Chapter 5 – learning to live with insulin

Insulin wasn’t quite the “magic potion” I had thought it was during my first week taking it. During the week when the Nurse had spoken to me daily on the phone I’d told her about some odd episodes where I “felt funny” at BGs of around 10 and she’d explained that this was because my body wasn’t used to the lower BGs but said that I was quite safe at those levels. She rang me last on the Friday of the first week and was delighted with the 5.2 FBG but warned me about “proper” hypoglycaemic episodes (hypos) when my BGs would be lower than 5 and explained how to treat them should I have one. Oh and believe me, I had more than one! I recall that the treatment advised was to eat several Lucozade tablets and follow them up with something more substantial such as a sandwich. She was really sweet, said she wouldn’t phone me again but gave me her home phone number and said I could ring her anytime I felt worried or uncertain.

I had to ring her on the Saturday because my BG levels had fallen very low several times in succession and I was very nervous of these “hypo things”. My insulin doses were readjusted to 12 in the morning and 14 in the evenings. I was under the impression at that time that it was terribly important to inject and eat absolutely immediately without a second’s delay. I also imagined that within a few minutes of injecting my eyesight cleared dramatically and then only slowly blurred again after an hour or so. This may have been true or it may have been wishful thinking on my part. To this day I don’t know!

On the Sunday we went for a short hike on the coastal path. It felt wonderful to be out walking in the sun again, but of course within a mile or so my BGs had fallen under 5 and I was shaking and sweating, so I treated the hypo and ate my packed lunch at 11am. Bless him, hubby also ate his to keep me company!

My little record diary got bloodier and smudgier as the days went by, particularly as I got shakier more regularly, and panicked often, milking my finger with desperation to get a blood droplet big enough to test and then overdoing things. In retrospect the Accuchek meter I had at the time needed what now seems like a vast reservoir of blood compared to the tiny droplet that my Optium is satisfied with. It also took a full 20 seconds to display a result, by which time I’d often have eaten the first Lucozade tab and would be shakily unwrapping the second one ready to pop it straight into my mouth.

I started work at the Solicitor’s office on the Monday. By coincidence the office was a converted house at one end of a rather beautiful row of Georgian houses near the centre of town, my husband works at an accountancy company who occupy a house at the very opposite end of the terrace, so getting a lift in the mornings wasn’t a problem. In fact it was rather delightful because we could meet at lunch time, either taking our sandwiches to the local park, where we’d sit in the sun looking at the fountains, or have a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants in town. I recall that a new Chinese restaurant had just opened, offering a “businessman’s lunch” very cheap. We thought we’d try it and indeed it was very good value, but it was an early lesson in what I could, or rather couldn’t, tolerate. The rice was naturally not tolerated well but I didn’t realise that at the time. In my mind the major culprit was the sweet and sour pork (which I love, but has become a vague memory since). This “light lunch” shot me up to 19 two hours later! Ooops!

On the second or third day, as I was beavering away typing with my little headset on, someone asked would I like a cake and if so what kind. It was someone’s birthday and it was the tradition to buy everyone a cake to eat with morning coffee. I thought it was really nice of them to include me as a temp, but turned the offer down explaining that I was diabetic. The girl asking me brightened and told me that another employee had just been diagnosed. The other employee turned out to be the secretary of the Solicitor who had handled my mother’s will. I had never liked the woman, because throughout my dealings with her she had been very superior and dismissive, treating my queries as to how things were progressing with a sort of “why are you bothering us” type of reply. I had thought this a totally insensitive and unnecessary attitude towards people who had been recently bereaved. Nevertheless, I’d not really met anyone newly diagnosed, so whilst passing her office I stopped to speak to her about it.

I should have known better! We talked for a short while about how we had felt prior to diagnosis, discussed weight loss (she was quite well-upholstered and had been told to lose it) and I explained that oral meds hadn’t helped me so I was on insulin. In my innocence I thought she’d understand that it was “necessary” for me to inject, but she said “Oh I chose to handle mine with diet and exercise”. I made a polite noise and moved on. That single word “chose” said in such a superior manner really rankled with me. As though I had “chosen” to have insulin instead of having more moral fibre like her! I can recall that at the time she was tucking into a doorstep sized wholewheat sandwich and had an apple and an orange laid out in front of her – so perhaps, in retrospect, I was the wise one, since by now I expect she is seeing ever worsening Hba1cs and progression in treatment from med to med. During the week I did copy typing at the Solicitor’s office I was reminded why I had left my first job, also at a Solicitor’s office. It was tedious to the extreme and the people working there were very very dull.

To be continued… my trip to Manchester.

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