Ginger Vieira was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 13, celiac disease a year later, and fibromyalgia in 2014. Ginger provides great insights into life with multiple chronic illnesses, including how to make the most of your life despite your health setbacks.
Usually, the first few steps your doctor takes after they walk in the room and hopefully greet you with a smile is to look at the print-out from your glucometer with all of your blood sugar readings.
Right to the numbers.
Next, you might find that they take out their big red marker and circle all of the numbers that aren't in the ideal ranges you're aiming for. And then — and this is my least favorite part because it's so unhelpful and ineffective — they point to one of the numbers that are too high or too low and ask, "What happened here?"
That's when your mind explodes because you check your blood sugar four to six times a day and they're hoping you can remember the cause of a high blood sugar six weeks ago. Not gonna happen.
Instead, I wish our doctor would simply look up at us and say, "Okay, so how can I help you today?" or simply: "What's been the most challenging part of diabetes lately?"
By asking this question and not focusing in on simply the imperfect numbers in our glucometers, our doctor could hear about the overarching struggles or challenges we've been facing.
By asking this question, we can say things like, "Well, my blood sugar keeps going high in the middle of the night, even when I ate a low-carb meal…" and they'd quickly realize we needed to adjust our background insulin doses.
Or we could say, "Well, I've been having really bad lows at the gym and I'm not sure what to do about it," and they could help us understand how to prepare our blood sugars for exercise more effectively.
Or we could say, "Well, I just got finalized my divorce last week so the last 3 months have been extremely stressful…and my blood sugars were running higher as a result," and that would allow them to back off altogether and realize that life happens sometimes and diabetes doesn't always fit well with that. No more obsessing over the numbers and instead, moving quickly on to getting back on track.
The point is: the individual numbers don't matter as much as the overarching challenge(s) or struggle(s) during that period of our life. We are much more than those numbers. We are people with lives, schedules, families, careers, and on and on! Let us tell you what's going on before you conclude everything just by looking at the numbers.
For more information on this topic:
Guide: Talking to Your Doctor about Diabetes
Talk to Your Doctor: What to Do when Your Doctor Doesn't Follow Up as Promised
Dangers of Advertising: Why Your Doctor Needs to be Part of Your Diabetes Self-Management Plan