Monday, 26 September 2011Let's just get this said right off the bat - diabetes sucks. It isn't any fun, and it's not something we ask for. I'm riding at a 'lovely' score of 14.8mmol/l (266) as I write this - I'm not exactly in the best mood, as you can imagine. However, I'm trying to put a positive spin on things as best I can.
I read the '15 measures' article from Diabetes UK the other day, and had to stop and think some. If you've not read the article (which I suggest you do, if you haven't), the basic premise is that there are 15 basic health checks that people with diabetes in the UK should get every year. What was rather horrifying was the statistics provided of the sheer thousands of people who were failing to access basic tests to help educate and prevent complications. Education and basic tests are far more cost efficient than treating complications later down the line. Really, there is no excuse not to be offering these checks to people.
I'm lucky. I really am. I've been offered, and taken up several diabetes education courses. Of course I'm pro-active about my health and my diabetes education. Not everyone is. But through asking, and I mean simply asking - I didn't have to beat down any doors - I've accessed carb counting courses, courses for 'newly' diagnosed people and pump training. I am aware how lucky that makes me. Not every area offers these things. On the whole I've never had to fight for my test strips. I pray that never changes. Through being educated, and given the right resources, I can know that my sugars were at that 14.8. I know how to correct and what to correct by, rather than leaving it up there. This has to be a good thing, surely? This is the application of preventative measures! This is how you enable people!On the flip side,though, the problem with having all these checks done is that sometimes the results tell you something you really don't want to hear. I reference you back to the whole 'chubbygate' situation. I didn't want to hear that. It hit a raw nerve for me. But my consultant wasn't to know how my weight has been an issue for me for pretty much as long as I can remember. And I'm trying to do something about it. You bet I am. It's not easy though, and I'm sure many people out there can relate.
It's not just chubbygate though. I've been going round and round in my head about how I was going to bring this one up. I don't want to make something out of nothing, but it got to me. This is going back over a month, to the end of July. I had just got back from working a week long event as part of my job. Believe me when I say I was tired when I got back home. I found a letter waiting for me at my door, which I knew from looking at the envelope was from the retinal screening service. I wasn't worried to open it - the rather lovely young woman who'd taken my pictures had said that it all looked fine at the time.
The letter was saying something different. Minor background changes. Apparently nothing to worry about, and nothing that required anyone doing anything. We'll see you in a year.
I would very much like to meet the person who reads that letter and doesn't worry. I'm sorry, but they're not human. I was tired, it hit me from nowhere. I dumped my bag at the top of my stairs, lay on my bed and started crying. Was I going blind? Was this my fault? I'd only been at this whole diabetes game for just over two years, and I was already getting this letter? The one I wasn't hoping to see for another ten, fifteen, twenty years, if ever? Had I done this to myself? Could I fix it?
Well, of course, I got past that eventually. And do you know what? Being upset was ok. I keep telling myself that. Staying that way, though, is just self pity. And no-one likes that person. I certainly don't. I've since been for a standard, 'real-person' eye test. Part of that was the non-drops version of the retinal photograph. I talked to my optician about what I'd been worrying about, and he talked me through everything. Seems that if it were his own eye, he wouldn't have been concerned; it's the sort of thing that can disappear as quickly as it came. Turns out I needed to get glasses for cinema and driving, which I wasn't expecting, but what can you do? Most of my family wears glasses (or should - but I won't go there), and it wasn't like I was completely shocked. That's 'real-person' stuff, and nothing to do with me and my D.
Getting that letter, and 'chubbygate' were a real punch to the gut. I didn't want them, and I didn't really see it coming. But in the long run, I'm probably the better for knowing. You can't see your way through the darkness, and you can't work with information you don't know. It hurts, and sometimes it feels personal, or like people are rubbing salt into the wound, but I've been thinking and asking myself lately whether I would rather not know these things, and carry on blind, or know where I stand and what I'm working with. Personally, I'd go with option B. So to anyone out there who might be reading this who isn't getting all their '15 measures', please do yourself a favour. Make some calls, knock some doors down. Be your own advocate and your own enabler. Get what is rightfully yours to inform yourself and arm yourself against a disease that, let's face it, sucks and isn't going anywhere. We need all the tools available in our arsenal, so let's make sure we get our hands on them.