By Timothy Gamble (December 14, 2017)
Prepping with a chronic illness has its own set of unique challenges, as I have learned the hard way over the last 2 ½ years. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, as well as severe diabetic retinopathy (for which I have so far received 20 injections in my right eye and 17 in my left, plus three laser surgeries to seal leaking capillaries in my retinas). The purpose of this article isn't to talk about those health aspects (for that, see my 2015 article Dealing With Type II Diabetes), but rather to examine how chronic illness impacts prepping.
When it comes to prepping (and other aspects of my life), my chronic illness impacts me in four main ways:
1) Time: Dealing with a chronic illness consumes a lot of time. Medical appointments, when you add in travel time and waiting room time, can easily take up half a day or more. And, with chronic illnesses, you have a lot of appointments. Proper time management and defining & following priorities is essential.
2) Money: Dealing with a chronic illness consumes a lot of money, even if you have insurance. And it is not just the money you shell out to the doctor or pharmacist, but you will likely have the expense of special foods, vitamins, or other supplies. (For example, with my almost monthly eye injections, I go through about $20 worth of over-the-counter eye drops every month.) Money is an issue for most people, but with the added expenses of a chronic illness, budgeting, planning, and careful shopping (use lists, compare prices, use coupons, avoid impulse purchases, etc.) is crucial.
3) Energy/Mental Attitude: Dealing with a chronic illness is hugely distracting, and takes your focus off other aspects of your life (including your preps). Not to mention that the illness itself is likely zapping you of the energy you used to have. It can also cause worry, anxiety, and even depression. Try to stay upbeat. Lean on your relationships with God and your family. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
4) Lifestyle Changes: Dealing with a chronic illness typically requires making major lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet or physical activity, which must be reflected in your preps. You may also need to take into account specific medications and medical supplies related to your illness.
There are many types of chronic illnesses, and even the same type of illness shared by two people may effect each one differently. You'll have to figure out for yourself how your illness effects you and what adjustments you'll need to make for yourself. To help you get started thinking through these issues in your life, here is the adjustments I have made in my life and preps.
1) A New Emphasize on Health and Fitness: Over the last two years, I've made major changes to my diet and lifestyle aimed at rebuilding my health and improving my fitness. Health and fitness is no longer an afterthought in my preparations, but is now a major foundation of my preparedness activities. Daily exercise is a must. And eating healthy is the goal of every meal and snack. This means that I have done a lot of research on what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle, especially for me as a diabetic. I've kept an extensive food & health journal, recording how individual foods, food combinations, exercise, and sleep effect my blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, and energy levels. Most importantly, I've put into practice what I have learned.
2) Changes in Food Storage: I've learned that my body cannot handle grains, even supposedly "healthy" grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Even a small serving of these "healthy" grains cause huge spikes in my blood sugar. Problem: Storing large quantities of grains, pasta, flour, and sugar, as part of your food supplies is a prepper mainstay. But I can't eat bread, pasta, cereal, or sweets. Potatoes are another food that plays havoc with my blood sugar, so scratch dried and instant potatoes off my list of foods to stockpile. What to do?
I have to store more of the foods I can eat. Luckily, beans have only a mild effect on my blood sugar, so I've been stocking up on those, both dried and in cans. But I have to watch the canned beans to avoid those that have a lot of added sugar! I've also been stocking up on other canned veggies, such as tomatoes, peas, carrots, spinach & other greens, and sauerkraut (fermented foods are very good for diabetics). But, again, I have to pay attention to the ingredients because many brands include lots of added sugar!
I'm also increasing the amount of my canned meats, such as chicken, turkey, tuna, and salmon. Meats have no negative impact on blood sugar, as long as there is no added sugar of course.
I don't use sugar anymore. I either eliminate sugar from recipes altogether, or use Stevia or small quantities of fruit or honey as a sweetener. So, I've been stocking up on Stevia and honey, instead of sugar.
3) Stockpiling Medicine & Medical Supplies: Fortunately, I am not on insulin, but do take a pill for my diabetes twice a day. Initially, I was prescribed a 30-day supply, but I talked to my doctor and got him to change it to a 90-day supply. You can talk to your doctor about prescribing a larger quantity of your medications. I Also, I've stocked up on several extra month's worth of blood test supplies (test strips, lancets, and alcohol prep pads). I've included a separate "blood sugar test kit" in my survival pack (BOB) with an extra test meter, test strips, lancets, and alcohol pads.
4) Some Other Adjustments: My distance vision relatively normal, but I still need strong reading glasses to read. I've stocked up on reading glasses, buying a dozen over-the-self pair in the magnification I currently use,. I've also purchased a few large magnifying glasses. In addition to keeping a pair of reading glasses on me at all times (now part of my EDC), I also have extras at my desk, in my vehicles, and in my survival pack (BOB).
The treatments to restore my eyes are slowly working, but have left my eyes extremely sensitive to bright light. I cannot go outside or drive without sunglasses, and will sometimes wear sunglasses indoors if its very bright inside. So, I've stockpiled lots of extra sunglasses. I have extras at home, in my vehicles, and in my survival packs.
Although I don't need large print books, as the reading glasses work just fine, I decided to purchase a large-print Bible just-in-case I need it later on... I might look into getting large-print editions of a few other books, too, for the same reason. I've also developed a new appreciation for audio books!
Of Interest: These are the three main books I use in dealing with my diabetes, two of which were recommended by my doctor.
Of all the books I've read so far, the best and most useful is 60 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar by Dennis Pollock. Pollock's book is an aggressive plan to control your blood sugar by bringing together the best of traditional and alternative medicine. What I appreciate about Pollock's approach is that it is based on solid science, even the "alternative" aspects, and is not some hippy-dippy book that rejects science (avoid those). Also, his ideas are easy to follow.
My doctor also suggested I try the cookbook Paleo Comfort Foods. Since the Paleo Diet avoids both grains and potatoes, most of the recipes in this cookbook are diabetic-friendly, although you may to substitute stevia for regular sugar in a few of them. I actually use this cookbook often. (My doctor has told me that he and his family follow a "mostly Paleo" diet.)