Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Insulin (Dependent Diabetes & Insulin Pump)

My theme for the A to Z Challenge: Desert Canyon Living

It has been wonderful to read your comments about my life here in the canyon. I'm happy you have enjoyed the landscape, the clouds, the dogs, donkeys, and so on. But I can't really write about my life in the canyon without talking about my insulin-dependent diabetes. Diabetes is not the focus of my life, but it does require constant vigilance and is, therefore, a huge and dominant part of it. 

I was diagnosed with Type 1, insulin-dependent, diabetes in February of 1990, when I was 49. Only 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1, which was earlier called juvenile diabetes since it most often strikes children and young adults. I am proof that older people also get it. Type 1 is an auto-immune illness, Type 2 is not. 

The first ten years were pretty much a nightmare of high sugars, low sugars, and insulin reactions (sudden and dangerous drops in blood sugars). Then in the year 2000, I got my first insulin pump and my life went through a total transformation. Needless to say, so did the lives of my husband and our pets -- they got to live with an almost normal person again. In 2008 my insulin pump got upgraded to the latest model of the Medtronic MiniMed pump, with all the bells and whistles available at the time. 

These are my diabetes management tools:

Glucose meter and test strips. I check my blood sugars about seven times a day. Most people don't check that often, but I can't live without this device and if I ever forget it at home, I tend to panic. 

Insulin pump, insulin and various medical supplies necessary to make it work. I replace the insulin reservoir every three days. I fill a new reservoir with insulin and insert one end in the pump and the other in my stomach area. This is not a big deal; it does not hurt, and only takes about 15 minutes for the whole procedure. And once the pump is back on, you completely forget you are wearing it.

Emergency supplies. I find glucose tablets to be very reliable to counteract an insulin reaction (a dangerous drop in blood sugars). They live on my night stand and I never leave home without them. The dog tag is from Medic Alert and contains the necessary information about my medical conditions. 

Having diabetes is not entirely without benefits:

  • I stopped smoking more than 17 years ago.
  • My diet has greatly improved and so has my general health.
  •  I walk and/or hike with my dogs almost every day. I doubt I would push myself as hard to exercise if I didn't have diabetes.
What I don't like about diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is relentless and does not give you a break. Not ever. You can never let up your vigilance and being spontaneous is practically impossible.
What I wish people would understand:  Type 1 diabetes is very different from Type 2. When people talk about diabetes, they usually refer to Type 2. That's what about 90% of diabetics have, so it's understandable, but it is not what I have.
What's weird:  As your sugars get more normal, there is always the risk of them going too low. Passing out from low blood sugars could have dire consequences, especially for someone who lives alone.
What I'm afraid of: Having low blood sugars in the night, while alone.
What diabetes has taught me: I can make it through the night.
What is most difficult: To not take my low blood sugar drama/trauma out on my dogs or my husband.
What else have I learned: I can't expect anyone to understand what this is like. 
What I can't live without: My glucose meter and test strips. And insulin, of course.
What I would do if I didn't have diabetes for one day:  Walk barefoot in dewy green grass (if I could find some), or on the beach.

If you have made it to here, I thank you. There will be more pretty canyon/dog pictures in future A to Z posts, but this is a part of me. I is for I am, for Inger, my name, for Insulin, without which I would not live. I am very grateful for it and for all the improvements that have been made in the past century, even in the 20 years I have had diabetes.


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