Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy Blue Friday!

For those of you who haven't heard of it, Blue Friday is a weekly awareness "event" where blue is worn in support of diabetes awareness. It's pretty easy to do, especially when it's your favourite colour. Well, I'd like to show you how committed I am to Blue Friday; for me, right now, every day is Blue Friday!

Happy Blue Friday, everyone! Fortunately, although my diabetes won't go away in a few weeks, this cast will.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Sweet Sixteen/Broken

Today, my diabetes turns sixteen. It could drive a car (while I still can't, partially because I'm afraid of low blood glucose levels while driving) if it passed the written. Sweet Sixteen is both appropriate and ironic when it comes to diabetes; I've certainly spend the past 16 years "sweeter" than I would have been otherwise.

I always see my Diaversary as a time of reflection on the battles of the past and my hopes for the future, as well as providing myself with cake for the present. It coincides with the birthday of a friend who I've known longer than I've known D, but whose birthday always gets co-opted by memories of going to the party on my day of diagnosis, thinking I couldn't eat the cake anymore. I was one of those lucky few who got to be out and about on my diagnosis day, caught by a screening check and not by a hospital. Now, though I have intimate acquaintance with hospitals for the various specialist appointments (I joke that I use my OHIP, or health card, more than most people use their credit cards, but thankfully I almost never have to pay the bill that results) it's almost never an emergency, and never a D-emergency. I'm doing well. There was that time I needed an IV in freshman year. That time in 2005 that a freak storm and a stage light required getting my head stapled back together (and you think the fact that it was an unpaid internship was bad!)

And then there was last Saturday and Sunday (the 9th and 10th).

Friday night had been great. I had been out all day with friends (it was my spring break, soon to be literal) and was coming home with Dan after discussing save-the-date card designs with a designer friend. I was really excited about the concept, happy, and a little smug to have this wedding-planning thing in hand, snagging our 10th dating anniversary date for the wedding. Pride comes before a fall, apparently. I stepped off the bus, and on to a sheet of black ice that had thawed and re-frozen due to the day's temperature fluctuations. With my foot taking so big of a step onto nothing and me holding two bags, I was unprepared and didn't have a chance. Every single ounce of my weight concentrated on the first point to hit the pavement; my left elbow. Dazed and in horrifying pain, I eventually struggled to my feet because I thought Dan was going to panic if I didn't. I slowly followed him home. I shouldn't have let that one taxi go by, but I couldn't imagine that I was actually broken. It had never happened before. Even if my elbow was clicking around, my coat was on and I couldn't see anything.

I gingerly took my coat off at home to inspect the damage. No cut, no bruise, but, as Dan helpfully observed, "your elbow isn't in the right place anymore." Called a cab and to the hospital we went, coat draped over me like a misshapen fur stole. I couldn't stop shaking until I was mercifully given heated blankets in Emerg, but I kept it stoic, laughing and joking with everyone involved, refusing to scream even as a joke (and most of that was before the morphine!) My elbow was in two pieces apart from each other. I needed surgery for the first time in my life. I was terrified, and am still afraid that ugly scarring will have to be hidden during my wedding photos.

After coming home from the hospital. Ignore how bad I look. I have reasons.
I was sent home from the hospital with a cast. Total cost of everything, besides painkillers: $30 for the sling. Thanks, Canada! (Well, it was your ice that dropped me.) The surgery was the next day (I thought there would be more of a wait, but the surgeon has a slot open). I was really worried about being put under, but the worst thing was the IV hurting a bit and the feeling of claustrophobia under the oxygen mask. Everyone was super nice, though  was sad they said getting my cast signed wasn't good for it. The ONLY reason I had longed for a cast as a child and I couldn't do it? Bah! The rest of the day, after I joked with the nurses, was a haze of nausea and pain.  I was going to go in and teach the next day, but I had to bow out. I then taught all my other classes, graded, and went to meetings and rehearsal, holding on by a thread. It's been some of the worst pain I've ever felt, and continuous. I have one prescription painkiller left, which makes me...nervous.

The worst thing is the helplessness, the length of time it takes to do everything, and the tiredness and frustration. I am left-handed, so I've needed to learn to write a bit with my right hand, and type what I can't. Typing takes forever and is utterly exhausting because it's one-handed and I'm in a terrible position the whole time with a useless limb in the way. I don't like being dependent or weak (story of my life with diabetes, magnified). I don't like having my shoes put on, my hair washed, my meat cut. I don't like that I can only play half my part on bells, though many are amazed I'm playing at all, or that I came back to work so soon. The problem is that I'm so behind in grading now, and when I do, it takes forever. I feel like I'm running a marathon just typing this. Everything D sucks with one arm. Testing BG? How do you squeeze the finger properly? Putting in a site with one arm? Someone has to pinch for you, and it better be on my right side or it's really hard to get to. Even clipping my pump on is a pain.

I go back for a new cast on Tuesday. I hope my arm looks okay and that D (or my stubbornness) isn't causing slower healing; my numbers have been pretty good, all things considered. Beiing broken sucks, but at least I know that, next year, this will almost for sure be a thing of the past, while my other "brokenness"-my trial, my sentence, my experience that has helped shape me and make me what I am- will be celebrating its Sweet Seventeen, even though I still won't let it get behind the wheel. Though I am broken, at least this break is curable; it will heal thanks to love, understanding, get-well cake, a fiance who puts together my taxes and a lack of predators.

It's a rude beginning to a new D-year, but I'll take any excuse for love and cake. Theoretically, things can only improve from here, right? (This had better not jinx anything!)

Exhaustedly Yours,


Friday, March 1, 2013


Yesterday, as I was rushing from work to appointment (one hour on transit) to rehearsal (another 30-45 minutes), I felt that old, familiar, sinking feeling. Low blood sugar. Insufficient blood glucose. A hypoglycaemic incident. Whatever asinine thing the media decides to describe it as, such as "a diabetic attack" or some such vague garbage.  When Diabetics Attack is the name of my proposed reality show. I'm sure it will be very popular.

When my BG goes low, sometimes I feel like I'm about ready to attack. I don't think things through as well, or consider complexities and implications. I get angry and irritable and greedy. It's suddenly all about me and there's no charitable thought towards others, as long as I've "got mine." I feel like I'm dying out and I'm scared. It's what I imagine being a member of the Tea Party to be like.

Low blood glucose is a little like being drunk, in the worst possible way, with added hands shaking, cold sweat, and the feeling that your life force is draining out of the soles of your feet. Your head rushes. The glucoaster roars downward. Your pulse pounds. Tunnel vision becomes inevitable. Standing becomes an unimaginable feat. Powering yourself up a flight of stairs? There are 100-pound weights around your ankles. When someone who has never experienced real hypoglycaemia describes the experience of not eating for a while and feeling hungry, irritable and a bit shaky and week, I can only smile, both because I'm happy they've never had to experience the real danger, and because it's a polite but very muted understanding of the event. When I'm really low, there is a danger signal in my brain that says "No really you are going to pass out and die this time for sure." But there's another part of my brain that says "don't be late you have to get where you're going what's wrong with you are you going to let this stop you you weakling." (When I'm really low, my brain does not use punctuation; there's no time.)

I made my way through the molasses that was the air, past the people collecting for Second Harvest (in my tunnel vision, I couldn't stop to take out money; with my lizard brain it seemed too painful to listen to them talk about people who needed food). It was rush hour, but I managed to slump my way into a middle seat on the subway. I was so thankful there were no elderly people or pregnant women or obviously-disabled people around; nothing makes me feel guiltier on the subway (besides rushing by a talented busker, charity collection, or person down on his/her luck) than not wanting to relinquish my seat to someone "needier" when I look so hale and healthy, but my invisible disability is killing me at the moment. I hope everyone sees my shaking hands and the colour drained from my face, which is already very pale, and doesn't judge.

My trusty grape Dex. (source:
Luckily, I had provisions with me. I ate two granola bars in quick succession, and popped open my glucose tabs, eating about five. I forced myself to stop after that, though at that point everything in the train car still looked edible. It's like that Troy McClure "educational" film about the meat industry on The Simpsons: "Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If that cow had the chance he'd eat you and everyone you care about." I don't know if it was just my own low-induced paranoia, or reality, but suddenly I felt judgmental eyes on me, the girl who had just wolfed down two granola bars and what likely looked like a tube of candy. I turned the tube outward so anyone who was looking good see that it had a medical tagline printed on it.

I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I'm an average size. Taller than the average woman, big-boned, a decent weight for all of these factors. It's actually a major thing for me to say this, because I'm actually the first person to call myself fat. If I can tear myself away from self-judgment for a minute, though, I can say that I'm certainly not "officially" fat or obese. I have always been self-conscious about my weight and the size of my frame, however, and I was wearing a fairly puffy coat, it being the last gasp of February.  At the moment where I started panicking over the perceived judgment of my fellow subway patrons (remember that blog that mocked people eating in the New York subway?) I came to a bizarre realization: I am more self-conscious about treating a low in public than I EVER was about taking a shot in public, or testing my blood in public.

Has that happened to anyone else? Is that strange?

Treating a low in public is different from performing a medical operation. For all intents and purposes, to others, it just looks like you're stuffing your face and, if you're on the subway, that you can't wait the 15-30 minutes to get where you're going. I couldn't. To give you some idea, after over-treating with the two sweet granola bars and 5 glucose tabs (probably 80g of carbohydrate), going to rehearsal, not taking any correction bolus at all, and coming home, I tested, thinking I was probably at least 10 if not 15 (instead of being somewhere between 4-8). I was instead barely up into the normal range, at 4.2. This was actually worrisome; just how low had I been? It's hard to test on the subway, especially when squished into a middle seat, so I hadn't, as there was no way that could have been anything but a low.

Eating isn't causing my diabetes, I wanted to say loudly. It's saving me from it. I'm so used to people judging people with diabetes over food that I feel ashamed to "overeat" in a public space, even if it's necessary, even if my diabetes isn't the "weight" kind.

And that, I have to say, makes me feel pretty low.