Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Sugarless Plum - Zippora Karz

I love ballet – I love the beauty, skill and athleticism of the dancers, the colour and grandeur of the settings, and the drama and emotion of the music. I also have Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed the week before I was due to run a marathon, so I was instantly attracted to Zippora’s story and it has not disappointed. I have read it from cover to cover, with each chapter compelling me to continue as new dramas of despair, elation and dedication arose from the turn of every page.

The book describes Zippora’s childhood and life with the New York City Ballet, her diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at a critical point in her career, and her subsequent struggles and triumphs.

The book is beautifully written, and beautifully balanced too, as one might hope from the biography of a ballerina’s life. It is a highly-readable story in any context – you do not need to share a love of ballet or to have experience of diabetes to be enthralled and inspired by it. If, however, you do share those experiences or know of anyone that does, this book will give you a remarkable insight into the sheer hard work a human being is capable of putting in to achieve the appearance of effortless grace and power. To have that regime put under the extra pressures and stress of dealing with a sudden diagnosis of diabetes is something few of us could contemplate.

I was diagnosed relatively recently, but Zippora was diagnosed at a time when there was much less information and understanding about diabetes, particularly when diagnosed as a young adult when misdiagnosis was not uncommon (and can still occur today). Nor were there the flexible regimes and gadgetry available to monitor and treat diabetes that there are today, such as almost instant blood-testing meters and insulin pumps. I read with horror at some of the trials she had to endure due to lack of appropriate care or knowledge of what her condition meant, placing myself in such a confusion of conflicting advice and information.

I would recommend this without hesitation to anyone as a beautifully-crafted, thrilling and inspiring book, which stands alone in its own right as a spell-binding journey through adversity.

Friday, 19 March 2010

I blame YOU diabetes!

It’s funny, before I was diagnosed with diabetes I suffered all manner of aches and pains, coughs, sniffles, sleepless nights and morning lethargy. I thought nothing of them, on the whole, and just went about my business. Before long, things were fine again, and I never really gave it a second thought. However, now that I have been diagnosed I attribute all and any ailments firstly to the diabetes! Is my skin dry? Diabetes! Is my foot sore? Diabetes! Did I feel a little under the weather after a heavy drinking session last night? Diabetes!

It’s not just me, of course. The medical profession, once they are aware you have diabetes, will not be swayed from the conviction that the cause of any minor ailment must undoubtedly be due to the diabetes! What’s this? You ran ten miles and now your feet are sore? Diabetes! Of course, diabetes isn’t the cause of all the little twinges and gripes, it’s just that it’s the first thing that springs to mind, what with all the complications that can be associated with it. It’s quite difficult, given all the terrible things that could happen, and that prey on your mind, to look first for some other possibility, but I’m trying to show respect without getting obsessed!

It’s your fault diabetes,
My toes all tingle so!
My calves get cramp and tighten up,
Please pack it in, and go!

It’s not because I’ve been running,
Or walking much too far!
You’re the only reason I can find
For feeling below par!

I blame you diabetes –
You’ve made my nose so sore!
It’s not cos I’ve been picking it –
That’s what my nostril’s for!

Oh why, please, diabetes
Did you just trip me up?
Why did you make me spill my tea,
And almost drop my cup?

I’m cold now, diabetes,
And I blame you of course!
It’s not cos there’s no heating on,
I hope you feel remorse!

You see, dear diabetes,
You cause me so much grief!
Don’t try to claim it isn’t you,
For that’s beyond belief!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Stop right there- it’s the Diabetes Police!

Any person with diabetes will, sooner or later, have a run-in with the Diabetes Police, those possibly well-meaning individuals who believe they know best. Usually, their entire knowledge of diabetes and what it entails is based on myth or a half-remembered and completely erroneous storyline about a minor character in a soap opera. You, on the other hand, simply live with the disease 24/7, so what do you know? And yet, you will be berated for having a treat, condemned for not making the effort, and deemed lucky that diabetes is such an easy thing to manage – if only you put some effort into it! Grrr!!!

I wonder how it would be if, one day, these people suddenly found themselves in the same boat?

I know you made some effort with that diet and exercise stuff,
But look – your levels are rising! You didn’t try hard enough!
I saw you eat that chocolate! I saw you with that pie!
Not food for diabetics, a fact you can’t deny!

So please come with me quietly, you’ll find that we know best,
We might release you with a warning, after you’ve confessed –
You can manage diabetes easily, but only if you try!
Admit we know much more than you, and please don’t question why!

You want to know what qualifies me to talk to you this way?
OK, then I’ll be honest and explain it if I may.
I don’t have diabetes, don’t really have a clue,
But I know it’s caused by sugar, and being fat and lazy too!

That gives me every right to say when you don’t feel so good,
You’ve brought it on yourself you fool, and don’t eat what you should!
We’ll lock you in a cake-free cell and throw away the key,
So try to exercise self-control, and model yourself on me!

{{{phone rings}}}

Excuse me, I have to answer this, it’s about my glucose test…
My goodness! What’s come over me? I must sit down and rest!
He says I’m diabetic! That makes me just like you!
How terrible! How frightening! Please – tell me what to do!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Voodoo Meter!

People imagine that the most painful thing about having diabetes must be the injections, but it’s not so. Even those who are controlled by diet and exercise or pills have to suffer the pain caused by stabbing yourself with a lancet in order to discover your blood glucose levels. Depending on the person and the treatment regime they are on, this might happen between 2 and 12 times a day – for some people even more!

Personally, I test my blood between 4-8 times a day, on waking, before meals and before and after exercise. The thing is, it is rather painful, especially after you have used the same poor fingers a few hundred times! How much better it would be, therefore, if there was a meter that could do a ‘remote’ test – perhaps in the same manner as those Voodoo dolls that you can stick pins in and the person the doll represents feels it, although this time giving the blood glucose levels not the sensation of pain! I’d buy one of those!

Firstly, please let me commend you
On purchasing a Voodoo Meter!
We hope you like the chicken-bone colour,
And the size of it couldn’t be neater!

You’ll notice that there are no lancets,
Just a packet of bright-coloured pins,
And a little cloth doll with some markings
To show where the pins should go in…

Before you start using the meter
Take a lock of your freshly cut hair.
Don’t worry if you are a baldie,
For the hair can come from anywhere!

Tie the hair to the head of the dolly,
Then utter this mystical spell:
‘By the power of the Voodoo Meter
Do your magic, and please do it well!’

Now you are ready for testing,
So take out a bright coloured pin,
Then pick up the doll by the scruff of the neck,
And without hesitation, stick it in!

In an instant you will see on your meter
Your levels – without any pain!
And what’s better, the pins are recyclable –
You can wash them and use them again!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

If everyone had diabetes...

Diabetes affects millions of people throughout the world, and is on the increase. Estimates put the global population affected at 171 million in 2000, rising to an estimated 366 million by 2030. That’s a lot of people, but still a minority (albeit a significant one) of the total population. For this reason the world can still exploit the needs of diabetics, or ignore their needs should their market be directed at non-diabetics. Thus, diabetic supplies such as blood testing strips, insulin, needles, pumps and all the other sundry necessities can be charged out at premium prices with a small cartel of companies holding a nice and comfortable hold on life-preserving essentials.

Similarly, the food industry in particular are able to market highly processed, unhealthy foods packed with sugar, fat and salt at the majority of people with little obligation for the probable health problems and cost to society that ensue. This majority are also encouraged to participate in leisure activities that make few demands on their cardio-vascular health, leading to an ever-increasing tendency to obesity and heart disease.

But what if everyone had diabetes? Everyone would have to start taking care of themselves, or suffer the awful consequences. People could still choose unhealthy lifestyles, of course, but only in the full knowledge that it would almost inevitably lead to loss of sight, limbs or kidney function. Governments would have to take action immediately to prevent the healthcare services being overwhelmed. Diabetes consumables would become cheaper. Research into cures or treatments would be funded by all, not via charities that have to plead to a self-interested minority – everyone would have a personal interest in a successful breakthrough!

Maybe it will happen one day, with the way the numbers are increasing year by year…

If everyone had diabetes,
I wonder what the world would be like?
Would we give up our motorised transport
And all travel round on a bike?

For I’m guessing we’d all be more active,
And eat fewer biscuits and buns,
And maybe some chemist would come up with
A sweetener that doesn’t cause the ‘runs’!

We wouldn’t treat children with chocolates,
Nor feed them on pizzas and pies,
They’d learn from the start about footcare,
And how to look after their eyes.

Our food would contain far less sugar,
And we’d choose with more care what we ate,
There’d be warnings, like cigarettes, on packaging,
And we wouldn’t pile so much on our plates.

Maybe we’d see rapid progress
On things now affecting us all,
So we wouldn’t need charity for funding,
And the politicians all would play ball!

Maybe one day it will happen,
For we’re 300 million strong,
And the way that the world seems to be heading,
The rest will all join before long!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Banned from Eating Yoghurt!

Someone on the diabetes support forum wrote of her encounter with a lady in the street with a clipboard asking passers-by to sample yoghurt. However, on learning that she was diabetic, the lady responded that she wasn’t allowed to let her try it! Bizarre, but I think if we take a peek inside the Market Research Seminar that Clipboard-Lady attended, we will discover the reason why…

Welcome everybody, to our M.R. seminar,
We hope you’ll learn essential stuff to make your work go far!
Your work has hidden dangers, though you may not be aware,
So please proceed with caution, and always take good care.

The main thing you should learn here – and this may save your life! –
Is don’t approach a bloodied man who’s carrying a knife!
But nearly as important, and this may cause surprise,
Never offer diabetics your yoghurt, buns or pies!

They may seem meek and gentle, and smile and say hello,
But offer them some yoghurt and very soon you’ll know
They change from being human, they growl and snarl and spit!
Something must slake their bloodlust – you’re standing near – you’re it!

Don’t think you can outrun them, you’ll find no place to hide,
For once they’ve tasted yoghurt they’ll hunt you far and wide!
Their eyes go wild and crazy, they thrash and scream and shout!
So keep your yoghurt hidden when diabetics are about!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Cornish Clotted Insulin

TV dramas vary in their respect for accuracy when including a diabetes storyline, which is a shame as the general public’s knowledge of the correct facts about the disease and its treatment is further confused by this lacksadaisical approach. Recently, there was an episode of the BBC hospital drama ‘Casualty’ which involved a young diabetic girl who was involved in a boating accident. We learned that the girl had strict moral principles and refused to be treated with any insulin that had been tested on animals. To my knowledge, this excludes all insulin currently available, unless somewhere there is a type that has only ever been tested on humans (or is in fact acquired directly from other humans!)

Animal insulin is obtained from the pancreases of slaughtered animals, and the synthetic stuff has all undergone animal trials before being approved for human use (although I could be wrong about that). So, what did the girl use instead? Cornish insulin of course! Apparently, the only stockist of her particular type was Jacob’s Pharmacy in Penzance, Cornwall – quite a distance from the hospital she now found herself in. As a result, a debate ensued whether to override her principles and give her a more readily available kind. Eventually, after she had developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and fallen promptly into a diabetic coma, an enterprising young doctor administered some ‘common’ insulin and hey presto! she recovered!

Clearly, Jacob’s Cornish Insulin is not a well–known alternative, and must therefore be a secret, family preparation that is not widely publicised, and most probably based on the renowned Cornish ice cream – that delicious, golden yellow, creamy concoction that has delighted both young and old for decades…

Now, there’s Novo and Aventis and Eli Lilley too,
All pharmaceutical giants that take care of me and you,
But have you heard of Jacob’s? The Chemist of Penzance?
He’s the only known supplier of a remarkable advance!

For, once we all thought insulin was porcine or bovine,
But Jacob’s stocks a product that is utterly divine!
If you’re allergic to synthetic, and against the animal kind,
Then there’s only one type you can use, though it may not spring to mind!

Cornish clotted insulin! An ice cream-based solution!
In the field of diabetes treatment it’s a total revolution!
In seconds it will bring you round from ketoacidosis,
So ask for Cornish insulin at your Type 1 diagnosis!

It’s only stocked at Jacob’s, it’s the only place on Earth –
An insulin monopoly, goodness knows what it is worth!
But Jacob’s secret recipe, handed down throughout the ages
Keeps the people of Penzance employed on very decent wages!

Now Jacob has some other plans, still on a dairy theme,
For a fudge-based sulphonylurea that involves some clotted cream,
And a Cornish pastie statin to keep cholesterol low,
And a pilchard source of omega-3, caught fresh in Polperro!

Saturday, 13 March 2010


Apologies for the lack of recent activity here, I have just got back from visiting relatives. I was lucky enough to be staying in a holiday cottage rented by my dad and step-mother in Skipton, in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales! The picture above is the view over the canal from the cottage window. The weather was gloriously sunny for virtually the whole time, although this did mean that it was rather chilly at times - still, far better than gloomy, miserable rain!

As this was the first time I had flown since being diagnosed I was a little worried about carrying the insulin, especially after the recent incident concerning the Detroit 'pants bomber'. However, I simply informed the staff when asked if I had any liquids that I was carrying insulin and everything was fine. They didn't even check, so that is another hurdle out of the way in my diabetes journey!

More poems soon!