Sugar Surfing from the start
The story below is by Susan Surovik, MOD extraordinaire. Susan's son Caleb has been surfing almost all his diabetes life. She recently shared with me how their dynamic approach to diabetes allows her to see diabetes self care in a radically different way compared to the static approaches she was initially taught. Read her compelling story:
I had another day etched in my memory with type 1 diabetes, a very joyful one. The journey we have walked with our son, Caleb, has been long and hard and good. Full of ups and downs fueled by fear and gratitude, finger pricks, high and low numbers and many discussions of how many units, number of carbs and what physical activity Caleb might or might not partake in. Somehow all these things faded away in the moment that my husband and I decided the A1C number wasn’t what we cared about. Unlike the last 5 years, when I held my breath waiting to see the A1C. At this visit we were perfectly fine with Dr. Ponder tearing up the paper that held that number without us even catching a glimpse. That in itself was transformational for me. The freedom of not being so concerned with the A1C because I spent the last 3 weeks, prior to Caleb’s appointment, witnessing a master Sugar Surfer. I watched him use his knowledge of type 1, insulin, his Dexcom, food and his body to surf the “waves” of his blood sugar to maintain this incredible control. Interestingly, when my husband and I said we didn’t need to see the number, our 15 year old son, upon hearing Dr. Ponder rip the paper, sat up on the exam table and said, “No, no I want to see it.” This was not a fear of the A1C response but something different. It was the recognition of the control he could have of his overall health if he chose to run head on into the waves, surfing, using his knowledge, and power at hand. I think Sugar Surfers naturally care about their A1C not to judge themselves but to continue to improve their skills as a surfer.
Type 1 diabetes entered our world in October 2013. We did not know anything about T1D, neither my husband nor myself have any type of diabetes in our extended families. The early days after the diagnosis were a blur. But I will never forget the key moment I received a random phone call from a woman in Houston telling me about Dr. Ponder. We were assigned an endocrinologist in Austin since Caleb was sent to Dell’s Children Hospital at diagnosis. Our first weeks at home from the hospital were so terrifying and confusing. Every day I went to work I ended up spending most of my workday on the phone with people from my son’s endocrinologist office. Again and again, I would explain and fax my son’s numbers and ask for help improving them. I felt helpless and overwhelmed. In the meantime, I learned of Dr. Ponder and began to research him. A pioneer in this field who seemed to be blazing a trail of his own. He’d been on his own trail his entire life and I was thankful he was sharing what he had learned. I had never encountered someone in the medical profession as authentic, full of enthusiasm and compassion to inspire others to find their own power within. As I learned more about him and his out of the box thinking I loved him even more. By the grace of God, we managed to successfully switch to Dr. Ponder before our second appointment. The gift of our son (now a teenager) being with Dr. Ponder from the beginning of his journey with T1D has benefits that are difficult to even begin to imagine now. I know these benefits will reach far into his adult years.
Teenagers have a lot of power and purpose during their adolescent years. With T1D, and with all hard things in life, learning to channel the purpose and power in a positive direction impacts our lives eternally. If we had not found Dr. Ponder, I am convinced that my son could have developed a set of habits, a way of management, that would not have allowed him to tap into the power Sugar Surfing™ promotes. He could have become complacent, relying on returned calls from a doctor’s office, computations at said doctor’s office instructing how to adjust insulin. As our children grow, we hope they will integrate brushing their teeth and putting on deodorant into their daily life. When your child has T1D, managing their disease also must become an integration. The old stagnant methods of managing teaches the patient to ignore innate knowledge about their body as they continue to collect numbers and wait for the changes to be suggested and made by someone else. I firmly believe that if my son had grown accustomed to relying on phone calls and the power of a physician before making adjustments, he would have formed habits and ways of managing his numbers that could have been quite overwhelming to change. Without Sugar Surfing, I feel our son’s type 1 management would not have been integrated into his way of life.
Of course, this does not mean we don’t have difficult days and periods of struggle and fear, nor is our journey over. There are countless days of hormones, new foods, illness, really any number of things that make riding the waves challenging. On these days, during these times, we, the parents, provide the necessary supports and coaching a good surfer needs. But, there is nothing, nothing, like witnessing my son respond to the knowledge of his body, impart his Sugar Surfing knowledge and respond to the ebb and flow of the waves of living with T1D. The day he sprung up from the examination table and replied, “I do. I want to see my number.” I realized my son had become a surfer. The waves may knock him around, cause him to tumble, fumble and loose his balance but hopefully he will always run head on into the waves with the knowledge that the waves can be ridden, aren’t scary, and aren’t another surfers to ride. They are his own and his body will respond as only he knows it can. I am thankful he started as a surfer, so he never had a chance to develop habits or a mindset that could be challenging to change.
Many things are hard before they are easy. I’m not saying Sugar Surfing is easy but once learned it does become a way of life. As with all things in life it can still present challenges. But I will say having control over our health, life, fear of diabetes complications makes living with diabetes much easier. We never truly have control, but we do have power and that is true with so many things in life. The power to affect our future, our bodies, our health. Sugar Surfing, riding those waves is a powerful way to enjoy life with diabetes and is the way to live a life that feels free. I hope as Dr. Ponder has done, Caleb, in his own way, will also inspire, encourage, and help others on their journey with T1D to form the habits of a surfer and find their own power within.