Friday, October 24, 2008

It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

Last night I was going through pages I had sent my review group of the end of my book and came upon a comment that gave me a good laugh, and also gave me pause to remember why I wrote it, and how far research and development of diabetes has come, and how thankful I am. And it's Friday, after all. Time to list the good things in my life, and believe it or not, as far as diabetes is concerned, there is a lot of good.

The section of writing was this:

It takes less than ten minutes to drive to the church, where I park illegally in a handicapped space and march directly to the kitchen. The hospitality committee is exactly where they always are this time each week, their gossiping echoing down the halls off the sanctuary, which might as well be called the sanctimonious. I forget which SAT week that one was.

They stop the gabbing as soon as I fill the doorway.

“The devil has arrived,” I say, staring them each down. Yolanda. Gloria. Brenda. Vickie. Dina. Jen. Dot. Erin. Alicia. And two dozen angel food cakes.

The amusing part that my critique partner caught? I used the names of several of my group members in this! And yes, I did that on purpose. Hey, if Nicholas Sparks can name his main characters after his kids, why can't I throw in a few extras named after the people who have helped me along the way?

While I stopped to chuckle at the comment my partner left ("I like it that Jen and I are on the hospitality committee, but angel food cake is not my specialty…"), it made me reflect on why I wrote this in the first place. Because the truth is, I am not a fan of angel food cake myself. But it is one of my early memories of living with a type 1 diabetic.

You see, my sister was diagnosed before me - by twenty years in fact. I could write a post someday called "Everything I learned about diabetes I learned from my sister," but the fact is that everything has changed so much since that time. And when it came time for birthdays, my mother made angel food cakes, with barely-pink tinted cool whip lite frosting that looked like clouds. Angel food cakes were, at the time, the promoted cake of diabetics. Low in sugar, low in fat. And low in taste, I thought.

I don't actually remember the last time my mom made an angel food cake for a birthday. My sister left for college three years before me, and somewhere in the time between when she left and I was diagnosed, diabetic care changed by drastic measures. Today, I can have whatever cake I want. Ice Cream. Chocolate. White layer with raspberry filling. Okay, in moderation for sure, smaller pieces than I might if I weren't diabetic, but still: the options are there. And they are there for a variety of reasons, which bring me to this Friday post:

These are the good things about being a diabetic today:

1. Short-acting insulin. When my sister was a kid, she took one shot a day, and the insulin lasted that long, peaking at certain times and falling at others before finally petering out. She had to eat when it peaked, and not eat when it didn't, and eat a certain amount and not any more or less than that, because otherwise her blood sugar would rise or fall dangerously high or low. It's a tightrope to walk, especially in the school system when you have no control over when your lunch is.

Today, I eat when I want. The insulin hits within ten minutes of taking it and leaves within a few hours - about the same amount of time it takes food to hit my bloodstream and be processed. If I want a little, I take a little. If I want more, I shoot up a little more. And if I'm sick or just not hungry, I don't have to eat. It sounds simple, something everyone takes for granted. But for a diabetic, it's an awesome thing!

2. Blood testing meters. When I was diagnosed the first thing they did was give me a meter and show me how to prick my finger and test how much sugar was in my blood. If diabetes is about your body not being able to process glucose on it's own, and taking shots of insulin to cover that glucose, it only makes sense that a diabetic would need to know exactly how much glucose is there to know how much insulin they need. But it wasn't always like that. Back in the day, not that long ago, it was all a guessing game. I don't ever remember my sister having a meter. Which probably explains why she's seen the back side of a coma more times than I can count, and I haven't.

And can I add here that I love that most meters now can calculate that number within five seconds? It used to be much longer, which is a pain when everyone is tapping their fingers at the dinner table or honking the car horn ready to back out of the driveway. It's inconvenient enough to have to do it ten times a day. At least now it doesn't take that long!

3. Carbohydrate Counting. I feel like this is a superpower. I am carbo-count-woman! With a single glance I can calculate how many carbohydrates are on that plate! Half-cup rice: 15 carbs. 15 Doritos: 15 carbs. Slice of bread: 15 carbs. Small tortilla: 36 carbs. Bacon: NONE! Slice of cake: a gazillion. Okay, my powers are a little limited, but still, I'm pretty good at math now, adding and dividing in my head. 45 carbs on my plate. 1 unit insulin for every 15 carbs. I need 3 units.

When my sister was a kid (do you see this pattern?), it was all guessing, just like the blood sugar. She took a certain amount of insulin, and then guessed about how much food she's need to cover it. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes not. Sometimes she had to eat more than she wanted, because by golly the endocrinologist told her she had to take 8 units (her ratio is different than mine) and then cover it with food. Now, I do the opposite. I figure out the food, and cover it with insulin.

4. Pumps. Insulin pumps, to be exact. The size of a cell phone, it clips on my pants or skirts and delivers a constant stream of insulin. No more shots!! Well, there is a needle to put the tubing in my abdomen, but that's only once every three or four days. No more not being able to have spontaneous meals/snacks/ice cream etc when I'm out because I don't have insulin or syringes with me. It's like a mini-pancreas! Except I still have to do the math right... it's not that smart! Yet.

Every time I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember my sister and how it was to live with diabetes only a few decades ago. Research, technology, progress... it's all a very, very good thing.


  1. Wow - great post. You have a very nice look on things. I didn't know you were diabetic. I knew you had a family member with it, but wasn't sure you had it. This adds a whole other element to your book - :)

  2. It made it easy to write a few of the sections, for sure! A lot of the exchanges with Dr. Benton came from talks I gave to my kids' classes about diabetes.

    I've become very passionate about it, especially in writing this book. I'm debating about what my next book will be, because I want this to somehow be an aspect in that, too - I think because it was fun to write about something I know so much about and other people don't.

    I could make my own genre: diabetic fiction! :)