It's Never Just a Soda

A couple weeks ago I was running all about town running errands. After my last stop (the grocery store, bleh) I finally sat down in the front seat of my car with a heavy sigh. It had been a long day and I was finally ready to head home. I had brought a water bottle with me since I knew I was going to be out for a good long while, but, sadly I had already finished its contents and I was thirsty again. It was approaching mid-afternoon and I hadn't checked my blood sugar in a couple hours. Well, lets be honest, I was too busy to give it a second thought. It was WAY too high at around 300. After being able to sit for a few minutes I realized that the encroaching headache now made sense. The dryness in my mouth and my thirst now made sense. I had stopped twice to pee during my shopping; that now made sense too. It was because diabetes was winning that afternoon and I had been too busy to notice.

While being 300 is by no means a good thing, I try not to be too hard on myself when i know it won't do any good. My fellow T1D's will understand this. I corrected with the amount my insulin pump suggested and started up the car for the trek home. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed, throw a wet, cool washcloth over my head to subside the ever growing throbbing in my temples and take a nap. I try not to do it too often, but on occasion, I will take some ibuprofen at the start of a high blood sugar headache because they can sometimes turn into migraines and I sensed that was happening this time. I have long since learned to be prepared for whatever situation comes my way and I usually will have a stash of pain killers in my purse for just such an occasion. But, yet, I didn't have any liquid to wash the pills down with and I'm unfortunately not skilled enough to swallow them without some type of liquid.

Just then, ahead on the right, a Jack in the Box sign caught the corner of my eye and I made a snap decision to grab a diet soda. My all time favorite beverage is Diet Dr. Pepper and I rarely allow myself to have it because I'm majorly addicted. If it's in my house I literally will drink can after can and the whole entire day will go by without me drinking a sip of water. Which fast food joint has Diet Dr. Pepper? You guessed it - Jack in the Box!

I pulled up to the intercom already being able to taste it's delicious coolness on my tongue. For those of you who are not diabetic, let me fill you in on a little tidbit, when a person's blood sugar is super high then they are THIRSTY! I'm talking like you've-walked-the-length-of-death-valley-without-water kind of thirsty. With so much excess sugar in your bloodstream your body's natural response is to increase your thirst so you drink liquid to wash out the excess sugar. While it takes forever to do it that way, it can help get your blood sugar down faster in conjunction with insulin. So, let's just say I definitely was feeling the thirst, and, while a diet soda isn't the best option, I didn't really care at that moment. I just wanted something delicious, cold, and wet.

"Welcome to Jack In the Box," the box crackled to me as I pulled up. "What can I get for you?"

"I would love a large Diet Dr. Pepper," I said. I could hear chattering on the other end back to me, and when my order didn't appear on the screen, I knew the employee hadn't heard what I'd said.

"You said a Diet Dr. Pepper or regular?" the voice chimed back.

"Diet please," I said back, all the while making sure to enunciate my words. "I'm diabetic so it's important that it's a diet." I didn't want him to feel bad, but at the same time, I really needed something that didn't have any sugar, or carbohydrates in it because that would just make my blood sugar rise even higher than it already was. (Click Here if you need more information about how diabetes effects the human body.)

"No problem, see you at the window."

Let me tell you, I couldn't get ahold of that drink fast enough. I was parched. I sucked down a quarter of the cup (along with the ibuprofen) and was well on my way home before I decided to take another sip. That time, it tasted a little funky, but I shrugged it off. It was helping with my extreme thirst and it was tiding me over till I could get home and drink some more water.

Over half of the cup had made its way down my throat by the time I got home, and while I reached for the receipt to take inside to throw away I noticed that it was listed as a Dr. Pepper not a DIET Dr. Pepper on the tiny slip of paper.

Oh Crap. I took another little sip. Yup, that's why it tasted weird a bit ago. It was a regular soda, not a diet soda like I had asked. It had been a good twenty minutes since I had started drinking and after checking my blood sugar again the soda diagnosis was confirmed as my blood sugar was now a whopping 524. Sigh. It now would be hours before I was back to where I needed to be.

A few days later I was chatting with a friend (who's not diabetic) and I relayed the story to her. I must have been blathering on because after communicating my annoyance over the inability to get one simple little detail right, she cocked her head and said "what's the big deal, it's just a soda."

Here's the deal, its not just a soda to a diabetic. Because the soda stacked a bunch of unnecessary sugar into my system at a very inopportune time the rest of the day was ruined for me. My blood sugar continued to stay high for the rest of the evening. Then, because of my trying to get it down I took too much insulin which resulted in my blood sugar plummeting dangerously low during the night causing me to wake up in a cold sweat. You know what happened next? A cereal binge fest at 2am because my self control is zilch when my blood sugar is too low. At that point all I can think about was shoving food into my mouth to get my body back to normal. I'm talking I shove such huge bites of honey nut cheerios in that the roof of my mouth is raw the next morning from all the cheerios scraping against it as I chew. The next morning, I was back up at 300 again....it was over 24 hours of fighting to get back "in control."

For a non-diabetic a normal blood sugar level is somewhere between 80 and 120. I try as hard as I can, but my reading is rarely in "normal" range. People judge me all the time - they tell me to be healthy, not to eat sugar, and I'll be fine. I wish it was that simple. What people don't realize or understand that "eating healthy" does the same thing to my blood sugar as eating sugar. My blood sugar does the same thing whether I eat an apple or a donut; a piece of the healthiest bread ever made or a candy bar. It's all the same. My blood sugar will still fluctuate, it'll still be out of range, it'll still throw me off even I do everything in my power to control it.

Out of curiosity I used my glucometer (a tool that analyses a drop of blood to check how much sugar is present in the blood stream) to check the soda. My glucometer doesn't ready anything past 600; once it passes that number all my meter tells me is my blood sugar is "Hi." That should give you an idea of just how much sugar is present in a Dr. Pepper.

Its discouraging to have others tell me how to live my life and judge me for the decisions that I make; and yet that is a part of my daily life and I've had to learn how to deal with it. Did you know that a diabetic can die from complications? It may sound dramatic but type 1 diabetics live in the constant fear that their life will suddenly end if their blood sugar drifts too low and their body shuts down. I live my life asking myself "what will this do to my blood sugar?" I base my daily decisions off of that. I never see a plate of food, but instead, I see carbohydrates and a this frustratingly constant math equation that I have just as much chance of getting wrong than I do right. So, don't tell me it's just a soda because its so much more than that to me.


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