We had an ice cream social at work for autism this past week. For every employee that signed their name and had a bowl of ice cream (or frozen yogurt), my company would donate $1 to Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is striving to provide autism awareness for those who are unfamiliar. I am all for charitable donations, and my blood sugar was going low, so I joined my coworkers.
Upon grabbing my scoop of ice cream, then adding some walnuts, I was slightly taken back at the conversation my boss struck up… and she knows that I am a type 1 diabetic. “You know, you need to be careful in eating all of that stuff. Diabetes is something that needs to be managed well and if it’s not there are a lot of complications you can have. Don’t overindulge and overdo it, kiddo.”
AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I am screaming inside, and she has no idea how much I want to rip her head off!
I understand that her statement was meant well. And, I understand that many people who aren’t directly affected by type 1 diabetes would have no idea how much work is involved in managing blood sugar control; By directly effected I mean T1D yourself, parent of a young T1D child, sibling to T1D, husband/wife to T1D. They are completely unaware of how often I check my blood sugar, or how much insulin I give myself, or even what exactly good blood sugar control is!
I responded, “I know it’s important to have good blood sugars. I been getting my a1C numbers down. My blood sugar is low right now, and this is my special treat to get my numbers back up.”
She then proceeded to tell me that I need to watch with the smoking and drinking. I have quit smoking (only my electronic cigg). And I really don’t drink all that much anymore. I had 2 long island iced teas when I was out with friends a few weeks ago, and the next morning I felt like I was hit by a truck! I’m not so young anymore, and I’m married, so going out every night isn’t as appealing as it used to be. I rather sit on the couch, snuggled up and watching a movie. But to my boss, I am just a handful of years older than her children, so I guess she felt concerned.
The conversation only got worse when she started telling my about her mother who had diabetes. She would watch over her, and give her insulin. “Which type is the bad type?” she asked. “It depends on what you consider ‘bad.’ Personally, I prefer to say I have the better type because I was diagnosed so early and have had to deal with diabetes for so much of my life, I don’t really remember what life was like before I had diabetes. But then again, people say I have the ‘bad’ type because I am on insulin and have been dealing with it for most of my life. Guess it depends on if you look at the cup as half empty or half full.” Her response, “well, my mom had the same kind as you because she was on insulin.”
“Both types of diabetics can be on insulin. Being on insulin does not mean that you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It only means that your pancreas isn’t creating enough insulin for your body, so you need to supplement it with insulin shots or the pump like I have. I am a type 1 diabetic because my pancreas creates zero insulin. People who’s pancreas creates little insulin, but not enough for their body, are considered type 2 diabetics. They tend to get it later on in life and have to manage it with diet & exercise along with medication or insulin.” After my explanation, she got very quite because I clearly knew what I was talking about. I may have started to sound a bit frustrated by this point. I made one last statement, “She probably had type 2 diabetes and just needed to take insulin.” Only 5% of people living with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
Our conversation thankfully drifted off into a different direction at this point.
I wish I could advocate conversations like this with everyone who knows someone with diabetes — being type 1 or type 2 or gestational or pre-diabetes. It is extremely important to know the difference, know how to manage or fix a blood sugar reading, and know what a normal/good blood sugar is. According to WebMD, blood sugars should range between 70 – 130 mg/dL before meals, and lower than 180mg/dL after a meal.
The American Diabetes Association considers an a1C of 7% as ‘normal.’ I may not have ‘normal’ blood sugars for my entire lifetime, but I will never have them bad for long enough to endure diabetic complications. Keeping your blood sugar levels close to normal will prevent many complications such as kidney disease or kidney failure, strokes, heart attack, vision loss or blindness, poor circulation in the legs and feet or nerve damage. Wounds also heal slowly with uncontrolled diabetes, and the potential for amputation increases with high blood sugars.
I hate to say numbers, but my last a1C was 6.9% and I was jumping for joy! I work my ass off in order to keep my blood sugars in ‘normal’ range. I test my blood sugars approximately 8 times per day, and wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that alerts me when I’m higher or lower than I should be. Keeping a very close eye on your blood sugar level continuously throughout the day is the only sure way to stay healthy and avoid any complications.