The Quirky Things About Being a Type 1 Diabetic

Because I am hyper-organised (crap), I scheduled time to write a post for World Diabetes Day—spot the deliberate mistake. Said designated day took place on 14 November, unmarked by we at the Diabetes Diet. Hey ho!

Instead, here I am posting about it more than a week later. You could argue that living with diabetes also takes place on the other 363 days (and the extra one every four years) of the year, so why make the 14th special, although awareness-raising exercises are always useful.

Anyway, I thought I’d list some of the quirky things about living with diabetes. We all know the big stuff, but there are some teeny-tiny bits you put up with which aren’t obvious to those who don’t have the condition…

Gnawing anxiety when parted from your bag. I have an industrial-sized handbag so I can carry around everything—blood testing equipment, two pens, spare needles, jelly babies and a full make-up kit*. When I visit people and they try to take my bag from me to put it with coats, I cling to it. I’m never more than a few metres from that bag.

a picture of a blood testing machine on The Diabetes Diet

A trail of litter that follows you everywhere. I do my best to dispose of it at the time, but I wish someone would invent a small bin that magically appears at your side every time you do a blood test or injection so you can throw away your used needles and blood testing sticks there and then. Every few days or so, I have to do a clear out of my bag where old needles, their wrapping and used sticks gather at the bottom. Once, I was in Regent’s Park in London and I spotted a used blood testing stick on the group and it delighted me. I knew it wasn’t mine**, but the thought that there was another type 1 in the vicinity felt comforting.

An aversion to ordering drinks when you are out that are in a glass. How do you know it’s the diet version? I only feel secure when my drink comes in its bottle or can. Otherwise, you might end up drinking the full-sugar one which will hit you like a sledge hammer almost immediately.

Puncture-marked fingers. I’m still on the waiting list for the FreeStyle Libre so in the meantime, my fingers keep that little collection of black dots that marks frequent finger pricking. You are supposed to vary the fingers, but my right hand bears the brunt of tests because I’m left-handed.

Toilets are very important. High blood sugars make you pee a lot and the first thing I work out whenever I go anywhere is—where’s the loo? Also, I’m not fussy. I have friends who won’t use dirty toilets such as the ones you get on trains. I don’t care. It’s a loo and it’s going to take me from bursting discomfort to huge relief in minutes.

It’s a full-time job. Managing diabetes takes up a lot of time and energy. You don’t get holidays and you can’t quit, and you have to do it on top of everything else you do. The boss is often a moody cow too. The skill-sets needed include arithmetic (figuring out insulin doses to match food), organisation (making sure you have everything you need when going out and keeping on top of your prescriptions), an understanding of biology and how your body works, and the ability to forward plan for most aspects of your life.

 

*Strictly speaking, not needed for diabetes

**On second thoughts, it could have been. Those things get everywhere. I’m always finding them in weird places.

#Type1Runs—Race Report

An oxymoron I know—the words ‘race’ and ‘me’ aren’t a natural fit. If what I did on Sunday 30 September could be described as racing, I challenge you to find that tortoise and it isn’t the one that beats the hare.

Anyway, here’s how the Great Scottish Run panned out for me. The annual race is the largest running event in Scotland and this year it attracted 30,000 participants in both the 10k and half-marathon.

I started in the pink wave (i.e. the slow coaches) and the start was snail-like thanks to the sheer numbers. No complaints from me there as a slow start is what every expert recommends.

Kingston Bridge

Running over the Kingston Bridge is something else—it presents the views of Glasgow that turn up in black backdrops on TV programmes, in films and books set in the city. You see the armadillo, the Finnieston Crane, the towering Hilton Hotel and the odd church spire or two, silent monuments to the man-made standing either side of the mighty Clyde.

The run always attracts the elites and the fastest man, Chris Thompson, finished in 1.02.07 with the fastest woman at 1.09.15. There was also a proposal at the finish line and the woman said ‘yes’.

 

As the fastest woman crossed the finishing line, yours truly was still at mile seven chanting the mantra “you can, and you will do this” over and over in a mind versus body competition. Thanks to clever tech, my husband was able to track my progress through the Great Scottish Run app and managed to cheer me on those last 50 metres over the finishing line, two hours and thirteen minutes after I started.

[Instead of missing my triumphant sprint to the end as happened at the last race.]

Diabetes care and exercise

And the diabetes care? Ahem! Everything I did points to how not to train for a half marathon and what not to do on the day. Dear reader, the furthest I ran in training was seven miles, although I had the odd day where I ran twice as per what ultra-marathon runners do in training. I managed to run the whole thing without even a toilet stop.

On the day, I woke up with super-high blood sugars thanks to a roll I’d eaten the night before. Yes, just one lousy bread roll rocketed my blood sugar levels through the night and my first test of the day was 18.6. I took one and a half units of fast-acting insulin and my basal dose, minus two units.

Super-high sugar levels made me wary of eating before the race, but I did have a Trek protein flapjack one hour before. Ping! As the race was about to start, my blood sugar levels went up again to 16.6. I knew I couldn’t start running on that, so I took one unit of fast-acting insulin and crossed my fingers.

Body feedback

I took my insulin pen with me, jelly babies and the FreeStyle Libre sensor—and, er, didn’t use it at all on the way round. I couldn’t be bothered routing around in my little pack to find it, and there is something to be said for relying on the feedback your body gives you. At the seven-mile mark, I decided I’d better eat a jelly baby or two, and at the nine-mile point, I accepted a gel from the SIS stall. From then on, I ate eight jelly babies spaced out for the rest of the run.

Blood test at the end said 8.3, rising to 11.1 an hour later and then plunging to 5.4 half an hour after that, at which point I ate a meal roughly 50/50 protein and carbs.

Lessons for another time? Do more blood tests during the race. Ignore the carb loading advice for the night before (or don’t do it with bread or flapjacks) and watch out for adrenaline. The nerves kicked in an hour before the run and that might have contributed to those high sugar levels, so the next time I might not lower the basal insulin rate as much…

Next time

But wait! There’s not going to be a next time, is there Emma?! Confession—having sworn I wouldn’t do it again, I’ve changed my mind. The Glasgow half-marathon is so atmospheric you can’t help but be swept up in running fever. Crowds cheer you almost all the way round armed with witty signs—my favourite was the one telling us we were getting in good practice for the zombie apocalypse—and the sense of achievement you experience at the end is… Indescribable.

And seeing as I proved I can do a half-marathon without ever running more than seven miles in training, the idea of doing it again next year appeals.

 

Thrity-One-Year-Old Claims Cure for Type 1 Diabetes

A PICTURE OF BLOOD TESTING EQUIPMENT AND NEEDLES

A PICTURE OF BLOOD TESTING EQUIPMENT AND NEEDLESGoogle alerts frequently pairs ‘diabetes’ and ‘cure’ together, but most of the time the words don’t capture my attention. Even when ‘type 1 diabetes’ and ‘cure’ make the same sub-heading, I’m not jumping up and down.

Yeah, yeah, heard it, bought the tee shirt, and no impact on my life so far…

But The Sun newspaper carried a story this week about a 31-year-old who claims to have cured his type 1 diabetes with diet and exercise alone. Again, that approach can achieve results with type 2 diabetes but it’s the first time I’ve seen it accredited to a cure for type 1.

Exercise and diet

Daniel Darkes’ regime isn’t for the faint-hearted. He eats a diet high in zinc (nuts, oily fish and veg) and runs more than sixty miles a week.

But before you dig out your trainers and start stock-piling the Brazil nuts, Daniel’s type 1 diabetes has some qualifications. He has a rare, abnormal gene, which doctors believe might have restarted his pancreas.

The 31-year-old from Daventry in Northants developed diabetes eight years ago and stopped giving himself insulin last January (2017)*. He started cutting down on insulin after experiencing hypos in 2016. He travelled to the US in March 2017 to find out more. Doctors ran further tests to find out what we happening to his body.

Brain sending messages to pancreas

He was put on a fasting diet and exercised at the same time. The medical staff noted his brain had begun sending new signals to his pancreas, and he hasn’t injected himself with insulin ever since.

Daniel told The Sun that doctors believed his abnormal gene combined with exercise is the reason he’s been able to cure himself—it’s as if the gene acts as a back-up immune system and has recharged his pancreas.

He is still being monitored at Northamptonshire General Hospital.

Abnormal genes

I’m fascinated by this story—as I suspect most type 1s will be. I’m no medical expert so my opinions are qualified, but I suspect that Daniel’s abnormal gene plays a huge part in his ‘cure’ (and this won’t be regarded as such until he reaches the two-years-without-insulin mark). It’s also interesting that the description of his diet (scant as it is) sounds like a low-carb diet.

The article said that Daniel’s case “could provide a revolutionary new approach to treating type 1 diabetes”, while Diabetes UK said it couldn’t speculate on whether Daniel had ‘cured’ his diabetes or not, and that there was “no clear cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes”.

 

*DISCLAIMER – please, for the love of all things injectable, do not skip your insulin injections if you have type 1 diabetes…

 

Diabetes Resolutions for 2018

diabetes dietHave you made yourself big promises this year? It’s tempting to say, “Well, 2018 is THE year I eat low-carb ALL THE TIME and achieve near-normal HbA1c results every time I get my levels checked…”

I decided on some small goals this year. And when I’m finished, it’s your job to add your own super small goal to the comments – the more modest and dafter the better! As any goal-setter knows, wee ones are achievable and sustainable.

  1. Change the needle on my blood lancer more frequently. There is a video on YouTube where a young type 1 confesses to changing hers infrequently. I’m the same. (Blushes deep red – like, weeks can go by…)
  2. Inject mindfully. When you’ve had diabetes for 35 years, you do injections automatically to some extent. I won’t be the only person who sits down to a meal and can’t remember if the medication has been taken or not. Pump users don’t get this, as their device will tell them. You can also get pens that tell you too. In the meantime, FULL ATTENTION INJECTIONS only*.
  3. Stop going on about my steps. See my earlier post on this. Is there anything duller than the step bore?
  4. Tell people in the gym I have diabetes. Ahem, I don’t bother ‘fessing up when the instructors ask if anyone has anything wrong with them as I hate drawing attention to myself. But it’s irresponsible of me.
  5. Stop reading articles about the ‘potential’ cure for diabetes. Whatever stage this is at, it’s a long way off. I’ll pay attention when it’s the headline article on BBC News at Ten.
  6. Book in for a pedicure. Tenuous, I know, but we diabetics are supposed to take extra care of our feet so an hour of having them rubbed, descaled and anointed with unctuous cream counts, right?
  7. Stop thinking having diabetes makes people fabulous. My example here is James Norton. Before November 2017 I was already in love with James. Then, I found out he’s a type 1 diabetic and my heart imploded. Oh sod it, that’s not a resolution. Clearly, diabetes makes you AMAZING.
  8. Turn down s**t I don’t want to do and use the diabetic excuse. I’ve had 35 years of not using it, so it’s about time I took advantage.

 

*I joke about this, but there’s a serious side of course. Inject yourself twice accidentally, and you’re at serious risk of hypoglycaemia.