Tag Archives: diabetic

Relief 

Guess who hadn’t had an eye test for three years because she’s scared of anything going in or near her eye?*

This girl.

Guess who has nightmares about waking up and going blind because her first endo told her that it was basically inevitable she’d end up on dialysis with no legs and no sight? 

This girl.

Guess who finally built up the courage to go and get them tested and has PERFECT eyes?!

THIS GIRL! ​

I went today because I was assured this optometrist was good with eye sooks like me – and this is why it’s so important to work with your patients. If I feel judged or patronised, there is no way I’m heading back. Sometimes I’ll go somewhere else, but often I’ll withdraw altogether. Treat your clients as equals, and we’ll be loyal and back every time 👌🏻 

*stop sniggering, I hear you

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Friends as Health Care Professionals

Writing a massive post to compensate for three months of nothing. Sorry team, life is crazy.

I’m at that age now where most of my friends have graduated university/are in their final year.

More than half of my friends have gone into healthcare – nursing mostly, but there are some physios, dietitians, doctors, and paramedics sprinkled throughout there as well. I like to bluff my way through conversations with their uni friends and see how long it takes them to figure out that I’m not a nurse or dietitian #diabetesperks.

In the past four years, it’s been really interesting to watch how people that I have been friends with for years have gradually reacted to my diabetes. When I was diagnosed, it was the last year of high school and we were all too focused on getting into uni. It fell into the background, thank god.

But I can always tell now when they’ve had a lecture on something that involves diabetes, or had a patient with diabetes, because the next time they see me their eyes will widen, they’ll grab my hand, and say something like “Please look after yourself, we saw a diabetic foot infection and I nearly spewed”.

There are fantastic parts to this – a friend I’ve known since I was 4 years old is finishing up her nursing degree, and she’ll blurt out things like “I saw someone with kidney failure today, I love you, please keep plugging away at those BGLs” then give me a massive hug. One of my best friends is a physio – she keeps Diet Coke/Coke Zero in her fridge at all times for me, texts me when yet another blood test strip turns up under her sofa cushion, and will expertly steer a conversation with other HCP friends away from the ‘exciting’ topic of t1d and pregnancy if I am in the room (it scares me). My friends know about the basics* – I don’t have to try and explain why I’m acting weird if my blood sugar is low, they’ll just throw me a juice box and continue chatting, which is 100% perfect!

I feel like I’m in a really fortunate position, because I can influence how my friends interact with their patients as healthcare professionals – they KNOW me, I am a person to them, and so when they walk into a room and their patient has type 1 diabetes, I’d like to think they have that little bit of extra empathy. My friends have seen me hypo, they’ve seen the pump and injection bruises on my stomach, and they know that it’s a disease that’s not to be joked about. They call their other HCP friends out for me, they’re amazing. What’s more, they always want to learn – they ask me about my diabetes in general, about my carb counting,  how temp basals work. and I love it. To my knowledge, they’ve always aced the questions on exams about diabetes! 

However, there are crap parts to this as well. It’s not my friends, it’s their friends. Remember what I said about bluffing my way through nursing talks? Yeah, having HCP friends gives you an insight into how other nurses, doctors etc. talk about patients. I totally understand they need to blow off steam – hell, the shit they have to put up with (figuratively AND literally) is insane, they do an incredible job. But hearing nurses make fat diabetes jokes is only fun when I pull my meter out and watch them squirm uncomfortably and say “But we didn’t mean YOU”.

I find med students are the worst though – not so much joking about the patients, but thinking that they know everything. I was sitting with some friends at uni in first year, and there were some of their friends there who I didn’t know. I pulled my meter out to test, and without even asking, one of them leaned over, looked at my BGL and went “That’s pretty high, you should really be taking care of yourself better”… my BGL was in the 9s… WTF BUDDY YOU HAVE BEEN IN MED SCHOOL FOR THE GRAND TOTAL OF 8 WEEKS STFU.

Saying that though, I am so lucky to be in the position where I can influence future healthcare professionals just by being their friend and happening to have type 1 diabetes. I am lucky to have friends like I do, that are fantastic healthcare professionals but also fantastic friends. If you live in Australia and end up in hospital, where a nurse doesn’t tell you off for a 8.5, or stands up to the doctor when they insist you disconnect and go onto a sliding scale of insulin even though you’re only in to get your wisdom teeth out, they’re probably one of my friends.


*not just my HCP friends, I have some other non HCP friends who are fantastic, shout out to Dais, Corks, and all the girls I lived with in the UK. x

Why I’m quitting the gym

We all know exercise is fantastic to control our blood sugars, increase insulin sensitivity etc. which is why I joined the gym in the first place. I thought that seeing money come out of my account every two weeks would motivate my stingy ass to pump some iron. I was running every second day and keeping my BGLs mostly in range, but I thought I could improve.

It HAS been good, I’ve lost 10 kgs since joining (through body pump and spin I’m pretty sure!) and gained a lot of muscle and tone…but I just can’t do it anymore. After my contract runs out in a month I’m done.

I go to a women-only gym, not because I want to avoid men or like the colour pink, but because it was the closest gym to me and had hair straighteners in the changing rooms. I think this was my first mistake though, because it seems as though everyone there – instructors and  clients alike – place a huge emphasis on going to the gym to get conventionally “hot”. The place is plastered with posters of size 8 models dressed in Lorna Jane, with bold slogans blasting “GET FOXY!” or “BIKINI BODY CHALLENGE!”.

Do you want to know how I get a bikini body? I put a bikini on my body. My size 14, thunder thighs, 10E, junk in the trunk body. Fuq da h8ers.

Additionally, the emphasis on diet is really getting to me. I spend every single day of my life counting food – that’s how I treat my diabetes, that’s just how I roll. I’d rather ignore all those numbers as soon as I bolus, but the gym makes food and numbers omnipresent. Instructors talk about how “bad” certain foods are, how many calories we’re burning, and I usually end a class feeling deflated, fat, and super guilty about the pasta I had for lunch before the gym. Why should foods be bad? (Why are bad foods always so extremely delicious? Surely calling sticky date pudding “bad” is a bit of an oxymoron?!) It’s like my Catholic guilt, but instead of feeling guilty about my moral sins I’m feeling guilty about my dietary sins. WHY should I feel guilty about a delicious homemade plate of lasagne?

Essentially, I’m sick of instructors telling me that food is only there to be burnt off.

I’m at the gym to be healthy. I may not conform to society’s version of what healthy should look like, but my doctor says I’m healthy and that’s good enough for me. I have a great a1c, fabulous cholesterol and perfect blood pressure.  I don’t want instructors telling me how to get rid of my flabby arms or massive thighs because you know what? That ain’t going to change. When I was 16, weighed 10kgs less than I do now and danced 10-15 hours a week, I still had huge thighs and an arse the size of a bus.

I don’t like my gym telling me that I’m not healthy just because of my size. My body fat percentage is higher than average, my BMI puts me in the morbidly obese range. On paper I look like the worst diabetic in the world. But in reality – I’m fine. I spent months in recovery trying to stop seeing food as numbers and as the enemy, and although diabetes knocked that around a bit, I’ve still made headway on that. I don’t want the gym undermining my efforts!

I have nurses, doctors and endos talking to me about my body constantly. I don’t need my gym telling me I need to ‘lose more, do more, BE more!’ when the people that know what they’re talking about think I’m fabulous.

Owning Up

I’ve just finished Week 4 of uni. This means that I’ve spent the past 4 weeks awkwardly looking around whenever my pump goes off.

“What was that noise? Haha yeah who would still have a Nokia 3310?!”

(spoiler: that prehistoric beeping noise is me)

Owning up to that noise isn’t as simple as saying “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just my insulin pump”. In a perfect world, my tutorial would smile and nod in a knowledgable way, say “Oh! Ok!” and we’d get back down to business. However, because most of the world don’t know that pumps actually exist, it gets a bit more complicated.

I’ve tried owning up to it a few times, but it never went well. People ask what it is, I say that I have diabetes and it’s my insulin pump, someone asks what an insulin pump is…before we know it my tute is knee deep in discussing insulin requirements of a young adult and my tutor is steadily getting more pissed off because no one is paying attention to his slideshow on the conjugation of the present subjunctive. Sorry Maxime.

Additionally, the thing about my course is that I’m never with the same people each semester. My uni is one of the biggest in Australia, thousands of people do Arts, and it is very unlikely that I’ll see the same people again. I don’t mind telling someone that I’ve begun to be friends with, but that’s more a Week 8 or 9 thing, not when we’re all still sussing each other out! I can’t be bothered! One tutorial a subject, four subjects a semester, twelve weeks in each semester, three year course – that’s two hundred and eighty eight (I think? I dropped Year 10 maths) classes in which I may need to go through my diabetic introduction, and really, I’m there to learn! Honestly, I just don’t feel like telling people that I have diabetes unless a) I’m hypoing all over them and need help or b) someone makes a fat diabetes joke. You should see me breathe fire when b) occurs…

Don’t get me wrong, I love educating people! I love telling people about type 1 diabetes, how it’s different, why it requires a lot of work etc. However I only tell them when they ask. Unfortunately I can’t hide diabetes, it’s a visible ‘invisible illness’, if that makes sense. People are genuinely curious when I prick my finger, which I completely understand. It’s not that I’m ashamed of having it, or don’t like educating, it’s just that I meet a lot of people in my day-to-day life and that sometime I get tired of explaining why I’m beeping. It’s nice to feel a little normal sometime, you know?

I just don’t like going on and on about it in front of a lot of people in one room. In my experience, that always defines me as the ‘diabetic girl’, which I hate! Once people are aware that I’m diabetic, suddenly my sneaky BGL tests and priming in class are noticed.  I suddenly feel judged for my food choices, whether people mean it maliciously or not. I find myself trying to eat my Tuesday morning blueberry muffin in short bursts, stuffing as much as I can in my face before someone turns around and says ‘Wait, aren’t you diabetic?’

Side-note: It’s weird, it doesn’t seem to matter that however many times I tell someone that my pancreas is just mechanical, and I can eat hot chips/ice cream/etc. if I want to, they still feel the need to comment.

But really, above all, I hate that being diabetic usually becomes my defining feature in my semester long relationship with the people in my classes. I don’t want that to be my defining feature. I haven’t owned up to the Animas beep in my Italian class yet, and last week signora Rossi said ‘Georgie, you’re always smiling! You read this role play out with me, I want to see if you can be grumpy. Va bene?”

That’s what I want my defining feature to be, a smile and a positive attitude, not my crummy pancreas. 

A love letter (of sorts) to my diabetes

Dear diabetes,

You didn’t think I’d be writing you this letter did you?

I mean, the amount of times that I have sworn at you, yelled at you, and generally abused you is just ridiculous. If I was you, I’d be expecting a hate letter stuffed with a stink bomb instead. We’ve never had a healthy relationship, and although we’re getting there slowly, it’s still not very equal is it?

I mean, you’re so controlling. You give me no choice but to test, inject, test, inject, and if I don’t do these things you throw a tantrum and give me the sweaty shakes or a bladder the size of a pea. Sometimes you chuck in some nausea and dizziness, just to keep me on my toes.

You’re abusive; you hurt my fingers, my belly, my thighs and my hips. You give me aches in my bones, shitty eyes and mood swings that turn me into a human Godzilla.

You’re selfish. You refuse to let me go anywhere or do anything without thinking about it will affect you. Especially at the gym. Just let me exercise ONCE without checking on you PLEASE!

However, (and here comes the love) when you came into my life, on March 7 2010, you changed me for the better. Thanks to you, I am more empathetic, and have discovered a different perspective on life. You gave me empathy to relate to other people living with a chronic illness, and that is priceless. You know how alone a chronic illness can make someone feel, and you gave me that gift to help others in the same position.

You constantly push me out of my comfort zone, into new experiences and communities. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have discovered the huge diabetes community. A community that embraces me and offers me support whenever I ask for it. I’ve walked into rooms and hospitals not knowing a soul, and walked out with 20 new friends and a heart full of joy. You’re what we all have in common, and you give us all this special dynamic that no other friendship seems to have. You’re a funny one aren’t you? You can be such a massive pain in the arse, but you introduce me to so many incredible people that I’m finding it impossible to hate you.

I can’t remember not having you. It’s only been three years since we met, but I feel like we’ve always been together. I think I’ve always had a feeling that something like you would come into my life eventually; I just didn’t know what it would be. Turns out it’s you!

When you first came into my life, I was so angry with God, and for a very long time I seriously questioned my faith. Hadn’t I already gone through enough crap already? Why would God give me something that made my life utterly shit?

But the thing is, you haven’t made my life utterly shit. In fact, you’ve enriched my life in so many ways. You’ve made me open up to my best friends and family, accepting help, when before I refused to let them in. You’ve given me a whole new set of friends. You’ve given me a huge passion in life, and now I know that I’m meant to have you. There will be kids in future classes that I teach that have diabetes or other chronic illnesses, kids that feel alone and angry, weighed down and resentful, and you have given me the tools to help them get through that. I want to be that kind of teacher, one that any kid can come up to if they feel distressed or upset, and thanks to you I think that will be easier to achieve.

I don’t love you yet, and I don’t think I ever fully will…but I’ve accepted you. In a bizarre way, I’m grateful for your presence in my life, and for the person that you’ve turned me into. I like this Georgie.

Diabetes, thank you for enriching my life and making me a better person.

Georgie xx

“I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you
…Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good”

‘For Good’ – Glinda the Good Witch. A song that perfectly expresses my feelings towards you (and also reminds of a beautiful friend). See, musicals ARE wise.

 

Diabetes Camp

This past week I volunteered at the teenage camp for DA VIC.

BEST EXPERIENCE EVER!

What blew me away about this camp is the feeling of ‘normality’ it gave the kids. Throughout the entire camp diabetes was in the background, but it wasn’t shoved in their faces. It was normal to feel low, normal to sit away from an activity for a minute and treat a low. They said things like ‘Ugh I have ketones!’ and everyone would go ‘ugh that sucks’ and would actually know how it felt! Being a teenager is hard enough, all you want to do is fit in and diabetes makes that impossible. Hell it was hard enough being 18 and getting diagnosed, my heart broke for some of these kids. People had bullied them for being diabetic, they’d had pump sites ripped out and felt that they couldn’t tell their friends that they were diabetic. This camp was such a fantastic opportunity for these kids to feel like any other teenager.

As you can probably tell I thrived on this as much as the kids. I’ve been diabetic for three years, and for half of those years I’d been in a sort of denial and pretending I was still ‘normal’. It’s only been in 2012 and this first bit of 2013 that I’ve really accepted my diabetes, and this camp not only helped the kids that were going through this stage, but me as well. Sitting with leader friends after the kids had gone to bed and laughing at how hilarious someone was when they were hypo-ing was such a surreal experience. I wasn’t the odd one out!

It was beyond rewarding to see the kids make friends and grow more confident throughout the week. Lots of them said to me that they felt like they were the only person in the world with type 1 diabetes, and how ‘awesome’ it was to meet other people their age with it. Lots of us (myself included), before discovering online diabetes communities, get introduced to 65 year old type 2 diabetic neighbours, because ‘they know how you feel.’ The kids here did know how each other felt – I overheard and took part in many conversations about diabetes and school, diabetes and friends…diabetes wasn’t always the centre of conversation , but it certainly made it’s presence known!

There was a question and answer session on Wednesday night, which involved the campers writing out questions anonymously and putting them into a box, which we then picked out and read. This was such a fantastic idea, which I hope the camp keeps, because navigating teenager-dom with diabetes must be an absolute bitch. There are questions that these kids are too embarrassed to ask their parents, endos or educators, so the leaders act as a sort of older sibling to bounce off embarrassing questions. The campers can also share experiences, but with the leaders as sort of conversation instigators. It really was invaluable, hopefully some of the stuff that was discussed will make a difference!

On the last day I was chatting with some of the campers, and every one of them were glad that they came. Some were forced into it by parents, some came of their own accord, but all of them were happy they had come and were running around exchanging contact details. Even the quietest campers got something out of it, which I think is a real success.

Basically, I adored camp. Teenagers are such an awesome age group to work with.  (on a personal career note, it’s kind of cemented the choice between primary and secondary teaching for me). I’d love to try out all the other camps, volunteer on all the different ones, but this was a great introduction to diabetes camp. It not only helps the kids immensely, it’s helped me too! Hopefully, see you guys next year.

Ray and I (with a sneaky camper in the background). Go Team Orange!

Ray and I (with a sneaky camper in the background). Go Team Orange!

Could my diabetes lead to a career change?

It’s funny, the different ways that diabetes has changed my life – mostly, in the way that I view my abilities.

Pre diagnosis, I was firmly a humanities girl. I avoided the maths and science faculty of high school like the plague, up until the point where I actually had to take out my map to find a classroom if it was ‘that’ side of the school building. Science and maths were never my thing – languages, essays and piles of politics and history reading was always my strong point, where I got my As. I got Bs in Maths and Science, so obviously I ‘failed’, and I hate things I ‘suck’ at. (Once a nerd, always a nerd)

Then I got diagnosed, and the educator left me overnight with a pile of reading. However this time it wasn’t literature or history, it was stone cold facts about this disease that had suddenly thrust its way into my life.

Trust me, this is all leading somewhere, keep going!

I remember that night vividly. I stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning reading the entire pile of information she gave me. I read about what my pancreas did, what ketones are, what beta cells are, what insulin does and why not having any is a bad bad thing. I read and read and drew myself little diagrams, and I woke up the next morning determined to figure out once and for all what was happening to my body. The educator came in the next morning, and I remember saying something like ‘so are we upping my basal rate? Cos my BGL was 17.3 this morning.’ She just about fell off the bed!

I realised that I had been shortchanging myself since I was 14. I didn’t ‘suck’ at science  or maths – I was actually quite good at science (and reasonable at maths). I’m not super fast, or any kind of maths or science whiz (flashcards are my best friend), but I GET it. I understand it, I just have to learn it in my own way, draw my own diagrams and make up my own explanations.

Why am I telling you this? For a while now – I’m talking since the start of 2011 – I’ve been considering completely switching my uni course to something completely different, something I know I never would have considered if I wasn’t diabetic. I study a Bachelor of Arts at the moment, majoring in French and dabbling in Literature, Theatre and Chinese. I’m aiming to do a Dip.Ed afterwards and teach in secondary schools. It’s great, however the pretentiousness and lack of real world relevance does get me down sometimes.

I’m considering switching to a Nursing/Midwifery course.

Diabetes has actually given me the courage and the self belief that I could do a job like that. When I was diagnosed I realised that I wasn’t a dud at science, rather I was a dud at being confident in my own abilities. My awesomeness at understanding my own disease has actually made me realise that my brain can understand what our bodies do! I would love to work with diabetic women all throughout their pregnancy and afterwards, providing prenatal and post natal care, helping with all the normal things as well as all the issues diabetes brings up. Obstetrics has always fascinated and interested me, (I watch One Born Every Minute and A Baby Story religiously!) and I know that I’d be a freaking fantastic midwife.

HOWEVER, I’m torn. I want to do both. Teaching and nursing/midwifery excite me equally. My plans hinge on my exam results…

If I go well plan is to continue on, do teaching, and if I end up hating teaching then I’ll head on back to uni and do midwifery 🙂  I may really help kids with diabetes in schools, that could be cool… If I do badly, I’m applying ASAP and getting the hell out of Arts. My grades have been slowly declining this year, thanks to feeling disillusioned and fed up with the pure wankiness of the course. Bad exam results could be a sign!

The point of this post? Thank you diabetes, for broadening my horizons!

Striving for perfection

My diabetic educator (a.k.a the best educator in the entire universe) brought up a very interesting point on Friday, about Type 1 diabetics and perfectionism.

Up in level five of Centre Block at the Alfred, I was going through what I had eaten that week and bashing myself up for it, looking at bad blood sugars and bashing myself up for that, and basically looking at all my stats and bashing myself up for everything.

My educator listened, and listened some more, then sat back in her chair and said something along the lines of  ‘See what I told you? Perfectionists!’ to the student sitting in the room with us.

I opened my mouth in protest, but promptly shut it again when I realised that she had got it in one. Despite barely being able to count the number of type one diabetics I know in real life on one hand, I really do think this is a constant theme. Online diabetes forums and communities provide proof of this! Perfectionism. I know I shouldn’t generalise, but I do think we place far too much pressure on ourselves to achieve that ‘perfect’ hba1c, those spot on post meal levels and a perfect range of 5-8.

As my educator said “What came first G? The chicken or the egg? It’s always hard to say whether a Type 1 was like that before diagnosis, or diagnosis made them that way.” I’ve always been a perfectionist. If I’m crap at things, I either work ridiculously hard to get better OR give up completely. In my head it’s better to not even try than to try and fail miserably. This was my logic when I happily failed my year 10 maths exam, and now it’s my logic when it comes to diabetes. Most of my days are hard working days, but there are soem where I wake up with a level in the high teens and I think ‘Fuck it. This day is shot already. Gummi snakes for breakfast it is.”

I think the fact that management of our disease revolves around numbers, graphs and statistics is a bit of a catch 22, for the majority of us who are constantly wanting to do better and aim higher. On one hand, it gives us amazing resources to improve our health and lessen the risk of complications. BUT, and this is what I find most difficult, it can become all consuming. Seeing your daily management in cold hard numbers gives your efforts a concrete element, something to grasp onto. Something to stress about…

I beat myself up when I have a piece of cake, or I get a random 18.4 out of nowhere. I look at that huge spike in my 24hr BGL graph and focus intensely on that angry red line, when really I should be celebrating the other 90% of levels that were IN RANGE!

My aim during Invisible Illness Week (and beyond!) is to cut myself some slack. Honestly, all of us diabetics are bloody brilliant, we self manage a chronic disease 24 hours a day. We are experts in our disease, we try our absolute hardest to keep our bodies healthy, and that should be enough! You can’t try anymore than your hardest can you? 🙂