Tuesday, January 16, 2007


”You are no different than any of your peers despite this!” I still remember this statement made by one of the nurses at the hospital when I was diagnosed. Although I am confident that she told me so in the best sense, even now I can’t help thinking how wrong it is in certain contexts.

Today is my 17th D-anniversary - actually I believe that the week day was also Tuesday back then. Neither I nor my family has ever done anything special to commemorate this day, just noted that yet another year had passed. Each time, however, I cannot help to think back to that day when I was diagnosed as well as the years past since then.

This year, since I now have a blog, I will share some of these thoughts with you guys.

In one of my first blog posts, I described my diagnosis , so I will not go through that again. Suffice it is to say I don’t remember the 2 weeks of stay in the hospital as very joyful – except for the fun with my roomies, one of whom is still one of my best friends :-) Most of you who have had this disease as long as I, or even longer, will probably remember that those early days were not the most flexible ones regarding diabetes management and treatment plans.

My family has always been very supportive with my D, which is great. In addition, my dad has always been very protective toward both me and my sister – I would actually say overly protective much of the time. Maybe I will understand this wish to protect your children against everything, even just scratches and falls during play, when I have kids myself, but so far I can’t say that I agree with all the protection that my dad offered – and still offers - me and my sister. This protection meant that even though I had wished to try to play soccer in a club for years, I wasn’t allowed because I could get hurt (that was my dad’s typical reasoning with me, along with the fact that the strains on the muscles, tendons and skeleton that soccer would mean, would cause problems when you were still growing). The fact that I had asthma and allergies (grass pollen allergy is one of them) didn’t help either, so when diabetes came along I almost thought I would never get to play soccer in a club until I turned 18 and would be of legal age.

My dad surprised me, though. He signed both me and my sister up for a soccer club in the nearest larger town. There was a soccer club in our village too, but apparently my dad chose the larger one, because he knew some of the people in that club. I was thrilled to finally be allowed to enter a team, although I was a bit annoyed by the fact that the distance to the club was so that one of our parents had to drive us for practice and games.

While my dad would usually attend all the away-games (to be sure that we got there safely!), he wouldn’t stay and watch practice. I had been diabetic for little over a year when I started playing soccer in the club, and although I had only been on injections for half a year or so, I felt fully competent in recognizing and treating lows. I also felt that I understood the principles behind the treatment and the effect of it pretty well, having educated myself through a lot of reading and noticing how my body reacted in different situations. However, I clearly remember a couple of times, where soccer and diabetes collided, and where my dad particularly didn’t show much of the understanding that otherwise characterized my family.

At the time I had a meter that required half a liter (or so it felt like ;-)) of blood, after one minute drying off the blood from the strip before inserting it to the meter, and then wait another 60 sec. to get a result based on the colorimetric changes of test area on the strip. In the hospital I was introduced to a lancing devise (much like this one posted by Art-Sweet to Diabetes made visible) that didn’t hide the lancet nor bothered to just poke half way through your finger. Needless to say I wasn’t happy about this, and despite the fact that I got another lancing devise with my meter, I just could not get myself to use it. Pressing the lancing button, I would simultaneously move the finger that was targeted to take the prick. Because of this, my parents assisted with my testing, drawing the blood from my earlobe in stead. Testing was not done that regularly back then, so I didn’t test before, during, or immediately after soccer, as I do today.

In the first season of soccer I remember feeling low during practice. I had glucose tabs with me and treated accordingly, quickly joining the others again. When my dad came to pick me up afterwards, he asked how practice had been, and I told him that I had a reaction that I needed to treat. I remember him turning his head to look at me, asking: “Are you sure that you were low, that it was not just the excitement of playing?” I was stunned and angry that he would even doubt it. I didn’t say anything, just nodded, thinking to myself that well, it is my body, and I know how a low feels like, and then hoped that the test at home afterwards would not give a high reading. Thinking back though, I actually believe that my dad’s reaction to this episode was due him being worries, and maybe even blaming himself for not having been around to make sure that I was okay.

The other example is from one of those rare away-games, where we didn’t have parent to drive us. Because we were going to suburban Copenhagen, and both junior teams had to play in that area at approximately the same time, the club had arranged for a bus to drive us. Thus, it was almost a whole-day excursion, and I remember discussing with my parents what to do with injections. I did my own injections, at that time before breakfast, before an afternoon snack, before dinner and before bedtime. The game was around noon, and because I would be playing soccer my dad insisted that I should not bring my insulin pen and just skip the afternoon shot – still having the snack though. I did not feel confident about that, but I couldn’t say anything to change his mind. Because it was slow and inconvenient (using an ear lobe, I needed a mirror and much fiddling around to actually land the drop of blood at the test area of the strip, if I were to test my BG myself), I didn’t have the meter with me either. The away-game in suburban Copenhagen was played in a warm and sunny day. I drank a lot of water, playing the whole match. I had some dried fruit snacks in the break and my packed lunch after the game. Sitting in the bus going back home, I remember that we stopped on a gas station because some of the other girls wanted to get some soft drinks and something to eat. I didn’t have any money with me so I just sat in my seat, dreaming about a nice ice cold coke :-)

When I got home it was just before dinner, and my dad thought we should just do a test to see how the day had passed off. I was suspecting a high, but my dad didn’t think that was likely if I hadn’t eaten anything I wasn’t supposed to (read: besides my packed lunch and snack). After all, I had played a full match of soccer, and “exercise lowers your BG”. I was high. I cannot remember how high, but I think somewhere around 12.8-15.8 (230-284). My dad was blaming me for not having taken proper care of myself, while I tried to defend myself with the fact that I was not the one, who said that the afternoon shoot should be skipped.

I guess what I am trying to illustrate with these short stories is two things: 1) While family and friends can be very understanding and supportive, they just don’t always get it; 2) Although we still need to see the promised cure, diabetes management has become so much easier during the years. Although I haven’t been in this game as long as some of my fellow-bloggers, I still feel how research and development have increased our ability to live a normal life with the flexibility and control needed. Just comparing the first insulin pen I was handed (I did do injections with syringes while in the hospital, but that was just until my pen arrived. Use of syringes for insulin in DK is almost not heard of, the different pen devises are used extensively) with the ones that I have now is amazing. And of course, the fact that a BG test gives you the result within 5 sec today compared to 120 sec 17 years ago is hard to dodge!

Lets just hope that the next 17 years will show just as much progress – hopefully letting us get rid of all our pens, syringes, pumps, BG-meters and other paraphernalia all together :-)


cassandra said...

happy anniversary! i am also at year 17.

this is my first visit to your blog. just thought i'd say hi. i am envious of you though, because i remember the year and the month of my diagnosis (9/1989) but i don't remember the day, so it is really just a general thing for me.


Chrissie in Belgium said...

Hi Heidi - happy anniversary. You are doing great!!!! Yeah, we have talked about how other non-Ds just cannot totally get it! It is SO true. And you are absolutely right that management of D has really impoved..... As you know, I have had D for 45 years! Hej, why haven't you added me to your links?!!

Adjoa said...

Happy anniversary, you are an inspiration. I love reading your blog.

Heidi said...

Cassandra - thanks for stepping by! I will go check out your blog too :-)

Chrissie - thanks, and you to! I will add your blog to my link list once I get to up-date it (I haven't done that for ages, so it is very much needed - thanks for reminding me of that ;-))

Adjoa - but thanks! I am honored to be an inspiration to other people! I haven't been to your blog yet, but I definitely will :-)

Scott K. Johnson said...

Happy anniversary Heidi!

It is something to celebrate that we do all that we do.

cass said...

my parents are great and i love them to death, but they were kind of... absent from diabetic care when i was little. i sometimes wonder if i had had stricter parents, if my control would have been better, or if i maybe would have saved myself some damage i may have caused when i was a kid. on the other hand... being blamed because of a high blood sugar doesn't seem like fun at all. sometimes we can try our best and just can't control what those readings turn out to be.

oh, and i remember my first meter!! it was a bd. 120 seconds. color index. a BIG glob of blood. didn't defer too much in appearance to the ketone strips back then either.