I shoulda known some drama was coming. After all, my fluctuating blood sugars have been on my mind these days on the road, as evidenced by the post below.
So here it was yesterday another beautiful morning in Sydney and I took my first plunge in the pool: 30 laps - mind you they're mini laps given the size of the pool. Yet apparently I experienced a delayed low, or a stacking problem taking two many mini injections back to back. At one point when I thought I was dropping, I grabbed a piece of a fruit scone only to discover, no, I was going up! So, I dosed another unit of apidra which two hours later had me breathing shallowly and testing to discover my blood sugar was 36!
The husband jumped into sound panic mode. I said, "Go downstairs and bring me a glass of juice. I'll be O.K." (or so I hoped). Moments later the juice arrived, the husband was playing watchful nurse and according to the 'The Rule of 15 '(15 grams of fast-acting carb and test in 15 minutes for a low) 15 minutes after downing the juice I was a splendid 82, and 15 minutes later a stable 119. And so today it's ferrying into the city, meeting friends for lunch, testing, calculating, and so it goes, and goes and goes............
It had to happen. Three weeks on the road, or more apt, in the mountains of Queenstown, New Zealand and the harbor of Sydney, my lack of being able to control my blood sugar as well as I'd like is driving me mad. Translation: being out of my routine, not taking my daily hour walk due to San Francisco-like hills, and finding constant surprises at lunch like a chicken and avocado sandwich that comes on doubly thick slabs of sourdough bread with mayo or a thimble-full of quiche that comes in a carb-laden pastry shell is wearing me down.
Then foolish me, I underpacked my Lantus SoloStar insulin pen needles. I had several sample packs of "click-on" needles and misread the 8 mm size as 8 needles in a pack. Unfortunately I have discovered there are only 3 needles in a pack. So now I have five more needles to get me through 20 more days on the road. Now, tis true, I don't change the needle every single day, but every two to three days and this won't get me through. Luckily, I have experimented and I if I stick a syringe in the rubber stopper of the SoloStar as far as it will go, I can withdraw the Lantus as if from a vial.
I just said to my husband, "I'd like to be home now for one day." He looked at me as though I were mad, here in the midst of white sandy beaches and honeysuckle. But I'd like to watch the morning news, sit at my computer, poke my nose into my neighborhood shops, and with that put on my sneakers for my walk around the park and reach into my refrigerator and cupboard for my usual foods. I don't really think I'm yearning for snow and frigid temperatures but the comfort that my routine gives me managing my blood sugar. While my crankiness will lift, right now as the Brits would say, diabetes is just "a little up my arse" after 17 days on the road.
I can't complain about a vacation that's taking me from Queenstown, New Zealand, to Sydney, where we are now, to Singapore, Tokyo and San Francisco before I arrive home. Yet one thing that's tough, beside the jet lag and time zone changes and more frequent blood sugar testing, is eating almost all your meals at restaurants where you can't control your food, let alone half the time knowing what it is--well that will come in Singapore.
Then real life comes flying in to the idyllic lull. Just today a friend back home sent me this article from the New York Times about how low GI foods (non-starchy, non-sweet foods that raise blood sugar less and more slowly) are better for diabetics than the highly touted whole grain diet. In other words, your blood sugar will rise less and more gradually if you trade in your whole grain bread for nuts, beans and certain high-fiber crackers.
I've known this for quite some time having tested my blood sugar about a zillion times to see my reaction to different foods. So, for me, every day (when I'm not traveling around the world) begins with slow-cooking steel cut oatmeal, to which I add ground flax seeds, cinnamon, low fat yogurt and peanut butter. If I eat bread or ordinary cereal my blood sugar goes off the charts.
Luckily here in Sydney we're staying with friends so I've stocked the larder with my healthy foods and gotten the expected grimace when I offer to share my yogurt and peanut butter combo. I still don't know why Danon hasn't produced such a flavor but no one seems to share my enthusiasm for it. So yesterday my day began with my usual oatmeal and then I had a salad with toasted almonds some raw broccoli, a few slices of ham and a spoonful of hummous for lunch and most nights here it's fish and greens, since my friends are healthy eaters too, and there's nothing Bruce can't sear on the Barbie and make delicious. Of course, Singapore and Tokyo will prove to be problematic again because most dishes are rice-based. And so I will need to stick to grilled meats, miso soup and sashimi. God knows when I first lived in Tokyo 20 years ago the rice was always my menace.
But, back to Sydney. Soon we're off to the ferry for a 15 minute ride over to the city to buy some Christmas gifts. Still having a little trouble reconciling Christmas carols with bright sunshine and 80 F temps. Guess I'll just have to force myself to get used to it.
Two stories to wrap up New Zealand as our stay here has ended and we're on to Sydney.
1. The wool story: After days of walking in and out of shops that sell fine Merino wool, a native staple, I was in yet another shop eyeing these beautiful sweaters, gloves and hats with envy for, alas, I am allergic to one thing in the world-- wool. Yet, I could not help admiring these products' beauty. And so I said, plaintively, to the saleswoman, "It's funny, I feel like a diabetic in a candy store, I am surrounded by these beautiful wool products and I am allergic to wool." She looked at me curiously and said, "Really, diabetics are allergic to wool?" Of course that was not at all how I meant it. When I recounted this story to the husband, we laughed and agreed I now had a new myth for the sequel to my soon-to-be-published 50 Diabetes Myths book, "Diabetics can't wear wool."
2. The unexpected encounter: Midway during our stay in Queenstown we switched from a business hotel to a Bed and Breakfast. Over breakfast our first day I heard an American accent. Steve from Rochester, Minnesota was sharing how his rental cell phone went off at 5 A. M. that morning and it was a wrong number! That's all the ice breaker I needed to begin the usual, "Where are you from?" "How long will you be in NZ?" As the conversation wound down from sightseeing, politics and the global economic meltdown, I mention that I just finished writing a book on diabetes myths. Steve's wife's face, Julie, lights up. She tells us that she has type 2 diabetes. Well, that is not all that surprising for a middle aged, slightly overweight American woman, but what is surprising, and stirs an engaging conversation, is that she is working with the famed Mayo Clinic as part of a research focus group on behavioral methods for helping patients manage their diabetes.
She begins to talk about what I have learned through the more than 100 patients I've interviewed: you need to understand the context of patients' lives to help them change behavior. She recants a wonderful story of one elderly patient who tells his doctor that he wants to be put on Byetta. His doctor who would never have thought this man would chose an injectible drug (and so wouldn't have offered it), asks his patient why he wants Byetta. His patient tells him he is soon going into an assisted living home and he wants to lose a few pounds because he hears there are a lot of available women there! [Byetta helps most patients lose weight as well as control their blood sugar.] We laughed, and we understood what few doctors do: all our choices are embedded in the context of our lives.
Julie shares about herself that after being in denial for some time after her diagnosis, she took some diabetes classes and lost weight and significantly lowered her A1c. My husband asks what her A1c is and she lights up again and tells us, "5.7!" The husband says, "You must be very proud" whereupon Julie says with both elation and sadness, "Yes, I am and I want to tell people but who would understand?!" My belief that you can experience pride because of how you live with diabetes and it can motivate you to continue to do well is confirmed, and the husband whisks upstairs and returns with two of my books, The ABCs of Loving Yourself with Diabetes, in hand for Julie. We witness a smile quickly spread across her face as she skims through the book and she volunteers that as soon as she's home one of these books will be at the Mayo clinic. It is like an angel named Julie has sat at my breakfast table in Queenstown.
I keep saying (to anyone who will listen) the universe is continually supporting my work by throwing gems at my feet, but that morning it was Steve who said, "This is so amazing. We weren't intending to stay here but our travel agent "stuck" us here for three days, and look what's happened."
I agree Steve. And so we fly out of Queenstown taking with us the beautiful scenery, rich new memories and new bonds that were woven that morning.
Well, here I am in Lord of the Rings country -- Queenstown, New Zealand to be exact, where much of the scenic movie was shot. Exceedingly nice to be here if you don't count the 24 hours in the air and five hours on the ground it took to arrive. This is a working vacation: time to play, sightsee, visit friends as the husband and I go from here to Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo and San Francisco, and I'll be meeting up with some folks at JDRF and Diabetes Australia and possibly do a presentation at a hospital in Singapore.
The first picture posted here is from the wharf on our first rainy day. The second, exhibits something that took me by complete surprise on my Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, NZ. A compartment in the bathroom where you can dispose of your needles. I have never seen this before, and I've been around, on airplanes, I mean.
I was intrigued--is it for diabetics? Anyone with a medical condition? Drug addicts? I asked the stewardess while deplaning. She looked at me quizzically, her facial features almost saying, "What accusation are you making asking what our disposable needle bin is for?" Was it my New York accent? As I read her face, I geared up to offer just how much I enjoyed seeing the bin because I have diabetes, but before I uttered a word, she said, "diabetes," and then I told her I have it. She warmed immediately. I told her I'd never seen such a bin on any other airline whereupon she told me it's standard on all Qantas flights, imagine that! What also happened seeing this bin was an internal shift: I felt free, as though I just stopped holding my breath, not even knowing I had been holding it for the past thirty years. I felt acknowledged and accepted, as if I'd just been picked for the volleyball team and everyone was cheering. I could come out of the closet now, at least out of this bathroom, without fear of judgment; it was an immediate, rich, sensory feeling.
I have another tidbit to offer re: flying and adjusting your insulin to cover time zone changes, which I am really typically horrible at. I read about this tactic before leaving home and it worked in this instance. Since once I landed in Auckland it would be four hours past my usual once daily morning Lantus injection, which I take around 7:30 AM in NYC, I took 1/4 of the amount I normally do when it hit 7:30 AM NYC time (my watch still being on NYC time during the flight.) Once we landed in Auckland it coincidentally was early morning and then I took my full amount of Lantus getting right on local time for my injections. It worked like a charm! But that's all I can offer because I always struggle with how to dose for different time zones. My usual methodology is just test every few hours and catch up with correction doses until I'm about into the third day of travel.
As I sign off this morning surrounded outside my hotel window by majestic peaks, luckily today the sun is shining over them--I am in the same room number as my street address. The husband thought this was remarkable ingenuity on the part of the hotel, to match guests to rooms that replicate their address. I, of course, thought that would be nearly impossible. When we asked at reception, the concierge told us it was a very inventive idea but no it was not something they do. So, since it's kismet, I'm taking it as a very good sign for the rest of our travels which I will post as we proceed.
I said I would and I did. Today I wrote a check to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation (DRI) for $500. DRI is the premiere Institute looking for a cure for diabetes, and half of my donation comes from the sale of my book, The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes-- in other words, from you. Thank you.
The other news is that I will be on a working vacation over the next five weeks, 'til January 18th. I will continue to post, although at this moment still have to figure out exactly how to do that from New Zealand and Japan! Just to say, posts may be a bit more irregular, you can't always predict when a herd of sheep may be passing or a friendly native insists you join him at the pub or the local sento.
Here's to a very happy holiday and that we all swing into the new year in good health and good cheer.
It just amazes me. This very afternoon, not three hours and 46 minutes ago I turned in my manuscript for the book I've been writing this year--and it's already posted on Amazon! Did you miss that? Already posted on Amazon--with a publication date of July, 2009. What can I say. Sometimes the world goes just a bit too fast for me.
I finished my book this afternoon writing a Postscript at the very end that I could only write after reading through the 300 pages I've scribed with a clear, objective and fresh editor's eye. I'll share part of it with you here:
"As I look back over writing this book: talking with top diabetes experts, conducting my research and having so many fellow patients share with me their personal story, I have learned two things. The first is that having correct information and practical knowledge is a prerequisite for living a healthy life with diabetes. The second is that you have to believe it’s worth the effort to take good care of yourself, and your diabetes, to have that life: one that’s not only healthy, but happy, productive, fluid and fulfilling.
While it takes a bit of work, when you become the “expert” on your life, and your diabetes, you win the prize—the ability to live a more simple and ordinary life, just like anyone else."That is the prize, I have realized, to live a simple life and enjoy all its pleasures without always feeling like you're carrying a monkey on your back.
So, look for 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life: And the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It next summer. I do believe it will be a break away hit, maybe not a summer beach read, but surely one of the best books out there to separate fact from fiction and appeal to your curiosity. And besides, it's chock full of stories from fellow patients, including me.
If you've rambled around this site a bit and read some of my posts you know my work aims to help you look for whatever good you can in having diabetes, since after all, you have it. And let the bad roll over you as best you can. And, to push the envelope so far that you create an exceptional life, not despite having diabetes, but because of it. Granted, that's easier said than done, and you have to be in the right place in your life and your head, and there will be days you'll feel, "yea, I got it, whoo hoo, and days you'll think, "I can't bear another moment of this, another fxxckin' high blood sugar, another low, another muffin calculation....! Well, you get the point. Still, I believe, looking for the good in life is a more worthwhile way to live.
So it struck me while reading Amy Tenderich's blog, DiabetesMine, last week, that while Amy focuses as an experienced journalist on sharing what's going on in diabetes research, technology and pharmaceuticals, and I know she has a whip-smart cynical sense of humor, that at the end of one of her posts she wrote, “Living well and being happy with diabetes is a delicate construct that is tested every day with fluctuating BGs, imposing tasks, and endless responsibility… Better to appreciate the life I’m living than pine for the one I can’t have.”
I can hardly put it better myself. Each one of us confronts the challenge of diabetes on a daily basis and how you respond to it, as how you respond to anything in life, is what creates the quality of your life. If you're doing really well with this, or really poorly, I'd love to hear from you.
While in Burlington Airport a few weeks ago I saw a man feeding himself through a tube he was holding in mid air connected to his chest...and you're embarrassed to take a shot or test your blood sugar in public? Get over yourself!
Scroll back: Last month I delivered three diabetes presentations, the last one in Randolph, Vermont, a sleepy little hamlet 60 miles from Burlington where more than 70 people came for the hospital's Diabetes Day. I was the key-note speaker.
I love addressing patients no matter where in the country--one minute I am a stranger and one hour later I am a “best friend” and “confidant” for their diabetes-life issues. I relish the momentary bond and treasure the invested trust.
But this is only in part a story about "we" diabetics. Leaving Burlington, I was socked into the airport for a three and a half hour delay due to fog and planes backed up at LaGuardia airport. I read a little, paced a little and finally on my way to board, I passed a gentleman, about 40 years old, who with his flannel shirt fully unbuttoned and his chest fully exposed, was feeding himself through a six inch tube entering his chest and curving upward in mid air. The tube had a funnel like opening into which he was pouring a liquid.
I had two reactions. The first was, wow, look at that, I’ve never seen that before. The second was, wow, he has no embarrassment about doing this and exposing himself in this way. He is not leaning over a toilet in a dimly lit bathroom stall, he is completely out in the open managing a necessary part of his condition.
This made me think about all the people who hide their diabetes care. Do you take an injection covertly or skulk off to the restroom to do it where you can barely see? Do you not test your blood sugar while out because you’re embarrassed if someone sees you? Do you harbor feelings of shame, guilt, or worry for other’s comfort based on your behaviors managing your diabetes?
No one was gathered around this man, no one stopped to gawk and there were no huddled groups whispering about what he was doing. I dare say most people didn’t even notice. It may be hard to admit, but the truth about most of us is we're so absorbed with ourselves that we don't notice much what others are doing unless our attention is called there.
One reason to come out of the dark managing your diabetes is you'll do the things you should be doing more often and more frequently, like taking your meds and testing more, which will give you better control. Also, the burden you shoulder may not feel quite so heavy when it hits the light. The second reason is to educate the general public so diabetes gets the funding it needs and you get the respect you deserve. How’s anyone going to understand that diabetes is not a "piece of cake," yes pun fully intended, or just a matter of avoiding sweets unless they see what we deal with?
If you didn’t contribute last month during "Diabetes Month" to making someone more aware of diabetes, take your management out of the closet and into the restaurant, library, airport and school so others can understand what diabetes truly is and what your life is like managing it. Please note, I don't mean you should be an exhibitionist or not respect the environment you're in. I don't hesitate to do what I need to do in front of friends, but I'm more discreet for instance in a business setting where such behavior is not the norm.
The long and short of it is if anyone notices what you're doing at all, I'll just bet they’re more likely to be surprised, sympathetic and supportive, as my dining companion Paul was above, than judgmental and irritated, and with that we all win.