Place the head of the lancet against the tender tip of a finger. Press the button so the needle can plunge forward into the flesh of the fingertip. I have never witnessed the beginner who did not flinch. However, if one has been successful in penetrating the skin, a drop of blood springs from the tip of the finger. If a drop fails to immediately appear, then the site must be “milked.” That is, squeeze the flesh until the blood drop grows big enough. Then place the drop of blood on a test strip and push the “countdown” button. At the end of thirty seconds, the diabetic’s near-present blood sugar can be read.
Many diabetics do actually live in fear of their glucometer (blood-testing) paraphernalia and the sudden pain of the tiny jab, then the sight and the messiness of blood. Even worse, though, are the numbers that are liable to flash up accusingly—211, 250, 310 (Hi, Hi, Hi) or 36, 42, 54 (Lo, Lo, Lo). A diabetic can function on fairly high blood sugar levels; however, a normal blood sugar is usually considered to be 70-120. So as the individual numbers appear, the diabetic can feel guilty again, guilty again, guilty again.
Besides, doesn’t it seem like the medical profession just love to “stick pins” into the diabetic? Stick, stick, stick! Still, I do appreciate blood sugar testing that is far, far better than it used to be. That is, blood sugar reading that can be checked more often and insulin levels, using faster-acting insulin that can now also be more easily adjusted to suit the results. Also, the diabetic is now actually allowed to perform that blood sugar test and mete out that needed insulin or sugar. In my childhood, at least to me, no regular or shorter acting insulin was given out. It was all one shot a day and eat no sugar. Were we all walking around high? I expect often—at least after those large, holiday meals. (At least, I had a tendency to want to take a walk after those or any Italian dinners.)
In the past, there were not even A1Cs (tests for blood sugar average over previous recent months); rather a diabetic’s regime was actually judged due to maybe one blood test a month in a medical setting! (As I had no veins, not pleasant.) Even worse, in the not-so-distant past, diabetics used to have to test their own urine to get some sort of daily sugar reading. As a child, I was given a small, plastic urine testing kit. It contained a test tube, a dropper, and a bottle of what was known as Clinitest tablets. I think it was five drops of urine and ten of water needed for the test. I’m not sure, but after this concoction was gotten into the test tube, I was told to add one of the toxic blue tablets. The mixture would then fizz up into the test tube and “boil down” into a color. Navy blue stood for negative, no sugar in your own urine. Dark green and various browns meant the yellow urine held varying low amounts of sugar. Bright orange—well, that horrifying shade signaled 4+, 4+, 4+, too much, way too much sugar in the urine. Again, guilty, guilty, guilty, must be your fault, your fault, your fault.
More to the point, what girl on the brink of adolescence wouldn’t rebel at the urine process? I considered the whole process not only embarrassing but disgusting—the very idea! More importantly, the tests were certainly not enhancing to a young woman’s growing sense of herself as attractive to the opposite sex.
And here come the points of this particular blog, ones that I think can be gathered from my activity: by definition, and recent developments aside, a diabetic’s blood sugar is simply not going to be perfect. True, with recent continuous glucose monitors (CGMs or sensors), now inserted once every few days in much the same way as the insulin pump, the diabetic can get much closer to what I heard someone say was “a smoother ride” through life.
Of course, 1) yet another stick of needle into the body is pretty unwelcome, no matter what one’s age—but to a child? A child on a continuous basis? Say, we’re inserting on a certain day: one stick for a glucometer and then we do some taping; one stick for the insulin pump and then we do some taping; then we test our blood sugar to be sure or to calibrate (check our tester’s correctness) every few hours, not to mention if the diabetic, a parent, a nurse/teacher at school wants to check a child’s blood sugar for a “hi” or a “lo” during the day or while sleeping—is it any wonder that the medical professional or a caregiver can at times be seen as “the enemy”? The patient can’t just see things right amore—pain and “I’m trying to help you” get all twisted up. Give to JDRF, if possible, an organization for diabetics trying to pay for their own cure, often on behalf of children.
2) As by definition, the diabetic can’t be quite perfect, what does all this trust in numbers do to self-esteem? Yes, I know, I’m too high. Again. Yes, I had a lo. Again. When my own numbers are on target, and indeed, my A1cs are usually quite good—I always thank whatever gods that be, that I have a brain and can at least figure what some numbers mean and/or what happened in some given unusual situation that resulted in “a bad time.” Note: At least in my experience, having “a cold” and/or being “stressed to the max” creates a high. I don’t have to eat a piece of cake! Again, only my personal experience. I can’t speak to yours. My point? Be less judgmental, and yes, be careful. In the giving of insulin, I’ve found erring on the side of caution best as aiming for perfection can be dangerous?
3) My last point, and I expect one minor to many, is that even people with “a disability” do not lose the desire to be attractive and yes, I do think this has to be considered. In some ways it has been, what with all the paraphernalia, needles, diets, pump holders, and exercise regimes designed for the diabetic. However, I know personally that advice like “Don’t drink beer when you’re with that young man” never worked with me. Nor did advice on what to show and what not to show as far as dress went. Just sayin’ and I don’t mean to make readers uncomfortable about their own children or themselves. In each family, all must be determined according to personal sexual or spiritual values. However, I don’t think the desire to be attractive can be ignored. Sex or even being physically competitive, yet again. Gotta look good for the job interview or on the track, right?
My final point, though, is I don’t want anyone to have to make the journey I have made during fifty years now with diabetes. No one. If I could spare you, I would. Of course, I have about the same power I had as a child. All I can say is: Let’s live on. Something might happen. Keep working, keep insisting, changing, hoping or praying. I want to encourage not just diabetics, but anyone with a chronic illness, to do your best to live on. Don’t die outside or inside. Live and prosper! Maybe one day, we’ll all “make it,” imperfect though we are.