Friday, June 14, 2013

Importance of Support

Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have diabetes. Some know it, some do not, some ignore it and others pay good attention to it. Many who do not have it have pre-conceived notions about diabetes, its causes, its symptoms, its 'cures' and are often the ones who seem to believe are best qualified to give advice to the 'ill-informed' who have diabetes. Reading about diabetes is not enough qualification to be a diabetes advisor just as learning about a car is not enough to drive one on the road.

In my personal experience I find that health care professionals who are diabetics are the best people when it comes to providing support to the patients suffering from diabetes. They understand two things - each patient is unique and diabetes management requires both knowledge and a wide open mind. No two diabetics react the same way to treatment, to food, to exercise, to time of day or any other variable. This means that even if two patients have the same HbA1c, their insulin needs will be different. If two patients weigh the same and eat the same food their blood sugar will react differently to the food. For these differences in reaction a support group made up of diabetics and health care professionals is an essential part of diabetes management. It helps a diabetic to understand that the challenges they face may be unique but that solutions for these challenges are always possible to figure out. With patience and perseverance diabetes can be managed so we live a productive and qualitatively good life.

In my opinion anyone suffering from diabetes must do two things to get on the path to controlled sugars - consult a good endocrinologist and connect with other diabetics. A good endocrinologist is one who listens to you, asks you questions about lifestyle and habits, encourages you to keep records, is open to answer your questions about information you have from the internet and other diabetics and is knowledgable about the research on diabetes and its management. A good support group is made up of people who have diabetes, are willing to discuss the challenges they face, are willing to listen to your challenges, are willing to share ideas and information that have helped them along the way and are not judgmental about you. All diabetics go through tough periods when all we want is someone to listen to us crib about the challenges - no advice, no sympathy needed - just an open ear. We crib and then we go back to what we do best - manage our blood sugars.

Controlled diabetics have a lifestyle of their own. The faster we adjust to it the less stressful it is. An acceptance that simply popping pills or injecting insulin is not enough to stay fit is something all of us who strive to control our blood sugars understand. Getting up in the morning and pricking a finger for that drop of blood that will more or less tell us how unpredictable the day will be is a part of everyday life. Deciding what to eat and when, how often to test blood sugar and if necessary ketones, pack enough candies or juices to combat the lows, make sure pump supplies, glucose meter, insulin are all available at all times - just some of the things to consider every day.

Family support is an essential element too. Being surrounded by people who accept you and your lifestyle; understand the urgency for treating highs and lows; accept the sudden changes of mood and just being there without making you nervous is all that is needed.

Don't sit in front of a diabetic and gorge on your ice-cream like it is manna from the heavens, but don't hide your ice-cream from us either. We could eat that ice-cream and take insulin to keep our sugars down you know, but we choose not to! And by the way, if we choose to, don't tell us we shouldn't. It is really none of your business. We know what we are doing.

Watching some stranger enjoy their red velvet cake topped with strawberry icing is one thing, but watching the spouse pounce on that cake as if it was the juice of life itself can be traumatic for a diabetic. :)

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