Travelling with My Pharmacy

DBB Huchay Cusco Blog

There will a few posts/Blogs about my travels to and within Peru.

BUT..

I feel this post in particular is a huge one and is pressing upon me to prioritize even though it’s not in order.

We spent Christmas Eve in Agues Calientes. We planned to climb Machu Picchu Christmas Day.

I became very ill with a very high fever and ultimately sinus congestion, sore throat, fatigue among other things.

I am proud of the way the situation turned out as I recovered very quickly compared to most times I experience this. My husband questioned if I should take part in the venture to Machu Picchu but I insisted despite feeling down and out I would not miss such an amazing opportunity. This is a chance in a lifetime!!! And so we did.

With that being said, after we returned to Cusco a few days later we made plans to take part in a two day trek up the Andes mountains, through the Peruvian Tundra. We would then be hosted by a family overnight before descending back down the next day to another town a few hours away from our starting point.

We reach an elevation of 15,100 feet. Understanding that breathing would be a challenge at the best of times, I am overly concerned that with my congestion and swollen throat it would present greater issues.

On our way to the drop off point 1 1/2 hours away by jeep, I ask our guide to stop at a pharmacy to buy cold medication to help keep the symptoms from being too overwhelming throughout the climb.

As I walk into the pharmacy I take note this is the very first lesson I learn.  Never assume I can go away for 2 weeks and be healthy the whole time. I usually pack cold medications, gravol etc for those ‘just in case’ moments.

This is the first time I didn’t take my personal pharmacy with me. Sigh.

Our guide Henry takes me into the pharmacy in Cusco. I tell Henry in English that I need an anti-histamine/anti-inflammatory. I expect something along the lines of Advil Sinus & Cold or Buckley’s.

After the Pharmacist asks Henry a few more questions in Spanish….”Is it altitude sickness?”…”No, I had a very high fever, sore throat and sinus congestion.”…He recommends a product.

I take a ticket to the cash booth/dispensary at the front of the store. She gives me the box of medication. I am so relieved I will have the meds to help with the congestion, I don’t consider that I didn’t tell the pharmacist I have T1 diabetes OR that I took time to read the ingredients.   At this point I don’t make the connection that Dexametasona (in English “Dexamethasone”) is a steroid!!! I mean, come on, I am a Nurse. I should know the 5 R’s!!

AND I can’t buy a steroid over the counter in Canada! For good reason!

I am told to take one pill now (it is 7:30am) and again at supper. I can take it twice a day for a few days.

Within an hour I can feel the relief. I am overjoyed….until…

Fast forward to that evening and into the overnight…AND the next day…my blood sugars begin to climb…and climb…and climb.

I take insulin corrections like drinking water with no change. Not even a flicker in my Continuous Glucose monitor display. My finger pokes confirm all is not right within my diabetes world.

I reflect back on when we arrived in Cusco. Within a day I was setting temporary basal rates on my insulin pump for low blood sugars and now??? I am insulin resistant in the Andes Mountains??

I play scenarios in my mind. Is it the altitude? Is it dehydration? Is it the anaerobic feedback from the intense activity which leads us to experiencing burning leg muscles, shortness of breathe so bad our lungs are burning?

When I work out at the gym and do intense heavy weights my sugars spike. When I do hill training when I run I get the same effect. Is this the same?

At this point I haven’t made the connection yet that the cold meds contain steroids.

I do think that in part, the intensity of the climb did cause an adrenalin surge that did cause my need for more insulin….pair it with an exogenous steroid in my cold meds and here is a recipe for blood sugar disaster.

My key take away?

Bring my own cold meds and pharmacy.

If ever in an emergency that I require medications while in another country, make sure to tell them I have diabetes.

If and when I decide to ascend to 15,100 feet (or higher), take note and act that if it feels anaerobic, increase my insulin rates to accommodate to it.

No doubt it is a tough balance to achieve but I wouldn’t want to throw my hands in the air and not keep playing the game. Next time I want to improve on this experience. I accept my sugars will never be perfect in these situations especially, but, I will do my best.DBB Dexalor

A New Year, A Lifetime of Change

January 1, 2011 was the beginning of a New Year.  I did not realize that my ‘year’ would last three.

Today is January 1, 2014.  It is traditionally the beginning of a New Year.

Thoughts, discussions, intentions and commitments for change shared. Summaries spoken and written of the year gone by.  Sentiments of regret and thankfulness for the past year or for the start of a new one expressed.

The thought of taking one year out of my life, summarizing it as a huge event and determining what the sentiments of regrets and/or what I am thankful for seems like such a small measurement of time in the 44 years I have been on this earth.  My ‘year’ is defined as a stage as opposed to a calendar year.

My last ‘year’ began in 2011.  Many events and themes which I did not want and which I thought would never happen occurred.  These events and themes have been on the front lines of my life since 2011.

My Mom and Dad gave me this coffee cup for Christmas.  When I opened it I fell in love.  It will be my ‘go to’ cup for my new ‘year’ because since I was a little girl it is who I am.

In my ‘year’ I have experienced death of a marriage, loss of a six figure income job, multiple, costly court hearings, moving 3 times, unemployed with no income for 2 years, major illness, major surgery, a sick parent, new love, the purchase of 3 houses, selling 2 houses, new job, managing a rental property, becoming engaged, living with my fiancé, moving my daughter twice back and forth to Toronto, my daughter living out of province in a remote area that provided little communication for 8 months, my son’s up’s and down’s as 20 year olds do, ‘adopting’ another son, on-line harassment for the past 2 years by my fiancé’s ex, commuting 2 hours a day, acquiring a puppy and a 4-year-old kennel dog and finally, living with Type 1 diabetes for 38 years and being a Mom of a young adult living with Type 1 diabetes.

In my ‘year’ I cried, I cursed, I have been so angry and so sad that I said things to people I didn’t mean and regret.  I made decisions that I regret.  I beat myself up daily and wish I could say and do differently in certain situations.

Why do I write this and open myself to you?  I do believe that I need to share my experiences to help others.  I have decided this is the end of this ‘year’ of events.  I want to move on.  It’s time for a new stage in my life.

Even though I feel it is time to start a new year and celebrate this, based on the events and experiences of the past 3 years I have learned some very important lessons.

1.  Change is inevitable.  Despite posts and quotes online about the fact one CAN control their life and think themselves into the perfect life, I don’t.  I can plan all I want but my plans are not God’s.  That is different then having a cup half full attitude.

2.  Acceptance creates change.  Acceptance of what I can’t control allows for freedom to focus on what’s important and what I can change.

3.  Let go, selectively.  In my life, I have experienced 3 lives.  My childhood, my first marriage with my children as a family and my current life with my fiancé Steve and blended family.  Advice is abounding, telling us that if one doesn’t let go of the past and move forward then one will never grow.  I refuse to ‘forget’ my past and ‘move forward’.  If I did that I would be letting go of the experiences my children and I have had that are important to us, good and bad.  My past has made me and my children who we are today.  When I dwell on a moment and it creates an emotion, I have learned that it is time to decide why I am dwelling on it.  What is the lesson?  How can I use that moment for my present life?  I believe past and present are a marriage which promotes personal growth.

4.  Always know there is a Plan B.  I am a dreamer.  Dreams come true.  Dreams stay dreams.  When the dreams don’t come true, know there is another way or leave it as a dream.  Not all dreams come true.

5.  It is okay not to be spontaneous.  Spontaneity is fun and I will always be a spontaneous person.  BUT, I have learned that when I really think I have a brilliant idea I want to carry out NOW, it’s time to step back and give it 48 hours.  I have a team of people I trust that I consult with.  I get their thoughts which gives me a different perspective which allows me to make the right choice.

6.  Be thankful everyday.  After I think of all the people and ‘things’ in my life, I imagine all of those that are less fortunate than me.  Those that are lonely, abused, destitute, unloved, sick, dying and sad. I have met those living in such circumstances and they are thankful for what they have.  They have a ‘cup half full’ attitude.  I ask myself, what reason do I have to think my life is anything less than abundantly blessed?  What reason do I have to express less than a ‘cup half full’ attitude?

7.  Act on it.  What I have learned in my past ‘year’ is by delaying action on deadlines not only causes inconveniences for others but consequences for many levels of mine and my loved ones life.  I have learned in this ‘year’ that the stress I have caused over the years by choosing to delay the demands of life has been far more painful than acting on it right away.

8.  Move.  From 1992 to 2011 I have taken very good care of my body by moving.  Through various sports and activities I kept myself well and in good shape.  In this ‘year’ I have put that on hold.  I conjured up many excuses as to why it was okay not to keep the commitments I made to my body.  I am only blessed with one body.  I may think it feels good to sit around and relax after all of the stress is laid before me instead of moving but after a few years my body has sent me a very different message.  I am re-learning that if I move my face glows, I sleep better, my muscles ache from stressing them from movement, they become stronger, my thoughts flow easier, my mood is brighter, my motivations increases.

9.  Try to keep it simple.  Living in this day in age is so complex. I’m learning in this ‘year’ it’s okay to let go of what isn’t important.  It’s okay to do nothing.  It’s okay to not always be thinking about something.  It’s okay to turn off the radio in the car and have it silent.  It’s okay not to worry.

10.  Love.  Don’t let past experiences stop you from falling (in love) again.  It feels so good AND yes it hurts sometimes.  And some loves that are no longer will cause sadness to the end of time OR until you cross paths again.  Don’t hold grudges over past loves unless you are committed to change it, they don’t know you are.  It only takes up space in your mind and robs your energy.

11.  Own a hairy or furry pet that is not nocturnal.  I have always had dogs and cats in my life.  In February 2011 I had to leave my dog behind but took mine and my children’s 3 cats.  I thought that would be enough.  It was not the case.  In October 2012 we brought 8 week old Samson into our lives.  In May 2013 4 1/2 year old Belle became the newest addition to our Samoyed husky family.  With 4 cats & 2 dogs our home can be a hairy circus but the personalities and activities that entertain us every day keeps us laughing and counters the work involved.  I can feel the stress leave my body as I see their excited faces looking for me as I ascend the steps to enter through the door returning home.  As I walk into the house and see their ‘smiles’ I feel an overflow of joy swell up within me by their unconditional greetings.  As I pet or hug one of our pups any stress I have experienced melts.

This is my ‘year’ in summary.  These are the lessons I have learned.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.  I open my arms to the events that will unfold and the lessons that will be re-enforced as well as the new ones I will learn.

Happy New Year and Cheers to you and yours, Tracy