The Good Ol’ Days of Diabetes

Ah, the good ol’ days of diabetes – glass syringes, peeing on sticks and rigid eating times.

cover of Artists Town by Emma BairdWe veterans remember them fondly and with the odd head shake in disbelief. Did it really used to be like that? by ‘eck, we have come far… Recently, I wrote a book, Artists Town, which features. a type 1 protagonist. My book is set in the early 1990s and life for we pancreatically-challenged has changed substantially since then.

My own diagnosis came in the 80s. Here’s what used to happen then. See if you remember any of this stuff, and newbies read it and gasp.

  1. Glass syringes. Yup! The environmentally-friendly option too, given the waste your average type 1 inadvertently produces these days.
  2. Urine, not blood testing. It was a lot less painful; a lot less accurate too.
  3. Dextrosol. Standard treatment for hypos were these chalky, horribly-flavoured, expensive sweets. After a while they turned rock hard too. When Lucozade tablets appeared on the market, I was in HEAVEN.
  4. Exchanges. Long ago, doctors and nurses taught us carbohydrate counting. One exchange was roughly 10g of carbohydrates and you were given an amount for every meal and snack. To make it simple, one tbsp. of cooked rice or potatoes equalled an exchange, as did a slice of bread or an apple.
  5. NO SUGAR. It astounds me that at some point post my diagnosis, advice for diabetics included ‘eat anything you want and cover it with insulin’. As a wee girl, doctors said no cakes, no biscuits, no sweet, ice-cream and watch out for sugar in ketchup. Nine-year-old me burst into tears.
  6. Tab – the only no-sugar fizzy drink on the market. It tasted of grapefruit. The no-sugar market exploded in the mid to late 80s.
  7. The all-knowing doctors. In the 80s, doctors were still viewed as all-knowing, authoritative figures and you didn’t question them when they told you why you were having so many highs/lows. They were the experts. Your day to day experience of living with diabetes counted for naught.
  8. Fruit salad. Young me got offered a lot of fruit salad for dessert – the world’s worst pudding when it comes to taste, and not that great for your blood sugar levels anyway. I haven’t eaten the stuff in decades.
  9. Terrible chocolate and carob bars. Boots had a line of chocolate they advertised as suitable for diabetics. It was a) not very nice and b) little better than the real stuff for blood sugar control. And as for carob bars… carob is one of those acquired tastes, and I never got it.
  10. Two (count ’em) injections a day. This is the one that will astound the newbies, what with today’s regimes of multi-daily injections or pump therapy. I took one long-acting and one-medium acting insulin, mixed together twice a day. This meant meal times had to be the same and stuck to every single day. While flexibility is nice, sometimes I think there are advantages to rigidity. “Sorry, I need to go. If I don’t eat now, I’ll collapse” – a great excuse to get out of anything.
  11. Thrift. My mum and I used to cut up my blood testing sticks to make them last longer, possible then because you measured your blood sugar level by comparing the colour the pad on the stick turned to a chart on the tube. We cut them lengthways, a fiddly but effective job.

Artists Town is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk Please note – this book contains adult content and strong language. 

Blogging About Diabetes

Medical News Today summed up ten of the best diabetes blogs. Sadly, we weren’t one of them (there’s no justice in this world), but they did make some great suggestions that I want to check out.

Why blog about diabetes? When I was first diagnosed, there were few opportunities to meet other people with diabetes. Weirdly enough, I grew up in a tiny town (population sub 2,500), and five of us were diagnosed with type 1 in a short space of time. I did have other diabetics around me, and my mum ended up developing a close friendship with the mother of one of them.

That said, though – we didn’t have that much information at our fingertips and in those days, the GP, the consultant and the diabetic nurse were autocratic figures. No-one challenged them or the recommendations they made.

Fast forward thirty-odd years and millions of people share their experiences of living with diabetes, types 1 and 2. Obviously, we don’t all have medical qualifications, and can’t and shouldn’t offer medical advice but we can tell stories about what has worked for us.

We can share our experiences of how we exercise, what we eat, what we do to prepare for holidays – it’s all about how we live as well as we can with the ol’ sugar curse! Online friendships and communities can’t replace real-life meetings and connections, but they do go some way to making you feel less alone with your diabetes.

So, here are some of Medical News Today’s best blogs about diabetes that I’m going to be investigating…

Bitter-Sweet – Karen Graffeo was diagnosed at the age of eleven and remembers daily insulin injections, a strict exchange diet and sugar monitoring involving urine and glass test tubes. (Me too!)

She started Bitter Sweet in 2008, tagline “life with diabetes isn’t all that bad”.

The College Diabetes Network sounds useful for anyone (or the parents of anyone) about to go off to college/university. It can be scary for both prospects, and the site provides the tools and resources that can help people with diabetes live well as students. Categories include clinics, student rights, job opportunities, dining hall eating, relationships and more.

The FitBlog is run by husband and wife team, Tobias and Christel Oerum. Christel has type 1 diabetes, and the site is for people to find out more about exercising safely and efficiently when you have diabetes.