In Sickness… or Just in Health?

In October, reader Sheri asked,


will I love when he’s being cranky [because] his [blood glucose] is too high… will I serve him when his [blood glucose] is dropping and he needs to eat NOW… will I rearrange my own needs and desires to make sure that the meal I agreed to cook for him is ready at a reasonable time?

Her post made me look at my circumstances from the other point of view: That of somebody with diabetes who is being cared for by a spouse. Will he love me when I’m cranky? Will he bring me something when my glucose is dropping? Will he arrange it so that I can eat on time?

Especially when I’m sitting on the floor, crying because my blood glucose is low — which lows have been known to cause me to do — running through my mind sometimes is: “I shouldn’t be doing this. It makes me look weak and needy. He’ll think he needs to take care of me and he won’t want to. Will he stay?”

This is my second marriage. My first husband left after three years because, after giving birth to our daughter, I hadn’t managed to lose all of my “baby fat.”

When I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, number two and I had been married for 11 years. It wasn’t too bad at first, because I basically ignored the diabetes for the next nine years. Then, after diet and exercise and oral medications had all been tried, I went on insulin.

That’s when everything changed. Diabetes kind of had its own agenda. Back then, I took Regular and NPH. Regular peaked at this time and NPH peaked at that time. You had to cover the peaks with food. You also had times that you had to eat. If you had tight control and didn’t eat on time — both snacks and meals — you went low.

Oh, yeah. You had to take Regular half an hour before you ate (fun at restaurants) and you had to eat specific amounts of carbohydrates for each meal and snack.

He hadn’t left because I gained weight. Would diabetes be the one that drove him away?

He surely wasn’t interested in learning about diabetes. I left books around. I tried talking to him. Nada. I finally took him to see my CDE to educate him a bit. She had him stick his finger. I don’t think he liked that.

As for cranky, there were plenty of those episodes. Every morning, I would get up about 5:30, dress, hop on my bicycle, and hit the road. I didn’t quite have that “exercise lowers your blood glucose” thing down very well yet, so I was forever stomping into the house madder than a rooster without a harem. It had nothing to do with low glucose: It was hot and humid; I’d ridden for several miles; my tush hurt from sitting on that seat. Etc.

But as far as my glucose level goes, I’m FINE! (If you ever hear somebody with diabetes says “I’m FINE,” get the juice. I’m serious.)

Baboo finally got to the point where he could tell I was low before I could. “How?” I asked him once. “You get cranky and you look like you could bite the head off a rattlesnake,” he responded. (Thanks, honey.)

Will he — does he — bring me something when I’m hypoglycemic? It kind of reminds of the old Beatles song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” (“will you still need me, will you still feed me…”)

The 64 in this case would be blood glucose: Anything below 70 mg/dl is considered to be hypoglycemia. I don’t know if he still needs me, but he does feed me — even going through a list of what’s in the house that might be tempting. See, I have a tendency when I’m low to think salad would be a good choice.

“Glucose tabs? Juice? Soda? Banana? Gummy bears? Pudding? Toast and jelly? Sweet pickles?”

It must be frustrating to get somebody with a low blood glucose to eat when she doesn’t know what she wants. Except maybe a plate of nice, cold salad. Hopefully with bleu cheese dressing. (Psst! Salad is not the best choice.)

Feeding me. Ah, yes. I remember one time when I ran into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed, sobbing because “I can’t do this anymore!” Translated, that meant, “I need 60 grams of carbohydrate for lunch and I don’t know what to eat.”

A little while later, there was a knock on the door, and my husband appeared with a tray holding soup, a sandwich, and I don’t remember what else. It added up to 60 grams of carbohydrate.

When my insulin regimen changed from two injections of Regular and NPH per day to multiple injections and then to an insulin pump, my eating schedule changed. It took him forEVER to get used to the idea that I could now eat at any time. He kept getting panicky when I didn’t eat at 7 AM, 10 AM, Noon, 3 PM, 7 PM, and 10PM.

The bottom line is, we’ve now passed our 38th wedding anniversary, and we’re still together. I should remember that this is the man who grabbed me and laid a big, sloppy one on me when I said I didn’t like to kiss him because I smoked. (I’ve since stopped smoking.)

But I still wonder sometimes if he’s going to leave me because I’m just too much trouble.

And Shari, your husband is probably as anxious about you as you are about him.

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  • Terri

    Okay, after reading all that I can honestly say I am tired! Lol… =) Congrats on making it to nearly forty years without killing him!

  • JohnC

    60 grams of carbohydrate ??

    I haven’t eaten a meal in a lot of years that contained that many carbs. Must be a real problem trying to meet good blood sugar levels even with a pump. Must also be a problem trying to control weight.

    That many carbohydrates puts me on a roller coaster no matter how hard I try and control it with insulin. Trying to get readings close to a normal person was very difficult in the beginning but it has become a way of life. Testing many times a day is also routine but it got rid of so many nasty problems and most certainly prevented new ones from happening. My wife seems to have developed a sixth sense on what I do. I’m pushing 70 now so I must be doing something right. On paper I don’t look like a diabetic — always say give be an hour and I’ll prove it to you. Yeah I get some good lows (not often) but I am always prepared.

    Don’t like to say it but following the so-called experts advice got me in a bad place at first.

  • Mr. Gregg

    I have been a Diabetic since 1991. I am 71 years old and have found several books that have helped me to control my disease. First, read Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. Not only will your sugar stabilize but you will lose weight without the struggle of a diet or massive exercise. I lost 21 pounds in six months just by eliminating wheat from my menu and I cut my diabetes medication by 50 %.

    Then read The Diabetes Miracle and Metabolism Miracle by Diane Kress, RD, CDE. The books will educate you about your Diabetes with an explanation about the who, what, when, where and why of Diabetes in layman terms. For once, you will be enlightened about a disease that was NEVER explained to me by my primary physician or my endocrinologist. Find out how refreshing it will be to have stable sugar results and a food menu that you can easily live with forever.

  • Sherri

    My husband was diagnosed with diabetes about 12 years ago. He started with pills and now is on insulin. He doesn’t take care of himself at all. In turn that has caused him to get a multitude of other diseases stemming from the diabetes. I think he is so overwhelmed now with everything that he has just given up. He takes a handful of meds twice per day for all of his ailments. After many years we finally went to a nutritionist and found out he could control his sugars by watching his diet and by exercising. He does neither one. All I can do is make sure he gets at least one healthy meal a day and that is dinner, which I cook after I get home from work every night. He is supposed to have no more than 45 grams of carbs per meal. I think he lives on fast food, sugary drinks and candy during the day. He also smokes cigarettes. He is in total denial and his lack of caring for himself has had a huge impact on myself and our children. I’ve come to the point that if he doesn’t care about himself, how can I care?

  • David Spero RN

    Thank you for this article, Jan. It’s important to be reminded of what families and loved ones are going through.

    Sherri, I”m sorry your husband is so self-destructive. I imagine you have told him how his lack of care makes you feel. Maybe try telling him again (without blaming, but with honest emotion.) He might come around, but you have to protect yourself and children, too.