Today is my second “diabetes spa” day this month. Atop the hills of southwest Portland, overlooking the Willamette River and the peak of Mount Hood 70 miles east of here, I am cozy in my bed, complete with room service on a schedule, unlimited water and tea, wi-fi, books, music, videos….and a team of skilled nurses to take care of my diabetes! I don’t have to prick my finger at all today! I don’t have to be sure I’m prepared for low blood sugars, or make sure I have back up supplies in case of an occlusion in my pump, an accidental “rip out” of my site, or any of the other many random accidents we must always be prepared for. My “spa” is in the Oregon Health Science University’s Multnomah Pavilion, and I am a part of a diabetes clinical trial.
When I spoke briefly with Dr Ken Ward, the lead investigator and this study, he looked at me warily when I told him how relaxing and fun my first day in the study had been. Perhaps this is more a statement on how seldom I actually “chill out” – but with three young children, two jobs, one chronically messy home, and four lifetimes worth of things I want to do, it is truly against the grain to “stop” for a day. So, being part of a study that requires that I surrender my diabetes control to trained diabetes professionals, and at the same time, confine myself to a bed for 10 hours, is truly a “vacation” day for many reasons. (You parents of small children can relate, can’t you?) This was my self-chosen exercise in Mindful Management of my diabetes for 10 hours straight. Any other day of my life is too full to allow for extended diabetes-related mindfulness.
I’d like to say my participation in this study is totally altruistic – for the advancement of research, the discovery of that artificial pancreas, help for the millions of us with type 1!! – but honestly, it’s more than that for me. When I got into my car to drive to the study, I consciously relaxed into the seat, acknowledging that in 15 minutes, I would not be solely responsible for managing my diabetes today. I had back-up. This alone is a huge gift.
Participating in a clinical trial is also a great way for me to focus on that which often gets the “quick glance” as I move on to the needs of others – my own diabetes control. Focused care, documented details – that is the essence of a trial! Gifts of this focus include: Watching the trends, and seeing how long it actually takes my blood sugar to come down after a meal (without the random mindless snacking that so often occurs – kids leftovers, anyone?). Having help counting carbs (an inexact science when we eat real food vs. packaged), and calculating my bolus (yeah, I have the wizard in my pump, but it’s nice to have a human wizard once in a while!). And having someone to scratch her head alongside me as we ponder why it took 4 hours for my blood sugar to return to normal after breakfast this time, when last time (same breakfast, essentially the same premeal BG) it returned to my goal range within 2 hours!??
Recently, I had my highest A1c in 13 years. Plus just about every measure of general health was worse, depleted from my personal stress and lack of attention to self care. Working in this field, knowing as much as I do, that result was like a shot in my heart, a punch in my gut, and a crystal ball into a future of debilitation and devastation all at once. I try so hard!!!! I do so much!!! How could that have happened????
Participation in this study is a part of my return to more vigilant self care, and a renewed respect for my limitations. Somehow I’ve come to be 41 years old, with diabetes for 14 years, and I still have some faulty thinking about my own needs and capabilities. I’m not a risk taker, generally – I would never jump out of an airplane, take hard drugs, travel to an active war zone. And yet, with my own health, I seem to take small risks every day. Ah…equilibrating back to some kind of Balance….I burned myself out years ago trying to be “perfect,” and I never want to be that vigilant again! Life is to be enjoyed, after all!! But in this enjoyment, I am striving for a better balance between the Now I have at this moment, and the Future I hope to enjoy with good health, vibrant energy, and a sparkle in my (free from diabetes damage) eyes.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this diabetes study/spa. This is just another opportunity for Connection – with others, and with my self, that self who knows how to care for this condition. This is just another opportunity to Transform Diabetes…from pain into purpose…from coping to flourishing (thanks, Riva Greenberg!).
Thanks to these thoughtful researchers and their staff. Thanks to the organizations that fund this valuable research. And thanks to you all for “listening.”
In Good Health,