Obvious

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Obvious

The tabby cat in the picture is Oscar. Yes, he is wearing a cast. He broke his leg in our basement shortly after we moved in to our new home last June. How? We have no clue. Young Oscar just wanted to be cuddled & cared for by our 12 year old Midge. How did Midge sense that Oscar needed some down time & snuggling to heal? Who knows. BUT…it is obvious to anyone looking at the picture that there is a cat with a cast. Something is wrong with him. Shortly after this photo op the cast fell off. For the cost of re-casting & the misery we caused him by doing so we decided to let him heal without it. He limped & hobbled around for several weeks, obvious he still had something painfully wrong with his leg. It was difficult to watch. Today you can not tell he broke his leg just a year ago. Does it hurt him still? Does it ache? Maybe. But as cats do, unless it is serious they can’t, won’t or don’t have the ability to communicate that. They act like all is normal. They keep to themselves & prove they can rebound from the impossible.

I hear time & time again the frustrations of people living with diabetes. Where is the cast, the seizure, the wheelchair, the appearance that tells those around them they have a chronic condition that somedays can make them feel like they’ve been hit by a bus? Aside from having a hypoglycemic seizure what are the obvious signs that one living with diabetes has had a series of highs or lows that have left them feeling like they want to be cuddled & cared for until they feel better? Words can only express the experiences one has. How can bystanders relate?

The frustration for many is to call into work or not go to school because they had 2 low BG’s in the night, woke up really high in the morning & just want to nap a few more hours to get the sugar back on track & clear the cobwebs out of their head. This is near impossible if one wants to continue to be a productive member of society….which is the expectation…because diabetes is not obvious. To the contrary, many living with diabetes attempt to hide it from others, compounding the exhaustion of managing it & recovering from the times of variability that come with it.

There are pros & cons living with a ‘not so obvious’ disease.

We hear about the cons all too much. Let’s focus on the good. Consider anyone living with diabetes that are in the spotlight & those that achieve many feats but have not gained the recognition. Examples which I encourage you to Google & research…Team Novo Nordisk (a team of cyclists competing in various events), Chris Jarvis (Olympic Rower & founder of iChallenge), Sebastien Sasseville (1st Canadian with T1 diabetes to summit Mount Everest, completed the Ultra Marathon Sahara race & 5 IronMan races to date), Chloe Steep (Founder of Connected In Motion), Steve Richert (Founder of Living Vertical), Kerri Morone Sparling (Six Until Me), Shawn Shepheard (Sugar Free Shawn), George Canyon (Country Music Artist), pilots, doctors, nurses, pro sport & not so pro athletes, trades, heavy equipment operators…these are just a few. There are so many it would seem like you are reading the Census in the book of Numbers in the Bible….but far more exciting!!

By living with a ‘not so obvious’ disease, people with diabetes accept that because we appear as ‘normal’ we want to supersede normal, we want to communicate that despite living with a not so obvious chronic condition we can & will accomplish whatever is put before us. We want to prove we are different in a good yet obvious way. Sometimes to the point of achieving near superhuman achievements.

Is that a good thing? I have heard time and time again from many..”I am thankful for my diabetes because I am healthier living with diabetes then if I didn’t.”

Many living with diabetes see themselves as healthier as those who don’t because they become more aware & pro-active in their health. Initially one with diabetes becomes healthier & begin to set goals beyond what they knew existed by no choice of their own but ultimately by the drive, strength & tenacity that become product as a result of the benefits they experience by living that way.

There is an obvious that surfaces by living with diabetes. That is the incredible accomplishments & outcomes that result in living with the not so obvious.

The Stealth Fighter of Diabetes

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The Stealth Fighter of Diabetes

I liken a Stealth Fighter to an undetected low blood sugar. Until I started back on my Continuous Glucose Meter a few weeks ago I thought I was overwhelming tired at times because there was too much going on.

Until I experienced a few incidents…one thankfully I detected & treated by finger poke thanks to the prompting of my fiancé & subsequently, the next detected by CGM.

The first happened shortly after I woke up. Our routine involves enjoying coffee & tea while catching up on local & international events & updates. I became extremely tired soon after reading updates on my computer. By the time I was in the kitchen making eggs, my heart was beating fast & I began to have a hard time breathing…not symptoms I usually have with a low blood sugar. In my mind I reviewed the things that may be overwhelming me. I am forever making a list in my head of the days & weeks ahead. I thought maybe I was getting ahead of myself too much, putting myself in a bit of a frenzy. I realized it wasn’t that, BUT I just couldn’t put a finger on the pulse. As we sat down to breakfast & I began to eat the poached eggs the racing heart & difficulty breathing continued. As I ate my poached eggs, I realized I was having a hard time eating. I felt nauseated…almost like a brick was in my stomach. I began to tap my foot in an attempt to focus on what the issue was. Within a few seconds of tapping my foot my fiancé Steve asked me what was wrong. By this time I had tears in my eyes & a lump in my throat. In my mind I was thinking “What the heck is wrong with me!!”. I said to him, “I don’t know.” He summated what could be causing it. Then he asked if I had checked my sugar. I agreed that was a good idea. I was 3.2 mmol/L!! It didn’t feel like a low I would usually have! Once treated, these crazy, weird symptoms disappeared.

Shorty after, I decided it was in my best interest to start wearing a Continuous Glucose Sensor again. I have to be honest, when I have a sensor in I love it. It truly is the ultimate advancement in technology that I never thought could exist given what I have experienced in 38 years living with Type 1 BUT I have a huge block with taking the time to prepare, insert and calibrate. It’s not that much more work than I do with wearing a pump, but I guess it’s just that one more step or three that I just don’t want to do. The motivation to take those extra steps becomes exponential when experiencing a stealth fighting low like described above.

The second undetected one I had was shortly after I had the first sensor in. It was shortly after breakfast (do you see the morning BG’s as being my source of trouble!). Again, I became tired. Not the same tired I get with other lows…I didn’t think so. I went upstairs to have a shower. I checked the CGM graph to see what my BG was at. It was 5.4 mmol/L. Good! I have my cell in the bathroom for those ‘just in case’ moments. I never stop being a Mom even though the kids are in their 20’s. Although none of them were from my kids I hear my phone ring, text tone and email going off. I border on irritation as I promise myself that for the few minutes I’m in the shower the world & my kids will survive without me having access to my cell, thus me having a peaceful moment in the shower. Still feeling not quite right & overtly irritated given how good natured I usually am, I am not able to put a finger on it. My pump begins to go off. It is alarming like crazy. By this point, I realize I’m quite low. I finish as quickly as I can & get to my pump. As seen in the pic above I am 2.4 mmol/L & still going down!! I put in a temp basal of 0%, put some clothes on & head downstairs to get some fast acting sugar. It took an hour to have the residual symptoms subside. Boy was I ever tired!! It scared me.

It occurred to me that I had been having these incidences many times a week for quite sometime. The reason why I didn’t pick up on the lows by finger poke? Each time I tested when I felt tired except for that day at breakfast, the lowest I tested on my meter was 4.1 mmol/L. Even that morning after my shower my meter only tested to 4.0 mmol/L. Which do I trust? Based on how I felt & the technology I decided that these lows were truly stealth-like. Based on the fact that glucose meters can ‘ideally’ have a variability of 20% in tests, I decided it was time to take action.

It has taken a lot of work in the past 3 weeks to nail it all down, but changes have been made & I notice a huge difference. Be ware of the Stealth Fighter of Diabetes…it is alive, well & undetectable.

 

Looking Back – Being a Teen with Type 1

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Looking Back - Being a Teen with Type 1

I know what it is like to grow up as a kid & teen living with Type 1 diabetes. It’s tough!

I’m going to give you a snapshot of how I lived life with diabetes as a teen….

First, I had a huge, gigantic glucose meter. See the pic! I had the blue one for many years. There was NO way that thing was going with me anywhere. I hated testing! The test strips of this meter took a ton of blood compared to today. The finger pricker had no dial! It had one setting. When it made contact with my finger it felt like it went through it. If anyone has been to diabetes camp & used the single use, disposable prickers, you know what I mean! It took 2 minutes for the test. I had better things to do then stand in front of my meter for 2 minutes to wait for a number…so guess what I didn’t do a lot of? Test!! I mean, I knew how I felt. I could manage my diabetes without having to look at a number! At least that’s what I believed at the time.

Secondly, even though I only had to take needles twice a day, I hated it. They hurt! The needles on the syringes that I used were 13mm long. Now, the word “millimetres” sounds small but if you take out a ruler & measure 13 mm & imagine that going into a lean body with little fat, it goes directly into the muscle. I was small at 115 pounds & 5’1″. I always took my insulin, the only time I didn’t inject was when I truly forgot. Then I would call my Mom & she would bring it to me…usually at school or work. I knew I couldn’t live without my insulin.

Next, I didn’t eat much. I now know that many young girls & even women will decrease their insulin dose and run slightly higher or stop eating as many calories to keep their weight down. It is known, insulin makes one fat. It’s not that this was my intention or that I was aware of that at the time but I figured if I didn’t eat as often, my sugars dipped low so I could eat McDonald’s or candies. “Back then” (boy I sound old!) there was no carb counting to allow for ‘treats’. There was also no ‘correction doses’. If you were high, you dealt with it until it came down on its own with the insulin you had on board.

I didn’t think about my diabetes much. I remember being terribly embarrassed when I had lows. I hated having attention drawn to me. I remember being tired a lot. I fell asleep in class in high school a lot. I had a hard time focusing.

The one thing I didn’t do when I was a teen was drink alcohol. My Mom scared the life out of me about what it could do to me and my diabetes, that I am thankful for. It was one less variable I had to deal with.

With that being said, at the age of 16, my parents found me in bed one morning, lying in my vomit, barely responsive. That night I had been out with my boyfriend & when I came home I was really, really tired. Instead of testing before bed, I crashed. Little did I realize, because I hadn’t tested, I was very low before I had even climbed into bed.

Laying in a hospital bed with an excruciating headache, the next day was the beginning of realizing my diabetes needed my attention. Pretending it wasn’t there and omitting what needed to be done to manage it was not serving a purpose. I was punishing myself. I was letting my diabetes take control of me.

“Are U Happy Having Diabetes?” – Facebook fan on Diabetes Beyond Borders page

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I was asked today by a Diabetes Beyond Borders Facebook fan if I was happy having diabetes. He then commented later he hated it.

The word ‘happy’ would not be the word to describe how I feel about living with diabetes.

How I see it is, I don’t have a choice with what I’ve been given.

I do see I am fortunate to have been diagnosed at age 5…I don’t recall not living with it. That makes it much easier to accept.

I could ‘hate’ it given my 19 year old son lives with it as well for the past 12 years. I could be bitter & angry but what purpose does that serve me & those that are in my life?

I have been given a gift to educate, motivate & write about my life with diabetes. It helps me deal with the feelings I have sometimes of being tired and overwhelmed with the constant demands of the disease. It makes me happy and I absolutely love that I can take my diabetes, the education and experiences I have to help, support and learn from others living with it too.

Throughout my childhood and teen years, my Mom taught me that I can let diabetes control me or I can control it.

I choose the latter.