Posts Tagged ‘Willy Wonka’

I want candy…

December 24, 2007

I’ve never been a fan of cake, cookies, or pies. But, candy, now that’s a different story…I’m not a sophisticated candy lover. No need to waste Godiva, Toblerone, fudge, bonbons, tins of gourmet hard candies on me. My taste buds fall more along the lines pixie sticks, sweet tarts, and really anything carrying the Willy Wonka moniker. Perhaps my love of candy started with the hard ribbon candy that my parents used to use to bribe me to take my digestive enzymes. Or the quarter my mother used to give me at the grocery store to buy whatever I wanted, which was almost always a Sugar Babies, Fun Dip or a box of Tart N Tiny. And, my preference for what I call, “little kid candy” (but think of as sweet treats that feed my inner child) has followed me into adulthood. Among my favorites are chewy spree and Haribo Gummy Bears, despite the chuckles from friends. But I’m used to this. When I was doing fieldwork in Australia, it was the source of ribbing among Koori children whose parents always jokingly reminded them that they would have to share their bag of lollies with Auntie Katherine.

So, why all this chatter about candy? The irony. In February I was diagnosed with CF Related Diabetes (CFRD). This type of diabetes is relatively common among adults with CF (and, in case you’re wondering, has nothing to do with my candy consumption). Our pancreas does not create the enzymes to break down fatty foods, so we have to take supplementary enzymes to aid in our digestion and absorption of food. It seems that one of the adult extensions of this is that the pancreas stops producing insulin.

Initially, I was really irritated and a little depressed about this new diagnosis. I kept thinking, “Don’t I have enough treatments and medicines to worry about already? I don’t need anything else to worry about.” The doctor instructed me to start checking my blood sugar regularly put me on a long acting and a short acting insulin. This regimen seems to be working pretty well.

So here I am. After a number of years as a hypoglycemic, I am learning how to deal with the low blood sugar that is a side effect of taking insulin. I’m also figuring out how to balance my need for a high calorie diet (approximately 3200 calories a day) and controlling my blood sugar. For those who have any experience with diabetes, you know that this balance presents an unusual and interesting problem. I have been used to eating pretty much anything I wanted. Like most people with CF, I am skinny but not too thin and I will probably never be over weight. When I’m not having a flare, my weight is about average for my height. Several years ago I lost 12 pounds during a bout with pneumonia. The doctor’s advice was eat fudge or hamburgers and fries – anything that was high in calories. It took me 18 months to gain back that weight. I did it with scandishakes, milky way bars, and a nightly bowl of vanilla ice cream. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking about sugar or carbohydrate intake. Now, I do factor that in, but it doesn’t mean I’ve given it up completely. At first, I tried giving up carbohydrates. That lasted about a month and I felt hungry all the time. I lost 5 pounds right away. I began to pay attention to how what I was eating was effecting my blood sugar, which meant checking my blood sugar frequently (too frequently, maybe). I have done some reading, talked to others with diabetes, consulted with my doctor and a nutritionist, and adjusted my approach since then. I have come to terms with the fact that , “Yes, I do have one more thing to keep track of.” And, I’ve also realized that it’s going to be ok.

Part of my motivation for writing this entry is that a very close and life long friend of mine, Debbie Busler, is running in the Flora London Marathon in April and is raising money for Diabetes UK (Debbie is currently living in London). She is dedicating the race to Pat, her husband (for lack of a better category) and me. Now for the plug – if you’d like to sponsor Debbie and follow her progress as she trains and prepares for the marathon go to

Despite accepting my diagnosis, treating my diabetes isn’t always easy. One of the most difficult things has been figuring out which rules about diabetes don’t apply to me and how to calculate the amount of insulin I need. I am trying my own version of carb-counting, making smart choices about the carbs I eat, but also countering the effects of eating sugars and carbs with insulin. I have a busy and sometimes uneven schedule, effecting when I eat and forcing me to pay very close attention to my blood sugar. My biggest fear is that I pass out in front of my class while I am in the middle of a lecture on the Yolmo of Nepal or the definition of community for Haitian immigrants in Brooklyn. I do what I can to ensure that this won’t happen – eat before class; carry glucose tablets with me everywhere; and keep a glucogen kit handy. Just in case, though, I wear a medical alert bracelet and trust that an observant student or colleague will see it and figure out what is happening.

Everyday is an adventure….I feel like diabetes has put me in the middle of a great, living science experiment. A constant cycle of trial, error, and correct. I suppose that is really what life is about. It is certainly reminds me that I never have as much control as I’d like to have or as I think I have. Rest assured, this won’t be the last you read about CFRD on this blog. The more I learn, the more I’ll share. In the mean time, I want candy.