Thursday, 24 September 2009

My Diabetic Auntie

I think for children with diabetes it’s very important that they learn from the beginning that it isn’t something that should hold them back in life and stop them from doing all the things their non-diabetic friends enjoy. There are many examples of great international sportsmen and women, and people in other walks of life that have reached the top despite the condition. But just as important, I think, are the ‘ordinary’ people – who may not have fame and fortune, except within their own social circles – but who demonstrate on a daily basis that they have fun, active and fulfilling lives. It may be that many people with diabetes actually have better lives than their non-diabetic friends. Being more conscious of a need to live and eat healthily means it is less likely they will drift into unhealthy habits that may come back to haunt them in later years.

So, this poem is a tribute to Lou, who is a wonderful person with a terrific sense of humour, and who I think has a positive attitude to making the best of things that kids would love.

Today we’re off to visit Diabetic Auntie Lou,
She’s such a lovely person, and I think you’ll think so too!
She says that diabetes shouldn’t stop you having fun,
When we’re with her we dance and sing and jump and swim and run!

She wears a pump called Veo, and I want one as well,
‘Coz when she has her insulin, then you can hardly tell!
It works out just how much she needs for every meal she eats,
And that includes for chocolate pud, and loads of other treats!

She has a special wizard friend that hides inside her pump –
He must be very tiny ‘coz you cannot see a lump!
She has some things called basals set that change throughout the day,
And even though there’s tubes and stuff, they don’t get in her way!

It made us laugh when Auntie Lou once made a pooping noise,
The pump alarm began to sound – she almost lost her poise!
She said it was the bubbles in the insulin reservoir…
That didn’t explain the eggy pong that filled up Auntie’s car!

But we all love our Auntie because I think you’ll find
You’ll never find an Auntie that’s so caring and so kind!
I hope that you have Aunties too, or maybe it’s your Mum,
That love you and that care for you – a super Sugarbum!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Diabetes Fairy

There has always been a lot of superstition connected to strange, unaccountable events, and diabetes is a condition that lends itself particularly well to this – our nemesis is the Diabetes Fairy! Not necessarily a malevolent force, but mischievous certainly, and always ready to throw some utterly unexpected and unexplainable blood sugar reading at you just when you think you’ve got everything worked out. You may have been eating the same food for breakfast for six months, with highly predictable consequences for your blood sugar, then suddenly one day you find you have shot up into the teens or twenties! Or conversely, you might have taken into account the carbohydrate content of your food, the time of day, the insulin taken, activity levels, the temperature, and all the other myriad factors that you have learned through long months of trial and error – but suddenly your blood sugar takes a downward dive towards zero that no amount of sugar, it seems, will raise! These, then, are the spells of the Diabetes Fairy. We don’t want to upset her, but she sometimes gets bored with our perfect control and plays a little trick for her amusement, and our bemusement…

There’s nothing so contrary as the Diabetes Fairy,
She’s as fickle as a cloud up in the sky.
You’d be warned to be quite wary, for her magic can be scary,
And you can’t escape, however hard you try!

There’s one special spell she’ll cast that makes your levels fall so fast
That no jelly baby feast can overcome,
When you think you’ve breathed your last, and your time on Earth is past,
Then she’ll spike you like a bear just bit your bum!

You may think she’ll pass you by if your food is low GI,
But she likes to cause confusion when she can.
Insidious and sly, with no earthly reason why,
She’ll confound the plans of diabetic Man!

You'll usually find she is courteous and kind,
But be careful when she spreads her magic dust –
It may catch you from behind and play ping pong with your mind,
Just at the point you think you’ve got it sussed!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Great South Run – 37 days to go!

Just a brief update today! After Monday’s run, I thought it prudent to wait until I was feeling fully recovered before going out for another one. The last run wasn’t particularly long or strenuous, but it was the first one for a fortnight, and with my recent history and just over a month to go I don’t want any more mishaps!

This morning was bright and sunny, blue skies and a whisper of cool wind. As soon as I started the run I began to feel all sorts of little twinges, but tried to relax and let things gradually warm up. My impression was that my oxygen uptake has improved, as I wasn’t building up such an oxygen-debt on the first uphill part of the run, and I was able to breathe comfortably all the way round – no gasping for breath as would once have been the case. So, although I have missed some of my training, it thankfully does not seem to have affected my level of fitness. What is still apparent, however, is that I don’t have the same strength and endurance in my legs of former times, as they began to tire after about two miles. As I neared the end of the run I was also aware of a growing sensation of fatigue in my right calf where I had suffered the injury a couple of weeks ago, so I took things nice and gently as I approached home.

It was a beautiful morning, but the Sun is now getting that much lower in the sky and at points shining directly into my eyes. One of these days I’ll remember to wear a hat to shield my eyes! On the whole, a good run. My pace has increased slightly, which is good as it was not noticeable to me - I did not perceive that I was working harder. I do need to maintain a steady build-up, though, and not be tempted to do too much too quickly!

Thursday September17th, 2009
2.86 miles
27’ 38”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Winceyette Pyjamas

I went to the optician’s yesterday. After the scare of last week's letter about the background retinopathy, I thought I should get my eyes checked out for any other problems. Good news! The optician was a very lovely lady, who was herself Type 1 (17 years since diagnosis!), so she understood my concerns and all about how diabetes might affect the eyes! She agreed with me that the background retinopathy was most likely a result of the rapid decline in my sugar levels after diagnosis, and possibly also that raised blood pressure might have played a part. She did a visual examination and said she couldn't see any signs of retinopathy and concluded that the changes had been re-absorbed since my scan - although she did say that a scan shows greater detail so there may be some minor changes still there. In addition, she said that the blood pressure medication I am on (candesarten) may actually have a side-effect of improving microvascular health - hurrah! My eyesight is only slightly worse than it was 3.5 years ago and I didn't need to get new glasses (I only use them for reading anyway). She said the slight deterioration was most likely due to my age.

The only slight problem was the pressure of my right eye which was at the high end of the normal range (measuring for glaucoma). She didn't think this was a big problem, but said I should go back for another check in 6 months time. This will be free again on NHS, as there is a medical need for it - normally you are only allowed one fee check per year. So, I was very happy with the outcome, and glad I went - that letter gave me a kick up the pants!

Going to the opticians again reminded me of my last visit there in early 2006. At that time it was my first proper eye check since I was 16 years old! I’d always had good vision, but lately my eyes had been struggling on occasions with small print and when working at the computer. I was quite shocked to discover just how poor the left eye had become, and this had been masked by my right eye compensating. The upshot was I would need glasses for reading, and the reason was simply my age – shock, horror! I was getting old! A few months later this disturbing fact was confirmed when I had to have my first tooth removed! And then, of course, I ended up in hospital with some dreadful illness. I feared the worst, that the years of not quite looking after myself as best as I could were now about to wreak revenge, so I was actually quite relieved to discover that I had diabetes and not cirrhosis or cancer.

I still feel about 30 years old in my head, and I’m not in bad shape for 50, but there are some aspects of my life that can only be attributed to greater age and ‘slowing down’! The following poem is not autobiographical, just some musings on how change might manifest itself. The last two lines are a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt which I came across today as the signature on someone’s post, and which I liked.

You know you’re getting old when your bed is far too cold,
And the ‘hottie’ that you take there’s made of plastic.
I should add, it’s bottle-shaped, and your bed’s no longer draped
With the satin sheets you once thought were fantastic!

Instead of single malt (and it’s really not your fault!),
Your nightcap is a drink that’s warm and milky.
A raunchy novel’s not befitting, so you read up on your knitting,
And your winceyette pyjamas feel quite kinky!

And perched upon your nose, as you read in your repose,
Is a pair of glasses you once thought unsexy.
And those things you thought were cool all those years ago at school,
Will more likely bring on fits of apoplexy!

But to counter all your fears about your swift-advancing years,
Are the memories of all that’s gone before.
Some were good, and some were bad, some you wish you didn’t have,
But ahead of you lie many, many more.

So, although some things have changed, and your life is rearranged,
Remember at the start of each new day,
That yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery,
But today’s a gift to treasure in every way!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Great South Run – 41 days to go!

Hurrah! Went out for my first run in two weeks this morning, after injuring my calf muscle last time out. I have been putting it off for a few days, still nervous that I could feel some soreness and worried that I might damage it all over again the instant I put it under stress.

For the first few hundred yards I felt very vulnerable. There was a slight soreness as the tendon stretched each time I pushed off, and I was running thorugh all the possible ways I might be able to shorten my route the moment I felt anything even remotely approaching pain. Gradually, I became more confident, although still maintaining a slow, steady pace, taking particular care on the steep downhill path that leads into the park. As I entered the park there was a young woman jogging towards me, so of course I had to increase my pace slightly so that a) she would be suitably impressed by my lithe, athletic physique, and b) so I could effect a quick getaway should her lust overtake her at the sight of my wonderful legs and she should leap upon me. I don’t actually think she noticed me, being more intent on her iPod music than my svelte form, so I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and slow my pace a little…

I decided to run the majority of my route in the opposite direction to normal, having calculated that there were more opportunities to cut the run short should anything unforeseen occur. Surprisingly, this appeared to be easier, and on consulting my GPS data after the run I discovered that there was less ‘climb’ in this direction – uphill: 82, downhill 222! Never quite sure if I can trust those figures – distance is one thing, but can the satellites really measure rise and fall of terrain so accurately?

With each step I was still wondering if I should try and attempt the whole of my ‘short’ route, but as each potential turning point came, I carried on feeling none the worse. Eventually, after leaving the park, I felt good enough to run the full length rather than cutting short by a quarter of a mile, which had been my original intention. Heart and lungs were good all the way through, but the legs felt constantly at risk from all the impact and jarring of the joints. Thankfully, the weather was cool and cloudy, so I didn’t suffer the feelings of nausea that often afflict me when the Sun is shining brightly into my eyes.

Hurrah again! Home safe and sound, but conscious that I have only 40 days remaining after today before the Great South Run. I’m also conscious that, however close the event, I mustn’t try and do too much – if I am able to run 7 or 8 miles by race day I will have no problems completing the course.

Monday September 14th, 2009
2.81 miles
28’ 14”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Friday, 11 September 2009

Background Retinopathy

I got a letter yesterday from the hospital, following up on my retinal scan that I had back in July. It came as a bit of a shock to read that I have something called ‘background retinopathy’. This is where the effects of diabetes have caused small blood vessels in the eyes to rupture and bleed onto the retina. At first, this sounds dreadful, and all those stories I had heard about diabetes being the major cause of blindness came flooding back! I read on, and was relieved to see that this was a condition that didn’t require immediate treatment, just extra monitoring in 6 months rather than waiting the full 12 months to my next scan. Consulting others on the forum reassured me that this form of retinopathy would not affect my sight, and may never progress. As long as good control of my blood sugar levels is maintained, then there is very little chance it will get worse and progress to the much more serious ‘proliferative retinopathy’, which can be sight-threatening.

I think I was upset chiefly by the unexpected nature of the letter. My control has been excellent since diagnosis, with my average BG levels (as measured by HbA1c tests) at non-diabetic levels – currently 5.2%. There is a possibility that the changes may have been caused by the rapid fall in my HbA1c levels after diagnosis – it reduced quickly from 11.8% to 6.5% within a few weeks, and background retinopathy can be caused byt this sharp reduction. I also have slightly raised blood pressure levels, and this is something that I am going to work on reducing as this can also contribute to the microvascular damage seen on my retina. I suppose another upsetting aspect is that this is really the first concrete evidence of diabetes having a negative effect on my health. The good news is that I am being closely monitored with the latest equipment, and, should the worse come to the worse, there are now laser treatments available which have proved very successful. These days, it is highly unlikely for someone as recently diagnosed as me to lose their sight because of diabetes, or indeed even if you have been diagnosed for 20-30 years!

So, I will be cutting out the alcohol and getting plenty of exercise to try and reduce that blood pressure. I might even discuss increasing my BP medication with my doctor, as I’m currently on the smallest dose. I’m less averse to taking medications now than I was a year ago – I think my body tolerates them better now that I am fully recovered from my initial illness and weight loss.

For anyone interested in reading further about diabetic retinopathy, I’d recommend the following site:

Oh dear! What can the matter be?
I’ve just found out that I have retinopathy!
That’s got to be worse than being locked in a lavatory
And nobody knowing you were there!

Let’s just calm down and read again properly…
The letter says, ‘you have got background retinopathy’,
‘This doesn’t need treatment’ – so that’s not the end for me,
It doesn’t mean I’m going blind!

This form of the changes is often just temporary,
And forms from the rupture of tiny capillaries,
Amongst diabetics it happens quite frequently,
But may not get worse through the years.

Now the hospital will keep a six-monthly check on me.
So it doesn’t become proliferative retinopathy,
That’s the kind that could end with me not being able to see,
And I certainly don’t want that, no siree!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

I'm a nutcase!

I was at a bit of a loss when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. Not knowing a great deal about the condition, I thought it would be necessary to cut out all forms of snack. Heaven forfend that I should have to suck on celery or some other vile devil-food! Now I know a great deal more and know that these things aren’t taboo, but need to be carefully considered in conjunction with my blood glucose levels. Anything containing carbohydrate can raise levels – so that means that crisps, chocolate as well as seemingly healthy things like milk and fruit all need to be ‘covered’ with an appropriate dose of insulin. So, I can eat these things if I’m prepared to have extra injections, but that’s not something I really want to have to do – it’s enough just having an injection with every meal!

The hunt was on, therefore, for a snack that I could have any time that would have a minimal effect on my levels. And I discovered…dry-roasted peanuts! Tasty, and low in carbohydrate, low GI, and though fatty they contain the ‘good’ form of fat that is helpful to the body unlike the saturated and hydrogenated fats in processed foods. Moreover, they are full of protein which can help to suppress hunger pangs. I currently get through about 100 grams a day – the only thing I need to watch out for are the extra calories, as they are quite high, but as a fairly active person without a weight problem this isn’t really an issue for me. I can’t remember now the last time I ate crisps as a snack. I’ve found that I do have to avoid chocolate – one or two chunks may be OK without extra insulin, but once I get the ‘taste’ I find it hard to stop!

Lovely peanuts, they’re the tops!
Lords of all the nutty crops!
Roasted, salted, honey-glazed,
Stop my levels being raised!

Full of fat - the healthy kind,
The sort your body doesn’t mind!
Full of protein, which they say
Will keep the hunger pangs at bay!

Once I’d snack on sweets and cakes,
Lovely stuff the baker makes,
Now it’s nuts – they make more sense,
This side of the diabetic fence!