Posted in Personal life, Reading, Writing

While Making Other Plans

So, how are your New Year’s Resolutions doing?

There’s a reason the flurry of self-improvement articles published at the turn of the year fizzle out by February. Whatever resolutions you pledge on New Year’s Eve, by the end of January, life is likely to have got in the way, shattering your illusions of autonomy.

THIS YEAR’S EXCUSES

Diversions from my good intentions began even before Big Ben chimed in 2022. On the morning of 31 December, noticing inflammation in my jaw, I booked a GP appointment, not wanting to wait until the practice reopened on Tuesday 4 January.

Despite returning with antibiotics to treat a glandular infection, the left side of my face and left were soon reminiscent of Rudolph’s nose. For the first week of 2022, antibiotic-induced brain fog scuppered my New Year’s Resolutions, and I planned a fresh start in the second week of January.

UNINTENDED CONSQUENCES OF A TRIP TO IKEA

Then came a head injury from a close encounter with the sharp corner of my car boot, an unforeseen hazard of a trip to IKEA. Fortunately the damage proved superficial, but for the following week, pain and exhaustion put paid to vigorous movements and loud noises. No bellringing practice for me!

When metaphorically dining out on my mishaps in a private Facebook group of close friends, I was looking for laughs rather than sympathy, so I was taken aback when several chums remarked on my bad luck. A Pollyanna by nature, I’ve always thought I lead a charmed life and am grateful for every blessing.

I also think everything happens for a reason. Cancelling my social life while I recovered gave me more thinking and reading time than my hectic lifestyle normally allows. The regenerative power of lying fallow applies just as much to people as to fields.

The net result is that I abandoned my New Year’s Resolutions, instead adopting principles learned in two very different books I read during my recovery: time management guru Ryder Carroll’s The Bullet Journal Method and Vita Sackville-West’s novel All Passion Spent. (A testament to the healing power of books – more about that phenomenon In Other News below.)

  • Carroll suggests a great way to assess your life and your goals: write two versions of your own obituary, the first as if you lived the life according to others’ expectations and in the line of least resistance, and the second as if you took the road less travelled.
  • Sackville-West’s heroine only learns in her old age to be true to herself.

My new plan for 2022 is therefore to live the life I’d like to see in my obituary (although not just yet).

In the meantime, my sense of gratitude is intact. I am grateful for the NHS and for antibiotics, especially having discovered while awaiting an ambulance that before the age of antibiotics, bacterial infection was the chief cause of death in the developed world. I’m also thankful that IKEA’s cinnamon buns taste just as good even after a blow to the head.

This column first appeared in the February 2022 edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.


IN OTHER NEWS…

BBC Radio 4 Appeal for Read for Good

I was thrilled to hear that this week’s BBC Radio 4 Appeal is in aid of the fabulous children’s reading charity Read for Good (known as Readathon while I worked there from 2010 until 2013).

Read for Good harnesses the tremendous power of books and reading to make children in hospital feel better – and their parents and carers too – by providing free books and professional storytellers to every children’s hospital in the UK. Hear what a difference their work makes to families all over the country by listening to this account by the mother of teenager William during his treatment for cancer:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0014fwx

Making poorly children feel better in hospital, Read for Good takes books and storytellers into children in hospital

Justine Daniels, Read for Good’s chief executive, explains further: “We all know the power of a good story, but in hospital, for children like William, this becomes magnified. Transporting children in hospital to imaginary worlds can help them process trauma and relieve anxiety, supporting their mental health and wellbeing at the most difficult time. This BBC appeal, and the support of National Book Tokens and the Booksellers Association will help us to continue to provide comfort and escape at a time and in a place where a little distraction goes such a long way.” 

If you’d like to donate to help Read for Good provide more books and storytellers to children in hospital, you can do so now here: https://readforgood.org/radio-4-appeal/. Every donation, no matter how small, will help a poorly child escape into a story and bring joy and relief to their parents and carers.

New Charity Audiobook

You may remember that last autumn I contributed a short story, “Christmas Ginger“, to a new charity anthology called Everyday Kindness, edited by the bestselling thriller writer and philanthropist L J Ross, and published in hardback and ebook on World Kindness Day in November. Each of the 54 stories, all by different authors, were (no surprises here!) on the theme of kindness.

LJ Ross and her Dark Skies publishing company has now teamed up with audiobook specialist W F Howes to turn the anthology into an audiobook, which was launched yesterday. I was thrilled to learn that the narrator for my story is the wonderful British actress Celia Imrie.

The audiobook is now available to download and is currently topping the Audible chart of literary anthologies. Here’s the buying link: https://geni.us/EverydayKindness

photo of Celia Imrie with cover of audiobook

Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

The Seven Year Itch & Type 1 Diabetes

(A post written to mark the seventh anniversary of my daughter’s diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes)

Debbie and Laura at TIm's house
Laura doesn’t remember being without Type 1 Diabetes

Getting ready to celebrate my daughter Laura’s 11th birthday in 13 days’ time, I can’t help remembering that seven years ago on this day, I was hoping that we’d be out of hospital in time to celebrate her fourth birthday party.

What were we doing in hospital? We’d been urgently despatched by our lovely family doctor, Dr Mather. She’d alerted A&E (aka the Emergency Room) at Bristol Children’s Hospital to expect our arrival.

It was imperative that we were seen straight away to reduce the chance of Laura becoming dangerously ill.

“Are you in a fit state to drive?” Dr Mather asked. “If not, I’ll call an ambulance to blue-light you there.”

With adrenalin surging from the shock of the diagnosis, we were almost in a fit state to fly there, Superman-style, to save our baby.

All Change with Type 1 Diabetes

That was the start of a whole new way of life for us, accommodating the daily need to do things that fly in the face of maternal instinct:

  • to stick needles in in my child to deliver life-preserving insulin
  • to prick her fingers, lots of times, every day, to draw blood to test it was neither dangerously high or low

It’s a balancing act, always, 24/7, 365 days of the year. Until a cure is found, there’s never a day off, because if we stopped doing those things, she’d be dead within days. Managing Type 1 diabetes is not for the faint-hearted. But being faint-hearted is not an option.

Lucky Seven?

Laura and Debbie Young on a hill
With Laura, aged 7

Seven years feels like it should be a magic number. It’s a special anniversary when people are meant to become suddenly desirous for change or take off in new directions in search of freedom.

There’s no magic here today, except the evidence, as every day, of the wonders of modern medicine and the compassion of our NHS (National Health Service) that supplies us with the resources we need to keep Laura alive.

Another Sea Change

Laura and friend at JDRF Youth Ambassador Event
Laura hugs a JDRF mascot for luck

When Laura was diagnosed, we were just getting ready for her to move up from playgroup to school. That’s enough change to challenge any family without the complication of serious illness, but hey, when it’s your kid, you deal with it.

Now she’s poised to move up to secondary school. Next week, as her final fling at the village school, she’ll be doing her SATS exams – the tests that the government imposes on every child in Britain at this stage. The school has been preparing the children for SATS since January, and the stress of SATS is bad enough for children (and parents!) who don’t have special health care needs.

But for Laura, she’ll have the added challenge of taking exams while trying to keep her blood sugar level. Stress can have two effects on a diabetic – it can send them very high or very low. Either state is not ideal for sitting exams – it can make you feel faint, drunk, angry, scared, tearful. Or it might have no effect at all. Trouble is, you don’t know how it will affect you till you’re there.

The supposed treat of a class breakfast in school at the start of each examination day adds further complexity. Moving away from her normal breakfast routine adds risk: if we miscalculate her insulin dose to deal with whatever she chooses there for breakfast, it could scupper her blood sugar for during the exam. But we don’t want to stop her from going to the breakfast, because it’s important for her emotional and psychological well-being not to feel different from her classmates – another potential source of distress.

Laid-Back Laura

Laura head and shoulders
Calm as ever

Fortunately Laura is the most laid-back person I know.

“I’m not worried about SATS,” she assured me yesterday. “I think doing tests is quite fun.”

She’ll be fine, I’m sure. She’s bright, she’s thorough, she has a strong  work ethic. She’s not spending the weekend worrying about her SATS – she’s completely absorbed in setting up a Eurovision Song Contest final for her cuddly toys.

Yes, she’s doing fine. But I still wish we could ditch the diabetes, seven years on.

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"
Click cover for more info

In November, I’ll be launching a paperback of the ebook I published last World Diabetes Day, to raise funds to search for a cure. All proceeds are going to JDRF, the leading charitable funder of Type 1 diabetes research. If you’d like to read the e-book in the meantime, it’s available exclusively via Amazon on Kindle for now, wherever you are in the world. (More info here.) If you’d like to be alerted via email when the paperback is available, please sign up for my mailing list here.