It took me a long time to get my head around the fact that avoiding testing my blood sugars was not doing me any favours. Years, actually. I think for many people there is an element of guilt when a reading screams double figures at you, and you know full well it was down to the cake you just couldn’t resist two hours ago. Frequent high readings when you’ve eaten cake is one thing; frequent high readings when you’ve carb counted to the 0.1 of a gram and turned away from the bakery is just down right frustrating.
These days I’m a testing fiend. I do get royally pissed off when I have a high reading, but my logic is it would have been high anyway and at least if I know what it is I can figure out how to rectify it. When my readings are high it makes it a lot easier to turn treats down – especially for a perfectionist – I just want to beat the system and be all smug in the knowledge that I’m ace diabetic extraordinaire. I didn’t ever reason that testing would make me a better diabetic. I used to just think it was a measure of failure. There are the very annoying days when no matter how hard you try, your sugars just won’t come down (and then low and behold, the next day you’re faced with multiple hypos, the joys), but the point is if you’re at least TRYING you can’t go astray too much of the time. Looking back now I’m surprised my HbA1cs weren’t higher than they were. I literally went days without testing, and figured that if I was that high I would know about it. But I did know about it. My body was trying to tell me that it wasn’t functioning very well – I was tired, sluggish, couldn’t sleep properly. How I got through uni and came out the other side with a good grade… well it’s frightening really.
Much as I’m trying be better at my diabetes now, there is, and always will be, inevitable error. No matter how many times my Mum bugs me about whether I’ve got enough of x, y or z (namely food, insulin or tea bags) sometimes I’m just too busy (read: scatty) to get it completely right. Bearing in mind that at the moment my GP is still registered to my mum’s address, and so I have to call up for my prescription, get her to collect it and post it to me – this takes a lot more planning ahead then I care to entertain. I need to allow an extra few days for mum to get round to the doctors and for Royal Mail to politely land it on my doormat. THEN I have to actually remember to visit a chemist. I’m aware this all sounds simple enough, and largely out of my hands bar actually ordering my repeat prescription in the first place, but I’ve managed to cut it extremely fine a few times.
One of my finer scatty moments allowed me to take a step back the other week and look at how far I’ve come. I was going about my merry blood testing business (well, ‘merry’ is probably being a bit too generous. I have other hobbies too) and for some reason was quite sure I had another tub of test strips in the personal pharmacy of diabetes paraphernalia I possess at any given time. Old insulin pens, old meters, current glucagon, spare needles, prescriptions… you get the idea. Amongst this lot is my stash of test strips. When I get a repeat prescription it’s like some sort of warped Christmas – boxes and boxes of stuff all addressed to me. When I get this trolley full of ‘goodies’ (I feel it’s important to clarify that given the choice, I would prefer a trolley full of shoes. But shoes are only a matter of life and death at certain times), reordering goes to the back of my mind for quite some time. I’m set, I’ve got a stash, I’m good to go for months. Only it always comes around so quickly and suddenly I’m on the phone reciting my name, date of birth and repeat items down the phone once more.
So this particular morning my tub of strips ran out, and I dutifully went to the cupboard to get my last remaining box. Except there was no last remaining box. All gone. Cue small panic, emergency calling of the doctors and mum to tell her what I’d managed to do. Standard tutting and rolling of eyes from Mrs G. Ta. I figured out that I would probably have to go three days without testing. It’s really not the end of the world, but I did have a little stress at the fact that I’d managed to put myself in a potentially dangerous situation. But then I took a moment to rationalise it all, and I remembered that there was a time when I went for WEEKS without testing. My kit was literally left on the shelf, gathering dust. And given my low carb efforts these days, 72 hours really shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I suddenly realised I’d fully accepted the responsibilities of being diabetic. I knew what it meant not to test three times a day, and the ramifications of being a bit stupid and not checking whether my prescription had run out. I might be a bit stupid, but at that moment I also felt quite proud.
Unjustified smugness aside, this sadly didn’t stop me making another test strip-based blunder this week. Yes, I managed to order my prescription before my current stocks ran out (live it, learn it) but what I failed to do was order the correct prescription. I kid you not (although I really wish I was). Thankfully my doctor had his brain screwed on. He dutifully produced my prescription as requested, but when Mrs G (also dutifully) went to collect it, there was a nice little note attached. ‘Are these the right brand? Last ordered July 2008’. Ah. Nice one, Jen. I ordered test strips for a meter I’d thrown away two years ago. Good work.
Thankfully my mum was also produced in the same vein as the sensible doctor, and thought to ask the receptionist to check my old prescriptions for the ones I last ordered. I clearly would have done the same…
I’m pretty sure there aren’t too many other available test strip errors to be made. But if there are, you can guarantee I’ll be making them some time soon. Apart from the odd above-mentioned situations where test strips aren’t available through my own sheer stupidity, I’m there morning, noon and night pricking away at my fingers until they’re raw and lumpy. And very happy about the fact. Frustrating as the highs are, testing is the main gauge we have to gain good control. So why would I shy away from that? So what if it’s a bad reading? No finger-wagging diabetes head teacher is going to come and slap my wrists. I might slap my own wrists, but then the only thing that can come of it is better decision-making next time around, so that the reading isn’t repeated for the same reason. I think once we accept that these little inconveniences need to be welcomed into our lives, they then erase themselves as an inconvenience. Cleaning your teeth is a bit inconvenient sometimes, but we do it because that’s what needs to be done. It’s just what we do. Test strips have been invented (and they’re given to us for free) because they are ultimately there to help us, not to make us feel bad for our failures. Because they’re not failures at all. What’s to be ashamed of about taking responsibility for this huge disease that’s come and plonked itself upon us, crapped on our lives and threatened to take part of it away? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Power to the meter.