Friday, January 3, 2014

Chronically Adapt

This morning, Chicagoland rediscovered what Lake-Effect Snow means. Wave after wave of snow fell along the Chicago side of Lake Michigan, sometimes as much as two inches an hour. When it is snowing that hard, it’s hard to clean off the car. Clear one side, go around to the other side, and the first side is buried in snow again. Shoveling the driveway is an exercise in futility. The municipal snowplows can’t keep up, either. We have 13 inches of snow, which may not seem like a lot to some of you. In Chicago, we usually get 3 inches at a time. 13 inches is an event.

This morning my daughter had to get to work two towns away. Together we dug out the car, and the driveway. Into a blinding snowstorm, I backed out of the driveway. The moment I turned the car onto our un-plowed street, I realized how deep the snow was. I had no traction and the back end of my van skidded. My heart was already in my throat and I hadn’t even traveled more than a yard from my driveway. Driving Evelyn to work normally takes 16 minutes. Today it took 40.

As I steered out of skids, struggled to see through the snow, and did my best to stay on the road, I realized how much driving in bad weather reminds me of life with chronic illness. I can’t always tell what is up ahead. Will diabetes complications sideline me? What about side effects from long term chemotherapy? My visibility is limited and I have to deal with the fear of not knowing what is up ahead. I do my best to pace myself and focus on what is in front of me right now. I will deal with what is around the bend when it comes.

Just like driving in the snow, I have to steer my entire life with calculated precision. Too much insulin and I will go into insulin shock and die. Too little and I risk DKA and death. Every day I make adjustments to stay in range, but I don’t always get it right. A few days ago I had two below 45 lows in the same day. The next day my blood glucose was 356. Like driving in the snow, losing traction happens to me. Then I risk skidding into an emotional tailspin.

I want so much to stay in range at all times, but I can’t. I can’t control a bad set, or funky insulin in my pump. Highs happen. Extra insulin to lower high blood sugar is called a correction bolus, not a punishment bolus. I need to remember this and not get down on myself. Even though it is difficult sometimes, I don’t always screw everything up.

When my blood sugars are in range for days on end, and everything is working smoothly, I feel like I’m driving on a clear patch of road. The plows came by and got rid of the snow. Salt dried up the blacktop. The sun is out in my life and all is well. But, even then, it’s still winter and I still have to be on guard, because trouble is as close as my next meal.

Maybe next time I eat, the bowl of soup will have less noodles than I predicted. I’ll use too much insulin to cover it and go low... again. Or maybe before bed tonight, I’ll misread the label on my snack and confuse sugar grams with total carbs. I’ll figure out my mistake around 3 am, when my blood sugar and the time are the same… again. Even on a clear day things can go wrong.

The only predictable thing about driving in bad weather is, it’s going to suck. The only predictable thing about living with chronic illness is, it’s going to suck.  Knowing that diabetes sucks, and MG sucks, reminds me that it’s OK to get upset about it. After all, diabetes is upsetting. MG is upsetting. I have every right to feel upset over upsetting things.

I found out this morning that driving in a blizzard sucks. I couldn't stop the snow, so I adapted. I can't stop chronic illness, so I guess I'll have to chronically adapt to it.

1 comment:


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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