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Vacation, All I Ever Wanted…

Bathing suits: Check.

Reef sandals and sunblock: Check and check.

Suitcase filled with summer clothes I had to unearth from the storage area and there may be a spider tucked in one of those shirts but I’ll be damned if I’m searching for it: Check and ew.

Carry on bag filled with enough diabetes supplies to cause the whole boat to become hypoglycemic: Check.

New, fancy black dress for Formal Cruise Night: Check. Oooh, and new, fancy black shoes. Double check.My Pal Xanax for the flight: Thank goodness Check.

Excitement, Anticipation, Slight Nerves, Big Smile, Great Boyfriend: Check.

See you all next week!

Two Years Ago Today.

Reflections on the day my pump arrived two years ago…

The FedEx box loomed in the middle of the room.

Special overnight delivery. On a Saturday, no less. The room shrank as the box sat unopened.

I made myself a cup of tea and sat down on the floor. Peeled back the packing tape. The flaps sprang open and a few stray foam peanuts flung themselves onto the floor, falling victim to Abby’s big paws. Reaching into the box, I foraged around until I found the green, white and blue box inside. “Medtronic Minimed. Paradigm 512.”

It looked like a pager. Slightly bigger, maybe, weighing in a just a few ounces. Smokey gray in color and almost transparent, I could see all the gears and wires inside.

Sipping my tea, I clipped it to the top of my shorts and stood up. I felt unbalanced, as though I would tip to one side if an aggressive breeze blew through. Leaving it attached, I jumped up and down. Nothing happened. I sat on the couch to see if it I would feel its presence. I walked over to the window and looked out onto the deck, hearing the soft clink of the pump as it touched against the window sill.

The box of infusion sets was decidedly dodgier. Twenty three inches of snaky, thin white tubing. The round white patch of gauze with the bright blue lid on it. A 6 mm cannula.

Prying open the infusion set packaging, I touched the tip of the needle with my finger. It was hollow and very sharp. I lifted up my shirt and exposed my stomach, daring myself to press the needle tip against my skin. It stung a small bit, but no more than a syringe.

I was used to syringes, though. I’d used them many times a day for over seventeen years. Was I ready for this? This change? This whole new regimen?

I pressed the needle hard against my stomach, watching as my skin resisted, then that sliding pop of compliance as the needle slid in. I pulled out the blue cap and inspected the infusion set in my stomach for the first time. It looked like the cap on children’s Tylenol. Like a tiny little Superdome on my abdomen.

Standing in front of the full length mirror in my bathroom, it was bright white against my skin. I pulled my shirt tight over it and saw its outline against the fabric. It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t big. It could go unnoticed. My body still looked the same. I was still the same.

The tear that slipped down my cheek was absorbed into my shirt and quickly joined by another. I was scared. But why? This small thing, clipped to my belt and the cannula under my skin, was going to help me achieve better control. It was going to assist me in lowering my otherwise plateaued A1C. The pump was going to afford me the freedom of sleeping late, conquering the dawn phenomenon, and bolusing minute increments.

I felt different, though. This pump was the first external sign of my diabetes. And that, after 17 years of quiet injections and subtle finger pricks, stirred up the oddest combination of pride and fear. I have done this for so long the only way I knew how. This new method was daunting. I had no idea that my A1C would drop within three months. Or that I would sleep late on a Saturday and not end up hypoglycemic. Or that I would feel strikingly healthier and confidently safer two years later.

I felt otherwise changed.

It was startling to look in the mirror and still see me.

Stings.

It was fifth grade and Mrs. Latz was our language arts teacher. It was the first year we had lockers and they were situated outside of her classroom. It was cool, having a locker. We cut out pictures from Tiger Beat magazine and hung them on the inside of the door. Nicole, who was my locker partner, and I cut out pictures of tropical fish and made our locker an aquarium. She even made a fake aquarium filter out of a used water bottle and some aluminum foil.

Nicole, Christie and I were walking back from the cafeteria after lunch and we stopped by our lockers to put our lunchbags away. Christie grabbed her reading book from the top shelf of her locker. Nicole didn’t need anything because she already had her book. I reached into the bottom of our locker to retrieve my reading book and saw a folded up piece of paper stuck in the locker vents.

“To Kerri Only.”

“A note! Kerri got a note! Oooohh…” Fifth grade immaturity gave way to giggles and blushing as the three of us crowded around the note to read.

“Dear Kerri, the Dirty Diabetic. No one likes you. We’ve made a whole club about how we don’t like you. It’s called the “We Hate Diabetics” club.”

A picture of a needle encased in an accusatory red circle was scribbled beside my name. No more needles. No more insulin. No more Kerri. 

Nicole and Christie stood there, not saying anything. Until I started to cry.

“That’s not right. That’s mean! We’re taking this to Mrs. Latz. She’ll find out who did this.” They took the note from my shaking, 10 year old hands. They took my hands in theirs and led me into the classroom.

The note was handed to Mrs. Latz and she read it while Nicole rummaged in her pockets for a tissue for me.

“This is unacceptable.” She shook her head and her soft blond hair swished from side to side. “This is simply unacceptable.”

Through the miraculous methods that only 5th grade language arts teachers possess, Mrs. Latz found out who has left that note in my locker. The “We Hate Diabetics Club” consisted of one, miserable, red headed girl who sat with me at lunch, whose eyes were red rimmed as she shuffled towards me at the urging of Mrs. Latz’s hands.

Red Head stopped in front of me and stared at her feet.

“I’m sorry, Kerri,” she mumbled, looking to Mrs. Latz to release her.

“It’s okay,” I said back, looking for her to release me.

But it wasn’t.

Red Head remains the only person in my life who has ever tried to make me feel bad for being diabetic. She made me cry and, when I think about the moment I opened that note, my face still flushes red with surprise. I wish I could forgive her for her childish words, but I still can’t. She and I continued through middle school and high school together, attending the same parties and dances and mixing with the same group of friends, but I always held her at arm’s length. And when I saw her at the beach last summer, after a 4 year absence, I didn’t walk over to say hello. Twenty-six years old and still holding a grudge against a little girl who was the only member in cruel little club.

It still stings.

A Post From My Mother.

I had asked my mom to put together her first “cameo post” for Six Until Me. There are countless blogs written by the parents of diabetic children that my mother reads now, even though I’m an adult and living under my own care. Had the blogging outlet been an option when I was diagnosed, I’m certain she would have been a pioneer. 

So she’s getting her chance now, on her daughter’s blog. It’s the least I can do. My acceptance of my disease is the exquisite culmination of her teaching me to believe in myself as much as she believed in me.My daughter, Kerri, has asked me to write a cameo post for her blog. I have been putting it off for a few months now and I think that I had better get to it!

I couldn’t decide what my topic would be. After all, this was my one shot at being read by the OC. Of course, I will be relating more to the parents of children with diabetes. I guess I will write about what was the hardest part of Kerri growing up with diabetes. That would be “learning to let go”.

The initial reaction to one’s child being diagnosed with a chronic disease is traumatic to say the least. I remember the fear of knowing that I was responsible for keeping Kerri healthy and safe. That was my priority prior to diagnosis but now there was this “disease” thrown into the mix of normal childhood perils to contend with and this one wasn’t going anywhere. I thought “how am I going to do this?” I was nervous and scared. Kerri was taking it in stride, still smiling and still her happy self. That’s when I decided that diabetes wasn’t going to rob her of her childhood or all of life’s experiences. If she could still smile and carry on, so could I. (Granted, at seven, she wasn’t fully aware of all the diabetes related issues.) I just went on automatic pilot. I did what I had to do. She would go to friends houses for sleepovers, school field trips, etc. About a month after diagnosis, Kerri was invited to sleep over at a new friends house. They were new to the area and Kerri and Jill became fast friends. I knew that I was going to let her go but first I had to call her teacher and get her opinion of Jill’s parents. She gave them rave reviews. I then made arrangements with Jill’s Mom and Dad to go over in the evening to give the night time shot and again at 7:00 AM for the morning test and shot. The Mom’s became friends as well. Mission accomplished…Kerri was able to go to sleepovers and I had control.

Now it’s the “letting go” part. As she grew up it was the hardest thing not having a say or part in everything she did. It was like going from hot to cold. It was a form of withdrawal. My daughter is fiercely independent. (I think you can all tell.). It was time for her to manage the disease and prepare for a life without Mom monitoring her every move. It was soooo hard. I had many a stomach ache waiting for her to drive in the driveway. My role as guardian and nurse was about to be severely restructured. Now I was an observer or sorts. I had to let her test her wings. She wouldn’t live with me forever. Besides, I always thought that if, God forbid, anything ever happened to her, I would want to know that she really had a great life. That she was not held back from doing things out of my own fears for her. (And there were plenty.) I did this for her and for myself as well. I would have felt guilty if I had held her back… so I didn’t.

She managed just fine. It would be silly to say that all things were perfect. They are not perfect for any child growing up testing the waters. The parents are not perfect. They do the best they can. However, she developed into this lovely young woman with a zest for life and a smile that says “Hi, I’m Kerri and you will like me”.

I will always be there for her in whatever capacity she needs…that of nurse, counselor etc. It really won’t matter how old she is, she is my daughter and I am her Mother.

I love her. That’s why I let her go.

Oh so slightly OCD.

I didn’t always count the sips.

I used to treat low bloodsugar reactions by chugging cranberry juice until it spilled down my chin and choked me just a little bit. That panicked, adrenaline fueled consumption, rendering me unable to close my eyes while I drink, but instead leaving me focused on that part where the ceiling and the wall merge. Focus. Drink the juice. Sit on the floor. Wait.

Waiting is always the worst part. “Consume 15 grams of carbohydrate, wait 15 minutes, test again, treat if necessary.” I don’t know a single diabetic who has that kind of time. A Low, one that gnashes Its teeth in your belly and keeps Its hands at your throat, doesn’t wait 15 minutes with you. You drink the juice, It turns around in your stomach. You sit on the floor and It stands up beside you, a heavy hand on your head, just enough to roll your neck forward a bit. Fifteen minutes is a terrifying lifetime while you wait for the juice to start raising your bloodsugar.

Lurch forward 20 minutes, after you’ve tagged half the bottle of juice and maybe some crackers. Bloodsugar hitting a cruising altitude of close to 250 mg/dl. That sick to your stomach feeling from a deviation of more than 200 points in 20 minutes. And there’s the guilt of No Control, when you couldn’t just consume the 15 grams of carbs and wait it out.

It’s hard to wait when you’re afraid you’re going to pass out.

It’s been after many years of treating my own reactions that I’ve come to the Eight Sips Theory. If my bloodsugar is anywhere under 55 mg/dl, I fill a glass with juice and gulp down Eight Sips. Never more. But I’ll refill the glass if there isn’t enough for eight. It’s enough to bring me back. Every time.

“One … two … three … four…” I count in my head as I swallow. Reaching “…eight,” I promptly put the glass down and sit. It’s still within reach, but it’s not lying comfortingly in my hand. Eight Sips. They calm the panic enough for me to breathe evenly. My eyes languidly scope the room, but I know that I will come up enough from whatever the low is with Eight Sips. Seven is not enough. Ten is too many.

Eight.

There’s a comfort found in this routine. It makes me feel safe. Protected.

And oh so slightly OCD.

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