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Then & Now
Messages, reminders & encouragement arrive in mysterious ways sometimes. If you are familiar with the industry term “just in time delivery” maybe these gems too arrive at the right time. Or possibly there is no bad time for them when we turn our thinking around just a bit. All that I really know is that when I receive messages, reminders & encouragement “just in time”, I treat them as the gifts that they are with gratitude.
As you know, I am not a fan of sugar coating or fence sitting or put another way living in the land of the faker. The truth is the truth whether it is popular or not. This was my belief before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes & the other 3 autoimmune diseases that I have. Once diagnosed especially with type 1 this belief grew as if it were on steroids. Being diagnosed with this was sobering beyond description in the way that it hit home that life is precious every single moment. Since being diagnosed I have lost some treasured friends (until we meet again in heaven) to the cruelty of diabetes complications & there are no words that I could ever express that would capture the way I miss those Dear Hearts. The way I like to end any given sharing time with a friend is by saying, “to be continued.” I just don’t really believe in goodbye. So in that way even the Dear Hearts that have left far too soon are also very much included in my “to be continued” thanks be to God. Okay, back to the original point. January through to now have been brutal. They have been weeks filled with additional stressors. Some of the additional stress has been of a physical nature with blood sugars & PA challenges beyond the ordinary. Other stress has been external & urgent. Thank goodness that there are the gifts of knowing that I am not alone in any of these struggles. Where there has been a struggle there has been a solution. It still means that there has & will continue to be much for me to do but not feeling alone in any of it makes all the difference at least for me. Struggles with type 1 can be brutal. Real life example is that during the last week of February & the first week of March I was hit with a flu bug that sent my blood sugars into what could have been devastating results, emergency or worse. Thank goodness I decided years & years ago to become a diligent diabetes manager including daily doing at least 10-12 glucose tests. Sometimes I do not feel any hints when I am sitting in a meeting for instance sporting a serious blood sugar of 18 or 20. The low blood sugars I tend to physiologically feel but not always so having the insurance of doing so many glucose tests gives me peace of mind. The peace of mind of my family’s is equally important. It gives my family peace to know that I am steadfastly looking after managing type 1. I am fiercely independent but not wonder woman either. I know that type 1 diabetes is serious & I take it seriously & if or when I need help I seek out trusted experts. That is my philosophy in life in general. It would be prideful indeed to believe that I have all the answers & I don’t & never will approach knowing everything about anything at all. That is the reason I am thankful that I have lived the life that I have even with the challenges along the way. It means that along life’s path I have been privileged to meet people who fill in the gaps. Often don’t you find that when you don’t have the answer to a problem that you know someone that does? The longer I live, the more I realize this is true. Sometimes we have the answers however we need someone who is trusted to “check our thinking.” I know I have always been fortunate enough to have several mentors. I respect & love each & every one of them. It is my belief that once our “wells” are filled that it is just natural for us to give a drink to others. The pay it forward idea is really the most natural in the world to put into action. Have a mentor & be a mentor is something that I was taught even before I began my career. I have had wise counsel in many areas & continue to live out my own rascally purpose. I like to joke though that I am just a “little” rascal. That means that although I can be a feisty yet gentle advocate especially for the vulnerable that I make sure that I don’t cave in on myself or in other words I never forget that I have a lot to learn from others around me. I have come to learn that people that are placed on my path are there for a reason. Ultimately in one way or another I get to learn a life lesson from each person. Some lessons are sweet & loving & other lessons are deeply painful. Each lesson will make me stronger though & I believe that with every fiber of my being.
A week ago I was reminded once again that although I am a morning person perhaps my guardian angel is a night owl. I had finally fallen asleep which was no small feat with the flu bug that had attacked my flawed immune system. Before I went to sleep I tested my glucose level like I do every night, every single time I drive & then the other 10 or so times throughout the day & often night. I had been met with countless 14-18 blood sugar readings over the 2 weeks that the bug knocked out my immune system. Thank goodness though I woke up from my sleep with a sweat soaked bed, the shakes & the sense to know that I was in a big time low blood sugar. I tested & saw a scary 2.0 looking back at me on my meter. That 2.0 was extremely unusual & shocking but that is the seriousness of type 1. I am always profoundly grateful when I am woken up in the night with a low blood sugar. Night lows though scare the hell out of people living with type 1 diabetes. Many of us have lost a type 1 battle buddy or someone in a type 1 support group to a low in the night. Also the stories of people misdiagnosed are disturbing. I know that I was misdiagnosed initially like countless other people who have type 1 diabetes. I was one of the lucky ones that did not meet with devastating consequences due to the initial misdiagnoses. Since I was faced with sick day management during this recent flu bug, I readjusted my basal rate at least 8 times & increased bolus rate too & did insulin corrections. Doing continuous math while you are fighting a mighty flu bug is just par for the course most people with type 1 diabetes will admit. We have to fight even harder when a major stressor to our body comes about like flu or even colds because these can turn into emergency situations in a short time frame. Even with the insulin pump I did not get my blood sugars anywhere near in range. It was frustrating & I felt sick on top of being sick. I had to wonder at times if the nausea that I was experiencing was from the flu or from extremely high blood sugars. I feel nauseous as a rule once my blood sugars go up & stay up above 16 for more than a few hours. Life goes on though & you still have to do all the things you need to do to run your life & serve your family. Thank goodness for the many homemade meals that somehow I had made in advance of the flu. I still had after all 3 growing sons that needed meals just like in any family. I had hoped to catch up on some reading & maybe even some dvd’s during the flu however the whooper of a headache made those activities most undesirable. Oddly though out of what seemed like the blue yonder I thought about a book that I had purchased in December 2007 which was the month after I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As an aside, our oldest son was 7, second born son was 3 & youngest son was just 10 months old at time. I remember thinking at the time that I was diagnosed that this was devastating news to find out that my life was going to change. I wondered about my strength in facing this fact. It is always easy to look at most significant events with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight & this is true of my experience with type 1 diabetes too. At the time of diagnoses I did what I had to do. I learned as much as I possibly could about type 1 & I sought out a diabetes nurse, dietician & endocrinologist & I joined our local chapter of JDRF. My first goal after that was to qualify for an insulin pump. As luck would have it my home province of Ontario had passed legislation allowing access to adults living with type 1 to qualify for an insulin pump. The rule though was that as an adult you had to take multi daily injections for 1 year & demonstrate your abilities to safely manage your type 1 diabetes within several outlined areas. My goal was to qualify for an insulin pump in 12 months plus a day! And I did! I love, love, love, love my insulin pump(s). I loved my first pump & I love my second pump at 100%. That is love though…it is always at 100% for me. The book finally that I am referring to is the first one that I purchased (of almost a dozen) when I was diagnosed with type 1 at the end of 2007. I tend to be a veracious reader & this was magnified I remember when I was first diagnosed with the beast of type 1. I wanted to learn about what I was dealing with. It was my usual approach & that is to find out about type 1, then see what I could do about it (ie. how to best manage the moving target of fluctuating blood sugars,etc), and then to determine what I would next do “with” type 1 in my life. The “with” I found was pretty easy. The “with” is simply reaching out & helping others with type 1, other autoimmunes or struggles. We get to have a choice about what we do with struggles. My choice is to become more human, more compassionate.
This past weekend as I was putting our sons’ snow boots into the downstairs closet next to my overflowing bookcase my eyes immediately rested upon the book that I had not frankly thought about for 8 years. I picked the book up & looked through it. I love lending my books to others & aside from the fact that I usually write my name & telephone number inside, my other book calling card is the amount of highlighting present in most of my books. There was a tremendous amount of highlighting in this book I noticed. There were also several pages of questionnaires that I had filled out. Wow, it took microseconds for me to realize how I felt about life with diabetes in 2007 vs now. The learning curve was initially steep yet quick but the learning continues. Technology changes, projected advancements are communicated through media as well as battle buddies living with type 1 periodically. One piece of technology that I would love to have is a glucose watch that is non invasive. My fingertips are a neon sign to anyone looking at them that I manage the heck out of this type 1 diabetes. Anyhow, I decided to answer the questionnaires again. What a difference. The results made me realize that I am one gentle, strong, tough cookie rascal & have come a long way in not only managing the physical side of type 1 but also in the development of a healthy emotional viewpoint of life with type 1 diabetes. “You have really come a long way you little rascal” I thought to myself. That is a great message of encouragement to receive “just in time” (hey it’s always the right time to receive encouragement) I realized. A big dose of perspective goes a long way when served up type 1 diabetes 24-7. Of course I tried my rascally best to manage the blood sugars during the 2 weeks with the recent flu bug. Had I not done what I did it is statistically likely indeed that I would have ended up in the hospital or well let’s not go there (or there). The point is that although I felt like something the cat dragged in that I got through this & I will get through anything thrown my way because this rascal has determination & feistiness directed where it should be…at fighting for my health no matter how many autoimmune diseases come my way. Type 1 is tough yet I my heart’s hope for you is that you are reminded often that you are a gentle, tough rascal too & that you can become stronger through the struggles. It is not easy but it is possible…with a little (and sometimes a lot) of help from our friends, mentors and others. Incidentally, the book that I was referring to is entitled, “The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution.” I found it to be the best one that I read when I was initially diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Everyone is a beautiful original so it may or may not be a favourite for other people living with type 1 diabetes. For those of us who have been living with type 1 diabetes for years I will add that although this book tends to be one perhaps that most benefits those initially diagnosed, there may be nuggets of wisdom for us as well. In addition to that, the author, Dr. Surwit created a meditation cd for people living with diabetes for relaxation & it is a hit out of the park. Who could not use a refresher in stress management? My hand is up way in the air for needing refreshers in this & this is why I keep this cd handy & always will.
How does your “then” & “now” look? Do you feel reminded & encouraged with how much you have really learned along the way since being diagnosed? I hope so. And this feisty little determined rascal is still cheering for you.
Have a gentle couple of weeks. To share a wee smile, here is some perspective from a 9 year old. A family friend recently said to our youngest son, “Are you nervous about attending a new school next year that is going to be temporarily amalgamated with another school part way through next year in the other school’s facility?” Without a seconds hesitation our wise son responded, “I am excited about next year because all of this just means that I get to meet even more new friends.” I love, love love this. I choose to learn from this too. Our “Barbaloots” are off for March Break this week so I will not be writing this week. The next story will be on Monday March 28 in 2 weeks time.