Diabetes Blog Week 2015 – Day One

2015 Diabetes Blog Week 2Today kicks off the sixth annual Diabetes Blog Week, which brings bloggers together to write about a set topic each day. It’s hard to believe (especially considering my inconsistent blogging efforts over the past few years) that I’ve participated in all five of the previous weeks (see 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010). The week has always provided me with motivation to get back into writing and a sense of community around a topic that can sometimes make me feel so alone.

The topic for today’s post is “I Can”:

Lets’ kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes.  What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could?  Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of?  Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life?

It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of diabetes, so I appreciate a topic that forces me to think about the positive things I’ve accomplished because of – or despite of – diabetes. Below are a few things that come to mind:

  • Going to grad school – In 2010, I quit a steady job at a great company to move across the country and enroll as a full-time grad student in Boston. It was a huge risk (Would I find health insurance? Would I find a job after graduation? Could I figure how to be a student again?), but one I knew I needed to take. Being dealt a diabetes diagnosis at age 26 made me think about what I could and couldn’t control. It reminded me that I should make every effort to live life to the fullest – and if that meant going back to school in my late 20s to study food, so be it.
  • Traveling – In my five plus years of living with diabetes, I’ve taken some pretty incredible trips across the country and globe. They’ve included all kinds of adventures – from elephant treks to jungle hikes, snorkel trips, and ziplining – and new foods with unknown carb counts. While I’ve had occasional fears about what could go wrong, I’ve tried to focus on being prepared for any situation and not let diabetes hold me back.


  • Getting hitched (without a low!) – Last October, my incredible boyfriend of ten years became my husband. Having diabetes forced me to think about a lot of things I otherwise wouldn’t have had to during the planning process (e.g., hiding an insulin pump in a form-fitting wedding dress). Thankfully, all of our thinking ahead resulted in an absolutely beautiful day focused on the two of us rather than diabetes. And, I didn’t go low all day!

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  • Meeting other people with diabetes – If there’s a good thing about this disease, it’s the community. Through JDRF, conferences and casual meet ups, I’ve met so many amazing type 1s who have offered support and become friends. I’m grateful for these people that diabetes has brought into my life.

*Read other Diabetes Blog Week Day One entries here.

Five Years

Five years ago today I was told I had diabetes. I walked into an urgent care clinic thinking there might be something minor going on, and walked out with a life-changing diagnosis. I’ve struggled with how to feel about this anniversary, which has been looming in the back of my mind for months.

I talked to a fellow type 1 the other day, who was diagnosed a year and a half ago. He mentioned that he hardly remembers life without diabetes anymore and it struck me that I don’t either. During my first couple of years, I would think back on experiences and categorize them as pre- or post-diagnosis. A trip to Norway was pre-diagnosis. A trip to Thailand was post-diagnosis. A carefree barhopping birthday celebration was pre. An awkward business lunch with injections was post. I don’t think like that anymore.

It’s largely because I’ve gotten used to this new life. I instinctively count the carbs of the food in front me and think about how much insulin I need to cover them. I automatically check my blood sugar before and after meals, exercise, and sleep. I change my insulin pump site every three days like clockwork. The habits required by diabetes have become second nature.

But just because diabetes has become part of my routine, doesn’t mean it’s become painless. It hasn’t become more predictable. It hasn’t become less scary. I stumbled upon a post by Hallie at Princess and the Pump that beautifully addresses this very idea. In it she writes about how she and her daughter, who was diagnosed with type 1 almost six years ago, are doing:

“We are used to treating this disease largely on our own.
We are used to making life and death decisions every day.
We are used to the sleepless nights.
We are used to the fear.
It’s just what we do.  It’s our life.  It’s our normal.
But just because we may be more quiet than we used to be does not mean it’s become easy.”

 So, five years of living with diabetes hasn’t made it easy, but it has made it routine. And time has taught me that I can continue to push boundaries, pursue my dreams, and live life to the fullest, even with a 24/7 disease. It may not be easy, but it will not stop me.

I talked to my mom yesterday and told her that today marked my five-year diabetes anniversary. She congratulated me and I asked why. Why would you congratulate someone for living with a disease for five years? “Because you’re doing so well,” she said. She’s right. And that’s worth celebrating.

The Routine Pat-down

As I write this, I’m on a plane en route to Minnesota. I’m flying for personal reasons today, but most of the time I fly for work. I travel by plane every week or two, making frequent trips to the Bay Area, where my company is based, and other regions. I’m used to it and have a routine down: I can pack in a matter of minutes, know the best spot to park my car at the airport and can breeze through security….

Actually, I can’t breeze through security anymore. Since I got an insulin pump, going through security has become more of an event. As my pump manufacturer clearly states on their website, the pump cannot go through the X-ray machine or body scanner:

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It is an adventure every time I arrive at the security line. After I’ve sent my belongings on their way through the X-ray machine, I approach a TSA officer and explain I have an insulin pump that can’t go through the X-ray machine or body scanner. For the most part, they respond respectfully, requesting a female pat-down and showing me where to wait. Others aren’t as gracious, showing their annoyance with my special request. Some are downright argumentative.

A couple of officers have forcefully told me that insulin pumps are fine to go through the scanner. My response – that some may be, but mine is not – is not always believed. I’ve been told I need to check with my pump manufacturer (Believe me. I have.) because I have my information wrong.

I try to stay calm in these situations, as I know getting worked up won’t help. But I can’t help but feel incredibly frustrated. (I’m sorry TSA officer, but you don’t have an insulin pump and don’t know the ins and outs of what it can and can’t do. And since it is one of the most expensive and life-saving things I own, I’d prefer not to take any risks.)

It’s worth noting that I’ve been told I can remove my pump prior to the body scanner and ask for it to be hand checked. However, I’ve personally found this to be even more problematic and not worth the trouble.

The pat-downs themselves are simple. I’ve only had professional officers, many who have told me after the check that they’ve seen a lot of insulin pumps and given me a smile. While I don’t exactly like being fondled in front of the security line audience, it doesn’t really bother me. It’s that first step – declaring that I can’t go through the body scanner – that I find the hardest.

It seems like there has to be a way to make this process better for pumpers. For starters, there likely is a way to report feedback on disrespectful TSA officers. But would that help? Is there something larger that can be done? I’d love to hear about other pumpers’ experience with airport security.




Diabetes Blog Week: Diabetes Life Hacks


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


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


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


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.