Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Never-Ending Battle

It’s bad enough having to do battle with some young hotshot who drools all over himself at the thought of shooting me into a coma, but, for me, there’s always another foe, lingering in the background, waiting to do me in. Diabetes.

Let me say this, when I lose, and I do more often than I like, I’m not the kind of guy who rattles off a litany of excuses. Usually, when I lose it’s because I play bad and that’s that. Privately, though, I know that my glucose level is often to blame.

Generally, I eat three meals a day with a snack in the early evening. Before meals, I check my glucose level and, then, based on that number and the meal I plan to eat, figure out how much insulin I have to take.

Of course, my main concern as a diabetic is not my pool game, it’s my long-term health. Uncontrolled, diabetes could cause me a multitude of problems including kidneys, nerves, eyes and vision, and the risk of heart disease. In fact, diabetes increases the risk of having a heart attack as much as smoking.

Still, there has to be something more to life beyond managing one’s diabetes. For me, it’s pool. Normally, I’ll eat my dinner around 4 PM. Within four hours, the fast acting insulin I take with dinner will bring my sugar down to a point where I need to eat again or suffer from low blood sugar. To prevent that, I take a snack around 7 PM or earlier if I’m going out to play pool. I don’t want too much of a snack, measured in carbs, so that my glucose level will soar and remain high all night. Nor do I want too small of a snack which would cause my glucose level to dip too low. Low sugar literally destroys my pool game. Here are some of the symptoms of low sugar (hypoglycemia):

• decreased physical performance
• variable mood
• paleness
• tremor
• headache
• sweat
• poor vision
• fatigue
• hunger
• dizziness

Try playing pool behind that.

I used to meet a guy up at Capone’s in the afternoon and we’d play three or four cheap sets before I had to bow out and head home for my next meal and shot of insulin. Most days, by the second set I could feel my sugar dropping to undesirable levels so I’d start popping glucose tabs like crazy. Of course, by the time they kicked in it was too late to save the match. I’d often win the first two sets, but never the third. I got sick of it and quit playing the guy. Now, when I go to the pool room in the afternoon, I play about an hour then head home.

My night play is similarly affected. Some nights when I’m playing in league, I shake so bad I can barely hit the cue ball. My teammates are counting on me, and I can’t make a shot. I can’t stand it. Yes, I’m the individual point leader in both leagues I’m playing in, but that doesn’t console me. I lose too many games that I shouldn’t. I’m close to dropping out.

Sorry for the whine. I know there are people out there with real problems.

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