Last winter, I wrote an article on my blog (Where in the World is Katie Doyle?) about dropping my blood glucose meter off of a chairlift in the Alps and into the white oblivion below. Since then, I have been taking extra notice of the places I check my blood sugar--some of which strike observers as being remarkable. Here are a few places where pulling out my BG meter has had an impact on those around me (and on me, too!):
When I went heliskiing last March, the trip happened to fall on St. Patrick's Day. Although the Irish around the world, myself included, love to celebrate this "lucky" green holiday, it is significant to me for another reason: it's the day I was diagnosed with diabetes.
Before we began our descent down the mountain, I pulled out my tester after stepping out of the helicopter high in the remote Italian Alps. One of the other skiers said, with a hint of surprise, "Oh! You have diabetes!"
I proudly confirmed that I did, in fact, have Type 1, and that I was heliskiing on my "diaversary."
It occurred to me that I would never have predicted doing something so adrenaline-filled when I was in the hospital and so very sick; as I wrote on my blog, it was as if I were proving to the girl I was when I was diagnosed that diabetes wouldn't stop me from doing anything. It was then that I realized the support I received from my diabetes team that day (which allowed me to hop on a plane for a family vacation--no interruption in plans!) and in the years since has been significant in my life. Testing on top of a mountain eleven years later? No problem!
2. Mountain Climbing
I recently had a day off from my job in New Zealand, and the weather looked like it would cooperate. I convinced my roommate to climb up Mt. Fox, a long hike (almost 8km of a steep grade, round trip) with a sweeping, panoramic view as a reward. Being the kind of person I am, I would have done it by myself, had my roommate declined...however, I knew it would be smart and would make my parents and my diabetes team happy if I didn't attempt it alone.
Of course, a long trek such as this required me to check my blood sugar OFTEN. I think I checked it 15 times, but I definitely lost count. Sometimes I panic when anticipating a long day spent in a remote place because I'm so afraid of hypoglycemia, but I make myself do it anyway--and I make sure my adventure companion is familiar with Glucagon, just in case.
The clouds that surrounded the mountain range finally disappeared when we reached the summit of Mt. Fox. As we say down for a picnic lunch, I pulled out my tester. My friend laughed as I took a picture of my One Touch Mini with the Southern Alps in the background, but I think she was glad that I was feeling okay.
I do get to check my blood sugar in the coolest places!
I wonder: how many people with Type 1 think that same thought?
3. Wilderness Living
I love to take any opportunity to educate others about my diabetes. When I went into the New Zealand wilderness to fish and snorkel for a few days, I lived with some folks who were interested in learning about Type 1. After a few days of watching me check my blood sugar, one remarked, "Wow, you do that so often!"
(*spoiler alert: I was not wearing a CGM in the wilderness)
When I considered how to respond, I thought about how testing myself must appear to others: I have to prick myself, scoop up the blood, see what the reading is, and dispense insulin accordingly. These steps, now so automatic to me, must seem overwhelming to other people when seen in such quick succession!
I told the well-meaning observer that although I normally check it about 6 times per day, I was applying extra caution to testing my blood sugar because I was living in the middle of nowhere and performing at a high activity level. It actually felt nice to engage in a conversation about something which has become so normal that I could do it in my sleep. What a great opportunity it was to educate someone about Type 1!
AADE members: Are there any inspirational stories you like to share when counseling newly diagnosed patients or patients who are frustrated with their diabetes?