Sometimes You Have To Take A Knee…

It’s been a rough few days, with the cold weather and snow finding a permanent home for the winter.  My knees feel as though they’re fighting against me, as far as movement goes.

The cold has a measurable and proven effect on one’s joints and tendons.  There are many explanations for this, including thickening of the fluids in your joints.  Thickened fluids will make the joints feel thicker and make it feel as though the joints are stiff.  Arthritis flare-ups and the expansion of tissue have also been known to cause pain. 

Whatever the reason, it’s a condition that has worsened over the years and I’m certainly feeling it today.  I missed a karate class last night, which irks me to no end.  But sometimes you need to know when to take a step back and allow the pain to pass.  What’s worse, classes have been cancelled for tomorrow night since it’s Halloween, but at least that gives me a full week’s rest before taxing my knees further.

Although there have been a number of studies performed in relation to joint pain during inclement weather, nothing conclusive has ever been proven.  Feel free to Google “joint pain when it’s cold” and you’ll find a bunch of articles…  Despite that fact, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate some of the pain.  

Obviously, some over-the-counter pain medications can help to some degree, depending on the exact cause.  If swelling is the culprit, ibuprofen can provide some relief.  Keep your joints warm…  I find that a heating blanket for short periods of time, helps to reduce the pain in my knees.  Make certain that you dress warmly, especially if going outdoors.  As usual, exercise and proper health management are always my favorite go-to’s when trying to prevent any sort of complication.

Hopefully once the weather becomes consistent, despite the cold, my joints will adjust and feel better.  In my case, some of it may be age-related.  But the bottom line is that even though it’s important to learn how to “fight through the pain”, it’s just as important to know when to back off and take it easy.  For the immediate moment, it appears that I’ll just have to take a knee… ☯

Advertisements

The Cost Of Making Life Work

Life is not an easy journey. There are risks, dangers and pitfalls that accompany you along this journey and tragedy awaits at every corner. Some people manage to live a life of relative ease, while others seem to have a bit more difficulty. Sometimes, the sacrifices required in order to live a peaceful life require a cost that most people are not willing and/or able to pay.

And then there’s me… I had a pretty difficult childhood, considering both my brother and I spent most of it in various hospitals. My family had fairly limited means, since we had to travel to children’s hospitals in Montreal for my brother fairly often. Despite this, I never found myself wanting for anything. We always had food on the table and a place to live, and this was ultimately what was important.

I’m currently on a journey of self-discovery and reinventing myself. It’s a difficult journey, and the sacrifices have been great. Even more so today… But if I can succeed, I will guarantee some security for my family. I had the opportunity to sit with Sensei last night. He made a cogent argument by pointing out that even though it causes us suffering, the situations we face in life are laid before us for a reason. Even if we don’t always believe or acknowledge that reason doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Today, I am faced with just such a situation. I’m not accustomed to dealing with scenarios that I can’t solve in some fashion. This leaves me feeling as though control is spiralling out of my hands and makes me anxious. Despite how unhappy this makes me, I also recognize that it’s a learning opportunity. I need to learn to unclench. Not only do I not have to be in total control all time, I honestly can’t be.

This is an important lesson for all of us. As much as we’d like to maintain control over everything in our environment, there will always be things that happen that are outside our control. This means that there’s no point or advantage to pining over it or allowing it to cloud our judgement. Even the worst of situations eventually find a resolution. As the old saying goes: This too, shall pass. ☯

On The Road Again…🎶

One of the biggest things people tend to overlook when referring to Diabetes is the amount of planning that goes into everything we do. It’s not so much that we can’t do any particular thing; in fact, we can do anything a non-Diabetic person can do (and in some cases, more).

But depending on the activity, we sometimes have to take a few added steps and pre-plan how things will go down. When you have Type 1 Diabetes, you often need to expect the unexpected. Im reminded of a trip I took with a friend in my early 20’s. We spent three days travelling down the Restigouche river by canoe. It was loads of fun. We started at the crack of dawn with a warm campfire and makeshift breakfast before hitting the river and spending all day paddling down the river. It was fantastic exercise, mixed with the excitement of being in the great outdoors. I had brought some glucose tablets, but on my second day down the river I hit a low that pretty had me eat through them all. I was fine, but had I suffered another low I would have been up s$%t creek, pun fully intended.

This is a perfect example of why proper planning can go a long way towards ensuring one’s safety while travelling. Long trips are one of the activities where this aspect is SO important. My family and I have driven across the country with our family vehicle twice in recent years. During those trips, I learned a great deal and I’m going to be sharing them with you. Here are my top ten things to consider when travelling long distance:

  1. Plan your route before you depart. You would think that this one is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people just hit the open road without considering the actual trip; they only look at the destination. you may know where you want to end up, but it’s important to plan a route that will bring you through populated centres and give you an opportunity to stop for the night and have access to rest stops and food;
  2. Tell someone your plan. Even if you’re not travelling alone, you can never predict what may happen on the open road. Be sure to let someone know where you’re going and by what route. Whether it’s family, friends, neighbours… whatever. This ensures that in the event of an emergency, someone knows where you’re going and how you’re getting there. This is similar to some sports like spelunking or sailing that require you to log a travel plan;
  3. Don’t travel alone. The previous point brings up my next one. Whenever possible, try not to travel by yourself. I know that speaking for myself, I always believe I can take care of myself and control my blood sugar levels. But it honestly only takes one incident to be deadly on the road;
  4. Take frequent breaks. Whether it’s to use the washroom or grab coffee, getting out to stretch your legs and crack your back will help to prevent unnecessary fatigue. This is a good recommendation for anyone;
  5. Test your blood often. When you’re taking those breaks, test your blood glucose levels. As I’ve written before, EVERYTHING affects your blood sugar levels. This means that fatigue, exhaustion, stress on the road, excitement on the road… All of it can adversely affect one’s blood glucose levels, making it important to test often;
  6. Eat properly and regularly. We tend to eat like trash pails when we travel. With fast food restaurants and truck stops readily available on most popular travel routes, burgers and chips can end up being a staple of long road trips. I probably shouldn’t have to explain why high-fat, high-carb foot is a bad idea when you’re sitting in a vehicle for hours on end;
  7. Bring supplies. This sounds redundant, but brings plenty of snacks with fast-acting carbs in case you get a low while on the road. Extra insulin and supplies are a must as well. Bring whatever supplies and sugared goods that you may require if you were to be stranded for an overnight. Better to have it than not need it. Where have I heard that before…?
  8. Get a good night’s rest. Look, I get it… We all get excited at the prospect of travelling and being on vacation (or whatever your reason for travelling may be). But your body requires all the same things it needs when you aren’t travelling. Make sure you have somewhere safe to stop and get your 8 hours. Your body and blood sugar levels will thank you;
  9. Pack an emergency kit. There are lots of sites online that can provide you with a simple list of emergency items you should be keeping in your vehicle. The Government of Canada’s “Get prepared” webpage has a decent list of basic items that should be in your vehicle on long-distance trips. That list can be found here: https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/kts/cr-kt-en.aspx
  10. Perform a pre-drive checklist. Do a walk around of your vehicle before hitting the road and that you have everything required while travelling. Know the laws of the Provinces you’ll be travelling through. Remember, you’re responsible for the proper condition of your vehicle and obeying all laws in every jurisdiction you travel through. Bring phone chargers and battery packs.

Some of these seem rather obvious, but even the most organized person occasionally needs a reminder. Road trips can be fun and you shouldn’t let Diabetes stand in your way of travelling. You simply need to ensure you’re properly prepared. ☯

Diabetic Macular Edema, Pt. 2

As promised, I’m providing a bit of a step-by-step of the eye appointment I had today. Right from the outset I’m going to warn everyone that I took some photographs of my eyes. I only offer this warning because some people have difficulties handling “eye stuff”.

I arrived in Saskatoon and checked into my hotel that I’d be staying at for the night. I dropped off my bags and got set up in my room before booking the hotel’s guest shuttle to bring me to the hotel. The shuttle drove me and I arrived at Saskatoon City Hospital almost an hour prior to the appointment. I checked in at the admitting counter before starting the process.

The first step was a standard eye exam. I generally always score 20/20 on this, depending on how well-balanced my blood sugar is. On this occasion, I scored perfectly. The nurse then puts drops into both eyes that cause my pupils to dilate. Once this is done, I make my way to waiting room “B” where scans and photographs of my retina will be taken.

My “vampire eyes”, about fifteen minutes after they’ve been dilated.

I waited for quite some time before getting in for my scans. Unfortunately, getting to the hospital early does nothing for you, as the computer check-in places you in the queue based on your appointment time and not when you showed up. This sucks, especially when you happen to be early and people who have arrived after you end up getting ahead.

Once I get in to the “photographer”, he takes a detailed scan of the back of both eyes, as well as a photograph of each eye. This part of the process is simple and painless, despite having my eyes dilated like a vampire on coke, and every pinch of light causes a headache. Then, I made my way to waiting room “C”, which is ultimately where I will get the actual injections.

The medieval torture chair where I will be given my eye injections!

After another wait in the third waiting room, I was brought into an examination room as pictured above. I was strapped into the chair (Totally kidding! She didn’t strap me in!) and more drops were added to my eyes by the nurse. These drops freeze all sensation in the eyes (supposedly) but allow full movement.

The ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) then enters into the room and we look at the scans of my eyes together and compare them to the last appointment’s scans. During this discussion, we consider and decide whether the current injection regiment is still ideal or if it should be increased (my current regiment requires injections every eight weeks). I’ve been going at eight week intervals for almost a year now, with a couple of exceptions where I’ve allowed it to go to nine or ten weeks. This has resulted in worsened vision in the form of blurring, which is why we never push the appointments past the eight week mark.

The surgeon then places a clamp on one of the eyes (think Clockwork Orange) and puts a few drops of Bridine solution onto the white part of the eye. Bridine solution is a topical antiseptic generally used before surgeries. The white part if the eye is where the needle will penetrate the surface of the eye. I then pick a spot on the ceiling and hold fast, as the surgeon pushes the needle through and injects the medication.

Walking out the hospital in pain. Since I could barely see a thing, I’m surprised the photo turned out as well as it did!

As I’m staring at the ceiling and the medication enters the vitreous body, I can see swirls in my vision. It’d be a little bit freaky if one were not focused on the stinging pain ripping through that side of the face!

The needle gets pulled away and the excess is swabbed up by the surgeon. Then, I stagger into the scheduler’s office where she hands me a piece of paper indicating the date and time of my next appointment. She asks me if the appointment is fine, but I take the paper without reading it (because I can’t) and make my way down to the hospital lobby.

Normally, I get the hotel’s shuttle to pick me up and bring me back. On this occasion, the shuttle was tied up bringing guests to the airport so I had to hoof it! It’s about a fifteen minute walk through Rotary Park to reach the hotel. The walk itself would be refreshing and nice, considering it’s 4 degrees today. But since it’s a clear sky with a very bright, Prairie sun, it was torturous.

Right eye. The bright red line starts at the injection site.
The left eye. Notice the bright, red point is more prominent in this one.

Once I got back to my hotel room, I closed all the curtains and turned off the lights before crashing hard. It’s a catch-22! Having my eyes closed keeps the light from hurting me while the dilation wears off, but the rubbing of the eyelids on the eyeballs causes pain as well. Luckily, once I fall asleep I don’t notice this as much.

I’ll be taking it easy for the rest of the evening as my eyes recover then try and get a solid night’s sleep. Once I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll make the trek back to Regina. I’ll have some latent headaches for the next day or two, but it’s a small price to pay to maintain my vision.

So there you have it! I warned you it might be gross. Something I didn’t mention in the previous post is that DME can be caused by bad blood sugar control over a long period of time. Being a Type 1 during my youth was chaotic. My blood sugars ran rampant and I’ve been comatose on more than one occasion. So, it’s very important to maintain your levels and get regular check ups, regardless of how big a pain it is. Because as much as I hate it when someone uses this line on me, it could always be worse!

Diabetic Macular Edema, Pt. 1

So, tomorrow I will be travelling to a neighbouring city to receive treatment for Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). This is a condition that is defined by an accumulation of fluid at the back of the macula, which is the part of the retina that helps to control our vision.

There are a number of causes for DME, but one that applies in my case is simply that I have been a Type 1 Diabetic for an extended period of time (thirty-six years, in fact).

The treatment includes injections into the eyes that help to dry up the fluid in the macula and alleviate the swelling it causes at the back of the eye. The eye is frozen by way of anesthesia drops. This allows for movement of the eye, but it prevents the pain associated with sticking it with a needle! Then, the ophthalmologist places a small needles into the white of the eye and injects a specialized medication into the vitreous body, which is the jelly-like substance that fills the inside of the eye.

Generally, the freezing drops wear off within twenty to thirty minutes and my head becomes a pulsing ball of pain. I can still see, although most of it is simply shapes and bright light, due to the dilated pupils required for the scans prior to the injections. A nap for an hour or two helps to take the edge off (plus, I get to have a nap!) and I can alleviate pain through more traditional methods throughout the evening.

By the next morning, besides the eyes being a little bit dry, I’m back to normal and can head home. It’s a nasty process that I have to repeat every eight weeks. In the beginning, I was receiving treatment every four weeks, but as better control and reduced swelling have been achieved, we’ve managed to taper it off to the eight weeks I’m currently sitting at.

Tomorrow, I will share photographs of the aftermath. Since it involves the eyeballs, it may be a bit much for some people, so be warned. The photographs will show the injection site and resulting irritation to the eyeball that it causes.

For more information on Diabetic macular Edema, you can visit the WebMD site at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetic-macular-edema#1

Holy Hiccups!!!

I’ve just hd hiccups for over an hour! Here’s a call out: what’s the longest you’ve ever had hiccups? Has it kept you awake?

A hiccup is an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm that can occur several times a minute. Hiccups are involuntary an often tend to lend an annoying presence in your day!

So far, I’ve tried to hold my breath, taking deep drinks and holding my breath some more.

Way back in 2001, I had the owner of the business I managed who told me that drinking a cup of water with a plastic knife on it would help to “cut the hiccups out”. I never understood it, but man, did it work.

Sometimes, some of the things we face in life require a little faith. We don’t always have to know WHY it works, we simply have to close our eyes and accept that it will. The same applies to many of the mysteries of our lives. Sometimes, we have to close our eyes and jump off the ledge, knowing that “all things happen for a reason.”