For book club this month, I am reading a wonderfully bittersweet novel about a self-absorbed and neurotic young writer. The kind of story where the narrator shares the blow-by-blow of his existence: “I took a short nap at five, and then into the bath by 5:30 for drinks on the veranda at 6pm…”
And it occurs to me: think of all the tedious actions and mind-numbing activities involved if a diabetic were to write a novel like this. “Off to bed at 10:20, with my pump winking at me with a temperate 92. Awoke later in a sweat, stumbled to the bathroom for several attempts at applying blood to a protesting test strip. Abrasive tones from the machine as it flashed me — a 214! Oh, what I have I done to deserve this punishment?!”
In fact, I was feeling rather exhausted and sore about the stomach last Saturday, so I spent an unusual chunk of time in bed with this book — subliminally kicking myself for accomplishing none of my weekend goals (I’d planned to re-organize my office, sort through the “toy cemetery” around the perimeter of our garage/children’s playroom, do some obligatory Net research, and much more). But I must remind myself that when one feels ill, one should hit the bed post-haste, or risk an illness that could go on for days, preventing not only overdue cleanup but many daily milestones from being accomplished.
As you’re probably aware, having Type 1 diabetes seems to amplify the effects of the simplest head cold. Glucose levels soar, escalating all the usual discomforts, and making all the annoying things diabetes requires every day –- pricking fingers, counting carbs, dosing insulin and swallowing pills –- that much more challenging.
Ah, you see? The diabetes narrative can either irritate the hell out of you, or put you right to sleep.
I still don’t know exactly how James Hirsch pulled it off, in Cheating Destiny. Somehow he created entertaining prose out of his diabetic doings and number anxiety. I loved the revelation of his first look at his continuous glucose monitor data:
“My scores gyrate wildly on any given day, reflecting my efforts to chase down high blood sugars with additional insulin. It’s embarrassing, really. On April 3 at 6am, I’m at 200. At 9:30am, I’m at 305. By noon, I’m 50. On April 4, my blood sugars range from 400 to 70. April 18? I don’t even want to talk about it. These days are extreme, but they underscore how even a vigilant patient with the best technology struggles to maintain control.”
How much more comforting can your Saturday reading get? Someone else living the struggle. Someone else whose very existence hinges on continuously contemplating the details…