Diabetes Blog Week: Diabetes Life Hacks

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It’s day five of Diabetes Blog Week (and holy cow, I’ve blogged every day this week!). The prompt is:

Share the (non-medical) tips and tricks that help you in the day-to-day management of diabetes.  Tell us everything from clothing modifications, serving size/carb counting tricks to the tried and true Dexcom-in-a-glass trick or the “secret” to turning on a Medtronic pump’s backlight when not on the home-screen (scroll to the bottom of this post). Please remember to give non-medical advice only!

This is a particularly timely prompt given that I am planning my wedding and figuring out where to wear my insulin pump on the big day. I have a meter remote, which means I can bolus insulin without pulling out my pump (an amazing feature when wearing dresses). I’ll likely wear it on a thigh pouch with Spanx on top to keep everything in place.

As for other tips and tricks, here are a few things I do day-to-day:

  • I have the CalorieKing app on my phone and always look up the carb count of a food I’m unsure about.
  • When I’m at home, I measure my food. It’s a pain, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier to get the insulin dose right.
  • When I make a recipe for something that doesn’t include nutritional facts I often use a nutrition calculator to figure out the carb count.
  • I drink a glass of red wine when I have a slice of pizza (one of the trickiest foods for someone with a defunct pancreas). Red wine has a lowering effect on my blood sugar and seems to decrease the inevitable spike.
  • I carry an extra infusion set with me at all times in case of a mishap. I recently ripped out a set on a tight airport layover and was thankful I had another in my handbag.
  • I bake all kinds of things with almond flour. It’s low-glycemic, high in protein and fiber, and tastes delicious.

***Check out other Diabetes Blog Week day five entries here.

Diabetes Blog Week: Mantras and More

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The prompt for day four of Diabetes Blog Week is:

Yesterday we opened up about how diabetes can bring us down. Today let’s share what gets us through a hard day.  Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day.  Is there something positive you tell yourself?  Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through?  Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost?  Maybe we’ve done that and we can help others do it too?

On the days that diabetes gets me down, I’m in a fog. I go on with my daily tasks as usual and may appear perfectly fine to the outside world. But inside, my mind is blurry and my emotions are heavy.

During these moments, I tell myself that tomorrow will bring a new start. Today might have been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but the morning offers a clean slate. I can tackle diabetes with energy and a fresh perspective. Reminding myself of this is one of the best ways I know how to get through a tough period.

While it’s not a mantra, another hugely helpful tactic is having support from other people with diabetes. Being able to talk with others who have dealt with the same challenges makes me feel less alone and gives me resolve to get through bad days.

***Check out other Diabetes Blog Week day four entries here.

Diabetes Blog Week: What Brings Me Down

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It’s day three of Diabetes Blog Week. Today’s prompt:

May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?

Most days, I am positive. I face the world with energy and don’t let diabetes hold me back. I don’t let diabetes dictate how I feel or what I can and can’t do. But on the days that it does, I feel down.

A few weeks ago, I took a hike on one of my favorite trails. It was a windy day, but it felt good to be moving outside. Toward the very end of my workout, as I was almost to my car, I suddenly felt low. With shaky hands, I tested my blood sugar: 45. Shit. I shoved glucose tabs into my mouth as I crumpled into the car. I tried to text my fiancé, but the mountain in front of me refused to let the message go through. I waited to test again, praying my blood sugar was going up and kicking myself for not testing during my hike. I should have known better, I told myself. After 15 minutes, I was safe to drive and headed home. Despite my “normal” blood sugars the rest of the day, I felt awful. My head hurt. My body ached. I felt defeated.

On other days, persistent high blood sugar gets me down. Doing everything right – exercising, eating well, counting my carbs and dosing the correct amount of insulin – doesn’t work. I’ll feel sluggish and irritable, but have to power through my work day with a smile on my face. Or I’ll be at a social gathering where I have to forego the pizza/cake/beer/anything with carbs for fear of my blood sugar climbing even higher. These days aren’t fun.

In the moments when I’m recovering from a nasty low or riding out a stubborn high, my emotions can range from terrified to angry to depressed. Along with thinking through the incident at hand, my mind wanders to the future. What if I don’t catch the next low in time? What if all of these highs lead to complications?

I wish I had a great coping technique, but other than taking one day at a time (more tomorrow), I don’t. I tend to deal with my emotions quietly on my own, not letting on to the people around me. Which, of course, can lead to feeling even more alone.

***Check out other Diabetes Blog Week day three entries here.

Diabetes Blog Week: Tell Me a Story Wildcard

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It’s day two of Diabetes Blog Week and I’m turning to a wildcard. (Today’s actual prompt asks for poetry about diabetes, but I can’t seem to come up with anything under pressure.) Here’s the wildcard prompt:

Write a short story personifying a diabetes tool you use on a daily basis…Give it a personality and a name and let it speak through you. What would it be happy about, upset about, mad about? 

 ***My insulin pump, creatively named “Pump,” has decided to write this post today. It’s more of a letter than a story, but who am I to argue?

It’s funny now to think of how scared of me you were initially. When I arrived on your doorstep, you were cautious taking me out of the box. You had shaky hands as you picked me up and felt my buttons. I was hoping our friendship would start right then and there, but you tucked me away for training day, not quite ready to bond.

I sat in my dark box and counted down the days for our next meeting. Finally, the trainer arrived and I emerged again. How glorious it felt to get that jolt of battery energy and be primed for the very first time. You were hesitant as you prepared our first insulin cartridge and infusion set, but you did it. You were pumping! I wanted to yell, “You did great! Keep it up!”

I remember the excitement you felt when the trainer left that evening, but I also remember the fear. Even though it was three days off, you were terrified of changing our next infusion set. You were scared that I was going to accidentally give you too much insulin and you were going to have a devastating low. You were anxious about if you’d get used to being connected to me. “Don’t worry,” I wanted to tell you.

I’ll admit it: the first few weeks were challenging. I was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement wanting to show you how much better your life was going to be with me. I have a hunch you knew, but you were restrained. Your fear of changing our infusion sets persisted and you became frustrated by the necessary tweaking of insulin rates. One day in defeat you cried, “Why am I having so many highs? Why can’t I get my settings right?” I wanted to answer, “Be patient. It takes a little time.”

Slowly you began to warm up to me. You gained confidence in me as you saw how much flexibility and stability you were gaining. You were grateful for my discreet insulin delivery as you bolused in public. You were thankful for my temp basals as you conquered a hike without a hypo. “You’re getting the hang of it,” I wanted to tell you. “Keep it up!”

I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point it happened: you began seeing me as a partner. Your fear and anxiety were replaced by confidence and trust. I was thrilled knowing I had finally crossed the barrier from machine to friend.

You may not think about those early days now, but I’ll never forget them. Not because I like to dwell on how far our relationship has come (although that is pretty wonderful), but because I like to remember just how far you have come. You, who could hardly take me out of my box on arrival, faced your fears head on. You fought through shaky confidence, just as you have with every aspect of diabetes, to become a successful pumper. You know there is no looking back now. To that I shout with joy, “See? You can do anything you set your mind to! You. Are. Awesome.”

***Check out other Diabetes Blog Week day two entries here and wildcard entries here.

Diabetes Blog Week: Change the World

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Nothing gives me the kick in the pants to blog like Diabetes Blog Week. I’ve been thinking about writing for months, and even set a New Year’s resolution to do so, but clearly haven’t taken action. My hiatus ends now, thanks to Karen Graffeo’s fifth annual organized blog event.

Don’t know what Diabetes Blog Week is? Learn more here. You can also check out my posts from the past four years: 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The prompt for day one states:

Let’s kick off Diabetes Blog Week by talking about the diabetes causes and issues that really get us fired up…Whether or not you “formally” advocate for any cause, share the issues that are important to you.

I’m going to go big here. The issue that gets me fired up is finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. No more finger pricks, carb counts, insulin, highs, lows, new diagnoses – these are the things I dream of and fight for.

I may not be the one in the lab conducting groundbreaking research, but I educate and advocate in hopes of making a difference. I teach others what type 1 diabetes is, aiming to break through the misconceptions that surround it. I advocate for everything from research funding to better management tools through JDRF, an organization with muscle power behind it. I take part in things like Diabetes Blog Week, along with hundreds of others, to share my experience and raise awareness of the disease.

I often feel like I’m not doing enough and know there are plenty of times I could do more. But I hope that every little thing I am able to do leads us one step closer to a cure. Now that would really change the world!

***Check out other Diabetes Blog Week day one entries here.

A Diabetes Blog Week Thank You

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I want to thank Karen Graffeo at Bitter-Sweet for organizing Diabetes Blog Week again this year. I know it’s not an easy feat to prepare the writing prompts, get the word out, and keep track of the hundreds of participating bloggers, and I appreciate all of the hard work.

Even though I wasn’t able to finish out the full week, I was glad I had the chance to share some of my experiences and read posts from so many others. As in past years, the week was a powerful reminder that I am not alone with diabetes.

If you missed any of Diabetes Blog Week, you can find the full list of participants here and links to each topic here.

Thanks again, Karen! I’m already looking forward to year five.

Diabetes Blog Week Day 5: Freaky Friday

Diabetes Blog Week 2013

Just like in the movie, today we’re doing a swap. If you could switch chronic diseases, which one would you choose to deal with instead of diabetes? And while we’re considering other chronic conditions, do you think your participation in the DOC has affected how you treat friends and acquaintances with other medical conditions?

I have been thinking about this topic all week, but still have come up empty. I can’t think of another chronic disease I’d like to deal with instead of diabetes. That’s not to say I choose diabetes. I just know that I don’t know enough to say something else would be less scary/constant/expensive/energy draining.

If anything, this prompt reminded me of the things I have in common with anyone with a chronic disease. We share many of the same daily challenges: the constant focus on health, worry about the future, struggle with insurance, and general exhaustion. We also share courage and strength that we likely didn’t know existed pre-diagnosis.

What would make Freaky Friday really incredible is if everyone with a chronic condition could be free of it for one day…a 24-hour vacation of pure, disease-free bliss. I would soak in every second of that day, eating without thinking about blood sugar, exercising without fearing a low, and leaving the house without any diabetes supplies in tow.