We people who live by the numbers: we don’t measure up, and we’re good at admitting it. Our acute awareness of the gap between where we are in our diabetes control and where we want to be is almost a point of perverse virtue. Sometimes I feel like the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter, the minister who tends to self-flagellation for his transgressions.
A couple of weeks ago I had an appointment with an exercise physiologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center. The purpose was to get advice on managing blood sugar, insulin, and food around the increase in exercise (skating, running, yoga) I had been achieving. The increase in activity had led to more incidents of hypoglycemia, some rebounding to hyperglycemia, and plenty of confusion as to how to smooth things out.
I did get advice from Mike the Exercise Guy (as I’m calling him) — for example, when to use fast-acting carbs to treat a low, when to proceed with a mix of protein and carbs for a slower-acting energy and blood sugar boost, when to adjust the pump’s basal rate and by how much — but I got something else I hadn’t expected: a hearty compliment and encouragement. “You’re doing great.”
He said this often enough and with a smile during our one-hour meeting that I had to believe him. Later, reflecting on the visit, I realized that too often, when it comes to the care of my diabetes, I am a tough grader and always measuring myself against some ideal diabetes ‘student’ at the head of some imaginary class.
The positive words and helpful advice have stayed with me. Last weekend, my daughter Lydia and I ran another 5k in Boston, which started and ended at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Yes, I had a few moments at the start of the race when I was aware of the superior athletes who passed me easily, and I had a runner’s pack strapped to my waist containing diabetes supplies that reminded me of the extra care I needed to take. I decided, though, to set my own goal and be happy that I was healthy, upright, and determined enough to run through the streets of Boston with thousands of others who also wanted to see what their bodies can do.
It really feels great to cross a finish line, to run through it, to be alive.