Friday, February 01, 2008

I Am Diabetic

I had been planning to do this essay about being diabetic, but hadn't had time to set up and shoot the photos. In response to Tech's comment on my bread-making post, however, I've gone ahead and gotten it together.
Tech's post about diabetics limiting bread was not mean-spirited. We're in this battle together, so it was definitely a thoughtful question. Of course I promptly told him to shush it, because, well ... I like bread.

However, I don't want to imply that I'm careless enough in my diabetes management to disregard sound nutritional advice. Quite the contrary. Tech and I have both gone through diabetes education classes which are very intense and cover a huge range of information. One of those areas is nutrition, of course, and we learn how important it is to control (not eliminate) carbohydrate intake.

I am allowed seven servings of carbohydrates each day. Each serving is equivalent to 15 grams of carbs. Learning what a "serving" is is an ongoing education. I learn to read food labels. Other people may be watching fat intake; I have to watch that AND carbohydrates.

So, no, I don't want to give you the impression that I ate the whole thing last weekend when I made that great loaf of bread. I did not. Granted, I did not treat it with scientific precision when I did eat it. I guesstimated, and I knowingly overdid it, a bit. I enjoyed a splurge.

It would be one thing if I splurged on candy bars. Or potatoes. (Potatoes REALLY can send my blood sugar sky-high faster than candy!) But this was good-quality, whole grain, fresh bread with no preservatives, which I made myself. I did eat it with some moderation. I even have some left, if you can believe it.

OK, so what DOES being diabetic mean in practical terms in my daily life?

The biggest thing is that I test my blood sugar every day. Or nearly every day. There are times when the day is over before I get it done. That's OK. I still keep track of it several days a week, and I try to test at different times so I can see what might cause my numbers to be off track.

Here's what this new health routine looks like. Don't worry, I'll warn you before we get to anything that might make you queasy.

This is my testing kit. It includes my meter, a bottle of testing strips and what I call my "poke 'em stick." Other people call it a lancet. There's also a pocket that holds a log book so I can write my numbers down and study them over time.

Here's the meter. You can see it fits nicely in the palm of my hand.

Here is a test strip. It's some sort of a hard plastic which has a capillary channel through which the blood activates an electric signal. Somehow there's some hocus pocus built into this thing which lets the meter know how much glucose is floating around in my blood. Cool, huh, that a little thing like this can tell us so much.

The test strip goes into the top of the meter, turning the meter on.

Now comes the poke 'em stick -- er, lancet. It is spring loaded -- I draw back the trigger, and when I place it against the heel of my hand, I push the trigger and it launches the lancet. You big burly types that get faint at the notion of b-l-o-o-d may want to put your head between your knees right now and scroll past the next couple of photos.

I use alternate site testing -- what's that? It just means I do not stick my fingers! I'm so lucky to live in a time when finger-sticking is just one option for diabetic testing. I test on the heel of my hand, where there are lots of capillaries, and it does not hurt one bit. I promise you, I hardly feel it. No pain. This is good.


See? It was done in less than a second. Now I have a teeeeeeny tiny drop of blood on my hand, and I take the meter and the test strip to the drop and let the test strip siphon it into the meter. (Actually, the blood stays right in a tiny area of the test strip, probably less than 1/8th of an inch long, where all the electronic wizardry happens.


See? Not bad.

OK, guys, we're through with that. The machine counts down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then it tells me what my blood sugar level is.

LOOK!! It's good tonight. My level is 122, before I eat supper. I like that number.


I really like it because it was "eat like a Barbarian day." I had a huge and nutritionally improper breakfast, but it was cold and I was whiny and we ordered out at the office and I went to pick it up out in the cold.

And then at lunch we had submarine sandwiches. I ate mine without the bread, just snacking on the protein fillers. Plenty of yum, zero carbs.

Here's another component of my health care. I take a diabetes drug called Metformin. One pill, twice a day. It's a $4 prescription at Wal-Mart, for which I am truly grateful.

So there you have it in a nutshell:
1. Count carbs and eat a well-balanced, studied diet.
2. Don't eat the whole loaf of bread, even if you really like it.
3. Test blood sugar daily.
4. Take medication as prescribed.

In addition: Drink lots of water. This is really important for diabetics and is really good advice for everyone who is a human. Get exercise. It helps control the release of glucose into the blood stream. Get plenty of quality sleep. It's good for you and it feels really, really good.

And if you have diabetes, be grateful. It is definitely a manageable disease and you could wind up being healthier for it. Take a good diabetes education class and learn how to manage it and take good care of yourself.


drlobojo said...

My mother was a type II diabetic. She passed it on to me. She lived to be 92 and died of meaness. She passed that on to me as well. 92 and that was during the times they didn't have the treatments they do now.

Trixie said...

You better invite me to the party when you turn 92, drlobojo.

Sarabeth said...

During my first pregnancy, I was diagnosed as a gestational diabetic. I watched every thing I ate, banned sodas, corn, and potatoes of any kind from my house. Oh, that proved to be difficult, but I did it.

I, too, poked my finger to test my sugar each day, five times a day. I now eat so that I don't have to do that again. Might not work, but I understand what you go through each day.