Friday, June 8, 2012

Making Your (Diabetes) Life Better

Back in November, I got an email from a person in marketing at Random House about Chuck Eichten's "The Book of Better: Life With Diabetes Can't Be Perfect. Make It Better." He said he'd like to send me a review copy to check out in hopes of getting the word out about it in the diabetes community after coming across my blog. Needless to say, I was thrilled...Not only do I LOVE books; I also love learning more about how I can make living with this disease a little easier. I was also amazed and honored to know there are actually people out there reading what I write! When I started this blog in November 2010 (a couple of short months after my diagnosis), I did so for some much-needed catharsis...I just wanted to let it all out, regardless of if anyone ended up reading it or not. I figured that if they did, maybe I could help someone else as other d-bloggers have helped me, because it always helps to know that you're not alone in dealing with everything that comes with T1.

Anyway, I promised him I'd read the book as soon as possible, but that since I was pregnant with our first child and dealing with the whole diabetes + pregnancy whirlwind, it would probably be a while before I'd be able to. Fast-forward seven months later, and I was finally able to finish it! It was a fast, easy read; it just took a while to get through it reading it in five-minute chunks while the baby slept (which wasn't very often in the first couple of months!).

The thing that stands out the most about this book is its approach to diabetes. Most books on the subject come off as very clinical--they're straightforward and informative, but dry and impersonal. This book is neither of those things, but still manages to be direct and educational. Not only that; it's filled with funny cartoons, charts, and interesting text, so it easily keeps your attention. Its tone is conversational, so it feels like Mr. Eichten (who has lived with T1 for over 35 years) is standing face-to-face with you, telling you about the ups and downs he's experienced firsthand with the disease. He somehow simultaneously remains nonjudgmental and still holds you accountable for managing your illness, which makes you take him seriously...and since he's been through it all, it's easy to take his advice.

This book covers almost every aspect of diabetes, from its most basic facts to dealing with its toll (physical, mental, and emotional) on your everyday life. At 288 pages, it's much shorter than most other books on the subject while still managing to be fairly comprehensive in its breadth. Each of the 12 chapters deals with a specific aspect of diabetes management, from diet and exercise to treatment options. Eichten makes it no secret that he believes the insulin pump is the superior choice for managing T1 and for some T2s, which I like. It would be very hard to argue that the pump is not the best, most technologically advanced option for dealing with this disease for the people who fit the bill for using it (because let's face it, some people just aren't cut out for dealing with a pump).

On first read, I was more than a little irritated by Eichten's portrayal of T2 as something that can "go away" (see lengthy discussion on that here); however, when I read over it again, I realized he said that through losing weight, you can make the symptoms of T2 go away. Important distinction there, because as many of us have discussed over and over again in the d-community, there is no cure for diabetes, no matter which type you're talking about. We all have to answer to the general public so often when they inform us of the "new miracle cure(s)" they heard of for diabetes, so anything that remotely reads as reference to "weight loss as a diabetes cure" immediately puts me on edge. Maybe it's because of the time that I had a stranger tell me at a restaurant that "they've found a cure for that"...the "cure" she was referring to? Gastric bypass surgery.  Yes, despite the fact that I was already at a healthy weight, gastric bypass would make my diabetes go away. It's so hard to explain to people that no, that won't make my pancreas function; that they're probably referring to Type 2, in which case it's still not "cured" my eyes at least, symptom-free (for the present at least) does not equal "cured." It may be a battle of semantics, but it's important to me. Why? Because the impression that there's already a cure out there hurts diabetes research funding that could lead to a real cure!

That little glitch aside (and really, I'm not sure I can even call it a glitch since I misread it), I think this book is pretty great, if for no other reason than the fact that it motivates you to shoot for better-not perfection. Often, we feel like other people (doctors, family, friends, etc.) expect perfection from us when it comes to managing our disease...or if you're like me, that pressure can also come from yourself. When we try to hold ourselves to such an impossible standard and inevitably end up falling short, it's hard to stay motivated to keep trying...and often, we end up throwing in the towel completely after trying so hard (and failing) to be perfect. If instead we just try to better ourselves-by any amount-we can benefit from a sense of accomplishment that leads us to keep striving for better. It's hard to see how anything bad could come from this approach, especially because it's one that sets you up for sure success instead of the inevitable failure of expecting perfection from yourself!

Bottom line, I love the message of this book. I can see it being extremely helpful for anyone who is in a D-rut, lacking motivation to manage their disease effectively. As the marketing person who sent me the book said, there's something in it for everyone-T1, T2; young, old; newly diagnosed or someone who has lived with the disease for decades. I'd recommend it to anyone as a quick, easy read that's entertaining in spite of being about a disease that's not funny in the least!


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