Cast Spotlight on Kathleen Buckley

by Tracey on April 20, 2015

Today’s spotlight is on the surprising Kathleen Buckley. “Surprising” because she is never quite what I expect (in a super-fantastically-awesome sort of way). 



 by Kathleen Buckley

Timing. It matters when you’re up on stage. It matters when you tell a joke and it matters when you swing a bat. It matters when you make music, dance with a partner, and pay your taxes.

August 15, 2014 was my last day at a job I’d had for ten years, a job that was the last in a twenty-five year career in graphic and product design. I was leaving, in large part, because the creativity I loved so much was gone. It had gone corporate and so had I. It was time to do something different, something I’d wanted to do for so long. It was time to go back to school for an MFA in creative writing. I needed to get reacquainted with my old creative self and my kids needed a happier, healthier mommy.

My husband and I planned and plotted.

We timed everything perfectly.

We made those best laid plans.

August 25th was my first day of class, a fiction writing workshop, and it was just what I hoped it would be. I was energized. I was excited. I was motivated to write like I hadn’t in years. This was going to be the best thing for me and my family.

The morning after class, while my husband was picking up our oldest son from his first day of first grade, I took our youngest to the doctor because he hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days and was starting to get worse. While my husband waited patiently in the carpool line, I received some completely unexpected news from the pediatrician.

“Okay, mom,” she said, putting her hand around my shoulder, “this is Type 1 Diabetes so we’re going to send you over to the hospital….” Her voice dissolved into a blur of doctors, nurses, IV’s, blood sugar checks, insulin injections, carbohydrate counts, and diabetes education. After four days in the PICU, we were sent home to manage our son’s disease on our own.

We were terrified.

We never saw this coming. We have no history of diabetes in either my or my husband’s families. I thought Matthew had the flu or a UTI because his symptoms mimicked those illnesses. A diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes is completely overwhelming – there’s so much to learn including how and when and why to give insulin or check blood glucose levels and what those levels mean and what to do about them. The daily management of this disease for a four-year-old falls on the parents, often on the mother. Mom becomes more than mother. She becomes nurse, dietician, mathematician, counselor, educator and advocate. She certainly doesn’t become a full time grad student. I had wanted to change my life, but this wasn’t at all what I had planned. The timing was way, way off.

The first couple of months were really rough. I had to learn to deal with the constant worry of what might happen, because with Type 1 Diabetes bad things can happen no matter how diligent you are with the management. I dropped out of grad school and I didn’t have a job for the first time in twenty-five years. I was suddenly a full time mom of a little boy with a chronic, life-threatening illness. I didn’t write at all. I barely slept. I didn’t know who I was. But things gradually got easier because, well, they had to. We learned how to manage Matthew’s diabetes and not let it manage us. And I learned how to appreciate the time I had with my kids, time I never had with them when I was working ten and twelve hour days at my old job.

In October I started writing again, just a little bit. Most of my words came from a dark, angry place, but gradually I started to see that those everyday moments that are fun and funny were still happening all around me. I wrote those moments down to save for later when I knew that I’d feel more like writing again. And I did. I finally felt like writing something that wasn’t a sad weepy tale of the I-hate-diabetes-story I found myself living. Instead, I drafted a story that had been lying inside for a while, one that made me smile. That’s the story I submitted to the 2015 Chicago Listen to Your Mother Show. That’s the story I will stand up and share with you on May 3rd. I hope it will make you smile too.

We deal with my son’s Type 1 Diabetes every day because we have to. We will manage this disease and its potential complications every day for the rest of his life, but I now know it won’t manage him. There is so much more to our life than diabetes. Matthew will “graduate” from preschool in May and start kindergarten in the fall. I went back to grad school in January and am writing more (and better!) than ever. My experience with this disease and with being there for my children in ways I’d never imagined, has given me a whole new view of the world, one that is more empathetic and energized than it’s ever been. Turns out the timing of it, while not perfect, is okay for me.


For more information on Type 1 Diabetes go to


Tick Tock! The clock is running and the date of the Chicago LTYM show quickly approaches! Buy your tickets HERE and we’ll see you in 13 days at the Athenaeum!


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