Normal Person Sick

I spent my final days of 2017 feeling under the weather. Which is a mild improvement on last year, when Dad grazed the back of his head on a running ceiling fan while changing a light globe, but that’s a whole other story…

At the time of year where I wanted nothing more than to enjoy leftover cheesecake, munch on Nonna’s biscotti and sip on icy cold percolated coffees, I was devoid of all my appetite. I could feel bloating, wind and a great deal of discomfort in my stomach.

As I thought back to Christmas Day, I honestly felt that I hadn’t done anything extremely out of the ordinary.

Our family brekkie of bacon, eggs and grilled tomato, with Baileys and a few choccies was nothing out of the ordinary. I only picked a few of the more tempting options for dinner at my Uncle’s place, rather than attempting to try everything and then feel the food and high blood sugar coma for the remainder of the night.

There were a few small blips throughout the day, but the highest I could remember my blood sugar peaking at was 13mmol. I was feeling super proud of myself at the conclusion of Christmas Day.

Two days after Christmas, I was left with next to no explanation for my symptoms. I went without dinner, and breakfast the following morning. I had a few water crackers for lunch, before finally feeling able to manage small meals.

I was shit scared to give any insulin until I’d actually stomached anything, for fear I would be forced to finish something I physically couldn’t. I even remember suspending my basal rate to bring myself away from a very minor hypo, because I really did not want to eat a glucose tab.

However when the symptoms still hadn’t passed by the weekend of New Year’s, I began to think about the implications of my diabetes.

The rational side of my brain was telling me that I had been managing my diabetes well, and that I was far too young of a d-baby to be expecting anything more serious. That this was likely normal person stuff, such as indigestion and possibly over-consumption of gas producing foods? That I couldn’t identify any other symptom that would point towards some of the diagnoses that Dr Google had planted in my brain. 

But the irrational side of me was jumping to all sorts of scary conclusions that Dr Google had matched with my symptoms. I was shit scared that I had done something to myself, feeling myself fill up with guilt over everything indulgent that I had put into my mouth in recent weeks.

I was reluctant to visit my GP, feeling that he probably wouldn’t take it too seriously, At best, he might have pointed me to some over the counter stuff that I was already taking. So, I decided to play a game of wait and see over the New Year’s weekend.

After a few days of very minimal food, near perfect blood sugars, a few basal tweaks and no dairy, the hunger pangs finally returned on New Year’s Day.

So, what did I learn from this little ordeal?

My diabetes still bothers me, even when it’s not bothering me.

And I’m still kind of bummed that I missed out the leftover Christmas desserts…

Festive Isolation

Diabetes is an extremely isolating condition to live with. I think I’ve dealt with that isolation quite well over the past couple of years, both by building good support networks around me and simply acknowledging that it exists. Diabetes is not normal, and I feel more normal just by saying that out loud.

But there’s still something about this time of year, where that isolation feels a little greater.

It’s hard being surrounded by loved ones who don’t have diabetes, or don’t seem to care about diabetes, at this time of the year. Watching others being all merry and carefree and sometimes living like there’s no tomorrow, can make that isolation feel somewhat greater.

Hey, that’s fine. I don’t expect extended family members who I see a few times a year to remember about diabetes. I don’t expect, nor do I want special treatment just because I have diabetes.

But I also find it extremely insulting to be asked about diabetes the minute I’m sitting down with my helping of dessert.

“How do you manage sweets with your diabetes?”

“Do you have to be careful?”

“It’s not too much sugar?”

I manage my diabetes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 366 in a leap year. Diabetes extends far beyond dessert time. It extends into my nights. Into my weekends. Into my physical activity. Into my work. Even into my sleep. Misconceptions like these do me a great injustice.

As someone who actually has to live with this condition every day for the rest of his life, it’s ludicrous to suggest that I don’t know what’s best for me. Or that I would, you know, be tipping poison into my mouth if I knew it would kill me.

I don’t think anyone takes pleasure in inflicting feelings of guilt and shame, and yet ill timed comments like these do just that. In fact, feelings of guilt and shame can spiral even further into anxiety, depression and even disordered eating.

So if you are planning on seeing a loved one with diabetes during this festive season, here’s a better way that you can support them and help reduce those feelings of isolation.

Check in. Say hi. Ask them how they’re doing. Genuinely, and not just in passing. Show them that you care. Ask us about day to day life with diabetes, because hell, it’s a bloody big part of our lives!

However when it comes to dessert time, the only question a person with diabetes should be asked is how delicious it is.

While I’m at it, check out these pearls of wisdom on best supporting a loved one with diabetes from My Therapy App!

Travelling Prepared With Diabetes

With the Christmas and New Year break just around the corner (if you’re lucky enough not to be working), today I’m revisiting a post from Diabetes Blog Week on travelling with diabetes.

When I was first diagnosed, I had this attitude that diabetes wouldn’t weigh me down. Quite literally. I wanted to prove that diabetes hadn’t changed me. I wanted to prove that I didn’t need to carry a meter, insulin or jellybeans with me as a just-in-case. It felt weak. It felt like giving into my condition.

So if anyone knows a thing or two about how to travel un-prepared with diabetes, it’s me.

I once boarded a ferry to Rottnest Island, only to discover that I had bugger all insulin left in my pen cartridge. Instead of trying to find a Pharmacy, I decided to wing it and somehow lived to tell the tale.

I remember going hypo on a Friday morning at work, with nothing to eat other than an overripe banana. Yuck.

I discovered a failed infusion site while I was away from home painting a house one Saturday afternoon, and had to drive home in the pouring rain to change it.

When my insulin ran out halfway through a lunchtime dose, I winged it again, probably running high until hometime.

When I suspected spoiled insulin earlier this year, I had to call my Dad to run some up to me work.

And then something changed.

I began using an insulin pump, and I knew that I needed a better contingency plan now that I was relying on a machine to keep me alive.

When it comes to travelling prepared with diabetes, my biggest dilemma is deciding whether I actually need to carry those supplies with me, or whether I am simply preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

I like to travel prepared. But I also like to travel as lightly as possible. Us guys don’t exactly have the luxury of handbags…

I’ll often stand in front of my desk before heading out, debating over whether I need to bring this with me. I’ll tuck things in my pockets. Then I’ll take things out because I feel weighted down and over prepared.

I’ve tried the whole keeping supplies stashed in different places. You know, desk drawers, lockers, in the car, in my satchel. In theory, it sounds like a great idea. The only problem is you begin depleting those supplies. And you have to remember to keep topping them up. Not ideal, either.

I’ve recently invested in a small pencil case. I keep all the essentials in there. A blood glucose meter, lancing device, spare lancets, spare meter batteries, glucose tabs, an insulin pen and needles. Spare batteries, an infusion set, insulin cartridge and my Animas coin to deal with a potential pump failure.

Those are my essentials. Nothing more, nothing less. I grab that case every time I leave the house. There’s no more dillemas over what to bring, or what not to bring. It’s not big, bulky or akward to carry. It can even stay in the car if it’s going to annoy me while I’m out.

You learn from experience when it comes to travelling prepared with diabetes.

 

And you do get better at it over time.

P.S. Don’t forget that insulin can spoil in the heat if you’re planning on spending Christmas Day at the beach!

Christmas Trees

Last weekend, on a blazing hot 37 degree day, I visited a Christmas tree farm. I was on a mission to find a tree that was both nice and full, but also not yet in possession of a ‘sold’ sticker.

I walked through rows upon rows of bushy Christmas trees, the blazing hot sun burning on my pale skin. Despite finding a nice full one, I decided to move on in search of something better, only to later decide to double back and try to find the needle in a haystack. Thankfully I had a clue in the form of a giant spiderweb.

My brother cut it down with a simple hack saw, as I stood and pulled the tree away from him. We heaved it onto the little cart we were also supplied with, and headed back to load it onto the back of his ute.

A real Christmas tree is somewhat of a newer tradition in our house, and something that I didn’t truly appreciate until I tried it. The fullness, the colour and the smell. Nothing beats it. We keep it out on the patio, which I also like to deck out with lights. Perfect to sit under on a cool Summer’s evening.

With the silly season upon us, Kerri’s idea of not posting about diabetes is a subtle reminder to spend some time doing something that makes you happy. To spend some time unwinding and focussing on having a good time, rather than getting too caught up in the intricacies of this damn condition.

So, that’s exactly what I plan on doing over the festive season.

For me, that’s likely going to look like renewing my Netflix subscription, spending time outdoors, reading the stack of newsletters and magazines I’ve fallen behind on, eating and drinking, and hopefully reconnecting with the DOC.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Thanks for being a part of my tribe this year.

A Close Second

Yesterday afternoon I laced up my white Nike trainers, stashed my FreeStyle Libre and Orange glucose tabs into my pockets and sat my headphones into my ears. I stepped outside into a breezy December afternoon, and started walking in the direction of the park down the road from me.

After a short stroll through the grass and the trees, I checked into my local Pharmacy, picked up the box of heavily subsidised supplies I’d ordered through the NDSS a few days earlier, and went on my merry way.

As I backtracked through the park, with the box on my side supported by my right arm, I couldn’t stop thinking about how attractive it all looked in there. The fresh boxes of supplies, all packaged neatly in a bigger box that was originally home to Morning Fresh dishwashing liquid. (Lemon scented, in case you were wondering…)

The comfort infusion sets with their manual insertion, that have helped to relieve my feelings of anxiety over every site change. The angled nature of those sets, that have helped to relieve the constant bruising and bleeding that the 90 degree ones would cause. The simplicity of their packaging, which minimises waste and makes travelling a hell of a lot easier.

The 2ml cartridges that hold my rapid acting insulin, the precious substance that fuels my existence each and every day. The magical liquid that enables my body to convert carbohydrates into energy every time that I eat. The special fluid that trickles into my body every three minutes to keep my blood glucose level, at a custom rate that’s only possible thanks to an insulin pump. The precious stuff that is only a doctor’s script, 36 dollars and a short walk down the road away.

The test strips that pair with my Accu Chek Guide blood glucose meter, and allow me to check in on my blood sugar level. Its Bluetooth abilities that seamlessly transfer blood glucose results to my smartphone with ease. Its sister smartphone app that allows me to review my stats without the hassle of cables and USB ports. The accompanying Lancing device that isn’t exactly ‘painless,’ but the one I’d want to be using if I absolutely have to be stabbing my fingers 15 times per day.

As I casually carried home this box of dishwashing liquid containing another two months of my life, I realised just how lucky I am to be able to trial and choose the products and devices that best suit my needs. How lucky I am that these expensive supplies are relatively cheap and accessible to me here in Australia.

If I can’t have a working pancreas for Christmas, then this sure does come a close second.

And if you’re thinking about those less fortunate this Christmas, consider a donation to T1 International, Spare a Rose or Insulin for Life