Reflective Meandering

Thoughts on faith, people, politics, travel, and transition.

What a Day with Diabetes

Holy crap, I never want to take a corticosteroid again!

I have Type 1 Diabetes. I was diagnosed when I was 26 years old. I’ve had family members with diseases, but I never understood their struggles until my diagnosis. There’s something inexplicable about facing an incurable disease, knowing that it’s not a cold that you heal from – you’ll never heal, you’ll never get better.

You think you understand as you watch someone else struggle with a silent incurable disease, but a part of you sometimes wonders if it’s in your loved one’s head, or if he/she is exaggerating for attention, or why they can’t just come to terms with it, at least I did. Then it hit me, and years later I admit that it may be silent, but it’s ever-present, sometimes I do want attention and people to feel sorry for me, most of the time I have come to terms with having to take at least four shots a day, more if I want a snack that has carbs, but there are days, like today, that are just an awful reminder that I’ll never again be the whole carefree person I once was. 

I call it my manufacturer’s defect. 

It drives me crazy when people flippantly refer to getting diabetes because of eating a candy bar. If you know anything about diabetes, you know that they don’t really know what causes Type 1 Diabetes, but they do know, for both types, people are genetically predisposed to it. At any rate, it’s affected my life in pretty significant ways. 

On a normal day, there are only minor adjustments – I don’t leave the house without my glucose meter, I give myself a shot every time I’m going to eat something with carbohydrates in it, I give myself a shot every night before bed (and despite what the docs say, the shots do hurt, and in fact, they often leave quarter sized bruises on my thighs and abdomen), that sort of thing, but there are other adjustments as well.

I don’t think I had as many episodes of the common cold or flu in the first two and a half decades of my life as I’ve had in the years since my diagnosis. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. I am immuno-compromised. It requires a delicate balance to not live life concerned with catching everyone’s colds, and to be vigilant with taking care to avoid exactly that.

I also attribute my excessive sickness of late to an inability to create Vitamin D, also a side-effect of the Diabetes. Since my diagnosis, I’ve been seriously Vitamin D insufficient/deficient, and Vitamin D is important to immune health. I take a supplement, but sometimes I forget. I hate the idea of regimen – having to take the same pill or shot at the same time every day. It almost gives me the feeling of claustrophobia; but, I’d probably stay healthier if I committed to Vitamin D in a more serious, regimented way.

Perhaps if I’d been more serious about taking my Vitamin D and washing my hands and avoiding the sick, and, and, and, I wouldn’t have gotten sick almost three weeks ago, and if I hadn’t gotten sick, it wouldn’t have developed into bronchitis, and if it hadn’t developed into a nasty chest congestion that I just couldn’t kick, I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor and gotten a prescription for a corticosteroid that has knocked my blood glucose levels off the map.

If you’re not aware, for a health adult, your blood glucose (bg) numbers should be between about 75 and 130. I have to correct my bg if it hits 150 or above, which means I have to take a shot. When I first started taking the corticosteroid for bronchitis, my bg hit above 300. Crazy!

Now, high bg isn’t just a number. BG levels impact everything! Too high and you feel hot, lethargic, irritable, and so on, not to mention the long-term effects of high blood glucose levels. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about you haven’t see a billboard or heard a radio ad about needing amputation because of diabetes?!?) If bg is too low, I become mentally foggy, cannot concentrate, become physically shaky, and risk coma. Balancing bg is very important!

So, after about 4-5 days of not being able to get my numbers down, I stopped taking the steroid. I’d been told it would have an effect, but I didn’t realize the seriousness of that effect. I stopped taking the steroid 4 days ago, but the high bg levels remained. Today, at lunch, I overcorrected and my bg fell to 54.

Again, blood glucose numbers are not just numbers. Your bg affects everything! 

I rushed to get a yogurt to pull my numbers back up, but that takes time, and you have to be careful not to overcorrect in the other direction. Balancing the highs and lows of diabetes is thus, emotionally and mentally taxing. I humbled myself and e-mailed a couple of co-workers and asked them to pray for me. My God provides a peace that passes understanding and I left work for additional test strips. I’d run out with so much additional monitoring. 

At any rate, I guess the point is, if you have diabetes, remember that you’re not alone in your struggle, I’m with you.  Remember to avoid corticosteroids at all costs when possible. Remember that this manufacturer’s defect is temporary – one day you’ll have a glorified body. Be thankful for the reminder that this world is not your home (if you’re a Christian). 

For those who know someone with Diabetes, be patient, be supportive, and be ready to provide hugs at the end of days that are emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing on your friend or loved one with Diabetes.


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