Just like Stacey

Tonight as I watched The Bachelor and got lost on the #actuallydiabetic tag on tumblr, I stumbled upon this article – “What The Baby-Sitters Club Taught Me About My Disease”

For those of you that aren’t Gen Y and weren’t obsessed with The Baby-Sitters Club as a child (i.e. 99% of you), there is a character in there called Stacey, and Stacey had type 1 diabetes.

In primary school, I was obsessed with these books. My frenemy in Grade 1 had every single one, and I was seething with jealousy. I would go over to her house and instead of playing, I would sit in a corner and devour each one. Looking back, that may be a reason I wasn’t the most popular seven year old – what a bore!

Anyway, Stacey was my favourite. I was entranced by her perm (she had a PERM guys, I didn’t even know what that was but I knew it must be cool), she was POPULAR and FASHIONABLE and from NEW YORK but she had a SECRET. Stacey kept her diabetes secret from her friends in the first few books, and I remember being fascinated by this disease. I distinctly remember taking a safety pin from Mum’s sewing box and poking myself with it, wondering how Stacey must feel having to inject herself all the time. She was always my favourite, even though I knew I was (like the author of the article) much more of a quiet Mary Anne or a bossy Kristy.

How’s that for foreshadowing? Ten years later, at seventeen years old, I sat in a hospital bed in the ER and was told that I had type 1 diabetes. I think it’s a real reflection on the true loser I am that one of my first thoughts as soon as I was left alone was “Oh my god, I’m just like Stacey”

Look at her PERM and the SCRUNCHIE! She was so cool guys!  Good choice with the lunch tray as well, solid 3 exchanges!

Look at her PERM and the SCRUNCHIE! She was so cool guys!
Good choice with the lunch tray as well, solid 3 exchanges!

Stubborn as a Georgie

Something I’ve always struggled with is admitting that I’m sick – my mother and I would have screaming matches when I was a teenager about going to school with something like a chest infection. I would literally be hacking up litres of phlegm and drag myself out the door insisting that I was in the peak of health. I was (and still am) the female version of Barney Stinson when it comes to my health.

This weekend I had a ridiculous reaction to some new medication I started. Long story short, it caused me to vomit (I’m talking projectile, it was coming out my nose…) for most of Sunday morning from around 3am. I then had to compete at a calisthenics competition, where I jumped and went upside down for three hours wanting to hurl, with blurry vision and a sneaky vom after one of the performances. I’ve been nauseous and shaky since Sunday, with elevated blood sugars that refuse to come down. As both my mother and housemate said, I “look like crap”.

The point of this post is to shame myself a little, to actually taking advice from people who want the best for me. I rang Nurse On Call last night, and in between vomiting she “highly, HIGHLY” recommended I call an ambulance.

Guess who didn’t call an ambulance.

My doctor recommended taking tomorrow off as well as today and Monday, as my “body needs time to recover”.

Guess who is going to work tomorrow. 

I find it really hard to let myself be sick – I don’t like my body letting me down, and I have a stubborn “As long as I can still walk and talk I’ll be fine” mentality. This needs to change, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it just yet. Taking off Monday was a step – little by little I may get there!

Camp rocks.

At the ends of camps, parents will thank you profusely, and I always feel happy, but also a little bit guilty. Volunteering on these camps is definitely something I want to do, and LOVE to do, for kids for diabetes, but it’s also something I want to do for me! These camps lift my spirits. They pull me out of burnout, and I get to spend time with kids who are hurtling through different stages of life with a useless pancreas to boot. Being surrounded by diabetes, and not feeling different, isn’t something that only the kids experience. The leaders (those with diabetes) experience it too, and I benefit as much as any camper from the camps. I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to volunteer on these camps. We may be exhausted, but there is no other place where I would rather be sleep deprived than on a diabetes camp!!
Family camp was so interesting – after working and volunteering with teenagers, to be on a camp with parents and tiny kids was eye opening. I got a look into the other side of diabetes – how much parents worry, and how tough these kids are. Hell, I had a hard time at 17 – when a five year old comes over and lisps “I’m hypo”, I just want to give them all a massive hug. They are dealing with obstacles that none of their friends do, and seeing these kids meet others with diabetes, and hearing adorable conversations about their “jell’beans!”, makes me want to high five every single one of them. They’re all champions.
Camps are awesome. Kids walk away feeling less alone, more independent, and owning their diabetes. I walk away exactly the same. Camps have to keep going – the sense of family and peer support I’m sure these campers will gain, and that I already have, is imperative to helping them tackle their diabetes and live an awesome, long, and healthy life. 

Sick days are not the same.

The thing I love and hate about my job is that when you’re sick, you can’t take an easy day and knock out some mindless tasks.  

Have you ever tried teaching a year 9 class with a high blood sugar, after a day of brain fog and feeling like you’re wading through mud? Trying to keep 15 year old boys on task in French is really hard when you want to vomit. 

People with working bodies would say “take a day off”. But if I took a day off every time my body rebelled against me, I would be at home more than I would be at work. This high stayed around all day, I couldn’t budge it and it’s still hovering around 20. 

Sick days for chronically ill people aren’t “sick” days, they’re “oh dear god I cannot actually function, I would be a threat to everyone at work” days. My workplace is amazing and so understanding, but as someone with a very strong work ethic, I refuse to let my pancreas dictate what I can achieve, unless I’m literally in DKA and cannot function. 

I’m so lucky to have a condition that’s manageable, but I really wish I could pick the timing. 5pm today would have been better body, not bang on 8.55am. 

Screw your pancreas, all I wanted was a cruisy Thursday. 


Type 1 teacher – a massive post for a massive six months!

I recently just finished my first semester of teaching. It’s been a wild ride – my first term especially has blurred into one giant mess of late nights, early mornings, and crying to my KLA leader in the Languages office. I’ve learnt so much, not only about my job, but how my diabetes reacts to being on my feet from 7.30-4.30!
There are three main things that I’ve learnt about my diabetes these past six months, and in true teacher fashion I will list them, because lists are my addiction and the best thing ever. 
1. Lower stress levels = lower blood sugar levels 
I don’t care what some research papers say (that our levels only go up due to stress eating or burnout), the fact remains that in the first month and around report time, my levels were absolutely nuts, regardless of what I ate! I’m doing my Masters at the same time as working (I know, I’m insane) and having three assignments due at the same time as 150 reports was NOT conducive to perfect diabetes control. Handy hint – if you want to increase your hba1c in a few weeks, writing reports, lesson plans, and 3000 word assignments at the same time is the way to do it.
2. Students surprise you.
The hardest part I’ve found so far about being a teacher with type 1 is having to be “on” the entire time, even when your blood sugar is plummeting and you can see your hands shaking as you write the date on the board. However, my fears of having a hypo while the kids destroyed the classroom and each other were quickly put to rest. It surprised me how understanding they were when I explained why we were doing a quiet writing activity. A quick “Guys, I’m diabetic and my blood sugar is really low, I need you to finish off this exercise quietly while I drink this juice” is usually all it took. The one or two students who acted up would quickly be peer pressured into behaving by the others because “Miss doesn’t feel well! Don’t be stupid!” I’m lucky to have a good relationship with my kids, and I’ve learnt to never assume their reaction to anything. They also can guess when I’m low – I teach French, and when I forget the word for “door” or “listen”, they know something is up! They’re not perfect angels by any means, but they’re respectful and great kids!
3. Diabetes prepares you for the classroom.
How does it prepare you? Teachers and diabetics both spend their days juggling about a million things at once – having five years experience of the constant diabetes internal monologue (“Am I low? Did I over bolus? Will I walk home? Should I set a temp basal now or later? What if it rains?”) prepares you for the teacher internal monologue that happens throughout your entire day. My brain during the school day now looks something like this: 

And sounds like this: 

“Leave room on the board for the brainstorm later”

“Ugh what is that smell”

“Is that blood on my top?!”

“Check in on that back row”

“Cold call Bob for the next question he’s getting too comfy over there ”

“Oh my god WHAT is that smell”

“Oh gosh this writing is sloping downwards, am I low?”

“No time no time we need to get through this today”

“Ok you just dropped the worksheets, you’re low”

“Peer learning time aka hypo treatment time!”
I’m still making so many mistakes but I’m learning! If there’s a Melbourne high school teacher out there with type 1, let’s grab coffee. 

#actuallydiabetic and art that stays with you.

This hashtag is one of millions on the blogging site tumblr, and it’s full of hundreds of type 1 young people, just sending our thoughts off into the internet, reblogging each other’s syringe and pump selfies, and basically supporting each other in a way that is uniquely our generation i.e. 90s babies.

While scrolling through the posts tonight, I happened upon these pictures that I LOVE.

fridge pumpfinalll

Credit: Erin Lux - erin-lux.tumblr.com http://www.inprnt.com/gallery/erinlux/

Credit: Erin Lux – erin-lux.com/insulin

It’s created by Erin Lux  in a series called insulin. It’s simple, makes me feel something, and stays with me. Now, I’m not an art critic, but I think that’s what art is meant to do. The insulin in the butter compartment, my pump lying next to me as I sleep, testing in your own little bubble as the world carries on around you…these images are snapshots of my life with diabetes – simple, understated, and a constant.

Blessings, opportunities, and excitement!

This week I was invited to speak at a Parliamentary dinner in Canberra, representing the Young Leaders of Diabetes Australia. I know right, how lucky am I?

Being the political nerd that I am, I asked them to put me on an early flight so I had time to squeeze in as many different Canberra touristy things as I could before the dinner. I saw an old high school friend who’s a law student at ANU, went to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and squeezed in a tour of Old Parliament House, where the average age of the other participants was probably around 65. They may have given me an education on 70s technology as we walked through the old offices (“Wait what’s a word processor? Like Microsoft Word?”)

I have never been as nervous as I was last night. It’s very intimidating, making small talk with people who are the experts in their field. It puts different life stages into perspective, especially when they talk about flying out to the ADA Conference in Boston later this week and I was trying to contain my excitement about the complimentary wifi and chocolates at the hotel. Speaking in front of them? Terrifying.

(Guys, Bill Shorten was there. Leader of the Opposition. I got star struck and just thought about all the things I would like to say, most notably “Can you tell Tanya Plibersek that I’m her biggest fan”)

One of the people I was sitting next to said “Just pretend they’re your students”, which made it a little easier. In classic diabetes timing, I hypoed just before my speech and scoffed an entire bag of lolly frogs, to the amusement and concern of the people at my table, doing my speech at around 4.2. Hey, if I passed out from a low blood sugar, a function hosted by Diabetes Australia was the best place to do it! Diabetes always chooses the best times to rear its head. Big love to Renza who had a flight to catch but stayed until the last possible second to give me a good luck hug and watch most of my speech. Thank you, you fantastic human being!

I believe that my speech got my message across, as I had many conversations afterwards with people who were kind enough to congratulate and compliment me. I think it was filmed, which hopefully I never see because I am inherently critical of myself and no doubt will want to get up and do it again – English teacher at heart! I had incredibly exciting and stimulating conversations with a variety of people who were generous enough to ask me to contact them to get some projects rolling in regards to mental health and diabetes, especially in the online sphere.

I made some fantastic connections, and I’m just so excited to have been given this platform to talk to these people who are in positions that can help make my goals an actual reality. I’ve been plugging away at this since last year, but haven’t made a lot of outward progress as working, studying a Masters degree, and bad health are sort of a no productivity trifecta. We have a general plan, but between me and the other girls, bad health, university degrees, and a baby have all slowed things down (which it absolutely should – congratulations Lisa!).

I now have the opportunity to get the ball rolling again, and I am beyond excited.

Thank you to Renza for taking this photo! Also, a a shout-out to my Irish skin for being as pale as the white backdrop.

Thank you to Renza for taking this photo! Also, a shout-out to my Irish skin for being as pale as the white backdrop.