Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Real Life Diabetes’ Category

“Real People” Sick.

For months, I escaped most of the germ cycle.  I received my flu shot.  I wash my hands.  I don’t lick doorknobs or shopping cart handles or people I don’t know.  My ears, nose, and throat remained plague-free.

Until about four days ago.

I have a rotten cold.  And if you know me at all, you’ll recall that anything to do with nose/mucus grossness becomes all my nightmares given flesh [1].

My friends think the phrase “real people sick” [2]  is bizarre.  “You’re a real person, Kerri,” is what they say.  (“Stop whining about your cold, you big baby,” is what they add.)  But dealing with a foolish, run-of-the-mill cold irritates me more than the most intense diabetes management day because I am just not used to being “real people sick.”  Diabetes, I’m used to.  Pump sites and finger pricks and CGM data is part of a normal day.  But a running nose and sort throat, that hacking, nastytown feeling that takes over my shoulders and neck when I’m playing host to cold germs?  Far less tolerable.

For now, my backpack is stashed with Kleenex (both new and used – ew!!!!!) and cough drops.  I hate my nose until further notice.  And once this cold retreats, I’ll be forever grateful that the only crud I have to lug around is diabetes-related. [3]

1.  Really.  Go read Neil Gaiman’s Troll Bridge.  It’s a gorgeous piece of writing that stops me cold every time.  It’s simple, evocative, and full of stolen moments.

2.  Real People Sick: The differentiation between blood sugar issues and the common cold. Phrase slips out most often when the diabetic admits to not feeling well and must specify that it is not blood sugar related.

3.  Footnotes in a blog post are silly.  So is this.

Hypo Management.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m fine.  The lows are ones I can treat myself, even if the number is really low.  Usually my symptoms are shakiness or like this brain fog.  When the lows are really gross, I usually cry at random.  Or I throw things.  No real in between.  But the majority of the time, I can take care of things myself, and then it’s over.  Like nothing happened.”

I tried to explain this to a friend who was asking when it’s necessary to intervene during a low blood sugar, but explaining the slide from “fine” to “holy effing low blood sugar” sounds confusing when I say it out loud.

That’s the weirdest part, for me, that whole panic-then-peace part of severe hypoglycemic events.  My lows have historically come crashing in at a breakneck speed, which is part of why using a CGM has been a pivotal change for me.  Getting a head’s up on when a low is happening, or being able to treat it even before it becomes a problem, has helped me feel safer in the face of hypo unawareness (a lack of low blood sugar symptoms) and fast-dropping numbers.

My endo suggested that I raise my low alarm on my Dexcom from 65 mg/dL to 80 mg/dL in efforts to catch lows earlier, and in the last month or so, I’ve had far fewer chaotic hypos.  Instead, I’m grabbing the lows before they even become low, snagging a 70 while it slides versus waking up in the trenches of a 40.


Low alarm at 80 has been the best suggestion in a long time. #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Small little tweaks here and there make differences I couldn’t have imagined. … that, and I’m burning through my supply of glucose tabs with a little less vigor.

 

Let Loose.

(Is it okay to let loose with a stream of consciousness sort of thing today?  I hope so.  My mind isn’t capable of anything else at the moment.)

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the diabetes community.  So much has changed since the Internet started to populate with patient stories.  I don’t mean that in a “oh, the industry!” sort of sense, but more that the concept of “I am not alone with diabetes” has gone from hopeful to factual over the last decade.  I love the diabetes community.  After such a long gap between camp and finding online support, I appreciate the friendships – real and true – I’ve forged over the last decade.  To go full Jerry McGuire on the whole mess, they complete me.  I even appreciate the people I find prickly to a certain extent, because my interactions with people I don’t get along with help me grow as a person.

My feelings about the community are a weird contrast against diabetes itself, because the disease is not something I love.  I don’t appreciate it.  I don’t view it as a gift.  I view it as a disease.  So it’s a strange hybrid feeling to be so taken with a group of people anchored around a disease I would give back in a heartbeat.

(Oh hell yes, I’m in that kind of hug-everything mood today.  Wait until I cut-and-paste blooming violets and rainbows and doughnut rain up in this blog post.  It’s a combination of jet lag and hypoglycemia.)

By contrast, I haven’t wanted to share so much online these days.  I thought I was hitting a pocket of diabetes burnout a few weeks ago, but then I realized my blood sugars were fine.  I was checking my blood sugar at the necessary times.  I was wearing my devices and doing whatever was necessary to keep them, and me, up and running.  It’s a comfortable diabetes apathy that I’ve settled into, with results that are in range enough and diabetes control that falls within the guidelines well enough.  But I’ve wanted to shut the computer more and more lately.  Maybe it’s not diabetes but social media burnout?

Over the last few weeks, my life has been busy in ways that have nothing to do with diabetes.  I’ve been outside logging miles on the running trails, as this is my favorite time of year to run outside.  I have a new, comfortable routine of waking up before the rest of my family and making a pot of coffee, then reading blogs and emails while single-handedly killing the pot of coffee.  (Which means, by the time everyone else wakes up, I’m completely lit.)  We moved to a new town, I’ve been on the road for work, I’ve been investing myself in friendships and family, and I’m trying to spend more time talking to people I love instead of Tweeting into the abyss.  I made a conscious decision to pull back from the Internet and rethink how I felt about advocacy, especially in the wake of, for me, a less-than-fulfilling Diabetes Month.

And then yesterday I spent the day with the P4DC team and this welcomed wave of re-invigoration washed over me.  The conversations were diverse, but did close with a brainstorming session about Spare A Rose, which reminded me that the DOC isn’t about sharing thoughts and feelings without recognizing how frigging lucky we are.  We are lucky.  I feel like we found our footing, as an online community, by connecting with one another and comparing our good moments with our tougher moments, talking about our general lifestyle stuff and we got really comfortable in that space.  And then we started to realize, after connecting with our fellow and privileged peers (because if you’re reading this on a glowing screen, you’re luckier than most), that we live in a bubble of sorts.  We have nice problems to be managing, all things considered.  I think we came to realize that, as a community, and our ambitions and outreach started to step outside of serving ourselves.  Greater good sort of stuff.

That inspires the absolute hell out of me.  Changing our world takes a lot of effort and dedication and determination but good heavens, we can do this.  I am going through the ebb and flow of life and diabetes and all that comes with continuing to move forward but when I look at this community and see what we’ve done, and then consider what we’re capable of, the advocate in me rises from the ashes of burnout.  Like a phoenix.  (Or, probably  more realistically, a groundhog.)

Whether furry or on fire, my desire to be part of this vibrant community remains intact, intense, and appreciative.

A Wicked Rash.

When I was younger, my pediatric endocrinologist told me that I shouldn’t be poking the syringes into the parts of my skin that didn’t hurt.  “If you don’t feel the pinch of the needle, that means you have scar tissue building up, which can lead to poor absorption of the insulin.”  She stayed on me about rotating injection sites, and even though I didn’t like rotating to new spots that hurt a little, she was right.  The more I rotated, the better my skin felt and fewer egg-bumps of scar tissue formed under my skin.

… shame on me for not following that same rotation protocol when it comes to Dexcom sensors.  I wear mine almost exclusively on my outer thigh because that’s where they feel the best, stay put the best, and are least apt to peel away before their time is up.  For several years, this worked fine because I rotated within the thigh site, making sure not to reuse an area in the same month.  But once the Dexcom adhesive rash started, I was screwed because the skin was taxed not just by the sensor itself, but by the residual rash.

Dexcom rash management has been better lately because of precautionary measures, but sometimes the rash flares up as a result of ten different factors (all ones that itch).  Last week, I was traveling for work and kept applying Opsite Flexifix tape to my Dexcom sensor as it was starting to peel away (and yes, I had a spare sensor on me but still didn’t want to pull the one that was working.  I’m a stubborn human.)  I covered that thing with tape.  And for two days, it was great.  But then it started to turn a little red underneath the tape (not the sensor adhesive, but the skin underneath the tape).  After another day, it went entirely bananas and turned bright red and started to swell.

“I can feel the heat of the infection through my jeans,” I said out loud to Chris.  At which point, I realized I was a frigging idiot for not pulling the sensor off.

Off it came, and what lurked beneath was gross.  (“It was the worst Dexcom rash … I ever seen!!”  Actual Large Marge quote.)  No way was I going to take a picture for evidence because it was horribly nasty and I’m irresponsible for letting the cost/convenience/reinstallation of the sensor supersede the integrity of my skin.  What was underneath the Toughpad was completely fine, but every bit of skin that had come into contact with the Opsite tape alone was raised, red, and borderline blistering.

It took a week for that site to heal, and only after I carefully applied Neosporin and bandaged to it.  Which brought me to that unfortunate realization:  I suck at rotating my Dexcom sensor sites.  And I need to be better about it, especially since the data is very important to me.

So I’m trying out a new spot in efforts to give my thighs some time to properly heal.  For the last week, I’ve had a sensor on my lower hip and it has worked much better than I thought it would.  It’s just below the belt time on my outer hip (see Gingerbread Man for placement accuracy because holidays) and despite the rub of pants, etc. it is staying put and not peeling up.  I have a little bit of Opsite tape on the lower edge and so far, so good.

I hope this sensor can run its seven day course without leaving a mark.  Because otherwise … itch, please.

Pun(ch) Line and Inkage.

I wish I could find the source for the following image, but I love it too much not to share.  (I think it was Type 1 Diabetes Memes but I can’t re-find it.  If you know the source, please leave a comment so I can link out appropriately!)  This is real life as a pancreatically-challenged cyborg:

The punch line!  The pun! Much joy.

And I came across this tattoo on Pinterest from user Carmen Bailey.  Her comment, in case you can’t read it:

“My cousin Jeff is getting married in just over a month, and his fiance has diabetes. He got this tattoo of an infusion set (from a insulin pump) to match his bride. I think it’s adorably romantic.”

Agreed.  This is adorably romantic and also safe from doorknobs, making it a double-win.

Insulin pumps:  A source of insulin infusion, tattoo inspiration, and comic relief since 1963.

 

Tootsie Roll of Doom.

Low blood sugars can sound like stories told ’round the campfire, with great embellishments and drama as to who can tolerate the lowest number without tipping over.

“Low?  I wasn’t just low.  I was so low that my eyes were swimming away from my face and my meter said 52 mg/dL but I still got my own juice.”

“52?  I was 41 mg/dL without any symptoms at all and then my hands fell off so I ate them.”

“Pfffft.  I was 30 mg/dL and eating popcorn and I was coherent enough to eat individual kernels of popped corn until 100 hours passed and I had steadily climbed back up to 115 mg/dL without a rebound high.”

Impressive.

Most of the time, my lows are symptom free and I can function properly.  I feel lucky that, in the last 28 years, there have been more functional hypoglycemic episodes than ones requiring assistance.  I’m glad I can treat my own lows.

But sometimes numbers hit differently.  A blood sugar around 65 mg/dL usually feels a tiny bit off, but nothing too jarring.  No shaky hands, clumsy tongue, loss of peripheral vision stuff going on, mostly just a Dexcom alarm going off, forcing me to take a closer look at my graph and thinking, “Huh.  Time for a snack.”  (This lack of hypo symptoms is what prompted me to look into a continuous glucose monitor in the first place.)

At other times, the 65 mg/dL comes in like a freight train, barreling towards me with symptoms hitting full force, which happened yesterday while I was brushing my teeth.  A waves of confusion washed over me and put a twitch in my hands, making my desired grip onto the bathroom counter hard to come by.  My tongue went numb and I forced myself to spit the toothpaste into the sink, knowing the next mission was more challenging: get downstairs and eat something fast.

The first thing I saw was a giant Tootsie Roll in Birdzone’s Halloween bucket.  (Flashbacks to being a kid growing up with diabetes, where the Halloween bucket was always saved as a “for low blood sugars!” salve but instead was something I dipped into without admitting it, until there were only Almond Joys left.)  Normally, Tootsie Rolls are a candy that repulses me enough to steer me clear, the low symptoms were intensifying and my knees felt wobbly, so I unwrapped the candy and shoved it into my mouth.  And then I learned of a new hypoglycemia symptom that was in play this round:  a confused jaw.

Chewing on that Tootsie Roll candy was a disaster.  It was slightly cold, making it tough to work through regardless, but the massive chewy scope of the thing was too much.  In the fog of a low, I clamped down on the stupid thing and felt a familiar popping sensation.  The Tootsie Roll was working to raise my blood sugar, but in the interim, it had pulled off one of the frigging composites from my tooth.

Once the low had subsided, I called the dentist to fess up and make a fix-it appointment.

“What happened?  Did you bite into an apple or something?” asked the receptionist.

“No, it was actually a Tootsie Roll but …”

“Oh, Halloween candy.  Yeah, we get a lot of calls this time of year for stuff like this.”

And in my head, I was all, “Wait, no it was a low blood sugar and it was THIS BIG and I finally had symptoms – they were rotten – in the 60′s which is why I went for the Halloween candy …”

… but instead, I was all, “Yep.  Tootsie Roll of doom.”

 

#DayOfDiabetes Went a Little Rogue on Me.

I started the day strong, but after hours of a frustrating high blood sugar and seemingly bolusing saline instead of insulin (but it was insulin – I checked), I hit a big NOPE when it came to documenting the end of my #dayofdiabetes. I didn’t want to keep documenting my frustrations, not because I was ashamed of them, but because I was FRUSTRATED, you know?

Even though there isn’t a hashtag for my day today, I’m still here. I’m still doing this diabetes thing. And despite some frustrations, I remain fine.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers