Thursday, December 19, 2013

Helpless but Helped

I've never truly needed too much help while I am low. Often I am able to make it to the kitchen without any issues and get myself something before having to sit in the floor to consume it - at my worst. However, the other night I was in bed, I had fallen asleep before Vince.  He went the bathroom and when he came back he woke me up accidentally, because I was sort-of-awake I felt strange, almost like I was going to be sick. My first instinct was not that I was low, rather that I needed some water and to sit up.    After a few minutes of debating in my head what I wanted to do and how I felt, I got out of bed. Fumbled around for my glasses, Vince asked what I was doing, and I crawled across the floor to check my blood sugar.  Vince automatically got up, turned on the lights and asked me what I needed.

Danielle & I 
At this point I didn't feel low, like I said. I wasn't hungry, I wasn't shaking, I just felt weird.  I checked and 2.0 flashed on the screen.  Vince grabbed a bag of bulk candy he had brought over and went to cut up apple, peanut butter and get me a glass of milk, as that is my go-to-snack.  Now, a few times he has gotten me snacks, but I was able to get them myself.  This was the first time that I truly felt like if I stood up I was going to pass out.  My hearing was fading and my body started to sweat. I heard a familiar voice, it was my roommate Danielle asking if I was okay. She also is a type one diabetic and just had a low herself, she ate a chocolate bar and was sitting in the living room because she couldn't fall back asleep.  So there it was, one apartment, two low and recovering diabetics and one boyfriend trying to make sure everything was O.K.

Danielle took the opportunity to observe me, 'you look pale...' I remember her saying.  We chatted a bit about how we were feeling. She went to lay down in the living room and Vince sat down beside my on the floor as I finished my snack.  I truly felt mad at diabetes.  I remember saying to him, 'You know what makes me mad about diabetes.  It makes me so angry that three people are awake now because of diabetes.'   I felt so much hate towards diabetes, but so much love for the support of both Vince and Danielle.  I was conflicted.

As I finally made my way back to bed, feeling incredibly full from the apple, peanut butter, chocolate covered raisins and glass of milk, I told Vince how appreciative I was for taking care of me.  It's a big job dating a type one diabetic, and I believe that it takes special people to tag along for the ride.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

What I have

When I was diagnosed with type one diabetes in 2009 I didn't worry about where I was going to get my insulin nor did I worry about dying. I was more concerned about what this meant for me having to arrange my life around my diabetes, something that now seems so trivial after meeting and speaking to people around the world whose main concerns regarding diabetes do in fact revolve around access to insulin and risk of early complications or death.

I can safely say that I returned to Canada, leaving a piece of my heart with individuals around the world. It broke my heart to hear that in Zambia, getting a meter isn't easy. In fact, the specific person, had diabetes for eight years before getting his/her own meter.  The clinic was where he/she checked not at home.  Something that blew my mind, as I thought about the diabetes supplies I had been hoarding at home.  I felt guilty, sad, mad at myself for collecting and not giving.

Sydney, AUS. Hospital
Diabetes in Canada is not like Diabetes in the Caribbean, and Diabetes in the Caribbean is not like diabetes in Europe - it is all different and I think that we all, as young leaders realized this quickly. When I finish school in the next few months my insurance will stop funding my diabetes supplies (insulin and test strips) because I will no longer be in school. As much as this scares me because I know how much these life saving items cost, I know that I have the option of either buying insurance OR getting a job that covers the cost.  The insulin pump and the supplies, however, is covered by ADP and that will not change when I finish school.

Knowing what I know now about countries around the world and the difference regarding access to insulin and other supplies - I feel less fearful of my future and rather upset about others. I wish so badly there was a way to guarantee that no one dies because they cannot get access to insulin or because they did not have the opportunity to test their blood sugar or sugar in their urine.  This is terribly upsetting.

I know that there are various foundations that are working at making change and I truly feel like we as diabetics have the power to make change. It just is not an easy task.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jet Lag

I've experienced jet lag before, most recently, besides now was when I flew from Tanzania to Toronto which was a 7 hour time difference. The time difference between Australia and Toronto, however is 16 hours.  It is an incredible time difference, making me feel like I am one day ahead of everyone else here at home.  Managing diabetes with jet lag has proved to be interesting as well. While I haven't noticed too much fluctuation with blood sugars, I find that the signs of jet lag are simply mimicking some of the feelings of low or high blood sugar due to being exhausted, having off hunger (i.e wanting to eat food in the middle of the night but not in the morning) and overall grumpiness with trying to regulate my bodies clock.  It's confused.

I noticed jet leg a bit when I arrived in Sydney on November 22nd.  I had started my flight on November 20th here, but arrived in Australia what seemed like two days later.  Both Russ (the other Canadian I was travelling with) and I found ourselves getting up extremely early then falling asleep by mid afternoon.  We got a lot done in the mornings, but often we were fast asleep before the sun went down. Eventually we got into the rhythm of things and by the time the conference had begun I know that I was waking up at 7 am struggling much like I do when I am at home.

Eating habits like I mentioned proved difficult, I was waking up low often and because I was getting up early, basically before breakfast was being served at the hotel.  I found myself having to treat lows before getting the opportunity to have breakfast.   We were eating lunches and dinners at earlier times as well.   It was interesting getting used to the changes.

Other changes had to be made with times on the insulin pump as well as the meter which is important because if you have set basal or bolus rates at specific times they need to be happening at the correct times.  I think it can be tricky to make adjustments since your body may feel like it is in Toronto, but your actions, food consumption and mind is in Australia. So, playing around with rates isn't a bad idea.

This week has proven to be difficult as I caught a cold on the flight home and the change in temperature from Australia (mid 20's) to Ontario, Canada (negatives!) is a big shock to the system.   I also am dealing with stress through catching up on missed lectures and writing exams this week - three in total.   I know that it will be all worth it after Friday's final exam, but in the meantime, I am battling with diabetes, a cold, jet lag and studying... a.k.a procrastination.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I spent a great deal of time with people that share a common fight with me.  While, I wish we were meeting for a convention about scrap-booking, computer science, ANYTHING BUT diabetes. Sadly, it was a real eye opening experience as we all gathered because we have diabetes. I learned that diabetes itself does not discriminate.  Diabetes is not for women only, the old, the obese, the Caucasian, the rich nor the poor. Diabetes can happen to anyone.

Ashley (Australia) speaking about discrimination, support and
the YLD in the Federation Square Event, Melbourne, AUS. 
If you were to have walked in my shoes in Australia, you would have seen the faces of people living with diabetes. No face alike, not all languages the same and not every ones story fair.  I learned a lot that while diabetes does no discriminate, others do.  I spoke with quite a few people living in various countries around the world, from as far as the Middle East to as close as the United States.   Almost everyone had a story of discrimination due to their diabetes. Some more violent and disheartening than others, but all terribly tragic.

There is an extreme lack of knowledge in some parts of countries. I was told in Rural Bangladesh, people are still in the belief system that a curse was given to their children with diabetes and rituals are done.  To me, I was shocked, these were thoughts I was learning in my History class that happened during the time of plagues and the outbreak of Leprosy.  I had no idea that this was happening now.  Other stories of 'cures' being given, deadly cures not something as simple as cinnamon that we all commonly hear about and ignore.

Others had stories of not being able to attend post secondary, not finding a partner, not being accepted by family members, partners family members or other people in the community.  It was hard to put myself in the shoes of people from others parts of the world knowing that their diabetes is so much more of an obstacle than mine - or at least it appears that way.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

International Family

I am currently flying back towards home from a life changing trip to Australia. Thanks technology I am able to begin sharing my experience from the airplane. So, for a quick update: I've been down under for the past 18 days. I spent a few days in Sydney being a tourist but the rest of the time I spent in Melbourne with 130 diabetics from around the world (70 countries to be exact).  This opportunity was made possible by my member association as well as IDF Young leaders.  A quick overview, I applied for the volunteer position and was selected along with another Canadian representative, Russ.

I went into this experience not knowing what to expect. I knew that there would be people with diabetes, I knew that the weather was going to be nicer than home and I knew that I would be united/reunited with some people that I had known from the past. The reality of it was that yes the weather was beautiful, and yes I was reunited with some great past friends but what I didn't realize was how much I would leave impacted by my peers living with diabetes from around the world.

I learned a lot.  More than I ever imagined.  This experience taught me a lot about diabetes but more so it taught me about friendship.  I grew close with a few other representatives. Realizing that we all come from different cultures, countries, backgrounds and languages yet, share a diabetes story.  I kept a journal throughout the experience and I look forward to sharing my experience with everyone else. More so, it's my job to come back to Canada with a project.  I feel empowered and energized.  Diabetes gave me an international family.