Life in LADA land

Living Philippians 1:6 with type 1.5 diabetes

Perspective

About every week or so, I take time to connect all of my devices (my Animas Ping insulin pump, my glucose meter and my Dexcom continuous glucose meter) to my computer and take a look at the information that these wonderful devices have collected.  This takes about a half hour or longer, depending on how long I take to really look over the data and whether or not I feel like I have problems to solve as a result of seeing the data.  I get graphs, tables, lists and reports, all of which are useful at some time or other. My favorite is the “My Success” report that I get from the Dexcom upload. In the old format (recently replaced by an update that looks cooler), little smiley faces showed up in the table comparing the past two weeks of data.  For example, if you had a lower average blood glucose this week over last week, you get a smiley face.  If not, you get an angry lightening bolt in a red triangle.  The reports are colorful too, with each day’s tracing of blood glucose readings (the Dexcom records BG every five minutes!) in a different color.  Looking over these reports feeds the scientist soul in me that has lain dormant for many years (I last did research in a real lab in 1987).  It’s a little strange to be looking at data that came from MY body, but I’ll take it.

But the best thing that this exercise gives me is perspective.  Diabetes is a 365/24/7 disease, and it is really easy to get caught up in the hour by hour (heck, even the minute by minute) events.  If this happens too much, it is really easy for me to get discouraged and think that I’m doing a lousy job of managing things.  You can imagine what this does to my confidence and self-approval rating.  Stepping back and taking a look at what has happened over the past week, or month, or even three months puts it all in perspective.  A case in point:  Yesterday my blood glucose was way over 200 for about 12 hours, for no reason that I could come up with.  I bolused with insulin many times during these hours in attempts to bring it down.  It would tease me by dropping from, say 250 to 190, then just turn around and head right back up to 260 or so.  My Dexcom faithfully buzzed me many times during the night to remind me how high I was, and I got up several times between 11 and 3 to verify my BG and dose yet again with insulin.  At a couple of points, I was so frustrated, that I dosed with WAY more insulin that my meter recommended.  That’s what’s known as a rage bolus…..(and thank God they didn’t work, or I would have been in deep trouble with an extremely low blood glucose….).   Finally at 3:30 am or so, I took a look at the tracing from the past 24 hours on my Dexcom.  What I saw was that the monster high started about 2 1/2 hours after lunch.  But lunch itself could not have been the culprit, so it had to be something besides the food.  Ahhhhh, yes.  I had been out to lunch with a friend and we sat next to the toasty warm fire for 2 hours. It felt great on a cold and rainy day.  However, I suspected that the insulin in my pump didn’t like that heat at all.  So, at 5 am, after another frustrating couple of hours with no decline in my BG, I got up and replaced the insulin in my pump with a fresh supply. I hated throwing out 50 units of insulin, but it might as well have been water for all the effect it was having on my blood sugar.  Happily, the fresh insulin had the immediate effect I had been looking for for hours and I was happily on my way to the pool with an almost normal blood sugar.

Now, there was a time when that kind of monster high would have really frustrated me and gotten me all tied up in knots.  I can’t say I was happy about it, but I did manage to make it through the situation with a relatively calm approach to it and fairly rational thinking (as rational as you can be when your brain is swimming in sugar syrup).  Why? Well, primarily it was the grace of God.  I have been learning that it doesn’t help to get all riled up about weird blood glucose events.  I really can rely on the power of Christ to cope with stuff like this.  My confidence is in Christ, not in my ability to keep my blood glucose in range (as worthy as that goal might be!)

But secondly, it really helps that I spend the time regularly to look at the bigger picture of my diabetes management, seeing the long term numbers and graphs.  12 hours isn’t a lot in the whole scheme of things, but in the middle of the night, it’s hard to remember that.  Knowing that it all averages out pretty well over the long haul really helps.  This perspective also keeps me motivated to keep on doing stuff like swimming and working out in the fitness center and eating relatively well.  Those graphs look a LOT better than they did this time last year, with far fewer wide swings from low to high.  That’s a good feeling. So thank you Animas and Dexcom for this gift of perspective and technology.  And thank God for His amazing grace, that gives me the strength to deal with it all.

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Landmines!

Chinese food (with General Tso’s chicken taking special mention).

Pizza.

Chipotle spice wings from an un-named wings restaurant.

Barbeque sauce.

Sweet tea (given to me by mistake at a fast food restaurant, and from which I took a big swig before realizing what it was).

Chai Latte (even the sugar free kind).

White rice.

Potato chips.
These are the landmines of diabetes. At least the ones I have identified so far.  I’m sure there are more that other diabetics can add to this list (and feel free to do so in the comments!).  These are foods that have caught me unawares – with  huge increases in blood sugar that I didn’t expect.  The sweet tea might actually not fit, since I realized immediately that it was a mistake – but I have heard of other diabetics who were given regular soft drinks instead of diet and they didn’t realize it until their blood glucose meter reported it to them.  The biggest surprise in this list is also the most recent – the wings. I have had buffalo wings frequently in the past year or so with no problem – in fact, they have become a favorite of mine since they basically have zero carbs and are really yummy.  So I had no idea the chipotle wings wouldn’t be the same. There must be a strong dose of sugar in the rub that they use. They were certainly delicious – which explains why I ate so darn many of them the first time.  And then spent basically the whole night with my blood glucose above 300.  Not fun.  So of course I ate some of the leftovers a couple of days later, not realizing it had been those wings the first time – and I finally got the message. (A saying comes to mind…..”Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” or something like that.) So now the rest of the leftovers sit in my refrigerator, mocking me for my gullibility.

Dealing with these landmines means that I need patience (it takes a really long time for blood sugar to get back down to normal after these landmines explode), will power (it takes a lot of will power not to indulge in some of these things), and perseverance.  And vigilance to avoid the other landmines that I’m sure are out there…….  These are not things I have in abundance.  Doesn’t God have a wonderful sense of humor?

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Beautiful (?!) Diabetes

I have had to drive from Cincinnati through southern Indiana to eastern Illinois twice lately, and happily for me, the fall colors this year have been particularly beautiful.  It’s really fun to come up over the top of a hill and have a panorama of richly colored trees covering the hills and filling my vision.  This happened time and time again during these trips, so it made a strong impression on me.  First, it supplied the basis for an article for our church newsletter about thankfulness.  It also made me think of diabetes. Yep, really.

Diabetes is a patchwork of colors, just like those hillsides.  Some trees are less beautiful – like the trees whose leaves just turn brown and shrivel up in the fall. The uglier parts of diabetes are part of the picture – lows or highs that won’t go away no matter what I do. Shots.  Daily shots. Counting every carb.  Skipping dessert.  Knowing this disease is not going to go away. Ever.

Then I’d come on a really gorgeous scene – a row of bright yellow trees along a hillside, with the ground covered by those glowing yellow leaves as well.  Knowing that I am exercising regularly, doing all I can to control my blood sugar gives me that kind of satisfaction (occasionally). Encouraging words from my doc, my CDE, friends, others dealing with diabetes.  A pink insulin pump.  Thinking about all that I have experienced since my diagnosis that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

But neither the less-beautiful trees nor the spectacular scenes exist in isolation.  Put together, these form a beautiful collage that brings great pleasure.  The thing that makes these tree-covered hills so beautiful is that there are so many colors, none of which clash.  Purples, greens, orange, reds, yellow, even the brown.  Pretty much every crayon in the 64 color box is there.  Diabetes means I have to use every one of those crayons to complete the picture.  There are all kinds of issues that come up day to day and I have to be ready to pull out whatever crayon it takes, no matter how much I dislike the color.

Then I realized that I have to take a wide-angle view of my diabetes, just like the view I had of the hillsides.  I look at my blood glucose numbers over a longer period of time, say three months or so, rather than a day to day view (technology is a wonderful thing).  That is really helpful.  It’s easy to get discouraged by the day to day stuff, because I tend to remember only the extremes – my BG went really high and stuck there, or I felt really lousy because of a roller-coaster day. But that doesn’t happen everyday, and it all balances out, just like those hillsides filled with trees of all colors.

Best of all, I know who made the trees. He’s the same God who made me, faulty pancreas and all.  That is the most comforting thought of all.  The God who made me has NOT left me to deal with this on my own.  He is with me in it all, and I can see that I have grown over the past almost two years with diabetes.  And so I will rejoice in the beauty that He has created, in the autumn leaves and even in diabetes.

 

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