Not Quite Right.
Last weekend, I was in Boston filming a new video segment for DiabetesMine and hanging out with a fellow PWD. Erik drove up early Saturday morning so that we could spend the day in Boston. After we finished lunch and cannolis with Jeff and his wife, Erik and I drove over to Cambridge so I could indulge in my sick addiction love of Peet’s coffee. I ordered a Cafe Mocha, since it was just a little too chilly to go for my usual Mocha Freddo order, and we meandered through the streets around Harvard. Erik spotted what looked to be a toy store, so we popped inside to have a little look-see.
Everything seemed perfectly normal. Just another Saturday afternoon in Boston.
Then it occurred to me that I should test. I’m not sure what struck me at that very moment to test, but it suddenly seemed like a really good idea. Maybe it was the fact I was gulping down a sugary drink, maybe it was that I had just finished eating a delicious dessert that could be sending me to the stratosphere.
So I stopped. I got out my meter, and set it on one of the display shelves. I didn’t really care who was watching. I’m lightening fast.
I waited while it counted down, and then.
I was 51 mg/dl.
At first I thought I should retest, but for some reason I thought that retesting only really helps when you’re high and you might have something on your finger. Even if the meter’s accuracy was a little off, it wouldn’t be that off. I was probably still low.
And I didn’t feel anything.
Erik came over to check out the result.
“Woah,” he said.
“Yeah…” I squeaked out. “And I don’t even feel low.”
We walked over to the Harvard Coop bookstore, while I continued to drink my Cafe Mocha, assuming that it had enough carbs to treat the low and I didn’t really need to use up my juice box.
I started browsing the rack of the the store. Because I felt fine. I was up and walking around. Then I thought, “You should sit down. Just because you feel fine, doesn’t mean you are.”
I sat down on some steps in the bookstore. I felt like I was waiting for something. I was waiting for the feeling to come back to me.
If you don’t have diabetes, you might not know what the big deal is. But for the last seventeen years, I have partially relied on my body for phsyiological cues as to how I’m doing. It’s not something that you can use as Gospel, but it works most of the time. High and low blood sugars are serious business, and having some physical indication of where you are is extremely valuable.
When I’m low, my hands and my legs start to ache. My motor skills become that of a toddler, and my strength to keep myself standing starts to diminish. I usually feel low fairly early, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a number that read under 55 mg/dl.
When I’m high, I usually feel a bit nauseated. Almost always thirsty. And grumpy as hell to boot. Symptoms when I have high blood sugar vary. Sometimes I will feel high at 250 mg/dl, while other times, not until I’m well over 300 mg/dl. Sometime I’ll even catch myself in the 80 mg/dl range, because my blood sugar is dropping
When I was growing up, sometimes I would wake up low and I wouldn’t feel anything. It wasn’t until after I tested and started pouring myself a glass of orange juice that the feeling would hit me like a ton of bricks. I attributed that to some kind of grogginess-delay. I also don’t typically feel low while I’m exercising, and that I attribute to an adrenaline block. But when I’m just walking around town? Hanging out with my fiance? I feel those.
Then I started to freak out. What if I have been missing lows all these years? I could have died or at least passed out or something. I stopped wearing Minimed’s CGM because my body reacted badly to them (lots of infections) and the accuracy was piss poor. The DexCom is on my wish list but it was very expensive on my current insurance. My goal is to hold out until this summer when I getting married and start a new insurance. Even if it’s still expensive, I plan on jumping on board anyway. But now? Now I feel like I should have jumped on board yesterday. My body’s reaction to my low blood sugars and my high blood sugars is my first line of defensive when it comes to managing my diabetes.
What if this is the beginning of the end? What if I’m hypo unaware now? Seventeen years of seemingly perfect hypo awareness and my body decides to quit on me 24 hours after filming a segment on the artificial pancreas? Is the Universe playing some kind of sick joke on me? Because if it is: not funny.
I kept waiting for the feeling to come back to me, but it never did. The only sense I could feel was that something just wasn’t quite right, but that’s certainly not enough for me to consider a physiological response to my body starving for sugar.
Fifteen minutes later and I tested again: 134 mg/dl. All better now.
Of course, the very next morning, as I watched television, that familiar ache started creeping up my legs and into my hands. I asked Erik to fetch me my meter. I was 74 mg/dl.
I may have dodged the hypo unawareness train this time, but who knows if – or more importantly when – it will return?