They didn’t say that to me, but they didn’t have to…it was written in bold all over their faces.
Recently, I dined outside with people who are close to me (I’m not going into specifics as to who exactly they were to maintain some level of discretion). I was explaining to them that come the winter season, I probably won’t be dining out much out of COVID concerns.
I’m just not ready to dine indoors yet. In fact, since March, I’ve only set foot into a physical store, dwelling, or other establishment a dozen times. For me, the risk associated with spending time inside when it’s completely avoidable just isn’t worth it.
But what sucks about this is the judgment I receive from others. Just like I did in this scenario, the looks on their faces make me feel like I have to defend myself. I wanted to scream at them, “you try having a chronic illness and dealing with it during a global pandemic!”…but of course, I’d never do such a thing, and I’m very glad that they don’t have to worry about that.
I do wish, though, that they – as well as other people who are quick to judge individuals like me who are scared and overly cautious these days – would use a little more grace and humility when conversing with those of us who are high risk.
Please try to put yourself in my shoes.
Please understand that not only am I considered high risk, but I’m in direct contact with loved ones who are also considered high risk.
Please know that, yes, I do have a desire – a very strong one – to get back out there and do “normal” things.
But think about the things holding me back…a chronic condition that requires a lot of my time and energy, for starters.
And think about how there are millions of other people like me who share this great responsibility for an underlying health condition that they didn’t ask for on top of a great fear.
First, let me apologize for adding to what seems like a never-ending cycle of news and media about COVID-19, a.k.a. the coronavirus. But I wanted to write this post because a friend of mine works for a company that sent out a communication about it that I found…interesting, to say the least.
The email in question was about the company’s current coronavirus protocol. The following is an excerpt from the email, provided by my friend:
If you have or live with someone who has a medical condition that the WHO has highlighted as being at higher risk for complications from the virus (elderly, immunocompromised state, chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease), you are strongly urged to work from home if possible with your job function. If you cannot work from home, please consult with your manager.
So…the wording of this email struck me as a little odd for a few reasons. If I worked for this company, I’d wonder: 1) Just because I have one of the named chronic conditions, does this mean I must seriously reconsider my present working environment even though nobody in my office travels internationally? 2) What exactly does “strongly urged” mean, anyways? and 3) What is a manager expected to do if someone cannot work from home, for whatever reason? Make up their own set of rules? Force someone to come in or not come in? And if the latter is the case…would a paycheck have to be forfeited?
As I pondered the answers to these questions, I also started to think that there was a chance I was overreacting to the wording of the email. So I asked other friends how they felt about it and they reacted the same way I did. Everyone was generally confused by the message that this was saying (or not saying) about people living with chronic conditions and how they should handle a situation like this.
Plus, I can’t shake the feeling that emails like this just add to all the hype/panic that we’re already being inundated with, and if I were to receive something like this, it certainly wouldn’t do anything to ease my normally-anxious mind. It’s getting more and more challenging to tune it all out…
…but on the bright side, at least I know how to properly wash my hands and sneeze/cough into my elbow. So I’ll continue those common-sense practices every day, and when I’m doing my own work, I’ll be glad it’s from the comfort of my own cubicle.
C’mon, Molly. Get it together. It’s not called cryabetes. I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, giving myself an internal pep talk to keep the tears from flowing down my cheeks. I felt a little uneasy on my feet, so holding a steady gaze proved to be challenging after a few moments.
Why was I on the verge of an emotional breakdown? It was all my blood sugar’s fault, of course. For about an hour, I’d been hovering in the upper 60s to lower 70s. There are far worse blood sugar ranges to fall in, but I’d been feeling the classic symptoms of a low for that entire span of time – and it was really testing my fortitude.
My self-talk was fruitless; within seconds, the first few tears escaped from my eyes. It wasn’t long before a couple tears turned into full-fledged bawling. Alarmed by my outburst, my boyfriend tried to calm me down (he was aware of my low blood sugar situation) and attempted to use humor to get the crying to stop. Very quickly, he discovered I was a bit beyond that and that it was best to just let me be sad.
I was sad because I was tired and wanted to go to bed but it didn’t feel safe for me to sleep just yet. Safe to sleep. Can you imagine not feeling safe enough to fall asleep, even in your own bed surrounded by your own blankets in your own room, with your partner nearby?
So the tears came and went because, even though I tried my damnedest, I still felt so out of control in this situation. Not knowing how long it would take my blood sugar to come back up to a level that I felt safe to sleep at, not knowing what exactly caused this predicament in the first place, and not being capable of being mentally stronger than my diabetes all in that moment in time got to the best of me.
So sure, diabetes isn’t called cryabetes. But that doesn’t mean my emotional lapse – or any emotional lapses related to diabetes – wasn’t warranted. Crying can be healing, and in this moment in time, it was the only thing, oddly enough, that could make me feel a tiny bit better.
We should always do what medical professionals tell us to do…right?
I mean, why wouldn’t we? They’ve gone through many years of extensive training. They’ve got the education and degree(s) to prove their medical expertise. So why would a patient question a doctor or a nurse when they’re telling them to do something that will improve the patient’s health?
Well, a patient might question a medical professional’s advice when it seems contrary to everything else that the patient’s been told by other, trusted members of their healthcare team.
This is exactly what happened to me when I went to see my primary care doctor a few months ago.
Actually, more specifically, I saw a nurse practitioner who works at my primary care doctor’s practice. I made an appointment with the office because I’d been experiencing some wheeziness that made me think I might have asthma that couldn’t reliably be treated with a rescue inhaler (which is all that I had) on its own. I figured it’d be smart to talk it over with my doctor, or at least someone at his practice, to see if I should start treating my symptoms with another kind of medication or therapy.
My appointment barely lasted 20 minutes. I met with a nurse practitioner who I’d never seen before. I explained how I’d been wheezing the last several days, and how it got worse when I went to lie down in bed at night. Before I could get another word out, she asked me if a rescue inhaler was all I had to use in these situations. I said yes. She proceeded to tell me that rescue inhalers aren’t designed for daily use because, as the name implies, they’re for emergency situations. Then she started telling me about a steroid that she thought I should begin to use twice daily.
I cringed at the word “steroid” because I know that they don’t interact well with my blood sugars. Steroids can make blood sugars go high rapidly, and it can take hours for blood sugar to come back down to normal levels. I told her this, and she shrugged off my concerns by telling me that the inhaled steroid would be going directly to my lungs, not my entire body like a typical steroid. I remember nodding uneasily and asking her how to use the steroid – I wasn’t going to leave the room until I had a satisfactory amount of information on this new, unfamiliar drug.
She told me I’d take it once in the morning and once at night, before brushing my teeth. Apparently, I would need to be careful and remember to rinse my mouth out with water immediately after administering the medication in order to prevent…thrush. (If you’re unfamiliar with that word, it has something to do with oral, yeast, and infection…A.K.A. something that sounds like a nightmare.) That’s when I really became alarmed. I told her that people with T1D are already more susceptible to that kind of infection, and wouldn’t it be a bad idea to even risk it by taking this steroid two times a day? And again, she essentially disregarded my protests and told me I’d be fine as long as I remembered to rinse. Then, she sent the prescription to the local pharmacy and left me in the exam room in a confused daze.
I went to pick up the prescription, but I never used it. I decided to trust my judgment and avoid a steroid that seemed like it would cause more harm than good. I also figured that since the weather had abruptly gotten cold, then perhaps my asthma symptoms would subside before long; in the meantime, I could use my rescue inhaler as necessary. And you know what?
I was right. My breathing was normal again in a matter of days, and I only had to take a few puffs from the inhaler when it was all said and done. My decision to take my health in my own hands was further validated when I went to go see my allergist soon after this ordeal. I told her all about it as we ran through the list of medications that I regularly take. She was incredulous that I was prescribed the steroid in the first place, seeing as my asthma is practically non-existent. To quote her, “You’re (meaning me) already sweet enough, you don’t need this steroid or a risk of thrush!”
That remark alone sealed it for me: I did what I thought was best because I knew I was capable of making a decision about my body; nobody knows myself better than me…even a medical professional.
One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!
Diabetes is a chronic condition that involves several different pieces of technology. Unsurprisingly, quite a few of these technological components are available via mobile apps, and some of them have become instrumental in helping me understand the patterns that my own diabetes follows. Let’s walk through the four that are mainstays on my iPhone home screen.
For starters, there’s the Dexcom CGM apps (there’s one for the G5, another for the G6). When I first downloaded the app for my G5, I marveled at how stinkin’ cool it was to be able to check my blood sugar on my phone. I spend far too much time each day playing with various apps on my phone, anyway, so it was very convenient for me to have this particular app installed.
Dexcom also makes an app called Clarity, which happens to be something I’ve come to rely on in between appointments with my endocrinologist. That’s because Clarity links directly to my CGM and gathers data from it that creates reports for my analysis. With just a few taps, I can view information such as my time spent in range, average glucose, patterns, and risk for hypoglycemia. Even better, I can generate results for periods of time ranging from 48 hours to 90 days. The app also produces results in clean, easy-to-read charts and graphs, making it extremely easy for me to figure out how I can improve my A1c.
A few years ago, I found an app called Glucagon that’s made by Eli Lilly. As you could probably tell by the name of the app, it’s all about Glucagon: namely, how to inject it. It’s an interactive experience that I like to walk myself through every now and then so I’m familiar with how to use Glucagon – because you never know if and when it could come in handy.
A more recent discovery is DiaBits. Besides having a cute name, this app provides another breakdown of blood sugar data. It has a neat feature that estimates your current A1c, as well as other predictors that indicate how rapidly your blood sugar is rising or falling. It doesn’t replace any of my tools that more accurately check my blood sugar levels; it merely is a complementary app that gives me more insight on trends and averages.
One quick visit to the Apple App Store shows me that there are tons more diabetes-related apps out there. Quite frankly, I don’t know which ones to try next! Do you have any favorites or recommendations? Leave them in the comments!