I’m Not Okay. I Will Be.

It’s a wonderful problem to have so many people in your life that are concerned for your health that it actually becomes exhausting to talk about it. I figure now is as good as time as any to give an update since I finally have some clear understanding of what my body has been going through. It started with my hip, then my shoulder and now my eyesight. The joys of being a Type 1 Diabetic.

18 months ago I started experiencing right hip pain. My mobility and strength in the leg started to suffer. Normal activities started to present challenges. Simple things like sitting cross legged were no longer possible. The pain would very from day to day ranging from 6 to 8 on a scale of 10. Driving more than 20 minutes was awful.

16 months ago I started experiencing left shoulder and bicep pain. Lifting anything up over my head was very difficult. The pain would bounce around to different locations throughout the shoulder and sleeping more than a hour or two a night was impossible. The pain, while inconsistent in its location, was always an 8 or 9 on a scale of 10. Simple tasks like putting on pants were anything but simple.

On June 25th, I started experiencing vision loss in my right eye. If I closed my left eye the entire world was a blur. Anything 8-10′ or further away from me was in focus. Anything closer than that distance was foggy and hindered by black spot. The closer the object the more difficult it was to see . My right eye was hemorrhaging…

Since all of this started back in 2013 I’ve seen more Doctors, Therapists & Specialists over the course of 18 months than most people will see in their lifetime. Five MRI’s, a few ultrasounds and countless x-rays never produced answers for the hip or the shoulder. The positive was no major damage was showing up. The negative was that everyone seemed to be at a loss as to the cause of the pain. A few friends wondered when I would be calling Dr. House. The only pain relief I was able to get was from cortisol injections. I have had 3 different injections since 2013, the last of which was given in May of this year for my shoulder. The issue was finally diagnosed correctly as Diabetic Frozen Shoulder. The injections would cause my blood sugars to elevate and take on a mind of their own for 2-3 months, but I would be able to actually get some sleep and and much needed recovery. Since I can remember I’ve always had what is considered an abnormally high tolerance for pain. From an early age I was told by Doctors that if I though about something more than 2 or 3 times, that it was time to get it looked at. The shoulder pain was beyond anything I had experienced before. The lack of sleep was destroying my body and my mind.

With the blood sugars bouncing around from injections trying to help fix my hip and shoulder, my Hemoglobin A1c tests had risen to 8.1 – 8.6%. A result of under 7% is preferred for Diabetics. A non-diabetic should have a range of 4% – 5.6%. The elevated and inconsistent sugars have resulted in my now compromised vision in my right eye. The difference in what my eyes physically looked like before the steroid injections and after is insane. You can find information on what my eye is going though by looking up Diabetic Retinopathy. Basically the vessels in the eye have started hemorrhaging. The “fix” is to have lasers shot in my eye to stop current bleeding and prevent further bleeding. It involves multiple treatments and there is no guarantee that my vision will ever return to normal. Over the last month the migraines have started to lessen (a product of having one eye in focus and one eye out of focus) and while I don’t necessarily think my vision has really improved I have started adapting. There are two more surgeries scheduled in August. I am hoping to have more answers as to recovery after those visits.

Lately it feels like my life has been taken over by the medical issues all stemming from Type 1. The hip and shoulder were likely minor injuries that most people would have healed easily from. For me it took me down this crazy medical three ring circus which while trying to fix certain issues ended up breaking something else. It ended with multiple specialists having said you’re on your own or we cut you open and my vision being compromised. Pain had become my identity and it wasn’t only physical. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t think about how much of a burden I was to the people closest to me. The harder I tried to get things under control, the worse it felt like things were getting. The only child in me started taking over and instead of asking for help I was internalizing everything. I had hit a point of feeling lost with who I was.

Ten days ago without even thinking about it, I sat down on the floor cross-legged. This one simple movement, one that I haven’t been able to do since this all started, cleared my head and let me know that it would be okay. Even if life wouldn’t be what I was used to I will make it work. I refuse to let this crap take over my life any more than it already has. I have always been a very visual person and to have that aspect of my life compromised is awful. It’s a crappy set of cards to be dealt, but I am thankful that I am still able to see. Now it’s a matter of assuming that the right eye wont get better and figuring out how to adapt. As far as the hip and shoulder go – I will keep working on getting physically stronger and eventually I will end up back doing what I love.

bruce_leeThe sun will rise and set no matter how you choose to live your life. There are way too many things out there to enjoy and it’s really hard to find that enjoyment when you’re angry at the world and feeling sorry for yourself. I will remove the useless and negative influences in my life. I will make it a point to not give a shit when someone says, “That sucks. I don’t know how you do that. I could never…” I am dealing with it because the alternative really sucks. It’s only as bad as we allow it to be. I will adapt and figure out how to continue to do the things I love. I will get stronger. I will be okay.


The Dog Is Always Right

i-m-so-alpha-my-beta-cells-stopped-functioning-white_designOne would think after dealing with Type 1 Diabetes for 28 years, that there wouldn’t be too many surprises left to give you a “how the hell didn’t I see that” moment. At times no matter how hard you try to manage Type 1, it will get the best of you. This past Saturday I had one of those moments.

Merlin and  I headed out to the Contact Sports Agility USDAA trial and we were both very excited. Recently he had gone through some applied kinesiology chiropractic treatments, which is a different methods of doing adjustments than we had tried before. The results have been great.  Over the last month he has been moving wonderfully and our teamwork has really started to click. Less and less I was wondering which of the many faces of Merlin I would see at the start line and I was more confident in my plan of attack for the course.

We followed our typical morning routine of a trial by getting up at the crack of dawn. Testing my sugar and calibrating my Dexcom Platinum CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor for my non diabetic folk). I was at 78 and the CGM said 74. Couldn’t ask for a better match. On a typical day I will calibrate the CGM 3-4 times to make sure it’s getting the correct readings. In the 7 months I’ve been using the CGM, the most it has every been off was 20 points. The venue for the trial was a 90 minute drive and once we got there I did another blood draw and calibration. This time it came back 145 vs 160. Still a very normal range for me after breakfast.

csa_gamblers_judy_reillyRoughly 30 minutes later we had our first run of the day… Gamblers, which has been our nemesis ever since changing almost all of our training & handling nearly 2 years ago. The course itself was not easy. The opening was a very wide open setup & there were some well hidden traps. The closing looked deceptively easy… it wasn’t, but it was something we could definitely handle. He ran the course perfectly, with the exception of my motion sending him off to the chute instead of completing a back to back a-frame. This isn’t something we get to practice very often, so I wasn’t surprised. He ran the closing like a champ and we got our Gamblers Q. I was feeling good. He was happy and confident.

Judy Reilly, who is also a T1D, has graciously allowed my to share her Gamblers course. On paper and even at first glance while walking, it doesn’t appear to be that difficult of a gamble… sound the alarm. A number of teams got caught short of time in the open and then had a difficult time setting up a smooth transition into jump 1, which you could either wrap or rear-cross. We ended up going with the rear-cross as my motion forward pushed him through it setting up 2 to 3 very nicely. Some teams got stuck in the Bermuda Triangle that was the jump – tunnel – jump. The dogs didn’t see the tunnel for whatever reason coming out of 2, and when the handlers motion was stopped at the gamble line, the dogs were almost spinning in circles looking for the tunnel. The fourth jump had a surprising number of knocks. Handlers that ran away from the jump while calling their dog didn’t seem to have any issue with it. Those that stood in place calling their dog  over seeming had more issues. These are the types of courses I absolutely love. Those tiny surprises on course that show up even when you think you’ve noticed every possible off course. I was rather surprised that no one I watched started on the dog walk side to setup the weaves. Some folks went for the chute to weaves and the large dogs with their big strides struggled to hit the entry.

Fast forward a hour to our Standard run. I checked my monitor before we started warming up and I was at 163. We got to the start line and I could see it was a different dog than at the start of gamblers. During the run, he was a loose cannon. Contacts were no longer needed, off courses to contacts instead of tunnels?!?! Ears pinned back. The boy was stressed and I had no idea why. I was starting to feel as though my sugar was a little out of sorts, but the CGM said I was in range. It’s a feeling that is difficult to describe, and I’m sure each Diabetic has a different sensation. For me it’s as though the muscles in my body feel warm and swollen while my skin is compressing down on them from all directions. It’s not pleasant and it’s a creeper that all of the sudden hits you like a ton of bricks. It’s also a feeling that you become accustomed to after dealing with it for so many years. Partially because of age, and partially getting so used to trying to push through highs or lows at work, or school or at an event. Striving to be ‘normal’ can make you ignore what your body is telling you and then those signals get lessened as it becomes part of the routine.

We had a bit of time before our MC Standard run so I took Merlin and River out to play, did some basic trick work and some massage to try to set him at ease. I ate my lunch, did my insulin and got ready for our next run.  The same dog that was there for Standard was at the start line for MC Standard. We got through the first 10 obstacles without much trouble, but he was stressed. So stressed that he bailed on the dog walk near the top of the down ramp. He blew off his a-frame contact and we walked off course, something we have only done once before.  Our day was done, something wasn’t right and I didn’t want to risk him getting hurt. His head clearly wasn’t on the game.

I still had the high blood sugar feeling and I checked the CGM again and it was right at 160. Started packing stuff up and grabbed the tester from the car. Another blood draw and the tester reads 438… WTF?!?! I looked at the monitor. 163. Do another blood draw and it comes back 441. Something went terribly wrong. Outside the fact that the monitor basically was giving me false readings since mid-morning, the insulin I did do seemed to have no response and I had been ignoring the signs my body was giving me. I quickly realized that I was Merlin’s stress.  He has alerted me in his own way a few times before I started using a CGM when my sugar were dropping. He’s woken me up in the middle of the night when my sugar has been low or high. We’ve done no formal training for this, he’s just very in tune with me and my diabetes. I ignored the signs and I trusted technology. I didn’t listen to myself when I was feeling a little off. I sat in the parking lot waiting for my sugar to return to a normal level thinking I had let my boy down. The distractions of the trial aside, this stupid f’ng disease had gotten the best of me.

Needless to say Saturday was a learning experience in so many ways. Going forward my approach to management on trial days is going to need some fine tuning. It was a stark reminder that sometimes we just need to slow down and listen to what the ‘verse is trying to tell us. As always, “Mr. Honest” Merlin was right. We just need to work on his method of alerting.

Out of all of this, I did finally come up with some direction for this site. Throw Diabetes, Health, Wellness and Dog Training into a blender and that’s what you’ve got. We all have our struggles in life and I’m hoping that some of my adventures can help inspire others. So much of what we do and what we do with our dogs as athletes goes well beyond what we think is possible.