Monthly Archives: October 2009

Things that Scare Me

It’s Halloween. All of the kiddies have come for their candy and gone away happy. Well, not all of them; we did run out of candy at 7:15 and had to turn off the porch light before everybody in the neighborhood got their goodies. Sorry, urchins.

None of the kids had particularly scary costumes. The closest was probably the Yankees player, who hoped that his team would win tonight. It’s a tough town to do that, and the young Anakin Skywalker behind him kept chanting “Go Phillies!” and hitting “Jeter” on the back of the head with his light-saber.

Anyway, Halloween seems like a perfect time to talk about things that scare me. Most of these aren’t “scare me to death” fears; many are just scary enough to give me pause before doing something — and occasionally an excuse not to do anything at all. You see, I’m actually kinda chickenshit when it comes to doing new things. But I (usually) try them anyway.

Currently, these things make my skin crawl or get my ‘fraidy juices flowing:

  • Vampires. Seriously. Not the Kiefer Sutherland, Lost Boys kind. No, I mean the foolishly stay up all night to finish Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot while home alone in middle school kind. *whimper*
  • Norman Bates, from Psycho.
  • Heights, especially when I could accidentally cause someone else to take a tumble.
  • Dancing.
  • Going blind.
  • Doing things where I could fail or look stupid.
  • Having hypoglycemia at an embarrassing time, like while giving a presentation to a bunch of people.
  • Having a hypo while exercising, especially in the water.
  • Losing my job and/or health insurance.
  • Running out of insulin (or misplacing it) while traveling.*

Some consequences of these fears include not going all the way out to the edge of the canyon for the best photograph and smelling like garlic all the time (just kidding). Another result has been that I’ve tended to “accept” higher blood glucose readings than I would like. Getting the confidence to stay within the target/acceptable range involves staring down my fears. That’s something I’m working on these days.

* – This has happened . . . . twice. On our fifth or sixth day in India, I left a month’s worth of insulin in our mini-bar fridge. Fortunately, a staff member of the hotel came running after us to the train station to return it. Dodged a major bullet there.

And then earlier this month, I forget to check how much insulin I had in my day-to-day diabetes kit before departing for a long weekend in Kansas. I didn’t have enough to get through the full four days of the trip. Eventually I was able to get it refilled at Wal*Mart.

Posted in Diabetes, Life Lessons, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2009 | 1 Comment

Why I’m Writing about Diabetes

I’m going to be writing a lot about diabetes over the coming month. Turns out, I have a lot on my mind about my chronic illness. Despite having had it for ten years, I feel like I’m still fairly unskilled at managing it. Basically, I know my readings could be better, and I’ve learned a lot recently about how to get where I want to be.

So why am I going to write about diabetes? Lots of reasons.

First, diabetes still has a lot of dark, mysterious corners. If I could have one wish — besides being cured — it would be to be able to predict with better accuracy what will happen from one day to the next. I hope to share helpful bits about what I’ve learned, what’s working, what could have gone better, and what still confuses me. And I hope to hear from other people with diabetes about what works for you.

Because diabetes is mysterious and evolving, it’s surrounded by misconceptions. If I can help any of my regular readers understand diabetes better, maybe I can prevent them from worrying so much about me. (Although I definitely appreciate all of your heartfelt concern.)

I want to contribute to a middle layer of knowledge on the web, a layer that fits between the insipid generalities that are too vague to help anyone but the absolute beginner and the overly technical information aimed at endocrinologists. I believe people with diabetes should be our own advocates, and that starts with having the courage to speak with our healthcare team members as peers rather than in the traditional doctor-patient hierarchy. Until we better understand what’s happening in our own bodies when we eat, take insulin, exercise, etc., we won’t be able to do that. And until we increase the visibility of what it’s like to live with diabetes, doctors are going to continue to discount our point-of-view.

(By the way, I very much put myself in the don’t-know-it-all-by-a-long-shot category. While I consider myself something of a “health geek,” I’m just a novice. I took an anatomy/physiology class many years ago. And while it was the most information dense and enjoyable class I ever took, it just scratched the surface of how a body works. Every time I read something in a medical book or article online, the depth of my ignorance becomes more profoundly obvious. But I’ll share what I do know, collecting shiny bits of diabetes knowledge here in my curiosity shop. :^) )

Sometimes I just have to write stuff down so that I don’t forget. On occasion this has saved my bacon. For example, on Columbus Day, while adjusting my pump settings at work, I managed to delete most of my basal rates. Fortunately I was able to call Lisa at home — unlike me, she had the day off — and she was able to tell me the values I had written in my journal for just such a “Holy shit!” moment. And, although logging might not be fun, it is useful. These dispatches can serve as persistent memory (not just shared memories).

And finally, for all of these reasons, my “control” over my own illness isn’t where I want it to be. My A1c of 7.6% (down from 8.6% a year ago) is higher than I want it. My ability to “follow the rules” (my own, much less my endocrinologist’s) is compromised by the knowledge that (for me) these rules are based on false assumptions about my insulin needs and sensitivity. So I flail around a bit, especially when it comes to exercise. Changing anything related to diabetes takes a lot of trial and error. Writing about it seems like good, inexpensive therapy. And if you’re in the same boat with me, maybe we can take this trip together.

Posted in Diabetes, Life Lessons, MetaBlogging, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2009 | 3 Comments

Life Lessons in the Desert

Jeff in the desert

In April I went backpacking in Utah with some college friends. It was my first backpacking trip in a very long time and my first time in the desert. I had a lot of fun!

I also had some issues with hydration and insulin. Oh! and anemia, too. Just to remind myself, here’s what I would do differently next time:

  • Drink more water.
  • Drink something with electrolytes.
  • Snack more.
  • Don’t take bananas.
  • Figure out a good hiking basal.
  • Bolus for pre-hiking meals.
  • Start hiking earlier in the day.
  • Pack less clothing. I wore it all, but srsly.
  • Pack a hat and lightweight gloves for the night and early morning.
  • Wear a lightweight, long-sleeve, loose-fitting shirt to keep the sun off.
  • Take more sunscreen.
  • Take some rope.
  • Learn some knots so that I can stow the food away from the bears and rodents.

I’m looking forward to my next backpacking adventure, whenever that is. You can see some of the pictures from the trip on Flickr.

Posted in I am Rembrandt, Life Lessons, Travel, USA | Leave a comment

Coming soon: A month of new posts

Dear Readers:

I want to thank those of you who regularly visit this site. I’m not exactly sure why you read these rather diverse dispatches. Some of you are family or friends wanting to keep up with what Lisa and I are doing. Others of you — I suspect — come back from time to time after finding something interesting on the site. And I’m sure that some of you just want a distraction to break up the workday or an evening television watching.

Whatever the reason, all of you regular readers have been forced to wait far too long for updates. (Although I was pleasantly surprised just now to see that I’ve posted 23 times this year  . . . often in closely-spaced batches.) “Well, that’s all going to change!” I declare yet again. I have decided to try posting everyday for a month starting on the first of November. This is a bit of a challenge, but I already have half of the month’s post topics sketched out.

I can’t guarantee Shakespeare everyday. And some days might only be photographs.

And I can’t promise you that everything will interest you. But with one post a day, the chances are better, right?

That brings me to back to my original observation: I don’t know why you’re visiting. I have a large and diverse set of interests I plan to write about.

  • Photography
  • Diabetes
  • Australia
  • Art
  • History
  • Modernity and post-modernity
  • Cycling, hiking, running, swimming, etc.
  • Travel
  • National Parks

I’m sure there will be some techy things, too. But I can’t think of something I’ve done recently that I can actually write about yet. For those of you who want that kind of thing, stay tuned; they’ll show up eventually. (And feel free to check out my Delicious bookmarks to see some of the geeky things I might need to refer to again. Read between the lines if you want; it’s not that exciting.)

See you here again soon!

Posted in General, MetaBlogging, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2009 | Leave a comment

Quabbin loop

Tomorrow — if all goes well — I’m going to ride my bike around the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts tomorrow. I’ve been cycling all over this summer, starting before I knew I was anemic and building up to a 62-mile ride through the Berkshires from the southern Massachusetts border with Connecticut to the Vermont line. Since then I haven’t really ridden much. It gets dark early here at the eastern end of the Eastern time zone, so I switched from cycling to running and swimming (inside, of course) after work.

But I’ve really missed cycling over the last few weeks, so I planned out a 67-mile route that circumnavigates the source of drinking water for most of greater Boston. I have all of my cold-weather gear ready and hope for dry skies. The fall foliage reports sound good, too. Here’s the route:

Map of a 67-mile cycling route around the Quabbin Reservoir - Central Massachusetts

Click for larger. . . .

It promises to be a little hilly, climbing 4800 feet over the loop.

Elevation profile of a 67-mile cycling route around the Quabbin Reservoir - Central Massachusetts

Click for larger. . . .

Posted in Cycling | Leave a comment