Thursday, July 25, 2013


BUFFY: Well, does it ever get easy?
GILES: You mean life?

BUFFY: Yeah. Does it get easy?

GILES: What do you want me to say.

BUFFY: Lie to me.

GILES: Yes. It's terribly simple. The good-guys are stalwart and true.  The bad-guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats and we always defeat them and save the day. Nobody ever dies…and everybody lives happily ever after.

BUFFY: Liar.
(BTVS 2.07, "Lie To Me")

This is my entry in the July Diabetes Blog Carnival, on test strip accuracy:

Fill in the blank: "Test strip accuracy is important to me because_______"

Test strip accuracy is important to me because I need some truth in a sea of lies.

That sounds harsh, but lies, half-truths and mistakes are a constant of diabetic life.

The first lie many of us hear is at diagnosis. Not only are many people (like me) misdiagnosed, but the words that come after might be worse:

"Don't worry, there will be a cure in five years."

This is a pretty lie, a panacea, a lie born of optimism and kindness, but a lie nonetheless. So many of us have seen this prediction fail, over and over again. Most of us can't be perennial Charlie Browns, running at that football time and time again as it's pulled out from under our feet. This lie also encourages a dangerous pattern of thinking: "oh, I don't have to take care of myself too well. I just have to hold out for five years, then it will be like this never happened." We lie to ourselves. Liar.

The next lie, often delivered to terrified parents, is that we'll never be able to live successful, active, fulfilling lives. (Soon after diagnosis, I remember my mother being approached by the children's hospital's Children's Wish-type foundation, to potentially enroll me, as if I were terminally ill. She is not a person who gets angry, but she made an exception.) The Diabetes Online Community has proven again and again that this is untrue. In fact, many of us strive to disprove this lie by being our best selves, setting records, trying harder. This is wonderful, but it can be a dangerous burden; we don't just have to be as good, we feel we have to be better.

The sister lie is the opposite phrase: "You can live a normal life with diabetes." This one is always about inflection. "You can live a normal life with diabetes" as opposed to "You can live a normal life...with diabetes." The second one speaks more to the actual truth of the phrase. Yes, we can live successful, awesome lives, but always WITH diabetes. We can't forget we have it, or we run the risk of no longer remaining successful. We will always have more challenges than people who have bodies that maintain homeostasis on their own. To use the first inflection, to me, discounts the hard work and tremendous achievements we make just living our lives.

Then there are the media lies about diabetes, which show a true lack of knowledge about terminology, treatment, and the condition itself, the most pervasive ones being "Type 2 is the only type of diabetes" and "Type 2 is only caused by diet and exercise - that is, "Type 2s brought it on themselves." These lies lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of other people. They lead to blame, shame, and destroyed and splintered communities.

Products lie to us. The snake oil salesman says that a special drink will cure us, for five easy payments. The diet guru tells us that ancient grains or greens will remove the diabetes blues. We've been sold the colour yellow, cinnamon, prayer, amulets, elixirs and homeopathy for homeostasis, and none of them work, but you can spend all your money or die trying.

Companies and gadgets lie. We're told something makes diabetes "easy" or "painless." Diabetes is never easy, and never painless. We're told that getting a meter for free is a great sale born of company selflessness, and then we're trapped paying a dollar or more per strip. We're told we should do what's best for ourselves, but then we wind up fighting with insurance companies to afford it, or deity help us if we don't have insurance.  Food says "low carb" or "sugar-free," but isn't good for us. Nutritional information isn't always accurate, or has unrealistic serving sizes. Most of the time we're flying blind in the food and carb-counting department.

My insulin pump is the best piece of technology I've ever had, and I love its help in management, but it sometimes lies to me too. Do I really have an occlusion or not? Is the insulin spoiled? Does it say it's delivering fine, but the cannula is kinked so my sugars are suddenly in the 20s with no explanation? Does low battery mean I have two weeks, two days, two hours, or two minutes? I never know. Stop saying you're not primed, you little liar. You're primed. How much of the insulin did I actually get? Is the IoB a lie? Machines don't always know the truth.

We're told that, if we follow all the rules, that we shouldn't get complications. That our bodies should respond the same way to the same stimuli. Liar, liar, liar. If we're "compliant" and "good," we shouldn't have any unexplained highs or lows. That if we're "well-managed," realistically, "dead in bed" syndrome or DKA should never happen. The world looks a parent, relative, friend of a child, teen, adult with diabetes who is in the hospital or worse in the eye and says, "but she was well-managed...wasn't she?" Yes, but perfect management, or diabetes being fair, is a lie.

Most damningly, our own bodies lie to us. Sometimes, what my body wants is deeply intuitive and correct, but sometimes, it's not. Sometimes I feel low when my glucose levels are actually high. Sometimes I feel hungry due to a low, but my stomach is full. Sometimes, I need to eat but my levels are too high and I can't find it in myself to be hungry. Most of the time, my body says I want potato chips or chocolate, when I really need kale. Those who have hypoglycemia unawareness face the worst and most dangerous lie of all. My body is unreliable and doesn't respond consistently to any calculations. It's the worst betrayal when you are lying to yourself, or, more accurately, your self is lying to you.

So when I hear that test strips can be +/- 20% in accuracy (a 10 could be 12, or 8) and are often worse, it makes me sad. Because it's a lie, and we're already dealing with so much misinformation, so many lies, that we'd like something to be true. Something that, instead, takes the best of us, the life from us–blood is life–and turns it into another lie. Something that comes from the heart, which is supposed to (but often fails to) be the truest thing of all.

And that's why test strip accuracy is important to me.

-Ilana (If you’d like to participate in the DSMA blog carnival as well, you can get all of the information at

Monday, July 22, 2013

Check-In Day

Today is "D-Blog Check-In Day," a multi-hyphenate event proposed by Christopher of A Consequence Of Hypoglycemia. Basically, the idea is that the Diabetes Online Community is just that: a community! The goal of being a community is interaction; we all contribute, sharing our voices, but it's nice to know we're not just shouting into the wind. Check-In Day asks one simple thing of its participants: if you read a D-blog today, comment! I haven't had the chance to read blogs today, but I'll try for the last couple of hours. I think it's a great idea. 

I haven't had time to blog much lately because life has been so eventful! If anyone here has seen my other blog, Rhymes With Dramaturg, you'll know I'm a theatre person, and I recently had a small dream come true when I was selected to be a judge for the Best of Fringe; basically, our Fringe Festival presents 150+ unjuried shows over twelve days in twelve mainspace venues, a kids' venue, "Alley Plays" at the Fringe Club downtown, and many unique "Bring Your Own" venues such as bars, fields, back-alleys, stores, laundromats, and anything else the creative teams can think of. Shows are between 45-90 minutes, with most being one hour. I love the anarchic, creative, artsy and often brilliant work that results, but my favourite thing about Fringe is, just like the DOC, the community aspect. You talk to so many new people, theatre fans like you. Word of mouth is the most important marketing tool at Fringe, because there's so much of it. You run into the same people (your theatre friends) over and over, and make new friends to see next time. I met wonderful people on the jury. Our job was to, between us, see all the shows and narrow them down to eight of the best to be re-mounted at an uptown theatre - currently happening, so if you're in Toronto and missed the Fringe, check these shows out!

I saw 44 shows (for free!) in 12 days as a Fringe VIP (plus another one at Best of Fringe 3 days later), liked almost all of them, and had an amazing time. We had meetings after the last show of the night that lasted hours, so I was NEVER home. My parents came home from a trip midway through the festival and I did not see my dad for a week. Thankfully, my fiance's 30th birthday (I can't believe it; we've been together since I was 19 and he was 21) was the last day of Fringe, when I was already fairly burnt out and could slow down with an awesome dinner at a fancy restaurant and then drinks with friends at a pub as near to the Fringe tent as possible, and I could go a short way to showing him how grateful I am at what a wonderful T3 he's been; truly, in sickness and in health!

My swanky VIP pass. I loved it so.

The thing about Fringe is that, since all the theatres are located in a similar area of downtown, and you are often running from one theatre to the next, there is a LOT of walking/running involved. Because you're seeing as many as seven shows in a day, there is not a lot of eating involved (not that much time in between)! To tie this to diabetes, this is both a fantastic and a terrible combination. Constant sweatbetes (and I mean SWEAT - it was bloody hot most of the time, when there wasn't a monsoon shutting down power and flooding the city) and not much fuel meant that I consumed every single glucose tab I had in my possession over 12 days, and I had many. Of course, to me, this is yet another reason to involve myself in as much theatre as possible; it lowers my blood sugar!

Finally, I'd like to mention a second D-Blog I've started (okay, I know; I don't need to splinter this any further). I love the "What Should We Call Me" meme, which is a headline situation posted, and a GIF underneath to illustrate that situation. So, if you like hilarious animated GIFs and diabetes, please check out What Should We Call Diabetes. You don't even have to comment!