The unthinkable

The unthinkable happened.

Seven years ago I had feared the worst. My first marathon, it was pouring rain. The marathon had yet to start, and I was in the porta-potty for the umpteenth time when I heard a loud, stomach-dropping splash in the grossness below. I thought it was my pump. It was not. Thank freaking every god in the world! It was one of my electrolytes bottles.

From that day forward I have been beyond careful. I am, unequivocally, the slowest person when it comes to washrooms. About a month ago I was in a long washroom line with a friend. We were the next up for the two available stalls. She told the girls behind us not to worry, she was quick. I gave them an apologetic look: I’m not.

You see, I don’t hide my insulin pump. It is almost always clipped to my belt loop, or when I’m not wearing a belt, the waistband of my pants or skirts or shorts. That means nearly every time I go to the washroom, I am not only pulling down my pants, but I’m also either unclipping my pump and holding on to it, or trying to ensure the weight of it doesn’t cause my belt to unloop and drop to the seriously unsanitary grounds below.

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The other day, I was not wearing a belt. I was wearing high-waisted jeans. My brain was in a post finals fog; I had only just finished minutes prior. I peed. I grabbed some toilet paper. I heard a clang.

The clip on the back of my insulin pump had wriggled free of my jeans. The infusion was in my stomach. It was the 43 inch tubing attached instead of the 23. Had it been the 23, it might have been saved. But no…

It was in the toilet bowl – the pee-filled toilet bowl.

Oh. My. Freaking. Ewwwww!

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Sure, I’ve heard that urine is “supposedly” sanitary. I learned from one of my lovely campers back when I was a camp counsellor in Maine years ago that pee is the cure for athlete’s foot. Still, that knowledge did not give me comfort. This thing is vital to my life; it should not be covered in pee.

And the worst thing, it actually proved waterproof. That means, no new pump for me.

Ewwww!

Exams and diabetes

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I was freaking out.

I was a couple days off from my first final of the semester, and I was completely wigging. It was an upper-level research course. I had been doing well. I knew the material. By all accounts, I should have been confident. But no, I was in full-blown freak-out mode. I don’t like exams, and no matter how well I know the material, I generally get over-run by anxiety. But this time was different. This time was worse.

Dear Diabetes had gotten in my head.

Not surprising, really. The midterm was a bloody gong show. Normally my blood sugars run high for exams. It’s that whole anxiety thing setting up the fight or flight response, shooting up the adrenaline – and the blood sugars. But for the midterm, Dear Diabetes decided to take me on a different kind of roller coaster. Instead of high blood sugars, they bottomed out 10 minutes prior to the start of the exam. I scarfed down handfuls of dried apricots. It was no use.

High blood sugars, as long as they don’t go above 13 mmol, I can deal with. But low blood sugars, no.

The first 30 minutes of the exam was awash. The words bounced all over the pages for the first 10-15 minutes, and then the next 15 minutes, it was a mumbo of confusion. I couldn’t make out the research abstracts. I didn’t understand what the questions were asking. I knew time was ticking. The anxiety rose. I started to sweat. It was all I could do to stop from hitting my head in all-out frustration.

My moms, and all her hippie friends voices filled my head. I closed my eyes for what felt like an hour but was likely only 2 minutes, doing everything in my power to calm my mind, my heart, my blood sugars.

Finally, the words made sense.

So, the final. I studied the slides. I studied my lecture notes. I asked friends in the class for clarification on some of the smallest details. I studied my diabetes. I looked for trends. I made adjustments. I planned the day’s fuel, and made sure I cut and measured the carbs of the apple for complete bolus accuracy. If Dear Diabetes had plans for me, I was going to be ready, I was going to be beyond prepared – both in material and body.

Dear Diabetes was not going to win this battle. Not this time.

The final was last Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t safe from the anxiety; the blood sugars continuously creeped up prior to the exam. I bolused an insulin-correction 10 minutes before going in. As long as they didn’t go too high, though, I’d be safe from nausea.

The highs don’t cripple my brain.

As for the exam, I was 5,000 per cent solid. Results were posted the other night; I scored 91%.

Dear Diabetes: FACE!

Sometimes…

Sometimes I don’t want to stop.

Sometimes I’m in the thick of a really great book, and I don’t want to stop.

Sometimes I’m in the middle of writing a killer sentence, and I don’t want to stop.

Sometimes I’m climbing down the Eiffel Tower in the twilight hours, and I don’t want to stop

Sometimes I’m in the depths of a needed sleep, and I don’t want to stop.

Sometimes I’m at 8.5 km of a strong 10 km run, and I don’t want to stop.

Sometimes I’m hurting with joy, giggling so hard with my boy, and I don’t want to stop.

I can see the words on the screen go blurry.

I can feel the letters in my book as they punch me in the face with every bounce across the page they make.

I can sense the happy flutters in my belly being strangled into sickening worry.

I try to control the shakes.

I try to ignore my heated cheeks.

I squint at the screen.

I cover one eye, hoping it will empower the other.

All for just a few more minutes.

A few minutes without Dear Diabetes.

But then, the full-body sweats come. Reality sets in. I cannot ignore Dear Diabetes. I cannot shove him off to the corner, not even for a few seconds. He is there. He will always be there. He won’t ever let me forget it.

The other day my blood sugars dropped to 3.0; I felt as though they were 2.0.

I didn’t want to stop.

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Hospital: the first

Dear Moms,

I am sorry I was such a sick kid. I am sorry I got whooping cough at three weeks old. I am sorry my appendix nearly burst at three years old. I am sorry about the whole diabetes diagnosis at nine years old that caused a tumult of ER runs and hospital stays. I am sorry I threw my lunches into the bushes and gave your plants my insulin doses and gorged out on chocolate under the covers of my bed, which no doubt added to those aforementioned sick-induced adventures. I am sorry I got jaundice at 11, and a near concussion at 17. I am sorry your mother’s intuition was forced to work over time for so many years just to ensure I made it through the night.

Never in my 38 years did I imagine the anguish I put you through until now.

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NYE: The Sickness part 1

It is an anguish all parents go through, I am sure, but one I had yet to truly experience until recently.

On Christmas Eve Little Ring woke up with a cold. He’s had colds before, but this one was a doozy. He was lethargic; his head seemed to be in a thick fog for most of the day. Still, not a huge deal. Just a cold. On New Years Eve, he started puking. He is not a puker; I think he has puked once, maybe twice, prior. He was scared. He started screaming to scare the “fire in his belly” away. That was hard. It was the flu. Every parent has handled the flu. We could handle the flu. Two days later, his spirits were back up, his appetite was regaining steam. We thought we were in the clear. We took him sledding.

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If only the squeals had stayed joyful

I will forever feel guilt for that decision.

Oh he laughed and squealed with glee. Every ride down was better than the previous. We were out for about an hour. I was getting cold. I suggested we head for hot chocolate. His steps up the hill slowed; his body slouched. It was as though he were lugging an elephant up the hill with him. I had seen this before. It was classic Little Ring style. He was tired. He was dramatic. He wanted mama to carry him the rest of the way.

We got to our hot chocolate haunt. He and Big Ring sat down with their mugs, while I talked to my favourite tea lady at the tea counter. He came over to me and declared he wanted to go home. I thought it was exhaustion. He grabbed his head and started crying.

We got home. He laid on the couch, tossing and turning, writhing in pain. He had a fever. His ear was hurting. We gave him baby Advil. I was on hold with the nurses line for over an hour. By the end of the call, his fever had dissipated and he was chewing dried apricots, which seemed to help.

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With “fire in the belly” lying down was the go-to position

It was just an ear ache; parents deal with ear aches all the time. We were sure it would go away.

Mild fevers came and went for another week, but nothing too extraneous. On Jan. 7, he was nauseous, and feared the red bucket, again screaming to scare the pukes away. The next day he seemed fine. The fevers were on and off, but he generally runs hot. During the day he was eating, energetic, playing, building Lego, fighting superhero crime, cracking perfect Little Ring jokes. But at night, the ear pain continued to present itself.

We gave him baby Advil to make him comfortable. By Monday, we took him to see our bow-tie loving family doc. Dr. Nick looked in his ear, said there was some redness, but nothing overly concerning. He was loathe to prescribe antibiotics, which we were in agreement with, advising that it would likely clear up on its own and to continue prescribing baby Tylenol and Advil for comfort.

I had a long day at school Tuesdaay; I was out of the loft by 6:18 a.m. and didn’t get home until 8:15 p.m. meaning I didn’t see the boy at all. Big Ring texted that Little Ring had swelling around his ear, but wasn’t complaining of pain. He woke up at 10 p.m., crying out, his blanket over his head. His ear hurt. The swelling was significant. Behind his ear, his head was so swollen, his ear was pushing forward as thought it were Spock’s ear. It was red and tender. His lymph nodes were also swollen.

That was it.

Off to the ER we went. The first for the boy.

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Dear kid, PLEASE don’t become a regular like your mama.

Nearly three hours later, we had a diagnosis. The infection was in the early stages of attacking the bone. It was mastoiditis. If left untreated, it could be serious. I didn’t know the implications. All I knew is that the doctor, who I think might very well be Royal Columbian’s version of McSteamy (and he knows it!) caused my child to cry out in pain. I know he had to do it. I know they needed to see his pain level. With my fists clenched in my pockets, the nails of my fingers digging into my hands, the feeling of wanting to jump out of my skin, it took every piece of strength I had not to attack.

My eyes shot daggers.

We were prescribed a heavy dose of antibiotics; so heavy even the pharmacist winced. I didn’t ask McSteamy about the side effects, I didn’t ask if there were any other alternatives, I heard “serious implications” and everything stopped. I just wanted my boy better. It wasn’t until I got home that I started questioning the prescription.

It’s taken my control away. It’s taken Little Ring’s control away. Neither of us like losing control.

For the first 20 years of my life, without realizing, I watched as my moms protected me. I watched her advocate for me, press the doctors  and other such medical professionals for the utmost best care, and challenge them if they didn’t give it to her standards. I watched as her face never cracked. She was calm. She was patient. She rubbed my back, never showing weakness – not in my presence, nor the doctors’. She was strong. She was fierce. She had an Elizabethan fire in her not to be stoked.

Last night, I wanted to cry.

My moms never cried.

Neither did I.

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She will forever be my hero ❤

Food: What can we do?

I don’t know why I didn’t put up my hand.

I don’t know why I didn’t ask the question filling my brain the entire time she was talking.

I’ve rarely been one to shy from asking questions.

I’ve got journalism in my blood for goodness sake; I should have asked the question.

This week I attended the latest installment of the UBC Reads Sustainability series, a program that brings well-known authors to campus to discuss issues of sustainability. It was the first I’d heard of the program, and was intrigued for a few reasons:

1) The speaker, Simran Sethi, is a journalist (see blood above) and her book is called Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. For those of you who’ve been long-time readers, you already know, but for those of you new to the PoP ways, chocolate might as well BE my blood.

2) I am currently taking a Land, Food, Systems course, which is a year-long prerequisite for the dietetics program all about sustainability, systems-thinking, multifunctionalism, etc., which is, without a doubt, my favourite course. The lecturer is super engaging, and my extensive experience as a newspaper journalist in one of the major farming communities of the province gives me a solid base for the content.

Ms. Sethi’s book is an exploration of the changing lands of agriculture through those beloved foods, and the devastating impact of the homogenization of our food that’s been taking over since the industrial revolution.

She talked about how one third of our soils have been eroded.

You can’t grow good food in eroded soils, she said.

She talked about the global trend towards sameness, about how our crops have become a saturated monoculture, one breed of cow for all dairy and meat products, one type of corn, a handful of apple crops versus thousands that used to be grown.

If disaster strikes, we are potentially at risk, she said.

Diversification ensures we have a back-up plan, she said.

We are losing diversification.

She said we need to change things, that we need to invest in our collections, make sure we have a seed vault containing all our seed systems just in case “dooms day” comes; that we need to preserve our wild growth; and support our small farmers.

But she didn’t say how.

I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say the approximate 50 or so people in that room were interested and invested in making agriculture more sustainable, steering our farms away from the monoculture of the industrial revolution, committed to supporting our local farmers and farmers’ markets. She was already preaching to the choir.

But, in this case, we are the 1%.

What about the vast majority of the population who is so ingrained in shopping at supermarkets, buying the cheapest product available, either because they can’t afford to do otherwise, or because it’s what they’ve always done. How do we get those people on board?

In order to enact change, in order to stop the small farmers from going under, in order to have a country with food options, a world with biodiversity, it is those people we need to educate and support. Until then, I remain cynical and question whether real change will be made.

I mentioned in my last post that I have been working with the Royal City Farmers’ Market since last January to bring about more education on the value (nutrient and monetary) of farmers’ markets. Last spring, I embarked on a $40 challenge where I spend $40 every market on market-fresh product and outline how long it lasts, the tastes, the meals we get out of it, etc.. For our family, both the taste and monetary savings to our vegetable budget has been a huge eye opener.

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When the market went on break for a month between the summer market and winter market, I was so disappointed with every salad I ate in that time. The flavour was just not there.

You can read the posts via the 10th to the Fraser online magazine at www.tenthtothefraser.ca/category/eats-and-drinks/

Pizza, worse than a tequila hangover

Pizza, it is the bane of existence for diabetics the world over.

The taste, a garlic-infused crispy crust, savoury tomatoes and fungi, oozing mozzarella, and the spice of the carefully placed basil tantalizing your taste buds. So savoury. So delectable. A treat that calls out in your dreams, lures you in your wake. But a treat, nonetheless, that makes you look at diabetes in the same manner as organic chemistry.

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More fear calculating this than prepping for a statistics final!

I have had this disease for 29 years, and I have yet to master the skill of calculating the bolus’ and basals for pizza. I can eat baked cheesecake, no problem; cheese oozing quesadillas, no problem; but pizza, it has foiled me nearly every time I partake.

Shame.

Big Ring is a master of the pizza-making skill. Ever since we visited Italy seven years ago, he’s been perfecting the art of Neapolitan-style pizzas.

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Food art at its finest!

But for years, I’ve been shaking my head more times than not when pizza is suggested for the menu. Irregardless of my love, those middle of the night highs, that inevitably occur following said pizza, overrule the love.

A pizza hangover is worse than a tequila hangover.

It’s not the flour, the farina flour we use is a specialty pizza flour molded into a paper thin crust that I can pretty effectively calculate the bolus for. It’s not the tomatoes or the tomato sauce, even though they are sugar behemoths, they too can be accurately calculated for. Nope, it’s the cheese.

That cheese, the star of the show in some respects, kills us.

You can’t give a huge amount of insulin right off the hop, just before that first bite, because you’ll no doubt suffer lows shortly after. And when you feel that low, you’ll think, oh freaking crud, I gave myself way too much insulin. Nope, no you didn’t.

You see, that cheese, she’s an underhanded deviant. She’s laughing, watching the clock, counting down the hours until she can strike.

Cheese is full of fat. Fat slows digestion. So, an hour or two after you eat your pizza, your body still hasn’t properly digested it, but the insulin you took is shooting so fast through your bloodstream, you’re grabbing every last bit of sugar in your house to bring your blood glucose back up again. And then, midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m. hit and BAM! Cheese strikes. Your BG shoots up and you spend all night and well into the next day trying to bring her down again.

Feeling pukey, lethargic, all around gross the entire time.

Not fun.

I’ve tried a big dose up front; I’ve tried doing an assortment of combo boluses; I’ve consulted with the diabetic community, but to little success. And on the rare occasions I do get that A+ in the pizza-diabetes equation, I think, fantastic, I’ve got this – only to do the same thing the next pizza adventure and miserably fail.

Our bodies are not static, our diabetes is ever changing, what worked one day may not work the next.

But I am no quitter my friends…

The winter farmers’ market (which, by the way I’ve been writing regularly for since last January and can be found here: http://www.tenthtothefraser.ca/category/eats-and-drinks/) started back up again last weekend. Among other things, we came home with a bag full of market-fresh arugula, and market-fresh pine mushrooms (hand picked by a local forager!!!), we had mozzarella and prosciutto in the fridge, garlic and tomato sauce in the cupboard, and it was a crazy crummy day outside – the perfect recipe for barbecued pizza!

It was time I stomped that Cheesy Deviant to the ground!

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You will not win this time cheese!

But alas, she had other plans.

My blood sugar before first bite was 7.9 mmol. I tried the advice of a friend and liberally bolused 75% right off the hop, with the remaining 25% slowly seeping into my blood stream over the next half hour. I thought for sure my blood sugars would go low, and I’d be seeing a later high. Nope. They went high.

PIZZA EXPERIMENT:
• BG pre-pizza: 7.9 mmol
• BG one hour post pizza: 10.4 mmol
• BG two hours post pizza: 13.1 mmol (Correction given and 100% temp. basal for 1.5 hours)
• BG four hours post pizza: 9.1 mmol
• BG 10 hours post pizza: 4.1 mmol (It was 4:30 a.m., I gave myself two DEX tabs to get me to breakfast)
• BG 12 hours post pizza: 10.1 mmol
• BG 15 hours post pizza: 11.2
• BG 18 hours post pizza: 6.3… FINALLY!

Needless to say it was a major pizza fail. Next time, I will try for a larger dose up front and a longer combo basal over several hours instead of a half hour and see if that works.

I’m interested to hear, how do all my diabetic readers deal with pizza?

Until next time…

Strategic disengagement

Today I quit.

It’s not a territory I am all that familiar with.

Sure, a couple years ago I quit a career, but that was with a new one in the foreground.

A few years ago I quit a race, but that was the act of Dear Diabetes, completely out of my control.

Speaking of Dear Diabetes, I quit her once too, but my brain wasn’t fully developed so I can’t really be blamed for that.

I’ve had thoughts of quitting other things: my first marathon I had visions of running in front of the tram; my first time up the Grouse Grind, I had urges to hurl myself over the side of the cliff. Chemistry, I thought for sure I’d blow up the lab and be done with it. But never, never, never was there the option of stopping and turning around.

Today I stopped.

But I didn’t turn around.

Today I quit physics.

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Two weeks of physics and this is what I got out of it: a tutorial on how to make paper airplanes, and I didn’t even do those that well! (Little Ring loves them!)

After four straight semesters of chemistry, I thought for sure I was primed for physics (okay, I didn’t really think that), but nope, that was not the case. By second class I could feel the sweat building up in my underarms; I could feel the heat in my face, the shaking of my limbs.

Panic.

I got a tutor, he’s a great tutor, a phenomenal tutor, a tutor that worked so thoroughly with me to understand the concepts, in a really cool way, and at such a shockingly low wage. If I could learn this course through him, I would excel. If I could be one-on-one with the prof, I would excel. But in a class of 300 x 3, I am but a bug on the wall.

Panic.

I went into physics with an open mind. I had no idea what to expect, I don’t recall ever doing physics, but then again I don’t recall much of math, and I shut my ears to anyone who told me it was tough as hell. This past weekend I had two assignments due plus a lab. I spent all night Friday, well into the morning hours, all afternoon and evening Saturday, and all morning Sunday. There were a lot of eff bombs, a lot of distressed exclamations “I don’t understand what it’s asking me!!!” and a lot of unreasonable, I feel cruddy as hell outbursts towards the most I love.

Panic.

This course is not a priority course.

This course is a course that I potentially need, but a course that’s ultimately not going to get me into the program I desire.

When I get into dietetics, there is a core course that requires the foundations of physics, but for those in the dietetics program the prerequisite is waived. Most who don’t have physics struggle.

I was trying to be proactive.

I am taking four courses this semester, three of which are priority courses. I was spending way too much energy, both mentally and emotionally, on a non-priority. A course that if I struggle all the way through who’s to say any of it will take hold in my brain and carry over to that core course? And who’s to say I won’t completely mess up the priority courses that I should actually do quite well in?

There was a lot of soul searching, a lot of weighing the pros and cons, going back and forth, a lot of outside guidance. I don’t like to quit, but it didn’t make sense to disregard the priorities in favour of a non.

So, today I quit.

I quit for the betterment of my goal; the betterment of my grades; the betterment of my mental state; the betterment of my family.

To quote a friend: It as a matter of strategic disengagement.