Monday, November 14, 2011

Walking the Tightrope of Diabetes

Lately I've been trying to get all of my proverbial ducks in a row, with regard to health. I am a Type 1 diabetic--a challenging condition I've endured for 31 years. Some would say that I've beaten the odds to live this long with diabetes and not have any major complications. To them I would have to say: "Attitude is everything!" ;)

I do not have perfect control of my blood sugar levels--the closest I ever came to that goal was during three pregnancies that produced three healthy sons. During that era, I kept a food diary, recording everything I ate, what time I ate, how much insulin I gave, how much I exercised, and what all of the food counts were. In short, I gave each pregnancy full attention and did amazingly well, all things considered.

Most days I simply do the best that I can. I try to balance carb counts with insulin and mix in exercise to counter fluctuating levels. The challenge for most of us who deal with this disease is the fact that everything affects our blood sugar levels. If I have a cold, my level runs rock bottom low, no matter what I do. If I have the stomach flu--that level runs high, even though I can't usually eat anything. If I'm in severe pain, the level runs low. If I have inflammation anywhere, it runs high. During the summer months, my levels run lower because of the heat. And as you might guess, during the winter months, those levels soar, so on and so forth. I was also told that there will days when "insulin bubbles" (Insulin the body stores for some strange unknown reason) can randomly burst, causing an insulin reaction from hades without warning.In short: this is a challenging disease and there are days when you feel like throwing your hands in the air and walking away.

For numerous years, I ran a diabetic support group for the diabetics in our county. I did this with the help of a very good friend who was also a Type 1 diabetic like me. The support group was actually Denise's idea. Once we both started seeing the same specialist who gave us "HOPE" for a brighter future--more so than we had ever received from any other doctor, she wanted us to share that positive message with other diabetics who were also struggling.

We met during monthly meetings at the nearby city hall, and later in a special room at the local hospital. We provided special inservice meetings with doctors, nurses, etc. We ran booths at the two health fairs held annually in our community, and met with newly diagnosed diabetics to help them realize they could live a full and productive life despite this illness.

You can imagine how Denise's death earlier this year affected us all. (She was 49) I've heard from a few of the younger Type 1's that we tried to help. Some are in panic mode. "But you two said we could live a long, normal life!" Etc. & so forth. After Denise's death, my blood pressure soared for a time, something it has never done before. (My blood pressure has always been good: most days it clocks in at 110 over 70.) And I've experienced a couple of other health glitches that have made me realize I need to slow down . . . a lot . . . at least for now.

Dealing with Type 1 diabetes is like walking a tightrope. One slip can mean a painful consequence, and unfortunately, complications, and sometimes death. We keep trying to move ahead on that thin wire, knowing that each step we make is crucial. Our balancing tools include: checking our blood sugar level often, counting carbs, and working in a bit of exercise. We all try to do the best that we can, and not allow ourselves to get overwhelmed in the process.

I've found that regardless of the challenge, attitude is everything, as stated above. Stress of any kind causes my blood sugar level to run high. So I have to keep stress to a minimum. Maintaining a positive outlook aids this process greatly. And I've started something new the past couple of months--I meditate each morning for about ten minutes. My version of meditation probably varies from the world's, but it works for me. I spend ten minutes listening to soothing music (usually "Calm-Meditation" from Pandora) and watch a computerized slideshow of nature shots that I've taken through the years with my trusty camera. I focus on my breathing and attempt to relax my entire body. I can't believe how much better I feel each day. The best news: my blood pressure level has returned to normal. My blood work was in the normal range last month. Now I have to tackle getting my blood sugar levels back under better control.

I am determined to continue walking this tightrope called diabetes. =D It's rather lonely, carrying that baton by myself now (someday Denise and I will talk about how she bailed on me in an untimely manner) but I have to think that it was simply her time to leave this mortal sphere. We've both endured too many near misses in the past to ever think otherwise.

My new goal: To live another 30 years with this challenging condition--thus proving to our younger Type 1's that this can be done. For a while, I may be cutting out other things to bring my life into better focus. (My entire family has been trying to teach me a handy two-letter word for years, something I'm finally starting to use.) I'm no longer trying to be "Wonder Woman," as I simply strive to be "Tight-Rope Girl." And in the end, perhaps the two titles will combine as I work harder than ever to stifle the effects of this disease.


Stephanie Black said...

Cheri, thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights about what it means to live as a diabetic. You are an incredible lady with an awesome attitude!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Thank you, Stephanie. ;) Everyone has challenges--I suspect we all just do the best we can with whatever tightrope we're walking.

Jennie said...

I'm afraid all of us in this group tend to have type A personalities. Somehow we've all drifted into doing too much and doing it too fast. I wish you luck in slowing the pace; I'm trying to do the same, and though I've tried really hard to learn that magic two letter word, I haven't mastered it yet. I think it might have something to do with the awful example Kerry has set for us. "No" isn't even in her vocabulary and it won't be easy for you to learn to say it either. Maybe if you and Kerry learn to slow down a bit, the rest of us might have hope of doing the same.

Cheri J. Crane said...

It will be a challenge, Jennie, but I'm determined to win this battle. So, for now, I'm slowing things down. ;)This means the rest of you can slow down, too. I heartily give you all permission. =D