Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Making Sense of Trends (Part 1/2)

This blog entry provides some background information about myself as a diabetic, in two parts. This first part describes my life when I was first diagnosed as a diabetic.

So, I'm a type 1 diabetic, and have been for over 14 years now.

When I was first diagnosed, I welcomed the condition as a friend. I had been working too much, sleeping too little, and my eating habits had been really poor. I considered, and still consider, diabetes to be a distress call from my body, asking me to take better care of myself. That call forced me to put things in perspective. Diabetes gave me the reason to pause my work for a meal every once a while, and to think about what I eat and how I exercise, and to value myself more over the things I was working on.

My first years with diabetes were good. I actually felt my quality of life had increased. I now ate regularly, which, as I only recently have learned, is also a major factor in general happiness. I also played a lot of different sports. That I had always done, but all physical exercise now gave me even more satisfaction, when I knew it was good for my diabetes as well. I faced no problems injecting the insulin or calculating the carbohydrates in my meals. I have later learned that such a "honeymoon" period is common with type 1 diabetics in the initial phase of the condition, when the pancreas still produces some insulin. A major factor was also the fact that I kept learning new things about myself and about diabetes, and I found that interesting and satisfying.

However, eventually the novelty wore off. And gradually, without me even noticing it, things started to get worse.

The treatment of diabetes in general kept getting better and better, allowing for more flexibility in a diabetic's life. My original treatment plan forced me to eat fixed size meals at regular intervals, but the new fast insulin allowed me to eat whenever and how much ever, without even the obligatory post-meal snack two hours after the meal. So I ate less regularly, and enjoyed the new freedom (I did not yet know what effect regular eating times have on happiness). I still did some sports, but also that less regularly. I traveled a lot for work, and kept myself quite busy with it. At the same time, I started to pay less attention to my treatment, and visit the health care professionals less often.

When I occasionally did pay a visit to a health care professional, the lab results always said I was healthy apart from diabetes, my HbA1c values (a long term metric for diabetics) was not perfect but still good. What was discouraging, however, was the spread of the results of my own blood glucose meter. Blood glucose results, metered several times per day, together with notes of estimated carbohydrates per meals and of physical exercise, are the most essential tool in the adjustment of the treatment of any diabetic. They should show distinguishable trends, such as if you're injecting too much insulin for the night time, for instance, which causes the blood glucose levels to be too low in the morning. My results did not show such trends. In fact, they revealed no clear patterns. Rather, they were a shot gun chart, plenty of measurement points scattered almost evenly across the canvas. There was nothing to learn from them, except for the fact that they definitely should be more aligned to reveal any information that could be used to adjust my treatment. However, I never really reacted on this. I wasn't desperate to improve on that, as the lab results said I was OK anyway. I felt content with my life as it was.

Enough text for one post already, right? Read on to part 2 when you feel like it.

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