Siblings Series: Kayla Pawlowski
Diabetes is a disease that affects the whole family. It’s not just the person who is receiving the injections or pump infusion sets or finger pricks who’s carrying the full weight of diabetes. It can be a balancing act for the people living with it, and the people living near it and caring for people with it.
At our Friends for Life conferences, we bring focus to the sibling experience, and we’re very excited to highlight some of their perspectives through our Siblings Series. Today we’re connected with Kayla Pawlowski about her experiences as the sister of a person with diabetes.
How old were you when your sibling was diagnosed with diabetes, and how did you find out about their diagnosis?
Melissa was diagnosed when I was a few months old and Matthew was diagnosed when I was 7. Because I was so young when Melissa was diagnosed, I do not know a life without diabetes. When Matthew was diagnosed, diabetes was just a part of our normal life. My parents always made diabetes positive in our lives.
How has diabetes affected your life in a challenging way?
Diabetes has many misconceptions. Being a sibling of someone with T1D, you often are teaching others around you the “what” and the “why” of type 1 diabetes. As a child growing up with siblings with type 1, our parents never let diabetes stand in the way. This was difficult for others to understand. Yes, Melissa can play basketball, swim, and ice skate all in one day. Yes, Matthew can do the lighting and sound on major events. And, yes, they can eat whatever they want. Diabetes would not hold my siblings back. Even now that we are all adults, we still push one another to follow our dreams.
How has diabetes influenced you in a positive way?
It is easy to focus on the negatives when the people you love have a disease. However diabetes has brought a lot joy to our family. First and foremost, diabetes has brought our family support through the CWD community. We have been attending conferences since 2003 and every conference we attend, we learn new things and meet new people. We as a family know that we will get to be together with people who get “it” throughout the year. Our lives would not be the same without CWD. Diabetes has taught us to be stronger than we could ever imagine. I have seen my siblings do amazing things and go on incredible journeys that not even 100 years ago they could go on, thanks to the remarkable technology developments. I am not grateful that my siblings have a disease, but I am grateful for what diabetes has brought to my family. When someone in your family has type 1, your family has type 1 (metaphorically speaking). Diabetes has allowed our close-knit family to bond with one another on a level we might not have if diabetes was not a part of our lives. Diabetes is not a setback for us, but a bump in the road (and some extra ice cream along the way–thanks lows). It is easy to focus on the negative, but if we switch that mindset of what diabetes has brought to our lives in a positive lens, the list goes on and on about the positive impact that diabetes has had on us.
What words of advice would you have for other siblings of people with diabetes?
Being a sibling, you are a support; you are an educator; you are a protector. My advice to any sibling is to be there for your loved one and educate those around you.
Why is support for siblings important to you? To our CWD community?
Support for siblings is important because diabetes can be overwhelming. Luckily for me, I had a built-in sibling support who I could always count on. My sister Sarah and I are a major support to one another. Sarah taught me to stick up and educate others about diabetes to those around me from a young age. Beyond just Sarah and I, we have a sibling tribe through the CWD community that started the moment we began attending CWD. We are all tied through the orange band. Our orange band group has grown since we first started coming. Now with spouses and significant others who show their support for our T1Ds, we truly have a solid community. Through that orange band not only do we support our green band loved ones, but we support each other to help understand the “why” and fight for a cure with the hope that one day we will all be orange bands once again.
Published: December 19, 2019
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