Meet Wednesday the CGM!

I really haven’t abandoned this blog. I HAVE NOT!

Hello, friends. Life has been a bit much lately. But I’m figuring it out. I’ve been having some super weird stomach issues for like… months… that I was hoping would just disappear but nah… so I’m getting an endoscopy tomorrow and I AM TERRIFIED! And because of whatever has been going on, I haven’t had any energy or motivation or appetite or patience lately. It’s been weird. And physically and very emotionally draining. (I salute you, Orange is the New Black, for making all the hours I couldn’t get out of bed this past weekend much more bearable!) I have some suspicions to what may be going on but I had two dear friends tell me that I “shouldn’t manifest a negative outcome” so… I guess I won’t focus on that. Although it’s been buzzing through my brain for weeks and I can’t seem to shake it.

I also probably haven’t helped myself by working 12 hours days at 2 part-time jobs for the past 13 days straight. Whoopsie!

But in other news! I GOT A CGM. IT’S SO COOL. IT’S SO HELPFUL. IT’S SO 2014. I CAN’T BELIEVE I EVER LIVED WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT MY BLOOD SUGAR IS EVERY 5 MINUTES AND WHETHER IT IS GOING UP OR DOWN AND THAT GRAPH AND THOSE BEEPS!

Her name is Wednesday.

I change her sensor on Wednesdays. And she wears all black like Wednesday Addams. (Ok, that one’s a stretch.) Here’s Wednesday:

wednesday

 

As you can see, Wednesday and I were both wearing all black the day I took this picture.

Twinsies.

Hypoglycemia: A Sestina

Hypoglycemia

It’s 3:45am- I jolt up, as if remembering I left the iron
or the stove on. My head feels light, all the blood
rushes up, my arms fumble toward the bedside table.
Where are my glucose tablets? I need sugar, I need sugar.
I find a juice box, thank god, and my blood glucose meter
on the floor. I poke my left pinky, blood bubbles from my fingertip.

I coax my blood onto a test strip, lick the pulsing fingertip
and drag my trembling body to the kitchen, legs like iron
armor. It’s just down the hall, a few meters,
but I don’t think I’ll make it, my blood
sugar is so low. I stand empty-eyed by the door. Need sugar.
Miriam finds me, grabs my wrist, sits me down at the table.

She fills a cup with apple juice, sets it on the table
in front of me, picks up my hands and wraps my fingertips
around the cold glass. Drink. I put it to my lips, liquid sugar
spills down my chin onto the wrought iron
dining table. It pools like draining blood.
She asks how I’m feeling. Better, I reach for my meter.

Am I safe? Did I survive another late night low? I rely on the meter
to calculate my insides, my next move. Miriam tables
the questions she wants to ask: How did you let your blood
sugar drop so low again? With so many resources at your fingertips
to prevent this from happening? I trace circles on the iron
table and wait for my body to absorb, react, to sugar.

The nurse said You’re too pretty to have diabetes, Sugar,
when I was diagnosed at 14, but the number (585) on the meter
wasn’t lying- there was no more blaming my weight loss on iron
deficiency or an eating disorder. I sat on the exam table
while the doctor mumbled, drumming his fingertips,
to the nurse that Something isn’t right, we need to test her blood.

15 minutes of sitting in the kitchen, why isn’t my blood
absorbing all of these carbs, this sickly sugar?
Every part of my body between my fingertips
and the bottoms of my feet shake. I stare at the meter-
long scratch on the silver-smooth table.
Damaged- such weak iron.

I squeeze blood from my thumb- the meter reads Low.
Miriam slides the sugar bowl across the table,
I dip my hand in and my fingertips taste like iron.


Sidenote:

The story of this poem is kind of funny. During my last semester of college (aka last week), I took a course called Form + Theory of Poetry, where we learned all the different forms of poems (sonnet, blank verse, free verse, villanelle, etc.) When we were assigned the sestina, I was so intimidated by it (and also very stressed out at the time with all of my other coursework) that I just decided to…let that one go… but my professor would have none of that, and at the end of the semester, he told me I would get a B in the class if I didn’t turn in the sestina. So the day before graduation, I put on my big-girl-poet pants and wrote this sestina in about 2 hours. And I survived! And I actually really enjoyed it!

So, about the sestina. It is one, if not THE, most complicated of all the forms of poetry. It has a strict pattern that includes reusing the same 6 end-words in a calculated, varying order, and then using all 6 in the last 3 lines (called the ‘envoi.’)

The pattern goes as follows:

sestina

+ the envoi:

line 1: end words b + e

line 2: end words d + c

line 3: end words f + a

So the  6 words that form my sestina are iron, blood,  table, sugar,  meter(s), fingertip(s) 

Also, this is for the 2nd day of Diabetes Blog Week. (Whoopsiedidn’tdothefirstdaybutanyways) and the theme was poetry, so it worked out well that I just wrote this 4 days ago!

DBlogWeek200x2007

The Purpose Of This Blog

After studying abroad for 10 months, I applied to be an Education Abroad Student Ambassador at my university. This big, fancy title essentially meant that I worked to promote and encourage students to study abroad. I set up tables in the student commons, gave speeches to classes, and attended global education-oriented events. I did it because I believe SO MUCH in the experience of studying abroad, and I want everyone to be able to do it. My ambassador job was really fun, plus there was usually free pizza involved. +++

(Here I am being really enthusiastic at a study abroad storytelling event) :

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 5.58.59 PM

Earlier today over our ‘farewell lunch,’ one of the study abroad advisors, Kelly, told me I would make a great travel writer. I told her that is literally my dream and then I told her about my blog, Coffee & Insulin. I told her I started it for many reasons, but a big reason is because at 21 years old, I packed my life into a single suitcase and moved to France (where I knew approximately zero people) to spend the next 10 months riding trains around Europe and stumbling over the French language. And I have type 1 diabetes and of course it didn’t stop me. And I want other young diabetic people (or any people, really) to see/hear that from as many of us as possible.

Kelly proceeded to tell me that just last week a t1d student dropped out at the last minute of a summer study abroad program because of her worries of diabetes management abroad.

That student was so close, it was so soon. I hate that that happened. I don’t want that to happen.

But I don’t blame him/her (or their family) for being scared. Traveling abroad is nerve-wrecking enough with a working pancreas. Traveling with t1d requires extra planning, consideration and definitely some extra luggage space, but god, it really is worth it. It really is possible. I rode a camel for 2 hours to reach a campsite in the middle of the Sahara desert in Morocco. I sipped wine and ate macaroons and baguettes in front of the Eiffel Tower with my best friend (and then I took a lot of insulin and regretted nothing.)

maroc

I  learned the ins and outs of the French healthcare system- went to the doctor and the pharmacy and got the medicine I needed. (And I will be forever haunted by how fucking incredible socialized medicine is. sd8fas087fsauhdf I can’t even talk about it.) It was definitely challenging sometimes, especially at first, but I will never forget the feeling of walking out of the French pharmacy with Humalog in hand, thinking, I navigated a foreign healthcare system in a foreign language. What can’t I do?

I wish I could have spoken with the girl that dropped out of her study abroad program. I would have told her that yes, it is difficult to manage diabetes while traveling. It is also difficult to manage diabetes at home. The internal scale is always tipping wherever we are; the circumstances are ever-changing, and we will always, always be re-evaluating and re-adjusting. Whether we are in Minnesota or Prague or Patagonia, we will have low blood sugars and we will have high ones. And we will treat them, and we will keep going, because that’s just what we do.

‘Not traveling’ was never an option to me, I’m way too stubborn and adventurous. My mom sent me on week-long spring break trip to Germany and Switzerland when I was 16 (I remember hearing about it from my best friend and immediately whipping out my cell phone in homeroom, whispering in the back of the class, begging my mom to let me go. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Mom!!!!!!!” )

Several years later, she told me one reason she fully supported me going on that trip was because she wanted me to learn early on (I’d had diabetes for 2 years) that I could still do things. I could still go out into the world and maybe almost die riding a donkey up the side of a cliff in Santorini, Greece (the key is that I didn’t die) and get lost in a maze of winding alleys and pastel-colored buildings in Portugal and not know exactly how many carbs are in the Italian gelato- and be okay.

One of the reasons I started this blog is to try to use my experience and my voice to show whoever I can trick into reading it that, if you want, you can do these things, too. (Although I really do strongly discourage riding a donkey up the side of a cliff in Santorini, Greece. Oh, you want a picture that encapsulates the moment?) Okay, I’ll break it down for you:

We went from this:

IMG_2673

to this very quickly:

IMG_2674

I would looooooove to talk to more travelers with diabetes. Also, if you are diabetic and happen to be reading this and are considering studying abroad or know someone who is, feel free to email me! I’m not an expert at traveling with diabetes and I don’t have it all figured out, but I’ve done it, and I’ve learned a lot from it. When dealing with travel, much like when dealing with diabetes, we must simply plan to be surprised. We must be flexible and we must be brave.

Yes, I’m diabetic. I’m also young and curious and wanderlust and alive, so I’m still doing the damn thing. And I want everyone to join me.

Dear Type One Diabetes,

In 3 days, I will have officially known you for 8 years. Not yet half of my life, although it feels like you’ve infiltrated my whole life. Looking back, I can’t remember a time when you weren’t on my mind. I can’t believe I’ve lived without you almost twice as long as I’ve lived with you, although I won’t always be able to say that. You’re here to stay as long as I am.

 You’ve been with me through the craziest years of my life. You introduced yourself a mere 2 weeks before I began high school. A mere 4 days after my 14th birthday. Before I really knew you, you made me thirsty. You made me pale. You made me lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks. You made my head hurt. You made my mother worry, and take me to the doctor. You put me in the hospital for 4 days, and by the time I left, you had spread to every tiny part of me. My arms, my legs. My mind, my body. Where I go, you go. Always.

 You’ve been a great teacher. You’ve taught me responsibility. You’ve taught me body-consciousness. Nutrition. Carb counting. You’ve taught me human fragility and human strength. Awareness. Highs, lows, spikes, crashes. You’ve taught me acceptance in the fact that I’m playing a game with no concrete rules. You’ve also taught me guilt. Lots of guilt.

 Out of the past 2,920 days, not one has gone by without me worrying about you. Adjusting for you. Trying to stabilize you, tame you, make you do what I want. Some days I succeed, others I don’t. There is no real winning against you, there are only good moments and tough moments. Sometimes scary moments. But lots of small triumphs, and those are what keep me going.

 After 8 years with you, you seldom surprise me. I’m glad when I feel in control of you, but when I don’t, the rest of my world doesn’t disintegrate. A blood sugar of 342 won’t cause a mental breakdown. It will cause a dull disappointment, a pang of guilt, and a 3-unit insulin injection. It will add to a tall pile of high blood sugars that will eventually, if piled too high, result in dangerous consequences down the road.

 “Down the road” is an ambivalent term with you. “Down the road” makes the present moment seem safe. It eases the guilt of a high blood sugar, because as long as I don’t have another one, the “down the road” consequences will magically remain “down the road” forever, right? How far is “down the road” really? How is it measured? By years? By high blood sugars? By finger pricks? I have a feeling “down the road” just happens one day, as quickly and painfully as you did.

 The weight of you really weighs me down. The instability of you causes instability for me. We are one, you and I. Fighting you will only hurt me. Closing my mind to you will only turn my mind against me. You know, “down the road.” When I was diagnosed with you, the doctors told me I would experience something like the 5 stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I didn’t experience you like that, though. I’ve experienced all of these moments with you at some point, but, as in everything with you, there is no straight line. You are all grey area.

 Sometimes I’m angry at you. Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere, like that day when I was 14, that I have you. Sometimes the realization of the gravity of you, the seriousness of you, knocks me to the ground. But most of the time it doesn’t. I can’t walk through life carrying you on my shoulders, or on my back. I certainly can’t walk through life pretending you don’t exist. So, to the best of my ability, I walk through life acknowledging you lightly, but not dwelling on you. Respecting you and your needs, which are my needs, too, and working with you. We share the only space I have to live in, and I won’t allow you to take it over.

 I don’t want to fight with you. It doesn’t make me feel good. I also don’t want to cave into you. I don’t want my life to cater to you. I don’t want to prick my fingers 10 times a day and stick a needle in my stomach for you. I don’t want to wince for you, and bleed for you. But, beyond all else, I sure as hell don’t plan on dying for you.

 So, I will bend for you, but I won’t break for you. I’ve made room for you because I had to, and I will make adjustments accordingly because I love myself more than I hate you. We’ve known each other for 8 years now, bucko. You’ve been better, and you’ve been worse, and that’s just how it goes, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about you and our relationship and I’ve been challenging it. Maybe there’s a better way to treat you. There is no easy way, but there are other ways, and I will no longer accept you as what you are with no questions asked.

 So, in the near future, you might be a little off balance. You might be confused and disoriented (and I might be, too.) But if there are better ways to treat you, I plan on finding them. I don’t want “down the road” to come any sooner than it must, and every time that the tips of fingers go numb, or a floater passes my eye, or I struggle to think straight, I remind myself that although I have you, you do not have me, and I will do everything in my power to keep it that way.

Infinitely,

Sarah

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