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Archive for May, 2012

Watching the World Go By

Rainie in the big chair

This morning has been spent sitting in the big, comfy chair in a corner of my kitchen, watching the typical breezy, spring day blow by.  The clouds are billowing grayish-blue and white as they bluster passed on their way towards the sea.  The forecast calls  for a 20% chance or rain, but I think we’re only going to get wind today.  I’m enjoying Rainie’s curled body nestled next to me.  I’m having a tumultuous blood sugar day and feel quite terrible.  I’m glad she doesn’t mind my short temper.  My toxic anguish is angrily expressing itself in my mood, and from each cell of my body. I don’t think my coping ability is being helped by my having dealt with a laundry-room fire a couple of days ago (which I caught early enough that no true damage was done), or by my being extremely sensitive to my insulin right now.  But, Rainie doesn’t care.  Her presence is reassuring – her alerting is a blessing, and her nuzzles and gentle sleepy breaths remind me that I’m not alone, and that this, too, shall pass.


One of the wonderful things about having “one of those days” like I’m having today, is that it gives me the opportunity to sit and be with me while watching the world outside.  I’ve got a lot going on, and having the forced quiet-time is, in one respect, a treasure.  By looking out the window, I’ve discovered that at least two covey of baby quail have hatched.  There are about 12 that are the size of tennis balls, and I’ve counted 5 cottton-ball sized ones scurrying around.  The parents are more protective than I’ve seen them for quite a while.  They’re actually fending off the blue-jays from the seeds tossed out for them.  This only happens when the babies are young.  Usually the quail are quite timid.  The woodpeckers re-appeared at our speed blocks about 2 weeks ago; and, this morning  I saw a family of three hanging on the block to feed.  I watched as the mama-woodpecker pulled seeds off the block and placed them in the mouth of a youngster (who is the same size as she is).  Fortunately, they do this for a few weeks at a time, and have multipe babies throughout the season, so I’ll be able to watch their antics and shenanigans most of the summer.  They are quite raucous and total clowns!  The hawks, too, are circling, catching the updrafts and wind; while the hummingbirds come to drink, seemingly unaffected by the breezes the hawks are soaring with.

For me. learning to embrace “what is” is a life-long process.  This morning has been a truly gratifyingly slow day.


Self-Reflection (post Diabetic Blog Week)

Last week I (partially) participated in the “3rd Annual Diabetes Blog Week”.  It was an eye-opening experience, and I learned a lot about myself and others with diabetes, and the parents of children with diabetes:

  • I realized I was raised to not talk about my diabetes, nor show any of the paraphernalia involved with it.  I believed it was almost shameful for me to have the diagnosis.  Although I am finally growing through this belief (mostly due to having the opportunity to talk about my diabetic alert dog, Rainie), I’ve discovered that I usually discuss diabetes only when I’m in the ‘educator role’, or with close friends.
  • One of the ‘topics of the day’ was to post photos that portray your diabetes.  I’m still having a hard time, wondering why  looking at pictures of other people’s pumps and meters and test-strips, CGMs, pump insertion sites, needles, syringes, glucagon packages, and bottles of glucose and insulin is interesting, especially when I can just go look at my own.  Again, however, I see how my upbringing may have a lot to do with my attitude about this.  Maybe it’s supposed to be a ‘bonding experience’.
  • And, to add onto the above statement, I noticed very few photos of diabetic alert dogs!  I can’t help wonder why there aren’t more of these life-saving dogs being trained and working out in the community saving lives?  Again, I might be biased on this topic…
  • I was surprised by what people shared about living with diabetes – the mundanities like out-of-control blood sugar readings, calculating meal boluses, trouble shooting, and the constant and continual trials and tribulations of living with diabetes, as well as the triumphs and utter fears involved.  But, when I think about it, these issues are constant and continual trials and tribulations!  We live with them every second of every day!  And if support can’t be found in a safe place  like the forum of  Diabetes Blog Week, where can it be?  I realize I’ve become so isolated from my own feelings about having diabetes for so long, and my habits have become so ingrained, that I forget that I’m not alone, and there is a world of ‘people like me’ ready to talk to and listen to me (and not as a teacher, but as another individual dealing with the 24/7 ups and downs).
  • And finally, the last’s day’s topic was “Who is your Diabetic Hero?”   And the only true answer is: WE ARE ALL HEROS!  Whether we are adults or children with diabetes or family caring and supporting that person , caring friends, teachers, endos, politicians, researchers for a cure, or volunteers, everyone who supports someone at some time with this autoimmune condition called “diabetes” is a hero.  And I thank you all, for your time and support and patience, understanding, smiles, hugs, hand-holds,and anything else that may be a ‘plus’ in a diabetic’s life.

` I love you all, Hilary

What does it feel like? (Diabetes Blog Week Con’t)

Today is day 3 of the Diabetes Blog Week, and the question of the day is, “What is one thing you would tell someone who doesn’t have diabetes about living with diabetes?”  I’m going to repost this blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago in response to a question that each of us with diabetes has been asked.  (Being a nurse, I’m asked it professionally as well as socially.)  The question is, “What does it feel like?”


IMG_2620 Sometimes Rainie’s nose amazes me! I was driving past the kids’ playground to get to the part of the park we hike in every morning when Rainie uncurled from the floorboards, and frantically began smelling the wind coming through the open window. She was obviously in some distress, so I pulled into the parking lot, leashed her, and let her out. She immediately led me to the play area, and began alerting on a little girl who was running up the slide with a pink pump clipped to the back of her pants. Little pink-sweatered arms soon encircled Rainie, as I talked to “Emma’s” mom. Yes, her blood sugar was low (65), after having refused to eat breakfast. As Emma’s mom and I talked, she mused, “I wonder what it feels like for her when she goes high and low?”

This is a question I’m often asked, “What does it feel like?” It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to explain the answer . I’ll try to describe how it feels to me. (Please remember that I’m describing this as an adult diabetic. When I was young, I had the same feelings, but no words to describe them with.) And as I describe the differences between ‘low’ and ‘high’ blood sugar, please realize that a diabetic often fluctuates between the two states many times a day due to the nature of diabetes.

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, might be fun if it weren’t so scary and disorienting. Hypoglycemia is potentially life threatening because the brain’s only fuel-source is sugar, and with too little sugar, the brain cannot function properly. Therefore, most of the sensations of low blood sugar are brain-based.

If my blood sugar (BS) is dropping slowly, the symptoms may be unnoticeable at first and slowly become stronger;  and if my BS is falling rapidly, I catch the symptoms as soon as I can. The first symptoms tend to be a general ‘fuzziness or blurriness’ in my thinking and perception. It is very easy to not even realize anything is wrong, and slowly become agitated and frustrated because ‘things just aren’t right’. I may also get very cranky or whiny.  One of  the most aggravating symptom of low blood sugar is frustration.  I like to describe it by saying, “On a scale of ‘one-to-ten’ my frustration tolerance is ‘a negative-three’.”  It gets in my way of dealing with every aspect of life, including my ability to make decisions that involve taking care of myself.  Everything becomes annoying – kids, traffic, choices, loved-ones (and others), work, my low blood sugar alert dog, etc.  I often figure out my blood sugar is falling because I’m so easily frustrated.  Living in this frustrated state is especially infuriating on those days when my body is extremely sensitive to my insulin, so I’m dealing with low-blood sugars for many hours at a time.  These periods of insulin sensitivity often happen for no reason I’m award of, and cannot be planned for or avoided.  When they do happen, it’s difficult to be patient while taking care of myself, and dealing with others.  I can only imagine what it is like for other people having to be around me!

As my BS continues to drop, my thoughts and reflexes get slower and slower, and it becomes more difficult to understand conversations and new ideas. I may also make relatively impulsive decisions. These are the times I’m glad I have my low blood sugar alert dog, Rainie. Her alerts keep me from doing things (like driving) when I’m still feeling ok, but could easily put myself, or others, in danger. (I am not drunk – although I may look that way.)

As the blood sugar continues dropping, I become physically unstable, emotionally fragile, and easily overwhelmed. I become dizzy, clumsy, disoriented, teary, easily confused, and unable to make up my mind (which is really bad because it means I can’t even decide what I want to eat in order to correct the situation). Even though my lips and fingertips may be numb and my vision may be blurry from the low BS, I get angry when people begin to question me and offer help. And I need help! And at the same time, I’m somehow unable to take care of myself. And I’m scared!

If things were to continue, there is a good possibility I would become unconscious, go into ‘shock’, and, in the worst-case scenario, die.

The symptoms of high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, are much more physical than low BS’s are. The first thing I notice is a deep headache. Then I get thirsty and agitated – very ‘squirmy’ and unable to concentrate and be still. I crave water to try to dilute my sugary/syrupy blood. I’ve noticed my tongue feels like it’s a dry cotton-ball sometimes. Then, my body begins to ache. Every part of me feels toxic, as if I’ve got the achiness of the flu. I don’t want to move because it feels ‘too hard’ – like walking through mud. And my brain feels that way too. Sometimes I just want to curl up in a dark, cool room and not move. If my BS gets high enough that I begin to ‘spill ketones’, I can get very nauseated and vomit. High ketones are poison to the brain. I’m also very sensitive to the fact that a few hours after high BS begins, my vision gets blurry because the sugar in the blood makes the lenses of the eyes swell.

High blood sugars can be very stubborn and not respond to extra insulin the way low blood sugars respond quickly to sugar. Often, with high BS, the body is resistant to the insulin because of adrenaline released as a protective mechanism by the liver. This can happen as a response to low blood sugar, exercise, excitement and all sorts of emotions like fright/fear, crying and laughter. And at other times, I am extremely sensitive to my insulin and am ‘low’ for hours on end and have a hard time bringing my BS up. Frustratingly, sometimes blood sugar control seems impossible, as if it’s influenced by the weather or color of socks I’m wearing – there seems to be no rhyme-nor-reason to it.

Unfortunately, even though it may only take a few hours for the blood sugar to ‘get back under control’ with either insulin (for ‘highs’), or sugar (for ‘lows’), it takes many hours for the cells in the body (and the emotions) to get back into balance.

It’s easy to get wrapped up with the severity of diabetes. But it’s a part of life, just like joy, laughter and friends.

Life with diabetes is a true seesaw. High and low blood sugars happen. It’s part of living with the disease.  If you have diabetes, or know someone with diabetes, please be patient, and be present. We all have ‘one of those days’ occasionally; unfortunately, for someone living with diabetes, ‘those days’ happen almost every day.

Things to Improve (Blog Week Day 3)

It is now day #3 of the Diabetes Blog Week. This has been an interesting experience for me for many reasons: 1) I’m new to blogging and I’m still trying to figure the whole thing out, including my own blog-page. 2) I’ve never participated in a diabetic group that is so honest with their introspections and sharing. 3) I rarely give myself the attention to answer these sorts of questions for and about myself. Thank you, all, for being part of this community.

I’ve got a few items I wish I could improve on in terms of my diabetes. And a couple I’ve never said out-loud before.

The first one is that I wish I weren’t so hard on myself. Being born with diabetes over 55 years ago, I was brought up with the “threat, guilt, fear and shame” style of controlling young diabetics. Unfortunately, a lot of that still resounds deep within me. That little nemesis sits on my shoulder, scolding and berating me. Getting stuck in the “wouldda-shouldda-coulddas” is a bad place to be. I’ve learned to turn it off most of the time. It’s strange how we remember the patterning we were raised with, even after we become our own masters (sort-of… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to master “control over my diabetes”, or at least, not until the artificial pancreas becomes a reality.) Still, I wish I were easier and more accepting of myself and my diabetes.

Now, this I’ve never said before: I wish I were doing better dealing with my eyes failing (due to diabetes)! This is a hard one. I cry inside all the time – few people ever get to see what a toll it’s taking on me. I feel so sad and lonely, sometimes. Life is getting difficult and tasks are now taking so long! Nothing is easy anymore. Part of the reason I’ve read so few of your blogs is because reading is the hardest thing for me to do. I miss being able to truly see – see the details of birds and flowers, and people’s faces from a distance. And reading! I miss reading. Sometimes I get so angry with my diabetes. Yet, I’m grateful that what was done to my eyes in the early 1980’s as “state-of-the-art” treatments for diabetic retinopahy are no longer used. I’m thankful every day for that, and for all of you who may ever have diabetic eye issues.

And, I’d like to get better at asking for help. While growing up, I wasn’t allowed to let anyone know I had diabetes, yet ever ask for help. That was forbidden in my family. But now, due to walking around with Rainie, my DAD (diabetic alert dog), it’s easy to tell people about my diabetes. The conversation comes naturally because they want to know what Rainie does. However, it’s still hard for me to admit that I need help, and ask for it.

Looking toward the Future

Day 2 of Blog Week – What do you do well?

this is day 2 of the Diabetes Blog Week, and the topic of the day is, “What are you good at?: Tell us about just one diabetes thing you do spectacularly!”

I’m surprised this is so hard for me to answer, or even think about. I just don’t acknowledge myself that way. The one thing I try really hard to be good at is not having my life ruled by my diabetes; and this requires a lot of awareness to create a balance between the ‘shoulds’ (of diabetes), and the joys of the present moment. In fact, when I find myself getting depressed, or anxious for seemingly no reason, I often realize that I’ve lost myself in the “shoulds” and fears associated with trying to “have control”, and forgetting to roll-with-the-punches, live in the present, and relax. There is nothing I can’t deal with right now. Breathe!

Me and Rainie
my diabetic alert dog

Diabetes Blog Week, Day 1 (An Introduction)

I am participating in Diabetes Blog Week, for the first time. This is an opportunity for those with diabetes, and those associated with diabetes to meet over the web, and share stories.

The topic for today is “introduce a new blog buddy”. This is easy! I’d love to introduce everyone who reads my blog to my friend, Amelia, of Dog Goes To College. She eloquently shares her life about college, having a diabetic alert dog, and her passion for advocating for those with diabetes, service dogs, and for those with other disabilities.

If you have a dog, why aren’t you doing better?

I’m finding that many people, including medical personnel, assume that just because I have a low blood sugar alert dog, my life should be “normal”, my diabetes should be in perfect control, and I should no longer have the trials and tribulations that diabetes entails. Oh, how I wish this were true. My dog, Rainie, has been trained to alert me when I need to pay attention to my diabetes — her presence does not change the way my body responds to the daily stresses that affect my blood sugar control. I still have to test my blood sugar (BS) before and after I eat, and many other times each day. I still must try to balance the amount of insulin I take with the food I eat, exercise, emotions, viruses, sleep, and all the other things that affect my diabetes; and regardless of how hard Rainie and I try, my life is full of ‘highs’ and ‘lows’, with emotional swings every-which-way it can. This is the life of a diabetic; and Rainie’s presence does not change it.

I am truly grateful she’s here to share the responsibilities and monitoring that diabetes requires. I can relax (some) knowing that she will alert me if my BS is swinging high or low. She will wake me up, or stop me from whatever I am doing. She will even keep me from driving by not getting in the car. Sometimes, something will happen ‘out of the blue’ that causes my body to react differently to my food or insulin – and even though I might be upset or sick or have spent too much energy digging in the garden, Rainie doesn’t care. Her job is to get me to notice what’s going on with me. Her alerts tell me, “Pay attention to your blood sugar NOW!”

My doctors look at me, and continually try to find something more wrong! They say, “You’re doing pretty well, considering…But maybe I should just try this….” Considering all I’ve experienced with 55 year of diabetes, I am doing pretty well. However, I think a lot of this “wellbeing” is due to luck, diligence on my part, and having a wonderful partnership with my dog. It is not happening just because Rainie is by my side.