April Showers Bring…

Writer’s block.

I’m currently reading four books at once and composing just as many blog posts in my head.  My golden rule of blogging is when the words flow, ride that wave.  But if writing ever feels forced, it is time to take a step back and regroup.

Owning the occasional frustrations of the writing process can be just as important as what is eventually said.  The right words will come along.  They always do.  Isn’t that why God created coffee?!

Here’s a photo of a cute Guinea pig to tide us over until May.

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25 years on a Lilly medal + 1 test strip representing another year = 26th diaversary

Last year I had many words, and blog followers reported that they kept Kleenex in business while reading.

This year, only a few terms come to mind:

Anger.  Insulin.  #weneedacure.  Emotional Health.

If diabetes takes a backseat in life, it is not for lack of trying.  Rather, it is for resetting and rising again.

Reese has taught me to appreciate the simple joys of reliability, and love.

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Here’s to more +1’s.

 

We need a cure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reese’s Cups and Hamster Wheels

I first fell in love with memoir as a junior in high school during a course aptly titled Rewriting A Life.  There, I was introduced to the work of Mary Karr, and to this day I soak up her words like a sponge absorbs a misplaced glass of cabernet: fully, and scattering droplets where they are most needed (the only clean part of the carpet, for example).

Here’s a droplet:

When you’ve been hurt enough as a kid (maybe at any age), it’s like you have a trick knee.  Most of your life, you can function like an adult, but add in the right portions of sleeplessness and stress and grief, and the hurt, defeated self can bloom into place.

-Mary Karr

That’s sort of how I feel lately.  The perfect storm of life stressors- past, present, and future- has left me questioning my moral successes and failures, my worthiness as an advocate, and where to go from here.  The answer is that there is no black or white response- only more questions, and more places to go.  The best work I can do at the moment is simply to voice this.

I am angry that our fellow people with diabetes are dying because insulin is inaccessible and ludicrously expensive.  I am angry that the people who can afford insulin- myself included- are under the constant pressure of maintaining positive disease outcomes with rusty toolboxes.  I am angry that we do not have a cure.  I am angry that we are so fragmented as a community, that when we voice dissent we are quickly hushed by the status quo of comfortableness and the diabetes industry- luxuries that so many others do not have.  Finally, I am angry that I am angry, that I have scapegoated much of my anger on diabetes, and that I have not always handled life’s difficulties with the grace and dignity that I know dwell within my heart.

However, I am grateful that despite the bad stuff, there are friends and supporters who still believe in the good stuff.  Their love has never wavered, and has inflated into a life raft when needed most.  (Thank you).

Rewriting A Life does not mean you get to copy and paste a Cinderella ending to your story.  You simply get to live it, and to describe the good and the bad in detail that has the potential to resonate with someone else who desperately needs to hear you.  Perhaps you desperately need to be heard, too.

Recently, emotional and physical health have felt like running on the hamster wheel while nursing a sprained ankle and a hangover.

So, I switched things up and adopted a guinea pig.

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This is Reese.  She is colored like a Reese’s cup.  

She is currently petrified of me, but I hope the same thing that I hope for you, or me, or any living creature: that she feels loved nonetheless.  

 

 

 

Diabetic Alert Cat?

Why is Dad scratching at the door like a goofball?  And why hasn’t he given up yet?  I’m so tired!, I mused, finally rousing from bed.

My body moved through hypoglycemia-induced-quicksand as I turned the doorknob.  Much to my surprise, Tootsie, our 12-year-old cat, was the actual visitor.  This was not a prank from a human family member.  In fact, this was not a drill.  My blood sugar had been hovering quite low for an extended period of time.  Tootsie knocked in her own way, and, thankfully, she snapped me out of a deep sleep to answer.

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I gulped down some fruit juice from the ever-present nightstand bottle and crawled back into bed.  Although I am allergic to Tootsie and she usually detests venturing to the second floor of my family’s home on Cape Cod, here she was- settling in to keep watch.

 

She knows.  She knows I’m low!, I realized.

As a child, whenever I would wake up in the middle of the night plagued by nausea, I begged my mother to sleep at the foot of my bed.  Don’t talk to me.  Don’t touch me.  Don’t do anything.  But please just stay with me.  Mom obliged and kept her guard post until I drifted back to sleep.

Tootsie got the same memo.  Normally, she would be purring and climbing all over me; but she now understood that the best way one can support a friend during a hypoglycemic event is to simply be a present observer in the moment.

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Continuous glucose monitors and mg/dL readings and Humalog are all foreign things to Tootsie.  She may or may not have identified the low blood sugar scent that alert animals are trained to pick up.  Whatever the problem may have been, Tootsie seemed to know that something was wrong.  She persisted in her attempts to alert me to the issue.  Tootsie did the right thing, and she stayed the course.

Perhaps the human side of healthcare can learn a thing or two from a cat’s display of empathy?

Food for thought…  Pass the Meow Mix.

 

Ally-gator Scratching for Answers

A few weeks ago, I attended some follow-up appointments at Mass General Hospital (MGH) in an effort to identify allergies that may be triggering an inflammatory response in my body.  In other words, #JustSayNoToKetones, random fevers, crappy BGs, and the typical symptoms of a type 1 diabetic’s response to the dreaded “normal person sick” (NPS).  A WordPress glitch is not allowing me to link to content tonight, but the background to my MGH visit can be found by searching for the blog post “Sleuthing” on verylightnosugar.com.

In April, a scratch test confirmed what we already knew.  I am allergic to the following culprits.  Do not let their pleading-innocent faces fool you in their mugshots!

 

 

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 #WhoMe? #TootsieWithTheGoodFur

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#FreeAceDog

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’16 Bonnie & Clyde

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Scratch test and shoe game

We scheduled more intensive allergy patch testing in June, in which potential household irritants are temporarily placed on the skin to elicit reactions and identify allergy triggers.  I visited MGH on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, logging hundreds of miles on my car and refreshing my memory on just how difficult Boston traffic is in the summer.  I averaged 2 hours on the way there and 3 hours on the way back to Rhode Island due to traffic.

On Tuesday, a nurse placed the patches on my back.  She carefully explained each step in order to keep me calm and informed.

“Now I am going to clean the area… Now I am going to dry off the area… Now I am going to place the patch.  It’s like a big sticker… Now I am going to secure the sites with tape… Now I am going to draw around the sites with marker so we can track the reactions and the locations… You may feel a little itchy… Do not get the sites wet or super sweaty… Try not to scratch so we can examine things clearly when you come in again… Call us with any problems…”

“That’s it?  I’m free to go?!”

And off I went for 48 hours of fun.

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I’ve always wanted to say that a crocodile, an alligator, a Great White Shark, a mountain lion, or a bear bit me.  Seize the day, folks.

The sites were a little itchy, but nothing unbearable.  In true diabetes form, my skin was more agitated by the medical tape than anything else.  Eventually I could tell that a baseball cap and perfume overload were not going to cut it; I needed to wash my hair without getting my back wet.

The first attempt in the kitchen sink resulted in me inadvertently mopping the floor with my soaking wet hair.  I moved on to the shower, my back carefully padded with towels and sweatshirts to avoid contact with water, which would jeopardize the test results.  I craned my neck into the stream of water and scrubbed as best I could.  The next day resulted in a “hat day” as well, my hair a total Punky Brewster disaster.  Shout out to the Betes On Tap crew for sitting next to the smelly girl at happy hour.  You are good for the soul.  🙂

On Thursday, I returned to MGH for the patch removal.  A nurse gently peeled off the tape and then the patches, always cognizant of how much her patient was flinching in the background.  The skin is understandably angry after all of that, so a 20-minute waiting period takes place before the sites are examined to allow the skin to cool down.  One of my top ten favorite healthcare interactions of all time resulted:

“Try not to scratch, okay?  I’ll be back soon.”  -Nurse

“Okay.” -Me

*Frantically scratches back as nurse leaves the room*

20 minutes later:

Nurse, lifting patient’s shirt: “Did you scratch…?”

“No…..I mean, yes!” -Me

Now I know how Tootsie and Ace feel: guilty as charged.

Further examination revealed some irritation to certain patches.  The nurse bid me farewell with strict instructions not to scratch at home.

On Friday, I met with the doctor.  The skin irritation had quieted down at that point, and she did not believe that I was reacting to the patches we tested.  Further testing of a wider range of patches was recommended.  TBD what that will reveal… But at least I’ll know how to wash my hair better for the next time.

We also did a penicillin test, which involved scratch testing of the skin, shots, and eventual ingestion of penicillin.  Being a healthcare nerd, I know that penicillin allergies are often misdiagnosed or that patients will outgrow the allergies, and I was hopeful that the one time I broke out in hives and ran to the bathroom every few hours while taking penicillin in college would be a fluke.  It was.  Your girl is free to take the antibiotic again, which is nice to know in case of any serious infections in the future.  Now to update my MedicAlert bracelet!  I will bask in the glory of removing a medical jewelry condition rather than adding one this time around!

I took everything in stride the week of the appointments, mostly because of the superb care I was so blessed to receive at MGH.  The appointments ran on time; I was seen by an expert in the field; the nurses were considerate and thorough; the receptionists were friendly; a volunteer greeter walked me to the elevator I needed; just wow.  From the moment I stepped foot in the main lobby at MGH, I was treated respectfully.  I was not just a patient.  I was a human being.  Just like everyone else in the building.  This is a welcome change from some of my experiences at other facilities, and I urge those clinics (you know who you are) to take a page out of MGH’s book.  There is a reason why MGH is repeatedly numero uno.

The following week, exhaustion and burnout reared their ugly heads, and I was just… done.  Done with diabetes, with healthcare, with publicly sharing my health story, with traffic, with pretty much everything.  I wanted my privacy and my identity back- to not submit myself to one more needle poke or to being a patient incessantly pingpong-ing around the healthcare system.  Alas, after lots of sleep and lots of time spent in good company, I can see the light more clearly this week.  I am extremely fortunate to live near Boston and to receive topnotch care.  It is okay to be tired.  But I have to keep going, not allowing health woes to take over; rather, to know that I am trying.  We all do this because we have to.

Goodnight.  Don’t let the scratch tests bite.

-Ally-gator

 

 

 

*My condolences to those mourning the loss of friends and family members from the diabetic online community this week.  I hope that this blog post provided some comic relief, but on a more serious note please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. 

#weneedacure