In Which We Take a Drug Holiday
Kathryn once was scared of taking insulin, but now she wishes she could.
By Kathryn Foss
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
June 2009 — My-oh-my, what an adventure being pregnant has been. I spent nine months working really hard to be a superstar diabetic and did so with amazing results. My A1C hovered angelically between 6.0 and 6.4 and my little girl thrived in the baby-friendly environment my discipline created for her.
I'll be honest, I loved being pregnant more than most. I didn't mind gaining weight or the aches and pains, and in large part I think this is because I felt better than I had in a long time. In my non-medical opinion, I think it was because taking insulin gave me much tighter control over the diabetes than I have ever had before. My blood sugar levels were great and my overall health improved. I was looking forward to my daughter arriving and continuing with my newfound discipline and routines.
That was my plan at least, however, my nice Danish endocrinologist had a different plan entirely. At my last appointment before my daughter was born, he casually told me that upon delivery, I would be taking a drug holiday. No more taking insulin. Normally, when someone tells you that you will be taking a holiday, it is very exciting. The whole "new places to see" and "people to meet" thing, but my momentary confusion gave rise to crystal clarity as I suddenly realized this was NOT that kind of fun holiday.
I could feel myself starting to panic. I envisioned the pre-pregnancy, non-insulin taking Kathryn, the one in poor health who needed to take a lot of naps because the high blood sugar made her feel tired, and I was not happy. I got a lump in my throat and tried my best to not start crying, but I was nine months pregnant and lets face it, keeping the tears at bay is not a heavily pregnant woman's strong suit. Unfortunately, my doctor was used to crying pregnant women, so my tears did nothing to soften his iron clad resolve that entailed taking away my precious insulin. He said that my insulin needs would change dramatically upon delivery and as I was a type 2, between being not pregnant and breastfeeding, my blood sugar levels would possibly stabilize. I told him that no, they would not stabilize, that they weren't stable before I got pregnant and they wouldn't be afterwards. I begged as much as I could, but he could not be swayed.
Now I was heavily pregnant and depressed, and against my better judgment, I agreed to take the drug holiday and give it a chance. Luckily my pouting was interrupted by more pressing matters, quite literally. My daughter was born a week later and let me assure you, there are very few events in life where the change is so drastic as going from pregnant to not pregnant. Not only do you lose massive amounts of weight in seconds, you gain a full time, extremely needy human who is now your new constant companion. It is crazy and between the challenges of breastfeeding, lack of sleep, and a myriad of dirty diapers, I had next to no time to even notice that my precious insulin was missing.
After about two weeks however, I resumed regular checks of my blood sugar again and the lack of insulin was becoming more apparent. My numbers were not good. My fasting numbers had gone from between 4.0 and 5.0 to anywhere from 6.5 to 9.0. After meals were even worse. I was beginning to feel sluggish and run down, but since I had just had a baby I couldn't be sure if it was diabetes or simply life as a new mom. I had insulin here in the house, but I just couldn't bring myself to disobey doctor's orders. It was horrible to see my little insulin pens lounging in the fridge each time I opened the door and to not be able to use them. I kept myself honest by convincing myself that tomorrow would be better, but tomorrow never was, and so finally, I admitted defeat and declared my failed drug holiday the worst holiday ever.
Trying to control diabetes and blood sugar through diet alone is frustrating as a new mom. I am tired. I am busy. I miss the freedom insulin gives me, not to be reckless, but to be able to eat simple carbohydrates without having crazy high numbers. So, it's safe to say that this is one holiday that I am not enjoying, and figuratively speaking, I want to come home early. I am supposed to go to the doctor at the beginning of September to evaluate the situation and decide on the best course of action, but I am pretty sure I am going to call before then and beg to be allowed to take the insulin again. Sitting here in my high blood sugar haze, I find it ironic that the very thing I spent so many years being afraid of and resisting is the very thing I so desperately miss today.
Oh insulin, you are indeed a hard habit to break.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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