Tag Archives: Dear Diabetes

The invisibility cloak of Dear Diabetes

About a month and a half ago, my feminine ego was kicked in the teeth. I had just got on Skytrain. It was during rush hour and it was busy, not a seat to be had. I grabbed hold of the bar nearest the door and pulled out my cell phone, as so many of us socially inept souls tend to do. The woman in one of the priority seats, designated for seniors or those with disabilities, sprang up and tapped me on the arm.

“You can have my seat,” she offered.

I smiled and said no, no I was fine.

She insisted.

It was then that I realized I was wearing a dress with an empire waist.

Oh. No.

No, I am fine, I said, my face flushing.

I have not worn that dress since.

Fast forward to today and I wish I was wearing that dress.

Again, I was on the skytrain. Again, it was rush hour, and it was busy, not a seat to be had, barely a space for my feet.

It was the first time I have ever used my diabetes to gain a seat.

I didn’t want to do it.

I battled the inner demons within me. I didn’t know 100 per cent if I needed the seat. I didn’t know if it was claustrophobia combined with the humidity causing the feelings inside me, or if it was Dear Diabetes gaining the upper hand.

I had been fighting low blood sugars all afternoon. It was the first real day of classes. I had a super early start, which I had been trying to prepare for over the last week, but can you ever really prepare when you have your lovely little frienemy Dear Diabetes constantly throwing you monkey wrenches???

The last class of the day was super hot and humid, the bus home had no air circulation, by the time I got on Skytrain, I had already food medicated two lows, surely they couldn’t still be low.

Oh yeah, they could.

I was dripping in sweat. My hands were shaking as though I were in the final throes of Parkinson’s (no disrespect). Yet, I’m sure to others I looked fine.

Unless I were on the floor, shaking uncontrollably, this is an invisible disease.

I bent down to face the lady sitting in the seat for seniors, or those with disabilities, and said:

“Excuse me, would you mind if I sat here for a few minutes, I’m having a bit of a medical situation?”

I do not practice religion, but I would just like to say: bless her.

She did not give me a dirty look. She did not question me. She did not ask what was wrong. She got up quite efficiently, and as another woman was about to take the seat, she said, no, this woman needs this seat, and she helped me sit down.

I tested my blood sugars. They were 2.7. This was an hour and a half after I had eaten a Larabar without insulin. This was a half hour after I had stuffed my face full of Werther’s without insulin. I downed a handful of dried apricots and sat feeling guilty.

I shouldn’t have felt guilty.

I have a disease that is considered a disability. I was nearly rendered incapable of standing. I needed to sit. I needed to eat. But, in my mind, those around me did not see a disability.

Dear Diabetes wears the invisibility cloak day in and day out.

Note: my blood sugars continued down the dark rabbit hole of lows. By the time I got home, I was nauseous and could barely eat dinner. I drank orange juice and vomited it back up again. I was bent over in pain, my stomach a giant, solid rock. My head aching. I tried the quick sugar route, I tried the healthy route, but by 8 p.m., after 5 hours of constant lows, I said to hell with it.

I ate the last of my son’s Dairy Queen birthday cake with a topping of strawberry Breyer’s ice cream.

Eat that Dear Diabetes!

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

A new marathon of sorts

Dear Princess,

It’s time to face it, you are not normal, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when it comes to life with Dear Diabetes, no matter how hard you try to deny it, you do have limitations.

Yes, you can run way past the time the dogs come home; yes, you can climb the Grouse Grind and continuously improve your time; yes, you can give birth; yes, you can travel the world; and yes, you can say goodbye to one beloved career and go back to school in your mid-30s, full-time and pull off some pretty spectacular grades.

Yet, still, all of that is limited by Dear Diabetes.

Let’s talk school, shall we.

I am nearing completion of my second semester, which has been an incredibly challenging semester compared to my straight A’s of the first semester. I have worked so hard, my brain is so fried, and that two week break I get in April before the next semester starts cannot come soon enough.

Two days ago I had a chemistry exam; an exam I felt I was prepared for days leading up to it, but that I started freaking out about one to two days prior. I’m sure that’s normal for most students, but what’s not normal is the blood sugar drama that accompanies the freak outs.

Seriously, I'd like to kick the person who started these signs, and double kick the person who came up with this one specifically!

Seriously, I’d like to kick the person who started these signs, and double kick the person who came up with this one specifically!

Stress.

Stress causes high blood sugars. Stress causes low blood sugars. High blood sugars cause stress. Low blood sugars cause stress. High blood sugars cloud focus. Low blood sugars obliterate brain function.

Normally my blood sugars go high during an exam, which I’ve slowly started figuring out how to counteract before they take hold. But on Monday, they went the opposite route, down a path towards bottoming out.

What the freaking hell Dear Diabetes?

All morning I was dealing with lows, but I still thought I’d be facing highs later on (my exam didn’t start until 2:30 p.m.) so I didn’t make any changes to my insulin dosages. One hour before the exam, they were 6.4. Perfect. Ten minutes before the exam, they were 4.0. Borderline effing hell! I popped a few dates, lowered my basal rate by 50 per cent for the 75-minute exam duration and hoped, prayed to the exam gods, they wouldn’t go pass-out style.

Sound familiar?

Sound familiar? This was me one year ago.

Does this sound familiar? Kind of like some of my runs, hey, when Dear Diabetes gets a hold and takes control. And just like those runs, where I’m constantly thinking about what Dear Diabetes’ next move is going to be, I spent that entire exam checking the shakiness of my hands, taking stock of my vision, wondering am I okay? Should I test? What if they are low? What if I can’t complete this test? All the while trying to name alkenes; convert alcohols and carboxylic acids into esters and water; and draw high-energy, chair-conformation cyclohexanes.

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I left that test mortified, not confident in my results at all, worried, broken. I walked for a long time thinking about it all and relating it to the struggles I’ve had with some of my past runs and the feelings I had with some of those runs affected by Dear Diabetes. And that’s when I had The Moment.

The Moment is a moment that I don’t have often, rarely in fact, but a moment that had me wanting to punch my fist so hard into the trunk of tree, desperately wanting to be normal, to be free from this disease. If only for 75 minutes.

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CHEMISTRY CHAOS:
• 2:20 p.m. BG before: 4.0
• Temp. basal: -50 per cent
• Carbs: 3 dates (no bolus)
• Time: 75 minutes
• Distance: To organic hell and back
• Average pace: Finishing with the sweepers
• 3:50 p.m. BG after: 4.1

But hey, test results came back today, and even with the Dear Diabetes drama, I still pulled off a decent 77 per cent; not as high as I would have liked, but given the drama, a mark I can be proud of.

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Running roller coaster

For those of you keeping tabs, and thank you so much for doing so, the results of the run vs. sloth week are as follows:

Run: 4
Sloth: 0

While I know I am the only one who can truly get me out the door running, it helped HUGE knowing that I’d hear from a few of you if I didn’t. This week could easily have been a one or none kind of running week. There were excuses aplenty to be had: It’s New Year’s. It’s cold. I have no one to run with. I’m tired. It’s raining monsoons. But, your words of encouragement; your words of prodding; and for some of you, your commitment to get out there running with me, either alongside or from afar, meant a world of difference. Seriously, thank you.

Four runs (clockwise): I have to pee!; splish splash; death by hills; SNOW... sort of.

Four runs (clockwise): I have to pee!; splish splash; death by hills; SNOW… sort of.

Four in the pocket for the week is a fantastic way to end my three-week school holiday. Today is the first day of Semester 2!

YESTERDAY’S LONG RUN
• 8:50 a.m. BG before: 11.7
• Temp. basal: (I can’t remember if I did -30% or -50%)
• Carbs: none (mistake)
 • Workout: 85 minutes: 10′ easy; 75′ alternating 10′ at half marathon
pace, 5′ at 30 seconds slower

• Time: 1:19:01
• Distance: 12.26 km
• Average pace: 6:00 min/km
• Average cadence: 87 spm
• BG: @30′: 4.2; @60′: 2.9 – FRICK!!!
• Fuel: I ended with 3 shot blocks and 2 400mL homemade sports
drink

• 10:45 a.m. BG after: 5.7

This run was a roller coaster of highs and lows, and not only with my blood sugars. But hey, let’s start there.

I have no idea why my blood sugars were 11.7 at the start of the run. At breakfast, three hours earlier, they were 7.2; if they had been consistent with the past couple weeks, they should have been down to at least 6.0 or less by the start of the run. Dear Diabetes was most definitely having her way.

When this happened a few weeks ago, I didn’t take any fuel prior to the run for fear of the blood sugars rising to a sickening state, and I also didn’t cut down my continuous insulin. By 30 minutes into that run, my blood sugars had dropped to 4.8. I still had the same fears for this run, so I skipped the pre-run half banana, but this time I cut down my basal to I think 50 per cent, but possibly 30. Regardless, it wasn’t enough. At 30 minutes in, they had again bottomed out. With the run three weeks ago, I turned off my insulin at this point which resulted in post-run highs that lasted for hours after, which I didn’t want to experience again. So this time, I cut it down to 60 per cent (thinking that I had only cut it by 30 per cent earlier), which was so totally not enough.

Despite sipping on my homemade sports drink and noshing on a shot block, by 60 minutes in, my blood sugars were dangerously low. At that point, I stopped running, guzzled the remainder of my sports drink and stuffed 2 more shot blocks into my mouth. Thankfully, though, 5 minutes was all it took for my BG to rise and me to be back running again.

Unfortunately the Ziplock bag did not keep the strips dry when testing... all ruined.

Unfortunately the zip-lock bag did not keep the strips dry when testing… all ruined 😦

Stupid blood sugars. Before that, I was having a decent run. It was monsooning like hell. The trails were covered end-to-end in puddles. (There’s no dodging puddles on the West Coast!). And if you stopped you were met with bitter cold. Still, for the most part, I was keeping my pace in line for where it needed to be, and wasn’t feeling exhausted on the faster portions of the run. And even after the blood sugar drama, I was still able to kick the last five minutes or so in the teeth with a super speedy finish.

Not impressed with Dear Diabetes messing with a decent run.

Not impressed with Dear Diabetes messing with a decent run.

Stupid blood sugars.

Radler in. Water out.

Ok. I know I’m a diabetic, and I know I’m a runner, and I know that lemonade to a Type-1 is like creepy friendly guy in a van with candy to a five-year-old, and I know that beer is not the recommended post-run bevvie of choice, but come on!!!

Put yourself in my shoes:

I was up for speed intervals today and had every intention of doing them first thing prior to Big Ring heading out for a ride with his riding group, but good ol’ Dear Diabetes got in the way… and maybe a little poor judgement on my part too.

Earlier in the week, after a co-worker had bragged endlessly about her homemade pizza, I suddenly had a craving for Big Ring’s homemade on the BBQ pizza, which, wow!, is amazing! We hadn’t had his pizza in awhile as I’ve really cut back on pretty much all white flour product (grilled cheese included – shocking, I know!), but I put a bug in Big Ring’s ear, and, when it comes to his Neapolitan-style pizza, there’s no asking twice. Not even two days later and the pizza was on the BBQ, and, well, I couldn’t not eat it. Yum.

But ohhh that melt-in-my-mouth mozzarella and that perfectly crisped farina-flour crust wreaked havoc on the blood sugars from pretty much first bite. Up, up, up they went. No amount of rage bolusing was bringing them down – I even increased my basal by 75 per cent for an hour! (Note: I’ve never been able to figure out my blood sugars with pizza, but I don’t recall it ever getting this bad.) And then, just before I was to put my head to pillow for the night, they dropped. Fast.

The BG appears to be fine, but the double down arrows, bad, combined with the IOB (insulin on board), super freaking not cool!

The BG appears to be fine, but the double down arrows, bad, combined with the IOB (insulin on board), super freaking not cool!

I spent a good two hours battling the lows. It was almost an exact reciprocal of the earlier highs in the opposite direction. When the alarm bellowed at 5:30, my blood sugars were still borderline and my head space completely trashed. So, I rolled over and succumbed to the fact I’d be doing my speed intervals after Big Ring’s ride.

Noon. 4×500 metre sprints. 10 minute warmup. 5 minute cool down. Right through the fiery flames of New West hell! (Also known as the incessant heat wave we’re currently enduring!)

It was hot. My body, so slick with sweat, I looked as though I’d just jumped out of the shower. I had water. I drank that water. I found more water. I dumped it over my head. I was still hot.

And so, there was only one other thing left to do:

Run to Steel and Oak brewery, which was conveniently super close to where I was running today, and order a glass of their new Radler – a mix of beer and lemonade. So refreshing. So perfect when water just don’t cut it! So a big FU to Dear Diabetes!

Worth every last rebel rousting drop!

Worth every last rebel rousting drop!

TODAY’S INTERVALS:
(They were supposed to only be 3, but I accidentally turned the timer off for one when I meant to lap it, so I figured I’d add a fourth.)
• 11:45 p.m. BG before: 7.1
• Temp. basal: none
• Carbs: 1/2c applesauce (12g) and 1/4c almonds
• Intervals: 4×500 with 10′ warmup and 5′ cool down.
• Average interval pace: 4:42
• 12:45 p.m. BG after: 7.0

Scotiabank: 36 hours later

It’s been more than a day since I called it quits on my first ever DNF half marathon. I am pleased to report my mood is no longer down in the dumps. I’ve had time to think, and reflect, and sleep … and to really, truly understand just how amazing my support group is.

Seriously.

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A small grouping of my supporters.

From family, to close friends, to running friends, to social media acquaintances, and the blogging community, I have felt so incredibly loved over the last day and a half with phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages and emails. From my big, big brother getting me into a fit of giggles moments after the tears started  with his chastising comment about how he finished his marathon the night before – 26.2 beers! – to a friend offering to punch my pancreas in the face (as long as it wouldn’t hurt me), to others telling me their stories of not finishing races, to the simple xoxo’s, to the many of you virtually kicking me in the butt for my comments of feeling ashamed.

And that’s where I am now.

Let me be clear. I do not fancy myself an elite athlete, I am far from being anything close to that, but I do have goals. Yes, I run because I enjoy it, and yes, I run because it keeps me and my diabetes healthy as can be, but I also run because I have competitive juices flowing through me that want to succeed, want to be better than the last run, want to finish upright and smiling. And whether I run for fun or anything more, quitting has never been an option.

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I know. I know. Dear Diabetes got in the way. Dear Diabetes fugged my race up. There is nothing, in that moment, I could have done about the evils of Dear Diabetes. But don’t you see, when I set out on a run, I don’t view Dear Diabetes as a crutch, I don’t consider myself special, different, exceptional because of Dear Diabetes. When I’m lined up in that starting corral, yes, I am testing my blood sugars, yes, I am constantly adjusting and readjusting my insulin pump on my waistband or fuel belt, yes, I am doing the carb/depleted energy math in my head, but for me, that’s always been the normal. And until yesterday, it had never stopped me before.

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Dear Diabetes does not define me.

So, while I 5,000 times agree that there are more important things in life than finishing a race, for me, in that moment, and for hours after, my heart broke because I felt I had succumbed to a diabetes weakness I never ever felt I had. And honestly, regardless of what any of you say, I did quit, yes, I quit for the right reasons, but I quit nonetheless. Tell me how many of you enjoy quitting … anything. (Well, unless it’s smoking!)

I waited at the beach yesterday for more than an hour for my Rings to pick me up. In that time, even with the tears, I was already thinking ahead to my next races, and plotting my racing, diabetes and finishing strategies. Quitting is not an option.

Thank you to every single one of you. Your kindness meant the world to me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!