Inspirational Women: Jill Dine, the amazing mother of an equally amazing little boy with Type 1 Diabetes

I mentioned a bit ago that I was starting a series on inspirational women and I'm excited to introduce you to the first of many!  But first, a little background on the subject:

I decided this would be a fun and moving series for the blog because I know so many women who have inspired me and who I hope will inspire you too.  I grew up with 4 brothers and while I used to wish I had a sister, I now realize that maybe it was meant to be this way so I would open my eyes and heart to all the beautiful and strong women that come into my life.  I've been so blessed by these mentors and friendships and am a better person for knowing them.  So if one day I have a daughter, one of my greatest wishes for her will be to love and support the women in her life; to be a girl's girl because these relationships will be a huge part of the foundation of who she is, who builds her up, the joys she shares and the little things that will make her life so precious.

I recently sat down with and old friend from college, Jill Dine, to chat about being a mom and having a son, Clayton, almost 5, who has Type 1 Diabetes.  Jill is one of those people who's quick to smile and so sincere, but she's also someone you don't want to mess with.  She's an incredibly strong woman, an amazing mother and a loyal friend with whom it was so nice to share this chat.  Her interview is candid and touching.  She and her husband are making the best of the hand they were dealt, raising two darling boys and working to make a difference.

How did you find out Clayton had diabetes:
Clayton was a little over 2 and he was sleeping from 8pm until 10am and taking naps.  I just felt that something wasn't right, so I took him to the doctor who basically said he's a good sleeper, you got lucky.  Then all he wanted to eat was McDonald's milk shakes and was wetting the bed often (he was already potty trained).  A few weeks later, John, my husband, was in Europe and we were with his sister.  She saw him chugging milk and peeing through his clothes and she told me she thought he was diabetic.  When I got home that night I googled it and he had all the symptoms but I was in denial.  When John got back from Europe the next day and saw Clayton his mouth dropped!  He had lost 9 lbs since John had left (he went from 29 lbs to 20).  We took him to the doctor the next morning.  On the way there I was totally in denial but then right before we arrived, I called my sister-in-law and started balling.  I was really scared.  We got to the doctor and they took a urine sample and sent us directly to Children's Hospital where we stayed for 3 days.  Clayton was getting IVs and insulin shots and John and I went to classes all day for 3 days to learn about diabetes and how to take care of him.

How is the day-to-day going now?
We took that class when he was first diagnosed and it was so overwhelming.  I've really learned the most from just living it and from speaking with other mothers with children a little older than Clayton but it's hard.  The average age for a child to be diagnosed is between 8-13.  It's crazy that he was 2 and there is no one in the family with Type 1 Diabetes.  It's also hard now because activity brings his numbers down and he loves hockey which is one of the most strenuous sports he could play.  And each day is different.  He could have oatmeal for breakfast every day for 10 days and one day his numbers will be high and another low.  His school doesn't have a nurse so I have to be in the neighborhood in case something would happen.

What's the hardest thing for you? 
That I'm (we're) keeping him alive every 2 hours at a time, even at night.  It's a lot of pressure.  I'm afraid to have another baby because we're already getting up every two hours to check his blood sugar levels.  It's also hard when he gets mad about it and asks "Why can't I eat this or that" or says he hates diabetes.  But luckily he doesn't get like that too often.  I often wonder why him.

What advice would you give someone whose child is newly diagnosed:
The first year stinks.  It was so impossibly hard but you will get through it.  We were constantly by his side for the first six months after he was diagnosed.  Our life was a blur. Ryan, our younger son, was 7 months old when Clayton was diagnosed and I don't really remember him as a baby.  I don't really remember when he took his first steps or his first birthday.  I was so wrapped up in keeping Clayton alive.

How has it affected your marriage?
It has made us closer.  We had to come together as a team.  The first 3 weeks I couldn't physically give Clayton the insulin shots so John came home from work every couple hours, every day to do it.  John kept us grounded and got us through it.

Do you think it's changed who you are as a mom?
Yes!  I would have been that mom who gave my kids junk food, anything they wanted.  I'm also more nervous. I'm worried when he's at school and I'm constantly worried that I'm taking away his freedom.  We left to go on a trip recently, just John and I, and I think it was a really good thing.  It gave Clayton the confidence that someone else can take care of him too.  It was good for everyone.

How does Clayton do with it especially now that he's getting older and not by your side all the time?
He does really well.  He can feel it when he eats things that aren't good for him like pizza or McDonalds.  I trust him as a 5 year old as if he was 35.  And he has the utmost trust in us.  We have a special bond with him because of this.  From day 1 Clayton went with the flow and has the demeanor to handle it (our younger son, Ryan, probably wouldn't be able to handle this).  When he was two and-a-half and I couldn't physically give him the insulin shots, he would say "mom, you can do it!"  John thinks he'll be the doctor who finds a cure someday.

What progress is being made in the research and the quest for a cure?
Even in the 2 years since he's been diagnosed there have been so many advances.  There's the bionic pancreas and islet cell transplants.  I have hope that one day it won't be about counting carbs etc., but there will probably always be something.  I for sure think that there will be a cure someday, hopefully by the time Clayton is 12.

And speaking of a cure, Jill, John, Clayton and Ryan are involved in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes and this year raised the most money of any family in Chicago!  Jill also ran the Chicago Marathon for the Chicago Diabetes Project who has already cured 7 diabetics via islet cell transplants.

A huge thanks to Jill for sharing so openly.  I'm amazed by what you do every day!  And John, thanks for being so supportive of my friend.  You guys are raising an equally inspiring, strong and sweet little boy.

Top 4 photos by the incredibly talented Erin Konrath


  1. Thank you for sharing Heather, hits very close to home. Sometimes it can feel like you're very alone when dealing w/ type 1. It's very comforting to hear other families stories.

    1. Thanks for reading, Meghan! Jill's goal for sharing was to help others if even in just a small way.

  2. What a sweet little boy and great mom!


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