SNEEZING ON THE INSIDE
I don’t have colds like before. I don’t snuffle, stream, sniff and blow. Instead I get a sore throat, aching joints and a woolly head. And stupidly high blood sugar. I wonder if the pain in my joints is about my body crossly pushing around treacle-thick blood; and if the accompanying detachment from the world is about how slowly that blood is being squeezed around my system; and when the blood sugar will drop sufficiently to make me feel like all those people who don't have to constantly measure their blood, watch what they eat and inject insulin into patches of yellow and purple bruised skin on their increasingly resistant backsides, legs and stomachs.
Being a Type 1 Diabetic is no picnic!
I get annoyed when I read about how we all bring this diabetes thing upon ourselves. If some newspaper and television programmes are to be believed it must be because we eat too much fat, carbs, cake and chocolate, right?
Wrong! In my case.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I never craved chocolate until I became diabetic.
I sometimes crave sugar because my blood sugar is high and not converting what I’ve eaten to energy. What else is a body to do when it can no longer makes its own insulin?
I became a diabetic because I had a terrible shock to my system – a car crash when I was hit head on by a white van (seriously) on my side of the carriage way, spun off the road, down a six foot drop and into a granite wall. I broke a lot of stuff – inside and out - and not long after was diagnosed with diabetes: first Type 2 - because I wasn’t a teenager - then, oddly, 1.5 - because I needed insulin and it was apparent that my pancreas had stopped working completely but I wasn’t a teenager so I didn’t fit into the norm; and finally Type 1 – because perhaps shock, like the kind you get from a bad car crash, can do that to your system.
The 4 injections close-monitoring routine I now work with on a daily basis makes me clammy, light-headed, confused, exhausted, sleepy, grumpy, irrational, determined and oddly optimistic about my lot in life.
I share part of my work life with a self-confessed chocoholic. She is so healthy and enjoys several tipples a day, preferably something roundish with a hard shell on the outside and softer on the in, or soft and chocolatey on the outside and crunchy on the in: Minstrels, Cream Eggs, speckled pastel-shaded mini-eggs, Maltesers, Heroes, Roses, Quality Street, but strangely nothing orange tasting.
And she will lean over my desk smile and say, “You can only have one.”
And that’s because she’s looking after my interests: my health. That’s because she thinks (knows?) I shouldn’t even have one but it gives her permission to have the rest of the bag. That and her unstinting generosity.
I think about chocolate. About sliding it into my mouth and wrapping it around my tongue until it’s cloying silkiness slides between my teeth and coats the roof of my mouth. It is so wicked and the darker the better.
Another lovely colleague makes me chocolate. Oh yes! It’s sugar-free apparently, made from birch juice or some-such wonder, and I can eat it and my blood won’t boil. But there’s a rub – isn’t there always? – actually, sugar free or no, it makes you crave more sugar, makes you think you can go down that path and they’ll be no penalties. Next thing, if you’re not very careful, you could be eating a full-sugar, full-fat chocolate chip brownie or a wedge of lemon drizzle cake and convincing yourself that you can handle it.
Did I tell you the one about the bacteria party? No stick with me on this. They certainly did! So, at some stage, even though I am testing my blood sugars four times a day the high-rise blood sugar got into my gums and threw a mother of a party and kept right on throwing open-house gatherings to the point that, in protest, my gums said, “Enough already. Get off my land.”
But the Bacteria Party Makers said, ‘Why should we? It’s great here. I love the sugar vibe.”
And the Gums said, “There’s no room for you guys and your party ways. Get out.”
And the Bacteria Party Makers said, “Whaddayamean no room? Hey, there’s loads of rooms, hey, hey hey, we gonna create room, new rooms, just to shut you up. We’re gonna create pockets. Some pockets, right here, right in your gums. How about that?”
You know how this is going to end, don’t you? Several abscesses later, chronic infections and a few years down the line, “There’s been an extraction!”
I look into my NHS dentist’s hand, holding my perfectly healthy bottom front tooth, as he tells me that it’s not my fault, that’s it’s the diabetes. Together we have done everything to save it. But it hasn’t worked out. I cry – again. But not so violently this time, although learning to smile with a gap will take some time.
There you go – that’s Type 1 Diabetes for you. The good news is my Podiatrist says I have lovely feet. And I can still feel them.