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Living with diabetes
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in November 1956 at the age of 18 months. At the time it was believed that I was the youngest known diagnosed case of diabetes. I am not a doctor nor have I had any medical training. I do not profess to be an expert or have any special knowledge about diabetes. My intent is to share a little of my life's story with you and a few things I have learned along the way.
Only you can take care of yourself
When I first developed diabetes I was too young to care for myself, so my mother and family had to help me. As I grew up I was able to assume more and more of the responsibility, just like any person would. While I was in elementary school, my teachers always knew about my diabetes. They always kept candy (that we provided) in their desks for me in case my blood sugar got low and I needed it. By the time I was in High School, I did not experience as many lows, but this was before the days of the personal blood glucose meters, so my control was not as good then as it is today.
I hope that it is obvious that you are the best judge of weather or not your blood sugar is high or low. Others may be able to tell when your blood sugar is low, but it is much harder for them to tell if it is high. If you are feeling lousy and have no energy, maybe your blood sugar is high and you need to try and get it lower. On the reverse side of this, if your blood sugar has been running high for a while and you are just now getting back under control, you may honestly feel like you blood sugar is low when in fact it is in the normal range. It is almost as if you body is addicted to that high blood sugar.
You also have to take responsibility for the foods you eat and how much. Does that mean you can not ever have a special treat? No, it does not. You can still have those special treats; you just have to learn how they affect your own body and take the appropriate action to keep your blood sugar in the normal range. On the other hand, this does not give you free rein to just eat whatever you want either. You still need to eat that balanced diet and consume foods that are good for you. Being over weight causes problems, not just for a diabetic, but for all people. It is much easier to maintain a healthy weight than it is to have to lose it. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you have ever experienced low blood sugar, then you know that you should not drive when your blood sugar is low. I carry glucose tables and crackers in my car at all times, and so does my wife. If I ever feel like my blood sugar is low, then I pull over and check it. If I cannot pull over, then I go ahead and take some glucose tables and then stop as soon as I can to check my blood sugar. I feel it is better to err on being high, than to risk passing out behind the wheel of a moving car.
Where I live we have freezing rain. When this happens, everything gets coated with a layer of ice, the roads become impassible and we frequently lose electrical power. In the winter months I always make sure that we have ready to eat food in case the power goes out and we cannot cook. I also pay attention to the weather and if a storm is predicted, I make sure I have enough diabetic supplies (insulin, test strips, batteries etc.) on hand in case I am unable to get to the drug store. If you live in an area that is subject to severe weather, freezing rain, blizzards, hurricanes, etc., then be proactive and make sure you have the supplies you need before the weather turns nasty.
Day to Day
Every one has those things they need to do each day, like brushing your teeth. Being a diabetic, just adds a few items.
My glucose meter uses one of those button type batteries that come one or two to a pack. When I put a new battery in my monitor, I always buy a new battery and I carry it with my monitor. This way I am never caught with a dead battery in the middle of the night and have no way to test my blood sugar.
If you're new to having diabetes, this all may sound over whelming. Be assured that as you live with your diabetes, all of this will become second nature for you.
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This many sound a little strange, but it has been my experience that a smile always make me feel better. Unfortunately, today there is no cure for diabetes. I learned that by finding a way to put a smile on my face each morning when I wake up, then I get up feeling much better than if I don't. Of course, I do have a secret weapon. Their names are Poco and Pumpkin, our cats. One of them is normally next to me and they always know exactly how to put a smile on my face.
Same reasoning as "smile often". After all, a good laugh is a smile on steroids.
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Surround yourself with those you love
My other secret weapon is my wife and family. If your read "My Baby is a Diabetic", then you'll agree with me when I say I have a wonderful mother. I have always known I was loved, even when I was being a royal pain you know where, and believe me, I can be one. I have wonderful parents and two fantastic sisters. I also grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles and a plethora of cousins and many, many wonderful friends, some new and some that I have known for more than 50 years. Today, I have a lovely wife that I adore and nieces and nephews. So, why do I include this? First, and most importantly, it makes life worth living. On the diabetic side, there have been times, not many, but still a few times, when my blood sugar was so low that I was basically helpless, but there was always someone there for me. At one of my high school reunions, an old friend was recounting a story from elementary school of how I was in front of him in the lunch line when I passed out. Since everyone there knew I was a diabetic, they knew what to do.
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Do not be ashamed, let others know
Maybe because I developed diabetes at such an early age, I have never felt a need to hide it. I know that some people that have developed diabetes later in life have felt ashamed and tried to hide it from others. All I can say is, don't be. When I was in elementary school, all my classmates and teachers knew I had diabetes. At work, I always told my boss and my co-workers and I have worn a medic alert bracelet since I was a teenager.
In my professional life, I would occasionally run into a problem with people that like to schedule meetings from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. While I would try to be flexible, that just does not work. Eating lunch before 11 is too early and after 1 is too late. Of course when I explained it to them, they would always say they understand and that they know someone who is diabetic (I'll bet they were type 2). I never had a problem in getting them to delay the start of the meeting until 11:30 and then I could eat my lunch during the meeting. I'll bet that others I worked with appreciated the opportunity to also get their lunch. Also there is the fact that no one, even someone without diabetes, is at the top of their game on an empty stomach, the meetings where probably more productive.
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Today there is an over whelming amount of information available to you. Your doctor, diabetic education centers, the American Diabetic Association, books, the Internet and many more. One word about the Internet, just because you read something on the Internet, it is not necessarily true. I am just an ordinary guy, with no medical training and I have created this site. While I think everything I am telling you on my site is true, be smart, and make sure you can verify it from other credible sources.
Not all insurance plans will cover diabetic education. Some want you to call their nurse to get advice and they have diabetic specialists on their staff.
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My least favorite thing to do, but I try to get some form of exercise each week. I found a hobby, called waymarking, which gets me out of the house and gets me moving. I normally walk a mile or more when I go waymarking. This way I get some exercise and have fun at the same time. Hopefully you love to get out and be active, but if you are like me and are the world's worse athlete and would much rather sit and read or work on your computer, well then take responsibility for yourself and get out and get moving. It may not be a lot of fun, but you will feel much better, have more energy, and frankly, just enjoy being alive more.
Sports drinks and water
I always seem to over do it when I work in the yard and my blood sugar drops too low. In one of the diabetic classes I have taken, they suggested adding a sports drink (like Gator Aid) to the water I always take outside with me. The sugar in the sports drink helps keep my blood sugar at a normal level.
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Count those carbs
If you're on a prescribed diet or take more insulin before you eat, you need to know how many carbohydrates (carbs) you are eating. Today we have a wealth of information. There are many books and web sites that will tell you how many carbs are in a serving. The food labels on the processed food you buy will tell you how many carbs there are per serving. The key here is per serving. If you eat two serving, but only count the carbs in one serving, then your blood sugar will more than likely be high afterwards.
Most chain restaurants (including fast food) have web sites that will tell you how many carbs are in a meal. Some even have the number of carbs on the menu (I wish all did) or posted some where in the restaurant. I keep a book in my car that will tell me how many carbs are in a meal and several of the restaurants I stop at when I am traveling or waymarking. Of course, if you always get the same thing, or frequent the same restaurant, you'll remember without having to stop and look it up. See my advice on taking notes.
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Check your blood sugar
I know, it hurts (sometimes) and you feel like a human pin cushion, but how else do you know how you´re doing. If your blood sugar is low before a meal and you do not check and take your regular amount of insulin, well then your blood sugar will be low later and you´ll have to eat more. This is not fun or healthy and can cause you to gain weight. Of course the reverse is also true, if you blood sugar was high and you don´t compensate for that, you will stay high. Remember, the better you control your blood sugar, the better you will feel and at the same time postpone or prevent serious complications later in life.
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Hopefully your doctor/diabetic educator has given you a form to track your before and after meal blood sugar reading. These forms are used by your medical team to help you make adjustments in the amount of insulin you take. Beyond that, you may also consider making notes on how certain foods affect you. I love pizza. Pizza can be challenging for the type 1 diabetic. It has a delayed reaction. You may check your blood sugar two hours after eating and find your blood sugar to be almost normal, but then at four hours it may have shot up to 250 or more. Well, take care of it, and then make some notes so that the next time you have that special treat, then you´ll know that maybe you need to take another bolus at 2 hours to compensate for that delayed reaction. Eating out at some restaurants can be very tricky. If you have a favorite dish, learn how it affects you. That sauce that taste so wonderful, may be full of sugar, or may have a delayed affect on your blood sugar. This does not mean you cannot have it, it just means you need to learn how it affects you so that you are in control.
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There will be bad days
All people have bad days, and just like people that do not have diabetes, you will have them too. But as a diabetic, some of those bad days will be due to your diabetes. When my blood sugar drops, normally I just take care of it and then in 15 minutes of so, I´m back to what ever I was doing. Sometimes though, I just don´t bounce back. My blood sugar may be normal, but I still have no energy or have a terrible headache. Typically, this only happens when I notice my blood sugar is getting low and I´ll think to myself, that I can finish what I am working on before I stop to take care of the low. My mistake and I pay for it. This ties back to the "don´t keep it a secret". If you are at work and feel that low coming own, you are doing no one a favor by trying to tough it out. You will not be as productive and then may end up having to take the rest of the day off. I can only remember this happing to me once at work. I guess I learned my lesson that time.
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