Shivering in Alaska

Fairbanks in February is not a tourist destination. Yes, I had a nice time at the diabetes[1] expo. Led a workshop on “diabetes for couples” and gave a talk on succeeding at self-care. Sold some books, made some friends. All in all, I feel lucky to have survived.

It wasn’t the 25-below-zero weather outside that was so bad. I was only out in it for a few minutes at a time, not long enough to freeze. It’s the way the cold came through the walls of the room and chilled me to the bone. I had a cold when I got there, and at night I started shaking and piling on all my clothes and blankets trying to keep warm.

I didn’t realize I had a fever. I thought it was just the cold in the room making me shiver. Covering up probably made my temperature go much higher. In the morning, I could not walk. I couldn’t even get out of bed. With multiple sclerosis (MS), the last thing you want is to get overheated. Fevers really knock you out.

I was really scared. At this point I still didn’t know what was going on. I thought this might be a permanent change in my MS, and I would never stand up again. Fortunately, I had some 600-milligram ibuprofen with me for pain and some cold medicine containing acetaminophen. I took them for the cold symptoms.

An hour later I was able to struggle out of bed and get dressed. I got on my scooter and made it down to the lobby and got a cab to the airport. The airport personnel wheeled me onto the plane, and on the flight back, I started to feel better. By the time we reached San Francisco (11 hours later), I was pretty much back to my normal self, giving thanks the whole way.

Aisha picked me up and brought me home. I took another ibuprofen and crashed right away. At midnight, I woke up drenched in sweat. That’s when I realized this had all been about fever, and I wasn’t going to be permanently bedridden. More prayers of thanks.

Practicing What You Preach
I knew going in that taking two trips in two weeks to give three different presentations was too much. I wanted to do it; I needed the money; I cherished the opportunity; but it was too much for me. When the Louisiana invitation[2] came up, I should have canceled the Alaska trip, but I got greedy.

I think I caught some bug on the flight home from Louisiana last week and it kicked in this weekend in Alaska. But I should have expected something like that, because it was a demanding schedule.

I’m always telling people to put their bodies first, but did I watch out for my own body’s needs? I did not. Sometimes I feel hypocritical teaching others about self-care when I make mistakes like this.

Do you ever feel pushed, pulled, or called to do too much? Do you jeopardize your health for things that are important, or desirable, but not strictly necessary? My friend Alf says we all do as much as we can for as long as we can. Part of me wants to get off that treadmill and rest more, and part of me says, “Hell, no. We aren’t giving up yet.”

I mean, the talks were successful. Part of self-care is having reasons to live, and this kind of work is one of my reasons. I love doing it. I want to do more, and I’m planning to start marketing my services more aggressively. But maybe this is all crazy and not good self-care at all.

Do you have conflicts like that? If so, how do you deal with them?

Preventing Type 1
The Benaroya Research Institute had a table at the expo in Fairbanks. They do studies on preventing Type 1[3].

With funding from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), [4]American Diabetes Association (ADA), and the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), they are screening family members of people with Type 1 for antibodies to insulin and beta cells (the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas). Some of these antibodies are called GADA, IA2A, and IAA[5].

I don’t know much about them, but if you have these antibodies in your blood, you are at risk for Type 1 or for LADA[6], the adult-onset, somewhat milder version of Type 1.

The researchers want to enroll people with the threatening antibodies in a trial to determine whether using oral insulin can prevent progression to diabetes. This insulin could work by acting as a decoy, causing the antibodies to attack the drug instead of the healthy insulin-producing cells. This approach had been tried in other autoimmune diseases.

For more information on these trials and screenings, call (800) HALT-DM1 (425-8361) or visit[7].

And thank you to Stephanie Ranft and the whole staff at the Fairbanks Diabetes Center[8] for taking care of me in Alaska.

  1. diabetes:
  2. Louisiana invitation:
  3. studies on preventing Type 1:
  4. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), :
  5. GADA, IA2A, and IAA:
  6. LADA:
  8. Fairbanks Diabetes Center:

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David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 40 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years. He is the author of four books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis — Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006, Diabetes Heroes (Jim Healthy 2014), and The Inn by the Healing Path: Stories on the road to wellness (Smashwords 2015.) He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Pain-Free Living (formerly Arthritis Self-Management) magazines. His website is His blog is

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