Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Peace that China Gave Me

I went to China last month. It was my first trip to China, my first flight longer than 8 hours, and the first time I went two weeks without worrying about my pancreas hourly.

I went to China for work and work trips no matter where they are located are the kind of trips that take up 95% of your time. So my post is only about a snippet of that 5%.

Worries before Departing: I have to say that almost everyday before going to China, I worried about how I would manage diabetes, I had to make sure I had enough strips, my gluometer, snacks, and I even had one of my students write "I have Diabetes" in Chinese for me in case I needed that information to be known. I kept that piece of paper in my black carrying bag.
Also, I worried about the flight. 13 hours...THIRTEEN WHOLE HOURS, on a plane..what in the world would I do to occupy my claustrophobic mind? I brought just about everything a carry-on luggage could manage just in case I got bored with one activity, I could move to the next. However, in the end, Advil PM solved that issue really quickly.

I worried too about this issue I have of my glucose level dropping when I am on a long flight. So, I brought some carbs and protein with me on the flight (my grandma's fried chicken wings). Sure it's not the healthiest option, but I was CERTAINLY glad to have those wings when I arrived in China where I was fed pigeon (but told it was chicken).

Managing Diabetes LESS: For the first two days in China my numbers were abnormal (they ran higher than I'm use to seeing, but not over 200).  I didn't know if was the flight, if I over-corrected a low, the effect of being on the other size of the world exactly 12-hours ahead of the Eastern Standard time zone, the noodles upon noodles, a mystery element, the thick visible pollution, or a combination of all of these things. Whatever the reason, I do not know but it caused me to try something new--worry less about diabetes and check my glucose less.
The experiment wasn't easy.  I had to force myself not check my glucose before each meal (this is the advice my Endocrinologist has been suggesting for a while since I am now a med-free diabetic.  But my response has been "How do I stay med-free if I don't check the same way I did in order to get med-free?"). Plus, I didn't get diagnosed on a random appointment visit to the doctor or at an annual check-up, but rather when I was at the brink of death and needing insulin STAT, which means it's been hard for me to take the non-worrying route.  I've been feeling like one day without checking my glucose at least three times a day could mean another visit to the hospital.

But in China, I tried it. I reduced the amount of times I checked to once a day when I thought about checking at other times, I forced myself not to do it. And the results...

I actually felt good. I felt like I was given a part of my old life back. I still counted carbs, but not checking my glucose at every meal meant that I didn't need to explain to my Chinese co-workers what was going on nor did I have to go into a filthy restroom to prick myself. It also gave my finger tips space to heal from all the pricking (I had begun to HATE shaking people's hands because far too many people don't wash their hands regularly and with tiny open holes on my fingers I would get grossed out with the idea).  Counting carbs and trying to stay within a reasonable amount given the, sometimes limited, options of non-rice and non-pasta dishes wasn't always easy.  And there was a slight bit of liberation felt not knowing exactly how much the noodles affected me.  I felt like the parts of my brain that had been taken hostage with diabetic-worries were on recess. And, I was allowed to absorb more of my first Chinese experience.

It was the perfecting timing for this type of experiment...being on the other side of the world where road rage is uncommon, but chaotic driving is normal. A place where food is eaten as a community not alone. A location where one of the wonders of the world still amazes us.

China granted me a small peace about the way I manage diabetes and for that I am thankful.
I'm outside Beijing at the Great Wall

Audrey 2
Thanks China