At the age of 15 years, Sheila Glazov’s son Joshua was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “In 1985,” Glazov says, “our family was living in Mammoth Lakes, California. Our little mountain town had a 15-bed hospital that was efficient if you injured yourself skiing, but not if you were looking for appropriate medical care and support for your child who was newly diagnosed with diabetes.”
The nearest diabetes clinic was in Sparks, Nevada, a 150-mile drive that could take up to six hours in the snow. Glazov dealt with these challenges by learning as much as she could from diabetes nurse educators, her dietitian, and the limited number of books available. It was after this stressful experience that she began to consider writing a book about children and diabetes.
Glazov’s first book, What Color is Your Brain? helps readers recognize their personality and the attributes and abilities of others. Her version of the book for children is called Princess Shayna’s Invisible Visible Gift. The heroine and narrator of the story, Princess Shayna, develops diabetes when she is five years old.
Glazov feels that reading Princess Shayna is “bibliotherapy” for children. “I believe it is essential that children understand that they do not have to be perfect to be loved,” she says.
“No one is perfect, not even Princess Shayna! The princess learns to manage the daily challenges of diabetes because of her healthy level of self-esteem and loving encouragement from her family and friends. Having a good self-image and family support is critical for facing and overcoming the physical, mental, educational, or social challenge in life … Stories, especially fairytales that speak to the heart and spirit of the child within all of us, are invaluable tools to help a child deal with life’s triumphs and tragedies.”
“Reading Princess Shayna is an exciting opportunity for girls and boys to admire and emulate the heroine’s strengths, courage, and independence,” says Glazov. “Princess Shayna is not rescued by a prince as in traditional fairytales. The princess learns how to take care of herself and gains self-confidence on her challenging Vision Quest with the knowledge, love, comfort, and encouragement from her family and friends.”
Within the book, tools are provided to help children value and accept themselves, realize their capabilities and gifts, and accept others. These tools are important for all children and adults, but especially those who struggle with chronic illness. Glazov hopes that the readers of Princess Shayna will discover more about themselves and others, value their worthiness and capabilities, appreciate and accept individual differences, share a “color” language to express their thoughts and defuse conflicts, reduce and redirect bully behavior, and create harmonious relationships in every facet of their lives.
Princess Shayna resonates with children, parents, and educators. Books have the power to transport us out of our lives and show us something of the rest of the world. They can also teach us that we are not alone in managing our challenges, whether they involve diabetes, bullying, low self-esteem, or struggles at school or at home.
Glazov’s Tips for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Children
1. Search until you find the best healthcare professionals for your child.
2. Read, read, and read as much as possible.
3. Talk to others to learn their management tricks and to learn what’s new in research and education.
4. Take good care of yourself so that you can take excellent care of your child and model healthy behavior.
5. Remember that although your child has a chronic illness, your child is not the disease. She is not “a diabetic,” but a person who happens to have diabetes.
6. Teach your child to take excellent care of himself and, when age appropriate, assume responsibility for his daily diabetes management regime.
7. Educate everyone who comes into contact with your child, including family, friends, school faculty, and sport coaches.
Amy Mercer is the author of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes: Authentic Advice on Everything from Eating to Dating and Motherhood.