The Baby-Sitters Club comes to Netflix! The beloved series features a character who lives with type 1 diabetes. How did the show do portraying life for a 7th grader with T1D? We talk to New York Times Bestselling author and winner of the National Book Award Robin Benway. Robin loved the books as a child and was diagnosed with type 1 as an adult.
Also this week, Mike Suarez turned his son’s story into an adorable picture book called Year One with Type One
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In Tell Me Something Good – she had a huge goal for the JDRF rides this year – of course so much had to be cancelled this year but her story took a wonderful turn.. on and off the bike.
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Stacey Simms 0:00
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This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 0:28
This week, it’s all about books and a TV show that’s based on books. We’re talking about the Baby-Sitters Club with a New York Times bestselling author who loved the series as a child and was diagnosed with type one as an adult.
Robin Benway 0:43
Oh my gosh, I’m now something that I was a fan of for so long. I can now watch on television. You know, I was thinking about Stacey when I did start to watch it. I thought it was nearly perfect.
Stacey Simms 0:54
Robin Benway is the winner of the National Book Award when we talk about Stacey and the babies sitters club, what we liked what we didn’t, and about diabetes in media. Plus a dad turns his toddler story into an adorable picture book about type one.
in Tell me something good. She had a huge goal for the JDRF rides this year, of course, so much had to be cancelled and changed. But this woman’s story took a wonderful turn on and off the bike. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
Welcome to another week of the show. I’m so glad to have you along. I’m your host, Stacey Simms, and we aim to educate and inspire about type 1 diabetes by sharing stories of connection. My son was diagnosed with type one, gosh, ages ago now he was almost two and in December it will be 14 years. Yeah, he’s 15 and a half 15. And more than that, I don’t even know anymore. My husband lives with type two diabetes. I do not have diabetes, but I have a background in broadcasting and that is how you get the podcast which we’ve been doing now. for more than five years,
and I have been wanting to talk about the Baby-Sitters Club for a long time, I mean, we have talked about it because many guests over the years have said that it was very influential to them, either. They read it and really were touched by Stacey’s story, the character who lives with type one, or somebody else read it and diagnose them because of it. That happened at least once to one of my guests. It’s really incredible to think about these books, and the impact they’ve had on our community. So when I saw column in Elle magazine recently, about the Netflix adaptation, I really wanted to talk to Robin Benway, the author, I knew she’d be fun to talk to just by her writing voice in the magazine, and she really was and Robin also had some unique insight about the books and about the adaptation, and I was really excited to talk to her. We also talked about diabetes in other media, you know, I think a lot of us cringe when we know there’s going to be a depiction of diabetes and a show or they mentioned insulin and we Oh, we know what’s coming. So it was fun to talk to Robin about that. And to kind of spotlight some good stuff that’s actually out there.
All right, I’m going to talk about my reaction in more depth to Baby-Sitters Club in a little bit of a review, but I’m going to do that later on. Because this is a longer episode. We’ve got two interviews, we’ve got Robin. And I also spoke to a dad who wrote a picture book rhyming kids book for about his little boy, and it’s called year one with type one, and that is with Mike Suarez. So that’s coming up in just a bit but first, diabetes Connections is brought to you by One Drop, and I spoke to the people at One Drop was really impressed at how much they get diabetes. It makes sense their CEO Jeff was diagnosed with type one as an adult. One Drop is for people with diabetes by people with diabetes. The people at One Drop work relentlessly to remove all barriers between you and the care you need. Get 24 seven coaching support in your app and unlimited supplies delivered. No prescriptions or insurance required there. Beautiful sleek meter fits in perfectly with the rest of your life. They’ll also send you test strips with a strip plan that actually makes sense for how much you actually check. One Drop diabetes care delivered, learn more, go to Diabetes, Connections comm and click on the One Drop logo.
My guest this week is a National Book Award winner and a New York Times best selling author. She wrote a column about the Baby-Sitters Club and her reaction to it in Elle magazine. That’s what caught my eye. I reached out and said, Would you talk to us but to come on the show? She said sure. And we had a great conversation. Now she grew up with a father who lived with Type One Diabetes, but she herself was not diagnosed until she was an adult. So her perspective on the Baby-Sitters Club, which she loved, as you’ll hear as a kid was very different because she wasn’t relating to the type one aspect about it right away. I’m also curious to know what you thought of the Baby-Sitters Club. I’m going to be putting more about this in the Facebook group. We’ve talked about it a little bit, but we’ll put more posts in there and get your take. And as I said earlier, I’m going to put a little bit more of my review, although you’ll you’ll hear much of it in the interview. But a little bit more later on. Here is my talk with Robin Benway.
Robin, thank you so much for jumping on to talk about this. I really appreciate it. It’s I’m looking forward to talking with you. Yeah, same here. Thank you so much for having me. All right before we jump into the Baby-Sitters Club, and I have a lot to talk about with that. Let me ask you just the basics. You were diagnosed as a young adult, right you were in your in your mid 20s?
Robin Benway 5:28
Yes, I was 26 it was July of 2003. I was diagnosed I was diagnosed with celiac disease at the same time I was having really low iron problems I was having anemia so they started doing a lot of bloodwork just to find out what was going on and started noticing that I had elevated blood sugar levels. And my father, who was my biological father was also a type one diabetic. So once they saw those blood sugar levels being elevated, they started to put things together pretty quickly. And so I in a, you know, a very strange way felt very lucky that I was diagnosed that way that it didn’t progress to the point where I had to be hospitalized or my blood sugar’s were, you know, four or five 600 or something like that, that I was diagnosed sort of accidentally and was able to catch it pretty early and could start, you know, meeting with an endocrinologist and started taking insulin pretty soon after that. So there was no mistaking at that age, oh, maybe it’s type two, maybe it’s something else because of your father, they pretty much went right there. At first, they were like, maybe it’s type two. There was a lot of I think, you know, this was 17 years ago. So I think now, the way that people are diagnosing type one and people in their 20s and 30s is very different than it was 17 years ago. I think that was when people were just starting to see that, at least based on my experience and the responses that I was getting from doctors at the time. You know, I had grown up knowing that my dad was diabetic, but in our family, we had always sort of been under the impression that once you hit 12 or 13 years old, you’re sort of out of the woods of that, you know, I think a lot of they used to call juvenile demise you know, because they were diagnosis of young. So I think it was a real shock because I had always thought, okay, I’m out of the woods. I’m fine. And that wasn’t the case. But they definitely did think it was type two. They started me on oral medications at first Metformin, but nothing worked. And I remember I still remember the first time I took insulin, it was just like, oh, that was the problem. You know, that’s what I need because my blood sugar’s just came down to right where they should be. So, you know, it was a little disheartening knowing that I was going to have to go on insulin, but at the same time, that relief of knowing that now here’s the drug that works was it balanced it out?
Stacey Simms 7:36
Do you remember I’ve been told this by other adults that I’ve talked to that what that first dose of insulin feels like, Do you remember that?
Robin Benway 7:44
I do. Remember, I was staying at my mom’s house. I was living alone at the time and I thought I don’t want to be alone when I take my first dose of insulin just in case. And I remember it dropped. My blood sugar’s a little lower. They were like maybe in the mid 60s, and I just remember, I didn’t feel shaky but I just remember feeling less. It’s that feeling of a sugar rush basically, you know when your blood sugars are high I for me personally, I definitely feel a little agitated, a little edgy, you know a little bit more, I don’t know Piper’s the word but just a little fuzzier. And I just remember that feeling going away. And I remember also being so terrified of like having to give myself an injection like having to give myself a shot. And I was incredibly amazed at how easy it was and how painless it was. I had always imagined that it would just be a torturous experience, you know, mostly because your experience with injections is like vaccinations or inoculations. You know, it’s Earth flu shot. It’s a very different experience. Give yourself a shot of insulin. And I remember feeling that relief also of Oh, I can do this. Okay, this is something that I can do. Wow. Yeah. So
Stacey Simms 8:50
the article that I’d mentioned, you start out by talking about this high spot in your career, the National Book Awards Gala and then the reality of being an adult with type one, which is go to the bathroom, I get up your formal gown, you know, giving an injection. And, you know, certainly a great way to start the article. But I’m curious, do you share your diabetes experiences with your friends and family? I mean, not everybody has to be giving themselves injections at the table. Right? I know. I’m sure you’re not hiding things. I don’t mean to imply that. Oh, as a mom, that was the first thing I thought of was, oh, my goodness in the bathroom. She okay. Yeah.
Robin Benway 9:29
You know, I obviously all of my friends and family know about it. I’m not someone who would ever conceal that part of me. It’s not something that I ever feel ashamed of, or feel like I need to keep secret. That’s certainly not it at all. I think. For me, it’s more about I’m very conscientious of other people’s reactions to blood and to syringes or needles, and I just don’t want to ever make someone I definitely have known people and I’ve heard of people who just give themselves an injection right at the table, you know, or will check their blood sugar under the table. And for me, I’m just not comfortable. That just in terms of making other people uncomfortable, but also sometimes things go wrong, you know, like, sometimes, you know, there’s a little bit more blood than you thought there would be or you hit a blood vessel when you’re injecting yourself with insulin. And, you know, sometimes it’s just easier to be in, even if it’s a public restroom, you know, it’s still a confined space. And sometimes just the privacy is sorted out is something that I prefer but in terms of being open, I definitely I talk about it. I do a lot of school visits with my job, you know, writing for young adults and young people, I do a lot of school visits. And I always talk about how I was diagnosed and how that changed the trajectory of my life. And I always say to kids, who here knows somebody with diabetes, and almost every kid raises their hand you know, whether it’s type one or type two, it doesn’t really matter to me, I just, I know that they can make a connection with what I’m saying and relate it to either themselves or someone that they love in their lives. No doubt.
Stacey Simms 10:53
Yeah, I think that’s to is the difference between my my personal experience of type 1 diabetes is my 15 year old who has made a career out Have trying to gross out his friends. Yeah, no, since the third grade watch this. Yeah, slightly different experience than a grown woman in
Robin Benway 11:09
that dress. You know? It’s expensive. You just really don’t want to get anything on this.
Stacey Simms 11:15
So let’s talk about the Baby-Sitters Club. Now I’m a little bit older so my guilty reading pleasure as a kid was worse sweet Valley High then Babysitter’s Club, also say, okay, okay. But were you a fan of this as a kid, this was something that you read and you look forward to.
Robin Benway 11:32
Oh, I cannot even describe to you like how much I love the Baby-Sitters Club. Like, I can just remember going to my local bookstore, you know, the Walden books that was in the mall at the time when there were still Walden books in malls and scanning the shelf and just looking for the new one and either being so excited when there was a new one or so disappointed when, you know, they came out every month and you know, on day 30 I’d be like, Where’s the next one you know, and sharing with your friends or your Got the new super special, so then they would loan it to you and super specials were bad. But yes, I mean, just when I think about the Baby-Sitters Club, because I’ve also talked a lot about, you know, what is sort of my formative reading now as a writer, like, what did I read as a child and a young adult that sort of made me a writer? I think the two things about the Baby-Sitters Club is that they were so funny. And I think I learned how to write humor and really good dialogue from those books. I think you can’t really teach how to write humor or write something funny, but I think if you can see it, you can see how either rapid fire dialogue or really smart responses or interrupting each other like, that was formative for me as a writer was seeing how they did that. And then also just as like a 11 1213 year old girl, you know, that is where, and I’m sure a lot of women and girls have had this experience, your friendships just kind of implode. And nobody really knows why. But suddenly, your best friend in sixth grade is your biggest enemy in seventh grade. And the factions are changing all the time and who’s friends with who and who’s not friends with who and who Did what to whom it’s traumatic, it’s a really difficult experience. It’s a big part of growing up, but it’s still difficult. And the thing with the Baby-Sitters Club was that at the end of the book, they were always friends. So you could see the sort of regeneration of friendship again and again and again. And for me, it was very comforting. You know, when sort of my female friendships were in turmoil, it was so lovely to see these girls work through things and stay friends in the end. So those were, I think the two things that kept me coming back to the book, but a great way to look at it.
Stacey Simms 13:29
Yeah, but you as a reader, your type one experience was with your dad. So I imagined Stacey McGill, the character in the book who has type one wasn’t somebody who could really relate to that wasn’t what you were reading the books at the
Robin Benway 13:42
time? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. You know, I actually I shied away from Stacey as a reader. You know, I loved I moved to New York when I was 18 years old. I’ve always wanted to live in New York. So reading her as a 12 year old I was like, Oh, that’s she’s a sophisticated city girl. You know, that’s how they always portrayed her. She’s From New York City, but that was my favorite part of her but there were books where either she was just diagnosed or I think there’s a book later in the series where she was hospitalized. And I had a hard time reading those just because at the time my dad’s health he had been a diabetic for 30 years at that point, so his health had gone up and down, you know, just the nature of the disease and the nature of treatment at the time as well. It wasn’t as advanced as what we have now. So you know, it was scary to see my dad go through that and I, Baby-Sitters Club was my safe place. You know, that was my fun, safe, circular path of Stony Brook Connecticut. I didn’t want a hospital or an insulin shot coming into it. So I don’t say I didn’t like Stacey as a character. I love Stacey as a character but in terms of what she went through, I just I really shied away from that. That wasn’t I was much more a Claudia dawn girl. So yeah.
Stacey Simms 14:54
How did you approach the Netflix series you’ve lived with type one now for a while. We all know that they never get it right in In media, I really looked looked at the show. I look very much forward with a lot of trepidation. I was almost afraid to watch it. What was your reaction?
Robin Benway 15:09
I mean, I literally had an alert set on Netflix to remind me that the Baby-Sitters Club will be on Friday, July 3, and then I got the notification. I was so excited for it just because I had loved the books. And you know, I don’t know any of the creators personally, but I was familiar with their work and their backgrounds. And I had read a lot of articles by that point about how they had approached the material and I just had a really good feeling about it. You know, I just thought that this is possibly in really good hands. And honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about it in terms of Stacey and diabetes. I was thinking about it as oh my gosh, I’m now something that I was a fan of for so long. I can now watch on television. You know, I was even thinking about Stacey, so when I did start to watch it. I mean, I thought it was nearly perfect. I thought that they kept the spirit. I love that they kept the girls young, you do feel like you’re watching 12 and 13 year old girls, b 12 and 13 year old girls, you know, and all of the struggles that go into that, but all of their I don’t say immaturity, but just that feeling of they’re still young, they’re still figuring things out. They’re not 17 years old in high school, you know, they’re still little girls and I thought that was really important what the books were and to the show, and I just thought the way they modernized the material was perfect. You know, they talk about Claudius grandmother being in bands and our you know, Claudia is Japanese American and talk about her grandmother being advanced in our when she was young. And you know, at one point Marianne is babysitting for a kid who’s transgender and that would have never been in the past 30 years ago, and I just thought they did a beautiful job of modernizing not only the characters, but the storylines while still staying true to what the spirit of the books was. They did
Stacey Simms 16:45
a nice job with that too. And they did this many times where they would put something in like that, you know, the child who was transgender, but the storyline wasn’t so much about that child. It was the babysitter character’s reaction to it and reflection of it. But I thought was going to throw this word up. I really thought it was masterfully done. Yes, she learned more about her. And yes, there was a there was a lesson there. And, you know, I know there’s a lot of criticism from people who get uncomfortable with those kinds of issues, but I thought it was so well done. And they did it many, many times over. And my 18 year old who’s really conscious of those things right now, I was really impressed. I thought it was really well done. But I was very worried about the truth about Stacey, I was like, Oh, no, because we see this happen so many times in media, and I think they got a couple of things that adults would notice kind of wrong. Boy, did they hit it out of the park, in terms of what younger people would see.
Robin Benway 17:41
What did you see in Stacey, what I see in myself. Here’s a girl who has many, many things. But one of those things is diabetic. It is not the arc of her life is not the big picture of who she is. It’s one thing and there’s a scene where she goes to babysit and her blood sugar feels a little bit low and she pulls out a juice box and I realized that I had never seen that in media before. You know, I hadn’t seen this girl or any girl or any woman just do that she feels better she keeps going. I mean, I have had literally hundreds of juice boxes on the road working, traveling, you know, so many so many juice boxes go down in bathroom stalls and downstairs bathrooms and you know, just you do what you have to do that’s important. And then your blood sugar’s come back up and you move on. And I was shocked to how blown away I was by that because it’s such a simple act, but it is such a big part of managing your blood sugar and managing diabetes.
Stacey Simms 18:35
Yeah. Didn’t you expect her not to do that and faint or have to go home from a babysitting job? That’s that’s what I think we all expected her to do. It was such a nice normal. No, I’m fine.
Robin Benway 18:45
Yeah. And I also I did like there is a scene I think at the end where it’s sort of like a neighborhood meeting with all the parents of the kids that they watch and though the girls are explaining what it what this means for Stacey and how this works, and I liked that they introduced the doubt of the parents. Because I think that’s, it’s the pushback that you get like, are you okay? Can you handle this? You know, there’s this feeling of, are you just gonna collapse at any moment? Are you safe and I like that they were like, this is how we this is how Stacey manages that this is how she handles it like these are factors in her daily life, but she’s also smart enough and mature enough and knowledgeable enough to take care of herself. And I thought that that was a really good message as well to see that some people may not understand it. And here we are explaining to you what this is. Really, if we had had that exact discussion, not as a group of parents, because we aren’t lucky enough to have a Baby-Sitters Club in my neighborhood.
Stacey Simms 19:37
One of our babysitter’s when my children were younger, has type one. And when Lauren would come over we the first couple times we talked about, well, what would happen if you had a low blood sugar and what would happen if this happens, and we talked about all of that, and it was funny, I saw a few adults in the community commenting on the show, and they that would never happen. parents wouldn’t talk about it that way. And then they also and I said yes, well, I’m sorry, but we did. Mother’s overreaction, right? No mother would overreact like that. I was like, Hello, I mice my son’s very first low blood sugar when it was a bad enough low sugar that we had to treat with more than just a juice box. We were about three weeks in, I called my endocrinologist convinced he was gonna send us to the ER, Mm hmm. Right? Okay, we treated it. His blood sugar’s coming up. What do we do now? They were like, What do you mean? But I thought we were gonna go in for tests or something. So that kind of confusion really made me laugh, because in the show, she actually did wind up going to the hospital for the day. But in our experience, I mean, I did call I can’t say that I didn’t. So it was pretty funny to see our real life reflected in that way. I did also like the mom turn around by the end, but it was more as we mentioned earlier, it was more about Stacey and less about the other character. She turned it around.
Robin Benway 20:52
Well, going back to the mom, you know, I was diagnosed at 26 I know how much my mom still worries about me to this day like she would never Say that you’re stupid ever say it explicitly. And I’m sure the way you worry about your children and your son, you know, there’s just always going to be the worry. I think that’s also very much based on who Stacey’s mom and her parents were in the books as well. They were very anxious about her disease. And I think that was really important to see that, you know, Stacey is managing many different facets of this disease, including what is other people’s reaction to it, including, what is her? What are her parents reactions to her? And it and I like that they were able to have that conversation and the confusion between this is who I am versus this is how you’re making me feel. I mean, I think those are things that every young person feels even if they’re not dealing with a chronic disease or not diabetic, how are you reacting to me versus how I want you to react to me, so I thought they did a really good job with that, but it’s just tricky because every person you meet is going to react completely differently to your diagnosis and regardless of how you react to it. And so that’s another thing that you’re always navigating is, I mean, I’m sure your son has heard this. I’m sure every diabetic has heard this, but we Hear the Oh yeah, my uncle had it. He lost a leg or he now he’s blind. You know, everybody write tragic stories and you have to sort of put up a barrier and remind yourself okay, well, that’s not me that is your uncle or your dad or whoever. So I think that was for me as I bet seeing Stacey navigate the reactions of other people I thought was really important as well because that is a big part of it.
Stacey Simms 22:22
Robin Well, I have you and as you listen, Robin is a National Book Award winner New York Times bestselling author, six novels for young adults. I want to ask you, Robin, why is it so hard to write genuinely for young people?
Robin Benway 22:38
I think for me, you know, six books in now at this point is empathy. It’s the very first thing that it has to be the biggest part of every book is empathy. I think it’s very easy to like see young people today and be like you kids with your tic tac toe and your snip snap, you know, like they don’t, you know, people it’s very, very easy to look at what is this? What are we in now, generally See, I guess and look at them and think, well, in my day, we had this and not that we weren’t on our phones all day. I mean, I’m on my phone all day. I’m a 43 year old woman. So I don’t you know, I’m not gonna judge a 15 year old for being on their phone all day. But I think for me, the biggest thing is empathy, because nothing really changes, right? Like we’re all still figuring out how to get along with our friends. Who do we want to be? How do we get along with our parents? How do we move through the world? You know, I as you get older, you hope you get wiser you hope you have more experience that makes you grow mentally, you hope that you maybe have a little bit more agency and a little bit more ability to vocalize how you feel and how to stand up for yourself but the struggles are still the same. You know, the way you get along with your teachers the kind of the same way we all get along with a boss or sometimes in a classroom, you have to be with people you don’t really want to be with same as in an office space. You know, sometimes you have co workers. So I think the feelings are always the same. The technology doesn’t matter. The place doesn’t really matter for me. It’s just The feelings whether it’s love or family or friendships,
Stacey Simms 24:03
have you ever considered putting type one into one of your books? Yes,
Robin Benway 24:08
I have. I’ve definitely over the years, I’ve had conversations with different editors or people in publishing. And they’ve said, like, hey, you’re diabetic, would you ever think about writing a book about diabetes? I think the thing is for me, and this is something that I’ve really, really, it’s why I don’t speak publicly about being a diabetic so much is that I don’t want it to become the only thing that people think of when they think of me again, I’m not ashamed of it, I’m very open with it. But at the same time, you don’t want to just become Oh, that’s Robin, she’s the diabetic, you know, we we are all more than just one thing. And so I know that if I do a book about being a diabetic or a character who has diabetes, I will have to talk about that book for years, you know, hopefully, you know, one to two years. You know, it will become the defining part of every interview that I do every, you know, work conversation that I have, and Worry sometimes that it will dilute down to just me being the diabetic when I like I said I am so many other things as are pretty much every other diabetic out there we are more than just that disease. And so I do think about it. Also for me fiction is such a wonderful escape. I don’t write books because I have to I write because I love writing books, especially for young people. And I think that for me, I love that escapism of it. I love that I am not having to figure out a character’s blood sugar situation. I’m already I’ve got enough doing that for myself. So I don’t know I think about it. Maybe as the years go by, maybe in a few years, I’ll engage it. There would have to be a really good idea. It wouldn’t just be Oh, this character has been diagnosed with diabetes, there would have to be more at play for me so. So I think about it, never say never, but if someone else wants to do it, go for it.
Stacey Simms 25:52
You know, it’s funny, I don’t want to put too fine a point on it. But the first part of your answer there, which is you didn’t want to be defined by Diabetes Connections. What Stacey’s story is all about to Yes. And I think that’s why we like it so much, because that’s how almost everybody I know with any kind of diabetes feels. Yeah, right. Agreed. I think anybody with anything
Robin Benway 26:11
like that, you know, it’s very easy, especially in sort of these wild modern times to focus on maybe what is unknown or scary or, you know, baby, if people don’t understand it, that’s what they kind of go to first. But that’s just not how I view and that’s not how I view being diabetic. It’s just so it’s just a thread that’s woven into my life, you know, I, it will always be there. It’s something I will always manage. But it’s so inherent to me. I don’t want someone just to pull that thread out and only look at that rather than the bigger picture.
Stacey Simms 26:41
Is there any depiction of type one in media that just makes you mad? Like, can you think of something where you’re like, Oh, I hate that one. When people refer to that one,
Robin Benway 26:48
I can definitely think of one thing but I can’t say
Robin Benway 26:52
but I it was fairly recent and yeah, it just I for me, it was sort of like that thing where you’re just like, Are you serious? Like, is this really like, this is what you had to do, and this is what you did with it. And it just it was petty on my part. And, you know, mean, and I can’t say it, but I got so frustrated and so annoyed. And, you know, I think that was a long simmering feeling that once I got to the depiction of Stacey, I think those two feelings just sort of combined and became an article which was I can’t believe I just had to read this versus Oh, I can’t believe I just saw this, you know, and that the negative and the positive of that sort of combined together, but yes,
Stacey Simms 27:32
definitely. And then Baby-Sitters Club has got to have a season two, you know, is there anything that you remember reading that you really liked them to see? And it doesn’t have to be about Stacey, oh gosh,
Robin Benway 27:42
I really want to see Don’s mom and Mary’s dad get together. I know they were together in the first season but I if memory serves, they get married. So I really want to see that wedding. Just because I love Dawn’s mom both in the book and on the show and I love the way that they’ve treated Maryam dad is fun. This is kind of sad, but in the opening scene. Louis, the Collie, you know, appears with Christie. It’s Christie’s dog Louie Who’s that Collie dog. And I was like, Oh, no, Louis because I don’t. If memory serves things get a little dicey. Oh, no.
Stacey Simms 28:11
Robin Benway 28:13
alert. I really, I when I saw Louis, I was like, Louis, you know,
Stacey Simms 28:19
it is amazingly six with us from what we read in our childhood, right.
Robin Benway 28:24
Well, I was talking with a friend of mine about this. You don’t realize how much you buried in your brain. You know, I’m watching the show. And I’m like, oh my god. It’s Louis. Oh my gosh, it’s more been a destiny. I forgot about a bit of destiny. And just Charlotte Johansen, Jamie Newton and his sister Lucy and I’m like, how do I remember all of this? And yet I’m like, did I pay that bill? See now I’m
Stacey Simms 28:45
jealous. I want it I like sweet Valley High. backer revel in those memories.
Robin Benway 28:52
I’m sure it’s developing somewhere.
Stacey Simms 28:54
I kind of hope not really cheesy. Can I ask you are you working on anything new right now I know authors always hate that. I know just finished and Oh, that was great. But what’s that?
Robin Benway 29:07
I always say it takes a brave person to ask a writer somebody working on because oh tread carefully. I am working on something. Yes, it has been a slow road. But the book has evolved many, many times. And I’ve sort of distilled down to what the book actually is. And I have started writing it. I feel really good about it. I started it a couple times, didn’t feel good, went back to the drawing board ripped it all up again and started over. So I do feel good about it. Now it has taken me a long time to figure out what it’s about. And I think at the same time, I was coming down off the success so far from the tree and the time that that took, which was wonderful, no complaints, but it was hard for me to both work on a new book and enjoy the success apart from the tree. So I am basically staying with family for a few months. I’m sort of quarantined away here and just everyday I sit down and write 1000 words and it’s going well, it feels very, very good to be writing. Again, I haven’t written for a while and I have missed it very much. That’s fantastic. Well, I look forward to reading that. I’m so glad that I read the article. That was an L. Thank you so much for joining me to talk about this. It was a lot of fun. And I continue to learn more about the Baby-Sitters Club baby. Those books. Thanks so much for joining me. Thank you call me if you have any questions about the baby sitters.
Stacey Simms 30:17
You got it Robin.
Robin Benway 30:23
You’re listening to Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 30:29
More information on Robin and her books on the episode homepage. I’m really appreciative that she jumped on with me and I definitely got to seek out her books now. It was funny to think about not just the Baby-Sitters Club books, which as I said, I was marginally familiar with as a kid I was a little too old. But the sweet Valley High books man, she made me want to see if my mother still has them. I bet she does. I guarantee you they do not hold up for where they are relic of their time. Right The 80s if you’re familiar with sweet Valley High I know you know what I’m talking about. If you are not I will not suggest Due to any more of an explanation, all right, in just a moment, I will be talking to a different kind of book altogether a different kind of author, a dad who wrote a book about his son’s diagnosis to help other kids and families.
But first Hey welcome to our newest sponsor Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Gvoke HypoPen you know, almost everybody who takes insulin has experienced a low blood sugar and that can be scary. have very low blood sugar is really scary. And that’s where Gvoke HypoPen comes in. Gvoke is the first auto injector to treat very low blood sugar Gvoke HypoPen is pre mixed and ready to go with no visible needle and that means it is easy to use. How easy is it, you pull off the red cap, you push the yellow end under bare skin and you hold it for five seconds. That’s it. Find out more go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the Gvoke logo. Gvoke shouldn’t be used in patients with pheochromocytoma or insulinoma. Visit Jeeva glucagon comm slash risk
If you have a child diagnosed very young with Type One Diabetes, chances are you have a favorite book about diabetes that you read together. We were so lucky to have a couple of these Rufus comes home was one from JDRF. There was another one that I’ve mentioned before called Jackie’s got game that we absolutely adored. There are a lot of wonderful books now for kids with type one. And this week, I am talking to one of the authors of these books. And that is Mike’s for as he wrote year one with type one, four and featuring his son, Andrew, it’s all about their diagnosis story and also a bit of a teaching tool. Here’s my conversation with Mike.
Mike, thanks so much for joining me. It’s great to talk to you.
Mike Suarez 32:43
Hi, Stacey. Thanks for having me on.
Stacey Simms 32:45
One of the things I loved doing when my son was diagnosed was finding books that we could read together. And you know, My son was tiny, he wasn’t yet too. And so when you have a picture book like this, it’s really a nice opportunity to go through it with the kids. So I just want to let you know that They really appreciate what you’ve done here. I think it’s great.
Mike Suarez 33:02
Yeah, thanks for saying that. You know, it’s kind of the same experience I had, you know, I went to Amazon when he first got diagnosed, and I was looking for books myself, and I found some pretty good ones out there. But I was, you know, really looking for one that really kind of resonated and something that I could share with my own family members and friends to really kind of drive home what it is that he goes through and what it’s all about.
Stacey Simms 33:23
Well, it’s been a couple of years now since Andrew was diagnosed, but why don’t you take us through? Even though you’re talking about it in the book, why don’t you take us through his diagnosis story? Had you all had any experience with type one Had you ever given an injection before and this,
Mike Suarez 33:36
so I was unfamiliar entirely with Type One Diabetes. My wife was more aware of it because she had friends growing up and in college that had type one diabetes, and she was around people that have given themselves insulin injections. And for me, I was just totally unaware of this condition. I was totally aware of of the treatment for it. The only thing I knew of diabetes was unfortunately, just That joke that people like to tell around how if you eat too much candy, you get diabetes. And that’s basically all I knew of diabetes, which obviously isn’t true or isn’t fair and especially isn’t isn’t true of type one diabetes. So I learned a ton, just in that that first few days in the hospital,
Stacey Simms 34:15
when did it occur to you that with everything else that’s going on, it would be a good idea to write a book.
Mike Suarez 34:21
So it was probably a couple months shy of his first year with it. I don’t know how the idea popped into my head. I was taking the train in and out of Boston every day for work. And I think just a few lines kind of popped into my head. So I took out my iPhone and just wrote him in my notes app. And I think part of it too, was that my wife and I were talking about bringing a book into school, to read to his classmates, know what it is that he has and goes through and know why it is that he has to leave and see the nurse and why it is he gets, you know, Skittles every once in a while and he’s in class. And, you know, going through the books out there, you know, again, there were good ones, but I was just looking for the right one that told the story I wanted to tell his classmates in the way that I wanted to, you know, I’ve seen that a lot of the other books out there are actually self published. So I knew that the opportunity to do this was out there, you just had to kind of sit down and figure it out. So I utilize my train time in and out of Boston to kind of write and refine my lines and kind of do a little bit of research to figure out what the process was all about
Stacey Simms 35:26
was the idea for you to write it for kids to read or for parents to read. I mean, it’s the kind of book right, it’s in rhyme. But there’s some concepts in there that are going to be above a four year olds head.
Mike Suarez 35:38
Right. I think what I wanted, most of all, well, I guess there were a few goals. There were a few readers I had in mind. One was the newly diagnosed I wanted for newly diagnosed children to be able to read this and be able to relate to Andrews story and be comforted to know that you’re not alone in this that there’s other people that have been through Through this and have dealt with it. So that was maybe my primary audience secondary to that would be kind of the friends and family of somebody who is newly diagnosed, including my own friends and family so that they can get an appreciation for what it is and kind of understand what it is that their, you know, diabetic friend or family member goes through. But I guess, you know, I was just thinking about when I read to my own kids, you know, a lot of time it’s me reading to them, not them. I guess as they get older, it’s more of them reading to themselves, but it’s mostly me reading to them. So I can, you know, kind of pronounce the big words, but also the books that we tend to enjoy the most, or that I enjoy reading the most and they seem to be the most receptive to are the ones that rhyme. So I did want to have that kind of make it accessible for kids not make it kind of a chore to read. And that’s something that I none of the other books that I saw did was was kind of right in verse so I wanted to have that aspect of it to be accessible. Similarly with the pictures and the drums I wanted them to be kind of, you know, light hearted in a way as much as it’s a serious subject matter, but to make it accessible for kids to understand,
Stacey Simms 37:08
the book tells the story of you know, your family’s journey, and then educating people about the basics of type 1 diabetes. But at the very end, your son has signed it and say, thank you. How did that piece come about?
Mike Suarez 37:23
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is I actually did this whole thing in secret, because I did it on my train rides, and nobody was watching me and then at night, I would, you know, once everybody wants it bad, I’d maybe work on it a little bit more. And this includes the whole process, finding the illustrations, kind of framing it for them, getting beta readers to help sharpen up the the rhyme and all that sort of thing. And I wanted this kind of personal touch because I wanted people to read it and realize that this wasn’t a fictional character that this is a real boy. There was maybe the same day that I asked Andrew to write up a birthday card for a birthday party he was going to I just took out another piece of paper and just asked them to write on it. Thank you for reading love Andrew. And he asked me What’s this for? And I just was like, I don’t worry about it. Like I didn’t really, I just asked him to do it. Then I put it all together. And then I when it was finally done, I got to read it to my family for the first time, you know, naturally they all loved it. But I think it was I read it first to my wife and son while my daughter was napping, because I didn’t, I kind of wanted to, you know, have their full attention. But after she woke up, Andrew took the book, and he showed it to her. And he flipped immediately to that page that had his writing on it, and was like, so proud of having that contribution to the book. That was the first thing he showed his little sister. That’s great.
Stacey Simms 38:41
There’s a page of the book that, you know, has him coming home and has gifts and things with a lot of beams on tags. Are those friends and family names.
Mike Suarez 38:51
Yep, they were basically you know, the people that probably were the first to find out and you know, felt, you know, really bad and came to us with, with just some gifts for Andrew, including our next door neighbors and their kids, my sister and her husband and their kids, basically, you know, aunts, uncles, siblings, it just so happened that some of the names rhymed. So if you read them in order, even though the name tags kind of, you know, rhyme together, when I recognized that I was like, you know, I should put them all in there and kind of, you know, thank, you know, some of the people that were, you know, part of this journey and a part of kind of coping with all of this.
Stacey Simms 39:31
Yeah, I think it’s really well done. The one thing I would say is, there’s this little bit about no sneaking snacks. We count carbs to know what goes into my body, but no sneaking snacks. That’s beyond being naughty. Yeah, I’m no psychologist, but I always felt like sneaking and and associating any bad behavior with diabetes was something that maybe it was something that we never did. Let’s just write that way in my house. We always said you can’t get in trouble for anything to do with diabetes, it just flies off the books. So that’s the only thing that kind of made my eyebrows go up a little bit. But Gosh, Mike, I’m not really not a critic here. Sure, you know, and I think that’s also a good illustration, no pun intended that we all parent in different ways. Yeah. Right. I mean, there’s no one size fits all you got to put insulin in, you got to know where your blood sugar is. Yeah. But you know, the way you parent is probably not exactly the way I parent and that’s fine. Right. So that I was just curious. And you know, you showed it to your endo. I think that’s, again, with my book, I did the same thing, right. You know, you’re not a medical professional, but you’re showing it to the medical professionals and hoping that they will flag anything that comes up. I’m also curious to know, your daughter makes a couple of appearances in the book, and she’s one of those names that we mentioned. Who is she doing and how do you balance the son who gets all this attention for type one and trust me, I have the same situation in my family, right. I have an older daughter who doesn’t have type one. How do you handle that with her? How is she doing?
Mike Suarez 41:00
Yeah, I mean, she’s just as used to it by now as as Andrew, you know, Andrew was four and a half, she was one and a half. So she has no memory, you know, whereas Andrew may may recall, he’s he’s a, he’s got a pretty good memory for a kid his age, he may recall a time before all of this, she would have absolutely no memory. So this is all she’s ever kind of grown up to now. So whereas if they were teenagers, then maybe if she was used to just, you know, snacking whenever she wanted, she would continue to do that, despite Andrews diagnosis, but because we’re able to kind of be careful around that about that stuff from the outset. If it’s not time for Andrew to eat, then we’re not going to let her eat in front of him. But if we’re you know, giving Andrew you know, something to bring his blood sugar up, if it’s maybe a pack of Smarties or something like that, and we only need to give them eight of the 10 then maybe we’ll give her the other two, but it is interesting to see how she internalizes as she gets older, how she responds to it, somewhat funny side note around it She sees Andrew take shots all the time and she doesn’t get them herself. And sometimes she sees Andrew get shots and she like, asks or she at least at least did this. earlier on, she would say, where’s Maggie shot? Where’s Maggie shot? And we would explain No, Maggie doesn’t need a shot. So I think it was last year when we took her to get a flu shot. She was all about getting her flu shot right. After she got it, she asked for another one. And she was like crying because not because she got the shot, but because she only got one, which was kind of backwards from what you’d expect a kid raised to do. And then another kind of similar story is there was one day where she closed like a dresser draw on her finger and her fingernail started bleeding and you would expect a kid her age to just start wailing. She actually picked up her finger and she was like check my blood sugar. Check my blood sugar.
Mike Suarez 42:51
You also wrote a Christmas story. Yep. Why did that come about? Tell me that story?
Mike Suarez 42:59
Yeah, sure. So When you’re one with type one first came out, yeah, I created a Facebook page to kind of go along with it to give updates about Andrew and to kind of, you know, create some fun memes and things like that to kind of draw attention to it. And I created a kind of a spin on Twas the Night Before Christmas. And every once in a while, like a new couple lines would occur to me even after Christmas, and I would kind of go back and edit the post. And then at some point, I was like, you know, there’s probably enough here and there’s probably enough opportunity for reuse from my first book that, you know, I wouldn’t even be that many more new illustrations. I could just turn this into another book, relatively inexpensively and you know, certainly justify the cost that goes into it. And so I said, Yeah, why not? So I just kind of thought through it and just kind of threw it together and I was really happy with the way it came out.
Stacey Simms 43:50
So Mike, we celebrate Hanukkah. I’m not sure how well versed I am in this classic poem, right? But it seems to me that all of the reindeer have Dexcom on I’m not sure I remember that from the original Am I looking at this right? Do they all have Dexcom
Mike Suarez 44:07
everybody everybody basically everybody in the story that the Dexcom the reindeer have all all of Dexcom on the Elf on the Shelf has one Santa has one basically everybody in the book and that’s what I wanted to create was kind of a world where you know what, it’s okay that everybody in the story has it.
Stacey Simms 44:25
All right, so what’s next? Well, there’ll be another issue of this are you gonna move on to the elementary school ages Andrew, you know, with seven now so it’s a little different than when he was little?
Mike Suarez 44:35
Yeah, it’s a good question. I’d certainly like to do you know, to continue Andrews story. I haven’t really started anything yet. But I’ve got a few ideas floating around. I mean, I think one of the things I realized is that there’s actually more children’s books that are picture books than there are kind of chapter books. That’s obviously a whole different ballgame. Then picture books, but my mother in law’s actually she’s an author. As well, and she’s written lots of novels. So if I do decide to go down that road, it’ll probably be a lot more work than I did for these other ones. But I certainly would have, you know, a mentor throughout the process. If I did go down that route.
Stacey Simms 45:13
It’d be great to have more books with a protagonist who lives with type one. And it’s not about type one, if I could put a request in. Yeah, no, it would be really nice. There’s a few books and I’ll, as you listen, I’ll link some of them up in the show notes. But there are a few books Besides, you know, the Baby-Sitters Club that feature Stacey who lives with type one, but it’s a little outdated at this point. And the lily books, there are some I hesitate to call them novels. They’re like novelizations for middle schoolers and stuff like that. It’d be great. There’s only a couple of books I can think of that have a protagonist who lives with type one, but the book is really not about the diabetes.
Mike Suarez 45:47
Right. So yeah,
Stacey Simms 45:48
that’s, I’ll put my vote in for that.
Mike Suarez 45:50
Yeah, certainly. I think that’s a great idea.
Stacey Simms 45:53
Well, Mike, I really appreciate you coming on. These books are so fun. I have a lot of great memories of reading the book that we liked. When he was little Jackie’s got game was our favorite. I don’t even know if they’re still printing that one. But that was the one we loved. So I hope that people find this and love it, you know, kind of just like we did that stories. Thanks for coming on and sharing your story. Sure,
Mike Suarez 46:13
yeah. Thanks so much for having me.
Stacey Simms 46:14
You can find out more about Mike’s book, just go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the episode homepage. This is in the show notes. Every episode has show notes on whatever app you’re listening to. If you listen to podcast apps, they will display a little bit differently. I think Spotify is finally letting people click through. In other words, if there’s a link in the show notes, you can get there through Spotify, but you can always go to the homepage at Diabetes connections.com. if things aren’t showing up in your player and find out more there, tell me something good is up next. And boy, there have been so many changes this year with COVID and the JDRF bike rides not an exception, but there’s some really good news about one particular writer and I’m going to share that
but first diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dexcom. Do you know about Dexcom Clarity. It is their diabetes management software. For a long time, I just thought it was something our endo used, but you can use it on both the desktop or as an app on your phone. And it’s an easy way to keep track of the big picture. I check it about once a week. It really helps me in many dial back and sees longer term trends and helps us not to overreact to what happened for just one day or even just one hour. The overlay reports help add context to Benny’s glucose levels and patterns. And you can share the reports with your care team. We’ve done that all this year with the virtual appointments makes it so much easier and productive. managing diabetes is not easy, but I feel like we have one of the very best CGM systems working for us Find out more at Diabetes connections.com and click on the Dexcom logo
a couple of years ago I met a local woman here in the Charlotte North Carolina area who lives with type 1 diabetes. Dana Cumberworth first impression that she made me was that this might be one of the fittest people I would ever meet and come to find out she is really Just an athlete, just one of these people who is always always moving and pushing and thriving with type one she bikes she runs she weight trains. Dana was diagnosed as a student. She was a first year student at Wake Forest and their physician’s assistant program. And how she was diagnosed is pretty incredible because they were doing the endocrinology part of the class. And when her lab partner tested Dana’s blood sugar, it came back at 700. So she was diagnosed in the class while she was diagnosed at the doctor’s office the next morning. Fast forward. She has since done I believe, three Iron Man races and then she started getting involved with jdrf. And the bike rides this year was two been a very big deal for Dana because this is her 10 year diaversary. It was just last week actually that she marks 10 years with type one, and she was going to do several if not all of the rides this year. Oh my goodness.
But of course plans changed. Everything went virtual. So she and her husband and friends planned ahead To the beach to the east coast here of Charlotte, North Carolina, and do their own version of the ride there. This was supposed to happen this past week. But if you’ve been following the weather and the hurricane trackers, then you probably know that hurricane eecs was a big problem here in North Carolina. So instead of being able to complete this at the beach, in fact, with the way the podcasting time shifts here, she will have completed 100 miles in Charlotte with some friends and family. So that is absolutely amazing. She set a new goal she keeps surpassing her monetary goals. So her new goal set just a couple of days before that ride is $20,200 because as she said in one of the videos she makes 2020 has already been unbelievable. So why not push that goal? That way? She’s not that far off. So 2020 $20,200 and oh, I have forgotten to mention that Dana and her husband announced a couple of weeks ago that she is pregnant, I believe at this point. She’s about 1819 weeks along. Hi, I’m going to put some of her videos in the Facebook group because she’s been talking about her journey this whole year. And I just think her story is amazing. I will link up some of the videos that she’s been doing into the Facebook group at Diabetes Connections, the group, but yeah, hundred miles, type 1 diabetes pregnant. And when you look at her smile, it just looks like it’s a piece of cake. She’s so inspirational to me, especially to push on with everything that’s happened this year and how this ride keeps getting changed and changed and changed. So congratulations, Dana. Continued Good luck and good health to you and your family. And we will cheer you on.
If you have something good going on. It doesn’t have to be 100 miles of biking while you’re pregnant. It can be you know, a diaversary milestone that makes you and your family happy or something that you really want to shout to the hills. Let me know you can email me Stacey at Diabetes Connections comm or post in the Facebook group Just tell me something good
At the top of the show, I said I was going to talk a little bit more about the Baby-Sitters Club, the TV show on Netflix. And I think that Robin and I covered it pretty well. But I just wanted to say a couple of more quick things about the actual depiction that I realized we didn’t touch on in the interview. If you haven’t seen it, or you’ve had I’m curious what you think the feedback I heard from my friends who have kids with type one who watched it was that I don’t know anybody who didn’t like it universally, very well received by their kids. They loved seeing a beautiful young woman who was accepting of her condition who told her mom, you know, I’m going to do it this way. Who asked for a fancy purse, she didn’t get the fancy purse. But you know, she did this for that Gucci bag. And you know, other things like that, which made it seem very normal. You know, she was low during babysitting, she drank the juice box and went on her way. It didn’t seem insurmountable and her friends, the kids, I don’t think Robin and I talked about this. The other babysitters in the club, when they found out said Why does somebody with diabetes or you can still do such And so with that, right? Okay, no problem and they really just moved along. Like most kids do, it’s the adults that have more of a problem,
the things I didn’t like about it, they still got stuff wrong, which amazed me because I know that they had to be consulted with people who have type one for this, or at least I hope they did. But what they got wrong was the seizure. Did you see that she had a seizure before she was diagnosed, and they talked about it like she went into insulin shock. Now, I am not a medical expert. Perhaps that could happen. But it makes no sense to me that somebody who is not yet diagnosed with type one, so they are not taking any insulin could go into an insulin shock that would make them have a seizure. Right. It just seemed kind of a stretch. They wanted to do something that would make Stacey embarrassed to push the reason why they moved. It was just this whole I don’t know to me that was a big turn off, but it was quick, and I get it it move the plot along.
The other thing was this weirdness where that one low blood sugar, which Stacey treated herself causes her mother to take her in for a day of tests. Now, having been a very Worried Mother, I’m still one, let’s face it. But when I called my endocrinologist every single day of the first month that Ben he had type one, which I really did do, they never told me bring him in for tests because he had a low blood sugar. Right? I could see a parent calling. I could see a parent being alarmed. I couldn’t see an endocrinologist going along with that. And given Stacey was talking about how she was in the hospital for a whole day taking tests. So that was also a little weird. Is it nitpicky? Yeah. But if you’re going to tackle something like type one, it’s really not that hard to get it right. So I hope they continue to follow Stacey and show her confidence and show we’re doing lots of other things that have nothing to do with diabetes. There’s definitely gonna be a season two of this show. It’s a huge hit. That means there’s a lot of room to get it right. So I stay optimistic. What did you think I’m really curious to hear what other people have to say about this as more people discover the series
before I let you go, I have something to ask of you and it is about podcast reviews. If you are still listening, I know you were a big fan. I would really appreciate it. If you haven’t moment to go to whatever podcast player you’re listening on and leave a review. Maybe you’re listening on the website or through social media, but especially if you’re on Apple podcasts, I’d really appreciate a review there. If you’re not, you can head over to Apple podcasts easily find Diabetes Connections and hit subscribe. It’s free to subscribe. no cost. It is free on any podcast player and we are everywhere you can get audio Spotify, Pandora, Apple, Google Android, if you’re not sure, go to the website, Diabetes connections.com. Scroll down, and you will see 15 links of places to subscribe to the podcast. And you just you can pick one, chances are good, the app is already on your phone and subscribe for free and leave review. I’d really appreciate it. All right, thank you to my editor john Kenneth audio editing solutions. Thank you so much for listening. I’m Stacey Simms. I’ll see you back here next week. Until then, be kind to yourself.
Diabetes Connections is a production of Stacey Simms Media. All rights reserved. All wrongs avenged
Transcribed by https://otter.ai