Diabetes Blog Week

Diabetes on steroids

Back in October, I had a steroid injection in my hip. And yes, it drove my glucose levels bananas! For those of you who may not be aware of it, steroids are one of the medications that truly mess up glucose numbers for lots and lots of people.  The ultimate craziness only lasted two to three days but the residual crazy lingered a couple of weeks.

Here’s a little of the backstory behind why I got a steroid injection.

I have been complaining about my right hip for some time and I finally did something about it in September 2016. I went to my GP. He referred me to my physiotherapist and we did some “process of elimination” exercises. They didn't work. So then I went for an MRI and was referred to a rheumatologist.

At least now, we think I know what is wrong with my hip! It would seem both my physiotherapist and my rheumatologist agree that I have bursitis. And my rheumatologist injected steroids to reduce the swelling. If you have diabetes and you have steroids that plays absolute havoc with blood glucose.

However, no one could tell me how many days, weeks, months the glucose madness would go on for and how severe it would be.

Here is my experience of what happened to my glucose levels.

Prior to my injection my diabetes management was going fairly well with just the usual ups and downs. I had the shot mid morning and my glucose levels didn’t feel the effect of the injection until after lunch. But after lunch my numbers remained in the high teens until the early hours of the next morning. On day two, I noticed that if I increase my mealtime insulin significantly more than usual it would keep them in check. However, if I forgot to make the increase then I struggled to bring my numbers back down for hours.

Then the effect of the steroid started to wane slowly over the next two weeks and I had the opposite problem: trying to keep my glucose levels above hypo level. I adjusted insulin doses slowly and only making one or two changes at a time to bring them back to my normal diabetes levels (?!?!).

I was grateful that not only was I aware that this would more than likely happen but that both my endocrinologist, rheumatologist and physiotherapist reminded me it would. I'm probably going to have another dose in January but now, at least, I have a good idea of what to expect.

Diabetes Blog Week - Day 4 What brings me down

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This week is the 8th Annual Diabetes Blog Week and my second year participating. Diabetes Blog Week was started by and is still instigated by fellow type 1 Karen Graffeo in Connecticut who blogs at Bitter~Sweet Diabetes. This week is as a way for Diabetes bloggers (well over 100 participants from ALL OVER the World each year!) to share a huge variety of perspectives on issues relating to our illness. Learn more about Diabetes Blog Week here. #DBlogWeek

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 4 - What Brings Me Down

Today let’s revisit a prompt from 2014 - May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks again to Scott for this 2014 topic.) I seem to be in a good place with my diabetes management at the moment, as I’m blogging less about my own diabetes experiences and more about what is going on in my wider diabetes bubble.

So my “What Brings me Down” blog post is more about all the things that are frustrating, overwhelming and make me want to cry in the world of diabetes advocacy.

However, there is one area that does bring me down recently. Several nights, not in a row, of CGM alarms disrupting my sleep are bring me down. Is it just a phase or is it a new trend? Being overwhelmed with the night time alarms not being consistent so I can’t use the information to make changes is bringing me down.

Oh and the thoughts of doing basal rate checks is bring me down too. I’ve no problem doing, no, I’ll correct that to, I have the least resistance in doing basal rate checks at night. Go figure that one!

My anxiety levels elevate a bit when I consider doing basal rate checks during the day because I’m always running around and I “chauffeur” during the day (school dropoffs and pickups). So, and please don’t be horrified by this, but in my 7 years on an insulin pump I have not done basal rate test in daylight. But since I learned more about Sugar Surfing last weekend I have a renewed ambition to tackle this.

What seriously brings me down is trying to explain what living with diabetes is like for me and not receiving compassion or understanding. Being met with the challenge of lack of knowledge and being met with a lack of empathy because the tabloid media and some health care professionals continue to reinforce the myth that diabetes is a self-indulgent condition and therefore deserved.

What brings me down is trying to fundraise for anything related to diabetes, especially to improve diabetes health care services in Ireland, in a world that doesn’t seem understand or want to understand why we need those things. What brings me down is how heavily we rely on our own community to fundraise when we are such a small one.

What brings me down is hearing that a new, much needed, health care professional has (finally) been appointing in a diabetes clinic only to find out that a vacancy or funding is pulled from another clinic in another part of the country. Case and point here;

“– In Waterford, the vacant Consultant post there was advertised last year and we have to wait over 6 months for interviews to be held and possibly up to a further year for the post to be filled.

– Following the transfer of a Consultant from Sligo Hospital to Limerick University Hospital, nothing is being done to date to recruit a replacement in Sligo.

– In Galway University Hospital, we are waiting for interviews to take place for the vacant Consultant post there which was recently re-advertised following the withdrawal of a successful candidate who was returning from abroad and who had accepted the post in 2015 and was due to start in 2017.” Source Diabetes Ireland

What brings me down is the fact that our health service published a standard of care document for children with type 1 diabetes in December 2015 and have absolutely no progress or indication that it will be implemented any time soon.

And finally, what brings me down is the fact that there is NO standard of care document for adults with type 1 diabetes and even if the health service ever gets around to publishing the delayed since June 2016 document for us, I feel like it will never, ever be implemented and I am on my own to advocate for myself.

It’s the never-ending-ness of the work needed in the diabetes advocacy world and the constant two steps forward, one step back and sometimes two steps back, that brings me down the most.

But I suppose it keeps me distracted from my own type 1 diabetes getting me down. :-S

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 3 The Blame Game

This week is Diabetes Blog Week which is in its 8th consecutive year. This is my second year participating. Diabetes Blog Week was started by and is still instigated by fellow type 1 Karen Graffeo in Connecticut who blogs at Bitter~Sweet Diabetes. This week is as a way for multitudes of D-bloggers (well over 100 participants from ALL OVER the World each year!) to share a huge variety of perspectives on issues relating to our illness. Learn more about Diabetes Blog Week here.

#DBlogWeek

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 3 The Blame Game

Have you experienced blame and judgement from your healthcare team or someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger. Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had. Now, the game part. Let’s turn this around. If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself? Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us! (Thank you, Brian, for inspiring this topic.)

I tend not to judge the friend, acquaintance or complete stranger too harshly when the say something that doesn’t particularly sit well with me. I find when I use this moment as an educational and awareness one we both walk away happy… I hope.

However, I actually feel a lot of judgement from a select few people with type 1 diabetes on all that I do to manage my diabetes. I was reminded of this by these words:

“You know, someone at my work has diabetes and they don’t seem to have all the things you have to manage it. Maybe you should try to simplify what you are doing. You don’t need all of those things.” from Diabetogenic.

I immediately thought of a conversation I’ve had that was so similar but this conversation was with a person with type 1 diabetes.

It was during the time that we were organising the very first Thriveabetes Conference. We sent out press releases to every media outlet we could think of, and a researcher from a very well known radio programme called me to, you know, do research. I immediately launched into my Thriveabetes "Sales" Speech about the power of peer support in helping people with type 1 diabetes and why I believed the event was so important.

It was only when I talked about the mental burden that living with type 1 diabetes can sometimes bring that this person revealed that she was a person with type 1 diabetes. She went on to challenge what I had said by saying that she disagreed with my personal experience of living with type 1 diabetes. She did not feel that way at all. She said that just got on with it, diabetes didn’t get in the way of her life at all and she didn't think about her type 1 diabetes much at all. I did respond that I thought that was great for her but my experience and a lot of people I knew shared my views.

She made me feel like a failure! She implied that I was doing way too much to take care of myself and making a big fuss about an illness that she found easy to manage. I choose to believe her because I don't know this person. Who am I to challenge her about how well she manages her diabetes? But I felt I was not getting the same respect.

It was so hurtful! And I didn’t know how to respond! I think that I may have gotten her back up a little with whatever my flustered response was because we never got a call back to do an interview.

This wasn’t the last time that similar conversations have happened. But I now feel that I handle them better. I jump in straight away with compliments on the diabetes knowledge and commend them for finding their way. I express my mild jealousy on how easy they have it. If this person allows me to explain a little about how I feel, that should be all I need. I hope that this is enough to illicit a smidge of respect and understanding that not all people with diabetes are the same.

Thankfully, it’s only a few select people that I have had these types of interchanges with, and the Diabetes Community is overwhelmingly the best bunch of people to hang with whenever possible. As experience at the recent #SugarSurfingDublin workshop :-D

Diabetes Blog Week - The Cost of a Chronic Illness

This week is Diabetes Blog Week which is in its 8th consecutive year. This is my second year participating. Diabetes Blog Week was started by and is still instigated by fellow type 1 Karen Graffeo in Connecticut who blogs at Bitter-Sweet Diabetes.

“Karen created this annual week-long blog carnival as a way for multitudes of D-bloggers (now more than 100 participating each year!) to create an unprecedented sharing of perspectives on issues relating to our illness. You can learn more about this effort, and sign up yourself if interested, here.” #DBlogWeek!

The Cost of a Chronic Illness

Insulin and other diabetes medications and supplies can be costly. In the US, insurance status and age (as in Medicare eligibility) can impact both the cost and coverage. So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care. Do you have advice to share? For those outside the US, is cost a concern? Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care? (This topic was inspired by suggestions from Rick and Jen.)

I’m one of the lucky ones. I was born in Ireland. I’ve lived there most of my life. But I’m not lucky because I live in the Gorgeous Green Kingdom. I’m lucky because 50 years ago a bunch of people who live with diabetes got together at a meeting and said that their mission was to provide free insulin for everyone living in Ireland who needed it. (Yes, we pay for it through our taxes but really, it’s free.) And two months later it happened.

Then in 1971 all other diabetes medication and supplies became free. This is why I am lucky.

I’ve been following the American coverage of the cost of insulin with a broken heart and feeling of helplessness. And I know that there are countries in the developing world where a vial of insulin is a number of days of walk away from the people that need it.

I did have difficulty accessing diabetes technology in the form of an insulin pump and a cgm and diabetes education is still difficult to access here but this seems so insignificant compared to not being able to afford or get your hands on insulin.

I read the book "Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle" over the Christmas holidays and it detailed those first few years where Insulin production was unstable and there wasn’t enough for everyone. Neither of the manufacturing companies couldn’t make it fast enough. Access to insulin was because there wasn’t any.

My diabetes doesn’t cost me anything but my time. This is sometimes a bit of a weight on my shoulders as my clinic appointments happen when I am supposed to be collecting my children from school. But it’s also a huge relief.

The Hard Diabetes Changes

I've been using an insulin pump for almost seven years and it's unlikely that I will go back to injection pens. However, I know that things change over time and how I feel about things also change, so I will never say that I will never go back to injection pens because the future is unpredictable. This week, I have been thinking a lot about all the times I've changed the way I manage my diabetes and how difficult some of those changes were. 

I remember when I was transitioning from pens to my pump and that period where I was “practicing” with it. I swear I just wanted to throw it against a wall it was so annoying. But I was also doing twice the work; I was injecting the real insulin with my pens and calculating pretend insulin doses with saline in the pump. It took twice the time for no extra gain. I did that for three days.

I sat in my kitchen one of those three days and thought to myself what if, after all I went through to get this pump, I actually hate it? What if it drives me batty? Why am I changing everything? And the horrifying thought of what if it doesn't help me?

Then I reminded myself that very few people around the world give their pumps back - they continue to use them and are happy with it. I had seen this research on the internet. I also reminded myself that if I didn't like it that I could go back to pens. I reminded myself that change is always hard.

I remember when, after living with type 1 diabetes for 6 years, I changed from two injections per day to four! I remember thinking "how is this better?" when it was suggested. I didn't want to do it but my research told me it was a better way and it was worth trying.But it was better.

I remember when my first blood glucose meter became obsolete. I think I used it for 5 years!!! I know, it was crazy! It was a pain to try a new one. Not to mention changing to new test strips. But it was a good change.

I remember when I went from checking my blood glucose twice per day to four and then to seven. That was a pain but, again, worth it. I learned so much about managing my insulin doses to match the needs of my body from all of those tests. Now, it's simply out of habit that I still maintain those 7 tests.

I remember when I tackled proper carb counting and not just guessing - that was a lot of extra work for a couple of weeks. Again worth it.

I was not happy with the results I was getting in my life with diabetes and even though change is always going to be difficult at first, it’s worth remembering that some changes are worth it. Some were not worth the effort and I didn’t continue with them. But doing nothing was not an option. If I didn't try I would never know if it was better.