Category Archives: Diabetes

type 1, insulin pump, blood glucose

Forever in my diabetes-thriving heart

Tears.

When I got the email two weeks ago, my heart broke into pieces.

We had been together for 21 years. I had chosen this man, picked him specifically from a lot of others. He was perfect in every way that my 18-year-old self desired. He had an American accent. He had a welcoming smile, a fit body – oh, those legs – a firm, warming handshake, and a delectably nerdy side too.

He had me at bow-tie.

We had grown comfortable over the years, familiar. There was a warmth between us. The awkwardness of new was long gone. Our conversations were easy, filled with laughter, and respect, dare I even say knowing twinkles in our eyes. I yearned to impress him. When not in his presence, I counted down the minutes until I next was. I always dressed the part, making sure my face, hair, clothes were as close to perfection as I could muster.

But now, all that is gone.

Dr. Hottie is moving on.

Yesterday was my last ever appointment with my crush-worthy endocrinologist. It was the last time I would ever feel his strong hands softly caressing, er, I mean, inspecting my neck for thyroid growth, the last time I would feel his warmth so close as he checked my racing heart, the last time I would have his eyes boring into mine, so invested in my words. It was the last time I would see that welcoming, inviting smile of his, so hypnotic you forget you’re talking to a doctor and share everything – everything. It was the last time I would giggle over his choice of bow-tie: a classy navy blue with blood red polka dots. It was the last time I would ever have his silky warm hands wrapped around mine; you better believe I lingered.

Yesterday was the last time I would ever hear Dr. Hottie boast again of my diabetes rockstardom.

The realization of that is where I crumble.

I have not always been a diabetes rockstar. There were several years in my teens and early adulthood where I repeatedly rebelled against this disease. I started seeing Dr. Hottie at 18; the first seven years were not my best years. He saw me at my worst, and yet, he never judged, just encouraged. He was the first specialist to see ME, not my diabetes. If I wanted to go out and drink myself under the table, he didn’t necessarily condone it, but he also didn’t live in a shell. He knew I was going to do it, and he gave me tips on how to do so without completely destroying the diabetes within me. If I wanted to eat the cruddiest food, he didn’t say no, he gave me options for better balance.

He talked with me, not at me. That was huge.

When I finally punched Dear Diabetes in the face and said Look, you don’t control me, I control you, I did it for me. But if we’re being completely truthful, and I think we are, the crush I have had on Dr. Hottie has been a strong guiding force in keeping Dear Diabetes under my thumb. When my hgA1c started on a trajectory towards near perfection, the excitement I saw in his twinkling eyes, and heard in his voice made me want more. I craved his exclamations:

“These are numbers to grow old with!”
“Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!”
“You’re healthier than many without this disease!”
“You’re a rockstar!”

While I am still mourning the loss of this great specialist in my life, I am proud to say that we ended our relationship on a beautiful note. Yesterday’s hgA1c was 5.3. To put that into context for those without this disease, the hemoglobin A1C for a “healthy” non-diabetic is less than 5.7.

Yep, I am a rockstar!

Goodbye Dr. Hottie, you will forever be in my diabetes-thriving heart.

4151411142_b95097859f_z

     About men, indeed 😉                                                                                     (Photo retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/44592535@N04/)

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.

6e6350d4dbe639aa3accf26be3a90cd9

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!

170422pumptoilet

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

101004freakout

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.

170203diabetes

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.

170118sickwatch

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.

170118sled

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.

170118sickwatch2

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.

170118hospital

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.

170118moms

She will forever be my hero ❤

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.

161109pizza1

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.

161109pizza3

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!

161109pizza2

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…

29 years: “Perfect storm for an eating disorder”

Apparently furniture is to be given for the 29th anniversary, but for me, all I got was guilt.

There’s a part of me I am not fond of; a part of me that scares me; a part of me I’ve feared, hated, fought and succumbed to; a part of me I don’t like discussing much, but a part that is very much there – always. It is something I have lived with for 29 years.

My relationship with food.

The other day I was chatting with a pediatric dietitian who works with young diabetics at a local hospital, and so much of what she said to me resonated. We were talking about the different methods of treatment specifically with diet, post diagnosis. There’s the Nazi-like conventional method: no sweets, no treats, you best be perfect or you’ll die. And then there’s the flexible method: make it personal, make it healthy, do what works for your child and the family as a whole, no labels.

When I was diagnosed it was Nazi style only.

As this dietitian said so perfectly: It’s a perfect storm for an eating disorder. Unrealistic expectations are being put on a child who just yesterday could eat what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted, and now you’re telling them nope, you can’t eat that, you can’t do that, eat more, eat less, if you don’t listen, you’re doomed.

120823Children's
My first trip to the hospital courtesy of Dear Diabetes.

So, my story.

For over two decades my moms has been telling people I was malnourished Ethiopian child thin for the first four or five years of the disease, so thin the doctors kept adding to my diet, telling my parents I needed to eat more, they had me on a 2,700 calorie diet, and when I did start gaining weight, they didn’t take me off, so by the time I was 15, I was hiding my suddenly soft frame behind baggy clothes.

bday cake
My 15th birthday. Look closely and you’ll see the low self-esteem.

And sure, yeah, that happened. But what also happened is I became the child who would throw her “healthy” lunches in the bushes; I became the child who hid under her bed eating Halloween candy after Halloween candy; I became the child who would sneak spoonfuls of ice cream every chance I got, and one time hid under the table with the whole bucket thinking no one would see me there; I became the child who found bakers chocolate in the cupboard and ran to my room, crawled under my covers and took a nasty chomp. I didn’t learn from that. I hid in my room with a mixing bowl full of raw cookie dough; I ate Christmas chocolates in the bathroom; and something I am so not proud of and have never told anyone, but am now telling all of you, I used to snake my way into my parent’s room, on my stomach, in the early hours of the morning, when my moms was having a bath, getting ready for work, and would steal money from her purse – to buy chips and chocolate at the high school canteen.

Seriously, I am so sorry moms.

My relationship with food was not a good one.

For me, when they closed the door on all things sweet, when they took my control away in what I could eat, when they forced me to drink milk, something I had loathed my entire life, and something I was allergic to up until I got diabetes, and something I still very much dislike, they took my personal power away.

They took a part of me away.

My only control was a full-throttle diabetes/me revolt.

Did I have an eating disorder?

Yes, I believe I did.

I didn’t starve myself, I didn’t regurgitate what I ate, but I binged. I struggled for years to get my eating under control, and ultimately to get my diabetes in control – on my terms. And even now, although I am now crazy healthy, and in complete control, I still struggle. I don’t gorge out on sweets and treats like I did years ago, but I question nearly everything I eat now as a result; I worry about the softening of my body; and sometimes I berate myself of indulgences. Not always, but it is there.

It doesn’t go away.

Dear Diabetes gets the thanks for that.

tart1
My relationship with food hasn’t always been a confident one.

Today, Aug. 23, is my diaversary. I have had this disease for 29 years.