Monday, May 15, 2017

Diabetes Blog Week 2017 Day 1: Diabetes and the Unexpected

Welcome to Diabetes Blog Week! It's what got me into writing about diabetes (and, mostly, is the only reason I ever update this blog now, but I've met some great people because of it).

Today's Prompt: Diabetes can sometimes seem to play by a rulebook that makes no sense, tossing out unexpected challenges at random.  What are your best tips for being prepared when the unexpected happens?  Or, take this topic another way and tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your, or your loved one’s, life that you never could have expected?  (Thank you, Heather, for inspiring this topic!)

“Tell me what your blood sugars are like on a typical day.” “How is your control, generally?”

This is always my least favourite type of question at a doctor’s appointment, because I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a “typical” day in my life.

To get to diabetes and the unexpected, I have to go through life and the unexpected first.

There are many people whose days are relatively predictable. They have a routine. They wake up, they go to work, they come home, maybe exercise, relax, eat dinner, go to bed, repeat. Sometimes I envy those people. 

I’m a professor. My schedule is different every semester, and sometimes changes during the semester. One day I’ll start teaching at 8:30; one day I start at 3:30. Often I learn my semester schedule less than a week before it starts. Some days I have a two-hour class, and some days I have seven or eight hours without a break. I teach at four different campuses (not all every semester, but often three of them), sometimes two in the same day. What’s predictability?

I’m a musician. I sing; I play handbells (not at the same time). I’m a part of two or three groups at any given time, which means 2-3 rehearsals a week and random gigs. When I’m performing with the Toronto Symphony, or, this month, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, often between rehearsals and performances, it can be 4-6 days a week (this month, I have to get to and from Kitchener, which is far from Toronto, many, many times). This is on top of work.

I’m a freelance writer and theatre reviewer. I review at least once every two weeks and write a books article every week. That’s another night/day of unpredictability.

I’m a dramaturg and script doctor; I work on plays and theatre festivals (for example, a weekend festival in Prince Edward County the weekend before my grades for 150 students were due). This has no predictability whatsoever. I might be working on five plays, or none. When the Fringe Festival is on, all bets are off; last year I saw 46 plays in 12 days, reviewing seven of them in the first three days.

I have a wonderfully active social life. This weekend there were two parties, two shows with friends, a dinner with a friend and the art museum and dinner with my parents and husband for Mother’s Day. This coming week I am out every single night, either at rehearsal, trivia, my friend’s burlesque show, other plays, other gatherings. I’m not sure I have a night of May where I’m not doing something. This year, the reunions and weddings are thick and fast on the ground. I have four weddings in four different states in two months.

I wouldn’t change this life for anything. Routine isn’t for me. I go to bed at weird hours, like 2-4am. I don’t sleep too much. I love how much I get to do. What’s the point of living in Toronto if you don’t use its resources to the fullest? But what it all means is that, when trying to juggle all of this AND diabetes, the only thing I can really predict is that life is unpredictable.

It’s hell starting medications, because I try to wait for an “uneventful” week, and it never comes. I have a newish med that I haven’t started (it’s not a life-threatening issue or even a serious one) because I have to take it at approximately the same time each day and it has a sedating effect, and I don’t know when that “same time” will possibly be. I worry about taking a sedating medication even at 2am. What if I’m still out? What if I have to be up until 4am grading? 

It’s tough monitoring myself when I have a day with shows, particularly when I’m performing. Going low or extremely high on stage can be a nightmare. I’ve had site failures midway through a concert. I’ve gone low on stage with the symphony, despite my best monitoring efforts, and I still had to perform and then sweat it out until the concert was over. Two thousand people in the audience - what am I going to do? Start eating? Say “excuse me, please stop the concert?” My alarms are set to vibrate against the advice of my CDE because I am in performance spaces so much, between the classroom, the concert hall, the theatre, and I’m not going to interrupt everyone’s experience that they’ve worked so hard to create or attend. (I know my health should come first, but I just can’t be that person).

I do my very best to bring an extra everything, but sometimes things go awry, and I’m staring down an eight-hour teaching day with ten units of insulin. I try hard to be in tune with how I’m feeling, and test often. It’s still unpredictable.

My favourite unpredictable event of late: losing my pump clip at airport security right before a week-long Caribbean cruise, and having only dresses with no internal pockets. I am an improvisational wizard sometimes; I bought a money belt to clip around my waist instead, and I actually kind of love carrying my pump in it.

In any case, I wish an unpredictable life and an unpredictable disease came together to make predictability. But, just like two wrongs make a right, they don’t. That’s okay.

My life is unpredictable, but it’s also wonderful. I think of how much easier things would be if I did the same thing, at the same food, went to the same place every day. Simpler. Probably better control. I would have that “typical day.”

It would be awful.


  1. Oh my goodness, reading about your schedule stresses me out haha...I have to have routine but that doesn't mean I have a typical day so it's probably good that you are able to enjoy all the wonderful things your life has and not let diabetes slow you down!

  2. Wow, I'm exhausted just reading about your life, let alone living it!! But what shines through most is how happy you are, and I celebrate that for you!!

  3. Like you my typical day is, well atypical. I hate that question. Thanks for the chuckle of acknowledgement.