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The Dark Ages of Yesternow

© 2013 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

My friend Kelly Kunik often refers to the time before glucose meters, rapid acting insulins and insulin pumps as the Diabetic Dark Ages.  And while, for most of us in the developed world at least, those days are long gone there still seems one particular standard of care that brings these Dark Ages back.

Back in those not-so golden days… well… wait a second there was a lot of golden stuff around. Seriously, back in the day we used to test our, hopefully, golden urine to see how our blood glucose levels were. 2 or 3 hours ago. As an aside, if our urine was clear, it probably meant there was a lot of sugar in that test sample.

Yes, 2 to 3 hours ago. that’s a lot like driving by looking the in rear view mirror.

Now if I change that timescale from hours to months, you can probably guess what test I’m talking about. Yep, the A1c.

Mention the word A1c to a diabetic and its a little like the scene from Lion King where the hyena goes “Ohhhh… that gave me a chill! Say it again!”We are often judged based on that number, not only by our health team but by ourselves as well.  And really it is only a rough approximation of what has happened to our glucose levels over the last three months.

And realistically, the only judgement that truly matters in this regard is the one we put upon ourselves.

That single number cannot take life events into account.  The illness that lasted for a couple of months, the stress of sudden changes in our lives (job, home, family, loss). There is no way it can truly show the amount of effort you put into that number.  It can’t show how a lot of days these last couple of months have simply been “I’ve done good enough” today. It can’t understand the burnout we can experience and how that burnout can sometimes last quite a while.

And this test is the gold standard in measuring our diabetes management. The A1c results themselves are not a problem.  They may, however, be a symptom of one.  So we can’t completely ignore them but at the same time we seem to constantly struggle with putting them in the right context.  As normally perceived, they are the major cause of that  dreaded “non-compliant” entry on our medical record.

We never seem to see the other side of that non-compliance stain which is that everyday life is a huge factor, that we  never seem to consider that the treatment regimen is wrong. We set our goals of having a “great” A1c.

And if we have some “bad” magical number, we put all the blame solely on our own worthless selves.

We are not worthless. We are more than that number, more than any number. We are more than some “label” in some record.

If we cannot change that perspective, the Diabetes Dark Ages will last for an eternity and it is on us to change it.

© 2013 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

  • Susan

    So sadly true, Scott! I am dreading finding out my latest number because I know it won’t be as good as usual. Illness/stress=some funky numbers I can do nothing about, although I KNOW I will be judged anyway. It’s so frustrating and depressing! Thanks for writing this piece today. I needed to read it.

  • Melissa Lee


  • Sarah Jane

    Yep my A1C was 8.1 and my chart said “uncontrolled.” It sure took a lot of work to not control. 🙁

  • Kelly / Diabetes

    I agree with what your saying 1000% – there are so many liife variables that go into our a1c that we have absolutely no control over.
    And yes, we are more than our numbers – And we are resilient!
    Thanks for the shoutout & Xo
    Kelly K

  • scully

    I always take that number too personally. I don’t know how to stop blaming myself.