Friday, July 29, 2011

Out of Nowhere . . .

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t mind occasional lows all that much.  Luckily I can usually handle them pretty well.  And they go away pretty quickly.  I can treat a low and be back up in range in less than a half hour.  But if I’m high it can take considerably more time to get back down into range.

Sometimes, though, a low comes along that just plain stinks.  Yesterday I was feeling fine, until suddenly I felt like my vision was getting dark.  It’s hard to describe, I didn’t see spots or anything, it just seemed like everything wasn’t as bright as it had been.  I looked at my CGM, which was holding steady in the 90s.  When the weird vision thing continued, I decided to test.


I was sure that couldn’t be right.  So I tested again.  (Oh, and don’t mind my meter bling.  I did that at the JDRF booth at the Friends for Life expo hall.  My other meter has a turtle.  It makes me happy!)


That was all the confirmation I needed to grab my “extreme low” treatment of choice, a big spoon of chocolate frosting.  As I ate it, my CGM “low predicted'” alert blares - which tells me I must have dropped pretty darn fast.

These “out of nowhere” lows that are so very low are pretty scary.  I can’t think of any good reason for that low - no new site, no time on the treadmill, nothing.  And I hated hearing the fear in Pete’s voice when I told him about it over the phone - fear because he was away on business and wouldn’t be back until today.  I also hated that I spent the night feeling like crap and fighting to bring down a high caused by over-treating or my body spilling glucose . . . . or probably a combination of both.

Honestly, I don’t know how to end this post.  Lows can be scary.  Lows can spring up out of nowhere.  But lows happen.  We do our best to avoid them, we treat them when they pop up, we try not to let them scare us too much, and we carry on.  Just another day with diabetes.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Big Fat Diabetes Wallow Day . . .

I’m going to say it flat out . . . . diabetes is a huge pain in the ass.  That said, I usually do try to stay positive.  Although I do my best to keep my blog honest and real, I still try to keep things mostly upbeat.  In “real life” I do my best to put a good spin on things and not let it get me down.  But not yesterday . . . .

Yesterday I couldn’t stand diabetes and every damn crappy thing that comes with it.  I was sick and tired of dealing day in and day out.  I felt so depressed and sorry for myself - and for all of my friends who fight the fight every day.  I felt too exhausted and fed up to solider on.  I couldn’t care less about tuning up or overhauling.  I just didn’t want to do it anymore.  I know there are quite a few things that led up to this melt-down and I know exactly what pushed me over the edge.  Honestly, that final straw was something so stupid that I won’t even waste my time or yours writing about it, except to say I know the exact moment when it all was just too much to handle.

So here I was, pissed off and fed up with diabetes.  I started thinking about the Friends For Life session I attended called Burnout Happens.  Joe Solowiejczyk, a long-time friend of FFL, a CDE and a man who just marked his 50-year diaversary, ran the session.  He talked about learning to take a sort of diabetes mental health day when it all gets to be too much.  Joe buys his favorite ice cream, lines up his favorite movies, and makes a phone schedule for his friends so someone will call every hour and tell him how great he does with diabetes.  I decided to give something similar a try for myself.

 The first thing I did was eat a donut for breakfast.  I decided to spend the day on the couch.  I never changed out of my pajamas, and I certainly didn’t consider getting on the treadmill.  I ate rice crispy treats.  I watched movies that always make me cry.  I ate chocolate.  I snuggled with my cat.  I ate ice cream straight from the container.  Like Joe, I counted my carbs and bolused for everything, but I didn’t worry or even care about any blood sugar spikes.  (In fact, I set my CGM alarm on silence for 24 hours, so I wouldn’t have to hear it’s shrill “look, look, you fucked up again” screeches.)  For one day, I allowed myself to think the thoughts and feel the feelings that I usually try so hard to squelch.  I let myself feel broken.  I let myself feel like a failure.  I let myself feel worthless.  I let myself be heartbroken about the fact that I’ve lived with diabetes for over 31 years.  I let myself feel depressed that diabetes just isn’t going to leave.  I wallowed big time.  And then I ate more chocolate.  The only thing I hadn’t set up was the words of encouragement from friends - but I was touched and thankful that they rolled in anyway.

I went to bed feeling ready for a long sleep.  I was surprised to find I slept better than I have in months.  And today I woke up feeling strong!  I woke up feeling ready to be positive about myself and supportive to others.  I woke up feeling like I actually did get a little vacation.

Honestly, we all know a day of wallowing won’t take away diabetes or change anything about it.  I’m certainly not telling anyone to sack out on the couch and eat a lot of junk.  But for me, a day to cry and curse and mope and eat a ton of crap was just what I needed.  It didn’t change a thing about diabetes, but helped change how I feel about dealing with it.  It was just what I needed to adjust my attitude, pick myself back up, and soldier on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Want It All!!

This month, the DSMA blog carnival  is all about diabetes technology.  Since my diagnosis over 31 years ago, I’ve seen a ton of advancement in technology and treatments for diabetes.  But there is still a lot on my wish list, so it’s pretty easy for me to answer the carnival question:

What improvements or adjustments would you make to current [diabetes] technology?

During Diabetes Blog Week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post that touched on meter accuracy and the high cost of d-supplies.  So today I’ll go in a different direction and talk about making our d-technology more convenient.  Because basically, I WANT IT ALL!!!

stuck5One of the things I love about my Minimed CGM is that it sends the data right to my pump.  I just push a button on my pump screen to view the CGM graph.  I love that I don’t need to carry around a separate receiver.  So I wouldn’t change this at all.

But what about the times when my pump is inaccessible?  What if it is buried under winter clothes or tucked into my bra or in a pocket that is hard to reach with my seatbelt on?  In that case, I want to be able to view my CGM data on a separate device as well.  And my device of choice would be my iPhone.  I’m going to be carrying around my iPhone anyway, so I’d love to be able to tap the screen and see the same CGM graph that I see on my pump.

Once I see the data my CGM is telling me, I’ll need to do a finger-stick to verify the number before taking action.  I mean, pretend I see the 239 in the picture above.  There is no way I’m going to bolus without confirming that reading, no matter how accurate my CGM has been reading.  So I also want a meter attached right to my iPhone, like this one.  And now that I’m ready to act on the information, I want to be able to do that right from my iPhone too.  Yup, I want to be able to do everything the bolus wizard on my pump does, right from my phone.

Does this seem like a tall order?  Do I sound greedy or spoiled?  Maybe I do.  But I don’t really think so.  After all, at FFL I programmed the DVR back home in my living room using my iPhone.  I can stream movies, workout videos and television shows on my Wii.  I can video chat with my friends over my laptop.  (Okay, I haven’t actually done that yet, but I hear I can . . . )  So it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to want to test, bolus and view my CGM data from my smart phone.

That’s right.  I want it all!!

This post is my July entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tune-up or Major Overhaul?

The past month has not been very kind to my diabetes management.  I’ve chalked it up to lots and lots of travel, very little sleep, and crazy hot temperatures.  But if I’m being completely honest, another factor is also at work here.  And that factor is Half-Assed Diabetes Management.  Honestly, my food choices haven’t been stellar.  My bolusing has often been less than precise (hello SWAG) and downright lazy (why wait 20 minutes to eat when I want to eat NOW??).  And once again, exercise is barely happening.

It’s easy to tell myself that everything will magically straighten itself out.  It’s easy to look at my BG average and be pleased with the number I see.  But truth be told, just because the average number is where I want it doesn’t mean my blood sugars are where I want them to be.  After all, an average can consist of some very icky numbers that might still average into a very non-icky number.  And the fact that I’m seeing random 200s every day at inconsistent times is not okay for my personal diabetes goals.




So here I am, ready to end the excuses and get proactive.  My first inclination was to do a Major Overhaul.  I thought I’d get back to basics and do some basal testing.  Honestly, I’ve never basal tested before.  My endo and pump trainer / CDE worked closely to figure my basal rate when I started pumping, and they got it right on the first try.  Over the past couple of years, we’ve tweaked when needed.  And when I spot trends, I do some tweaking of my own.  So I figured maybe it’s time to check those tweaks with a good ‘ole basal test to get things straightened out.

But then I thought some more.  Maybe a better course of action would be a Diabetes Tune-Up rather than a Major Diabetes Overhaul.  I’m feeling motivated to start exercising yet again.  Testing my basal rates would mean putting off the start of my exercise routine.  Sure, I could do that.  BUT!!!!  By getting back to regular exercise and (hopefully) starting to take off some weight, it stands to reason my basal rates will need to be lowered bit by bit.  And my intuition (or rather, my rational mind) tells me it’s not really my basal rates that are causing my d-havoc anyway - it’s that list of factors in the first paragraph that are really to blame.

So for now, maybe it is wise to start with a little D Tune-Up.  Time to tighten up the saggy areas of my diabetes management (and the saggy areas of myself!!).  Time to run some Diabetes Science Experiments and, hopefully, get back on track.

Tune-Up or Major Overhaul?  What has worked for you?

Monday, July 25, 2011

These chips won’t melt in the heat!!

We dealt with quite a heat-wave here in New England over the last few days and everyone is feeling mushy and fried.  (And also?  The heat is wrecking havoc with my emergency chocolate stash - which is sorely needed this week, if you catch my drift and sorry for the over-sharing . . . )  It seems my email in-box is as hot as the weather, crammed with so much stuff it’s ready for a melt-down.  I could try to devote a whole post to each and every tidbit I’d like to pass along, but by the time I got done there would likely be snow on the ground and the information would be stale.  Instead, I’ll give you some fresh tasty “Bitter~Sweet Chips” that withstand our high 90 temps much better than my beloved emergency stash!
  • On the first day of Friends for Life, several great “Focus Group sessions” were offered and it was difficult to choose which ones to attend.  I’ve already blogged about Lee Ann’s wonderful Diabetes Art Session.  Another one I chose that day was “Targeting a Cure For Type 1 Diabetes: How Long Will We Have to Wait?”,  presented by diaTribe.  The team shared some fascinating information about the different research projects currently happening.  You can find out more here:  Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of that page to download your copy of the““Targeting a Cure For Type 1 Diabetes” eBook.
  • Coco ImageAlso at Friends for Life I had the opportunity to meet with several representative from Eli Lilly about a brand new Lilly/Disney collaboration.  Usually hearing of any new diabetes diagnosis makes me sad - but in this case, I was delighted to hear of a Disney character that has Type 1 diabetes!  Coco, pictured to the right, sports a medical id bracelet and a backpack of d-supplies!  As a kid who spent much of my teen years hiding diabetes from my friends, I applaud this initiative to help kids with diabetes feel more confident about their disease.  I also love that this campaign will help to raise awareness and information about what diabetes is and isn’t.  Included in the campaign will be a series of books aimed at younger kids and tweens - one of which, called “Coco and Goofy’s Goofy Day”, was provided to me by Lily. along with a “Birnbaum Guide to Walt Disney World” that had a section of Type 1 tips (which came in handy as Pete and I navigated the parks in the blaring July heat).  Also worth checking out is the new online section of  for families with Type 1 and the Once Upon a Time contest where the prize is a trip for four to next year’s Friends for Life conference!
  • This Friday Wego Health will be hosting their first Twitter Chat for Health Activists. The topic?  It’s all about empowerment, which has been Wego’s focus for July.  Be sure to follow the #HAchat hashtag on Friday, July 29th at 1 p.m. EST to participate and be empowered and inspired!
  • Has the heat fried your bloggy-mojo?  Too overheated to come up with a blog topic?  Well hop on over to the DSMA blog and participate in the July Blog Carnival!  It’s your chance to weigh in on what you’d like to see in terms of technology for our diabetes devices.  Go ahead and put your wish list out there - you never know who you might inspire!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Don’t miss DSMA Live tonight!!

I’m running a bit behind schedule today (and have an impromptu date with my parents to go for ice cream in less than an hour) but I wanted to quickly pass along some information.  Tonight’s DSMA Live chat will feature the president of the International Diabetes Federation, Professor Jean Claude Mbanya. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at the Roche Social Media Summit, and he is impassioned and inspiring.  The discussion is slated to include the Life for a Child campaign, Act on Diabetes Now for World Diabetes Day, and the O is for Outrage campaign.


Tune in at 9 PM EST to find out more about what IDF does and how we, as members of the DOC, can help.  If you have a question you’d like discussed, please be sure to call in during the show at (760) 283-5150.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Today is the big day!!  The drawing for the winner of the gift basket provided by Walgreens as part of my Medicine Cabinet Makeover!

I used an on-line random number generator to fairly draw a winner from the 29 entries I received.  And the winning comment was:
lucky number six!!  Which belongs to . . .

Joanne of Death of a Pancreas!!

Congratulations Joanne! I've already sent you an email to work out the details!  I hope you enjoy your gift basket, and thanks for being such a good blog-pal!

I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to watch the Medicine Cabinet Makeover video and everyone who left a comment on my post.  And a big thanks to Walgreens for this opportunity!

** Disclosure: For my participation in this project, I received $250 in gift cards from Walgreens.  I was also given all of the products that Stacia displayed on my coffee table, as well as the gift basket mentioned in this post.  I was asked to blog about my Medicine Cabinet Makeover experience, but all opinions I’ve expressed in this post are my own.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Therapy and Diabetes

As a person with diabetes, I work so hard every day at what I think of as “medical therapy” - things like dosing my insulin properly, counting my carbs, getting exercise in (or at least thinking about getting exercise in) and more.  But I don’t always think much about “mental therapy” - things to help with the burden and emotional turbulence diabetes can cause.  Two sessions at Friends for Life helped me realize it is okay to start paying more attention to the emotional side of diabetes.

Wednesday morning, Pete and I signed up for a Diabetes Art session with  my fabulous friend Lee Ann Thill of The Butter Compartment.  I’ll admit to being a bit nervous, as I always am when charged with creating art because I just don’t feel I’m all that artistic.  (Before you bring up the knitting, I need to point out that knitting from a pattern doesn't involve a lot of creativity - it is simply following directions step by step, which really suits my personality!)  My hope going into the session was that at some point, inspiration would strike like it did for Diabetes Art Day and I'd end up with something I was happy with.

Our assignment was to create a positive and happy self portrait.  In the end, my creation bore a striking resemblance to my Diabetes Art Day project.  I was pleased with my portrait, even if I do seem to be only capable of creating one type of d-art.

Click to enlarge.
 Pete’s art made me so proud of him and a little bit sad, all at once.  His self portrait was all about providing me with support.  (Although it is unclear if he is the life-boat in the picture or the person steering the boat.  Either way, I supposed I’m the dog!)

Click to enlarge.
 I’m very touched by some of the things he included - like the “no d-police” drawing, the syringe with “do not blunder” next to it, and the word “comfort”.  I know it sounds goofy, but when I look at the picture, I don’t see Pete as the boat, the sailor or the dog.  Instead, he is the bright sunshine sending its rays down on my diabetes life.

A session on Friday afternoon provided therapy in a different way.  For the last session of the conference, I chose to attend “Managing Transitions as Adults” with Jill Weissberg-Benchell.  As it turns out, we attendees had a lot more on our minds than transitions, and Jill was fabulous enough to suggest very quickly that we pull our chairs into a circle and just discuss anything about diabetes that we have trouble coping with.  I surprised myself by blurting out some pretty heavy stuff that weights on me, but that I’ve always tried hard to keep buried deep inside - and then bursting into tears.  I will say I wasn’t the only one dealing with heavy stuff or shedding tears.  Although it was somewhat comforting to know I’m not alone in these feelings, it also makes me angry.  In my experience, all of the emphasis is put on the physical side of diabetes while the emotional side is completely ignored.  I see tons of information about putting together a trusted medical team to help manage diabetes, but very little about finding a good counselor or mental health professional to help work through the emotional toll our chronic illness can take on us.  For me, it’s always instilled a “fear of the unknown” that has kept me from finding a professional to talk everything over with.  Instead, I try to put on a happy and positive face for the world, even when inside I'm feeling the exact opposite.  After sharing that session and interacting with  the other attendees and with Jill, I’m feeling much more receptive towards finding someone to help me work through the diabetes emotions that weigh so heavily on me at times.

If you’ve taken part in any kind of therapy to help cope with the emotions of diabetes, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If you’d rather not share in the comments section, I welcome you to email me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Take a peek inside my medicine cabinet!

Back in March I was presented with a very cool opportunity, and I’m excited to be able to share it with you today!!  Walgreens has put together a “Medicine Cabinet Makeover” series and I was asked to participate as someone who lives with and writes about diabetes.  If I was game, a pharmacist would be sent to my house to evaluate and re-do my medicine cabinet - much like Stacy and Clinton do for people’s wardrobes on What Not To Wear.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance - not only to give my medicine cabinet a little overhaul, but also to help raise some awareness about just how many d-supplies we need to keep on hand just to stay healthy and live our lives!  (I believe the Makeover Video will be shared on the Walgreens Facebook Page.)

A few days later a camera crew arrived, complete with lighting and microphones.  (Yikes!!)  Stacia, the pharmacist, was young and cool, which helped make me less nervous about the whole Medicine Cabinet Critique process.  We ended up focusing more on the dresser drawer that holds my diabetes supplies than on my medicine cabinet, but Stacia perused them both.  She quickly confirmed the claims I always make to you that I am very OCD extremely organized - but luckily she still had some great tips to give me!!  She also left me with a bunch of diabetes supplies (and be sure to read all the way to the end of the post, because there may be some d-supplies for you too).

I’m so glad that Stacia warned me about closing the caps on my contact lens solutions, because it had never occurred to me that icky bathroom bacteria could travel into the bottles and then into my eyes!!  Trust me, those lids are now snapped shut every night!

That little blood glucose meter Stacia pointed out is really cool and it’s the perfect size to tote along with me when I’m out for a run.  (Okay, I haven’t been running much lately, but the meter is in my runner’s pack and ready to go when I am!!)  The only thing that puzzled me a bit was the latex gloves - I’m not sure I know anyone who uses those while doing site changes or injections.  (If you do, please let me know in the comments.)  However, I can tell you those gloves are great for protecting your hands when you are dying yarn, so the knitter-side of me is making good use of them!!

I also want to mention a little piece that got edited out of the video.  Stacia commented on the fact that I don’t have a lot of general medicines, like cold and flu meds, in my medicine cabinet.  I explained that as a diabetic, I’m always very nervous about what over-the-counter meds I should or shouldn’t take.  I generally wait until I get “real people sick” and then call my endo for his recommendations.  Stacia pointed out that if I couldn’t get a hold of my endo when I needed to, I could simply pop into my local Walgreens and the pharmacist could help me.  (Hence my little statement about that at the end of the video.)

Overall this was a terrific experience!! Stacia rocked and the camera crew was so patient when my nerves caused a few re-takes. The whole thing was a lot of fun.  And to continue the fun, Walgreens has given me the opportunity to give away a gift-basket of supplies similar to the ones I received! If you’d like to win, just leave a comment on this post between now and 9am EST on Wednesday, July 20th.  I’ll draw a winner at random and the basket will be sent to you!  Good luck!

** Disclosure: For my participation in this project, I will be receiving a $250 gift card from Walgreens.  I was also given all of the products that Stacia displayed on my coffee table, as well as the gift basket I'll be giving away.  I was asked to blog about my Medicine Cabinet Makeover experience, but all opinions I’ve expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When is it time to come home?

Last Tuesday, Pete and I flew to Florida to experience CWD’s Friends for Life for the first time.  Although I’ll write more later about everything we did and everyone we saw, I can tell you now that it was an amazing eight days spent with other PWDs and their families.  We got to hang out with some of our very favorite friends!!  When you are on a trip as awesome as this one was, you really do want to stay forever!  So how do you know when it’s time to come home?  Well . . .
  • Your blood sugar stays between 40 and 60 for three days straight.  Even after eating chocolate ice cream.  And a pretzel that rings in at 90 grams of carbs.  You don’t ever want to see another glucose tablet again!!
  • You receive a call for help in the middle of the night from a very good friend having a very bad low.  Clad in a JDRF Walk t-shirt and PJs for the Cure bottoms, you rush into the night like a Bra-Less Diabetes Superhero.  (Of course, every superhero knows the importance of having a back-up team, so you call the paramedics first.  They seem somewhat baffled when they show up and see you testing your own blood sugar.  Yes, we T1s like to travel in packs!!)
  • By day four, it becomes clear that your blood sugars had too much fun at D-Coaster Day and have decided to continue the celebration all week.  They shoot up over 200 if you even look at food, and then crash back down to hypo levels soon after.  It’s not fun when your CGM graph looks just like Space Mountain.  The blood sugar roller coaster continues until you get home.
  • After spending a day in the parks, you develop a scary looking rash on your leg.Ugly Leg RashThe first question the First Aid Nurse asks?  “Do you have any history of diabetes?”  Great.
  • You start to consider four hours a full night of sleep.
  • When getting up to test your blood during the night, you walk smack into the bathroom door and cut your nose.Cut NoseIt bleeds profusely.  (And those bags under my eyes are proof of the “four hours of sleep” nights.)
  • Your insulin lets you know it has had enough of the Florida sunshine and heat . . . . by going kaput overnight and greeting you with a blood sugar in the 300s in the morning.  You immediately go to the Expo Hall to buy a Frio case.
  • You miss a step on the bus back to the airport, letting out a loud yelp and wrenching your back and knee.  Limping through the airport is fun.  (Not.)
  • When the kennel sends an email from your pet, telling you how much fun she is having, the picture makes it quite clear that she is actually not having fun at all.  In fact, she looks uncharacteristically cranky.Not Really Having FunAnd when you get home, she is so excited you fear she will spontaneously combust!!
But do you know what?  With all of those “signs” that it was time to come home . . . . if I could get back on an airplane and do the whole thing over again tomorrow, I totally would.  I wouldn’t trade one single minute of my Friends for Life experience.  (Although maybe I’d get on the plane in a week, instead of tomorrow.  I really need to sleep!!)

Diabetes Advocates in action!