Monthly Archives: January 2014


Hakuba 47 in Nagano prefecture. Mid-morning, last Saturday. All around me was soft, relatively new snow. The sky was blue with puffs of white clouds in the distance. The air was crisp as a light breeze gently wafted across the piste. The sun was out, tenderly warming my face in the cold surroundings. It was quiet but for the sound of skis and snow boards going past me.

Selfie in Hakuba Goryu

Author before being frozen

It sounds like a perfect skiing moment but at the precise instant when I cursorily noticed all these wonderful things, I was motionless, overwhelmed with fear, at the side of a ski run on what would have been an ideal ski morning. I knew from experience that I was having a panic attack.

What caused me to panic?

I do not know.

By the time I arrived at that spot, my husband and I had already skied a few runs. We decided to take a break at our regular café at the bottom of Hakuba 47. To reach the café, we skied down a red run (similar to a blue square in the US), which I’ve done several times before.

When I started down this run, I had no problem at all. The snow conditions were nothing short of fantastic. But close to the end of the run, I skied into the mountain and stopped at the rightmost edge of the slope. That’s where I remained for the next several long and agonizing minutes. For no reason that I was consciously aware of, dread descended upon me without warning and held me in place. I was rooted to the spot and could not get myself to move.

“Am I having a low?”

My first thought was that my blood glucose plunged, a thought I quickly dismissed. Although it was conceivable that I may have been having a hypoglycemic episode, everything told me that the likelihood was minimal. I am only on a relatively low dose of metformin, which as far as I know doesn’t cause one’s blood glucose to take a nose dive. I had eaten breakfast and had no alcohol (alcohol comes after skiing). I had not been skiing long that morning which could have theoretically used up all my available blood sugar. I was not experiencing disorientation, light headedness, blurry vision, dizziness or other symptoms associated with hypoglycemia. Anyway, much as I intensely detest diabetes, it is not the cause of all my problems. Diabetes had nothing to do with it.

From experience on black runs and moguls, I knew I was having a panic attack. Knowing, however, did not ease the anxiety. I was still rooted to that one spot.

Nothing precipitated it. I didn’t fall on that slope. I did not have a near collision with anyone. I was having fun and was looking forward to coffee. The café was literally just a couple of minutes away.

My husband, who was on the opposite side of the run, became alarmed and skied over to me.

He:         What’s wrong?

Me:        I’m terrified.

He:         Of what?

Me:        I do not know. [Then after a few seconds] I’m afraid of the sound of the boards and skis.

He:         Why?

Me:        I do not know.

He:         There’s no one behind you now.

Me:        I’m scared of the sound of my skis.

Shshshishshsh. Shshshishshsh. Shshshishshsh. The sounds seem to come from all around me. Even the sounds coming from my skis when I tried to move frightened me. And I did not, still do not, know why.

I can understand why I previously froze on steep black runs and nasty moguls. But the slope I was on was neither. In fact, all my favorite conditions were on that slope that morning. It was not that steep. That portion of the run was short, so I could have rested at the bottom before proceeding to the final section. It was wide so there was no fear of skiing off the edge or bumping into anyone. The snow was packed, and the surface was slightly icy but not a shiny, slippery big block of ice. The surface resembled a matte finish on a photograph (as opposed to a glossy finish). I prefer this type of slope because I edge more and therefore feel that I’m in control. Thus, there was no reason for me to freeze like a deer caught in the headlights.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I moved. I had little choice. I had to come down at some point. Walking down in ski boots is almost impossible. I could have skied down on my butt but I’ve done this several years before down a black run, and I had no desire to repeat that humiliating scene. The only viable option was to ski.

The whole time I stood there until I finally moved, I was giving myself a much needed pep talk. I’ve done this many times before. Look at that kid zoom by. I know how to ski, I know how to turn, and I know how to stop. I know how to fall and I know how to get up. I know how to ski. The café is just a few meters away. I can get down this slope and rest at that flat surface. I know how to ski. Over and over again, until I finally got tired of my monologue. My husband echoed much of what I told myself but he knew enough not to overdo it.

After our coffee break, my husband quietly asked if I wanted to do the run again. A flicker of hesitation appeared but I quickly swatted it away. Gotta get back on that horse quickly. This second time I zoomed down with no problem whatsoever.

I’ve spent the past few days analyzing what triggered that panic attack. I thought I had my confidence back after our trip to Hokkaido. Clearly, I was mistaken. My husband says that it’s just a simple case of self-preservation, that at the back of my mind I haven’t fully mentally recovered from breaking my leg on an icy surface. He’s probably right. Over time, I should get over the trauma of a broken leg.

I hope he’s right. He usually is.


Photographers who happen to be diabetic

I recently participated in a 24-hour photography project with fellow members of Diabetesforums.  It was organized by a wonderful photographer, davef, from Ireland. The day selected was January 5, 2014. Each participant was tasked to take at least one photograph during a one-hour slot in a 24-hour GMT or UTC day. 

The photos may be seen here. Please visit.

River scene

River scene

I’m so proud of my fellow diabetics or PWDs who took wonderful photographs. Thanks guys and gals for sharing your time and photos.

First ski trip 2014

My husband and I are back after a few days of skiing in Hokkaido. Things did not go as well as we had planned.

Good things first. The snow was excellent. It was snowing when we arrived, and every night until early morning and for a couple of afternoons during our stay. We were thus assured of wonderful powder snow. Guests and the staff at Club Med where we stayed, however, mentioned that snow condition had not been good until a couple of days before we arrived. In fact, even on the day of our arrival, some runs were still closed for lack of snow. But conditions improved when we were there. Weren’t we lucky? The sun was out on most mornings, and there was plenty of fresh snow the entire time we were there. Nothing beats fresh snow and sunny clear sky. Thus, I had a great time skiing for the whole of our trip. Notice that I said “I” and not “we”.

To add to the fun, a couple of snow-boarder friends who just moved to Hokkaido in December drove up to where we were. They stayed at a sheep farm with a B&B called Yorkshire Farm, but joined us for dinner at Club Med for a couple of nights. It was good to see them and party with them après-ski. Too bad, we did not get the chance to spend time with them in the snow.

One really good thing to come out of the trip was that I got my confidence back. My private lesson helped a lot. When I started that first ski morning, I was unsure. I was worried about breaking a part of my body again; I was adjusting to my new ski boots; and it was my first ski day of the season. But my instructor Bruno was patient and did just enough to get me going. By the end of the lesson, I had gotten over my fear of falling. In fact, I fell a few times during the entire trip, including a rather hard one during a really fast run. Thankfully, the snow was soft and I was wearing a helmet. It may sound odd, but falling down a few times was what I needed to reacquire my confidence in skiing. Each time I fell, got up and felt fine, I knew that not every fall will break my bones. This is not to say that I was not careful. Quite the opposite. Like any serious sports person, I am aware of the risks and do what I can to avoid injury to myself and to others.

Speaking of helmets, I know a lot of skiers and boarders out there do not like to wear helmets, but I encourage everyone to wear one. When you bang your head hard on the snow or when another person’s ski or board hits your head, you will be grateful for your head protection.  Helmets also protect your ears from the cold. Plus, they are now light and as my hubby, who is a new helmet wearer, observed, the helmet is so light that he hardly noticed the difference. Alright, that’s it for my ski safety endorsement for today.

One other good thing. I would like to mention that I’ve actually met, on the mountain, a snowboarder whom I liked. Let me clarify that statement. I like some snowboarders, all of whom happen to be my friends. But, I am not particularly fond of snowboarders especially the ones I see on the Nagano ski resorts, mainly because they love to sit in the middle of slopes (even the narrow ones) for no obvious reason other than to rest or wait for friends. Why they don’t move to the side is something that baffles me. But, in Sahoro, I met this lovely Japanese snowboarder on an empty slope on a snowy afternoon where visibility was really low.


Snowy afternoon

I fell and she stopped to asked how I was. After I stood up, she boarded a few feet down but stopped to wave to get my attention. She then shouted that I should ski on the left part of the run because it was less boko-boko or bumpy. Before she took off, she shouted at what sounded like the top of her voice for me to enjoy the rest of my afternoon. Ain’t that lovely?

Now, the not-so-good-news. On the second morning of our trip, hubby took a group ski lesson  to go through the trees in deep powder snow. On their way to the gondola, even before the actual lesson, he had a nasty fall where he landed on hard-packed snow on his stomach. He continued with the lesson only to fall again a couple of more times, this time in deep snow. At least he was smart enough to know that he needed to stop.

When I met him at lunch, he was hurting. Although he landed on his abdomen, he complained that his kidneys hurt. But he thought that his body was just shaken up and that he would be fine in the afternoon or the next day. But when he passed blood with his first pee after falling, we both became worried. Not a good sign at all. (After some research, I found out that (1) abdominal trauma may lead to renal trauma, and (2) ski accidents may cause renal trauma.)

Club Med quickly found us a hospital with emergency staff we could go to and arranged for a taxi. I’m glad we were staying at Club Med and not somewhere else (Thanks to Ryan and his entire team, especially Bruno). We called up our friend who is a doctor and he concurred that we should visit the hospital. But before the taxi arrived, hubby visited the toilet again and that time his pee was clear with no visible trace of blood at all. We called up our friend again who then surmised that the trauma was not severe, that all that hubby needed was rest, and that we can wait until we got back to Tokyo for a CT scan. Hence, we cancelled the hospital trip.

Hubby knew enough to hang up his skis for the afternoon, even if he didn’t want to. He was aching enough to be dissuaded from doing something as foolish as getting back on his skis. I also had to promise to ski and not stay at the club to fuss over him. I reluctantly went, and I was glad I did. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late to join our friends (mobile signal at the mountain was patchy). On hindsight, it was just as well. I needed to be alone. But I was glad our friends joined us for dinner that evening as their bubbly presence helped hubby deal with his forced rest from skiing.

The next morning, our last day in Hokkaido, hubby did not need much convincing that he was in no condition to ski, which was such a shame because that was the best time on the mountain. Even in the afternoon of the previous day, when it was snowing lightly, certain parts of the mountain were either icy or bald. But the continuous snowing the night before deposited enough snow to make the next day a brilliant ski day, and the sun was out. A sunny day and plenty of new snow is the best combination any skier can ask for.

Powder snow

Powder snow

Some parts of the mountain had fast snow so much so that I had a rather nasty tumble on a really, really fast run.

Even with the great condition, I initially needed convincing to go out. But hubby reminded me that it made no sense for both of us to stay indoors and moan. Just as I would have hated it if he had stayed inside after I broke my leg last season, he would have felt worse if I did not go out to ski.

Now my legs still feel like lead!

Back to good news. Hubby visited the hospital this morning to get his organs checked. The CT scan showed no injury. Two doctors we consulted agreed that all he needed was rest. He is good to ski again as soon as he stops aching or feeling any pain.

My BG numbers. I’ve been checking my BGs during our ski trip. January 1 was the first day of a 7-day tame-my-sugar-monster challenge I’m doing for MySugr. I’m participating in MySugr’s alpha testers group, and the app is not commercially available yet where I am. If it’s available where you are, check it out (best BG app I’ve tried so far). The more frequent testing revealed that my BGs were relatively high on average during the entire ski trip. It’s probably because it’s my first time in months to ski again so I figure my body thought it was on a flight mode.

The other likely reason is chocolate soft ice cream. I’ve been generally good at the buffet table. It helped that there were loads of fish (I was in Hokkaido after all) and meat dishes to choose from, and the desserts were not to my liking.


Buffet prawns

My downfall was chocolate soft ice cream!

Soft ice cream, plus returning to a sport that I was in hiatus from for months, and my falls and attempts to get up (really, I find it easier to ski than to get up after a fall), contributed to my higher BGs. I’m not alarmed as my BGs were not disturbingly high. Just higher than usual.

Testing frequently this trip was an enlightening experience. Although I tested during previous ski trips, I did not test as frequently as I did in Hokkaido. Based on my BG testing notes, there were past ski trips when some of the BG numbers were high and other trips when the numbers were low or within my normal range. It should thus be a good idea to do the same recent testing frequency for the next ski trips to see how my BGs generally behave this season, and tease out some trends and knowledge.

My BGs since we’ve come back from the trip have been back within the usual range.

That’s all for now. I wish everyone a healthy, exciting, educational and productive New Year!