Another cheeky dispatch from the office. But I have a good excuse. I’ve just come from St. Thomas’ hospital, where I received some heartening news: my hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is now 7.5%! For regular readers of the blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t exactly been forthcoming with my HbA1c results, but to put it into context, let’s just say that my HbA1c hasn’t been under 8% since I was about nine and played soccer like it was going out of style. And although a value of 7.5% is still above my goal of 7% (well, ideally under 7%), I’m in a celebratory and gleeful mood. I’m not a crier, but when the nurse, Pam, told me my result, there may have been a few joyful sprinkles of tears – just two or three; 16 at most. Then both Pam and I were giggling as she gave me a high five and then a hug.
Pam’s incredibly encouraging and positive reaction exemplifies the care I receive at Guy’s and St. Thomas’. In the past, I’ve had many experiences of health care professionals sending the tacit – and occasionally not so tacit- message that I was a ‘bad and uncontrolled diabetic’, which my brain quickly equated to a ‘bad and uncontrolled person’, full stop. Some people must positively respond to that type of communication style, but I don’t. It makes me stick my head in the sand, put blinders on, throw in the towel, hang up my gloves, et cetera, et cetera. I have never felt judged at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ though. Even when I started there and my HbA1c was a good deal above target, they addressed my care with a supportive, yet pragmatic and problem-solving, mindset. And crucially they didn’t ignore my fear of low blood sugar but have worked with me on managing the anxiety, giving me the confidence to slowly, yet steadily, bring my blood sugars down. As I’ve said before, diabetes requires a prodigious amount of self-care and work to manage. In this stormy and lonely sea of a disease, they have been a safe and welcomed harbor, replete with working showers and ice machines. They make me want to show up for this disease.
The lowering of my HbA1c not only benefits my physical health but also my mental health. Getting my diabetes under control has been an overriding goal in my life, perhaps THE overriding goal recently and knowing that I’m progressing towards it has huge implications for my morale and self-esteem. I’m trying not frame it as being a ‘good diabetic’ (although I wouldn’t be surprised if those who implied that I was a bad diabetic might see it that way) as I’m aware, from writing my master’s dissertation, of the dangers of applying a discourse of morals to health. And fixating on a number, as in an HbA1c value, can exacerbate this as one can easily draw a clear, but menacing and insidious, boundary between notions of good and bad. I am however, going to use my progress in this realm of life as a role model for the many other realms of my life in which I’m struggling. For instance, maybe if I keep working at it, I will finally be fluent in French. Maybe I’ll get beyond page three of that novel I’ve been trying to write. Now this is a truly aspirational one, but maybe just maybe I’ll finally get this blog into better working order.