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Worry

Guilt

Envy

Anger

Fear

***

In a funny way, I’ve become quite adept at side-stepping these big abstractions. I used to worry in a kind of hectic, random way. About everything. Now — well now that there’s so much to worry about, I tend to let most things go.

I used to feel guilty about every moment that was my own. Every moment I wasn’t living and breathing diabetes. I used to feel guilty for not having diabetes. Well, life is too short.

I used to feel the sour pull of pure envy when I saw families — young lads, parents, children, out eating what they wanted, talking about the traveling they will do, the nights they spent sleeping on friends’ floors, sleeping in their clothes, a night on the town etc — and thought that will never be us, can never be us anymore. Now I turn away from it. You deal with what you’ve been dealt.

And anger of course is never far from the door. I can feel it prowling. Often. Walking back and forth out there. But my energy is better spent elsewhere. It has burned everything there was to burn.

As for fear. The hardest for me. Primal. At its worst, I don’t want to go out. Don’t want my family to go out. Wake sick, afraid that this arbitrary bad luck will strike us — in so many ways, again and again.

I’m wondering if the fear is always closest to the surface. Last week M woke in the night, desperately thirsty, going back and forth to the bathroom, cupping water in her hands to drink. In the morning, she confessed that she then could not sleep for fear of the big D. Later, E bled her slim finger and tested her. The relief in the room was tangible when the number came up: 5.1 mmols. You’re fine, he said. He said, and smiled. You can’t be anything but fine. And gently laid her hand back on the table.

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Things continue to be hither and thither — hence my struggle to post! Apologies. What always then happens of course is an overwhelming urge to say EVERYTHING.

Not possible. So a quick run through: we think Cleo the cat is with kitten! Her brother is able to tolerate her, phew. We had a party for 30 people last week, and the sun managed to shine throughout! Phew. I’ve taught some year 6 (11 yr old) and today year 5 (10 yr old) school children poetry these last few days too. Really excellent fun. Phew! I delivered a paper to the Poetry and Voice conference at University of Chichester over the weekend. On how different sorts of writing have served different purposes since my son’s diagnosis — and on how the beach hut poems came about. Went well I think, and the whole conference was a stimulating one. Phew!

Not so phew: daughter M, six weeks after cracking her cocyxx in a rounders match (seriously painful, missed two days of school), then jammed her ring finger on her, yes, fingering hand…. So has had to re-schedule her violin exam. Oh dear. Very painful, swollen joint. Little delicate hands. Sniff!

Not so phew too: battles with lows. The heat seems to have had the generalised effect of lowering E’s insulin needs, so last week we had several evenings of unfortunately several hours of dragging around in the 3’s and 4’s… Even with the pump on 0%, eg actually off. It was extraordinarily wearing for him, and a I don’t mind admitting that one night it was a little scary: no insulin going in, already treated two hypos, and gee, 15 minutes later he’s still on 2.5mmols... Disconcerting. But we got up I think half a dozen times that night, and by morning he was okay.

Sigh. Then after 3 nights of going high from too low a temp basal (too little insulin) in the day — we think we’ve sort of cracked it. For now! 90% temp basal in the day, plus 90% of the usual carb counting/ratios. Turn off temp in early evening to stabilise for the night. Unless he’s exercised of course…! In which case turn it to 95%.

Assuming he remembers that he’s exercised.

Assuming that we remember what he’s told us. And that we all don’t crash out on the sofa from SHEER EXHAUSTION while watching the World Cup, where England did SO BADLY. Oh dear.

Did I mention that on the way back from Chichester the car sprung a diesel leak and I ran out of fuel while passing a truck? Scary.

And had to wait on the motorway verge 10 miles from home. Never, ever nice, traffic whipping past at 80mph. I took my linen trousers and sparkly flip flops into the nettles and thorns, up the bank, I can tell you!

And did I mention that because one car is in the shop I did all the driving this morning: child to school, OH to work. And oh, deliver a testing kit to the OTHER child across town, because accidentally forgotten….?!

But we’re here. And we’re okay. As long as we keep our juggling hands free.

After barely three days’ respite, little girl cat Cleo is on heat — AGAIN. We are gritting our teeth. She is doing something altogether different, but no doubt just as taxing. About another two weeks of this, all being well. We hope for another little mini-break for her. Then maybe making babies. And everyone will be happier… there is too much hissing in the house now, and not just from her brother Schubert, who is fed up to the eye teeth with all her moaning and constant IN YOUR FACE – ness. We keep putting her in the bathroom with a litter tray, food, drink and a bed. Her boudoir, in which she can recline. Fat chance.

AND: a day when E has helped me make a postcard for my hut poems. Okay, he’s done the whole thing (:-)). And here it is, the front image, and the back poem. Splendid job.

Hut postcard

(Sorry, on my computer you need to click once to go to some page in space that says ‘Hut postcard’, then click on that and then it finally downloads. Why? Who knows.)

So we go for a milkshake from the dreaded McD’s. Very unusual. Get a medium milkshake. Read the carb content from the handy placemat. Hurray, McD! Says 70g CHO. Sheesh! We think: a load of carb. Sounds TOO high. Settle on 55g CHO, and agree to pick up the pieces later if he goes sky-high. Two hours later he’s a steady 5.8mmols… Hmm… And still hasn’t gone higher.

So we wonder: Mr McD, what you playin’ at?! If we’d done the full 70g, it would have been hypo city! Oh dear.

Just another day in the land of managing diabetes. And life. And getting through both. For the moment!

But we don’t. After thinking the high numbers of the last post were set probs etc, here we are on the third day since the last change and ALL IS WELL. A relief. Stable ish numbers. A night’s sleep….

And lovely Cleo has passed the worst of being on heat. After two nights locked in the bathroom she’s to all of our great reliefs a bit more settled. Phew! No more earplugs, and a bit happier a cat….

Finally, exams: I phoned the school and they suggested 10% extra time to account for E’s lack of concentration. Which he has done.

It’s good to get in the habit of being obvious and up front about all this: hypo or hyper, he can lose at least 15 mins of a test to treating it. Now, he’s a VERY bright boy. He would do ok no matter what. We know this. The school know this.

But he never complains. He gets on with things. He thrives and excels. So when he says he thinks his performance is affected by his diabetes, the school listens. They want to set up similar formal provisions for him for GCSEs. Just to give him the best of all possible worlds.

They believe in him and trust him. I was quite choked up on the phone, hearing how much they thought of him. In his RS public exam the next day (part of a GCSE) his numbers were fine. But arrangements had been made for him to sit close to the door. All of the invigilators knew the situation. He came home saying he felt so much better now that nothing was unknown. Before he had gone into every exam explaining…. Uncomplaining and necessary, but hard work I’m guessing before an exam.

Anyway. For the first time I feel, tentatively, that the school is beginning to understand….

***

Morning at the hut.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Keeping a blog sometimes feels a bit like staying in touch with an old, good friend. You think oh I need to say this, or I need to say that. A part of your brain holds ‘blog things’. It usually works quite well.

Until you drop a stitch. And of course it unravels down the whole piece of knitting, putting a kind of empty path through the middle of it. Damn.

So this last week and a bit, I’ve dropped a stitch. At least. And it’s been depressing, to think every day, oh yes I can say this, and I can say that — and never get to it.

Reasons are good ones: writing in the hut; and university work. As well as normal life, but hey.

***

So it’s list time, just to cover bases. This is the worst thing: I can’t just LEAVE IT.

1) new infusions sets are working so well we’re in shock. Insertion is much easier, done in a flash, and since we started with them, we’ve had NO error messages from the pump, MORE stable numbers (generally, see below!), and THEY HURT LESS. So an all around thumbs up!

2) we have however had two completely uncharacteristic missed doses, when we all just kind of forgot to give the insulin — within 24 hours. The first time we caught it quite quickly. E was high, but no ketones and feeling okay.  Insulin given, and job done. The second time he’d been running a little high anyway (we think from the end of a cold), and three hours after the missed dose, he was 20 mmols. Ergh. Within a few minutes, he felt bad. A few more minutes, and despite correction insulin being on its way in, he felt positively dreadful. We had to pull over while driving home while he got air. He thought he was going to be sick. And he felt this way for another two hours. For him, there is NOTHING worse than being high with ketones. It took another six hours, running temp basals, for him to come into range. Such is the ridiculously high price of forgetting to do one thing in certain circumstances.

3) We have figured out we think for certain that E actually tends to run slightly LOW when colds are starting and coming out. Unusual I think, but this seems definite now. Then, after the worst is over, he runs high for a couple of days. Oh joy!

4) It’s Sounds New week, which means we have all been rather hither and thither. Esp OH. So I’ve been having to keep about a billion things in my head at once: lunches, drop offs, pick ups, swimming gear, dry cleaners, paperwork. We usually split as much as we can, but this week of the year, it’s always like this — a bit overwhelming! Being a parent and working, being a partner and working — and trying to do a decent, open, sound and not too controlling job of it — is overwhelming sometimes. How’s that for stating the bleeding obvious, as they say?!

5) And yet through all this (and uni work — have I mentioned that?! A bit of a trial to keep up with these weeks, but oh well…), I have been to my hut! Three mornings this week. The work is still coming. There have been big waves. So I’ve made a Big Wave link. I have become aware again — and not for the first time, but for the first time in a long time, 5 years I think — how delicate a quality creativity is. How easily the imagination could be swung from itself, and everything be lost. It’s so important not to disturb the surface — but too, to disturb it, to dip down like a fishing bird, and find something. If you get in there and swim and splash about, you’ve got no chance. So I’ve spent a long time — hours maybe — trailing my fingers in the water: watching, listening, being, making a few notes. And soon enough, as long as I don’t move too fast, I hear a voice — mine and not mine, of course — that is the (maybe temporary) first line of a piece.

I’m so glad that this rich place near the surface hasn’t been wiped out by so many things happening in the last few years. I feel like a poet again, like when I was drafting How to Be a Dragonfly, which happened in a similar rush. To be honest, it’s a source of tearful relief.

***
So, Bigger Waves. Madness, I realise. And sorry about the last minute shift of point of view in this. Like writing a story, I suddenly thought hey I know what I want! I want the pure white froth… But by then it was too late. If it were a story, I would go back and re-do the whole thing with this in mind. But it’s not, so here we are.

So we decide that the best thing to do is finally do a basal test with E. This involves concocting no carb meals so that we can get a good luck at E’s background or ‘fasting’ blood sugar levels. This means frequent testing too of course. But the early evenings and nighttimes have been very problematic of late: seemingly unpredictable, seemingly swinging because of foods (really?), exercise (really?), and growth hormones (probably). And we won’t even go to the issue of the set changes in the last few weeks. Heaven only knows the effects of that.

ANYWAY. So from 6pm yesterday, no carb. Great and inventive dinner of chicken marinated in yoghurt, mint, chili and lime — lightly pan fried — on salad, with some mozzarella slices. Then a sugar free jelly (jello). All of which adds up to maybe 2 g of carb.

SO. He starts a little high (9 mmols) so we have to correct and give half a unit of insulin, but don’t add anything extra for the food. Two and a half hours later he’s still too high  — 9 mmols. (This is without eating anything remember, so MUST indicate that during this time on this day the basal or background insulin is too low.) So we have to correct again. Two hours after that he’s 10 mmols. So we correct. Clearly being pulled high has outweighed the earlier correction. Then 3 hours later he’s plummeted to 4 mmols.

Sigh. This is *precisely* the opposite of what we had thought was going on, and which our adjustments had reflected last week. We had thought he was being pulled low in mid-evening (so we lowered the basal an increment) and he has been sky high in the mornings (so we raised the basal an increment). Whereas last night’s test revealed that — for that day, anyway! — he was as a result too high in the mid-evening and too low in the morning.

Back to square one. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s a one-off. Certainly we feel that his morning rises have been almost entirely hormonal — and irregular, unpredictable in the extreme. This is where we wish for a) smaller increments on the Medtronic and therefore finer insulin tuning and b) a willingness on his part to deal with continuous glucose monitoring. It would help enormously in this case not to just have little windows into his levels, but watch the pattern of it… Oh well. In time.

Add to all this that yesterday was a ‘stay at home’ day, in which he didn’t get out of his pajamas, and really, the test can only be a bit accurate… His levels will be quite different we suspect on a school night. We already run him on two patterns on the pump, with different basal rates — one for school, and one for weekends and holidays — so we no doubt have to do two ‘fasting’ basal tests too, in order to get anywhere.

Sigh again!

***

The good news is that another silhouette (45 degree) set is in. The positioning of the hand and the body can be very awkward and unsettling, but he held on to his nerve and did it. Done!

***

And finally, I wanted to show you what I did on Friday. I looked at life for really quite a long time from this angle. And wrote four poems. I don’t know why the coast has set me on fire in such a way, but it has. As a friend said, they are just coming out of the oven cooked.

I watched the tide come in, and how the angles and rapidity and groups and heights of the waves changed over the day. I’m completely fascinated by this. It’s meditative yes, but also occupies my mind in an unaccustomed and direct way. I focus, really focus, on what’s in front of me.

Enjoy. Notice the filigree patterns of the water on the beach, like lace. And the way that sometimes the waves surge forward, and sometimes they just drop. And that they arrive in groups, and that a third of them are larger than the others… This all just screams poetry to me. I realise this might just be me, however!

I’m sitting in the beach hut, and I’ll admit my mind is a little fuzzy. Two reasons, I suspect, for this: beauty overload; and too many chocolate fingers. They have nothing to do with each other, but both lead me to a bit of a spaced out state!

The sea and the sky are an almost white blue-grey today, and there is only the faintest horizon. I’ve already drafted two poems this morning and expect to do another before packing up for the day. This post, in truth, is me ‘holding back’ from the next piece. It’s not quite time to write it. Not sure why. But a little while longer coming to the boil is what’s needed. Maybe ten minutes or an hour, no more – or the pot boils dry and can’t, in my experience, be re-filled.

Our trip to clinic yesterday was useful, energising, and hopeful. We had done everything right with the new 45 degree sets except pinch the skin in order for the needle to get proper purchase on and guide the cannula in. We all watched carefully as our brilliant Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN) demonstrated the insertion on a blue cushion (no Manky!). And then E, with the same quiet clear-headedness and courage he has shown from the beginning of all this, did all the steps on himself.

His father and I watched as what looked like a huge needle catapulted into E, skimming just under the surface of the skin. Perfect. He peeled off the backing tape, removed the needle – leaving the cannula in of course – and voilà. One of his final sources of real distress conquered without any evident hesitation.

So far so good. We discovered two more options to try if these sets prove difficult or not right in some way – again, bless our DSN’s pragmatism.

But right now E is very pleased, as are we. Many more sites for sets will be opened up if he stays with them. And they are much flatter than quicksets.

And you know what: NO PAIN except a pinprick for a couple of seconds. Compared to the teeth-gritting and watering eyes of every set change in the last three months, well…. Any chance to not have to be QUITE so brave he welcomes. And lord knows we want him to take it.

— Posted in the Little Blue Hut

Spring is springing so hard it’s practically bouncing off the page! The sun has shone almost without interruption now for two weeks. The tiny showers have made all the grass green and the tulips livid with life.

1) Thank you to everyone who sent me messages (see About on this site, but I’m afraid you can’t hack into my email, 🙂 ) about my article in Balance, the Diabetes UK bi-monthly magazine. I do what I do because it presses upon me to do it. Just hearing from people and knowing that somehow we all have places to go, and that I might, might be laying one tiny bridge of connection down for folks — this is good enough for me. This is what it’s all about. Thank you. My column continues in the next issue.

2) The beach hut is the BEST THING since sliced bread. I’m writing a lot. The sun is shining. At the end of the day it goes grey, and the horizon mixes the sea and sky. I’m researching coastal terminology and just plain watching the water, the birds, the dogs being walked, the children playing, and the slow flow of the tide. The whole thing is astonishing. I haven’t felt this connected to writing life-wise in years. Years. (Yay!)

3) Daughter M celebrated her 10th birthday yesterday. Like me, she has a tendency to tell everyone she knows and thereby reap the rewards of good wishes! She was in possession of the Birthday Cushion from her maths teacher all day, which she could sit upon, carry with her, flash at everyone and generally enjoy. Her name was emboldened upon the big screen by the school library. Her class sang to her. She ate cupcakes. Her brother downloaded a wonderful arty hand-drawn puzzle game for her as a gift. She soaked up ‘the love’. She is ten, double digits for the rest of her life. And a cracking, special girl, much adored. Here’s to you, chiquita!

4) We are off to clinic tomorrow, to sort out Manky’s sites. Lordy. We are feeling brave and resolute. As I say, the sun is shining. We have raised the nighttime insulin to combat the growth hormone highs which have persisted pretty much constantly now for three weeks. Perhaps soon we can get a night’s sleep! The sun is shining.

Til when!

Just a teaser really. Here is ‘my’ beach hut. And its views. 

It’s staggering. I’ve already written a poem in it/on its steps. Even with the windows being broken. I went for a walk. I found the loos. I found the cafe that doesn’t know it’s a retro 50s diner. I listened to the sea gulls. Seriously, I did.

And here’s the thing: I get to go back tomorrow!

I’ll come back to dodgy sets and other bits of news tomorrow. Not great news, truth be told, so we’ll call those waves to be jumped later… For now it’s all about those glorious moments of surfacing.

Little Blue Hut from the back

 

View from the steps!

 

Very own clean slate writing space

 

Yes this is the actual view

I have heard from two parents today: one, H, whose son was diagnosed only 10 days ago.

For both, and for me and us, the lasting through is so hard. The holding-up. The way your life is shipwrecked. And you have to wander around, slowly re-collected, gathering up, all the pieces, new and old.

I find myself being in the position of old hand. 18 months in. Like in grief, you watch yourself move further away from that moment of change, that time of unremitting despair and numbing hard work.

I guess all I want to say is that it’s not that I don’t remember before diagnosis – it’s that I can’t, without the same crush of sadness as I felt at the start. So I don’t take myself there often.

So in that sense, um, I guess I’m not much help. Sorry.

But in every other sense: we help each other. Our children will grow up strong and healthy. Burdened – yes- but like us, with a deep understanding of what’s important.

They didn’t need this. Nor did we. Nor did our families.

Damn.

Thank goodness for small mercies. Friendship of a whole new type, to a whole new degree. Even in passing it means something real.

Hang in there, all of us.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Tile Kiln Hill,,United Kingdom

Setting sail

In November 2008 my 12 year old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The effect of this event on me -- and on our nuclear family -- was like being thrown overboard and watching the ship leave.

'Dealing with type 1' in the family has morphed into another sort of 'dealing' -- a wholesale resituating of parenting, of family dynamics...of life.

At my son's diagnosis I could not to locate a record of what living with a type 1 child in the family is like. I could not see myself or our family anywhere. I longed for a starting point, a resource and a sense of the future. Being a writer, my instinct is to write it. This space, I hope, is a start.

Blood Sugar Ranges (UK)

<4 mmols = low or hypo, life-threatening if untreated
4-8 mmols = within target range
8-13 mmols = high but not usually dangerous
14+ mmols = very high, or hyper, life-threatening if untreated

Bubbles

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Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional. Any view expressed here is my opinion, gleaned from experience, anecdote or available research.