Monday, 26 January 2015

Let's Talk About The Pill.

This post has a pretty obvious audience. And will mention girl stuff like periods. Depending on your level of comfort when it comes to sharing, it could be seen as borderline TMI - putting that out there now! Also, please remember that I am not a medical professional. Information in this post reflects my experiences only, and links to other sources should not be considered medical advice either. We good?!

*      *      *      *      *

About a month ago, I decided that I wanted to go on the Pill. I'm not seeing anyone right now, so my reasoning for it isn't for contraception, but to help regulate my period (I told you - specific demographic with this one!) Pre-pump, I knew exactly when I was going to get my period. I had no need for a diary or calendar, because my blood sugars would tell me when I was due. Slightly higher a few days before, and then bottoming out, and being able to eat tons of crap food without seeing the horrible blood sugar peaks (well, stupid-high blood sugar peaks - no higher that 10mmol, usually).

However, since getting my insulin pump, things haven't been as predictable. Actually, things haven't been predictable at all. It wasn't something that bothered me too much when I was at uni, but now I'm working, it's becoming to be a bit of a problem. I can't just take time off because of my period. But when you don't have one for a couple of months, then get caught off-guard, it's not the most pleasant of experiences, one that results in me wanting to curl into a ball and shut the rest of the world out. No can do in the working world. So painkillers and tea are what I turn to.

I did a lot of research on this (and by a lot, I mean went in search of real-life stories, and pretty much drew a blank - nonetheless, please see the various hyperlinks in this paragraph) before booking my appointment with the sexual heath nurse (at my GP surgery, you have to see a "sexual health nurse" for things like the Pill, even if it's not for sexual health reasons). Long story short, I found that I had the option of all forms of contraception. I'd decided a long time ago that the Pill was what I wanted to use, purely and simply because if it caused fluctuations in blood sugars, I could switch types of Pill (there are two types of pill if you  didn't know - Combined Pill (progesterone and oestrogen) or a Progesterone Only Pill (aka the POP or Mini Pill) or even brand of pill. As effective as the other solutions are (injections, coil, implant), they aren't as easy to switch should I want to.

My consultant had said to me time and time again that the Pill is something I could use, for both contraception and regulation of my periods ("better the Pill than an unplanned pregnancy!" she always says to me). So I made an appointment to discuss the matter further with the sexual health nurse. It all looked promising until I mentioned diabetes. Here's the thing: in my experience, you say the word "diabetes" to a health care professional that doesn't specialise in diabetes, they freeze up. Not only had I said "diabetes", but I had also said "insulin pump". Before I knew it, I was being told that I may have to wait as the nurse wanted to get a second opinion. Two days later, I received a call asking me to go back in to see a doctor to discuss the matter further as "there's much debate as to whether people with diabetes should use the Pill."

Now, I understand that everyone is different (your diabetes may vary and all that), but I was confused as to why I was being referred to another doctor for a second opinion. My diabetes consultant told me the Pill was safe to use, and people I know, pancreatically-challenged like myself, are currently using the Pill, or have used it in the past. This is what has led to this post. I read a number of diabetes blogs. And you can find info on life with diabetes, parenting with diabetes, pregnancy and diabetes, sex and diabetes, but nothing (from what I could Google) about the Pill and diabetes. So here I am, putting my experience out there on the interweb.

Before the aforementioned second (second!) appointment to discuss this, I phoned my DSN to double-check my facts. Like I've said, each person is different, but in my case she was more than happy for me to go on the Pill. I asked her to send my GP surgery a letter, and a copy to myself to take to the appointment. I asked the second-opinion-doctor why there was concern about me going on to the Pill, and was told that it's to do with the increased risk of blood pressure and blood clot problems when taking a Combined Pill - these are risks for anyone that wants to go on the pill, but the risk is higher if you also have diabetes. The POP is the safer option. Or so I've been told (again, can I ask that you please, please, don't take this as solid-gold medical information!)

That's the one I've been prescribed. Getting it wasn't as straightforward as I thought it would be, but I got there eventually. I've been given a month's worth, and I need to go back when that's running out to have a review (blood pressure, weight, and to discuss the effect on my blood sugars). Providing the nurse and/or doctor (and my consultant, as I'm thinking now I'll email her my blood sugars to get her opinion too) are happy with things, I'll then be given three months' worth.

Now, I'm awaiting my next period so I can start the course of pills. Being irregular at the moment, I have no idea when this will happen. Actually, knowing my luck, after all this, I'll probably be on time! Sod's law, right?!

So, ladies, what are your experiences when it comes to the Pill?

Monday, 19 January 2015


"...and my blood sugars have been all over the place..."

I have no idea what led to that being said, but my ears pricked up, listening out for more info, as my brain weighed up the pros and cons of "revealing" that I too am diabetic.

I decided to remain silent. I'm never certain of the right call to make in those situations. Some people really appreciate the "me too" sentiment, others not so much.

The next day, the same thing happened again, but this time I was with a friend who's had the full disclosure talk.

"...he's really worried, because he knows I'm not right...It's just hard going...I really hate this sometimes...and I shouldn't let diabetes get to me..."

"Talk to her," Iddy Biddy Budgen said, looking over at me, "She gets it!"

"Are you diabetic too?"

"Yep," I replied, "type one, with my replacement pancreas clipped to my bra...I use an insulin pump," I explained.

"They've spoken to me about a pump...I'm not too sure though. Do you like yours?"

"I love mine, but it wasn't without its' difficulties in the beginning. And it's not for everyone. For me, it fits in so much better with my life right now."

"Can I ask you how it works?"

"Of course! The cannula's in my leg at the moment. You can kind of see the outline through my trousers, but I'll show you what it looks like properly next week [site rotation said it would be in my right hip my Monday - it is!] And the pump is here," and I unclip it from my bra to show her.

"And you trust that to give you your insulin?"

"Yes. Now I do anyway. Took a while to get used to in the beginning. But the pump's super-smart, and it will alarm to tell me if there's a problem. And, touch wood, I've not had any yet. Apart from a low battery alarm. And a low cartridge. But that's it!"

"Impressive! I have to get back to work, but I want to talk to you some more if you don't mind? And I think my other half will want to chat too. Would that be okay?"

"Anytime. You know where the office is. And you have my extension number. And here's my mobile number," and I scribbled it down on a post-it note, "if you need anything, you now know every way of getting in touch!"

"Thank you, I will! It's nice knowing you get it, even though it sucks you have it. That made no sense!"

"Actually it did. I know what you're saying."

I hate knowing that there's someone else going through it, that you reading this may be going through it, and as sorry as I am for that, maybe selfishly, it's also comforting to know you're going through the same shit as me. Here's hoping that sentiment doesn't make me a bad person. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


Late last week, I went with my Dad to drop my sister back off at uni. We were talking about peer support, after my Mum was invited to an event for people living with her condition, polymyositis.

"It sounds really stupid," I began, "but the best thing I've ever done is get on a train to London and meet this girl called Lizzie. The rest, as they say, is history! You and Mum don't often see my bad diabetes days because I have this network of people I can turn too. Some I only know by name, others have become good friends, close friends, that I can't imagine not knowing. I think Mum could use that. The worst that happens is she goes and hates it. That's okay [no force-feeding of community is one of my rules]. On the other hand, it might be just what she, and you, need."

"I think you're right," my Dad said (he's a man of very few words), "so that's your secret to making diabetes look easy, huh? Friends with diabetes?"

"Yep! So simple, so effective! Because this disease is not easy, not in the slightest. And I would take a cure in a heartbeat. But, for me, community helps. Friends help. They've influenced who I am today and my attitude towards diabetes."

"If someone had asked me when you were diagnosed if you'd have coped, I honestly would have said no."

"I would have said no too," I laughed. "But it's not all my doing. I've had a lot of help and support from family and friends [and from the DOC as a whole] along the way."

And I will forever be grateful for that. 

Monday, 5 January 2015


Balance is what I'm looking for this year. I was looking for it last year too, but the balance I'm pursuing now is a little different. I'm no longer a uni student, for one. So what was a reasonably balanced life is no longer, and I'm on a mission to get that back.

Towards the end of last year, all I did (all I felt like I did) was work. Wake up, go to work, come home, have dinner, go to bed, repeat. At the weekends, I felt like I was playing catch up with emails and stuff and before I knew it, it would be Monday again. That cycle is something I'm looking to stop. Because as happy as I was, as I am, with my job, I wasn't happy with the lifestyle I started leading. I didn't exercise (although part of my journey to and from work is a 20 minute walk), I could hardly keep up with friends and family, I was neglecting my personal email and other online work-personal life balance was significantly more work-focussed than I liked.

I'm still not entirely certain what "balanced" will look like for me, but for now I'm trying to live by the following:
  1. Take care of myself - my health and well being are important for me to get to where I want to be. No neglecting of me, by me. So I will exercise, I will check my blood sugar, I will eat well (and indulge on occasion) and I will blog (because emotional health is just as important as physical health).
  2. Be present - so when I'm with my family and friends, actually be with them. No checking my phone/social media etc.
  3. Say 'yes' and 'no', but to the right things - I'm the kind of person that says 'yes' or 'no' to the wrong things (like agreeing to do overtime at work when I already have plans or turning down a night with my best friend because I'm just not feeling it, often because I've done extra hours at work). This needs to change. I enjoy my job, and I don't mind staying late when it suits, but I shouldn't be bailing on plans to do so. My job is just one part of my life.
It's a starting point, and a do-able one. And do-able is important. Because otherwise I end up quitting before I've even given myself a chance to start. What's the point in that?  

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Friendly Stranger.

As cliché as it is, I've kick started 2015 with my first run in about two and a half months. It wasn't a good run, and I wasn't expecting it to be, but it was a starting point. I was also reminded of how much I now enjoy it - I want running to become part of my regular routine again.

I was running up one of the country lanes nearby when I passed another person, who was starting their year with a run too.

"Morning," we said to each other as we continued running our routes. 

Around my 4km mark, we passed again. Except this time I was walking, glucose meter in hand, and he was jogging.

"Hi again...oh, are you okay?" He asked me,

"Fine thanks," I replied, appreciating the concern, and thinking that that was the end of the interaction.

"Sorry, my son's diabetic too. I had to ask if you were okay. So it was your test strips that were rattling when you ran past earlier?"

I laughed. "Yep, and glucose tabs in the other pocket. You can hear me coming a mile off!"

"Better safe than sorry though. Happy New Year to you!"

"Happy New Year to you too. All the best to you and your family!"

And off we ran (again, in separate directions).  

I don't like this disease. But moments like that make me smile, and feel incredibly grateful of those that speak up about their diabetes to complete strangers. Whether it be writing a blog for others to read, talking with others online, or stopping to say "hi" to someone when they stop to check their blood sugar, I'm thankful for the comfort (and advocacy) you provide

Happy New Year!