No sugar added

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Sure. As long as you don’t add sugar.

There are several things they don’t tell you when you are unconscious in the hospital with a dozen tubes emerging from you at various unimaginable angles. These tend to be the same things that your loved ones accept without question as long as the little beeps keep beeping around you, as long as all those important numbers don’t slip towards zero.

Things such as, “If we keep doing this to her kidneys and pancreas, she’ll have diabetes forever.”

“Fine, fine,” said CF. “I’ll stick a needle in her arm every day,” she said. A noble gesture on her part, a woman who hates needles.

I do love this woman, a woman who hates needles, making this noble gesture. I honestly, fully do.

Problem is, l love sugar. I honestly, fully do.

She does too. But she also loves salt. Not me. She can switch her sweet tooth to a salt tooth and be happy. Not me. No switch.

To categorize our household treat teeth, I’d put her at 50% sugar, 50% salt; our son NF at 20% sugar, 60% salt, and 20% vinegar; and me at 90% sugar, 10% salt. NF would be higher on salt if it weren’t for the vinegar, which he pours on everything, including things with salt on them, including chips with vinegar in them, including salted chips.

Not that this is our entire diet, let me point out. Just our treat teeth diet.

She sticks a needle in my arm every day, and off to work she goes, job done, mission accomplished, smile across her face, good to go, all’s right with the world.

I sit home and try to avoid sugar.

So what would I have said if I had heard them in the hospital?

“If we keep doing this to your kidneys and pancreas, you’ll have diabetes forever.”

“You mean hardly ever eating sugar forever?”

“That’s right.”

“You mean a needle in my arm every day forever?”

“That’s right.”

“You mean constantly obsessing about my level of blood sugar forever?

“That’s right.”

“What’s the alternative?”

“You die.”


“So what do we do? Keep trying to save your life? Or give up?”

“Keep trying! Keep trying! Who needs sugar?”

Well, joke’s on me. Evidently, current guidelines actually allow people like me to eat a spoonful of sugar as long as it’s in the context of a healthy diet and does not account for more than 10% of the total calories.

Some days I admit that the spoon fills over with candy corn. But it is a vegetable. Other days I have a healthier starch and just lick the powder off the bubble gum. Not really. I just lick it off the inside of the wrappers. Not really. I just lick it off the back of the baseball cards. Not really. Just off the faces of the baseball cards. Wait a minute. Those are men. Not my type. Wasted sugar. Do-over!

Not really. Most days I have a healthy starch and stare longingly at the unhealthy sugars as they teasingly make their ways down the happy throats of the healthy youngsters around me, unaware as they are of the diabetic wretch next to them.

I laugh away their birthday cupcakes, content to wait for my own celebratory birthday blueberry pie, made lovingly with artificial sweetener by CF, or my special cheesecake, ditto. She’s become quite the expert with that fake stuff, a benefit not only to me, but also to her mother and sister, also diabetic.

CF has been diligent about shooting me every morning, never once missing the opportunity. But I must say, I came to find it annoying. She had to wake me enough to get me to unravel an arm from the blankets, which meant I usually woke up enough to actually open my eyes and see sunlight, and things went downhill from there.

So last week I told her I would take over the chore. I immediately dispensed with the little device that sticks you in the finger to measure your blood sugar level. This is the thingy all the late night ads want to send you for free if you are on Medicare (which I’m not). They all hurt like bejezus, let me tell you, no matter what the ads say.

They are designed to hide this thumbtack-like item from your eyes. Then you press this knob and the thumbtack shoots into your unsuspecting finger at the speed of light, drawing forth a single blot of blood and one thunderous bolt of pain that throbs through your entire hand and arm and body in a fiery roar that deserves to be explored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

I found that instead I could use the insulin needle itself to gently stab my finger to get the needed drop of blood for the preliminary test, resterilize it, and use it for the injection. Yeah, yeah, don’t reuse needles, but on myself, within two minutes, give me a break. Plus it doesn’t hurt.

Huh. Microsoft Word is so upset with me for doing this that it won’t recognize “resterilize” as a word! Ah, what does it know?

We’ve never made any secret of this from NF, but somehow he managed to ignore it all until this week. He saw me putting the insulin back into the refrigerator and asked what it was.

Without thinking, I joked that I would have to go to the hospital if I didn’t use it, forgetting for a moment that it was little more than a year ago that he stood over me in a hospital bed, worried I was about to die.

It was a stupid answer to an innocent question, one that I have just resolved to answer more thoughtfully at the first opportunity my 14-year-old knows-everything man-child will let me.