Monday, October 18, 2010

In honor of Halloween: Diabetes, the story of a serial killer

I had a crazy dream last night, which by some might be construed as a nightmare, but by others, quite comical.

I was at home, in the kitchen actually, and I saw a grungy looking man sitting in a chair across from me. The man stared at me, looked at me funny, and then pulled out a knife from his pocket.

And then he threw the knife at me.

I suddenly realized that I was sitting across from a knife-wielding killer, who was pretty slow on the take and not very good at throwing because he missed. And he wasn’t so far away from me.

So I looked for a knife as well and threw one back at him. But I missed. So we simply sat there, quite lazy for two people trying to kill each other, and just threw knives at one another.

The killer eventually got up off of his chair and headed toward me. I realized that I could take out my trusty insulin pen (which by the way, I haven’t used a pen in over five years) and I started dialing up and injecting insulin into the killer’s arm.

But I could only dial up 10 units at a time. So I kept dialing up and injecting, dialing up and injecting, dialing up and injecting.

Until the killer fell into an insulin coma lying still on a reclining chair near the kitchen. He didn’t die though.

I woke up. It was 5 am. And like a well-educated diabetic with over 35 years of experience, knowing that a dream like this meant there may be blood sugar trouble lurking, the first thing I did was check my sugar. 175. I bolused a correction and fell back to sleep.

Alright, so yeah, some of you may be laughing. Some may think I’m weird. Some may be wondering why I would share this with all of you.

This comical nightmare, I believe, is actually a metaphor for the life of a diabetic. My subconscious knows that insulin protects me from harm. That insulin saves me. It keeps me alive. It protects me from the slow, silent knife-wielding killer that is high blood sugars.

The silent killer is slow but persistent just as the streams of high blood sugar are that flow through a diabetic’s body. Pounding away at our bodies, causing immediate and long-term consequences like blindness, kidney failure, heart problems, and so on.

And the only way to protect ourselves – is through insulin.

Perhaps related to my having the insulin dream last night, I read in the October 2010 edition of Diabetes Forecast yesterday that The New York Historical Society is capturing the story of the discovery of insulin in an exhibition that began on October 5, 2010 and will continue through to January 31, 2011.

A diabetic’s fight for life, the struggle with the silent killer, has changed dramatically with the discovery of insulin in 1921. I’m simplifying, but before the discovery of insulin, doctors did not know how to treat diabetes. Patients were often placed on starvation diets with the hope that they would live a few years longer.

I urge us all to be thankful for the discovery of insulin, to put those injections and finger pricks into perspective. Diabetics today, with the proper care, can live long, fulfilling, and beautiful lives.

I believe that my dream is telling me to wake up, check my sugar, and be thankful that I can bolus a correction for a 175 sugar. And to take the time to learn about the past, and put into perspective how far we’ve come. Thank you, insulin.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Daily practice - a struggling artist's approach to diabetes management

Step Out to Stop Diabetes!

Hello everyone! You may have read on September 20 that I am participating in the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out to Stop Diabetes walk-a-thon on October 24 in Princeton, New Jersey.

Thank you so much for all of the donations that we have already received! Two weeks into fundraising, and I am thrilled to report that I am 57% of the way toward reaching my goal of raising $500 for the education, research, and advocacy programs that the ADA provides to help fight diabetes.

There is still time to help me reach my goal! Please click here to visit my personal step-out page, read all about why I’m participating, and become a sponsor.

Now onto today's blog post...
Daily practice - a struggling artist's approach to diabetes management

I’ve always been told that I have an artist’s soul, a good eye, a natural talent.

Fun to me is going to art museums, mixing paint colors, going eye shopping, and seeing what designers of all kinds create. I took art classes in grade school, high school, college, and in-between. But I never really did anything with this natural gift of mine, never developed it, or put it into practice. I just let it lie dormant while wishing I would do something with it.

Why? Frustration. For whatever reason, when I sit behind a piece of canvas, palette and brush in hand, I expect that I should be able to create the next spiritual awakening piece like the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo or a pop work of art with incredible depth and meaning like Andy Warhol.

I don’t though. Instead, I fuss around a bit and get frustrated very quickly. Not realizing that art, or anything for that matter that you want to be good at, takes a lot of hard work and practice. Daily practice.

This all became incredibly clear to me after taking a painting class at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art five or six years ago.

I remember the first day of class - 20 people sitting next to their individual canvasses while the instructor showed us slides with examples on how to examine shades of light while drawing a still life.

We were instructed to use charcoals and do the same at our spaces. I was engrossed in my piece of work at first. Observing the shades before me and drawing it as I interpreted it (which really annoyed all of my instructors). I remember thinking to myself that I knew I wasn’t creating a masterpiece, or even anything that I could take home. But I just wasn’t feeling it. I was too busy feeling bad about myself and what I was trying to do. I began looking over next to me, seeing what others were creating, and all that I saw was how my piece didn’t measure up to everybody else’s.

The next week, we were to copy photographs in charcoal. I drew a Middle Eastern man and woman standing in front of a desert mountain, and I have to say that as I was developing it, I thought the piece wasn’t so bad.

Then the teacher walked over to me. She told me that although it was good, and she didn’t want to stop me, I wasn’t doing what she had in mind for the class. I looked over to my right and left, and noticed that others were again creating masterpieces. And I was unable to return to the piece in the same way. I was too busy judging – myself. And also trying to figure out what she wanted. (Not to make excuses, but the whole class was in Hebrew. My language skills didn't include art terms. So that may have been part of the problem.)

I threw away a lot of pieces after that class. Never quite found my groove again.

So I bolted. I decided to stop going to the class. And I haven’t taken an art class since. I have sat at home and drawn a bit. I even found my paints the other day while cleaning out some boxes.

Okay, I know what you are saying, “Ophir, just try it. Go for it! Pick up a paint brush! Just have some fun! It’ll be good for you. Michelangelo did not create the Sistine Chapel right out of art school, nor did Michael Phelps win a gold medal his first time in the pool, nor did Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg win Oscars with their first movies.”

Okay, I get it. I need to simply enjoy what I naturally love doing – for the fun of it. But to be really good at something, you need to practice. Daily. Like with anything in life worth doing. You have to be committed to practicing daily, learning from your mistakes, and being present through each moment.

I haven’t quite gotten there yet - with art. But I want to. I really do.

So I bet you are wondering why I chose this for my blog topic if I haven’t reached my goal yet. If I don’t have some valuable insight on how I did it, or some grand inspiration on how I became an artist despite the critics.

Well, here it is. I believe that my relationship with art, the lessons I’ve learned through it, are also lessons that apply to other things in life. Anything worth doing takes daily practice and hard work – and the desire, the will, to do it. Anything in life - including diabetes management.

Achieving a 6.4 A1C was a grand achievement for me. And I only just reached it after having diabetes for over 35 years. It took a lot of ups and downs – both literally and figuratively. A lot of hard work. And a lot of practice. Daily practice.

But you see, the thing is, I have the desire, the will, the commitment to doing it. I made a decision a long time ago that proper diabetes care is a part of my life for as long as necessary.

Perhaps those diabetic lessons - of commitment, practice, and hard work - will inspire me take it all the way with art too!