I’ll be honest. I’ve never had a great body. Thank you Type 1 diabetes for giving me enough hope in my teenage years to believe that I was on the path to averaging a 4.0 GPA in health and then squash my dreams in my 20s. It’s all been downhill (or maybe uphill?) from there.
The diabetes diagnosis was enough. But then I had chronic bouts of interstitial cystitis, urinary tract infections, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), iliotibial band syndrome, distal bicep tendonitis, and a brief scare of Hashimoto’s disease (thank goodness for second expert opinions), all before I hit my peak at 30. Or maybe that was supposed to be where my life ended? Maybe my body thinks I’m living in the early Middle Ages, so my peak was really at 12?
What was I doing at 12? Oh right, attempting to beat my record of an 11-minute mile in physical education (PE) class, so I wouldn’t be laughed off the track. Middle school was fun. So yeah, not my peak.
Yesterday, I left my apartment for the first time in eight days.
It was sunny and 68 degrees outside. I went for a run, passing the US Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon – fenced off and under construction – and Arlington National Cemetery – the first time I’ve seen it closed to daytime public. I then found myself along the heart of the Mount Vernon trail, surrounded by bikers, runners, walkers and strollers taking in the calm quietude of the Potomac River and a view of the Washington Monument. You wouldn’t know there was a pandemic going on, except for patrols closing off the paths to DC and the cherry blossoms.
Eight days seems like a long time to be shut in a 700 square-foot apartment with a cat whose expression mirrors, “why are you still here?” But this past winter, I spent a considerable amount of time alone – re-conditioning myself to enjoy “me” time again, so that I could recharge and improve my overall well-being. Unbeknownst to me, that time alone conditioned me for such a strange time as this. In fact, I kind of wish I had more time alone. With all the virtual meetings, chats, and happy hours, I’ve rarely had time to myself.
But I wouldn’t change the wonderful network I’ve spent the last 33 years cultivating. So many of you reached out when all of this started, knowing I was high risk and making sure I was okay. I heart you for that. All of the diabetes blogs, commentaries, and posts I’ve read tell me not to panic. But that’s easier said than done. I am grateful I have a pet like Norm. When the anxiety starts to escalate, I stop what I’m doing and throw hair ties his way. His enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life eases my heart rate. Continue reading
It’s draining enough for me to be around people all day, especially crowds of tourists. In addition to energy depleting, it’s also a strain on my blood sugar.
The stress and anxiety of the crowds can contribute to an increased blood sugar (above 120). The constant walking and limited food/water supply can lead to lower blood sugar levels (below 90).
It’s very tricky to navigate this “abnormal” routine. Considering the amount of walking and energy depletion, I usually play to the “high” side and adjust my insulin settings so I’m not getting as much insulin during this time frame to ensure my blood sugar doesn’t drop. I also don’t take as much insulin for food.
So, when my dad asks if I need to eat while touring the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian, I say yes, not because my blood sugar is dropping (it’s actually been stable at 170 thanks to my proactive management style), but because I legitimately need the energy.
It’s nice to feel normal every once in awhile.
This post is part of my 30 Days With Diabetes series.
1. I wake up.
2. I run some errands and spend the better of the day cleaning in prep for my dad’s first solo DC trip.
3. I don’t account for how much physical exertion cleaning requires and do not adjust my insulin settings.
4. My blood sugar starts dropping.
5. I eat a banana.
6. I clean some more.
7. My blood sugar severely drops (still have not adjusted insulin settings).
8. I drink Gatorade and eat some pretzels.
9. I turn off my insulin.
10. Blood sugar returns to normal.
Story of my life.
This post is part of my 30 Days With Diabetes series.
The beach and its glorious sun had an effect on my insulin, after all. My blood sugar levels were running high Sunday and Monday until I changed out my pod and therefore the “less effective” insulin within it. But I learned something else today (thanks to JDRF’s Summer Guide to Type 1 Diabetes): Continue reading
Nine years ago, this month, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. What exactly was going through my head that fateful day? I didn’t write much in those first few months getting to know my incurable chronic condition, but I did take the time to document my experience in the hospital post-diagnosis. The following excerpt would eventually inspire my book, Sugarcoated. I’ve trimmed some of the content for this blog.
Me writing in Paris a year before I found out I had Type 1 diabetes
I hear the drum of the metal cart on the tile floor, its rusted wheel curved backwards towards the slanted door. Its heavy frame makes a swishing sound when the nurse appears, and I cuddle beneath the thin scraps of my blanket. She checks my IV with a smile, and I no longer try to conceal my runaway tears. She says if I need anything to call, and she will be back in an hour to administer my long-lasting insulin injection. I hardly know what she’s saying, let alone believe that I need insulin to live. The door’s shadow disappears behind her, and once again, I’m left alone to the static television and a view of the parking lot.
I see the lights from a golf course in the distance and think of my boyfriend’s family on Easter, enamored with the flat screen television and shouting with each successful hole. I think of my boyfriend now sitting around the campfire at his aunt and uncle’s house with a good meal in his body – a meal I will potentially never feel again. He boasted about his aunt’s cooking all week, and I looked forward to a weekend with the family and then an afternoon at the Great American Ball Park with my co-worker and her boyfriend. They offered free tickets, four rows up from the dugout, and I even bought an outfit for the event (seeing as I never wore red). I packed my clothes on the way to the hospital in the hopes the doctor would discharge me by early morning.
I look at my flip phone with scratches on the screen, and I wish to see a blinking light, a sign of life, but the battery died from excessive texting. My roommate left me before I realized I had forgotten my charger. The University health center doctor set me up near his practice in Northern Kentucky so he could oversee things, but I feel so disconnected from everyone in Cincinnati. Even my boyfriend’s car could not make the drive across the river, and when my roommate left around dinnertime, I wished for morning. Continue reading
Note: this is a follow-up to an earlier post on Being Adventurous with Diabetes.
In early November, I texted one of my best friends, asking her how she would like to celebrate her upcoming birthday.
Her response: whitewater rafting.
Her birthday was in three days. It’s something she’s always wanted to do. She had a different start to her adult life – had to grow up way too fast and missed out on what some of us call the “fun” from our early 20’s. So, now that she’s hit 30, she’s trying to make up for it. I don’t blame her, and after the year she’s had, I want to support her. Except…
I am terrified of whitewater rafting. Honestly, I’m terrified of any water that moves (yes, I acknowledge the oxymoron in that statement, but let’s just say kiddie pools don’t count). I experienced a few “almost” drowning incidences as a kid, and that ruined any dreams of being The Little Mermaid. But I wanted to support my friend, and ever since I ran that 5K in October, I’d made a commitment to myself to be a little more adventurous. Continue reading
The holidays are always a tough time for someone with Type 1 diabetes. I’m constantly surrounded by holiday treats and carb-heavy foods. Holiday parties tend to be the worst culprit.
This could be why I’ve been a bit anti-social lately. I don’t want to be tempted. This past year, managing my blood sugar levels became increasingly more difficult. Maybe it’s because I’m older and my body is less resilient? Maybe it’s because I “cheat” more than I used to? Maybe it’s because I’ve had this disease longer, and it’s starting to take its toll on my mental and physical health?
Maybe all of the above? I recently took out a life insurance policy. That felt weird. And although I do my best, I know there is no guarantee with this disease, and in case anything terrible should happen as a result, I want my loved ones to be taken care of. But in the meantime, I’m still rooting for me. Continue reading
Halloween is a surreal holiday. It’s my favorite holiday, but it is also a reminder of how much life with an incurable chronic condition affects my perception of positive childhood memories. I’m lucky that I could grow up with trick or treating without Type 1 diabetes, but I am also cursed in that I will never relish in the same devilish appetite now that I have a disease that negates sugar.
So, it seems appropriate on this almost All Hallow’s Eve and in preparation for November — National Diabetes Awareness Month – that I should write about what it’s truly like to live a day in the life of someone with Type 1 diabetes. A few weeks ago, I took an ordinary Monday (well, as ordinary as a Monday can be) and tracked every time I thought about my diabetes – every time I checked my blood sugar, every time I calculated carbohydrates for a meal, every time I felt something was “off,” and every time I administered insulin to keep my body alive.
Even I was amazed at how much managing diabetes has become a part of my everyday life. With advancements in technology, I’m able to do more, and I’m able to have more variety in the foods I eat. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it any less. That doesn’t mean I can take a break from being there for my body.
So, here’s one example of one day (because no day is the same) with Type 1 diabetes (there are no days off). It’s a long one, so bear with (just keep in mind that this is really how much I think about diabetes on a daily basis – believe me, it sucks). Continue reading
I’m 30. People said my metabolism would slow down the closer I got to this milestone. But it’s not just being 30. There’s something else I have to contest with – something called Type 1 diabetes.
I don’t have the energy I had when I was 22 or 25 or even 27. Something has changed in the past year. I’m exhausted all the time. I’m lucky when I can work out more than three times a week. Hell, I’m lucky when I can manage to do weights after a 10-hour work day.
Any kind of physical activity is a struggle. I want to be in shape. I don’t want to be overweight when I age, but over the last year, I’ve gained 10 pounds. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s hard for someone who used to have to body image issues to tell herself it’s okay I’m a little heavier. Continue reading