Monthly Archives: June 2012

Diabetese

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Samsung Champ

Samsung Champ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a pump-related question, so I sent a quick text in diabetese to my boyfriend’s sister, who also has type 1:

Is it normal to run a bit high after changing out an infusion set?

After I sent the text, a sudden fear gripped me. I  think I sent the text to the wrong person. I received a reply right way:

Who is this?

Yup, sent it to the wrong person.

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Bannakaffalatta CYBORG! Or, Reflections on Starting on an Insulin Pump, a More or Less Complete Chronicle of My New Bionic Parts

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In addition to being part zombie, I have officially joined Bannakaffalatta as a member of the growing cyborg community  (they’re getting rights on Sto!): in plain English, I started using my insulin pump on Tuesday.

Getting the pump was a fairly lengthy process. To get started, my endocrinologist gave me referral to meet with an insulin pump trainer. Part of the purpose of this appointment was to give me a chance to ask questions before officially pursuing a pump (I didn’t know enough to have many), but I found out afterwards that the real reason was to give the pump trainer a chance to evaluate me to see if I’d be a good candidate for a pump. I then signed up for two required diabetes education classes and began researching insulin pumps on various diabetes blogs.

After waffling between two brands for some time, I decided on the Animas Ping, a tubed pump with a remote that I can dose my insulin from.  I contacted the pump trainer, who gave my contact information to the local Animas sales rep. The sales rep handled negotiations with my insurance company and called me with my coverage information. A few more weeks of hemming and  hawing followed as my parents and I tried to hammer out the cost difference between injections and the pump, whether the pump would be worth the cost, and how we would pay for it. Obviously, we decided the pump was worth the cost.

Here are my thoughts now that I’ve officially started.

What I Didn’t Expect:

  • How large the box would be: Insulin pumps are roughly the size of a small digital camera or a small but thickish smart phone, so I didn’t expect that my pump would ship in a box as large as I am. Evidently, I neglected to think through the size implications of “three months of pump supplies.” Three months’ worth of plastic spaceships is bulky.
  • Being nervous about starting: My first glimmers of nervousness began when I started researching the pump and I discovered that they don’t work for everyone. What if I invested all the money that a pump requires only to find that pumping doesn’t work for me either? I quickly decided that I wanted to know as much as possible about the pump–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and those feelings subsided. When I went in for my pump training session, however, the nervousness came back. As happens with most things, once I got into the session and actually started doing things with the pump I felt fine. I didn’t expect to feel nervous at all, though; even the pump trainer was a little surprised when I told her.
  • The emotional adjustment of making the switch: In one of the books on type 1 diabetes I read shortly after I was diagnosed, the writer confessed to switching from a pump back to shots because he (she?) didn’t like being attached to the disease. I’ve been looking forward to starting on a pump since the day I was diagnosed, so I thought this attitude was silly. But a couple of days before I officially started on the pump, I started wearing it around so I could get used to the feel of it clipped to my clothes or stashed in my pocket. I was surprised to find that I started feeling mildly resentful of my pump because it was the first visible “symptom” of my diabetes. I’m sure these feelings will remain mild and will fade quickly, but they took me by surprise.

What I Love:

  • Super precise insulin doses: I’m fairly sensitive to insulin, so I couldn’t get near the precision I needed with standard syringes. While I knew that precise dosing was one of the biggest benefits of the pump, I was surprised by how much I love it.
  • Fewer needles: I laughed in the face of my insulin injections–they barely hurt but make other people cringe, a fact that makes me feel manly and tough. But I was gloriously happy on Tuesday when I remembered I didn’t need to take a Lantus shot before bed. No more crawling into bed and realizing just as I’ve fallen asleep that I forgot to take my shot. Again.

It’s only been two days; my pump trainer and I are still trying to figure out the appropriate pump settings for me (even though my total daily insulin dose has been decreased 20%, my sugar is still running on the low end), so I’m sure I will have lots of updates in the near future.

What’s normal anyway?

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We were laughing on the couch–my friend C, my friend J, and I–as I treated a low blood sugar with glucose tablets and explained the intricacies of low blood sugar to the two of them.

“Do they taste–good?” asked my friend J, peering at the large tablet I was about to pop into my mouth.

“I think they do. They taste like Sweet Tarts. Want one?”

J giggled and finally consented to eat half out of sheer curiosity, while C, whose picky digestive system doesn’t like sugar, made this strange sound halfway between a laugh and a groan at the thought of eating pure glucose.

In the months since my diagnosis, I’ve struggled with a persistent, perverse desire to be normal, a desire that makes it harder for me to be content and sometimes harder for me to take care of myself. But at that moment, there with my friends, watching Downton Abbey and eating glucose tabs, I remembered something: they’re not “normal” either. C is gluten and lactose intolerant and multiple food allergies. J has tunnel vision. What is normal anyway and why does it matter so much to me?

I highly doubt my desire for normal will go away, but for a least a little while, laughing on the couch with my friends, it didn’t seem to matter so much.

342

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The screen on the blood sugar meter flashed 342 mg/dl.

“Is that normal or high?” I asked the nurse.

“That’s high,” she said, looking at me with concern. It was three times higher than normal, to be specific. Normal blood sugar is anywhere from 70 to 120 mg/dl. The doctor ordered some blood tests as a formality, but there wasn’t really any question about my diagnosis. I had Type 1 diabetes.

Surprisingly, I was relieved. I had been feeling sick for a couple of months; I ended my first semester of graduate school cranky, underweight, and desperate for some rest over Christmas break. But despite sleeping 12 hours a night and downing platefuls of cookies, I never felt rested and I continued to lose weight.

I started making three nightly trips to the bathroom after Christmas. I would lay away at night wondering if I had diabetes and spend the day explaining to myself why I didn’t. Other than tell my parents, I didn’t do anything with my worries until a couple of weeks into my second semester of school, when a trip up three flights of stairs from the laundry room to my own room took me over half an hour and required an hour long nap to recover from. Up until that point, I had been trying desperately to convince myself that everything was normal, but I couldn’t anymore. I made an appointment.

My appointment lasted over an hour as the nurse and doctor squeezed in time for a diabetes crash course between seeing their other patients. The doctor wrote my prescriptions and the nurse explained how to give an insulin injection. I was allowed to go home, but had to come in for frequent visits and make frequent phone calls to update the doctor on my blood sugar numbers as she worked to bring them back down to normal levels.

I remained uncharacteristically calm during the busy whirl of activity the next few weeks. Although I thrive on business, I tend to worry and have to fight stress, so I can only explain my peace as a measure of special grace from God to get me through a particularly difficult, busy time in my life.

But that calm didn’t last. One day, I woke with mildly blurred vision. It soon cleared, but I was concerned and called the doctor anyway. She assured me that blurred vision was normal as my body adjusted, but that it might be as long as three months before my vision was normal again. Shortly after that, I woke up one morning basically blind. I remained so for weeks. A pair of reading glasses allowed me to see well enough to get around, but I couldn’t read.

Mere weeks after my diagnosis, I was already burned out.  I was supposed to be strong and disciplined. I was supposed to be drawing closer to God. I was supposed to be a good example to my students. But I was tired of being strong and my emotions were raw. I couldn’t read my textbooks, I couldn’t read the student papers I needed to grade, I couldn’t even read my Bible–how could I be expected to do anything without my eyes?

One day, a poem by John Milton popped into my mind. In the poem, which he wrote shortly after going blind, Milton asks in frustration, “Does God exact day labor light denied?” The poem continues with gentle chiding from a personified Patience, who reminds him that God doesn’t need him to do anything: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” For whatever reason, I was comforted by the fact that my frustration was normal. That I didn’t need to wear myself out trying to do stuff to prove I was strong to God or to anyone else.

I would like to say that this was a turning point for me, that I never struggled with my attitude again, that I became a model of Christian contentment, but that’s not the case. I continued to struggle, even after my vision cleared. I still struggle. But it was a glimmer of hope, enough to help me keep going and to prevent me from collapsing into myself. I know that dealing with this disease will continue to be hard, but I also know that God doesn’t expect me to do it alone.

What Diabetes Looks Like: Jonas Brothers

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Did you know that Nick Jonas also has type 1 diabetes? Nick, you and me are in this together, bro.

Disclaimer: This post does not necessarily advocate the Jonas Brothers Band. (I’m must admit that I’m not really a fan.) It does not necessarily advocate use of the shortened form of “brother” (something my boyfriend considers a style abomination). This post does advocate using your famousness to advocate. And it does advocate type 1 screening.