New podcasts keep popping up all over the place, and the diabetes world is no exception. Over the last few weeks, I’ve come across several that I’ll be highlighting here, starting today with the Dads and Diabetes podcast. Mark and Alan, the podcast co-hosts, join me today for an informal interview. (All my interviews are informal. 🙂 )
Kerri: Thanks for coming by, Mark and Alan. Can you introduce yourselves to SixUntilMe
Mark: I’m originally from Oxford, England, now living in Colorado with my wife Kim, 12-year old son Ethan, and 10-year old daughter Ella. I work for an educational publisher, and when I’m not on the road or spending time with family, enjoy playing football (soccer!), listening to and producing podcasts, and writing for a couple of different blogs.
Alan: And, I was practically “born and raised” in a small town in Southwest Arkansas and still live there currently with my wife, Leslie and our 4 kids. We have 3 daughters: Emilee, 21; Lexi, 18; and our T1D, Anna, age 11. Our son, Tagg, is 8. My “day job” is being a financial planner. However, most of my time is spent being a husband and father. My only hobby, because I obviously only have time for one, is podcasting. I began producing a podcast in 2016 and just recently joined forces with Mark to begin our current podcasting endeavor.
Kerri: How did you guys become part of the diabetes community?
Mark: Ella was diagnosed with T1D nearly a year ago now; November 30th, 2018. It was a pretty terrifying but as I’ve come to learn pretty typical experience. Looking back, all the key indicators were there – loss of energy, excessive drinking, weight loss, etc. When strep showed up, things kicked into overdrive. What was supposed to be a routine visit to the doctors turned in to a panicked ambulance ride to the hospital, with Ella in full DKA. She was diagnosed upon arrival, more or less, and after a 3-day hospital stay, our journey with diabetes began in earnest.
Alan: Anna was diagnosed in February of 2015. She displayed few of the numerous “typical” warning signs of a pre-diagnosed diabetic. However, in the late summer to early fall of 2014, we began to notice a difference in her energy level. Anna is very athletic…active in year-round softball, basketball, and dance (at that time). Suddenly, it seemed, she wanted to take naps which was entirely out of character for her. Within another month or so she then began having frequent trips to the bathroom.
My wife and I suspected diabetes rather quickly due to her being a nurse, her experiences with gestational diabetes and my limited knowledge gained from having a diabetic friend when I was a kid. To make a very long story short, after a particular night of Anna making trips to the bathroom, we decided she needed to visit the pediatrician. After a quick check of her blood sugar, she was immediately referred to the hospital where we received confirmation of her T1D from their endocrinology team.
Kerri: And your daughters met at diabetes camp, right? What has their experience with diabetes been like?
Mark: Yes, they met at Camp Sweeney, Texas, last July. Sweeney, for those unfamiliar, is a camp for diabetic kiddos. Ella has two older cousins with T1D, both of whom had attended Sweeney and loved it. Last year was her first year at camp though – ANY camp – so she was fortunate and excited to make such a good friend in Anna, Alan’s daughter. Ella has done a remarkable job of dealing with diabetes. Yes, we’ve had a few rough days, we’ve had a few instances of her breaking down and questioning ‘Why me?’, but that’s to be expected. As heart-breaking as that is to see, I’d be more concerned if she never did that. With mine and my wife’s help, she does a great job of staying on top of her number. She’s also continues to excel at school and athletically, playing competitive soccer and volleyball. Honestly, she’s my hero!
Alan: That’s right. And it’s been the most incredible set of circumstances that brought our kids together! I’m still awed by that! This past summer was Anna’s third year attending Camp Sweeney. However, to Anna, this year was the most special due to making friends with Ella.
Anna has been a real trooper in her diabetic lifestyle. Because she is approaching her fourth “Diaversary” and was diagnosed at age 7, she has began forgetting what life was like before diabetes. This fact has, in many ways, helped us as parents guide her in her diabetic management. She goes with the flow because it’s really all she knows. She understands her condition, but does not recognize any stigma in being “different” than her peers. However, she has her “days”. As she approaches puberty, she is thinking much more independently much to our chagrin. Hormones can reek havoc on a T1D. And, typically this leads to a roller coaster of blood sugars, acts of rebellion, verbal expressions of omniscience and good ‘ol fashioned eye-rolls!
Kerri: What made you choose podcasting as the way to share your story?
Mark: I’ve been podcasting for 4 years now having launched two shows previously (my first regarding soccer, and more recently the ‘Whistle Stop Week’, a topical news comedy quiz show), so the medium is something I am comfortable with and enjoy. I’m also an enthusiastic podcast consumer, listening to podcasts more than music or radio. With Alan co-hosting his own successful podcast, it soon became obvious that this was a medium around which we could quickly mobilize, and easily get our – and our kiddos – stories out there.
Alan: What he said! Honestly, Mark hit the nail on the head with only one exception. He used the word “successful” in speaking of my podcast. That may be a bit of a stretch. But, the accolade is certainly appreciated! I began a comedy podcast called Small Town Famous™️ back in 2016 in an effort to capture conversations that my friends and I have when we hang out. It’s a sort of cultural thing that is more common in the rural South where guys just sit around, do nothing, and destroy each other verbally or tell funny stories…which provides more ammo to destroy each other verbally.
The casual unscripted nature of my show helped me understand that there is an audience for podcasts that provide content that doesn’t necessarily have a point other than to entertain. But, as we built a following, I began to notice a similarity in comments we received which uncovered two main reasons for listening. First, it made those who no longer lived in the south miss home. Second, listeners loved hearing our accents.
To bring this all back to “Dads and Diabetes”, when the idea for DaD was first broached, I felt that if I could take my experience with conversational podcasting (and amateur sound engineering!), Mark’s experience in podcast production and marketing, and our shared desire to tell our diabetic stories, we would have something very special. Mark was definitely the brains behind DaD. I’m so grateful that this idea came to fruition.
Kerri: I know you launched the podcast recently, so what has your experience been, so far?
Mark: Unbelievable! The whole idea of dads telling their stories really seems to have resonated with a lot of folks in the T1D community. The response has been so encouraging; it’s truly so humbling to read some of the feedback on social media, particularly from fellow dads. We wanted our pod to really be a personal narrative, something honest and authentic. There are lots of excellent diabetes-focused pods out there but the majority of them are coming from a medical angle, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for, and/or are hosted by moms. One of the pieces of feedback we got on Facebook says it best, ‘It’s great to hear the dad perspective sometimes. Hats off to all our T1 moms, but y’all outnumber us on these forums!’. To be clear, Dads can contribute to online forums or create podcasts every bit as easily as moms do, and yet they tend not to. So, acknowledging that, we wanted to create a show that not only allowed us the cathartic exercise of sharing our experiences, but which would also encourage other dads to engage with us and those around them, to share their stories, too.
Alan: Again, Mark summed it up perfectly. We are receiving such heart-warming feedback after just one episode. In all honesty, the response thus far has given me a sense of “podcasting purpose” that I’ve never felt before! It’s exciting to see where this goes!
I would add one thing to what Mark said. I believe that what folks will find unique about our show is our sole focus of telling stories about the T1D experience from pre-diagnosis to early diagnosis to the initial years of living with T1D. This is such a frightening time for dads of T1D kids. I believe it’s good to share what we went through (and still going through) if only to help those who aren’t comfortable sharing their thoughts or feelings with their friends or loved ones. My hope is that it demonstrates to the listener, especially dads, that they are not alone. The fact that Ella is about a year into her diagnosis and Anna is almost four years into hers gives me and Mark an opportunity to cover a vast landscape yet remain joined together on the same journey.
Kerri: As caregivers, how does peer-to-peer support influence the way you take care of your daughters’ diabetes?
Mark: I don’t know if it directly influences me or our family, but the support we receive from friends and family and from folks on social media certainly serves as a source of strength. The reality is that anyone with T1D can lead a normal, active life – with some inevitable bumps along the way. Some of the challenges associated with T1D are unavoidable. But hearing other people’s stories, being able to relate to folks who are going through the same thing you or your child, is invaluable. You don’t even necessarily need to engage with that person online – just reading their post and drawing encouragement from that can be enough. I suppose the same is true of our podcast, in that to a large degree it’s a one-way medium. We just hope to provide some strength, hope, and encouragement to others through the show.
Alan: It doesn’t really change our manner of diabetic management. We keep our eyes and ears open to new technologies or techniques that could help us be more successful. Other than that, peer-to-peer support is our means of motivation. It gives us a shoulder to cry on or an understanding ear for us to complain to. It is a much-needed source of emotional support.
Kerri: What do you hope listeners gain from your podcast?
Mark: The understanding that you’re not alone. There are loads of folks in the T1D community with similar experiences to yours, which can be really affirming. Also, every T1D story is different. Ella and Anna’s stories share a lot of common elements but diverge at several points. Ultimately though, we’re all in the same boat, we understand what we’re dealing with day to day, and can support one another accordingly. The ‘target audience’ for our pod is anyone who’s life has been touched by T1D, but it is especially gratifying when a dad reaches out to us with thanks or feedback. If we can help dads become more engaged in the conversation, we’ll be happy.
Alan: Absolulely. My hope is that sharing our experiences will resonate with T1D parents and provide a sense of comfort in knowing that we all have similar struggles…but we can do this! Just knowing that we aren’t alone, and that we tend to have the same worries and fears, helps keep us motivated to walk with our kids through this fight.
To learn more about the Dads and Diabetes podcast, you can visit their website. Or you can go straight to iTunes and have a listen. Or you can hang out with them on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Instagram. (These guys are everywhere!) And if you’d like to email them, you can send that note to DadsandDiabetes @ gmail . com.