Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When Rights Collide

I talk a lot about rights at work. What rights people have. What rights they think they have but they really don't - no matter how much they might want them. And how to advocate for those rights. The biggest challenge with teaching rights seems to be those grey areas when my rights infringe on someone else's rights and how we know whose rights trump whose.

A conversation at work yesterday got me thinking about rights when it comes to diabetes.  We were talking about a situation that happened outside of work and chatting about how the rights of a person with diabetes have equal (not more or less) weight than the rights of those around them.

Case in point:

I strongly believe in not hiding the fact that I have diabetes. My pump is visible most of the time. I tell people I have diabetes. I blog about having diabetes. I check my blood sugar in public.

I don't personally feel that any of these things are a big deal. And I am perfectly confident in saying that I have the right to do all of those things.

Let's explore a little deeper.

I check my blood sugar in public. By that I mean that I don't go off to the washroom to check it where no one can see me. I don't wait to get home to do it. I don't go to my car to do it. Instead, I usually open my glucometer, plop it on my lap, prick my finger, test, lick off any remaining blood from my finger, put kit away, move on with my day.

Does anyone have a problem with any of these steps?

What if I were to change some of them a little.

What if, instead of putting the glucometer on my lap, I put it on the table?

What it I plopped it on the table and pricked my finger during a staff meeting, with people sitting on either side of me?

What if I did this while they were eating lunch?

What if I wiped my finger on the underside of the chair rather than lick it off? Or on a stark white napkin?

I have no doubt about my right to check my blood sugar in public.

But what about a colleague's right to have their lunch without having to watch me draw blood? What about the fact that my droplet of blood, which seems so innocent and familiar to me, is technically a biohazard for everyone around me?

I could easily argue that people have the right to eat in a safe environment free of biohazardous materials. And I could also argue that I have the right to check my blood sugar in public.

But in a simple example like this one, whose rights trump whose?

I could get all uppity about it and insist the I have the right to test right there on the table and that no one can stop me. I could insist on doing it in a place where everyone has no choice but to see what I'm doing - blood and needle squeamishness be damned. I could insist on doing it right beside people having their lunches.

I could do all of those things but I don't actually do any of them. I don't do them because I want my diabetes to be part of the daily routine at work without making it more than it is. Everyone knows I have diabetes - there is no need to rub it in their faces.

I know my solution. I came up with it years ago without any real conscious thought. I always put my glucometer on my lap. People may know what I'm doing but no one else see it. No one see the finger prick. No one sees the blood droplet. And no one sees the number flash on the screen either. My own little nod to the right to privacy.

I have the right to test in public. I have the right to privacy re the number that shows up on the screen.

My colleagues have the right to eat their lunches without seeing blood.

Fair is fair.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Me Too!

"We read to know we are not alone."

C.S. Lewis said that.

I first heard it in the movie Shadowlands and I remember thinking that it was a very powerful line.

I think we do a lot of things to know we are not alone.

We check Facebook more than we really need to.

We blog. We read blogs. We take pictures. We share silly videos. We buy the latest pair of boots that everyone else suddenly seem to be wearing. We read Fifty Shades of Grey (whether we liked it or not) so that we too could be part of the conversation.

Last night I met up with a few people in Cambridge. I didn't know any of them and I felt bad because they had to put up with my coughing all through dinner. They are all involved, either as speakers or as organizers, in an event this coming November for women with Type 1 diabetes.

I have been asked to speak at this event. Last night we got together to talk about what the day would look like and what each of us would speak about.

Before I went, I asked Doug what he thought I should offer to talk about during my presentation. He had some pretty powerful suggestions.

Talk about how exercise and diabetes is really hard but that it's worth the effort. The dangers of a low during a run far outweigh the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Talk about how living with diabetes is scary and how to use that fear to give you courage to do other things. To try other things. To say yes to things that scare you.

Talk about how people with diabetes just want to feel less alone. How they want to feel like everyone else. Talk about how people are often worried about using devices like insulin pumps even though those devices can make it easier to care for your health. Talk about how they are worried because they think they will be 'less sexy' if they wear a pump. Talk about how they worry about telling a new partner about their diabetes when they are starting a new relationship. Talk about the diabetes online community and how it helps to make you feel less alone.

The diabetes online community is like a big huge chorus of strangers singing 'me too!'. A chorus of people whose daily adventures and frustrations can instantly make me feel like I am not alone.

I read blogs to know I am not alone.

I speak to others about diabetes to know I am not alone and to show others they are not alone.

I wear my pump on my belt to show others they are not alone.

I want to add my voice to the big huge choir of people singing 'me too'.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Slow Road to Recovery

I feel like I'm heading into the confessional.

Dear friends,

It has been 11 days since my last CoreFit class.

It has also been 11 days since my last run - unless you want to count the 3k one I tried on Saturday morning.

It has been 10 days since I first started feeling a cold coming on.

As you might guess, I have not dipped one single toe into the pool.

If this continues much longer I'm going to start growing moss.

The worst diabetes day I have ever had didn't sideline me for more than a few hours. A day at the most.

Not 11 days.

Being real people sick sucks.

One positive thing is that I had decided not to run the Niagara Falls half marathon before I got sick. If I hadn't decided not to run, I would have been forced to decide not to run. That's never a fun position to be in. But the fact that I could not have done a long run last weekend or the weekend before would have forced me out of the running.

My goal for this week is to get better. To stop coughing incessantly all day and all night. To find some of my energy. To sleep through the night again.

I need to start moving again. My body does not like a sedentary lifestyle. One look at my insulin usage can tell you that. On a regular day, in a regular week, I use about 40 units of insulin. For the past 10 days, I have eaten less than I normally eat and yet averaged 51 units of insulin per day. It feels like all I have been doing is chasing highs.

I want to be able to try an easy half hour run on Tuesday. I want to be able to go to CoreFit on Thursday night. I want to be able to swim by next week.

Right now, none of those things are a good idea based on how aggressive my cough still is.

So I'm doing what I can to heal and waiting impatiently for the coughing gods to find someone else to annoy for a while.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Things That Stick in my Mind

One week ago today I was developing a cold but I didn't really know it yet. I guessed if I paid really close attention to the signs I might have noticed but I was still happily oblivious of what was coming 'round the corner.

One week later, I'm better. Not yet raring to go 100% but probably close to 80%.

Seven days.

Every time I get a cold, and I mean every single time, I am reminded of a line from the book Flowers in the Attic. Anyone remember that twisted story? Well, the evil grandmother who had the kids locked in the attic said that colds last nine days. Three days to develop, three days with full on symptoms and three to recover. She said this when the youngest boy got a cold. She was wrong in his case as it took him about 19 days to recover but he had been locked in an attic for several years so it goes without saying that his vitamin C and D levels may have been a bit down.

She was one evil woman but she did know a bit about colds. My colds, be they mild or be they nasty, usually take just over a week to run their course. So thank you V.C. Andrews for validating my recovery patterns.

I remember watching the Bourne Identity and Bourne talking about how he had memorized the license plates of all the cars in the parking lot, that he knew all the exits in the building and that he could describe everyone in the restaurant. My observation skills are nowhere near that highly developed but every time I'm somewhere that is even remotely uncomfortable I hear his voice saying that. And I pay attention to where the exits are, make sure I look at everyone in the room (in case I need to be hypnotized later because that happens in real life right) and try to memorize at least one license plate (mostly to see if I can remember it rather than to solve a crime).

Crazy lady who locks her grandkids in the attic taught me to be patient when recovering from a cold. Bourne taught me to slow down and take notice of my surroundings - especially when something doesn't feel quite right.

Claire, my favourite heroine from the Outlander books has a great line that she says when she's in a stressful situation. Actually she has a few great lines that she says such as "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ" and "Bloody Fucking Hell" but she also mumbles "Get a grip Beauchamp" under her breath in moments that require concentration and problem-solving skills under tense circumstances. Claire's voice pops in my head when I am feeling overwhelmed with phone calls and paperwork and demands. Get a grip CĂ©line is all I need to say in order to stop, breathe a few deep breaths and go from frazzled to focused.

Finally, there is the famous Canadian author Margaret Atwood. She has enough brilliant lines to fill a library but there is one she said once that is forever carved into my mind. She was talking about being the youngest daughter in a family of pretty impressive parents and siblings. She said that it took her a while to realize that 'the youngest in a family of dragons is still a dragon from the point of view of those who find dragons alarming'.

There are things about that line that I really like and things that I really don't. But, at the end of the day, I come back to it often and it reminds me that I am who I am because of the family of dragons I was born into and raised alongside. Those who find dragons alarming may be uncomfortable with some or many of the things that I stand for but I am quite proud to belong to my flight of dragons.

Crazy lady, Bourne, Claire and Margaret - thank you for the little things you say and do that stick with me through the years. You four have helped shape me into who I am today - for better or for worse.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dexaversary

I have been hooked up to a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) since late November 2013. November 26th if I remember correctly but I could be off by a day or two. 

Since the day I first started using Dexter, I have not been without him. Not for one day. The only time I don't have a steady stream of blood sugar data coming my way is when I have to insert a new sensor, or restart a zombie one, and must wait the two-hour start up time. Other than that, I am hooked up all day every day and receive blood glucose updates every 5 minutes. 

The difference that Dexter has made in my life is pretty significant. From giving me peace of mind to letting me track patterns to helping me fix problems before they start, Dexter is probably the most important tool in my diabetes arsenal. 

When I first received my CGM supplies in the mail, I was given a box of sensors and a transmitter. The sensors get replaced every 1-2 weeks, depending on how long I can stretch them out. The transmitter, I was told, would last anywhere from 6 to 9 months. Once it died, I would have to order a new one. 

I revved my first transmitter up on November 26th, 2013 and figured I was good to go until at least the end of May 2014. After that, who knew what would happen. 

The transmitter did a fine job until the 6-month mark and then kept humming along beautifully through June, July and August. We were now past the 9-month mark and fully into unknown territory. 

In August, I ordered a back up transmitter. I felt like I was now on borrowed time and I did not want the old one to kick the bucket on a Friday afternoon, leaving me hanging until the following Monday. 

When the new transmitter arrived it was tucked away in the diabetes cupboard for the rest of August, all of September and half of October. 

On Monday morning of this week, I was woken up by a vibrating pump. When I reached over to check whether I was high or low, I discovered a new message on the screen: 'CGM transmitter battery low, replace immediately'. 

No advanced warning. No two-week heads up. Just a vibration telling me that Dexter was running on fumes. 

After my shower I padded downstairs, pulled out the next transmitter, entered the serial number into Rose and revved it up. Two hours later I was back in the game again. 

I love my Dexcom. It works well 90% of the time and all of its parts last much longer than the product information tells me that they will. 

November 1st will be my 12-year diaversary. November 26th will be my one year Dexaversary. 

Dexter takes great care of me and we are a very good team. With him at my side, literally, it makes celebrating my 25 and 50-year daiversary look a heck of a lot easier. 

Here is to a long and happy life together. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Real People Sick

Last Friday afternoon I left work just before 2pm, headed home quickly to change and the Doug and I rushed off to meet friends for an end of season round of golf. It was sunny and crisp outside with brightly coloured leaves crunching underfoot as we walked. It was lovely and we had fun.

As we walked, my nose started running. Which made sense since it was kinda cold out. Just enough to need a constant supply of tissues for dabbing the nose drips. By the time we finished the game, it was pretty cold out. The warm air inside the clubhouse was a welcome relief but I went from sniffling to outright sneezing. I figured it was the temperature change wreaking havoc on my sinuses. 

I yawned my way through dinner despite animated company and delicious food. Wow, I must be tired after a long week at work. 

We came home, watched an episode of West Wing and I crawled into bed just after 9pm. As I lay my head down on the pillow, I noticed that my throat was feeling swollen, and a little sore. 

Oh dear. I think I'm getting real people sick. 

I woke up Saturday morning and knew at once that a cold was taking hold. While Doug headed out for his long run, I mustered up the energy to shower and make breakfast, doing my best not to sneeze or cough on anything. 

Sunday and Monday were pretty much the same. Heavy-headed, sneezing, sore throat and no energy. I managed to host a family Thanksgiving lunch as well as attend a family Thanksgiving dinner but, other than that, it was hot drinks and comfy socks for me. 

I didn't run all weekend despite some beautiful sunny days. I got my clothes ready for a Tuesday morning run but cancelled that after my fourth fitful night's sleep. Tuesday night CoreFit was also tossed out the window as I knew I wouldn't have the strength after a full day a work. 

You know, there are plenty of things I don't like about diabetes but, for the most part, I can handle the blood sugar roller coaster and still live the life I want to. Still do the activities I want to do when I want to do them. 

Give me a measly cold and I'm knocked out for four days, missing two runs and my favourite CoreFit class. It takes me days to find my energy again and a week to be back to where I was before I started sniffling. 

Being Real People Sick sucks. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

CoreFit Challenge

When to folks in the lab coats develop things to make living with diabetes a little easier - like pumps and continuous glucose monitors (also known as Roses and Dexters) - I'm pretty sure they have to run them through a whole barrage of tests.

Like how well the infusion sites stick.

Do they hold on after a shower? After two showers?

Does the CGM receiver receive a signal when the transmitter is on your stomach and you are sleeping face down under a mound of blankets?

How much pulling can the infusion site take before it rips off? Can it survive if you drop the pump and it's dangling at the end of the tubing? Can it survive if the tubing gets caught on a doorknob as you stroll by? As you run by?

How cold can it be before everything stops working right? How hot?

If someone sleeps on top of their insulin pump, while buried under a pile of blankets, for oh, say, 8 hours, is that hot enough to cook the insulin into uselessness?

So many things to test - no wonder it takes so long for new products to reach the consumers.

After the last few weeks, I'm working if I should contact Animas and Dexcom to let them know about a few more tests that I've been running on their products.

I like to call them the CoreFit Challenges.

The Pressure Test: Take a stability ball. Lie on it with all of your weight on your stomach. Ideally, directly on top of the Dexcom transmitter. Bend forward to put as much pressure on the transmitter as possible. Lift up using your back muscles. This will stretch out your stomach and pull the skin as tight as possible. Hope like hell the transmitter does not rip off. Repeat, oh, I don't don't, 10,000 times.

The Pump Clip Test: Clip your pump to your workout shorts. Begin class. Move pump around to the back in order to lie on your side. Then move pump back to the side in order to lie on your back. Move to stomach in order to lie on your side. Move from stomach to back in order to lie on your stomach. Hope clip is strong enough to handle 60 minutes of sweaty-palmed not-so-gentle manipulations. Repeat twice a week until pump clip disintegrates.

The Up and Down Test: I could probably get a job at Dexcom or Animas right now simply based on the knowledge I have re what happens to diabetes products during a long run. Running involves a lot of bouncing up and down but it's an up and down forward motion. I have never tested these things in a purely up and down fashion while waving my arms in various directions. As in while doing jumping jacks. Or while jumping up, spinning 180 degrees and landing. After each set I reach down to check if Dexter is still there because all the bouncing makes it feel like he's ripping off.

The Vibration Test: I dislike beeping noises so I have switched every pump alarm I can on my pump to vibrate. I never miss an alarm when I'm sitting at my desk. I rarely miss one while sleeping (although Doug may argue with that statement). Can the vibrations be felt while madly doing jumping jacks? While doing football runs? And, more importantly, will the vibrations cause me to lose my balance while in a side plank with one arm and one leg in the air?

Dexcom. Animas. If you have any questions about how your products performed during the CoreFit Challenge, please don't hesitate to contact me.