With Father’s Day coming up on Sunday, the special bond between father and child is on my mind. One dad who is deeply committed to his children is Bill Woods. I’ve known Bill for some time; we met up at AADE last year, and he participated in our Social Media Week post. I recently talked with Bill and found his insights about how living with diabetes influences his role as a father enlightening.
Learning by Experience
Bill described growing up with type 1 diabetes as a “trial by error process.” Together with his parents, Bill learned by experience about portion sizes, measuring food, setting an eating schedule and what it felt like to have low and high blood sugar. He now appreciates how challenging it may have been for his parents to raise him.
“At the time, I just never understood how difficult that must have been for my parents,” he said. “Being able to look back, I do really appreciate all that they went through, because they went through a lot. I really wish they had had an outlet to speak with other parents and families that were going through the same thing that they were, because I’m sure they didn’t have anybody to talk to about it.”
A Helpful Resource
To help others try to understand the diabetes experience, Bill started making videos in 2006. When he posted his first video on what it feels like for him to have a low blood sugar, people responded almost immediately, saying that they felt the same way. “I think that was the first time that I understood the real value of connecting socially with other people living with type 1 diabetes,” he said. “I grew up being told I was different but in reality, in the diabetes online community, everybody is the same in some way. I realized for the first time that I really did have a wealth of information to share.”
Bill also started sharing his experiences in the diabetes online community as “1 Happy Diabetic,” which reflects his perspective on diabetes. “1 Happy Diabetic – it almost doesn’t sound like it’s even possible,” he said. “How could someone be happy with diabetes? I’ve always struggled with the whole acceptance of having a chronic illness. I realized it all comes down to my attitude. I really feel that I may be able to control whether I’m happy about something, and if I put more effort into positive thinking about diabetes, the better off my diabetes management might be.”
As Community Manager of Glu, Bill extends his commitment to sharing helpful resources, as he helps nurture a community for people touched by type 1 diabetes. You may have seen his Tweets under the @GluBill handle. “My role as a Community Manager is to listen to what the diabetes community is saying and respond back with timely articles, questions of the day and surveys so people may learn from real time diabetes information,” he said.
Diabetes Support: All in the Family
At the Woods’ house, diabetes is a part of the family routine. “I have a young daughter and son and they have been involved with my diabetes management right from the start,” he said. “They just think it’s something that Daddy does. Every time I do an insulin pump site change, my daughter always wants to help out. She’s always there to throw out the items when I’m done, and she’s really interested in why I’m doing it and what’s happening. When I test in front of her, we count the numbers together. I’ve done the Big Blue Test with her, where I do push-ups with her on my back and she counts down the numbers.”
At this point, Bill’s kids are still a little young to understand much about diabetes beyond the daily routine, but Bill is watching for opportunities to explain. “Probably the first thing that I would teach them is something that would be beneficial to me and our family’s management of my type 1 diabetes,” he said. “I can’t be selfish and just think all the responsibility is on my shoulders. There is a lot on my wife’s shoulders as well. I would help my kids recognize when I’m having a low blood sugar and what to do.”
Bill described several tiers of diabetes support he has defined with his wife, from “I’m low but I can manage it myself,” to “I’m low and could use some help,” to “I’m low and need help immediately.” “I think that would be definitely the first thing that I teach my kids about diabetes,” he said. “I wouldn’t want them to be worried about me in situations where they might not have to worry, but I want them to know what to do if those situations should come up.”
A Father’s Love
As a dad, Bill enjoys seeing his kids grow and develop. “I really love watching their personalities unfold and being able to observe my daughter as she progressed from walking to talking,” he said. “Now she has her own persona and emotions; she loves certain colors, and she already can dress better than I can. I think it’s really neat to watch them understand a word or concept. I try to give them good examples and be a good role model to learn from.”
Being a dad also impacts how Bill views his diabetes. “After my daughter was born, I found this new sense of a reason for me to be in better management with my diabetes,” he said. “I have kids now, and people are dependent on me. It gave me a new look at myself and my diabetes and what’s really important. I always understood the value of health, but now it’s even a bigger priority. Diabetes management became more important once I had kids. I want to see them grow up and do well, and I can’t do that if I’m not managing my diabetes the best way I can.”
I can relate to how becoming a parent changes one’s priorities. I know I want to serve as a healthy role model for my daughter, and be a part of all her adventures growing up. It sounds like Bill is creating some lasting memories for his kids along the way – I love the idea of involving his daughter in his Big Blue Test efforts! My sincere thanks to Bill for sharing his story. Happy Father’s Day, Bill, and to the rest of the dads out there!
All the best,
Disclosure: Bill Woods received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.