Last week I went up to my very favourite Yorkshire for my cousin Rob’s 18th birthday. To mark his foray into adulthood, he had a party. In a pub. Dozens of hormonal adolescents all looking lustfully at their pints, excessive consumption of which results in the lustful look being transferred to an equally lusty and equally drunk member of the opposite sex. Cue a few ‘seductive’ dance moves before they topple out of the fire escape and onto the gravel behind the cellar, where plans for a cheeky fumble get interrupted as the unfortunate lusty boy has to hold the lusty girl’s hair back as she vomits up the 546 fluorescent shots she drank before she arrived because she was nervous she’d meet a lusty boy and make a fool of herself. All before 11pm. And they say romance is dead.
To many 25-year-olds that is potentially an absolute nightmare (it wasn’t, because I made all of that up. Soz guys, you were all lovely and handled your drink exceptionally well. Yes, I’m old and patronising and also still have not learnt to handle my drink) but it was a lovely chance to see nearly all of my family; something that generally only comes about at Christmas. Plus my cousins live in the most remote village smack on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors – I’m talking the one post box, one pub, no signal variety. Bliss, a la this:
When I was about eight years old I told my Auntie I would get married at that Abbey. She’s been meticulously planning my wedding ever since, despite a very prominent lack of anything resembling a groom (shout out to the exes!). To appreciate how utterly terrifying this is, you need to understand that my Auntie also plans the village pantomime (I know) and the annual village scarecrow display. I’ve never seen anything like it. To the point that when (if) the day comes, I’m probably eloping.
Chicken impression fans among you may remember me talking (not particularly coherently) about my cousin David – the birthday boy’s older brother – getting diagnosed with Type 1 at the beginning of this year. So I was really looking forward to seeing him to chat about how he was getting on, having being plunged into a very confusing world at an age when you’re really getting out there and standing on your own two feet. God, I really am patronising today.
It was obviously a bit of a shock for him when he was diagnosed, but David is a cool dude, and I’m pretty sure he’s not spent one second more than is necessary over-thinking the situation that’s been landed upon him. He’s got stuff to do, and a life to live. They told him he’d have to inject everyday for the rest of his life, he said ‘ok’, and started injecting. He just got on with it, rather than having the screaming-crying-my-life-is-over meltdown that I DEFINITELY would have pulled had I got diagnosed at 19 and not 9. He certainly doesn’t need to write a blog about it, because he’s just DOING it, so any profound deep and meaningful wafflings from me on here about him are totally null and void, and completely ridiculous.
At 19 Dave has a car, he likes girls, he likes beer, he likes nightclubs, he likes his lad mates. Potentially not particularly diabetes friendly, but very much your standard 19-year-old interests and ones that I believe he should in no way consider compromising because he’s suddenly been sent packing with a lifetime supply of Novorapid. But Dave also likes sport. A LOT. His job as an apprentice electrician is much more active than us lot who are chained to the computer. He also does villagey things like going camping, fishing, clay pigeon shooting (yes really) riding dirt bikes, tractors and generally being outside and getting covered in mud. Told you – DUDE. Diabetes loves these things. So I was so so happy to see him enjoying the party just as much as his brother. In fact possibly more so – as illustrated by this truly wonderful picture, in which he is so drunk he cannot hold his eyes open and is propping his chin on my head to keep himself upright. Attaboy. The other questionable-looking guys are my brothers – also doing their bit to keep him vertical…
I’d like to take a moment to note how much GLEE we’re all taking from this situation!! What a horrible family eh?!
The next day things weren’t so peachy for Dave:
At this point I’m hoping he’s too busy with the girls/cars/beer/lads to come anywhere close to reading this blog…
I also felt particularly horrendous the next day – and not because I’d had 546 fluorescent shots and then thrown up over a lusty 18-year-old. Nope, instead I woke up with a blood sugar of a whopping 19.2. What. The. Jeff. I know, ‘it’s only one reading and it was post-party so who cares etc etc’, and this is the normal stance I adopt coz HEY KIDS, I’M YOUNG, FUN AND TYPE 1 (ha). This is all well and good, but I’d actually taken the responsible road for once in my life and my night of fun with the 18-year-olds had been peppered with fairly frequent trips back over the road to my Auntie’s to have yet ANOTHER bloody injection. I had a few nibbles at the party and one particularly syrupy shot amongst the vodka diet cokes – said shot lovingly chucked down my throat by my dear cousin (I stopped at one – he did not. I think that may have made a fair contribution to Eyes Shut Syndrome), but given all the bolusing I figured I would be ok.
I was not. BLUEEERRRGGHHHH.
So, seeing my dear cousin passed out on a beanbag the next morning as my Auntie bustled around the kitchen making enough bacon sandwiches to feed the entire village, I asked him (out of curiosity, not old person nagging) if he had checked his glucose that morning. He shook his head (very precariously may I add, to avoid it combusting completely) but then got up to test, also curious. 3.7. THREE POINT SEVEN. I was jealous people. Jealous of how his body had rewarded him for his efforts, whereas mine had rebelled despite me trying to give a shit. Yes, diabetes-based envy, this is what it’s come to. Tragic, no?
Having a direct point of comparison is pretty novel for most diabetics, and it was certainly interesting for us to have a chat about hypo symptoms, dealings with doctors, how we tell others about our condition and the like. Interesting for us at least, devastatingly geeky for anyone else within earshot. Snooze button please. But you see, the only definitive measurable we normally get for our efforts at keeping this beast under control is the horrifically black and white numerical value of the HbA1c – one big needle in your vein and four vials of blood later and TADA! Behold, a two month average of your blood sugars. Read about the fear this test imposes on many diabetics – myself included here.
Moreover (yes, that was a ‘moreover’, if you didn’t quite catch it), despite the number of our breed being on the increase, I’ve had enough emails from people who’ve had the misfortune to stumble upon this blog to know that there’s plenty of young diabetics out there that don’t know anyone else in the world AT ALL with Type 1 – and find it isolating, lonely and upsetting to be so different. Just as an aside – and this comes with a deep, meaningful and slightly wanky klaxon – those emails, btw, are the reason I keep on blogging. I love writing, sure, but when I think I’m being self-indulgent, or wonder who really cares about all this – I read those back and keep on typing. I’m not declaring to be changing the world with this, and I don’t mean to speak from upon high like some sort of diabetes martyr, but lovely people who struggle with their Type 1 – hell, lovely people who struggle with anything – rest assured you are far from alone.
Back to David. Why the amazing – if a little low – blood sugar the morning after so much sugar-laden indulgence? I would guess that currently my dear cousin’s pancreas still works a little bit, whereas mine quite clearly has shut up shop permanently. Production is CLOSED, make no mistake. His current doses are thus: no insulin with breakfast, then around 6 units of Novorapid at lunch and 6 at dinner, plus 18 of Lantus before bed. Which is pretty much what I have when my diabetes is behaving itself (plus another 6 at breakfast). But he hadn’t had any injections throughout the whole of the previous night, despite having numerous carb-based nibbles, cake and allll of those shots. And still 3.7. Good effort.
In my hyper-inflicted state of inactivity I spent some time thinking back to when I was 17, and had started going out to clubs on a regular basis. My drink of choice was Orange Reef (reserve judgement, thanks). NOT sugar-free. My post night-out snack was a cheese pitta. Again, not sugar free. If I had a night out on the Orange Reef now I would be in an ambulance by 10pm. I didn’t start taking my insulin on a night out with me AT ALL until I was 21. The thought of that now makes me shudder. I guess really it just goes to show that I used to get away with it too. And I pushed it and pushed it for as long as possible until I couldn’t get away with it any more. Which is surely what we would all do? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I used to eat a lot more carbohydrates than I do now, and my doses weren’t so different. But then I also used to take dance classes five nights a week, for around two hours at a time. Go figure. So if Dave can go out all night, eat and drink as much as he wants to and wake up the next day with a blood sugar that matches a non-diabetic, all power to him. Sigh.
Stay tuned folks. Old, Bitter and STILL bloody Type 1 coming soon…