I stretch my legs and sprint down the paved path along the four-lane highway in Silver Spring, Maryland. The sun sets behind me, and the bugs eat at my exposed calves, but I relish this 70-degree temperature. After 5 miles of gravel pathways, wooden bridges, and cracked sidewalks, I only have one more uphill battle of this last mile to conquer.
And then my speed starts to wane. I can’t seem to muster the strength to push myself harder even on this decline. Something feels off. My muscles are tired and weak, and my heart rate is accelerated past the point of normal. I stop at the next intersection, and as the stoplight turns red, I look down at the phone strapped to my right bicep.
Low glucose alert – my Dexcom app reads.
I know there’s probably still active insulin in my system even if I suspended my OmniPod an hour ago and drank 16 ounces worth of Gatorade before departing my apartment. I hadn’t intended on this run and ate too many carbs a few hours ago, also a remedy for low blood sugar. It’s just been one of those days.
I got so caught up in my run and finding an old trail that I assumed my accelerated heart rate and adrenaline would keep my blood sugar at bay. I didn’t bring any glucose tablets with me because I didn’t feel like carrying them. I never need them anyway. Activities like running make my blood sugar rise, not fall (unless like in this case there is active insulin in my system).
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
The light turns green. I have a choice. I can walk the rest of the mile home as my blood sugar continues to drop or I can run as fast as my body will allow and hope I don’t seize.
My vision is not blurry. I am not shaky. It could be my body has gotten used to the lows. Or it could be I still have a few minutes before my blood sugar drops so low I seize. I know I’m not there yet. I’ve been there before. And I do have my phone on me in case things get serious.
My roommate is currently in class so she won’t hear her phone. I don’t know anyone else in the area. I am alone. But I am strong. I am capable. I have survived seven years with this disease. I try not to put myself in situations like this but I can’t be perfect 24/7. I do the best that I can. We all do.
And today? Today I’m going to run.
Alright body don’t quit on me now. Only 8 more minutes and a few more intersections, and we’re home. You can do this. You got this.
I take off, sprinting up hill, which I know won’t help. But my life is on the line. I make it three-fourths of the way home before I get caught at another stoplight. The last intersection. I stop and take large breaths.
I can feel my heart beating for its life. My vision is still good. I am not shaky, but my body is weak. It’s shutting down. My muscles go slack. It feels as if all the fluid has drained from my arms and legs. It’s hard to breathe, to mentally focus on the task at hand. I can’t even do my mileage calculations in my head. But I know where I am. Just across the intersection, and then the Giant parking lot, and then home.
The walk sign appears. I sprint across the four lanes and weave in and out of pedestrians. I no longer feel the breeze. I create the breeze. I bypass shopping carts and drivers looking for parking. My phone is beeping at me incessantly.
Low glucose alert.
Low glucose alert.
Low glucose alert.
I do not acknowledge. I slow down near the entrance to my building and try to catch my breath. I use my key fob to open the door and decide I’ve earned the elevator today. When I get off on my floor, I finally relax. My skin is tingly, and my hands are shaking.
But I make it to my apartment. The cat greets me with a stretch. I throw my keys down on the table and grab some Gatorade from the fridge. I chug the rest of it. Then I down a glass of orange juice. And then I snag a banana from the pantry and devour it.
By the time I plunge to the floor of the living room, my phone app reads 83.
Good job body. Good job.
I feel a little nauseas. Foo Fighters’ Best of You plays through my headphones.
*And for those who may berate my decision to keep going in the face of dropping blood sugar levels, it’s important to note we are not always ourselves much less our best selves when we experience low blood sugar. The mind is not working properly. It needs that glucose to function. That is why the diabetes card I carry around in my wallet reads: I am not intoxicated. If I am unconscious or my behavior is peculiar, I may be having a reaction associated with diabetes or its treatment.
We do the best that we can.