DIABETES AND GRIEF

** Trigger warning – this post deals with loss and contains some graphic descriptions. **

The last several weeks (and the present) have been incredibly difficult for me. A roller coaster of emotions that has left me wanting to puke. And thrown my blood sugars for an absolute loop.

I do not deal well with these fluctuations of feelings. Or glucose levels.

Like not at all.

And yet, that is all the universe seems to want to offer.

The world is in diluted chaos (or concentrated chaos) and I have paid it little to no attention because my own world shattered.

And my heart broke.

Over the years, I have lost a number of people I cared about – grandparents, friends. But this loss was different. This loss is not just palpable but physically pains me.

This week I had to say goodbye to my sweet feline fella.

The one who unquestionably saved my life on numerous occasions by alerted my husband to overnight hypos. The one who sat beside me, on the couch, and put his paw on my foot every single night. The one who was sweet as all heck but could throw side eye like a pro.

His nightly foot hugs and #kittytoetouches were something I looked forward to and counted on at the end of each and every day. I find those moments to be the ones I miss the most.

He was the absolute best.

And I miss him so much.

A Bit of Backstory

Here is an unedited excerpt (you can read the entire post here) from a post (on my other blog) about missing his birthday several years ago:

***

The Dudes’ Birthday

We have a cat. Though it could be argued that he is mine.

Over a decade ago, on a hot July day, living alone and lonely, I wandered into the SPCA and adopted my little bundle. I have previously posted about my little kitty (but I’d be damned if I could remember the post and plug the link in here…shoot!). He has saved my life. Several times. Our bond is iron-clad.

Our cat’s name is Terror. The SPCA ladies told me he was a holy terror but I ignored them and proceeded with the adoption. He has been nothing but a gem. A delight. A great friend. And, finally, he has warmed up to both the wee one and the dog. But he will never let you forget that he came first.

Occasionally, when you adopt an animal, they do not know their exact birth date. Sometimes they pick it for you. Sometimes they allow you to make the choice. During the adoption paperwork I was informed that my little kitty was likely born early in April. What day would you like the birthday to be? And I blurted out, the first. Though, at that moment, I was not sure why. Later, after a great amount of pondering, I came to the realization that it was the birth date of a beloved family dog from my teenage years.

No mind. I had my April Fools’ baby. And my constant catpanion.

And last week, he celebrated his 11th birthday. The wee one scrounged up some of his change and requested a ride to the pet store where he purchased a fancy tin of food for Dudie. Bless.

So. While the world is pranking each other or telling silly jokes on April Fools’ Day we are singing Happy Birthday and dishing out the finest cat cuisine in honour of our (my) fabulous feline.

Meow.

***

Aging Less Gracefully

Terror started having troubles around this time last year.

It turned out he had a wee infection but nothing some antibiotics couldn’t fix. And they did, those issues were rectified and other concerns were chalked up to old age.

He was nearly 17 (in human years) at that point.

Earlier this year there was a shift. He was never one to fully immerse himself in the frenzy of family life but he was never entirely absent. But we started to notice he would sleep in obscure places. Wedged in, unreachable.

His weight continued to drop and he started to struggle with digestion.

Then came the falls. Down the stairs. Mid-attempt to jump on the bed.

And the tremors.

He had moments where he would rally and we would say, “look he’s totally fine! No barfing, no shaking! He hasn’t fallen in days! OMG, he just launched himself up on the bed unaided!”

But those days started to prove fewer and farther between.

And his struggles seemed more.

Now he had moments of great confusion, hid nearly all the time, could no longer keep anything (including water), struggled with mobility, and was excreting blood.

Difficult conversations were had.

And an even harder decision was made.

The Long Goodbye

The Dudes (his nickname, not sure exactly where it came from) used to sleep in the crook of my legs every night. And he did so until he could no longer navigate getting on the bed by himself.

Sometimes he would meow and wake us so he could be lifted up, sometimes we were alerted by the sound of him falling during an attempt. Then he stopped altogether.

During his last few weeks he would wake my husband, who would lift him on to the bed, and so he could sleep above (sometimes on) my head. In the night, and the day, when he was awake, he would still alert to my lows often catching them before the CGM alarm would ring.

My husband snapped this picture, after lifting Terror up in the middle of the night, while I slept.
It was one of our last nights together.

After a particularly troubling incident last week, we contacted our vet.

I had arrived home, from driving my husband to work for an early shift, and came upon what looked like a murder scene. There was blood and feces everywhere. And no Terror to be found.

I panicked. Cleaned the mess absentmindedly and frantically searched, tearing the house apart, for my feline friend. I was unsuccessful.

He emerged from what seemed like thin air several hours later.

She, the vet, would be here in four days.

FOUR DAYS.

He got worse as the days dragged on, and I was a mess. My typical pragmatism chucked out the window.

Unfortunately, the day of, my husband would not be present (work obligations). I felt awful for him as he and Terror had been in my life nearly the same amount of time. It was a loss I know he felt almost as deeply as me.

My son, that courageous and compassionate little spirit, took the reigns. He shared a tender moment with his fur-brother (the only one of our crew to be there his entire existence) then gathered everyone else and kept them secluded in a room so Terror could pass privately.

I thought I was ready. I thought I had prepared myself over those four (long) days. But I am not sure any amount of preparation can actually prepare you for that moment.

The vet and her assistant were tremendously kind. Gentle in hand and in heart.

Terror passed away, paw in my hand, laying in his favourite spot. On his favourite couch. After gorging on treats and hissing at the vet.

It was classic Terror.

Just the right amount of sweet with a hint of asshole.

Grieving

My dearest pal made a really good point (she lost a pawed pal recently too): grief is not linear.

I have tried to keep this in mind as I navigate the ebb and flow of in range blood sugars and all over emotions. We know that stress impacts blood glucose levels, so it is only natural that roller coaster emotions would too.

The anticipation of that goodbye and the pending grief found me with higher-than-my-normal blood sugars. Then, surprisingly, almost if by magic, once the moment passed, my sugars fell effortlessly into range.

Until I ate my feelings in the form of a bag of chips and no matter how much insulin I administered could not get them back into range until the next day.

It is all still fresh.

My heart is so heavy.

When the day-to-day is happening, I am able to keep my blood glucose in check. However, I have noticed that when I succumb to the grief, when my heart is just too full it releases unexpectedly through my eyes, those blood sugars climb and climb.

Grief is a tremendously difficult thing to navigate for most. And while I have endured loss before, whilst living with Type 1 Diabetes, this loss is different.

I have lost the friend who kept me calm.

When anxiety and depression erupted, he was always there and his snuggles were the antidote. When I ignored a prospective hypo he relentlessly rubbed on my leg and mewed. When we would rough house, my son, husband and I, all I had to do was say, “NO!” and he would appeared hissing and howling, then position himself between myself and them.

We were together, he and I, for nearly 18 years.

When I had no one else in the world, I had him.

He really was mine. And I was his.

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