so about three months ago, the baby panda made a really good point. (he has made good points since then, i’m sure… i just can’t recall them quite so clearly.) three months ago, he suggested that i look into getting a continuous blood glucose monitor. after all, he said, with practicality oozing from his pores, i AM planning to run over 26 miles pretty soon. and it would probably be really helpful to know what my blood sugar was telling me during that death march (and all the training death marches leading up to it).
as i tend to do when (a) the bp makes a really good point and (b) when anyone tries to advise me (however soundly) on my diabetes, i furrowed my brow and tried to think of reasons why i should NOT do such a practical thing. i know! i know! that sounds so stupid in retrospect. but diabetes has made me a real creature of habit. if something is working, i do not want to rock the boat. this might explain why i have been eating a half turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, and an apple for lunch for the past four years.
“that would be IMPOSSIBLE!” i exclaimed dramatically, “it’s so much work! and so much moolah! i just CAN’T!”
but as i thought about this more, i realized that i was being an idiot. not only has insurance started to cover continuous glucose monitoring, but my blood sugar levels have always been a heckuva challenge to manage over my long runs, and anything that could provide me with help in that arena would be amazing.
fast forward three months. here i am:
yes, that’s right! i have turned into a gigantic barbie doll, complete with plastic hands, feet, and a tiny bottle of suntan oil! or is that rum? JUST KIDDING! really, i have not turned into a giant barbie. if you look really closely, though, you will see that barbie is my soul sister in diabetes. she is sporting my current set-up: she has an insulin pump, as well as a continuous blood glucose monitor! TWINS!
here is a closer picture of the situation (yes, that WAS on purpose, all you jersey shore fans!):
parts A and B make up my insulin pump, which i have had for a while. for those of you who don’t know, part A is a tiny machine that holds a little vial of insulin. it pumps insulin into my body via a tube powered by a tiny motor, which then oozes into my body at point B. don’t worry, it’s not gross at all. basically, i just insert a tiny tube with a needle (and remove said needle), and then the insulin pump works! and instead of giving myself several shots per day, i just have to change that puppy every three days. it’s been one of the greatest inventions that i have ever used in my daily life. (besides stairs and playing cards, which i truly believe are the other two most awesome inventions of all time. think about it– what could be more creative than playing cards? or more useful than stairs?)
parts C and D make up my continuous glucose monitor. part C is the sensor. the VEEEERY expensive sensor– boxes of these are soul-crushingly pricey. so basically, i insert this sensor with a needle, much like i insert my insulin pump. i remove the needle with surprisingly little pain and a lot of nervousness, and what’s left in my abdomen is the sensor, which rests in the subcutaneous layer of my skin and measures the glucose levels of my interstitial fluid. THEN the sensor talks to little thing that looks like a shell, or part D, which is the transmitter. the transmitter takes the information that the sensor tells it and sends this information wirelessly to the screen on part A (my pump). magic!
so the great thing is that the continuous glucose monitor can provide me with blood glucose readings EVERY FIVE MINUTES. this is a crazy amount of information for someone like me, who at the most, checks her blood sugar 11 times per day. but it’s no magic bullet. i still have to check my blood sugar several times per day to calibrate the continuous glucose monitor in order to make sure it’s working properly. also, there is a really big discrepancy between the readings that my sensor receives and my real blood sugar levels. the reason is that my sensor measures interstitial fluid, which is different than actually measuring the sugar levels of my blood. in fact, the sugar levels of my interstitial fluid usually lag about 20 minutes behind the sugar levels of my actual blood. therefore, the readings that come up on my sensor tell me what my blood sugar readings were 20 minutes ago, not what they are now. this can be fine sometimes, but frustrating other times when my sugar is rapidly rising or falling.
“how confusing and LAME!” you must be saying, if you haven’t already fallen asleep. “why would you use a machine that provides you with incorrect information?”
well, i say in response–this is the best possible technology that exists right now. no continuous blood glucose monitor will measure my real blood sugar levels, so i’m going with this. it’s not ideal, but it does provide me with some good trends and ideas of my blood sugar patterns.
it’s also provided me with the amazing sensation of what it’s like to be a robot. imagine! i have not one, but two clunky probes attached to me! and they have PIECES! and they require constant MAINTENANCE! and now that i have the continuous glucose monitor, it can set off alarms on my pump when my blood sugar is too high or too low. sometimes, if i don’t answer an alarm quickly enough, the pump actually starts to vibrate. it’s pretty ridiculous, especially because i wear my pump in my shirt and all of the sudden, my torso can just start shaking.
but whenever i get annoyed when an alarm wakes me up in the middle of the night, i remember to be a little bit thankful, too. one of my biggest fears is getting a low blood sugar while i am sleeping and passing out, which would force the baby panda (if he somehow woke up and knew that something was wrong) to do something bizarre like squeeze cake frosting into my mouf to get me the sugar that my body needs (i’m not even kidding). now, my pump’s alarm will wake me up if it senses that my blood sugar is dropping below 70 mg/dl. (in the past, i’ve been plagued with blood sugars as low as 32 mg/dl overnight… ew. fyi, a non-diabetic’s blood sugar usually is anywhere between 80 and 100 mg/dl. so 32 is pretty flippin low.)
this also has some great applications for my long runs, just as the baby panda predicted. now, when my blood sugar is crashing after a few miles, i can see that on my pump and prevent the low by eating some delicious clif shot blocks instead of having to stop and check my blood sugar after i already feel horrible.
so, i admit it– the baby panda is a practical and intelligent bear. and i am really glad that i followed his advice, even if people on the bus have started looking at me strangely when they hear beeping noises from inside my shirt. thanks, panda!
youth in revolt: the journals of nick twisp, by cd payne
i can’t believe that this book has finally been made into a movie! starring my comedic idol, michael cera! this story is a hilarious homage to a confederacy of dunces. it works ridiculously well, but it would work even better if it were a few hundred pages shorter. the doughnut descriptions are to die for, though.