No one ever said life with diabetes would be easy. And these last few days have been a challenge for me – my blood sugars have been down and down-er, and downer still, then they bounce back up, then down again. I call these “super-ball days,” and they are frustrating and infuriating! Poor Rainie! She has been alerting me on all the changes; but regardless of how many warnings she gives me, the volatility continues.
It is amazing for me to be able to write and tell you about me my life with diabetes. I was raised to be embarrassed by it, and not tell a soul. My parents wouldn’t allow me to go to a diabetic youth camp – they didn’t want me to see myself as ‘sick’ or ‘impaired’. In fact, the first person I ever asked to help me when I was hypoglycemic was my soon-to-be-husband, Rick. And we met when I was 26!
Now I think, “Why not?!” There is nothing to be ashamed of! I am proud of who I am. And Rainie?… well, Rainie makes it easy for me to talk about my life and diabetes. People are always asking me about her, and diabetes, and what she does. And, once people see Rainie, they are more interested in her than they are with me.
I’ve experienced many medical advances in the almost 56 years since I was diagnoses as an infant. I remember my mom boiling my glass syringes to sterilize them, and watching her re-sharpen my needles on a sharpening stone (disposables became available In about 1960, and they were too expensive for my family to afford). We tested my urine for sugar using “test-tape”. If there was sugar present, the strip of test-tape changed from yellow to green. This was the only way we had of guessing whether I was ‘high’ or ‘low’. There was no accurate way to know what my blood sugar was truly doing. When home blood sugar testing became available in the early 1980s, the machines where larger than a paperback book; and each test took 2 minutes to perform. This was a big change from using urine testing. As is well-known now, blood sugar testing gives diabetics the ability to have an exact reading of their blood sugar right now! I went on the pump for a short while in 1982, and the thing was huge! It was about 4.5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. When I went back on the pump in 1991, it was about the same size as they are currently, but there was no ‘bolus wizard’ or ‘square-wave’ or ‘dual-wave’ bolusing, and all dosing was done in .1 unit increments. The tubing was not removable, so I had to shower and bathe with my pump wrapped in a plastic bag, and remove it when I went swimming.
Needless to say, much has changed: Diabetics may now choose to use pumps, CGMs, and pre-filled syringes. The meters take mere seconds to use and can communicate with the pumps. There are also computer ‘apps’ that can help us keep track of blood sugars, insulin, exercise and identify trends, as well as offer programs that help figure out ‘carbs’ for meals, among other things… Life is sure more convenient than it was not too long ago.
However, this does not mean that a diabetic’s life is easy. There is the constant trial of balancing insulin with food, exercise, stress, emotional factors and illness. Each meal is still a math calculation as we try to count the carbs, and take into consideration all the other factors listed above. I know that when my insulin is out-of-control, I feel lousy. The best way to describe it is: I feel like I’ve got the flu. And, no matter what doctor I talk to, he or she reminds me of everything that can go wrong. The complications of diabetes are endless (retinopathy, neuropathy, intestinal problems, disorientation, amputation, coma, shock, and death are just a few). I’ve realized that I can only do my best, and that’s all I can do. There is no such thing as ‘perfect control’ when living a life with diabetes.
And for me, diabetes is taking its toll. I think I’m a little less tolerant than usual because I went to the eye doctor a couple of days ago and got a not-uplifting prognosis on my diabetic eyes. I am possibly developing glaucoma in the eye that had diabetes-related surgery performed on it in July. A friend asked, “How do you feel?” Truth: I feel scared and angry and grateful! Angry at being diabetic and how hard it is! Even though I try to keep my blood sugar ‘under control’, I am what is called a ‘labile’ or ‘brittle’ diabetic. Every singe day my body responds differently to my inulin; and when my blood sugar bounces around, so do my moods and energy. And somewhere, deep inside, I feel grateful that my complications aren’t worse. And I’m grateful for Rainie. She’s brought me out of my shell while helping me with my diabetes awareness and my depression – and she does this as she showers me with the unconditional love that only a dog can. I love her and can’t imagine my life without her. She knows just when to put her big furry head in my lap, look up at me, and bring me back to the here and now.