Monday, January 30, 2012

Diabetes Is Different

It’s been six months since I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I just typed that sentence and stared at the words. I’ve done the dance of the chronically ill since 1997. Living with — and sometimes around — serious illness is nothing new to me. I’ve been through surgeries and chemo, so when I heard I have diabetes I just decided to add it into my life. Diabetes would be another disease in a long line of illnesses that have tried to screw up my life and failed. And yet, the music of diabetes is more powerful than I realized.

Myasthenia Gravis was my introduction to chronic illness. Muscles that switch off and on at random are annoying. But, there is a level of dysfunction that has become my normal. My energy is highest in the morning and wanes throughout the day. I know how hard I can push myself and when to rest. I understand the rhythm and music of myasthenia gravis, and I know how to dance this dance.

Cancer came into my life almost at the same time as my MG diagnosis. Check out The University of Catastrophe, Sophomore Year to learn more about thymoma cancer. Finding out I had a 4x3x2 cm tumor in my chest, above my heart, extending into my throat, changed my life. Surgery to remove my tumor took 9 and a half hours. I almost died the next day. It took 2 years to recover. My body is still not the same. My life is divided into before cancer and after cancer. And yet, here I am a long term cancer survivor. The music of cancer on my cello sounds like a mournful cry. It is a song I had to sing, but it is in the past and fading into a soft echo.

Diabetes is different.

Diabetes is different from myasthenia gravis and different from cancer. It is different from high dose pulses of chemotherapy. Diabetes is a 24 hour a day constant companion. With MG if I rest, the disease quiets down. With cancer, treatment is given in cycles of medical intervention followed by days of rest.

Diabetes is different. It is an all day long commitment. Four shots a day. Call them injections. Call them mealtime coverage. Call them whatever you want. Four times a day I inject myself with insulin. I prick my fingers at least six times a day. Every twinge in how I feel is followed by a finger-stick and a blood drop on a strip. I look at the number on my meter.

67. 88. 92. 113. 152. 174. 209. 256.

Sometimes I look at my meter and know why my number looks like it does. I missed lunch. Or, I wasn’t hungry at dinner so I didn’t eat enough. Or, that ice cream had more carbs than I bolused for. Other times I look at my meter and wonder why is it so high? I haven’t eaten in 12 hours! Or like this afternoon when I had a stubborn low that seemed to make no sense. I ate 50 grams of carbs. Why does my meter read 79? 1+1 doesn't always equal 2.

Diabetes is different. Exercise makes blood sugar go down. Or up. Stress makes blood sugar go up. Illness makes blood sugar go way up. Too many carbs, not enough carbs, the wrong carbs, all of them make the numbers on my meter go crazy. It is hard not to get frustrated sometimes.

Diabetes is different. I’m different right a long with it. The music of diabetes is new to me and I am still learning how to dance with it.

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I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

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