Chasing A Number
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images by Leo Reynolds

I almost didn’t write this D-Day Anniversary post. Frankly, my diabetes and I aren’t getting along too well.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I am a Type 1 diabetic, diagnosed in August 1985. That makes this week my 27th D-Day Anniversary.  My diabetes is one of the things that spurred me to begin my fitness journey in 1999. I was struggling then; my body requiring more and more insulin and fighting to stay in control of my disease.

Starting my fitness journey helped me get my diabetes back in check. It wasn’t perfect, but I worked hard at it. I managed to keep my A1C at around 6.5 pretty consistently.

I thought that going on a pump, my OmniPod, in 2010 would help. And, in some ways, it did. My overnight lows, which were occurring 2-3 nights per week, stopped. This did wonders for my sleep, since these usually roused me about 2 a.m. It made my doctors happy too. But when the lows went away there wasn’t anything left to even out the highs. Slowly my A1C started to creep up.

As of my last test it was 7.9. I was furious. It doesn’t help my frustration that my monitor appeared to be way out of the acceptable of margin of error for its readings. My lab fasting glucose was 99. My monitor told me 69. That’s a big difference for a type 1 diabetic. 69 is low, I took some glucose tables prior to eating my breakfast and gave my bolus based on that low. At 99 my bolus should have been higher and no glucose boost was required.  This was the third such occurrence but the first one my doctor actually took the time to address.

I was upset by the fact that I was working with bad data. It felt like my body and my tools were betraying me. It’s ironic that the doctor said, when I complained of my inaccurate glucose readings, that we shouldn’t worry about chasing a number. A diabetic’s whole life is spent chasing a number – our A1C. It determines the level of control we are deemed to have, impacting anything from being accepted for certain jobs to how much we pay for insurance.

And I work very hard chasing this number. I test often, sometimes 10 times a day. I count carbs religiously. I don’t eat sugar (well, except when on vacation. Who can resist Parisian chocolates?).  Yet, it seems to be slipping farther and farther away.

I feel the frustration much the way my clients do when stepping on the scale and the number doesn’t budge. They know they feel good. They know their clothes feel different. They have more energy and they feel stronger. Yet that number, it seems, invalidates their hard work.

When I saw that 7.9 pop up last month I felt the same way. All the finger sticks, all the fasting tests to adjust basal rates, all for what? I wanted to throw in the towel and stop caring.  After some screaming and cursing, I took a few deep breaths and told myself what I tell my clients.

You are not a number.

I feel good when I eat the right foods. I feel better when I don’t have lows all day and all night. I feel great when I exercise; enjoying the freedom my pump gives me to go a little farther and a little longer. My A1C does not take that away. I have been relatively complication free (unless you count my impaired autoimmune system and thyroid). I intend to stay that way. My goal is to keep this body in the best shape possible until they can fix my broken pancreas.

So I’m going to keep at it. But I’m going to put that number aside for a bit. I can’t control it in the same way I can control my actions. I have a new meter that seems to be giving more accurate numbers. I can continue to test frequently and have faith in the calculations my pump makes for me instead of trying to second guess it. These are behaviors I can take action on.

When the number you’ve been chasing makes you crazy, stop and remember that you are not a number. You can’t control the scale directly. You can control what you put in your mouth, keeping a food journal and how many workouts you do. Focus on what you can control.

I’ve got 2 months left till my next lab appointment. Each day I’ll focus on the actions that I know are right. When the number comes, no matter what it says, it can’t take away how I feel or the good things I do for my body.

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