Raising a Child with Diabetes
19 September 2017
Diabetes is not just a condition – it’s a lifestyle. Donna Cunnin, mother of Team Novo Nordisk professional cyclist Reid McClure, reflects on raising a child with diabetes and how she hopes sharing her experiences with others will make their journey a little bit easier.
Diagnosis Day is a day that no one in the family ever forgets. We spent about four intense days at the Stollery Children’s Hospital where we received our crash course in diabetes management and learned how to keep our son, Reid, healthy and alive. Needless to say, it was frightening… and sad. Giving your child daily injections and finger pokes weren’t how we imagined raising our son. He was only three years old. But we decided very early on that he was “Reid,” our wonderful son, first and we would encourage him to pursue all of his dreams and goals despite his diabetes. Our first goal as a family: develop a “new normal” and prove to Reid that his diabetes wasn’t going to define him or us and how we lived our lives.
There were many sleepless nights, and it was a lot of work for all of us – getting up to check blood sugars, educating caregivers, preschool teachers, friends, and family. The things we took for granted – like sending Reid to a slumber party- became obstacles and problems to solve. Halloween was our nightmare! But, we soldiered on. We were his warriors.
Reid played lots of sports as a child. He spent many years ski racing until a terrible crash ended that career at age 14. His rehab put him on the bike. Through that, he discovered success as a mountain biker first and then transitioned to road cycling. His coach encouraged him to pursue Team Novo Nordisk. He told Reid to race hard locally and then, with some great results on his resume, to apply to the TNN Talent ID Camp. Following that week at camp in 2014, he came home and trained with one goal – to make the Development Team…then eventually, the Pro Team! (By the way, Reid was also a full-time university student and worked hard to achieve both his academic and athletic goals. He was busy!) So, we took the stance that Reid’s diabetes, this life-threatening condition, had become his gift. It became the avenue through which he was able to chase his dream of becoming a professional athlete.
I’ll never forget when Reid called us to tell us he made the Development Team. He said, “Mom! This is big news…I have been invited to join the Team Novo Nordisk Devo Squad!” I was dancing in the street for him!! Sharing and celebrating that moment is something else I won’t soon forget. It was a success for all of us.
Reid is finishing his first season on the Pro Team. He recently tackled one of his toughest challenges yet – competing in the Tour of Utah. There was no way we were going to miss it! We traveled to Utah to watch Reid race because we wanted to see his world and share it with him. We had seen him race locally but never anything like the TOU. We knew it was going to be a grueling racing and we hoped to offer some motivation to all of the TNN riders. The six days of racing were fantastic and so exciting! We met so many people cheering on the riders. Some knew about TNN and those that didn’t were happy to learn about them and celebrate the team’s mission. I spoke to a few families in the Team Novo Nordisk finish line tent that had children with diabetes. I wanted to encourage them. I know where they are and know the worry they face, often daily. But because they were out cheering on this team, they were already showing their child what’s possible and that diabetes won’t stop their child from pursuing any dream. They were doing the right thing for their child.
Now, this many years later, Reid manages his diabetes extremely well. We do not worry about him. I feel that riding with TNN is probably the most supportive and safe environment for a professional cyclist. He’s with guys who share his journey and understand his challenges.
If he wasn’t riding for TNN, I don’t think diabetes would be something we would often mention as a family. It would not be such a presence in our life. But, we choose to celebrate his accomplishment and tell as many people who will listen that Reid is riding on a team of all type 1 diabetics. The first response is “WOW! A pro bike racer!” And then, “We didn’t know Reid was diabetic.” Followed up by “That is amazing! A pro team of all diabetics…how do they do it?” We say hard work and dedication to a goal and a dream. We are always willing to share our experience with other people who have a child with diabetes. We don’t offer medical advice… just life advice. It’s a family disease.