I have been accused of being “Pollyanna” when it comes to diabetes. I rarely complain about my dysfunctional pancreas and I am a firm believer that I only get one chance at life and I am not going to waste my time complaining. But sometimes I have to admit that DIABETES IS HARD.
I golf once or twice a week during my summers in Minnesota. Most of the time I play right after breakfast in the relative coolness of the morning. My home course is hilly and I am always tired when I finish my 18-hole walk with my clubs on a pushcart. Because I am in a rut and usually play the same course at the same time of day, I have for the most part figured out how to manage diabetes. Does that mean I never have lows or highs? Absolutely not. If my blood sugar is within a reasonable range before beginning play, does this mean I can get through a round without eating a couple of glucose tabs and maybe having a small snack? Nope, can’t do that either. But by planning my breakfast food and bolus insulin, using temporary basals, relying on my Dexcom CGM and an occasional fingerstick, I can play 18 holes with only minor blood sugar annoyances.
My standards for “diabetes success” on the golf course are low. Success means finishing the round without keeling over, needing paramedics, or getting so low that I can’t read the scorecard. Success means that my errant shots are the result of bad swings not the inability to control arms and legs wobbly from a hypo. Success means racking up lots of steps for the current Fitbit challenge. Success means that I enjoy my round and my playing partners don’t have to ask me if I am okay. Success means occasionally forgetting about diabetes.
On Labor Day my son invited my husband and me to join him for 18 holes of golf at his home course. He plays at Hazeltine National Golf Club which is near his home in a western suburb of Minneapolis. Hazeltine is a championship venue which has hosted events such as the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship and will be the site of the Ryder Cup in 2016. The first question you should ask is “Why in the world is a hacker like me playing a course like that?” The answer is “Because I can and because my son invited me!” I play from the ladies tees which are a mile ahead of the championship tees and amazingly I don’t score that much higher than on my home course. I also decided a long time ago that I should have fun playing golf whether I shoot a good round or not. For the most part I succeed at that.
What I have never mastered at this course is diabetes. Hazeltine is a long and hard course for me to walk. I’ve played there twice and both times have played after lunch which is not my “normal” golf time. I’ve never needed paramedics there, so why am I complaining? When I walked up the 9th hole on Monday feeling incredibly low and having already finished one 10-count roll of glucose tabs, I had a flashback to last year when at the same point on the course I was exhausted and desperately low. (I’ve only played Hazeltine twice. I am not like my husband who can remember every round of golf he has played in the last 50 years. But I am someone with diabetes who can remember every severe low BG since 1976.)
Neither this year nor last did I complain to anyone. Both times I was able to keep playing using the reserve glucose tabs and snacks that I keep in my golf bag. I know that I should tell my husband when I am low, but I’m too
stupid tough for that.
But this year was very different from last year. As I walked up the 9th fairway, I was mentally devastated with how sad I was and how lonely my diabetes is. What would it be like to play golf or hike or do anything and not experience low blood sugar? Why is my life a constant math equation with seemingly no reliable solution? Why do I have to deal with this and no one else does? Why can’t I figure it out? Why does it have to be so hard?
Why? Because it is hard. TYPE 1 DIABETES IS HARD. I know that and so do you.
There I’ve said it and I’ll say it again. TYPE 1 DIABETES IS HARD. Now I will quit whining and return to the previously scheduled program of Pollyanna….
On Tuesday of this week Riva Greenberg of The Huffington Post shared her experiences with the hidden difficulties and loneliness of living with Type 1 diabetes. If you haven’t read this article, please check it out: The Invisibility of Type 1 Diabetes. Riva and I are close in age and she has had Type 1 for 43 years compared to my 39 years. Riva is usually upbeat about living with diabetes and her post is an insightful peek at what goes through Pollyanna’s mind when the “Glad Game” just isn’t enough to keep her smiling amidst the highs and lows of diabetes.
I’m the mom of a t1D. But he’s doing good. As an athlete, you will appreciate that he was able to play professional football. 😊👍
Thanks for reading, Holly. And kudos to your son for being able to play professional sports while successfully managing his diabetes. Even with today’s technology, it’s not easy.
I feel exactly the same way about not wanting to complain to others about my diabetes. I think the important thing to remember is that you don’t let diabetes (and all of its frustrating elements) stop you from playing golf.
Thanks, Frank. I always read your blog at night when it comes through my Feedly reader and I never quite know what time it is in Australia. But I always appreciate your words of wisdom (and you’re so young!).
Thanks so much Laddie. FYI it’s usually around 6am here while I’m having my morning coffee.
a non-positive moment shared from you is rare but this morning I am thankful for it. Hearing my adult friends with diabetes speak so openly and honestly helps me be a better Dmom to my kids – reminding them it is totally normal to get angry and frustrated because diabetes is hard. You make me a better mom, likely a better person.
Ps. I have a number of friends who openly refer to me as Pollyanna. I don’t mind it most days and many days I actually enjoy it but sometimes when I am not thinking in a very Pollyanna like way, I find I avoid those friends because I’m afraid of disappointing them.
Thanks, Tina. I’ll be sure to share my grouchy days with you!
Fantastic post. It is hard. We deserve a break now and then, even though we won’t get it. Thanks for sharing your story.
You keep score when you play golf???
Thanks, Stephen. Yes, I do keep score and like with diabetes try to remind myself that it is just a number….
It is hard – so keep remembering – it’s ok to ask for help. It’s not being tough – but maybe a bit of the other 🙂 to stick it out alone. And what would he do if you passed out and he found you? Love you Lady!! Hugs!
You’re right, Susan. Through the years I have gotten better at asking for help when I need it, but I still don’t share as much as I probably should.
Love this post and YOU! If you change “golf” to “cycling”, this could be me. Although some rides are smoother than others, I have yet to have a single ride where I wasn’t treating a high or hesitantly correcting a high. Each and every ride is different but I don’t think I can even imagine what it would be like to just ride and not be incessantly checking and adjusting. Thanks for posting this and a HUGE XO to you, my dear friend!
Thanks, Alecia! I love seeing the photos of your bike outings through the NYC area. Your piñata bike has a lot of stories to tell:-) You are brave to do this riding, but even braver to share your successes and failures.
Awww thanks Laddie! xo
Hugs. I continue to be impressed by your ability to hike and play golf, not because you have diabetes but because you actually do that stuff! (You do NOT want to see what I do on the golf course!) Type 1 looks incredibly hard from “out here”. I’m sorry that it is so. I always appreciate your honesty.
Thanks, Kate. I am lucky that I have always liked playing sports and working out. If you ever manage to visit me during the winter, I live on a golf course and will make you play a few holes! Or at least go play the putting course which is easier and more forgiving.
You hit the nail on the head. It is a lonely disease. The online community of PWD’s is amazing and it helps tremendously. Even if I’m not talking with them directly, I know I’m not alone. Others understand. There are a few I do interact with on Twitter. I’d strongly recommend to any PWD to get on Twitter and look for a few new friends that truly understand what it means to have diabetes.
Thanks for reading, Kevin. The DOC is a huge support to me and fortunately these instances of stark aloneness are rare.
Laddie, I agree T1d is very hard and sometimes, when I think of it, I also get that overwhelmed feeling, My mom used to have Dia-breaks. Those came when she just got fed up with diabetes. I recall coming home one day from school and mom sitting at the kitchen table, with a Hershey Kiss wrapper in front of her.
I thought she might be low and as a boy I was concerned. No, she said, she was not low. She was tired, tired I asked? She looked at me with a straight look the I can still recall. Tired of this sh–t. Now my mom never swore and as a very proper lady she did not even pass (my mom would call it) gas in my presence. LOL
To hear her swear was not something in my experience. The object of her Hersey Kiss rage? Yes, it was diabetes, it had gotten to her and she said a bad word. LOL yeah that is when I knew diabetes was hard, very hard.
Loved your blog and thanks for the forgotten memory,
Rick, when I have down moments about diabetes in the future, I will think of your mother at the kitchen table with her Hershey’s Kiss and announce that I am “tired of this sh-t.” Thanks for sharing the story:-)