Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An outreach

Dear local family of the newly diagnosed 4 year old boy,

I don't know you, but I do know what you're going through right now. A Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis is quite a blow. I remember being totally devastated when Adele was diagnosed. Any diagnosis described with the word "chronic" or followed by the phrase "there is no cure" is something that everyone wishes that they'll never hear. It is a loss that needs to be mourned. It is okay and very normal to feel the way that you do...

Even if your son's life is no longer the same, there will eventually be some good that will come out this hardship. It's very normal if you cannot see this right now, but someday I really hope that you will. He will adapt to the needles and to his new way of life and he will be okay. He will grow up to be much more compassionate and appreciative of the blessings in his life.

Adele was 2.5 years old when she was diagnosed and now over 8 years later, she doesn't even remember what her life was before Diabetes. It's simply part of who she is and in her mind who she has always been. She can play whatever sports that she chooses just like her friends. She runs, plays, dances, rides her bike, skates and really enjoys life. The needles, site changes and blood glucose tests are now just part of what she needs to do, merely a task that needs to be taken care of just like homework, getting dressed in the morning and brushing her teeth. Her friends are very supportive. Like other kids, she's resilient and so is your son.

If someone would have told me 10 years ago what my life would be like today, I would have told them that there is no way that I was capable of managing it all. But today, I am living this life. I am indeed stronger than I ever thought I was. As much as I wish that this Type 1 Diabetes thing would go away tomorrow, it has molded and transformed me in ways that I could never have imagined. Connecting with Type 1 families, getting to know other parents of Type 1 children through my blog as well as support groups continue to help me cope. It doesn't fix anything, but it does make me feel better knowing that we're not alone.

Don't hesitate to reach out and try to take things one step at a time. Diabetes is a very technical disease so give yourself time to continue to learn. I know that there's really not anything that I can tell you right now to make things better, but just hang in there... things will get better and you will get through this.

Please send me an email (velo_mike@hotmail.com) if you want to chat or setup a meeting. Our family would be more than happy to sit and talk.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The "Solution" ?

Is it really possible for a Type 1 Diabetic to have the same blood sugars as a non-diabetic? When Adele was diagnosed, I remember the doctor telling us that there was currently no cure for Type 1 Diabetes, but that it was “controllable”. Today, I would have to disagree. Our experience has been that it’s “manageable” at best. We actually often feel out of control.

Coming back to my initial question, what level of blood glucose control is possible for a Type 1 gamer? Is it really possible for a Type 1 gamer to normalize their blood sugar? These are big claims made by a controversial US doctor by the name of Richard Bernstein.

I'm always reluctant when I hear of miracle cures and treatments that seem to good to be true, but I also don't like to simply sit and not look for something better for Adele. For this reason I just had to order Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution book. He is the first doctor that I've ever heard suggest that Type 1's CAN normalize their blood sugar. He was one of the first to discover the benefits of blood glucose self-monitoring. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 12 years old in 1946 and is still alive and well practicing medicine. His theories are far removed from what we were taught by our Diabetes care team upon diagnosis, but I still need to see what this is all about.

I have only started to read the book, so these are only my initial impressions. This will not be a book review or me trying to persuade you to go buy the book and throw your current gaming plan out the window. The purpose of the post is to share my quest for a "solution" and the importance of sometimes challenging mainstream conventional thinking. Here are a few points that attracted me to Dr. Bernstein’s philosophy:

Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution is based on a very restrictive low-carb diet. Since Type 1 Diabetes is a metabolic disorder where the sufferer cannot properly metabolize carbohydrates, doesn’t it make sense to avoid or restrict the cause of the problem: carbs? With Celiac disease, ingested gluten makes me sick. The treatment for Celiac disease is quite simple and logical, avoid gluten and stay healthy. And I am living proof that this Celiac treatment is highly effective. I feel great. When I adopt a diet that works WITH my body instead of against it, I minimize stress and maximize health. Shouldn’t diabetics also adopt a diet that works WITH their body instead of against it?

For us (and many other Type 1 gamers), low blood sugars often happen a few hours after a big meal. The bigger the insulin bolus to cover that meal, the faster the blood sugar can potentially drop. I know that there are different techniques that try to fix this problem, but how often do they really work like they should? Simple math tells us that by reducing carbs, you reduce the insulin bolus to cover them and also reduce the severity of making a mistake. Being off by 10 or 20% is much greater when dealing with big numbers compared to smaller ones. Again, simple logic that just makes sense.

After over 8 years of Type 1 gaming, there is no doubt in my mind that it is just not possible to be able to eat what you want, when you want and still maintain your blood sugar in range all of the time like in a non-diabetic with the gaming tools that we currently have at our disposal. There are just too many variables. But is low-carbing the solution? It’s a touchy subject. Some just don’t believe it to be a healthy alternative while others simply cannot live without the pleasure of enjoying foods rich in carbohydrates. If it were me, I would definitely give it a try. But on the other hand, if someone told me that if I kept on biking that it would eventually have a negative impact on my health, I’m still not sure I’d be willing to give it up.

Dr. Berstein’s “solution” may or may not also be our “solution”? I don't know, but I do know that I am commited to keep looking.

Incredible things often happen to those who are just too stubborn to stop searching for something better. Dick Hoyt knows this. What would have happened if Dick had listened to the doctors when they told him that his son Rick, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, should be put in an institution since he would never speak or walk and would be a vegetable for the rest of his life? You may have already heard about the story of “Team Hoyt”? If not, I hope that this video inspires you as much as it does me…

Monday, November 15, 2010

Resistance training

As human beings I’m not sure if our tendency to resist is a defect ingrained in our DNA or something that we learn? For me, resistance is felt as a certain muscle tension with the unconscious belief that I can prevent or undo certain events or circumstances using my own personal muscular strength. Kind of like holding or catching an object to prevent it from falling. My resisting mind sounds like “No, this can’t be happening” or “Why do things like these always happen to me?”. It is also recognizable by a certain tightness in my hamstrings, shoulders and neck.

Events that trigger unpleasant feelings are inevitable in life. Tragedies, death, pain, suffering, disease are all part of living. Even if we put all of our time and energy into resisting such events, it will not undo them. Resistance won’t bring back the deceased, it won’t cure chronic diseases like Type 1 Diabetes and it won’t turn back time to enable us to change certain events that may have been preventable. Constant resistance WILL however eventually make us sick (or sicker) if it persists for too long. And it will prolong or simply delay the unpleasant feelings associated with the event. What we resist persists. Resistance is a defense mechanism that we use to try to avoid (or lessen) the unpleasant feelings that we are experiencing. The worse thing is when all of this resisting happens unconsciously. If we don’t know that we’re resisting, how can we stop? As soon as we start becoming conscious of it, we begin to let go. We begin to surrender to what is. And we begin the healing process.


Such powerful words that represent the beginning of the end of unhappiness. I’m trying very hard to burn these 2 words in the main part of my brain. For so long, I resisted playing the Type 1 game every single day. I cursed inside when I got a meter error during middle of the night blood checks. I resented doing site changes when our schedule was already full. I just hated doing blood glucose checks before outings when we were already running late. I got really upset when people just didn’t get it. And I still feel that certain tightness deep inside when I see a high number appear on Adele’s blood glucose meter.

After over 8 years of Type 1 gaming, I can’t say that I no longer resist playing, but it is getting better. I’m more conscious of it now and can more often turn it around as soon as I feel this resistance starting to build. The Type 1 task where this consciousness has helped me the most is during the middle of the night glucose checks. I just get up and do them. No questions asked. And if the voice inside my mind starts cursing about how difficult and unpleasant this whole process is, I just tell change the channel. And usually end up falling asleep much faster afterwards since I’m just taking care of Type 1 game business instead of feeling sorry for myself resisting what is and wishing that I could just sleep through the night like normal parents of a healthy 10 year old. In the end, once we become more conscious of our resistance, it then becomes our choice. Do we want continue to try to fight the powers of the universe or surrender to them?

I think it's time to start letting go and to raise the white flag. Sometimes "giving up" may actually one of the most constructive things that you can do...

Friday, November 12, 2010

World Diabetes Day

Sunday, November 14th is World Diabetes Day (http://www.worlddiabetesday.org/).

What can you do to recognize this special day?

You can start by wearing blue. You can also tell your co-workers, friends, family and even strangers about World Diabetes Day and how an estimated 285 million people worldwide are affected by Diabetes, 5 to 10% of which is Type 1 Diabetes. You can tell them that every day, 200 children develop Type 1 Diabetes. You can tell them that children who develop Type 1 Diabetes did not do anything to cause it. You can tell them that without insulin that those children would die. You can tell them that Type 1 Diabetes cannot be reversed, outgrown or controlled by diet alone. You can tell them that Type 1 Diabetes is increasing in children at a rate of 3% each year and 5% each year in pre-school children. You can tell them that their children could be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes even if there is no family history. You can tell them that insulin is not a cure. You can tell them that even if Type 1 diabetics do everything right that they are in no way guaranteed to not get complications. You can tell them that the greatest fear for the parents of a Type 1 is for their children to not wake up in the morning (http://diabetesnewshound.com/type1/dead-in-bed/). You can tell them that most Type 1s look healthy on the outside, even if they’re not on the inside. You can tell them that we really, really need a cure.

All things equal, I can’t stop thinking how simple our life would be if Type 1 Diabetes went away tomorrow. To be able to eat whatever whenever and not have to think about it would be so liberating. To be able to turn off that never-ending process running in the back of my mind that is constantly calculating carbs, estimating insulin peaks and analyzing Adele’s current and future insulin – sugar balance would be such a huge weight off our shoulders. To be able to finally put an end to that continuous doubt and uneasiness associated with determining insulin dosages would be unbelievable. I cannot think of anything that I would want more that would positively affect our life as much.

If your life is not affected by Type 1 Diabetes, please appreciate this on November 14th and make a commitment to do your part, it doesn’t need to be much, but please do something to help raise awareness and accelerate the Type 1 Diabetes cure.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Is this as good as it gets?

Summer 2010 is long gone. I’m not sure where it went, but suddenly it was Halloween. The fall season brings cool temps, less daylight, less time on the bike and more time online. Which means that hopefully the blog won’t get neglected as much. Often, I would have time to update, but don’t unless I have something relevant to say. Today, the voice inside my head is inspired, so here goes…

The last few weeks have come with a lot of ups and downs. A Type 1 gaming strategy that had been working quite well for weeks wasn’t cutting it anymore. I can’t explain it. One day would be chasing lows, the next would be full of corrections trying to bring down highs and the next would be both combined. I cannot seem to find a pattern in it all and cannot pinpoint the cause. One day Adele would have Phys. Ed which would cause her blood glucose to drastically drop, the next day, the exact same routine and same foods wouldn’t be enough to bring down a high even after a correction.

We’re already using all of the best technology tools available with the pump, continuous glucose monitor (CGM), latest meters and fast-acting insulin. We can’t really be more vigilant than we already are with 12 or more blood glucose tests per day. Adele is an active child. She swims, dances, played soccer and seems to be constantly running around when she’s home instead of being glued to the TV or her video games, so we’re pretty good in the exercise department.

During periods like these, I always get quite discouraged. What if this is as good as it gets? The doctors keep telling us that we’re doing a great job, but are they missing something? Should we expect more? I have been warned many times that puberty is a difficult time in regards to blood glucose control with all of the raging hormones. Adele is 10 and a half, so this may be the culprit? Or maybe not? The only other controllable variable that I haven’t mentioned above is diet. Our stand on this has been trying to eat as much healthy whole food as possible and allowing the occasional “treat” like we would if she didn’t have Diabetes. I’m really trying to live more in the NOW, but I still can’t help to think about the future. “Is this it? Are we just supposed to accept it as such and ‘hope’ for a delayed onset of eventual complications?” Even with a "good" A1C, her blood sugar is still often out of the normal range. Adele is still my baby. As a parent, I want to do the very best that I can for her. Is there anything else that we can do NOW to help her live as long and healthy as possible?

Diet is very tricky. Restrict too much and it may trigger sneaking food, while adopting a standard North American diet filled with processed carbs would certainly isn’t the answer in my opinion. I have often thought that if it were me who had Type 1 that I would adopt a strict whole food low-carb diet. It just makes so much sense. Highs often happen after a high carb meal or snack and lows often happen when a huge insulin bolus to cover a high carb meal peaks. Small boluses to cover fewer carbs can only reduce these spikes and crashes. Again, it just makes so much sense!!

Talk is indeed cheap and I have a healthy pancreas so who am I to make a statement like this and never have to follow through with it? As an amateur competitive cyclist constantly trying to improve myself, I’ve already tried to limit carbs in the past (the "Zone" diet) to re-train my body to burn fat as fuel instead of relying mostly on carbs and have failed miserably. After a long bike ride, the craving for carbs is so strong that I just end up giving into it. I am very disciplined and yet I still could not follow through. Is it a built-in human flaw that causes so many people (not just Type 1s) to give into the temptation of highly processed carbs? Are we doomed to fail? But then again, why can some people stick with it? Dr. Richard Berstein has proven with his strict Type 1 management plan including restricting carbs that it can indeed be done. He’s over 75 years old with close to 65 years of Type 1 gaming. He not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. How does he do it?