The day I forgot my insulin

Forgetting things is normal. Like forgetting my wallet when I go to the store, or my phone or car keys. It’s usually a hassle and requires some unexpected backtracking, but in the scheme of things forgetting stuff is no biggie. But insulin? OMG! Who knew?

Suffice it to say I have never ever forgotten to bring my insulin with me on a trip. No matter how big or small if my outing includes a meal, I put it in my purse and that’s that. Until the other day. For some ridiculous reason, I forgot it.

And  I didn’t realise I’d forgotten it until we were already miles and miles away.  The morning had run as usual, yoga practice, followed by cooking my lunch, packing it and loading up the car. We were heading to Knysna, a picturesque town on the Garden Route here in South Africa. I’m not sure whether it was distraction, the fact that diabetes wasn’t number one on the list that morning or what. Once I realised what had happened there was absolutely no way I could forget. I was freaked out and mildly hysterical. Even though my husband encouraged me not to be.

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Our purpose driven trip turned into a race against the clock. If I don’t eat my lunch around 1.00 pm my blood sugar tanks. I am not sure exactly why, it’s either the long acting insulin peaking or my own insulin kicking in. Regardless I eat lunch to stop the drop.

As my blood sugar started to tank my husband suggested I eat my lunch. Nope…can’t do that. If I do I’ll go high with no way to bring it down for another 2 hours. The only solution was to fast and eat when I could dose. In the meantime I downed a few glucose tabs amidst a grumbling hungry tummy. I also downed my feelings; frustration, anger and fear.

Fasting wasn’t a problem, but heading to the local bakery to buy Christmas cake was. As I stood in line looking at all the bakery delights I felt defeated. This has been me now for over 11 years. I don’t eat gluten, sugar or dairy because it messes with my levels and my delicate digestion. I don’t usually get upset standing in the bakery line, in fact I don’t care, but today with a perfectly good lunch sitting in the car, fasting and skirting an endless low I was livid. Why can’t I just this once enjoy apple strudel! F…k

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As soon as we got home I ate my lunch. It was 3 pm. I calculated that we could still eat dinner at the normal time so that my schedule wouldn’t be too interrupted. Just because I craved normalcy after this hiccup didn’t mean it happened. The most annoying thing about a mishap in routine is that I have no idea how it’s going to influence anything. It’s a total experiment. It’s not just the physical stuff that goes topsy turvy, it’s my emotional responses.

Despite my efforts to use my go to practices for mental and emotional stability, i.e yoga, breathing, meditation and the teachings of yoga (Atma Vidya), I reacted. After lunch I had a tantrum. It made no sense, it was ugly and probably a result of pent up anxiety.

Reaction sucks. There is absolutely no point in blaming others for enjoying life and doing what they normally do. I could have gone to the chemist and gotten some insulin, I didn’t have to fast for the day, I could have stayed in the car rather than gone to the bakery. I could have relaxed and accepted that this sort of stuff happens, people forget stuff, even big stuff. I didn’t. It’s my style to do things the hard way.

It’s been a few days now since my major stuff up and it’s been interesting to reflect. I’ve learned some really valuable lessons.

  1. When travelling always bring insulin. Put it in purse.
  2. Fasting works, but it does have after affects. I ended up struggling with lows for a few days afterwards because it increased my insulin sensitivity
  3.  Stay balanced during a crisis. Don’t succumb to hysteria. Put things in perspective
  4. Be kind! Be kind to one’s self and others. No one no matter how close knows how it feels to live with diabetes.
  5. Take stock and be grateful! Just 4 hours without access to insulin is nothing compared to someone who can’t afford insulin or lives in a  country where access is limited or non existent.
  6. Never ever forget insulin again!

With great respect…

rachel

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation

Yesterday was the start of my holiday. Piercing blue sky, slight breeze, the swell of the ocean and a day planned walking through the forest to a remote and pristine river. I was excited and frickin scared. I packed my backpack to overflowing with glucose tabs, insulin, lunch, phone fully charged, an extra and accurate blood testing meter and rescue remedy. My husband would have to carry my bathing suit, sarong and water bottle.

I love walking and I do it every day. 20 minutes hits the spot and lowers my levels just enough so that I cruise into dinner steady and in range. If I go beyond my 20 minute cruise I often end up high. Seems like the liver kicks in and releases more glycogen aka sugar into the blood stream.

Honestly, I am not a fan of long hikes. The last time I did one was before I started short acting insulin in 2018. That’s why I was scared. How would it work to walk for more than 3 hours, on a sunny hot day? Would my insulin stay cool? How would I dose for lunch when I knew I’d have to hike up a hill after our planned picnic at the river mouth. So many questions, so many unknowns. While my friends and husband were excited to walk I felt like I was jumping off a cliff.

As much as I use yoga to keep me balanced, it’s these normal everyday things that get me. I can’t take a vacation from diabetes. EVER!

In spite of my trepidation we went. The first hour was awesome. The forest was alive with wild flowers, trees dripping in moss, singing birds and dappled sunlight. I felt connected and alive. Our forest is 50 million years old.

IMG_0491By the end of the 2nd hour we had reached the lookout. My blood sugar was a steady 6.0 mmol. I started the walk with a 1/4 of an apple and didn’t take any insulin to cover.  Things were going well. We had to cross the river to get to our picnic spot. On went the bathing suit. With my backpack and shoes held above my waist we waded across. The water was brrr cold. Here in Africa the water is clean and crisp, full of prana, amazing!

As everyone else munched on snacks I pulled out my prepared lunch, enjoying every bite, it was crunch time. Would my usual two units be best considering that in an hour I’d  be climbing a steep hill followed by an even steeper descent? I opted for just under 2 units and an extra 1/4 of an apple. Then threw myself in the river, cold refreshing water. So good!

I started the next part of the walk around 5.7 mmol. It took 30 minutes to hit the dreaded low. 3.9 mmol with a downward pointing arrow. I took two and half glucose tabs, while gazing at the most beautiful view in the world. We waited for 15 long drawn out minutes.  My friends asked me what would happen if it didn’t come up. I’d take more tabs and wait some more. Waiting is the worst. On the plus side I was so tired from the walk I couldn’t feel the low or my fear. I was peaceful, relaxed and grateful. Grateful for my husbands arm around me, the patience of my friends, and the beauty of our surroundings. My levels returned to normal and we completed the walk. Topping it off with a dip in the wild ocean. It couldn’t have been a better day.

IMG_0505Back at home my husband reminded me, holidays are all about dropping the every day stresses. Time to take a break from normality, hang out with friends, talk about whatever, spend time in nature. I get it, I used to have that freedom, even took it for granted. Since diagnosis I’m a work in progress. I take each day as it comes. I work with what I have without expectation. Rather than define my ‘vacation’ by what everyone else does. I do relaxing my way.

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation.

Have a wonderful holiday season

with great respect…

rachel

 

 

Sick with Diabetes

Usually I can fly 30,000 miles without a hitch but not this time. I’ve been hit by some sort of bug. Could be an allergy, could be my body trying to eliminate all the toxicity from breathing in smoke from the Australian bushfires or could be I actually picked up a bug. One thing I’ve consistently noticed about myself since diagnosis is that I hardly ever get sick. I know others have mentioned this too. It’s like diabetes gives us some sort of immune super power, where we are chronically ill but never sick. Weird!

I try to avoid exposure to bugs as much as I can. It can make me antisocial.  I won’t go to hangout with someone when they have the flu. Getting sick can wreak havoc on blood sugars. Fighting off a bug can raise levels, and having to take extra herbs or medications can lower levels. Even something supportive like Vitamin C can affect the accuracy of the readings on a continuous glucose monitor. Basically a cold or flu is a minefield I’d rather avoid.

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When I travel I wear a mask. It’s not pretty and I’m often the only one on the plane who wears one, but it seems to help. If nothing else it gives me a feeling of security.  Insecurity rears its ugly head when I am tired, sick and feeling irrational. Same as one of those out of control hypo moments. Brain offline, body shaking, must get glucose now kind of stuff.

Obviously this time the mask was no match for the super bug. Now I’m in that lovely cycle of watching and waiting. Watching how it progresses from excruciating pain at back of nose, to yellow phlegm, to sore throat, waking up every hour during the night, to loss of  voice. Where to next? No idea… Such fun!

Meanwhile my blood sugar seems to be staying in range for once. Go figureIMG_7258

And it’s a beautiful day in Africa! Nature is in full force in spite of my gluggy head. A little bird is building its nest in the rafters, the lion down the road is roaring, the natural bush around us is filled with cheeps and chirps and there is a presence and stillness in the surrounding forest and mountain scape that can’t really be described.

Yep, it’s definitely annoying to get sick when you live with diabetes, but it’s also a good opportunity to rest, reflect and appreciate one’s health.

Happy Thanksgiving!

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Take to the Skies

As I am just 24 hrs out from travelling again I thought I would share another post I wrote for Beyond Type 1. I am a well seasoned traveller, but geez travelling with all my gear sends me bananas. This time we will be away for 6 months, which means I am carrying 6 months worth of needles, CGM’s, insulin and test strips. So much stuff that my husband has to carry some in his suitcase and carryon as well. If you are curious to know my top travel hacks for travelling with diabetes keep reading.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury

I live between three or more continents in one year, teach yoga internationally and I’m a Type 1 diabetic. This means I have to travel regardless of my health condition. Is it easy? No. Do I enjoy it anyway? Yes. Recently, I participated in a twitter chat to share people’s experiences around flying with diabetes. It gave me a chance to share some of my personal insights — how I use yoga to stay balanced and to inspire others to feel more confident about taking to the skies.

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I carry on me …

  • long and short-acting insulin in Frio wallets
  • two glucometers
  • needles
  • test strips
  • a letter from my doctor
  • ALL MY FOOD!

I also check ahead to make sure that the country I am flying to has access to the type of insulin I need and that I can get a hold of test strips. I google for everything. It’s probably obsessive, but I want to minimize my stress as much as possible.

Before I was diagnosed, I felt free to go just about anywhere and since my diagnosis, I haven’t let diabetes stop me — I’ve just adapted. Being diagnosed as a LADA Type 1 eight years ago, my onset was slow. For the first six years, traveling meant making sure I had all my own food with me and only staying in places where I could cook for myself. When I did go out to eat I always called ahead. I was managing my levels by staying as low carb as possible and had quite a few food sensitivities, so sometimes eating out was a tough call. I always thought that when I went on insulin things would get tougher. I was wrong. Insulin has actually made traveling so much easier.

Instead of trying to use food and exercise to stay in range — nearly impossible when you’re stuck on a plane for 16 hours with airline food — I can cruise through the trip with my once-a-day shot of long acting insulin. I’m not on fast acting yet, so I can’t comment on what it’s like to fly and bolus. But I’m convinced that traveling with your own snacks, not only for hypos, but for your own sanity, absolutely helps you to feel better when you land.

Read the rest at Beyond Type 1...

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel