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Diabetically Speaking

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October 2011

Fortune of Fate

The other day I had a hankering for Chinese take out. Sure, it might not be the healthiest food of all the choices out there, but sometimes you just have to indulge. For the record, I did make three meals out of my dinner order, so at least there is that.

The wonderful thing about Chinese food is that, after you are done, you get to fumble around in the butcher quality brown paper bag that the food arrived in, contorting yourself just so in order to avoid the mangled construction grade staples threatening to open up your house fried rice infused arteries, and find the most magical and sage of all desserts: The fortune cookie.

I like it when my fortune cookie tells me something gratifying, like “We’re renaming soy sauce to awesomesauce in your honor” or “You put the POW in kung pao chicken.”

Sometimes though, my fortune is a real miss…

Fortune cookie - Depart not from the path which fate has you assigned.
Normally when I get a bogus fortune, I just shrug it off and throw it away and don’t think about it. After all, not every fortune cookie is created equal. This one, however, was discovered to be filled with commentary.

The notion that life is on rails, and that the future is set in stone, has never sat well with me. My science mind refuses to accept that all of our paths, as complex and unique as we are, are pre-planned.

Take diabetes for example. As I sit here writing this, there is absolutely no way of knowing what my blood sugar is going to be with certainty at this same time tomorrow. I can guess, and due to my repetitive behaviors when it comes to living with my diabetes, I can make an educated prediction, but that isn’t fate. Fate would say that tomorrow, at exactly 10:07 a.m., I am going to have a low blood sugar and require someone to fling jelly beans in my general direction as if they were feeding an animal at the petting zoo. Fate would say that I am on a path toward that silly spectacle of a low, and the best I can hope for is that the jelly beans are buttered popcorn or watermelon flavored, which is much more desirable than the mothball or earwax Jelly Belly recipes.

The flip side of that coin is that maybe my fate IS to depart from the path that I have been assigned. Maybe the new path is indeed my fate, and the other path was just a ploy to make me think that it was what I was supposed to be doing. Maybe by writing this blog post, I avoid the 10:07 a.m. low and allay my fears of biting into a vomit flavored Jelly Belly in order to survive a sneaky low. If you think about it too hard, you end up flopping around in the floor with a perfect blood sugar and your brain all twisted into the shape of a plate of lo mein.

I guess what the egg drop soup boils down to is that the only fate we have is what we make of the decisions we encounter today. We use our best judgement to make the best decisions that we can, and then we react to the outcomes as they may be. Nothing is guaranteed, good or bad, and nothing is written in stone.

How we are doing with our diabetes today does not in any way dictate our tomorrow. Our choices determine our fate, not the other way around.

Mt. Pwned

Last Saturday was a beautiful day off and a beautiful day outside. After sleeping in a bit, I decided to go for a bike ride. I checked my blood sugar, everything was fine, so I dawned the bike gear, grabbed my road bike and took to the streets. I felt good, and was excited about the ride: Just me, the bike, and the road.

I made it 2.6 miles into the ride and was climbing a steep hill with gusto when I bonked, a term commonly used in cycling or exercise when your body stalls and you just can’t go anymore. I’ve hit that wall before while on long rides, but never less than three miles into a ride.

My heart rate spiked. I couldn’t breathe. I had no power in my legs. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was seeing spots. There was no choice in the matter, I couldn’t even make it to the top of the hill. I had to stop before I blacked out.

I coasted into a driveway, unlocked my cleats from the pedals, and put my feet down. What was happening to me? Was I low? How could I be low after I just checked only a few minutes ago? I laid my bike down, then proceeded to spew what little bit of water that was in my stomach onto someone’s well-manicured lawn. Fortunately, north Florida has had an extremely hot and dry summer, so those nice folks that lived in that house probably didn’t mind the extra water. After I caught my breath enough, I grabbed my phone out of my back jersey pocket and called A-Flizzle to come and get me and my trusty steed.

That. Never. Happens. And to be honest, it scared the spandex out of me. It was probably the worst bike ride I’ve had since I started cycling six years ago, and I’m still not sure what went so wrong. My blood sugar was fine. Maybe I simply got sick. Maybe I didn’t eat enough before the ride. Maybe I’m more out of shape than I thought, even though I’ve done plenty of spin classes and I did a 24 mile road ride less than a month ago. Maybe my extra weight that has been mentally plaguing me has become a physical problem. Maybe I just took the climb too hard and had an adrenaline overload. Maybe I have no clue.

I do know that I’m setting a new rule, effective immediately, to move around for at least 30 minutes every day. If I can do more, like a spin class or a couple hours in the gym, fantastic! But if I’m busy, and I can do nothing else, at least I’ll have that 30 minutes, even if it is just going for a walk. Surely I can find at least 30 minutes to spare.

It’s already cold here in north Florida (or “cold” as all of you in areas that actually see snow would call it), and I hate being cold. What better way to warm up than moving around? I’m declaring this Winter training season. I have to find a way to make moving around a priority, every single day. Mornings and me do not get along at all, but if that means I have to start waking up early to go to the gym before work, so be it. Or if I have to go late at night (which is more likely), so be it. If I don’t make it a priority, then it will never become one. Plus it’s warm in the gym, so there’s that.

That hill scared me, but fear is not a motivator. Now that hill is taunting me, teasing me, begging me to get back on the bike so it can try to beat me again. I’ve got news for it though. It won’t be long before I stamp my name all over that mountain, and declare it Mt. Pwned.

Mt Pwned

Don’t Be Evil

Sometimes life has a way of showing you that there are things that you need to work on. I’ve got plenty of examples lately that have left me running a gamut of emotions. (See also: Blog post theme for the week.)

One such example that spurs a looming sense of overwhelm is my work email Inbox. At the end of the day on Friday I had 496 unread emails. 496! How am I supposed to do my job effectively when I have more emails coming in than I can read and take care of and respond to? Plus, I just assumed an additional ton of responsibility, a new project, and another staff member to supervise. How in the world am I ever going to keep up with it all? My answer: Post-Its.

I love Post-It notes. All shapes, all colors, lines, no lines, doesn’t matter to me. I color my world with them. Well, that and glucose tabs. My favorites are the original square Post-Its. Like Chuck Taylor All Star’s and golf carts with the word “Prius” spray painted across the front, nothing beats the original.

I’ve set a new rule to write down everything that I want to get done for the week on a single Post-It. Mostly work-related stuff, with the occasional “order insulin” or “pay Medtronic again” thrown in for good measure. Once that note is full, I’m not going to fret over anything else getting done until I’ve crossed off everything on that list. If I can get everything on that one Post-It done, then my hope is that it will help me to stay focused and make progress, while also helping me to reduce the other “ess”…stress.

Inspired by Mike (What Some Would Call Lies) and Karen (Bitter~Sweet), there is also something else involving Post-Its that I want to start doing: Monday Mantras. I’ve started looking forward to seeing what Mike and Karen are going to post each week, and I think it really sets the tone for the week. Which is to say if you see me post a Monday Mantra that says, “Don’t strangle anyone,” it would probably be a good idea to tell me how fantastic my hair looks that day, or some other pointless nicety. You know, just in case.

So without further ado…

Mirror Mantra - 10-17-2011

Bringing Science Home

Lately, I’ve been zig-zagging all over the place. One such zig-zag took me to the 1-year anniversary celebration of Bringing Science Home, a joint effort between USF Health and The Patterson Foundation that aims to revolutionize what it means to live well with chronic disease and invisible illness.

Bringing Science Home’s Mission Statement
“To empower people touched by chronic disease to live optimistically and to create a new model for chronic disease education.”

I get to sit through a lot of health and medical presentations, and I get exposed to all sorts of ideas about how to treat patients, and the roles that health professionals play in educating people with chronic illnesses. Sometimes I am moved by what I hear so much that I have to fight the urge to stand up in a chair and applaud; other times I am moved in the opposite direction, and I have to fight the urge to jump up and interrupt the folks who are doing the talking and dole out a bit of education myself.

I can really get behind what Bringing Science Home is doing. Finally, there is a group that is getting organized and making efforts to bridge the gaps in areas of life with chronic illness that our current systems too often neglect.

Imagine you are a young adult in today’s world. You have just graduated high school, and are off to college to pursue the dreams of higher education. The world is your oyster! You get to set your own class schedule now, pursue your own interests, meet new people, join clubs and organizations, go to parties, stay up all night cramming for that big test you have tomorrow, maybe find a job, meet someone that fancies you and start a relationship. The sky is the limit!

If you have diabetes, you also have to make sure that you are doing what you need to do on that front as well, so that you are able to have all of the adventures of a college education. Before, when you were at home, it might have been easier. Your parents may have taken care of making sure you have insulin, diabetes supplies, test strips, and regular visits to your diabetes doctor, eye doctor, dentist, etc. They also probably helped a lot with making sure that you had the proper foods to eat, and that there was always a juice box or something nearby to treat a low blood sugar. Life in college is different: It’s all on you now.

Add those two together, and it is A LOT for a young adult to have to deal with. Keeping up with all of the diabetes stuff, plus all of the college stuff, it’s no wonder that most people with diabetes in college find that their control starts to slip. Enter Students With Diabetes, a group of people whose aim is to create a community and connection point for students with diabetes on college campuses. That’s right, “campuses.” Plural. This is not an initiative restricted to just the University of South Florida where Bringing Science Home lives. At publication of this blog post, Students With Diabetes is on 28 college campuses across the nation, and growing!

How amazing to be able to meet other people, with diabetes, who are going through this incredible transition and learning experience, and not feel like we have to hide our condition! Typically, we learn to hide and suppress our own needs so that we better fit in, whether we’re in college or just in normal day-to-day life. Being shown through our interactions with others that we don’t HAVE to hide is really what living well with diabetes is all about.

Bringing Science Home is heavily focused on life with diabetes, but it is even more about helping people of all ages and with all chronic illnesses get the help and support that they need to thrive. Whether you are Students With Asthma, Students With Diabetes, or at another life stage or have another chronic illness that doesn’t get the support it deserves, I am so very encourage by what Bringing Science Home is doing, and am confident that efforts like this are the future of living well.

Bringing Science Home 1-Year Anniversary
Me and Nicole Johnson, Executive Director of Bringing Science Home

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