My Real Life with T1D: melissa & ethan

Michelle MacPhee
D-Mom, M.S. (Psychology)

This real-life Diabetes Story is about a Canadian family just like ours, successfully taming the Type 1 Diabetes dragon. Their sabre of choice is CGM plus a smartphone, and they are part of a growing group that uses advanced tech to monitor glucose levels, while choosing injections over a pump for insulin delivery. 

Melissa & Ethan's Story: Our Life with Dexcom G6 Follow

This article is sponsored by Dexcom Canada.

WATCH this family's Dexcom Follow story.

Nine-year-old Ethan was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of six, and his mom, Melissa, recalls that their family’s first year of living with T1D was particularly stressful. There were constant finger pokes, they woke multiple times each night to check their son’s blood glucose, and the worry was constant. Sending her young son off to school, away from her supervision and care, was one of the biggest stressors. Despite her previous medical background as a pediatric nurse, Melissa frequently struggled with the unpredictable and unforgiving nature of diabetes. Like many of us d-parents, she often asked herself “Why can’t I manage this perfectly?!”

But things changed for the better just over two years ago, when they began using the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). For starters, Ethan’s parents were thrilled to be able to SLEEP again, needing only to glance at their smartphones to see Ethan’s current glucose reading. No getting up, no middle-of-the-night finger pokes, no worries about the unknown glucose monster in the dark. The critical difference was their use of the Dexcom G6 Follow app, which allowed them to view their son’s glucose data remotely, in real-time. At a glance they could see where it was right then, where it had been and, perhaps most importantly, where it was headed.

Noting that these days, Ethan has to poke his finger only once every 10 days or so, Melissa describes the system as a “life changer,” going on to say that “the Follow app allows us to pretty much live a normal life.”

Over these past few years, Ethan’s family has come to trust their son’s Dexcom system fully, finding it particularly helpful for school, sports, and managing post-meal glucose levels.

For example, while her son is at school, Melissa can check in throughout the day just by looking at her smartphone: If Ethan’s glucose is headed toward trouble, mom can message his teacher to intervene, and they can message back and forth about how much insulin or fast-carbs Ethan should have. This decision is based largely on the directional arrows on his Dexcom, which tell his mom, for example, if his glucose is falling, and how fast.

It’s also easy to check in – without fingersticks – before Ethan starts his solo walk home after school. His teacher looks at the Follow app on her own smartphone just before school ends, and then communicates with his mom about whether he should have a carb-containing snack before leaving. Similarly, when Ethan heads to karate training three times per week, his parents no longer feel like they have to stay right outside the dojo; the ability to monitor at a distance the effect of this physical activity on his glucose levels gives them the confidence to visit a friend or run a few errands. As Melissa notes, this “brings my anxiety down to a regular level, instead of being escalated!” (Amen to that!)

In terms of managing post-meal blood sugars, the family feels more comfortable with making carb-guesses as needed – if they see that the glucose trace is still rising an hour after he has eaten, they can simply give Ethan more insulin, heading off what would otherwise be persistent high blood sugar.

But his mom’s favourite feature? The Urgent Low Soon alert lets the family know up to 20 minutes in advance when Ethan’s glucose is predicted to drop below 3.1 mmol/L. Knowing before he’s low gives them time to treat the dropping glucose before it’s actually in the low zone, which is very helpful for preventing lows. Melissa points out that Ethan has far fewer lows since he started using CGM.

What about the drawbacks of the Dexcom system and Follow app? Although they wish it didn’t need 2 hours of downtime during warm-up, Melissa says they haven’t had any real downfalls with using it, especially compared to the boost to their family’s quality of life: “I let him be him now.”

And isn’t that what all of us dragon tamers are striving for?

Read more about CGM & Dexcom:

What is CGM?

Dexcom G6: A Review

Share Your D-Story!

We all benefit by sharing our stories: stories of diagnosis, stories about what we’ve learned, stories of all the ways we’ve fallen down and all the times we’ve gotten back up. Funny stories, sad stories, frightening stories, hopeful stories. All of them, ultimately, stories of triumph. I would love to hear your diabetes-stories! With your permission, and with or without names or pictures, your family’s story will appear under D-Stories on