How Are Siblings Handling Diabetes?

As a brother to a T1 diabetic, I am interested to hear from parents, siblings and others with diabetes as to how non-diabetic siblings are dealing with their brother’s or sister’s diabetes. My brother was diagnosed when he was four years old and I was seven. That was some 38 years ago! So, I have pretty much grown up with T1 diabetes and, though I am lucky to be healthy, the disease certainly had deep impacts on my family and me. These impacts were deep enough and important enough that I recently published a book on my experiences (http://www.shadowchildthebook.com). I would like to hear from others on this topic and learn more about your experiences.

I have 2 brothers, one 2 years younger and one 12 years younger than me. The youngest brother was diagnosed at 3 years as T1. That means I was 15 and my other brother was 13. As older siblings we probably accepted it better than younger ones might. We didn’t have alot of sweets around the house although mom would make treats that all could enjoy. I felt really bad for my little brother as it seemed like he was always having to go to the doctor for tests and he cried every morning with his insuliln shot. That was in the days of only 1 shot a day and no glucometer, just voiding in the cup. Mom was very vigilant with him and that is why now at almost 50 he is still healthy. Mom trusted us to watch over him, so as a new driver at 16, I looked for excuses to drive. I took him to the movies, Easter egg hunting, etc. Snacks for him were always in my purse. Fast forward to the present, both my other brother and I have been diagnosed T1. I was diagnosed at 57 and my other brother at 40. There is a bond between us that goes beyond just a sibling relationship. Its a an understanding of what a bad day feels like. There is a support system of three who truly do understand. At 57 when diagnosed with the whole DKA coma thing, BG 1141 ,not expected to make it out of the ER, both brothers were there. I might add neither live by me and had to travel to get there. I am very thankful for both of my brothers.

My story is weird. My brother was diagnosed at 13 in 1971. I was 5. 38 years later, I was diagnosed at 43. I didn’t really know what was going on in 1971, but I knew my brother was sick and was in the hospital. (I remember doing an illustration of my brother in a hospital bed and a writing a short explanation in first grade-- at the time).

My scant knowledge of Type 1 in no way prepared ME for having it. I did grasp how serious it was, however. I want to be as proactive as possible in hopes that my complications are minimal.

But as an adult, I now realize what a blow this must have been at 13 and how much taking care of yourself takes a lot of emotional energy.

Wow! That is quite a story and the now the second sibling who’s story includes becoming T1 themselves! I am 45 now, and this makes me wonder if something similar is not in store for me! You were quite a bit older than your youngest brother, do you think you felt added responsibility? In my situation, being only three years older, I felt a great amount of responsibility toward my brother. We had a great relationship until I started high school and then I really did not know how to be a high school kid and be a responsible sibling.

Thanks Tim. As I was an older bro, and you a younger, I am curious as to how your brother’s diabetes impacted you. Did you feel you had to be responsible - something I definitely felt as an older brother? Other common impacts seem to be jealousy, neglect, fear etc… How did those types of feelings play out with you?

I didn’t feel responsible at the time. With the perspective of age, I can see he had to grow up fast. I didn’t feel jealousy and any feelings of neglect I felt did not stem from Type 1.

An eight year difference in age made my brother and his life a mystery to me at the time.

The passage of time has given me the perspective that my brother, despite his Type 1, is a jerk and that he did not always do a good job of attending to his diabetes.

No, I don’t think I felt added responsibility in a negative way. I did learn to be responsible in lots of ways because of him. I saw way too many lows in those days for him and they were scary. We have such better tools now.