Because I Can

1997


Seven years living with diabetes... I opened my freezer and removed the two half-full frozen water bottles. It was 2:30 pm on a Sunday in July. I lived in Phoenix, Arizona and the outside temperature was close to 110°. I went to the water jug and topped off each water bottle, put on the lids, and put them back into the freezer while I put on my running clothes.

I started the year in Honduras, teaching English in an elementary school just outside Tegucigalpa. I moved to Phoenix in May, not ideal, but life doesn’t always toss-up timing. You adapt.

I lived in an apartment by myself. I worked during the day as an environmental consultant and at night in an upscale Mexican cuisine restaurant. I loved my night job, it was social, and we had a blast together. Though busy, my life felt full!

I grabbed the water bottles from the freezer and drove the short distance to the trailhead. Luckily parts of the route were in the shade. I took off on my run: glucose meter, PowerGel, and water bottles in my hands.

The hot air was difficult to breathe as I tap-tap-tapped the granite trail with cactus dotting the terrain.

During previous runs, I learned that freezing water in the bottles gave me perfectly cold water to drink around 11 minutes into the run. I knew an extra snack or less insulin was necessary pre-workout as the heat upped my metabolism and blood flow much differently than the colder temperatures ANYWHERE ELSE. I learned never to leave a vial of insulin anywhere but the fridge in this town. Heat very quickly denatures insulin, and its effectiveness becomes questionable. I recall wishing my vial would turn purple once this happened, kind of like in movies when a kid pees in the pool, and the water turns a bright color immediately.

The expiration date on diabetes supplies and its effectiveness rarely coincides. The ever-increasing cost of supplies or the excess from a previous order keeps this question held on the mind of a person living with diabetes, ‘is it still good?” Syringes are easy; they don’t expire or change that much over time. The glucose meters were always improving; glucose strips expire, insulin expires, glucose tabs even have an expiration date - go figure. The administration side of insurance bills, regular scheduling of appointments with an endocrinologist, eye specialist, and diabetes educator kept me feeling like I was registering for my next semester of classes in college - "what would I get this time around?" It is real with this disease; the additional capacity it requires to have what you need when you need it.

Just as I navigated how to adapt my diabetes systems to waterfall ice climbing the two winters previously, I was now deep into curiosity about the extreme heat.

I enjoy the art of living, finding the edges in my life to flirt with, even in small ways. From a physical perspective, athletes are good at getting curious in this way. Diabetes management asks for consistency, structure, regularity, and much of the same day in day out. Healthcare teams expect records to decipher patterns and predict outcomes. Glucose control is the end-all goal, and numbers tend to have an air of judgment, evoke emotion, and rarely are just a number.

Tap-tap-tap across the granite trail that was right in front of me. What came before and what was to come after wasn’t of concern during the hot run. The air remained challenging to get a full breath; sweat saturated my car seat as I sat down to open all windows and turn on the air conditioning once done. One thing was sure, I felt alive.