Friday, November 16, 2007

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

I will avoid another rant on the abuse of ribbons and say I merely chose this image because I could find a good "Diabetes" image - I suppose the disease does not lend itself to visual artistry.

This month is Diabetes Awareness Month and so I thought I would talk about my diabetes and how it has changed my life. I remember when I was first diagnosed I was shocked because I didn't know that people my age could get Type 1 Diabetes. Turns out we can and it's not as rare as I thought. The Canadian Diabetes Association is currently running a whole campaign on young adults and diabetes. I was angry that this had happened to me and scared that my life had changed forever and it was all out of my control. Since then I have worked hard to learn about the disease and how to best manage it and so, I thought I would pass on some information:

1. First of all, Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes are not the same thing. Not even close. It's nice that your Grandma has diabetes and so you totally know what I'm going through but guess what, you don't. Type 2 diabetics have a functioning pancreas (for the most part) but they have developed a resistance to the insulin that their body is making. Those with Type 1 have a crappy pancreas that no longer makes enough, or any, insulin. Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with obesity, exercise or drinking too much pop. It is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system has attacked the cells that produce insulin...this means it is in the same family as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus or Crohn's Disease. My disease cannot be cured by exercising any more than someone can think their way out of Parkinson's disease.

2. Please do not offer to give me insulin when my sugars are low...this is the wrong thing to do. In fact it could kill me or at the very least, make things a lot worse. If my sugars are too low it is because I need sugar and have either taken too much insulin or have not eaten enough. I will not pass out from having high sugars unless they have been very high for a long time. My job is to try and balance the sugars in my body by using insulin and food intake (carbohydrates specifically) as counterweights to keep it all in balance. The more carbs I take it, the more insulin I need to balance the sugars and keep them in the right range. This balance can be thrown off by many things - hormones, illness, stress and how tired I am.

3. Please do not dismiss diabetes by saying it is manageable or that it's not a big deal. I've never heard a Diabetic say that so you probably shouldn't either. Yes, diabetes is not going to kill you in the next 6 months but is still a very big deal and a shock when it happens to you.

4. I can eat pretty much whatever I want so please do not make comments about the piece of cake I just ate. As long as I account for the carbs I can eat it. Having said that, there are certain things that are pretty much out...pop and juice (unless my sugars are crashing in which case I need sugar fast) and Slurpees. Which, trust me, I don't miss.

5. The injections do not hurt too badly but I will admit they are annoying. This is my routine on any given day:

First thing in the morning I test my blood sugar which must be under 5.3 mmol/L. Then I count the carbs I am going to have for breakfast, calculate the insulin I will need and shoot up into my tummy. Two hours after breakfast I test my sugar again. These tests involve a lancet into the finger - just enough to draw a drop of blood. This blood get sucked up on a test strip that costs about 80 cents and can only be used once. Before lunch I test again to see where I'm at, shoot up my insulin again and then two hours later, test again. Same thing with dinner. If I exercise during the day I have to take that into account and adjust my insulin accordingly. When I exercise I have to make sure I don't go too low and always have candy or juice nearby. Before bed I test again and then inject a different long-lasting insulin into my thigh. This one hurts a little bit because the dose is usually much bigger. By the end of the day I will have injected 4-6 times and tested about 8-10 times (a cost of more than $7.00/day not including the needles or insulin). And there you have it...every single day, weekend or not, sick or not, weather be damned.

6. If you see candy in my car or a juice box in my bag/desk drawer/glove box etc. please do not eat or drink it. That is there for emergencies. I go low usually 3-5 times a week and I need that sugar to get me back up. Going low is a horrible feeling. I feel woozy, dizzy, shaky, sick and sweaty. Even after I've taken my juice it can take 15 minutes for it to come up again so please give me some time. When I'm low I have a hard time hearing properly. processing things and feel like I'm not really in the same world as everyone else. I feel vulnerable and self-conscious. I just need some time and a snack and I'll be fine.

7. My diabetes is probably not going to go away unless there is some big medical breakthrough. I am not entirely okay with this but I guess I don't have a choice. I am scared of what the future holds and am afraid of ending up in the hospital, having heart disease or losing control of my diabetes. These are all things I work on now to prevent but can never guarantee.

So, there you, go...consider yourself more diabetically aware. If you have any other questions, please just ask. And if someone you know tells you one day that they have just found out they have diabetes, do not down play it or dismiss it. Recognize that it is a life long illness that will change their life but that with a lot of work and commitment, they will be okay.


Bobbi said...

Caroline, I think this is the best post you have ever put on your blog. I love it. You do a great job at saying things just right.

KneuroKnut said...

Awww...thanks Bobbi.

Korey said...

Thanks, Caroline. I am glad you gave such a detailed post on diabetes. I definitely understand it better now.

How does all of this affect your pregnancy? Is Type 1 diabetes hereditary? When did you learn you have diabetes?