Monday, March 31, 2014

Balancing Act

Recently the diabetic specialist I had been seeing on a regular basis decided to retire. I was told that a new specialist would take her place. However, after the new doctor tried things out at that diabetic clinic for a month, she quit. It was then I decided to take matters into my own hands and find myself a new doctor, one that was hopefully a little closer to home.This task proved to be rather complicated as I had to consider the limitations of our insurance (it will only cover certain, PPO approved physicians,) and the fact that I am an odd duck--a Type 1 diabetic on an insulin pump. As such, I had to find someone who was comfortable handling an insulin pump patient. (Most diabetics are Type 2 and control things with diet, exercise, oral meds, etc.)

I searched the internet for a physician that would satisfy everyone's requirements. After a few days of sorting through endless lists, I narrowed it down to an individual that seemed to stand out. He was on our insurance roster as an approved doctor--and when I called to talk to the nice receptionist, she assured me that he was taking new patients and he had worked with other insulin pump dependent diabetics. Also, he was a D.O.--the type of doctor my youngest son is seeking to become.(Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.) From what I've learned through experience, and what my son has taught me, D.O.'s tend to be very patient friendly. Also, they are trained to use the best of Western and Eastern medicine. This is extremely cool. =)

Deciding I had struck pay-dirt, I told the receptionist that I would like to lock this doctor in as my new diabetic specialist. That's when I was told that this particular doctor likes to look through files and decide which patients he is willing to add to his clientele. Ah. This was new. Not only was I evaluating him, but he would be going through the same process with me. Interesting.

The next day I received a phone call and was informed that I had been accepted as a patient. I did the dance of joy, hoping this was a good change. About a week later, my husband and I drove to Logan and met up with my new specialist. It was a good experience, even though my A1C test was a little higher than it should've been. (The test that reveals the average blood sugar level for the past 3 months.) Because of that, I was told that I needed to meet with the office dietician--a bright young man that the nurses and my new doctor highly recommended. I still pouted. I mean, seriously? I've been a Type 1 diabetic since I was the tender age of 19. After ten years . . . (Kidding. My 30-year-old son informed me last year that I can no longer be 29. Sigh . . .) okay . . . after 33 years, I think I know what I'm doing . . . most of the time. ;) I knew my blood sugar levels had been bouncing for a couple of months. It's the time of year when my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) acts up (compliments of the wacky weather) and with the inflammation comes increased blood sugar levels. It's just how my silly body rolls. Everything (and I do mean everything) affects blood sugar levels. Pain, heat, cold, illnesses, exercise, carbs consumed, etc. It proves to be quite the balancing act, and something I live with every day. True character building moments. Back to my story:

After silently protesting, I decided to be a sport. I reasoned that this was a new start . . . a big change. And maybe the dietician could help me get things balanced. On the other hand . . . I've been counting carbs for years--what more was there to learn? I soon found out. About two weeks later, I met with the dietician. I had been asked to keep track of everything during the preceding two weeks: Basal rates, insulin boluses, meals consumed, exercise, the works. I found the old charting graphs I had used when I first became a pump patient and after making copies, I used them to record all of this lovely information.

My mother went with me to this appointment. She was curious about what this new dietician could possibly teach me about diabetes, something we've already established that I've lived with for a gracious long time. An hour and a half later, my mind was reeling with new information. It turns out that things have changed . . . a lot within the past five years. I left the clinic that day so excited, I could barely contain myself. And as everyone had said, the dietician was awesome. He was upbeat, encouraging, and didn't put me on a guilt trip over days when my levels were less than impressive. Instead, he praised my efforts and then used entertaining props to help me understand what my silly body is doing these days.

Later that night, I had to call my oldest son, who is becoming a dietician, and shared my new-found enthusiasm. He understood everything I had learned and told me that it has been amazing what has been discovered about diabetes in recent times. He was excited that I had stumbled onto a doctor and a dietician that make a great team. Though the past few weeks have been challenging (we're in the process of changing basal rates--the insulin levels that drip in continuously from my insulin pump) to get things to balance out, I know it will all be worth it. Eventually, we'll have things stream-lined and I will likely be in better shape than I've been in for a long time.

So I'm realizing . . . again . . . that change is important. It's how we learn, grow, and better ourselves in this crazy world. We weren't meant to exist in a state of constant bliss in an environment that stays the same. We need to be flexible enough to "ride the waves," as they come into our lives and glean those things that will make a positive difference. Though I tend to fall off my "surfboard" . . . a lot (yep, I am a descendant of the dude who fell off the Mayflower--John Howland) I'm learning how crucial it is to keep trying, knowing that someday, the balance I'm seeking will be attained and I will be a better person as a result.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Reviews: "We Are Strong" & "I Am Strong! I Am Smart!"

Lately it seems like we are inundated with numerous negative messages. They are featured on the news, in various social media outlets, and hidden in lyrics, movies, and books. Sadly, those hurtful phrases often come from the people around us. It is rare to find items that boost self-esteem--inspiring words that remind us who we really are and why we're here in mortal mode. That is why I'm excited to share the following information.

I was recently asked to review two books written by one talented woman: Fay A. Klinger. Both books contain significant, upbeat messages that can touch hearts in a good and positive way. The first book, "We Are Strong," is written specifically for women and their daughters, and granddaughters, and it would be a useful tool for young women and their leaders.

In this book, Fay skillfully weaves the Young Women values with stories and experiences that help the reader understand the importance of believing in our divine nature. Current challenges such as bullying and recovery from abusive situations are highlighted in a sensitive manner. Helpful suggestions are offered that will aid in healing from these all-too-common threats to our society. In my opinion, this is an important book that mothers and daughters should read together.

Here is a sample paragraph:

"No matter how routine or mundane our tasks may be as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, Relief Society leaders, and Young Women leaders, we must never forget to see each other, our daughters, and the young women of the Church from an eternal perspective. Our primary role is to nurture and teach. We cannot be neutral in that role. We must be actively engaged. As we are more inclined to magnify the positive rather than point out the negative, our influence will ease the trials these women and girls endure--rejection, loneliness, self-doubt, exhaustion, temptation--and give them the confidence to be the daughters God intends them to be."

This is a book that can change lives and promote self-esteem in a time when our spiritual armor is being dented from all sides. It is an inspiring work that every woman and girl can benefit from--I cannot stress this enough. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I'm giving it a 5 star rating because I believe in its timely and important message of hope and healing.

The second book contains a similar theme, but the target audience is younger readers, although I believe people of all ages will enjoy the content. Beautifully illustrated, "I Am Strong! I Am Smart!" also stresses the importance of believing in ourselves. Sharing the story of a young girl and the influence of her loving grandmother during a difficult time, this book makes it clear that we need to ignore negative insults and develop a strong sense of self-worth. After the grandmother teaches this crucial concept, she suffers a slight stroke, and it is the granddaughter's turn to remind the older woman of her own importance in this challenging world.

These two books would be a welcome addition to any home library. Here are links to Amazon if you are interested in purchasing either book:

And here is a link to a short video clip about "I Am Strong! I Am Smart!"

And here is the link to Fay's website:

Monday, March 17, 2014

An Irish Toast

Today is a holiday that is celebrated in our family. Sometimes we attend St. Patrick's Day parades, or gather together as a clan to enjoy the day. We always enjoy the traditional corned beef and cabbage feast, complete with roasted potatoes and Irish soda bread. We do this in part because of our Irish ancestry. One of my maternal lines is Irish, and we take great delight in this heritage.

Our Irish ancestors were hardy folk who possessed a zest for life, and a determination to succeed. My maternal grandfather was a great example of this. He seemed to understand that despite the difficulties that life at times presents, it's important to look for the good, to press forward, finding the humor in challenging situations.

His was not an easy life. When he was in the 8th grade, his father passed away from something the doctor diagnosed as "Telescope Gut." Now we know that it was a strangulated hiatal hernia. Not a pleasant way to go, but at the time, there wasn't much that could be done. After his father's demise, my grandfather dropped out of school to help support his family. He worked hard, along with his numerous brothers, to provide the basic necessities of life.

They worked hard . . . and played hard, always managing to keep a balance, something my grandfather did his entire life. Growing up in a small cabin in the Grays Lake area in southeastern Idaho, my grandfather came from a large family. Though I'm sure there were times they didn't always get along, I suspect that for the most part, they still managed to have a lot of fun together. I grew up hearing the stories of fishing trips, hunting adventures, hours spent singing, dancing, playing simple card games, and enjoying life. I saw how my grandfather and his siblings enjoyed spending time together during their later years and knew that the bonds established when they were younger helped them to remain close.

My grandfather faced many trials during his life. Among them: the death of a child, worry over two other sons who served in the military, injuries sustained during a terrible car accident, economic setbacks, and being struck by lightening twice. But no matter what the challenges were, he always rose to the occasion, setting an example of courageous fortitude.

It amazes me still how he managed to keep his sense of humor intact. He was always smiling and laughing, and looking on the bright side of things. And he was the type of grandparent that grandchildren love. He  made time for us, teaching us the songs and games he had learned in his youth. He told hilarious stories that made us laugh, and took us with him when he went out on his ranch to take care of his animals. He taught us that animals were to be treated with kindness and respect and he let us experience things like feeding bum lambs, and seeing how his small dairy operated.

He took us fishing on many occasions, patiently sharing his secrets on how to catch the silvery creatures. Since he worked part-time for the local Fish and Game, he knew exactly where to go to find the fish and we always came home with an impressive catch that we would eat for dinner.

In later years, we were saddened to lose this great man. He lived to be in his eighties and had enjoyed amazing health and strength his entire life. Then pancreatic cancer surfaced and he bravely fought his final battle. Though he was in tremendous pain, he still inspired smiles and laughter until the very end.

It hurt to see him go, but I've never forgotten the peaceful joy that most of us felt during his funeral. It was more like a joyous graduation event as we reflected on the great example he had set for us to follow. And so we celebrate days like today as a tribute to our grandfather--a man who represented all that is good about being Irish. I'm sure if he was here with us today, he would stress that the secret of enjoying life is to continually look for the good, learn from the bad, and keep moving forward no matter what.