Fury: The Battle with diabetes

Guest Post from Dave Barnes 

I saw a movie recently called, Fury. It’s about a tank crew blasting their way through Nazi Germany. It shows the crew stuffed inside, tasked to do no end of jobs to keep the tank moving, to keep the guns primed for action and to keep themselves alive.

What we do as diabetics on the outside can be seen as glorious feats. Running a marathon, Deb, completing a triathlon, Gary, playing 18 holes of golf, Sally. Some of us are just stoked to get out on the bike and see where it takes us, Cath. Whatever great sporting challenge we engage in, the tank just keeps pushing through until we succeed or we fail.

It’s what happens within the tank where the real action is taking place. Humour me, I want you to think like a tank.

The Brad Pitt within us, our brain as the tank commander, has to oversee  1,000 decisions to keep the machine not just moving forward but winning, excelling, completing the race. It’s hard being a leader of your diabetes, decisions are constant, they are asked of us 24/7. The enemy never sleeps.

This morning I checked my tank. I fed it right, I tested it with a blood glucose machine, I drank lots of water to fuel it for action. Most importantly, I touched base with the crew; I touched base with adrenalin and gave it some calming words so it would not spike my blood sugars later in the day. I spoke to my gunner, the gunner within me that was ‘gunna’ eat regularly on the bike, ‘gunna’ test at the half way point of the ride and at the conclusion before picking up my kids. I was sure my gunner was going to shoot straight and keep me within reasonable eating and safe running zones for the diabetes. I patted down every pocket I had to make sure I carried the ammunition required to fight off those Hypo Storm Troopers.

Next thing I did was that I checked my tank cabin for mess. What was going to get in the way when I was seeking the best out of my tank? I found that I had a high blood sugar at breakfast and I kept watch of that during the morning prep for a run. I knew that I could get into a mess if I had too much insulin pumping through my engine and weakening my ability to fight fatigue on the run and later on the bike.

When I arrived at the battle ground and met with my fellow comrades for a 16k run I eyed over my tank, checked I had ammunition for any particular battles (spare jelly beans and a chocolate bar). I reviewed my tool box and temp basal led to 5 percent. Then, when my mind was clear and my crew was right, I spat on the ground and stared down the road ahead ready for action. Before too long my tank was grumbling forwards with intent.

Today the battle went well. My tracks did not fall off and the crew of my tank (heart, lungs, blood sugar, head) worked in unison to deliver 16K’s at 5 minute pace per KM. It was a battle plan delivered clinically. No diabetic Nazis were able to touch me whilst on the road today. If I saw the little suckers I gunned them down before they had time to whisper ‘Dixie’. I upped the pace and worked the legs.

Things were different a bit later. When I got home my tank was messed up. I had pushed my engine to its hilt, I had worked my crew to a high level, and they were heavy and tired. My brain gave me glazed eyes and I had bled my tank dry, stressing my engine some more and dehydrating my systems.

I found that in response my blood sugars were affected by the battle more than I anticipated, and the trauma I had been through was making itself felt in ways other than direct fear or a DNF. It was my tank commander telling its crew it had problems. It’s a bit like what is commonly known to soldiers as ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’. The similarity is the way a diabetic often has delayed highs or lows (who knows why it goes) well after the physical activity. However, the tank commander did not do this overtly, as the tank leader was exhausted. The Diabetic Nazis had come through my back door, through high blood sugars that sneak up and affect the tank crew long after the battle. I hate Nazis.

I treated the Diabetic PTSD with some sleep, some insulin and some calm. Regardless, when I felt my head and tank were right again, I looked forward to the next battle, a 50k ride through harsh country that my tank would find difficult.

So it started all over again. Check in with the crew, clean up the cabin, look for any loose bits, and check that ‘dangerous goods’ are battened down; make sure I have the correct ammunition so that when those sick, ugly, goddam Diabetic Nazis showed their faces once again, my tank, with all its fury, would be ready to kick its ass.

I hate Nazis but I love the battle. I care for my tank and I discipline my team. I need to. Without it, the enemy will find me easy pickings. We are ready to face what the diabetes throws at us, on whatever field of fire we find ourselves in, be that an ironman race, a fun run, a group cycle or an open water swim.

Our body is not just flesh. In Fury, the tank was not just a war fighting piece of metal. In Fury, the Tank was their home and their job. So we have a job to care for our bodies and that means being aware of the enemy at the gates, diabetes.

Old soldiers have often said, “Know thy enemy.” Knowing your enemy gives you knowledge to fight it. With care and with mission we can turn our bucket of bones into a tank of great power. If we stay alert to the dangers our tank will take us far and not be obstructed by diabetes or its complications.

Whatever your sport, whatever your challenge, it is with diabetes. Fight boldly sure, but fight smart; and your tank will become more than a machine, it will become your home.

War is Tough. If you do get hammered, remember, you are a part of a Hypoactive Army and we have your back.