Sunday, 20 April 2014

Diabetes Firsts

Happy Easter everyone! :)  After Christmas, Easter is probably the next most daunting annual celebration for a lot of people with diabetes. (There's a lot of temptation with chocolate covered treats and super sweet hot cross buns absolutely everywhere.)  Regardless, Easter is definitely something to be celebrated.  Whether you're religious or not, Easter is about new beginnings.  As much as I've been obsessively reading other diabetes blogs, I haven't, for whatever reason, been feeling as though I have been able to write about my own experience with the D for a while.  However, as this is a time of new beginnings, I'm feeling excited and motivated to join the rest of the online community and get posting once more!

Speaking of new beginnings, I recently watched a lovely video online, which follows the journey of two elderly ladies as they embark on their first flight on an aeroplane.  It is a part of the telecommunication service 'Vodafone's series of 'firsts' films, which claim that 'doing things for the first time keeps the world interesting'.  When it comes to diabetes, it's easy to get stuck in routines - good and bad.  To an extent, the D actually requires routine.  However, as I discovered last Monday, there's still opportunity for diabetes 'firsts'. 

I was travelling home from a long weekend spent with my dad and step mum. The sun was shining and I'd decided to wear an all-in-one floral playsuit, which turned out to be a diabetes no, no.  Diabetes isn't exactly the first thing I consider when I'm picking clothing garments from my wardrobe in the morning, so it's fair to say that I couldn't have predicted how impractical wearing such an outfit would make administering injections.

After Anthony and I got engaged in Paris in January (yay!), a friend of my dad's had kindly surprised us by doing a beautiful painting of us, which had been waiting at my dad's house for me to pick it up.  Luckily the canvas and frame weren't heavy, as I was absolutely determined that I was going to single-handedly take it back home with me on the train.  Still, after hauling my suitcase, handbag and the painting onto my second train-change, and I'd successfully found myself a seat, all I could think about was the tuna sandwich and cherry tomatoes I had packed for my lunch.  

I tested my blood - 5.8 mmol, which gave me a smile! - and ate my lunch.  I felt immensely satisfied, until the realisation hit me that I now needed to find a way of taking my insulin.  I normally inject into the tops of my legs or my stomach, which were not at all accessible in my playsuit without pretty much taking the whole thing off.  I thought about venturing to the toilet, but I didn't want to leave the painting which I was guarding by my feet.  The only 'injectable' part of my body, which I could get to easily, was my arm.

My parents used to inject into my arms for me when I was younger as I used to get lots of lumps and bruises on my legs and tummy.  In fact, Anthony will administer insulin there for me now if my usual sites aren't looking too good.  However I've never done my own injection in my arm.  In fact, I have a bit of a fear of injecting into new sites.  I don't know why - a needle's a needle at the end of the day.

It took me a good few minutes to pluck up the courage to do it (and a lot of taking the needle guard off, putting it back on, taking it off etc.) but eventually I did my first insulin injection into my arm, all by myself!  It hurt a little as I pulled it out at a funny angle, because my hands were shaking from the nerves, but it was fine and I spent the rest of the journey feeling very happy.  To some people it may sound like nothing, but I felt like I'd accomplished something.  I guess I proved to myself that new diabetes beginnings and D-'Firsts' are possible, even after nearly 18 years of living with type 1!  More than anything, this experience gave me further confirmation that nothing can stop me having a completely 'normal' life, even with diabetes - not even a floral playsuit.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

World Diabetes Day 2013: The Invisible Condition

Happy World Diabetes Day, everyone! :) In true WDD style, I awoke this morning with a blood sugar of 3.6 - a true reminder of the fact that I have diabetes and, along with the other 382 million people with the condition, this day is partly for me.

Diabetes is so often referred to as the 'invisible disease', the 'invisible disability', or the 'invisible condition' (I prefer the latter terminology!)  It's true, diabetes is invisible.  No one would ever know, when they see me on the street, that I've already checked my blood sugar and injected myself with insulin at least once that day.  However, sometimes, it feels to me that diabetes isn't invisible at all.

I see my skin when it's covered in sore patches of blue and purple - bruises from my injections.  I see the remainder of unhealed wounds everyday - permanent scars, because of the poor circulation my diabetes causes.  I see hundreds of pin-prick holes on the tips of my fingers - the proof of regular blood sugar monitoring.  I see a ghost in the mirror - pale and drawn from unstable blood sugars.

It's at times like these, when it feels like I have 'diabetic' tattooed on my forehead, that I have to remind myself that not everyone knows diabetes like I do.  In fact, some have never heard of it at all.  To them, my bruises and scars could be from sporting injuries, my face pale as a result of late nights and, as for the pin-prick holes, they would probably never be noticed at all.

I realise that because diabetes is invisible, it's so important that we let people know what it is.  For me, World Diabetes Day is always about raising awareness.  It's about making people aware of the symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes and the symptoms of hypo/hyperglycemic episodes.  It's about letting people know the differences between the types, how it is treated and how it affects those dealing with it on a daily basis. 

If we can all go out today and learn something, or tell someone one thing about diabetes, we are contributing towards a future where an invisible condition becomes one which is understood.  If we can fall asleep tonight, or any night for that matter, with one more person in the world knowing something about diabetes that they didn't before, we should be proud! :)  So today I go out in the world, wearing blue and taking the invisibility cloak off the shoulders of diabetes - hopefully I'll learn something too!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

D-Blog Week: Diamonds of The DOC

There are several reasons why I love D-Blog Week but the main one is that it invites people living completely different lives, in completely different parts of the world, and brings them together through writing about one thing we all have in common - diabetes.  Seeing as this is the final post of this years D-Blog Week, it's time to shed some light on some of the superstars of the Diabetic Online Community.  Thank you to the following people in particular, some being new discoveries and some old favourites, for providing me with lots of quality reading this week:

Dave's posts are fantastically written and his ability to make the D seem humorous is so uplifting.  I'm so glad that he decided to take part in D-Blog Week as reading the musings of The Tangerine Diabetic the past few days has been a treat!

Kim's blog is one of my exciting new discoveries, thanks to D-Blog Week!  I love how her posts are so heartfelt that they manage to have me on the verge of tears one minute and then sporting a smile from ear-to-ear the next.  I hope my attitude towards my diabetes is as great as hers after 26 years of living with it.  Really looking forward to reading more from 1 type 1 after this week!

Vicki's writing is truthful, inspirational and absolutely beautiful.  Through D-Blog Week her posts have been first point of call for me to read before writing my own, as her ability to make you see the positive side of diabetes is a daily necessity.  Vicki's Notebook is consistently wonderful and enjoyable to read and Vicki's spirit is consistently contagious!

Emma's blog was one of the first that I started reading when I started writing about my diabetes 2 years ago and I've been addicted to her posts ever since.  Her down to earth approach to diabetes is admirable and the Teapot Diabetic is a very honest account of living with type 1.  Keep writing, Emma - I love it!

Thank you Karen Graffeo at Bittersweet Diabetes for organising yet another amazing opportunity to get further involved with and meet other wonderful members of The DOC.  It's because of the people in The Diabetic Online Community that diabetes feels less like a burden and more like a blessing.  Also a massive thank you to those who have read my posts this week and beforehand - as always, your acknowledgement and support means so much!

I have a 2 hour train journey today, so I plan to spend it all catching up on the posts from the last week and I can't wait!  It is with sadness that I say goodbye to D-Blog Week 2013, but I am looking forward to seeing you all again next year.  Wishing everyone in the DOC happiness, health and heroic blood sugars! xo

Saturday, 18 May 2013

D-Blog Week: Diabetes Art Day

I always really enjoy diabetes art prompts, but I've got to admit that I was feeling a little bit felt-tipped out after yesterday's post!  However I remembered a style of D-Art I've seen circulating the DOC since I started blogging and always wanted to have a go at, so here she is...the Type 1 Diabetes Supplies Girl!

Friday, 17 May 2013

D-Blog Week: D-Thanks Fairy Does Diabetes!

I've opted for the wild card prompt of 'design your dream diabetes device' today, simply for an opportunity to bring back an old favourite of mine.  The first year I participated in D-Blog Week, and actually exactly 2 years ago today, I chose to use a wild card and wrote a story called 'Weeping Daisy and The D-Thanks Fairy'.  Since then, good old D-Thanks Fairy has made a couple of other appearances on Diabetic Dais and so I thought it would be a shame for her not to show her face again this year.

She used to be a whisper of encouragement in times of need but, as of now, D-Thanks Fairy is so much more!  When you are low, she sprinkles her magic dust on you and your blood sugars rise to them to a perfect level without a peak.  When you are high or you've just eaten a meal, she injects your insulin for you with super-soft needles so they never leave a mark (she may be only small, but she's wondrously strong!)  She never forgets to pick up your prescriptions for you and when you are about to run out of insulin in your cartridge, she senses it on the tips of her wings and flies to the fridge to bring you a new one.  She's an expert carbohydrate counter and she knows everything there is to know about diabetes, so you never need to see a clinician again if you don't want to - just ask her!

She lives inside your glucometer and some people think she answers to the name of 'NOT AGAIN!', but she doesn't really.  More often than not, she appears when she hears you say this because she knows it's when you need her most.  Her real name is D-Thanks Fairy and she's called this because she makes you thankful for the important things, like life itself.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

D-Blog Week: Timeline of Diabetes Accomplishments

Most of the major breakthroughs and achievements I've had in my diabetes management have occurred in the last couple of years, which is great for my memory's sake!  My biggest accomplishment, which I wrote a post about a couple of months back, was reversing the diabetic retinopathy I'd been told I'd developed a year before.  It was probably the happiest day of my diabetic journey so far, but now I realise that there have been lots of smaller achievements that led up to that day and the wonderful emotions I felt because of it.

March 2013:  Reversal of diabetic retinopathy

November 2012:  16 year Diaversary! 16 years of being on the diabetes rollercoaster and I'd finally stopped screaming.

October 2012:  HbA1c of 7.7%, down from 10.2% in July 2011

July 2012:  'Diabetic Dais' was featured in an article about good health blogs, in the national magazine 'Take a Break' (read about this here)

March 2012:  I started taking care of my diabetes as well as I could.  I stopped skipping injections completely, started testing my blood sugars before eating and in between mealtimes and vowed to carbohydrate count to the best of my ability.

September 2011:  I moved away from home for the first time to start university.  This meant taking full responsibility for not just my diabetes, but my health and body in general.  Eating right (which starts with remembering to go to the supermarket and buy food!), remembering to put in and pick up prescriptions before running out of insulin and getting in from a student night out in one piece!

August 2011:  My results for my A Levels came in and I achieved higher grades than I required to get into my chosen university.  Considering that I took most of my exams with ridiculously high blood sugars, this was a massive achievement for me.

July 2011:  I took part in the DAFNE course, which my doctors had been trying to get me to participate in for years.  As it turned out, I absolutely loved it and it just happened to be the turning point in how I looked at my diabetes management.  It also provided me with the information and support I needed, as well as introducing me to some wonderful people living with type 1 diabetes too!  (Read about this here)

September 2004:  The amount of insulin injections I was taking increased from 2 to 4 a day, which I hated the thought of at 11 years old, but I realised it was something I had to do.

August 2004:  I went on my first children's diabetes camp with my hospital.  Before this I had never seen another child do an injection or test their blood sugars or go hypo.  Previously I'd only ever done my shots in my legs because I was too scared to do them anywhere else, but I was inspired by what I saw and actually asked my nurse to teach me to do my injections in my tummy whilst I was there. It was one of the most eye opening experiences and I hope I never forget it!

August 1998:  At the age of 5, and a year and a half after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I started administering my insulin independently and doing my injections and blood testing myself.

November 1996:  Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, dealing with it and moving on with my life.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

D-Blog Week: My Memorable Day with Diabetes

Trying to think of my most 'memorable' day with diabetes has proved itself to be a challenge.  I reckon this is probably because when you've lived with it for 16 years, it begins to feel like every day blends into the next.  Diabetes feels like the norm and nothing more than a tedious concoction of highs, lows, prescriptions, appointments, blood tests, injections and so on and so forth.  Still there are times when diabetes surprises me, for the better and otherwise.

A few years ago I went to stay with a friend who lived almost 80 miles away from me.  Things were different then and I was at a stage with my diabetes where I tried to act as though it didn't exist.  I rarely tested my blood sugars (unless I thought I was dying), attempted to delay telling anyone I was diabetic and make up my blood sugars to write in my log book before an appointment with my clinician.  I remember absentmindedly taking an injection on the train, completely guesstimating how much insulin to administer, and not giving my diabetes another thought for the rest of the journey.  In all honesty I probably wouldn't have let it cross my mind for the rest of the weekend, had it not been for what happened that same night.

It was exciting!  I hadn't seen my friend for a couple of months or so and had really been looking forward to it.  We'd had a really nice evening, catching up and spending time.  There had barely been a moment of silence since we'd been reunited, until duty called and my friend nipped to the toilet.  I recall feeling tired and weak all of a sudden, although somehow it felt like I was barely even there at all, and decided to lay down.

The next thing I knew I was in a dream, at least it felt that way.  It was like something pulling me between two states of being and that 'something' was the person frantically rubbing my feet.  They were shouting "Daisy!" and, every now and then, I'd open my eyes a little and I'd catch a glimpse of unfamiliar faces.  I remember obediently sipping the orange juice from the glass that was being held to my lips and chewing jam on toast but forgetting to swallow.

When I came back to the waking world, I was told that I had a hypo which caused me to become unconscious.  My friend had called their grandfather, who just happened to be a type 1 diabetic and a doctor and luckily lived only next door, and he gave me a glucagon shot.  Not only did it put a complete downer on the rest of the weekend, but it was also one of the most terrifying and not to mention embarrassing evenings of my life (being fifteen years old and waking up surrounded by strangers with your socks off and strawberry jam all over your face is not fun!)

It's perhaps a little bit ironic that I don't actually remember the majority of one of my most memorable days with diabetes, but I do know that it changed my attitude towards my diabetes and made me more responsible for it.  That was the first time I have ever become unconscious because of my diabetes and I hope it will be the only time.  I genuinely owe my life to those who helped me that night and it's them I remember.