Wednesday, November 23

Prick Your Friends Wisely

In the first few months of my diagnosis I walked around in a state of denial. It was very hard for me to believe that I could have Diabetes. I was only 33. I was not obese. So, no, of course I didn't have Diabetes. Yet, of course, I did. At this point I was not on medication, BUT I did get a prescription for one of those Blood Glucose Meters. The meters themselves are pretty cheap, but watch out for those strips! My jaw dropped when I heard how much they cost! (If you don't know, you can basically have EITHER an Ipod Shuffle OR 2 boxes of testing strips.) So, my first task was to choose which meter I wanted. Now, I have never spent much time in the Pharmacy section of drugstores. I love going to drugstores, but just not for drugs. I go for make-up and hair products, and occaisionally, just for laughs, my sister and I have been known to make use of the free blood pressure cuff that is standard in drugstores throughout America. So, when I was shown to the 'Blood Glucose Meter Section', I was shocked! It was like walking into a Circuit City or Best Buy, an entire facet of previously unknown fancy electronics lay before me. And, like most people my age, I wanted the smallest, thinnest, most technologically advanced meter I could have. If, by chance, it could also hold my phone numbers and important dates, all the better. So, after careful consideration, I was the proud new owner of a 'Freestyle Mini'. I was imagining myself being the envy among diabetics, nonchalantly pulling it out and someone asking,
'Oh! Wow! That is one HOT meter! Which one is it?'
To which I would reply,
'Oh, this old thing?? It's the Freestyle Mini. You can take it for a test drive if you want!'
When I heard
'Excuse me, Miss??'
Startled, I was like,
'Oh, sorry! I'm just new to this whole thing and was thinking about how to use it!'
That got me a sympathetic look and a,
'Well, let me show you how it works.'
So we sat down at the counter and he pulled out my box of Lancets. I know, the word 'Lancet' conjures up all kinds of imagery. I imagine Sir Lancelot, wielding his lance to defend the fair maid Guinnevier. Or Lance, pedaling powerfully through the mountains in the Tour de France. Yet I could find no flowery images for these lancets. A more truthful name for them would be 'very small darts'. And you take these deceptively colorful darts and you LOAD them into, what is, in truth, a very small dart gun. Then, once loaded, you pull back the plastic thing, as though you were cocking a gun, until it clicks, and then you proceed to push a button, and like LIGHTNING, the small dart gun propels the small dart foward, and STABS you, and, if you're lucky, a single drop of blood will appear on your finger. If you are not so lucky, like me, you will continue to bleed for at least 3 minutes, while you ponder the reality of doing this 5 or 6 times a day.
'Now you try' the pharmacist said with a little too much pep in his voice.
'How about I try it on you first?' I said. He thought I was kidding. I wasn't. So, as I loaded my dart gun, I tried to think happy thoughts of lancets. Lance in the mountains. Lance in the mountains. Lance in the mount......POW! I drew blood on my first try! Trust me, doing it to yourself is psychologically MUCH easier than someone doing it to you. I filed that information away for future use. So, I left the drugstore with my new meter, lancets and strips, much less enamoured than I was 1 hour ago.

The Pricking obesession:

My husband was my first victim. I tried to act like it was a spontaneous sugesstion, but truthfully, I had been rehersing it all day. As I was checking my blood sugar I acted like I 'suddenly' had an idea,
'OH! Why don't we test your blood sugar as well? Doesn't your mom have some hypoglycemia thing?'
To which he responded somewhat hesitantly,
and then, with what has become my favorite question,
'Will it hurt?'
Now here is where you can really have some fun with people. I have a few answers I am prepared to give, depending on the person being pricked.

1: 'Nooo! Well, I mean, not really.
2: 'Well, I'm not going to lie to you, it'll sting a little'

Then, after they have agreed to getting pricked, I make a big display of changing out the lancet. Dramatically twisting off the plastic covering of the new needle, then holding it up to the light as if I am checking for flaws on the needle, sometimes I say,
'Just checking. I would hate for it to get caught on your skin on the way out.' And then I wink at them while they become even more nervous and panicked. Now, it is important to note, I have NEVER forced anyone to get tested with my meter. 100 percent of the time, people have WANTED to. All I have to do is say something like,
'Hey, doesn't your dad have Diabetes? Do you want me to test you?'
Or something along those lines. Bottom line is, people have a fascination with things that have to do with their bodies. They think it is cool that I can prick them, draw blood, and within 10 seconds they can know what is going on with their blood sugar. AND, I ALWAYS am sure to say,
'This is NOT a diagnoses or 100 percent accurate. If you feel you may have Diabetes, or be Pre-Diabetic, please seek the advice of a medical professional.' See how responsible I am? Here is a short list of some of my friends and family and their results:

Christopher (my husband): normal
Andreas: normal
Hanne: normal
Christopher (my friend): normal
Lars Peter: normal
My Dad: High. I advised him to see his doctor.
Kindel (my sister): refused repeated requests of being pricked.
My mom: Same as Kindel.
Kari (my mother in law): high normal, but she already knew that.
Hans Peter (my father in law): normal
Janice (my aunt): high normal, but she had a banana about 2 hours earlier.
David (my uncle): normal
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Now why do I do this you may ask? Well, on a superficial level I could say that I am providing a service to the community, early detection. But I think reality is, everytime I test someone, I secretly find myself hoping that someone else will be high like me. That I will have someone I can share this with. Because sometimes I feel alone in all of this and having someone who could say, 'I know what you are feeling', would make all the difference in the world.

Thursday, November 17

I'll Have the Special Meal Please!

Since being diagnosed with Diabetes, I have made various attempts to radically change my eating habits in an effort to FORCE my body into having low blood sugar readings. My intentions are always good, but I find it brutally hard to stick to lean protein, low carbohydrate, low fat and sugar free choices. I love food. I love cooking. I love using olive oil and butter and cheese. I love pasta. I love baking bread and cakes and cookies. I love wine. So,while reading one of about 30 books on how to live with Diabetes, most of which have different opinions on the best ways to control it, I read how the author had not had a piece of fruit for about 30 years. I immedietly put the book down. I cannot live like that! What discipline this man had! I have nothing but admiration and respect for him, but it made me sad and it scared me. Is this what I am destined for? To never eat a piece of fruit again? It's not like I am a huge fruit eater mind you. I am famous for spending several minutes picking out beautiful specimans of fruit at the market, only to have them languish in the fruit bowl at home, never to be eaten. (I know I am not alone in this! How many of you throw away fruit and vegetables on a regular basis? Admit it!!!!) So, it's not like I am a fruit eating machine, I just want to have the CHOICE of whether or not I WANT to eat fruit. This is unbelievably hard. Of course I want to do what is best for my body, so, prior to a recent overseas trip, I got all responsible on myself, and without thinking it through, I phoned up the airline and requested a 'Special Diabetic Meal'. I hung up the phone and spent several moments feeling quite pleased with myself. I had turned over a new leaf! I was, once again, taking responsibility for my health! I was going to get this Diabetes under control! The moment lasted for about 20 minutes.
So, fast forward a month, and I of course had forgotten all about my 'Special Meal' request. I had even made myself some 'Diabetic Snacks' for the flight because I wanted to be smart and prepared, knowing the adverse affect airplane food might have on my condition. So, I was somewhat surprised when a flight attendant came to my seat and leaned over, and with great discretion and a very low tone, said,
'Hi, I just wanted to confirm that you ordered a special meal for today's flight'.
My wistful thoughts that she was coming to give a complimentary upgrade to Business class were quickly shattered. My husband looked at me, eyebrows raised, as if to say 'Special meal my ass', and I looked at the flight attendant and smiled and said, with great discretion and an equally low tone,
'Why yes, I did, thanks for asking.'
We shared a conspiratal moment of eye contact and she went off to continue her mission of searching out the other special meal passengers. I gave my husband a smug look and said
'I'm being responsible! I have to get this Diabetes under control!'.
'OK' he said, and I just knew he was thinking about the pizza we had the night before.
'I can change' I said, a little too defensively.
He knows me too well.
So, about an hour later, after the first beverage service, a different flight attendant came down the aisle carrying a stack of what I could only imagine were special meals. He got to our row and looked at me and said, in a not so low and not so discreet tone, 'Special meal??' 'Yes, Thank you.' He set it down in front of me and on the fancy foil cover in black magic marker was a HUGE letter D. D for the Diabetic in seat 27F. I noticed other passengers in the immediate vicinity looking over at me. I know what they were thinking. I used to do the same thing before the big D:
'I wonder what's wrong with her that she got a special meal?'
'She is probably a vegetarian, or a strict kosher Jew.'
And to make matters worse, the meal service for the non-special meal folks had not even started. It was very awkward. I didn't want to be the ONLY person eating in my row. I wondered if all of the other special meal people felt the same.
'You can go ahead and eat' my husband said. He thought I was just being polite, waiting for the others to get their meals. In truth, I was just embarrassed and angry. And getting angrier every time I looked at the big, black D on the foil in front of me. Who was I angry with? Diabetes. Special Meals. The loud flight attendent. The people looking at me. Me, for ordering the stupid special meal.
So, knowing I couldn't avoid it, I lifted the foil and entered the world of the special diabetic meal. Mmmmmmm, chicken. On rice. The brown kind. Broccoli. No sauce, but two generous lemon wedges. My mood was spiraling quickly. I also got a salad. A wholewheat roll. No butter, but some heart-healthy spread. Water and about six red grapes for desert. I couldn't find my salad dressing or salt and pepper, although there was a complimentary pack of 'Mrs. Dash'. I rang my call button and the flight attendant came and I said
'Yea, hi, sorry, but I can't find my salad dressing'.
Without missing a beat she said with a big smile, 'You ordered the special meal'.
As if that answered my query. Then I suddenly realized that nothing was missing. I didn't get salad dressing. This was an intentional part of the diabetic meal. That was apparantly why I was given TWO lemon wedges instead of ONE. One wedge for the salad and the other wedge for the sauceless chicken, brown rice and broccoli. I was poking at the chicken thinking violent thoughts when the regular meal service came through.
'Chicken or Beef?'
'Beef' my husband answered. He got a choice. Beef tips in a red wine sauce with pasta. A salad, but his had a packet of Ranch dressing on the side. Not only did he get a roll, he also got cheese and REAL butter. His desert was not fruit, it was some cake thing. It all looked amazing. Was I hallucinating? Was I lusting over an airplane meal? Apparantly so. I was on the verge of tears, when my sweet, darling husband offered me the Ranch salad dressing. 'What about you?' I asked
'I don't need it' He said sympathetically.
I fell in love all over again. I used that packet of ranch dressing sparingly. It was important to ration it out so that it would last the entire meal and cover everything that I put into my mouth. Against all odds, I achieved my goal and begrudgingly ate the grapes. I did it. I completed my first special Diabetic meal. That sense of pride was sneaking back in, but I quickly tamped it down, less it compel me to consider requests of special meals on future flights.
8 hours into our 10 hour flight, I was starving again and looking forward to snack time. I panicked when I saw the special meal flight attendent heading towards me again. I had nowhere to run. He handed me a tray. Are you kidding me? There are Diabetic snacks? I just thought it was the meal service. It was turkey with lettuce on whole wheat bread, fat free mayonaisse and a red apple with a big bruise on it. Overall not that bad. Then my husband got his 'snack'. Some hot cheesy stuffed sandwich, a bag of Ruffles and some chocolate covered nut thing. I did not want my snack. I wanted his. I proposed a trade. My apple for his Ruffles. 'I'm allergic to apples' he said, as if to imply he would have gladly gone through with the proposed trade had it not been for that pesky allergy. 'Yea, well isn't THAT conveinient??' I thought. I was in SUCH a bad mood at this point. All I wanted was to get off of the plane in Texas and find a Whatabuger. Stupid Diabetic meals and snacks!

Now, isn't this interesting? Countless times in my life I have had meals just like this. In all of my various 'get in good shape' spurts over the years chicken, brown rice and broccoli were a staple in my diet. So what about the chicken, brown rice and broccoli was making me so angry now? Simply put, before, I CHOSE to eat that way to get into shape and lose weight. I didn't HAVE to, I WANTED to. It was no longer a way I COULD eat, but the way I HAD to eat. It was what I HAD to do to save my body from this disorder, that, if left unmanaged, promised horrific consequences down the road. I felt like my choice had been taken from me. My joy in food had been stolen. I was suddenly handed a new set of rules. Rules I had not made nor had I chosen. So i wasn't angry about the meal. I was angry about what it represented, lack of choice. How could I regain control and still find joy in food? Do you know what I mean? Have you ever felt this way? Yet somewhere in all of this, I managed to call and confirm that I had a Special Diabetic Meal on the return flight. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

Tuesday, November 8

Fresh Start

So, I guess a better name for this blog would have been 'The Invisible Diabetic'! Two months since my last post. I wish I could say that I have been incredibly and importantly busy, but no. I haven't. So, I will make this post a 'Catch you up on the last two months' post. So, now I will condense into ONE post all of the things I think have been important/fun/interesting and blog worthy.

1. Diabetes:
In a word, FRUSTRATING. I had a really bad experience with the doctor who initially diagnosed me and had to change doctors due to what I can only describe as incompetence. And to be fair, a MASSIVE language barrier. The final straw came when I questioned him on the drug he put me on in relation to the drug my Cardiologist has me on in regard to potential drug interactions. (With a dead sister and cousin, I feel it is my responsibility to ensure that all drugs which enter into MY body can exist harmoniously!) When I told him I found literature on the drug makers website that urged 'extreme caution' when combining these two particular drugs, he reacted in a way that I would say was a little less than professional. He called me (and my sweet husband) liars. Said that if we wanted to question his recommendations that we needed to go to medical school. He then said he believed the majority of my problems where emotional and I should just sit my husband down and say 'I need you to LISTEN to me so I stop acting out with imagined medical conditions!' (As if heart disease and Diabetes can be faked!) He then recommended that I take it easy for a couple of weeks and talk with friends and cook a little. OH!!! And the best part was 'You worry too much! It is not your job to worry about your health, that is for me and your husband to worry about!'
AAUUGGHHHH!!! I couldn't believe it! Was this for real?? I looked closely at the plants and paintings in search of the hidden cameras, fully expecting Ashton Kutcher to burst into the room and say 'You got PUNKED!!' But sadly, no, this doctor was 100 percent serious about what he was saying to me. 2005 and I was being told my health problems were imagined due to emotional imbalance and I needed to be a good wife and just cook and chat with friends while my husband worried about my health.

I smiled politely and HIGH-TAILED it out of there and promptly found a new doctor who politely listened to the whole sordid tale and at it's conclusion shook his head in silent disgust and said 'I am so very sorry you had to go through that.'
I felt justified and cleansed. When a medical professional casts dispersions on your character, no matter how ridiculos his rantings, it really does mess with you a little bit.
So, I love my new doctor. He suggested that we just start over. So we did. Based on my blood work he didn't think things looked right. My first A1C test with him was 6.2, 3 weeks later he took another A1C test and it was 5.1. He promptly took me off the Amaryl that the previously mentioned doctor had put me on. Either the Amaryl was causing me to have bouts of super low hypo-glycemia that was driving my A1c number down, or I was having really high high's and really low low's that were balancing each other out. He also wanted to test my pancreas for Insulin output to determine whether or not I could be a Mild Type 1 Diabetic. Started me on Glucophage, which is much better for me than Amaryl, and all and all made me feel like a human being again! I love my new doctor!
So, as of today, I am still a Type 2. My insulin production is on the low end of normal. I am not producing extra insulin like most Type 2's, so we are doing further research. Medically it has been an interesting 2 months.
Now, what have we learned today??

  • It is NEVER ok for a doctor to talk to you like you are insane.
  • It is ALWAYS ok for you to do independent research on your own and to ask your doctor about it.
  • You must ALWAYS do whatever it takes to FULLY understand ANY diagnoses you recieve from a doctor.

And finally, and I believe most importantly:

  • OWN your disease..Do NOT let it own you!!! Our identity should not be defined by being diseased, but rather by how we LIVE with that particular disease. In the end, it's all about living. Living well. Living completly. Living. Period.