CAPTION: Just to the right of the rooster's head you'll see my insulin pump clipped to my belt.
I am a bird hunter first. I am a diabetic second.
My doctor, my mom and my wife may disagree with that order, but that’s my reality.
I didn’t know jack about diabetes before I was diagnosed with adult onset juvenile diabetes at the tender age of 26, but it’s one of those diseases that takes over your entire existence, so you learn quick. You have to. From doing a radio interview to going out on my fishing boat, diabetes has added a wild card to every activity in my life; especially bird hunting.
My form of diabetes, Type 1, is the insulin-dependent kind. You may be more familiar with Type 2 diabetes which develops in folks that are a little older, a little over-weight and a little less physically active. Type 1, on the other hand, is the old school needle-carrying form.
At this moment, your blood sugar is probably about 84. That’s considered normal thanks to your healthy and functioning pancreas releasing insulin to manage your blood’s glucose level. My blood sugar, on the other hand, has been as low as 28 and as high as 584. At this moment, the insulin pump monitoring my blood sugar level reads 212.
When I have low blood sugar, I feel weak, disoriented and starved. When I have high blood sugar, I am agitated and also have difficulty thinking clearly. Lows in the middle of the night that wake me out of a deep sleep are the absolute worst. Not only do I binge eat to get my sugar back up, it’s virtually impossible not to over-eat, so my blood sugar jumps super high. It just flat out makes me feel awful for the entire next day. The goal is to get my blood sugar as close to normal as yours with the combination of monitoring my carbohydrate intake, taking insulin injections, exercising, limiting alcohol intake and managing stress. On paper it seems relatively easy. In reality, it’s a crap shoot with every decision I make throughout the day.
As a diabetic constantly monitoring my body’s reaction to food and activity, I can tell you without a single doubt that bird hunting is the most physically demanding activity I participate in throughout the year and that is compared to 5-mile runs, lifting weights or chopping firewood. Now I’m not talking pheasant hunting on the groomed paths and corn rows of a game farm. I’m talking cattail busting. I’m talking about walking through a field of chest-high prairie grasses pulling at your legs like “Night of the Living Zombies.” Forget about P90X, take up pheasant hunting instead.
Give me a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a glass of lemonade. On a normal day, that meal might put me into a blood sugar overdose, but send me out into a snowy cattail slough in mid-December and I’ll be sucking down Gatorade an hour later to push my blood sugar back up to normal just so I have enough energy to make it back to the truck before I pass out.
The moral of my story is we’ve all got crosses to bear in life. Mine is diabetes. Diabetes will likely be what kills me, but I’ll be damned if diabetes is going to be what defines me.
I am a bird hunter.
Bob St.Pierre is Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.