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Archive for March, 2012

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I was thinking about starting a comic since I seem to suck at regular blogging. But then I remembered I couldn’t draw. And my comic would look something like this:

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So instead, I’m going to discuss my thoughts about the Medic Alert bracelets. By discuss I mean rant endlessly, as this is a blog. Feel free to comment and turn this INTO a discussion! *coughlovemecough*.

When I was a kid, diabetes bracelet looked like this:

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Ugly, cold, grey. The snake was the most attractive part of the whole set. You cold get other bracelets but they had a habit of involving very bright material and Velcro. Even as a child, this didn’t seem to work with the image I was going for. The image of “Not Ugly”. Plus the bracelet really didn’t match my pink pants. However, at the time, I was at the mercy of my mother and it was just something I had to wear. I also had some friends who had the ugly Velcro ones so at least I wasn’t alone.

As I got older, unbeknownst to me, a whole range of Medic Alert bracelets opened up. Some fancy, some for everyday, some even in the shape of hearts! However, not knowing this I continued to wear the tacky bracelet that never tarnished and never came off. A deep hatred of this bracelet began to seep into my bones like that black stuff that turned Spider Man into … dark and Emo Spider Man. (Wasn’t that movie terrible…).

Somewhere along the way my bracelet broke and needless to say, I didn’t shed any tears. I also didn’t replace it. I know, I know, it’s a stupid thing to do. Life and death and all that jazz. What if I was run over? What if I passed out? What if I started wandering around the street screaming obscenities and throwing things at children and everyone would assume I was a drunk loon but really… it was just low sugar.And other scenarios such as “blah blah grown up logic blah blah blah”. I’ve heard it all.

There was no good reason why I didn’t want to replace my bracelet. It seemed like a needless expense. Why buy another ugly bracelet when I could just get a pretty bracelet that didn’t say “Insulin Dependant Diabetic. Sulfa Allergy” on it. Not announcing to everyone that I was defective also felt nice. I’m not saying I think diabetes makes me defective, or that I’m ashamed of being diabetic. I have no problem announcing to everyone and anyone that my pancreas jumped the coop many years ago. I will happily answer any questions, ignorant or otherwise, about my life with diabetes. But there was something about that bracelet that made me feel branded. I suppose it made me feel weak and vulnerable. I was like any other kid growing up, I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be able to keep up with everyone else and I didn’t see why diabetes made any difference in being able to do that. So far, I hadn’t been hit by a car or fallen unconscious in the street so what was the point?

Well my fellow diabetics and horrified family members, I am proud to say I have let grown up logic lead me. It may help that I found an amazing web site (http://www.my-medical-id.com/) with pretty bracelets. (My new one has a heart on it!). Committing to my diabetes has made me realize I don’t have to feel defective and I don’t have to wear an ugly piece of jewelry to stay safe. I also don’t have to worry about dying in the hospital because no one realizes I’ve gone into a diabetic coma.

Mostly… I’m really excited about wearing my heart on my wrist.

*I don’t own most of the pictures in this blog… except for my



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zing comic. I did that one all by myself… 😀

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Commited to… Diabetes?

“What’s Diabetes?”

“It means you have to ask me now before you eat anything from the fridge, okay?”

I was sitting in my bed in the children’s ward of the hospital and that’s what I asked my Mom. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes when I was seven years old. By the time they diagnosed me I was severely underweight, my gums were receding, I was wetting the bed, and was blacking out on a fairly regular basis. My sugar levels were in the 40s and I was very close to going into a heavy coma. My family doctor had misdiagnosed me. By misdiagnosed I mean hadn’t bother to run any test when my mother brought me in with basic symptoms. Juvenile diabetes wasn’t as prevalent at the time but it certainly wasn’t unheard of. This was the beginning of a long and ugly struggle with Doctors and probably why I still dread doctor appointments.

I remember coming home from the hospital after a two week stay. My best friend came over and wasn’t sure if she was allowed to hug me or not. She asked her Mom if I was contagious and as soon as she found out I wasn’t, she ran to give me a hug. It had never occurred to me, up to that point, that anyone would treat me differently because I had a failed organ. At seven years old I knew a disease wasn’t a good thing but I didn’t see why it would ever affect my social status.

My mother had grown up in a home with handicapped children. She had watched her mother coddle them and consequently handicapped their independence as well. So she treated me in the exact opposite way. Diabetes was never something to be pitied. Bad sugar levels were never a good reason for a bad attitude or a temper tantrum. There wasn’t anything wrong with my brain and what was wrong with my body was nothing more than an inconvenience.

I cannot thank my Mom enough. She was a single mother of three who now had to watch her youngest learn to inject herself with a needle. Back in the day there were only syringes, giant glucose testers, and a very strict diet to go by. I never felt different or alone. I never felt left out and needy. I became independent at a very young age, learning I had to carry and manage the tools that would allow me to survive. I also became very in tune with my body, learning to feel sugar fluctuations and catch them before they became too dangerous. By eight years old I knew not to panic when my sugar levels dropped too low when all the adults around me were freaking out. I learned that most people had no idea what diabetes really was, or what it involved. I’d learned that I wasn’t responsible for my diabetes but other people would assume I was. And I learned that life could be normal with diabetes. It was this understanding which would help and harm my future progress.

When I was twelve years old my Mom remarried and we moved two provinces away, from small townMoncton,New Brunswickwith a beach, fresh air and friendly people, to busyMississauga,Ontario. It took me a couple of years to realize I probably shouldn’t smile at everyone I passed on the sidewalk. I left the pediatrician I’d had since I’d been diagnosed, who called me Cinderella and was the nicest man I’d ever met, to a new doctor who seemed to have so many patients he didn’t even know who I was or why I mattered. My teens hit and with them a surge of hormones that made my sugar basically uncontrollable. The doctor’s office became a place of guilt and frustration for both me and my parents.

I got my first insulin pump when I was twelve. My Mom had been working hard to save for one but with the move and the marriage came medical benefits so she was thrilled to be able to get one for me. I went to visit the nutritionist at my pediatric office assuming she would give me a new diet to work with the new equipment. Instead I was told, “Eat whatever you want, just do so in moderation.” I was stunned. Now, the logical part of my brain told me this nutritionist was an idiot. There was no way I could eat everything and still have good sugar levels. And what was moderation anyways? Wasn’t that different for each person? The angst-filled teenager part of my brain said, SWEET! The first thing we did when we left that office was to go to Red Lobster and get a Brownie Sunday. Heated brownie at the bottom, ice cream and whip cream on top, drizzled with rich, hot fudge sauce. It’s a miracle I didn’t die.

The next few years were filled with high school, gaining weight, some scary emergency room visits when my sugar became completely uncontrollable, and a lot of frustration. My nursing team at the pediatric office tried to be helpful but in the end I still ended up feeling guilty and resentful after every visit. If they were right, I should be able to eat whatever I wanted to and still have perfect sugar levels. Either I was doing something wrong or they were on crack. They didn’t seem to be excessively itchy or paranoid so I couldn’t figure out what the problem was.

When I was eighteen I was sick of the excess weight and the constant struggle with my sugar. I decided to look up consequences of bad sugar management to see if I could scare myself and in a way it worked. You stare at gangreen for long enough and sugar cravings definitely diminish. I realized that because all I had to do was press a button I wasn’t taking responsibility for what I put in my mouth so I made the decision to go back to needles.

I went to my pediatrician office and told my ‘crew’ I was going off the insulin pump. I needed to be referred to another doctor anyways because of my age so I thought I’d get rid of the pump and the team in one go. I explained my reasoning to the nurses and doctor but it felt like I was talking to a brick wall. They sent me for one last visit to the nutritionist, I asked what would be a good diet for a diabetic as I wanted to lose weight and she told me there was none. Portion control was the best she could recommend. When I left I was frustrated and angry at the negligence of people who were supposed to be in charge of my health. I knew I was the only person who was really responsible but it seemed like a little assistance would be nice

I didn’t see another doctor for five years. I self managed my diabetes; I didn’t have benefits so I didn’t need a prescription for anything. When one type of insulin didn’t work I looked up alternatives and switched. I discovered I was my best doctor. This is not something I would ever recommend. It’s dangerous and stupid. Five years later my sugar levels were out of whack and as much as I hated the idea of going back to a doctor I knew I had to get some help so I caved. I discovered that if I don’t like my doctor I won’t go visit him. So after a couple failed attempts I found an endocrinologist that I got along with, my new family doctor set me up with an amazing Diabetic team and I went back on the pump program, over ten years after I’d received my first pump.

With the help of my amazing pump specialist I’ve discovered that I’m insulin resistant in the morning, which is the cause of a lot of my sugar complications. My hormone fluctuations cause their own specific problems, which I’ve been working on with my health team.

I’ve discovered something else as well, something that could be the key to much future success and happiness in my diabetic future. My diabetes is not just an inconvenience only to be addressed when I’m having trouble. My diabetes is a big part of my life, it does affect the way I should be behaving every day and if I continue to pretend that it isn’t a big deal and that I can continue to live life like someone who has a functioning pancreas, I’m going to run into a lot of trouble very quickly.

So this is where I am, eighteen years in, a veteran of diabetes, and finally figuring out that I have to address it rather than rationalize it. I have a long way to go and so much to learn and as much as I’m feeling a little overwhelmed I’m also excited about it. I have a goal of living the rest of my life with both of my feet, great eyesight, and great circulation. I’m officially committed to being diabetic.

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