and the ties that bind here are permanent.  I look forward to the day that our kids hang out together at the beach and compare notes.

Thanks for trusting us with this, Anna.  xo

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Melissa #

    Anna, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your baby girl. I have walked this same road and my heart breaks for you and your husband. My husband and I lost a little boy and a little girl to two separate, extremely rare, non-diabetes related, congenital defects. When you struggle with diabetes and you prepare, plan and hype yourself up for the challenge that is pregnancy with diabetes, it is often an even harder blow to hear that something else has gone wrong. Diabetes is at the forefront of my life, my daily struggles often stem from my diabetes, and I naively went in to both pregnancies thinking I deserved to only have to face challenges that related to the diabetes. I mean, my pregnancies were going to be harder than someone without diabetes, so shouldn’t I be allowed to have at least a healthy baby? My biggest fear when I told people about the babies is that they would think it was because of my diabetes. I didn’t want that stigma placed on me, diabetes, or my babies. I found it much easier to turn to someone else with diabetes to share my fears and my grief. I am glad you have people who love and support you during this time. My prayers are with you and your husband.

    04/27/16; 11:17 am
  2. Anna, I’m so sorry. I’m sure I don’t know the right thing to say – I don’t share the diabetes experience like you amazing women do. But I hope you find comfort and understanding. We only met for a few hours (over phone & skype!) this past year, but I wanted to send my sympathy and prayers to you and your family. Love and comfort to you all.

    04/27/16; 7:04 pm
  3. Dear Anna,
    I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your baby. My 22 year old daughter died from cancer 3 years ago, and so I can relate to this loss, though different, it’s similar too.

    As Melissa writes above, it feels like we have enough to work with dealing with diabetes, and then diabetes and pregnancy, that we should be given a pass on any other major issues! I’m sorry that life is not that way.

    I hope you find solace in this community, and trust that your heart will heal with time and tenderness. Holding you in my heart.

    04/27/16; 7:59 pm
  4. Anna:

    I want to express my deep sorrow on behalf of the entire TUDiabtes community. We have many members who follow Glu and several who attend diabetes summer camps. Many of our members will have great interest in your blog and for the reason I included it on the TUDiabetes blog page and it will appear during the week of April 25, 2016.

    04/27/16; 10:28 pm
  5. Dear Anna, I don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes but I send my support – for so many years I felt alone with diabetes, then I discovered the DOC a few years ago, and I agree with everything you said. I go through small moments in my own life where mentally and spiritually at least I reach out to the community for my own support. Even though I’ve never met anyone in real life, they’re with me – like in the yearly eye exam that I *always* freak out about, even after 33 years – George is there telling me bad jokes, Kerri is making up funny limericks, Scotty J. is offering to get me a Diet Coke and Kelly is saying nothing but smiling, holding my hand and telling me it will all be OK. It may sound juvenile and simplistic but it really helps.
    My best to you and your family <3

    04/28/16; 9:19 am
  6. Rachel #

    Dear Anna,
    I’m a T1 and I met you a few years ago at a diabetes conference at the Philadelphia Marathon when you gave a very inspiring talk about your Bionic Pancreas experience and about the importance of Glu. You also inspired me to get a Dexcom and I’m so glad you did. I am terribly sorry to hear about your loss and what you’ve been going through! I will keep you and your husband in my thoughts and prayers. Wishing only good things to you both in the future. Like Kerri said, I look forward to seeing you guys post pictures one day of your kids playing together comparing notes on what it’s like to have a mom with T1D. Sending you positive thoughts – you are loved by so many more people than you could imagine in our close nit diabetes online community!

    04/28/16; 1:26 pm
  7. Anna #

    Thank you all for the kind words. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by such support!

    04/28/16; 2:28 pm
  8. Anna, we are all here for you – diabetes or not – but I am so glad you have the DOC. Even though I don’t have type 1, having a child with type 1 means I know the feelings that go along with getting a devastating diagnosis and wondering, “why me? why us? why him?” Connecting with other parents of type 1s, or parents of a child with any chronic illness, is so important to me. They too, just get it. Huge hugs to you and lots of love from across the office. 🙂

    04/28/16; 3:41 pm
  9. Sandy Brooks #

    Anna, i have never walked the infertility walk nor have I lost a pregnancy or a child. But, having lived with severe chronic illness for 30 yrs and then getting my surgical T1D diagnosis, I know a little bit about living thru difficult diagnoses.

    my heart goes out to u and ur husband as u navigate this new reality. I Pray that we here in the DOC, on glu and at T1D events can help u get thru this difficult time. I also pray that some day in the future, u and Kerri’s kids will indeed play on the beach and life will be much happier even though u will never forget this loss.

    U’ve been an amazing support to me as I have sought support and knowledge in this D community at large. Thank u for that!!!!!

    Wishing u the best and I hope u can find some time this summer to enjoy life and the warm beautiful weather!!! HUGS!!!!

    07/18/16; 9:52 pm

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