The Shadow Story


I get up around 8 in the morning.

My Dexcom wakes me up with three beeps: the low alert. At 8:07am, my blood sugar is 67.

I make coffee and journal for half an hour.

I swallow two spoonfuls of honey before making coffee. My hands shake. Morning lows are especially difficult. I didn’t sleep well. I’m hot. I’m cold. I can’t write. I can’t focus. I’m already tired again.

I eat breakfast: chocolate chia grain-free paleo granola.

Exactly one half cup. I measure it. One half cup is 22g carbs, and my insulin-to-carb ratio is 1:15, and 22 divided by 15 is 1.46, so I’ll round down and take 1 unit of insulin, though I risk my blood sugar running a bit high. Oh, but there are 8g of dietary fiber, I see, so I subtract that, as the doctors taught me in the hospital when I was 14, so that gives a total carb count of 14, so yes: 1 unit it is. I throw in a carb or two for the splash of unsweetened almond milk.

This kind of tastes like big, raw chunks of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. Oh, it is.

I take a shower.

I think: Hmmm, my Dexcom adhesive seems to have lost its sticky-powers. I’ll have to put skin tape on it when I get out of the shower.

I get dressed, decide to wear a new pair of jeans I bought the day before.

Sliding aforementioned jeans up my thighs, I feel a swift tug on my upper thigh, and my Dexcom sensor falls off of my leg and onto the hardwood floor.


I go to my closet and pull out a new sensor, and sit down on my bed, jeans still pulled only halfway up my legs. The other sensor had been on my right thigh—the flesh it had covered was red, the hole where the cannula had been is raised and slightly swollen. I alternate with each sensor change, so I pinch the flesh of my left thigh and begin to push down the plunger—the needle—into my leg. I go too slowly, because it hurts like hell every time, and I have to inflict this pain on myself. I hold my breath, look away, realize I can’t look away, and look back. Ouchouchouch. And then it is done. For the next two hours while the new sensor calibrates, the app can’t tell me what my blood sugar is. I finish getting dressed.

I think: Oh no, I forgot to take my Lantus. What time is it? 9:27.

I take the Lantus pen out of my tote bag, screw a fresh needle tip onto it, crank the dial to 20 units, and inject into the pinched flesh of my right hip. It burns. There is a bit of blood. I wipe it off.

I go on a walk with a friend.

We walk 5 or 6 blocks, then I start to feel lightheaded and lead-heavy at once. I stop and fumble for my phone, open the Dexcom app, forgetting that it is only halfway through its calibration. Not helpful. My eyes can’t hold the brightness of the trees. I grab a box of apple juice from the bottom of my bag, not waiting to test my blood sugar first. I know how I feel. Low.  

My friend asks me what I did earlier that morning, and I think back through the fog and say: Not much. A slow morning. Coffee, breakfast. This walk with you. The lows, the sensor, it all happened and it’s all happened before—I’m not ashamed to bring it up, I’m just bored of it, and tired of how it keeps on, keeps on, keeps on writing its story in silence. My friend and I catch up some more, talking about things that are not the relentless inner speak of a body. Then we hug and part ways, and the shadow story—blood sugar, carb count, insulin, Dexcom, ouchouchouch, low—follows me home.

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j j
j j
5 years ago

This was particularly eloquent. It’s always in the back of my mind; things like where my dexcom is (right or left), continual self-checks for high/lows, etc. Some tricks help – once I mixed up my lantus and humalog – now I keep lantus in the fridge and humalog in my wallet. Routine is essential. I even forget I have type 1 for a few minutes each day ;)

Thanks for this!

Rick Phillips
Rick Phillips
5 years ago

Sarah, I have been there. These days i am far more likely to be high than low. It is the same thing only no so much. LOL

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