Am I pancreas or a woman?

I’ve taken shots on planes, shots on trains, shots on buses, shots on shuttles, shots in a car, shots in a bar, shots in meetings, shots at crowded dinner table seatings, and after my recent four days of traveling, for whatever reason, I have ended up more tired of shots than anything else.

Obviously, this is a diabetes blog, so I don’t mean liquor, not even in the bar. I mean insulin shots and the role they play in my life as pancreas.

I would say in a typical day, I take a minimum of 8 shots. On the trip, I took maybe 12 – 14 a day. I take shots as if I were a pump.

Some of you know a lot about diabetes and others less. Some of you know what an insulin pump is and how it works, but if you don’t, quick summary: people wear insulin pumps on their body using a site that can be either be connected to the pump by a tube or connected to a pod that is stuck directly on the body (no tube) with adhesive. Now, both of these are changed somewhat regularly, usually 3 to 4 days, and in the in between time, you don’t take the site off. You might disconnect your pump to shower or for a few other reasons, unless you have the Omnipod, in which case you just shower with it. The pump delivers a continuous infusion of insulin to the body.

The potential benefits of insulin pumps are numerous (there are also downsides that I won’t cover here). Some of the reasons why people wear them is so they can eat a more flexible diet, giving themselves insulin in a way that lines up more perfectly with their eating habits, think: many smaller injections a day to compensate for unexpected snacks or eating more at a meal than you planned. Also, you can reduce the stable background amount of insulin you’re getting to lessen the risk of lows during exercise. I can’t do that on my current insulin regimen, which, as aforementioned, is a bunch of shots.

I like to both maintain as tight a control of my blood glucose (bg) as I can, while also having the maximum freedom to eat and be spontaneous in my life, which for me has turned into a bunch of little micro-doses a day. Traveling amplifies this, because I’m not in control at even a base scheduling level. Flights might be delayed; I might not have time for a meal. When I do have time for it, I might be on a 5-hour flight, and then not be able to move around afterwards and help my bg come down with physical activity.

If you’re like: “I don’t get what she means by help my bg come down with physical activity,” please let me know in the comments and I will write on these topics in more detail or point you to some resources.

I have a busy year of travel and this trip made me wonder if my attempts to free myself of the burden of wearing an insulin pump has saddled me with an extra burden. If I’m going to mimic what an insulin pump could do with shots, should I just go ahead and get with the times?

When I travel, I like to let go of the ideal of a regimented lifestyle and be free to follow what comes. On this particular trip, the first thing that didn’t come was my Lyft. I was waiting by the door at 5 AM, but twenty minutes later I made a quick pivot, driving to the airport and parking in the econo lot. No bolus insulin in my system meant that missing one shuttle bus to the airport after a dead sprint across the lot sent my blood sugar straight up (potential moral: stress is bad for you).

Eventually I made it to my gate, just as boarding was set to begin. Still on the ground an hour and a half later (potential revised moral: could have skipped the sprint) it was clear that making my connection with only an hour layover in between would be tricky. But, by some miracle (apparently pilots can floor-it if necessary), I made my next flight after only a light jog. There was no screen on that plane (I had already watched ‘Elf’ on the last leg) and I had no internet, so I spent some time (2 hours) staring idly at the seat-back. I recommend this sort of in-flight meditation. Upon landing, I felt refreshed and ready for a three hour longer day. Of course, my blood sugar had been taking off and coming down all day, after around 8 shots over the course of the two flights.

I don’t want to give the impression that my trip was anything but pure joy – because one thing I’ve become good over 14+ years with diabetes is carrying the annoyance and frustration of diabetes alongside all my other emotions. This is one of my happiest evolutions in life with diabetes. I used to be so much more critical of myself and my ability to be a pancreas. But I’ve come to accept my imperfection in this way, because it allows me to do and enjoy so much more simultaneously. Some of the non-work-related highlights of this trip were:

  • Remembering my general love affair with San Francisco and its angles, colors, and vibe.
  • Reuniting with one of my best friends from high school. We explored the small mountain city he lives in outside of San Fran, looked at new houses for him and his partner to move into (which was an unexpected delight), and recounted all of our best inside jokes multiple times.
  • Racing from Palo Alto just in time to make it to a dear friend’s yoga class (why is my life full of so much racing? Do I need to leave earlier or just accept being late? Timeless questions). Afterwards, he took me to Mission Chinese, which was some of the best food I’ve ever had. The whole place is cast in a magical red glow. We ordered Kung Pao Pastrami, Spring Rolls, and Taiwanese Eggplant, and remembered all of the potlucks, adventures, and characters of college.

In summary, by the end of the trip I was left with the vague impression that all I had done for four was balance my blood sugar – but in truth, that was just exhaustion speaking. In the moment, I’m doing it all. Upon returning however, I did look over my bg records and identify a few times when I could have done less tweaking and perhaps gotten better results. So maybe in times of reduced control, loosening my grip on the idea of it could bring be a little bit more bg, and general, peace. It’s a thought experiment I may report back on.

Thanks for reading and happy new year!

Katie

 

 

The first week in May

Dear May,

You are so beautiful. No matter where I am; in Asheville or in Chapel Hill, your irises shine bright as the twinkle of sunlight off Jordan Lake or a smooth icy cold pool on Flat Laurel Creek.

Your bluets are blushing with a joyous periwinkle hue,img_1629

columbine nodding in coral and gold –

Your lizards are scurrying: anoles, skinks, and more whose names I don’t know

turtles are recharging their sweet, cold bodies on hot, dry logs over opaque, brown water

and I am lost in both awe,

and an allergy-induced haze of high blood sugar.

You know it’s weird – allergies – inflammation – our body’s interaction with the environment – with the first kiss of sun – but year after year, the first week in May is a blood sugar roller coaster.

I get what I like to call, ‘false highs’, because I feel ok at first, but I’ll be stuck, way up in the blood sugar clouds, heavy with rain. Then of course that number starts to weigh me down, stress me out, the sluggishness compounds and I feel like doing nothing more than sitting in the midst of a garden full of peonies and tulips burst open into past-bloom and maybe wild roses and a bit of hyacinth although to tell you the truth I don’t like the smell of hyacinth but oh the honeysuckle and the proud plump snapdragons!

Dogs and diabetes

Hi Friends,

I’m writing to share a piece I submitted to Diabetes Daily as part of an effort to promote the new fundraising campaign by Life for a Child (LFAC) that features stories from kids with T1D in Bolivia.

Check it out here: Profiles in Strength: A Story of Type 1 Diabetes in Bolivia

One more thing – I suspect I’ll stop posting my blog on Facebook soon, so if this is the way you find out about new entries, please follow me so that you’ll be notified in your inbox. You can always unfollow or adjust email settings if it becomes too much! And please feel free to share this blog with anyone who you think might enjoy it.

Thank you,
Katie

136 mg/dl and a break…

Dear Readers,

It’s the eighth day of blood sugar (reporting) and I’m over it. I’m ceasing the experiment due to ethical concerns for me, the participant.

You wouldn’t know it, but typically I’m very private about my blood sugar. This has been a big stretch. It’s been a good experiment and I have many, many thoughts to share after the holidays. For now though, I’ve realized that the extra burden of reporting has gotten me too in my head about this whole game and out of touch with the necessary and natural intuition that is one ingredient in my personal magic potion of blood sugar management.

Parting thought for now from a friend who also has T1D – “You can do everything the same way twice and not get the same results.”

Genius. So true. Also, so frustrating, if you think about it too hard. For me, having T1D is an interesting reminder that mind and body are one, and that listening to oneself is key.

So in sum – have a wonderful holiday however you choose to celebrate, and thanks for sticking with me this past week on the nighttime blood sugar sleigh ride, where Santa’s asleep at the wheel and every reindeer is in charge! [stretch metaphor 🙂 ]

196 mg/dl

On the seventh day of blood sugar…

I slept in an hour past my alarm (it’s ok, it’s Saturday) and my meter gave to me

a 196 mg/dl.

Yesterday I went to the gym in the middle of the day and a yoga class after work. I ate well enough and went to bed at 137 mg/dl, still with a little insulin working in my body (did not finish eating by 8 pm).

It’s hard to exercise after work and still get in a reasonably early dinner. It’s a strange trap to have to choose between the two.

But really, I think my bg crept up in the morning hours, as it does if I fail to take my 24 hr insulin around the same time every day. I had taken a little booster shot of it the night before, as is my habit on weekends. Typically I take my 24 hr insulin at 6:45 AM or so. I take a pretty small dose and it seems to wear off at almost exactly 24 hrs for me; meaning that if more is not injected to replace it, I will begin the slow rise. I meant to wake up at 8:30 AM, but my body knew better and kept on sleeping.

Health trade-offs. Not pleased about this. Blogging a number that is ‘too high’, gives me a new understanding of how kids must feel when they have to report their blood sugars to doctors or parents. Intuitively, we know that the number is not a grade or score, but it can sure feel like it. I wasn’t a kid when I was diagnosed, so I’ve always been a self-grader, but I bet it’s scary when you feel like your actions are going to be judged by others because of a blood sugar reading. I bet it feels like that sometimes even when others aren’t actually judging you.

131(?) mg/dl

Yesterday was a wash.

Literally, it was gray and pouring out. I stood by my window at work and felt dampened by the weather.

Figuratively it was one of those rare days when I forget my meter at home – and this left me unmoored, confused, uncertain.

I do this, I would say, about twice a year. I realized it after walking and busing almost all the way to work. I can’t park at my work, so the thought of going back home felt to my maximum-productivity brain like a real waste of time.

In truth though, not having my meter really isn’t safe – I typically can feel my low blood sugar coming on, but I learned yesterday that I really overestimate my ability to feel where I am – so much of that ‘feeling’ is really a complex set of predictions based on my last reading, which ideally is no more than 2 hours ago. And about the safety thing – my rational brain knows that taking the two hours of sick leave it would have cost to go back home for my meter, is a lot less than the amount I would have had to take if I’d had a real problem (read: very low or high blood sugar) because of it.

Every time this happens I think of the kids with T1D who I met in Bolivia who can only test two to three times a day, max. Checking infrequently is their norm. I think of them and wonder how they manage when I feel so utterly lost.

A friend asked me how I was yesterday – I said I don’t know. I didn’t know. How I’m doing is very tied to my blood sugar, I realized anew.

Realizing anew is frustrating isn’t it? We realize, we forget, we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, and then we have to realize anew!

Anyway, I ultimately did decide to leave work early. When I got home I was in the low 200’s. I took some insulin, did some yoga and then, as a reader so keenly pointed out in yesterday’s comments, of course went low before dinner. About 2 hours after dinner I was 130, an hour later I was 175…can I explain that? Nope. Not even a guess. Too few data points to guess. Correction dose, bed. I woke up at 3:51 AM at 150 mg/dl; at 7 AM at 131 mg/dl. Grateful to know.

“So what’s the plan?” I ask myself, because after forgetting my insulin pen one day, I installed an extra labeled in a plastic bag in our shared fridge. The plan is definitely, as of today, to store a backup meter at work. I have several from years past on different insurance plans, and I still have enough test strips left to get me through a mess up day.

*Reminder about the big, giant disclaimer: I do not have medical expertise and this is not an advice blog. I’m not saying that the way I manage is the right/safe way, or that my goals and targets are right/safe for anyone else, but rather I am simply recounting my experiences as a person living with Type 1 diabetes. 

Oooone Fiiifteeeeeen!

On the fifth day of blood sugar my meter gave to me: 115 mg/dl!!!

Obviously this is to be sung to the cadence and tune of FIVE GOLDEN RIIIINGS!!!!

Sorry that my picture makes my reading look like an Olympic track star.

But actually, this is a star reading. Not that I’m judging my readings or assigning value (I’ve had to combat this instinct during my T1D journey) – I think I’m doing better (but clearly still like to assess progress).

Anyway, last night we didn’t even walk into the restaurant until 8 pm. At that point though, we were all starving, so we ordered and got our food quickly.

I’d gone to see a jazz band with a couple of friends; we were headed to Thai food after. These two friends and I, plus usually another, meet up regularly to discuss life and share challenges and successes. Time with them is therapeutic and restorative; as key to my health as eating vegetables or checking my blood sugar.

I had a cup of coconut soup and a chicken and green bean red curry paste stir-fry entree (lots of descriptors!). Typically at Thai, Chinese, or Japanese restaurants I invert what you might think of as the traditional rice to food ratio. I use rice as a garnish, sprinkling a bit of it on top like snow. In fact, you can think of the dots in today’s picture as either snow or rice falling onto the 115 (these are all original digital drawings by the way and totally available for purchase 😉 ).

Going out to eat is great – you try spices and flavors you wouldn’t at home and someone else cooks and cleans. But for me, the hardest thing about eating out is having to drive home afterwards. The time right after meals is some of the most difficult: biggest fluctuations in blood sugar, greatest potential for a low or high blood sugar that is going to mess with my awareness. Because I don’t drive if my blood sugar is low and I don’t love sitting alone in my car on cold winter nights waiting for my bg to rise, I took a more conservative meal time dose of insulin than I otherwise might have for the food I was eating.  When I got home, my bg was 186 mg/dl. Based on the blood sugar scrutiny of the last few days, I took what I felt like was an accurate correction dose, and hooray! it was.

There are 7 more days of blood sugar left, so if you’re enjoying these posts, feel free to share with someone else who you think might as well. Thank you for being on the journey!

Katie