Testing your blood glucose levels in public: overcoming the fear

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I’m at a point now where I test and inject in public all the time. I’d say 90% of the time if I’m at the dinner table, grabbing coffee with a girlfriend or watching a movie, I’m not moving a muscle to do what I got to do. 

Rewind to last year when I was diagnosed, I felt more comfortable in the washroom. To test. To inject. But it became, for me, inconvenient. I found it difficult to be in a tiny stall trying to toggle my purse and juggle my d-accessories that I didn’t want touching any surface. If I didn’t have to leave where I was, why should I? However, getting to the point where I can freely do my diabetes thing in the open didn’t come easy. 

There are still moments where I choose not to be public about it (around people I haven’t told, and times where I don’t want questions). But those times are few and far between. 

I asked my good friend Ed whom I see weekly, “Do you notice when I test and inject?” 

He barely does. And he’s so used to it now it doesn’t phase him at all if he does. I’m also really quick about it too so that’s a bonus. 

I run with Ed and during our walk breaks I’m tested and done in a flash. Of course, this took some time, but once I got it, it was easy peasy. I’ve yet to master testing while still riding my road bike, but as for running and testing without stopping, I’m getting it! 

Confession: I’ve had my meter go flying and had many failed testing attempts in the beginning. It’s frustrating and it can feel like it’s just too much trouble but it’s worth it. I go back to that old saying, “You do what you gotta do”. 

Exercising and testing

I think part of how I became used to the idea of testing out in the open is because of the lifestyle I refuse to give up. I’m always moving. On a bike. In the pool. At dance class. I like to train, and train hard. But with that comes potential lows, and when you push or are out there for 2+ hours, things can go sour and go sour fast. 

Especially when I was first diagnosed, I was getting frequent lows. Last winter it was really difficult to understand what my body was trying to tell me. I run outdoors all winter. Snow, wind, hail, not much really stops me. But with varying weather elements, prolonged cardio activity and the host of other factors that come with juggling healthy levels, it’s a tough go if you are trying to hide your testing. 

Here are some of the perks of telling people you train with about your diabetes

  • IT’S THE SAFEST WAY TO WORK OUT. PERIOD. I wasn’t comfortable telling people and there are still people as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, that don’t even know I have type 1 diabetes. However when it comes to exercise, the people who train with me all know. You are trying to juggle what you ate, how much insulin you took, the weather, stress, your time of the month, the list goes on and on. There is a lot of uncertainty, and I personally don’t want another unknown variable in the equation. Tell people and then you don’t have to worry about it. It’s a good feeling. And remember, there are lots of other people out there with health conditions, dripping sweat on their MedicAlert bracelets. You aren’t the only one with medical concerns, even though it feels like it.
  • Your training buddies will be prepared in case of emergency and can alert others of your condition. After a training day which included swimming, biking and running I went low during my triathlon clinic. I was lucky the people around me knew the symptoms. They rushed me to the hospital and I avoided a lot of headache and well, body ache because of it. 
  • You WILL meet other type 1’s or 5.5’ers. I’m continually surprised at how many people know someone with type 1 diabetes. It’s more than you think! I found out my friend’s niece has type one and her sister was actually part of the same run club. My other friend’s sister has type 1 (she is now my go-to training buddy. I’m rooming with her for my big 150km bike ride next year to stay safe). Connecting with others who know a bit about the type one game can help you learn more. You can find out what other tips and tricks others use to stay active and safe. Knowledge is power. 
  • It’s a chance to educate. I find diabetes is the common talk when I’m around, and that’s okay. A lot of people tell me I’m inspiring, which I find very odd, but also very flattering. I usually don’t know what to say and kind of cower in awkwardness but I feel it’s a chance to educate people about what type 1 is, why I continue to do what I do, and explain all the things I have to do to keep active and safe. I think it provides a glimpse into my world. I’ve had many exercise friends tell me, “I’m going to tell person x about you, they told me they’ve been struggling with their diabetes”. And it doesn’t matter if they are type 1, 2, MODY, LADA. Knowing there are other diabetics out there being healthy and never giving up is important. I have a pretty open door policy. I always offer my e-mail address or give this website out in hopes of helping others. 
  • Show them what you got. You’re crossing the finish line of races, killing your PB and lifting more than you ever thought possible. You don’t know it but you can be a role model to others. Yes my pancreas is broken but my spirit is far from it and I can do whatever race, whatever distance. As long as I believe it, I can do it. Show others how strong you are, and trust me, even if they don’t come up to you, there are people watching and secretly saying, “She can do it, I can do it”. Diabetes or no diabetes. 

Here is my personal strategy and what I’ve found (so far) that works for me. Everyone is different and my game plan is constantly changing but for now, this is what it is: 

1. Eat around 30 grams of carbs an hour or an hour and a half before exercising (which for me, a session is typically 1-2 hrs long. No  fast-acting insulin. 

2. Carry one water bottle with eLoad Endurance Formula which for me, works well in elevating my blood sugars but not sending me over 8 or 9’s. I sip this throughout my workout. If I’m biking, I always carry two water bottles with eLoad. I’ve tried different powdered drinks with carbs and find this works best for me. Find out what works best for you. 

3. If I’m doing any kind of cardio, I will test before and then every 30-45 minutes. 

4. Test after. I never skip this as I’m usually driving home. Any level below 5 mmo/L you can’t drive! And you never know how your blood sugar levels will dip after so best to be safe before starting the engine. 

Never hesitate to stop and test. If you’re feeling off, dizzy, just test. You are better off knowing. I really hope to nab a CGM soon. I think it would make a world of difference for me. 

What is your game plan? How do you feel about testing in public and how do you tackle testing and exercising? 

With love and testing at a coffee shop downtown,

Jessica 😀

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6 Comments

  1. Testing after exercise is so, so important! Like you I am often driving home, and there have been many times when I didn’t feel the low but a test showed that yes, my blood sugar was on the way down (I think sometimes endorphins can confuse things). Related, I always make sure to have glucose tablets and some type of snack (granola bar) in my car.

    Reply

    1. I realize I have to constantly have food, and lots of it, in my car. Good tip! Yes I also have that too. Endorphins have me at say, 8 and then they go away and I’m borderline low later just before driving. Safety first. Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Reply

  2. I’ve never understood the fear of testing in public, but I’ve also had diabetes for 20 years so I was basically raised to do what I needed to do. Most of the time I feel like people are too wrapped up in their own life to notice. I’ve had a couple people ask me what I’m doing, or if that was a glucose meter, but for the most part, most people seem pretty oblivious!

    Reply

    1. I completely agree Allison. I’ve seen no stares, and I’m pretty sure 99 per cent of people never see or case what I’m doing. However I do understand why it makes people nervous or uncomfortable. For me, I feel very fortunate that I do my testing/injecting without issue. As someone who spent 29 years without it, I can say it was quite an adjustment but now it’s like second nature. Thank you for commenting Allison 😀

      Reply

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