The Diabetes Umbrella

The leaves change, I change, and my diabetes changes. I change my address and I’m in a whole new environment that my diabetes must adjust to. Diabetes is kind of like an umbrella that has to adjust to keep you dry. Depending on the lifestyle, the umbrella has to open and close to make sure your health is as good as possible. For example, when I live on my own I am the one responsible for every grocery item right down to the salt and pepper. This makes my meals easy to plan ahead and easy to apply to my week. My eating habits are clean and organized. It’s quite lovely actually. This consistency in my diet is reflected in my blood glucose readings because I have figured out the right basal’s and bolus’ for this lifestyle.

I’ve recently undergone another change in order to more efficiently save money for my masters in nutrition that involved moving to my parents. My lifestyle pre-move was hard to maintain when I started living in the same house as my brother’s mini bags of Cheetos and Oreo snack packs. These temptations make the change challenging. I Love (capital L) my mom’s cooking but after preparing my own meals for so long, it felt weird to not have control over my dinners and not know what groceries I needed to buy for myself because I don’t know if I’ll want what the fam is having. The change in menus can really throw off my blood glucose readings leading to a whole new cycle of basal testing in order to find that balance again.

Along with my move is a change in pace, a physical pace that affects my BG. Since moving from a mild city life to a suburb, I now commute to my classes rather than walking at a brisk pace for 25 minutes to and from class. I plant myself on public transportation and only get up at my stop which is conveniently located across the street from my first class. I then proceed to spend the next eight hours in a classroom, only stretching my legs briefly between classes to refuel with an espresso and lunch. This means that I bolus for my breakfasts and other meals differently. When I’m about to walk for 25 minutes, I need less insulin to compensate for the yummy and natural sugars present in my smoothie since the mild exercise usually lowers my levels a bit. Even outside of class days, I would walk to work, walk to coffee, walk to the gym etc. I’m also way behind on the podcasts that I’d utilize this time for. But now that I’m stagnant, I need the whole sha-bang, or bolus shall I say.

The Diabetes Umbrella has to adjust for these lifestyles, opening, closing or leaning just right to make sure you can live that lifestyle to its fullest without letting the diabetes interfere with high or low blood glucose levels. You might go on a total health kick and be waking up at 6:00am instead of at noon to work your glutes, or you might already be on the health kick but decide to go from cross-fit to training for a half marathon. Basal rates must be adjusted to compensate for the additional work your body is doing to make sure the glucose levels don’t spiral down and sometimes the opposite; increased to prevent a hyperglycemic episode. The adjustments made on the intake of insulin are that umbrella opening and closing. How much cover do you need? These things are always changing. I’m going to keep with this umbrella metaphor and say that, the weather is constantly changing. I won’t even get started on climate change but I mean more like seasonal. Different times of the year and different stages of life. Different temperate zones and different personal environments

Type 1 diabetes is a personal progress, similar to those people whose personal progress is going to the gym and building a six pack and others are nailing a challenging yoga pose and some, if not all, might be just finishing that TV show that everyone is talking about. To focus on their six pack, they have to change some of their previous gym routines in order to work those abdominal muscles perfectly, to get into that yoga pose, they might stretch just a little deeper each day and to finish that show, dedicating an hour each night to watching another episode. Diabetes is a lifestyle like that of a fit lifestyle where we have three personal trainers (sometimes four with the addition of a social worker): the endocrinologist, the certified diabetes educator (CDE) and the registered dietitian (R.D). This is a team that is dedicated to not making diabetes disappear, just like how personal trainers aren’t necessarily trying to make your extra pounds disappear either. I don’t believe they should at least. I think that should be an indirect result of the true goal, which is to teach their client how to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. My “trainers” train me to be the healthiest diabetic I can be.

As I’ve gone through transitions from elementary to intermediate school and from high school to university… my team of trainers have had to adjust the way I manage my diabetes to accommodate for the changes in my life. In my fifteen years as a type one diabetic, I’ve had numerous basal rates, carb to insulin ratios and insulin sensitivity factors (the amount 1 unit of insulin will lower my BG). It’s one of those lifestyles that isn’t going anywhere (yet), and is like an open umbrella with no intention of closing and underneath are all the other lifestyles one might go through. Change isn’t something to fear. This talk about transitions and having diabetes adjust for you, shouldn’t be scary though it does sound complicated. With each transition, the adjustments will get easier because we become stronger. Through the first few sleepovers away from your parents in elementary school to months abroad away from doctors, diabetes will not stop you. So don’t quit. Embrace the change and let the umbrella be in your hands.