Thursday, 14 November 2013

World Diabetes Day 2013: The Invisible Condition

Happy World Diabetes Day, everyone! :) In true WDD style, I awoke this morning with a blood sugar of 3.6 - a true reminder of the fact that I have diabetes and, along with the other 382 million people with the condition, this day is partly for me.

Diabetes is so often referred to as the 'invisible disease', the 'invisible disability', or the 'invisible condition' (I prefer the latter terminology!)  It's true, diabetes is invisible.  No one would ever know, when they see me on the street, that I've already checked my blood sugar and injected myself with insulin at least once that day.  However, sometimes, it feels to me that diabetes isn't invisible at all.

I see my skin when it's covered in sore patches of blue and purple - bruises from my injections.  I see the remainder of unhealed wounds everyday - permanent scars, because of the poor circulation my diabetes causes.  I see hundreds of pin-prick holes on the tips of my fingers - the proof of regular blood sugar monitoring.  I see a ghost in the mirror - pale and drawn from unstable blood sugars.

It's at times like these, when it feels like I have 'diabetic' tattooed on my forehead, that I have to remind myself that not everyone knows diabetes like I do.  In fact, some have never heard of it at all.  To them, my bruises and scars could be from sporting injuries, my face pale as a result of late nights and, as for the pin-prick holes, they would probably never be noticed at all.

I realise that because diabetes is invisible, it's so important that we let people know what it is.  For me, World Diabetes Day is always about raising awareness.  It's about making people aware of the symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes and the symptoms of hypo/hyperglycemic episodes.  It's about letting people know the differences between the types, how it is treated and how it affects those dealing with it on a daily basis. 

If we can all go out today and learn something, or tell someone one thing about diabetes, we are contributing towards a future where an invisible condition becomes one which is understood.  If we can fall asleep tonight, or any night for that matter, with one more person in the world knowing something about diabetes that they didn't before, we should be proud! :)  So today I go out in the world, wearing blue and taking the invisibility cloak off the shoulders of diabetes - hopefully I'll learn something too!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

D-Blog Week: Diamonds of The DOC

There are several reasons why I love D-Blog Week but the main one is that it invites people living completely different lives, in completely different parts of the world, and brings them together through writing about one thing we all have in common - diabetes.  Seeing as this is the final post of this years D-Blog Week, it's time to shed some light on some of the superstars of the Diabetic Online Community.  Thank you to the following people in particular, some being new discoveries and some old favourites, for providing me with lots of quality reading this week:

Dave's posts are fantastically written and his ability to make the D seem humorous is so uplifting.  I'm so glad that he decided to take part in D-Blog Week as reading the musings of The Tangerine Diabetic the past few days has been a treat!

Kim's blog is one of my exciting new discoveries, thanks to D-Blog Week!  I love how her posts are so heartfelt that they manage to have me on the verge of tears one minute and then sporting a smile from ear-to-ear the next.  I hope my attitude towards my diabetes is as great as hers after 26 years of living with it.  Really looking forward to reading more from 1 type 1 after this week!

Vicki's writing is truthful, inspirational and absolutely beautiful.  Through D-Blog Week her posts have been first point of call for me to read before writing my own, as her ability to make you see the positive side of diabetes is a daily necessity.  Vicki's Notebook is consistently wonderful and enjoyable to read and Vicki's spirit is consistently contagious!

Emma's blog was one of the first that I started reading when I started writing about my diabetes 2 years ago and I've been addicted to her posts ever since.  Her down to earth approach to diabetes is admirable and the Teapot Diabetic is a very honest account of living with type 1.  Keep writing, Emma - I love it!

Thank you Karen Graffeo at Bittersweet Diabetes for organising yet another amazing opportunity to get further involved with and meet other wonderful members of The DOC.  It's because of the people in The Diabetic Online Community that diabetes feels less like a burden and more like a blessing.  Also a massive thank you to those who have read my posts this week and beforehand - as always, your acknowledgement and support means so much!

I have a 2 hour train journey today, so I plan to spend it all catching up on the posts from the last week and I can't wait!  It is with sadness that I say goodbye to D-Blog Week 2013, but I am looking forward to seeing you all again next year.  Wishing everyone in the DOC happiness, health and heroic blood sugars! xo

Saturday, 18 May 2013

D-Blog Week: Diabetes Art Day

I always really enjoy diabetes art prompts, but I've got to admit that I was feeling a little bit felt-tipped out after yesterday's post!  However I remembered a style of D-Art I've seen circulating the DOC since I started blogging and always wanted to have a go at, so here she is...the Type 1 Diabetes Supplies Girl!

Friday, 17 May 2013

D-Blog Week: D-Thanks Fairy Does Diabetes!

I've opted for the wild card prompt of 'design your dream diabetes device' today, simply for an opportunity to bring back an old favourite of mine.  The first year I participated in D-Blog Week, and actually exactly 2 years ago today, I chose to use a wild card and wrote a story called 'Weeping Daisy and The D-Thanks Fairy'.  Since then, good old D-Thanks Fairy has made a couple of other appearances on Diabetic Dais and so I thought it would be a shame for her not to show her face again this year.

She used to be a whisper of encouragement in times of need but, as of now, D-Thanks Fairy is so much more!  When you are low, she sprinkles her magic dust on you and your blood sugars rise to them to a perfect level without a peak.  When you are high or you've just eaten a meal, she injects your insulin for you with super-soft needles so they never leave a mark (she may be only small, but she's wondrously strong!)  She never forgets to pick up your prescriptions for you and when you are about to run out of insulin in your cartridge, she senses it on the tips of her wings and flies to the fridge to bring you a new one.  She's an expert carbohydrate counter and she knows everything there is to know about diabetes, so you never need to see a clinician again if you don't want to - just ask her!

She lives inside your glucometer and some people think she answers to the name of 'NOT AGAIN!', but she doesn't really.  More often than not, she appears when she hears you say this because she knows it's when you need her most.  Her real name is D-Thanks Fairy and she's called this because she makes you thankful for the important things, like life itself.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

D-Blog Week: Timeline of Diabetes Accomplishments

Most of the major breakthroughs and achievements I've had in my diabetes management have occurred in the last couple of years, which is great for my memory's sake!  My biggest accomplishment, which I wrote a post about a couple of months back, was reversing the diabetic retinopathy I'd been told I'd developed a year before.  It was probably the happiest day of my diabetic journey so far, but now I realise that there have been lots of smaller achievements that led up to that day and the wonderful emotions I felt because of it.

March 2013:  Reversal of diabetic retinopathy

November 2012:  16 year Diaversary! 16 years of being on the diabetes rollercoaster and I'd finally stopped screaming.

October 2012:  HbA1c of 7.7%, down from 10.2% in July 2011

July 2012:  'Diabetic Dais' was featured in an article about good health blogs, in the national magazine 'Take a Break' (read about this here)

March 2012:  I started taking care of my diabetes as well as I could.  I stopped skipping injections completely, started testing my blood sugars before eating and in between mealtimes and vowed to carbohydrate count to the best of my ability.

September 2011:  I moved away from home for the first time to start university.  This meant taking full responsibility for not just my diabetes, but my health and body in general.  Eating right (which starts with remembering to go to the supermarket and buy food!), remembering to put in and pick up prescriptions before running out of insulin and getting in from a student night out in one piece!

August 2011:  My results for my A Levels came in and I achieved higher grades than I required to get into my chosen university.  Considering that I took most of my exams with ridiculously high blood sugars, this was a massive achievement for me.

July 2011:  I took part in the DAFNE course, which my doctors had been trying to get me to participate in for years.  As it turned out, I absolutely loved it and it just happened to be the turning point in how I looked at my diabetes management.  It also provided me with the information and support I needed, as well as introducing me to some wonderful people living with type 1 diabetes too!  (Read about this here)

September 2004:  The amount of insulin injections I was taking increased from 2 to 4 a day, which I hated the thought of at 11 years old, but I realised it was something I had to do.

August 2004:  I went on my first children's diabetes camp with my hospital.  Before this I had never seen another child do an injection or test their blood sugars or go hypo.  Previously I'd only ever done my shots in my legs because I was too scared to do them anywhere else, but I was inspired by what I saw and actually asked my nurse to teach me to do my injections in my tummy whilst I was there. It was one of the most eye opening experiences and I hope I never forget it!

August 1998:  At the age of 5, and a year and a half after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I started administering my insulin independently and doing my injections and blood testing myself.

November 1996:  Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, dealing with it and moving on with my life.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

D-Blog Week: My Memorable Day with Diabetes

Trying to think of my most 'memorable' day with diabetes has proved itself to be a challenge.  I reckon this is probably because when you've lived with it for 16 years, it begins to feel like every day blends into the next.  Diabetes feels like the norm and nothing more than a tedious concoction of highs, lows, prescriptions, appointments, blood tests, injections and so on and so forth.  Still there are times when diabetes surprises me, for the better and otherwise.

A few years ago I went to stay with a friend who lived almost 80 miles away from me.  Things were different then and I was at a stage with my diabetes where I tried to act as though it didn't exist.  I rarely tested my blood sugars (unless I thought I was dying), attempted to delay telling anyone I was diabetic and make up my blood sugars to write in my log book before an appointment with my clinician.  I remember absentmindedly taking an injection on the train, completely guesstimating how much insulin to administer, and not giving my diabetes another thought for the rest of the journey.  In all honesty I probably wouldn't have let it cross my mind for the rest of the weekend, had it not been for what happened that same night.

It was exciting!  I hadn't seen my friend for a couple of months or so and had really been looking forward to it.  We'd had a really nice evening, catching up and spending time.  There had barely been a moment of silence since we'd been reunited, until duty called and my friend nipped to the toilet.  I recall feeling tired and weak all of a sudden, although somehow it felt like I was barely even there at all, and decided to lay down.

The next thing I knew I was in a dream, at least it felt that way.  It was like something pulling me between two states of being and that 'something' was the person frantically rubbing my feet.  They were shouting "Daisy!" and, every now and then, I'd open my eyes a little and I'd catch a glimpse of unfamiliar faces.  I remember obediently sipping the orange juice from the glass that was being held to my lips and chewing jam on toast but forgetting to swallow.

When I came back to the waking world, I was told that I had a hypo which caused me to become unconscious.  My friend had called their grandfather, who just happened to be a type 1 diabetic and a doctor and luckily lived only next door, and he gave me a glucagon shot.  Not only did it put a complete downer on the rest of the weekend, but it was also one of the most terrifying and not to mention embarrassing evenings of my life (being fifteen years old and waking up surrounded by strangers with your socks off and strawberry jam all over your face is not fun!)

It's perhaps a little bit ironic that I don't actually remember the majority of one of my most memorable days with diabetes, but I do know that it changed my attitude towards my diabetes and made me more responsible for it.  That was the first time I have ever become unconscious because of my diabetes and I hope it will be the only time.  I genuinely owe my life to those who helped me that night and it's them I remember.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

D-Blog Week: Demanding Difference

I find that I sign quite a lot of petitions nowadays, simply because I think that if a policy needs to be altered then people should come together as a force for that change. With regards to writing a petition, there are quite a few things that I would like to change about diabetes in general;  the most obvious being the fact that I have it in the first place, but I get the feeling that my pancreas has made a firm decision on that one.

Sometimes it's the little things that make living with type 1 diabetes that tiny bit easier and, seeing as demanding my pancreas to reboot itself might be considered a little far fetched, I've decided to ask for change in the more subtle areas of D-Life...

Accu-Chek Aviva Nano;  I like you.  You look all cute with your fancy, pebble-shaped exterior and you're so small that I can fit you in my smallest handbag alongside all my other bits and bobs.  However, I would like you to change just one thing for me...will you please give me a little longer to get my blood on to the test strip before you go and error on me?!  Some days my fingers are actually tired of having your good old friend MultiClix stabbing the tips of them, and they need a couple of seconds more than what you seem to be willing to give.  When my doctor asks me how I'm getting through as many packs of test strips as I am and I reply 'because my monitor is impatient' he gives me strange look, but he doesn't understand your nature like I do. 

Fast acting hypo treatment;  I find you a little tiresome.  Dextrose tablets are the worst, especially the orange ones.  Trying to eat you during a hypo is like trying to feast on sand in the desert.  Glucotabs you're a little better, seeing as I don't have to consume as many of you to raise my blood sugar, but the truth is that I'd much rather be eating a bar of chocolate.  Lucozade reminds me of being unwell and fruit juice feels like a very unappetising option when all I want to do is binge on all the unhealthy, fatty foods that aren't going to help one bit.  I'd like you to change your taste and texture, become more exciting for the palate as well as continue to raise my blood sugars at a rapid pace.  I hope this isn't too much to ask.  P.S. Just as an afterthought, thanks for saving my life of numerous occasions - I owe ya' one!

Monday, 13 May 2013

D-Blog Week: 16 Years of Effort in 20 Minutes

Firstly, I just need to express that I am super duper excited for this year's Diabetes Blog Week!  I participated in D-Blog Week 2011 just a couple of weeks after writing my first post for Diabetic Dais and, not having really met or spoken to many people with diabetes before, it was amazingly eye opening.  Last year's D-Blog Week came at a time when I needed it, as I had recently been told that I had developed diabetic retinopathy and was struggling to focus on my diabetes care.  However, connecting with others through Diabetes Blog Week gave me the much-needed support and boost to motivate myself to get on top of my management.  So, in my third year of taking part in Diabetes Blog Week, it's fair to say that I'm really looking forward to what the next 7 days have in store for me and the rest of the Diabetic Online Community!

Over the 16 and a half years that I have had diabetes, there have been times when it's felt as though my diabetes care team don't fully understand what being a type 1 diabetic is actually like. The purpose of today's prompt is to express what we wish our doctors and nurses knew about what it is like to live with diabetes on a daily basis, but also admit the aspects of our D-Lives that we're glad they can't see.

Hey doc!  Just a note to say I guess it's easy to make presumptions about how well someone attempts to take care of their diabetes based on the results of a few tests that appear on your computer screen, after they've had their blood drained from them and urine bottled.  I also realise that when you compare my HbA1c percentage to what a medical textbook says a perfect HbA1c is, it's easy to assume that I'm doing something wrong.

What you don't see is that before I make my journey to see you, I've already spent a good few hours dreading the 20 minutes I spend with you.  I know what your computer screen shows you because I feel the results of those blood sugars and I know what you're going to say about my lumpy injection sites because that's my body we're talking about, remember?  However what your screen doesn't show you is my effort and how much I try.

Effort can't be shown in a number.  I can't bring you a logbook of how much I've tried, nor can you put my blood in a tube and send it off to the lab for me to be tested for it.  I understand that all the solid information you have is on your database, but I wish you could see how much I do to attempt to make my numbers on your screen match the 'acceptable' ones in your textbook.

I'm the first one to admit that my diabetes management isn't always the best that it could be; sometimes I forget to check the amount of carbs on a pack of tortellini so I guess how much insulin to take and I sometimes I forget to change my needle until it feels blunt against my skin.  Some days I'm so annoyed with my unexplained highs that I feel like packing it all in and not bothering to carbohydrate count, because what difference does it make anyway when my blood sugars won't come below 13mmol!?  Some days I'm annoyed with myself that I didn't check a blood sugar before bed, or that I ate that extra biscuit and didn't bolus for it, and some days I wish I could go back in time and take some of your advice earlier.

I don't expect to able to explain to you exactly what it's like to live with diabetes every day of my life in the 20 minutes we spend together every year, but sometimes I just wish you'd acknowledge that I do and maybe it's not as easy at it seems.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Diabetic Dais' 2nd Blogging Birthday!

Today marks two years since I wrote my first post for Diabetic Dais!  A lot has changed in two years in my personal life, in terms of my diabetes and at the point where both intertwine.  At 18 years of age, and when I started Diabetic Dais, I had a HbA1c of 10.2%, I couldn't carb count and I thought the only way I could manage my weight was to skip injections.  Now I have completed the DAFNE course, I feel dreadful if my blood sugar goes above 9mmol and my last HbA1c was 7.7%. This blog and the amazing people I have met through it have been such an incredible support system and I doubt I would be managing my diabetes in the way I am doing had it not been for them.

A few special mentions go out to Vicki Gibbs and the other wonderful people at Student Diabetics UK, Meagan Esler, Karen Watson, Simon Shaw, Ant Brown and Nicola Maude.  Thank you for being part of my diabetes and blogging journey so far.  Also, of course, thank you to everyone who continues to read my posts; your support means more to me than months of perfect blood sugars! xoxo

Friday, 19 April 2013

JDRF Guest Blog Post: Could Garlic Help People With Diabetes?

With over 2.35 million people affected by type 2 diabetes in the UK the race is on to find a way to prevent deaths caused by diabetics complications such as kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. Indeed, heart disease is the leading cause of death in diabetics who are up to four times more at the risk of death from heart disease as non-diabetics. Used as a traditional treatment in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East for centuries and growing in popularity as a health supplement in the West, garlic is well known for its ability to purify the blood, regulate the bile ducts and activate gastric juices. In recent trials and studies findings have singled out garlic as the number one miracle food.

Rich in active biochemicals, it is thought that consuming garlic could offer metabolic benefits to those suffering with type 2 diabetes. Garlic is also helpful for diabetics as it helps to lower cholesterol levels by preventing the formation of cholesterol by the liver. As a fermentable carbohydrate, garlic is good at stabilising blood sugar levels and recent research has shown that these carbohydrates trigger the release of gut hormones that enhance insulin sensitivity – reducing blood sugar levels and controlling your weight.

Even eating moderate amounts or taking garlic supplements can help to regulate blood glucose and aid blood flow. Foods such as garlic are the key to helping in the war against diabetes by enhancing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Scientists believe that the 400 chemical components found in garlic including allicin, allyl propyl disulfide and S-allyl cysteine sulfoxide work to raise insulin levels in the blood by regulating the liver’s activity so that more insulin is available in the body.

In terms of countering heart disease, garlic is believed to have significant potential for preventing cardiomyopathy a common form of heart disease that inflames and weakens the heart's muscle tissue. But how does it work?

Like onions, leeks and chives, garlic is rich in sulphur compounds. It is the presence of sulphur which provides its distinctive smell that is so very important in keeping the heart healthy. Garlic’s sulphur compounds combat the vessel inflammation associated with cardiomyopathy, easing the damage caused to heart valve linings caused by oxidizing free radicals. These sulfur compounds also lower blood pressure in the course of their conversion to hydrogen sulfide. This process dilates the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Furthermore, garlic has been shown to lower the risk of blood clotting by preventing blood platelets in the blood from becoming too sticky.

For those not fond of the herb’s unique taste, most experts agree that there is no need for garlic to be eaten in its raw form to benefit from its wonderful properties. Indeed, cooked garlic or garlic extracts and oils can likewise provide good protection against free radical. The charity Diabetes UK is now funding research into the health benefits of the herb which, if proved to be effective, could revolutionise treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes for future generations around the world.

Written by Alexa Downing

Visit the JDRF website: Diabetes

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Small Changes Make Big Differences

In the 16 years I've had type 1 diabetes, I can't honestly say that there's been a lot I can be proud of regarding it.  Sometimes I feel like living with type 1 diabetes is kind of like watching the news; the information you're fed from it can be pretty negative.  A few times a week my glucose meter shows me a blood sugar reading I don't like. When I was 12 years old I had to increase the amount of injections I was taking from three a day to four. Once I had a virus which caused ketoacidosis so I had to spend a night in hospital and, this time last year, I received a letter informing me that I had developed background retinopathy.

It's probably fair to say I was sad about it, because sometimes knowing that you've damaged yourself and caused your own pain is equally as upsetting as feeling like you don't deserve the circumstance you've found yourself in. I cried about it, blogged about it and eventually came to the realisation that things needed to change.

I started carb counting when I knew that I could, completely stopped skipping injections altogether and started testing my blood sugars more regularly.  To begin with it felt like a battle and I just wanted to cook my potatoes without having to weigh them first and some days I wanted to leave the restaurant without having to give my insulin before I could get on the bus home, but I didn't.  After a while the changes were no longer changes, they were the norm and the battle was no longer a battle, it was a healthy routine.

Three weeks ago I went for my first diabetic retinopathy screening and yesterday I came home to a letter.  I opened it cautiously, as though something was going to jump out of the envelope, and took a deep breath before beginning to read the text.  To my absolute delight, I discovered that my retinas appear completely normal and they have healed to a good standard!  I flung my arms around my boyfriend, who has been so supportive with all aspects of my diabetes management, and cried tears of complete and utter joy.

In the 16 years I've had type 1 diabetes, I can't honestly say that there's been a lot I can be proud of regarding it, but this is one of the things where I can say that I am.  Sometimes living with type 1 diabetes is like watching the news, but I suppose that only makes the good things seem even better!