T Minus Two Type Two Diabetes and Other Passions

18May/146

A Test Strip’s Tale

This post  is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week (#dblogweek). I am responding to the wildcard topics "Tell Me A Story: " Write a short story personifying a diabetes tool you use on a daily basis. A meter, syringe, pump, pill, etc. Give it a personality and a name and let it speak through you. What would it be happy about, upset about, mad about? " The post below, originally published  2/11/10, seems to fill the bill.

March 14: Suddenly, I burst into consciousness. It seems that I am a test strip for a glucose meter, a small miracle of technology precisely engineered for an important task. Within minutes of my awakening, I find myself in a small plastic container with 24 of my compatriots. I am puzzled, however, because I am the only strip in my container that appears to be sentient. This is especially unfortunate in the case of the rather attractive strip right next to me - I could share some thoughts with her, if you catch my meaning!

April 7th: After weeks of sitting in warehouses and being bounced around in trucks, I have arrived in a pharmacy. I wonder how long the wait here will be?

May 2nd: I have been purchased. I confess to feeling a little swell of pride at the amount of money paid for me: I am easy, but not cheap.

May 14th: I chafe at the length of my wait. My compatriots have been disappearing one at a time, naturally, that cute strip next to me was the first to go. I must say, the rate at which we're being used is somewhat slower than what I understood to be optimal. Nonetheless, I feel a strong affection for the man who bought me, and look forward to playing my part in supporting his health care goals.

May 18th: The day for which I was created has at last arrived! The container is opened, and I am removed. I am placed into the meter: the fit is perfect. I am touched to a drop of blood, and I process it according to my engineering and deliver the good word to the meter, which promptly displays the result. (163? As a fasting reading for a meds-only T2? What did he EAT last night????)

My joy is complete, my destiny is fulfilled. The man whose very life I have helped preserve has left me in the meter, presumably to contemplate the excellence with which I have perfomed.

May 19th: I begin to wonder, now that my purpose is complete, what my future holds. This morning I was removed from the meter and replaced with another strip. Rather than being placed with dignity in the luxurious final resting place I expected and deserved, I was casually tossed into a pile of other strips that have given their all. It's dusty, too.

May 23rd: My existence gets worse and worse. This morning, the pile I was in was swept into a wastebasket. I, however, fell outside the basket onto the floor. A few minutes later I found myself adhering to the bottom of the man's foot and thus carried into his shower, where the water washed me off his foot and into the tub's drain strainer. The conditions here are unspeakable. How I wish I had entered the waste stream with my fellows, bound for the serenity of the landfill or perhaps even the blessed oblivion the incinerator offers.

May 25th: How long will it take this man to notice me here in the drain? I have come to hate him.

May 26th: At last, the tyrant notices me here in the drain. He plucks me off, and tosses me toward another wastebasket - and again he misses. (I hope his pancreas explodes.) So I lie here, right next to the toilet. I will say no more of my situation here. Oh, that this consciousness with which I was cursed might have an end.

June 3rd: Finally, finally, my blessed end is nigh. Again, I was thrown away, but this time actually made it into the basket. The last few days in the waste stream have been disgusting, but here I am on a moving belt, and I see the incinerator ahead. Oh lovely nothingness, I come!

 

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15May/140

Silver Glitter

This post, originally published on February, 2013, is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week: "Yesterday we opened up about how diabetes can bring us down. Today let’s share what gets us through a hard day.  Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day.  Is there something positive you tell yourself?  Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through?  Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost?  Maybe we've done that and we can help others do it too?"

Before lunch today I found myself in an extremely grumpy mood, even for me. I felt very put upon and angry, even though nothing in particular had happened to leave me more than a little annoyed. i knew that I was not likely to get much done or have any enjoyment out of the day if I stayed in that mental state.

So, while at lunch, I decided to make a list of everything i could think of in my life that made me angry or annoyed. A few of my items would frustrate most people, and several more dealt with disappointment with myself. Most of the items, I think, were either inconsequential or really had nothing to do with me at all.

Having made my list, I decided to experiment with a little visualization. I've never had much luck doing visualizations, but I thought the situation merited making the attempt. What follows is not a daydream or a delusion, but a recreation of what I told myself to imagine, as if I was listening to a relaxation tape, except that I was making it up as I went.

I am alone in a room, one wall of which is covered with an enormous piece of newsprint paper covered with the list that I had made. I am tearing the paper off the wall and gathering this whole huge piece of paper into a big wad in my arms.

I can smell the newsprint and the felt tip Ink on the paper. I can feel the ball of paper pressing a little bit against my chest as I work with my hands and arms to compact the ball. i can feel the paper with my hands, and that I can hear the rustling of paper as i work to compress the ball of paper.

As i work, I feel my ball grow smaller and the paper itself grow thinner, so what I had at the end of my gathering is grapefruit sized ball of blue tissue paper. With my ball in my hands, I gently breathe a puff of positive energy into it, and I see it burst into a cool blue flame. Though i can feel the warmth of the fire it does not burn me, and I soon hold only.ashes. I blow again, harder this time, and i see the ashes fly into the air and turn into a cloud of silver glitter, which shimmers for a moment before disappearing.

When I reopened my eyes, I felt unburdened and nearly at peace. I won't say that I skipped joyfully back to my desk, but I did succeed it turning around a mood that had become toxic, and I had a productive afternoon. My exercise strike you as weird and New Age-y, and it feels like that to me, but it worked.

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13May/144

Diabetes Limericks

This post, originally published on September 23, 2010, is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week

I wrote the below as relief from having written several rather earnest posts. I hope none of the below crosses the line from funny to offensive for you, and hope that you'll forgive me if they do.

My doctor had offered me kudos
On maintaining an excellent glucose
But I blew it away
On the way home that day
That sweet shop was entirely too close!

A 'betic in old Narragansett
Who hated to swap out her lancet,
Said, "I know that it's strange,
But it's annoying to change,
So I guess that I'll just have to chance it!"

My pharmacist showed an example
Of a test strip that took a small sample
"You don't need a quart,
I'm pleased to report,
A teensy bit ought to be ample!"

2Aug/131

Flashback Friday: Aging Mind, Young Memory

An (slightly revised) odd little post from October of 2010.

Today, picking up my prescriptions at the pharmacy, I saw a young woman who looked so much like someone I knew that I almost spoke to her...could it be her? Then I realized that the young woman I'd known would now be in her 40's.

I tweeted the experience, as part of my "This is what aging is" series. My friend Jess, who blogs awesometastically, responded (translating from Twitter), "So your brain is aging but your memory isn't? :) "

I thought that was beautiful. I haven't seen the woman the girl in the pharmacy reminded me of in many years. I don't know what her life has been like, though I hope she's happy, or if she ever wishes to again be the age at which I knew her. In a sense, though, she'll live as a young woman, preserved in the amber of my memory, for as long as I live. So, too, will all the people who inhabit my memories, wherever life (or perhaps death) has taken them since we last met.

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26Jul/133

Flashback Fridays – Locks and Keys

This post first appeared in July of 2012.

 

Sometimes I visualize humanity as all being at a huge party - not a get-drunk party, more like the socializing after a group dinner.

At this party, everyone is wearing lots and lots of chains with padlocks. Everyone also has keys - lots of keys.

The thing is this: most of the keys you have at this party don't fit any of the locks you're wearing. Some of them do, but most don't.

As you move around at the party, encountering people and making connections, you'll sometimes find that you have a key for those people, or they have a key for you. Sometimes the lock that's opened is a tiny one that you barely noticed at all, and sometimes an opened lock releases a great burden.

There's a lot more to this analogy in my own mind, but the point I wish to make is that we can never know who's going to help us or who we're going to be able to help. Sometimes locks are opened by loyal friends, sometimes by people we encounter on the bus. Someone can 'open a lock' for another through a kind word, through needed service, or through something they've written, and may other ways as well.

Although this idea is very important to me, I am far from perfect at living it. More than most people, I think, my struggles and fears much too often prevent me from being as interconnected as would suit my ideals. Still, the central idea of trying to bring people together for the matching of locks and keys is a sacred one.

That's part of why I love the DOC. The DOC isn't perfect - being made up of people, after all - and I know we don't come through for everyone, and that's sad. But all the blogs, all the tweets, all the forums, provide opportunities for people to find keys to their locks and to help other people as well. Even though there are those whose messages I don't particularly care for, but I'm still glad they're here, because if they're here they have the opportunity to help and be helped. My words aren't going to resonate with everyone, but many voices greatly increases the chances that a person can find words that DO resonate.

If you 'speak' in the community, please keep doing so. If you just listen, please keep doing so, and speak if and when you feel comfortable enough or compelled enough to do so.

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19Jul/132

Flashback Friday: I Will Lay Me Down

There's not a lot to say about this post from June 0f 2010 except that I'm glad to have written it.

----------------------------

"When you're weary, feeling small..."

I don't listen to music very often, actually. When I do, my tastes are somewhat eclectic - cool jazz, some "early" music, symphonies. And, though I quit listening to current pop a long time ago, I continue to love some of the music that was important to me when I was younger.

Yesterday was a terrible day. I'd slept very poorly, and I began the day with a flurry of stupidities on my part that resulted in missing an all-day seminar. (This may wind up costing me $180.) I then had to go back to my job and explain to my less-than-pleased boss what had happened. And, some folks from the DOC that I value seemed to be having tough days as well.

"When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all..."

All of this had me pretty down, depressed almost to the point of being incapacitated. As I sat at my desk, the podcast I was listening to made a reference to the song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel. I happen to love that song. It's my opinion that Garfunkel's singing on that is the greatest performance in pop music history: no other nominations will be accepted. (Do I have anywhere near the expertise I need to make such a statement? Absolutely not.)

So, I interrupted the podcast to give "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" a listen. "A listen" is a bit of an understatement - I listened to the song time six or seven times, one after the other. In the song, the singer is offering unconditional support to the person he's singing to: the lyrics feature the line "Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down."

In that moment, I found the song incredibly moving, and struggled to keep from crying. As I listened, I alternated between feeling myself in the role of the singer and feeling myself in the role of the person being sung to. After a time, I could no longer stay seated. I went downstairs and chatted with a coworker for a moment, than I went and got a soda.

"Sail on silver girl, Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way."

By the time I got back to my desk, I was starting to feel better. I listened to the song one more time, then resumed my work. A little later, I had a nice chat with my boss, and even got a small project done. I was still very glad when the work day ended, but my mood had improved considerably.

(Lyrics taken from Simon and Garfunkel, "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Bridge Over Troubled Water. New York: Columbia Records, 1970.)

28Jun/132

Flashback Friday: Fake Diabetes Statistics

This post from October of 2010 is among my more popular. Enjoy!

We read many statistics that are faked or exaggerated. Here, there's no mystery: I'm telling you I made them up.

73.6 -- The number of hours of sleep I lose in a year while putting off loading my pill sorter.
2 -- The number of test strips per container that, once used, escape and try to make it to the border.
0 -- The number of members of the "diabetes police" sent to the hospital each year by enraged diabetics.
12,873 -- The number of members of the "diabetes police" sent to the hospital each year in the imaginations of enraged diabetics.
6.2 -- the percentage of health information sites on the Internet that are actually run by people genuinely interested in the health of others.
95 -- the percentage of 'finger wipers' who think that 'finger lickers' are a little bit disgusting.
98 -- the percentage of 'finger lickers' who think that 'finger wipers' are a little overly fussy.
1 -- the number of blood tests per lancet encouraged by lancet manufacturers.
17.6 -- the average number of blood tests per lancet by anybody that's been testing for more than a week.
99 -- the percentage of diabetics who've secretly wished a high blood sugar episode on some officious carb pusher.
15,872 -- the number of new diet books published each year.
3 -- the number of new diet books published each year that actually help a significant number of people achieve meaningful and lasting weight loss.
9.8 -- on a scale of 1 to 10, the amount of fun I've had making up these statistics.

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21Jun/130

Flashback Friday: The Basis of Self-Esteem

This post, first published in April of 2010, fits in with some things I've been thinking about. There may be a sequel sometime in the next few weeks.

 

(Note to the reader: the following is a completely rhetorical and philosophic post. I have plenty of self-esteem. I have self-esteem coming out of my ears. I regularly have excess self-esteem drained off and donated to junior high boys preparing to call a girl for the first time.)

I've been thinking a lot lately about self-esteem and how it relates to my struggles to live in such a way as to increase the odds of a healthy future. (Coincidentally, David Spero has a column on this very subject published just today over at Diabetes Self-Management.) I think, perhaps, that I've spent my life holding the wrong end of the stick. Maybe I've been telling myself that I'd earn self-affirmation when I'd lost my weight, or when I'd achieved some other goal -- and it never happens. Maybe if I could learn to give myself affirmation without preconditions, I'd then have the internal resources I need to pursue my goals more effectively.

Okay, then the question arises: what is the basis for self-esteem? If it's not working to base that esteem on what I do, then what can I count on being able to look to for strength, even on those days when I'm really screwing up?

I like to think of myself as a pretty bright guy, and I feel good about that. But, in my worldview, intelligence is a gift -- it's not to my moral credit, anymore than my baby blue eyes are. I like to think that I've made good use of that gift by doing a lot of reading, attaining a good education, getting a good job that I have because of that education. But then what can I do on those days when I make mistakes? And, at my age, the old knife just isn't quite as sharp as it used to be: am I growing less worthwhile as I age? That obviously won't work at all.

I'm a good and caring person - is that a solid basis for self-esteem? Well, we're getting closer to it. But I have bad times, too -- when I'm cranky, or judgmental, or cater too much to my creature comforts. Do I become worthless on those occasions when I don't visit a friend in the hospital because I really want to hide under my bed? No: I think this is still dangerous ground.

The only basis I can think of that seems to serve as a solid basis for self esteem is simply that I am. I am human: in my worldview, I am a soul, a child of God. I have a worth that's inherent, inalienable, and indestructible. I have the worth that every man, woman and child has, the value that causes us to grieve when we learn of the deaths or struggles of people we know nothing of.

Of course, as I learn to place more value in that worth, that means I'm also placing more value in your worth, and my coworker's worth, and the worth of the woman in the minivan that almost runs me over, and the worth of the billions of people with whom I will never have any contact at all. That doesn't strike me as a bad thing, either.

I am worthwhile. Simply because I am.

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7Jun/134

Flashback Friday: A Simple Desultory Philippic, or How I was Michael Pollan’d Into Submission

This post originally appeared on February 3, 2010. The title is an allusion to a song by Simon and Garfunkel. 

 

Eat low fat.
Eat low cholesterol.
Eat high fiber.
Eat Omega-3s.
Eat low sodium.
Eat antioxidants.
Don't eat anything that has a face.
Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't have recognized as food.
Margarine is better than butter.
Butter is better than margarine.
Olive oil is better than butter or margarine.
No, canola oil is the best.
Eat local.
Eat organic.
Eat sustainably.
Eat with a low carbon footprint.
Only eat foods that are in season in your area.
Stick to complex carbs.
Eat whole grains.
Eat like a caveman.
Eat like a Frenchman.
Eat acai.
Acai is an expensive ruse.
Drink wine.
Part of this complete breakfast.
Read the label.
The USDA in in league with the big food producers.
Eat raw.
Cook with only the freshest ingredients.
Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store.
Avoid red meat.
Avoid the dark part of white meat.
Honey is better for you than table sugar.
No, it isn't.
Don't take vitamins: get your nutrition from food.
Take vitamins to cover your bases.
Eat fatty fish twice a week.
Unless you're young, nursing, or pregnant, in which case don't.

Forget it.  I'm gonna have a frozen burrito.

31May/131

Flashback Friday: Diagnosis Story

I don't know the actual date on which I received my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. For reasons I won't bore you with, I use the last Friday in May as the day I celebrate my 'diaversary' - today is my fifth. Here are two posts (originally posted January 8 and 9, 2010 that tell the story of my diagnosis and my response to it. For the record, with another three years of perspective, the residual guilt I mention is gone. Almost.

My diagnosis story

I almost always find diagnosis stories to be interesting. Even for type 2 diabetics like myself, diagnosis tends to result from some sort of crisis, whether it be a life-threatening high, the onset of complications, or just a doctor's visit resulting from persistent fatigue or other early symptoms. I was a little luckier.

About six months before I was diagnosed, I began experiencing the classic symptoms of thirst and frequent urination. Like many folks, though, I didn't really think of the thirst as being unusual - it was the bathrooms trips that kinda bothered me. Did I secretly suspect the truth, down in my heart of hearts? Yes -- or, rather, no: the 'truth' I was hiding from was my suspicion that I was developing prostate problems. The thought scared me, though - my dad had had prostate surgery - and I took no action.

A couple of months before diagnosis, I had an opportunity to join a weight loss program at my workplace. I made some pretty big changes: I quit drinking sugared soda (boy, had I been guzzling that!), generally ate more sensibly, did some exercising, and lost about 20 pounds. (Alas -- they haven't stayed lost.) Guess what? I also quit living in the bathroom, and I now know that I pretty much stopped having symptoms. So, when I went in for my physical, I just expected a pat on the back and encouragement to keep going.

Since I have a T-2 father, the doctor must have ordered an A1c as part of my blood work. (The prostate was fine.) A couple of weeks later, when I got home from work on a Friday, I had a letter (!) informing me that I had diabetes and that I needed to make an appointment for a follow-up. (I learned later that my A1c had been 9.5.)

Now that I can think back on the months before diagnosis with some knowledge, a number of things make more sense. Not only had the amount of fluid I was drinking been pretty extraordinary, but my eating (before beginning that diet) was completely out of control -- I must have been eating hundreds of carbs a day. I'm blessed that I didn't eat my way into serious hyperglycemia. There were other things, as well, that might have tipped a more knowledgeable person off to what was happening in my body.

How did I react to my diagnosis? That's a topic for another day.

 

Diagnosis Fallout and T-2 guilt

As I mentioned in my last post, I learned about my diagnosis as a T-2 diabetic in a letter I received when I got home from work on a Friday afternoon. My reaction, to which I lost that first weekend, was guilt -- a deep, abiding shame I'm not 100% over to this day.

See, my dad is also T-2. When he was diagnosed, somewhere around twenty years ago, he laid out for me what he'd learned about the disease and that I'd likely have a much better future if I could get in shape. So, I'd had fifteen or twenty years to get my act together, and I'd failed. Pretty miserably, too.

As i now know, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle do not cause type two diabetes. A substantial percentage of newly diagnosed T-2s are in pretty good shape, and I think I read the other day that only 25% of morbidly obese people (those 100 or more pounds overweight) have diabetes. It's known that there are genetic factors as well. It's also believed that there are "environmental factors" that are not yet understood. In sum: being overweight did NOT cause my diabetes.

But, even with all that said, it's still true that, had I lost my excess weight, I might have delayed the onset of diabetes, perhaps for a very long time. And, if I am able to change my lifestyle now, I dramatically increase my chance of avoiding serious complications.

Maybe.

The devil's not in the details, he's in the maybes. It's in that forest of maybes that my residual shame resides.

So I spent that first weekend in a pretty negative space. I felt sorry for myself, sure, but mostly I felt ashamed OF myself. It was several days before I even managed to tell my sister, with whom I've been closed for many years.

By Monday, though, I'd come to some degree of peace was ready to start looking for resources. I'm so grateful that there were resources available.

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