I remember when I was diagnosed in 1985 at 14 years old my doctor told me that I could tell I was low when my hands were shaking. “You won’t be able to use that forever, but for now, when your hands start to shake, get some sugar. Eat a candy bar,” he said.
Wow. Candy was medicine and I could predict the weather of my body by studying my limbs. I looked at my hands then, held them out in front of my face in a straight line, as if I was a mime, and squinted. Were my hands steady or were they shaking?
I got into the habit of staring at my hands, much in the same way my classmates checked their watches to see how much time was left before class was over. I’d hold them up when I felt funny-forget pricking my finger, at 14 years old I hated blood-and if I could read my sugars by the shaking in my hands, why would I subject myself to pain? I began to almost hope for shaking hands because it was my excuse to eat skittles or starbursts or sugar babies (do they even make those anymore?). But I was also afraid. I was afraid that the shaking would stop and then how would I know I was low?
You have to understand to a 14 year old girl, testing my blood sugar was something I did maybe 2x a day. 3x at the most. I depended on the shaking to offer me clues about what was going on inside this suddenly unpredictable, alien body of mine. And of course the shaking did stop. I don’t remember when, but I remember having to guess at other bodily signals.
Yawning was one. Yawning for no reason-in the middle of the day when I wasn’t tired and I began to realize that this was another clue.
Blurry vision was another. For example, when I was sitting in class and staring at the board, no matter how hard I rubbed my eyes the words wouldn’t come clear. These were signals, and I had to pay close attention to my body because if I didn’t, if I ignored those signals because I was too busy and didn’t want to stop whatever I was doing to eat candy, I was in trouble.
I don’t trust my body’s signals anymore. I’ve had diabetes for 26 years and now, if I want to know what my blood sugar is I prick my finger. The tips of my fingers are hard and calloused and proof that my body can no longer communicate with me. I don’t think I have Hypoglycemia Unawareness (people who are unable to recognize a low blood sugar), but sometimes I just don’t notice. That’s why I test at least 10 times a day. That’s why I need better coverage from my insurance. That’s why companies like Lifescan need to figure out a way to make test strips more affordable. Because it’s scary not knowing.