My Involuntary Hiatus from the CGM

Currently, I’m on a break from my CGM for an unknown length of time.

This temporary split wasn’t mutual; rather, it was due to a series of coincidences that occurred much to my chagrin. The short version of the story is that my CGM transmitter died a week earlier than I had anticipated. I thought it would be pointless to order a replacement since I was expecting the new Dexcom G6 to arrive at my house before the transmitter expired. When I learned there was a delay that would cause me to wait a little while longer, I realized I didn’t have much of a choice to go ahead and order a replacement G5 transmitter. After all, it was fly blind without my CGM for just a few days versus the possibility of missing out on that data for weeks.

fullsizeoutput_75dThe choice was obvious, and as I write this, my G5 replacement transmitter is on its way to me.

Though there’s comfort in that fact, I feel weird not having my CGM data available to me. It’s kind of nice to be wearing one less medical device on my body, but that’s really the only benefit of being without my CGM. The information it provides to me is invaluable, and an involuntary break from it makes me feel uneasy. I’m constantly reminding myself that I managed diabetes just fine for the first 15 years I had it without a CGM’s aid, which does offer a small amount of comfort. But it also reminds me how important the CGM has become in my daily care choices. Twenty-four hour, real-time updates of my blood sugar help me live a life less interrupted by my diabetes, something that’s extremely difficult to give up after 20 relentless years of dealing with it.

You really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone – even if it is only for a short period of time.

I’ll make the most of this situation. It will at least help me get in tune with my body’s signals when my blood sugar is high or low, which is definitely not a bad thing. And it makes me appreciate something that not every person with diabetes is lucky enough to have access to: serving as a humbling reminder of my fortunate circumstances.

How Raising a Puppy is Like Dealing with Diabetes

“Aw, she’s so cute! What’s her name? What kind of dog is she?” The woman stooped down to the ground to take a closer look at Clarence, my 12-week old Shetland Sheepdog – who is a boy.

I patiently answered her questions, knowing she wasn’t really paying attention. After all, she was totally distracted by my adorable little pup.

The man who accompanied her – undoubtedly her partner – was chattier. He looked at me, almost condescendingly, and said something about how this must be my first dog.

Nonplussed, I said, “Actually, this is my family’s third Sheltie. The last time we had a puppy like Clarence here, I was practically a baby myself.”

“Well, you know, I noticed that you’re buying puppy pads. You really shouldn’t do that if you want to get your dog housebroken, it’ll only encourage it to go indoors.” If I thought he was bordering on condescending before, he was definitely laying it on thick now.

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I hastily responded by telling him how the puppy chow that Clarence is eating is salty, and the high salt intake results in frequent puppy puddles in the kitchen. It’s virtually impossible to ensure that Clarence is outside every single time that he has to pee, so the puppy pads have been a huge help. I trailed off, wondering why I had felt the need to provide this stranger with an explanation that wouldn’t matter to him.

The man shrugged, clearly unimpressed by this answer, and walked away.

Upon reflection, this mildly irritating encounter turned into a bit of a metaphor for what life with diabetes is like. People you don’t know bombard you with questions about it. You answer as best as you can, hoping that your replies help these inquisitive folks understand diabetes better than they did before. But this ray of hope is quickly dimmed when the questioners run out of things to ask and begin to tell you how you should manage your diabetes. It’s baffling when it happens because you didn’t ask for advice, but you somehow get an earful of it every damn time.

So I guess in this way, diabetes is a little like raising a puppy. There will be highs and lows, good days and bad days. And unsolicited advice will be dished to you by strangers, even though nobody knows your diabetes – or your dog – the way that you do.

Instagram vs. Reality

What does Instagram vs. reality mean?

It’s best explained using pictures. Take the following, for instance:

The first image is basically the ideal Dexcom graph. It depicts steady, on-target blood sugars for hours.

It makes the image next to it look that much uglier. The second picture shows blood sugar that rose rapidly over a short amount of time and flattened out at a level so high that it exceeds the Dexcom maximum number.

Instagram: The social networking site that promotes flawlessness. You scroll through a feed and see images that convey society’s notions around perfection. And it’s annoying. The rational part of you knows that, surely, the stunning blonde swimsuit model on your feed probably has cellulite, only you never see it because it’s airbrushed and filtered away. That’s why it’s equally unrealistic to share nothing but the “perfect” blood sugars with the diabetes community. Diabetes is FAR from being sunshine-y and unicorn-y all the time.

The reality: Diabetes is up-and-down, mentally and physically. It’s not always going to behave the way you want it to, even if you’re doing all the right things and trying your best. That’s why I like sharing the good and the bad – it makes the victories that much sweeter, and the less-than-triumphant moments more educational.

So This Just Happened…

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Whoa! It’s incredibly surreal to see myself on Dexcom’s Instagram feed, but there I am! Shout out to my T1D buddies who messaged me the day this appeared and made me feel like a rock star!

Glamour shots aside, this quote really does capture how I feel about Dexcom. It’s truly one of the most powerful tools in my diabetes care kit. In addition to helping me improve my blood sugars by giving me crucial data, my CGM also provides me peace of mind because it does a lot of extra work for me – saving me a lot of time and energy.

This just makes me even more excited to get my hands on the Dexcom G6, which is bound to make life with diabetes even easier! I have the feeling that I’ll get one sooner rather than later…

Memory Monday: That Time I Created a Diabetes Lesson Plan for Middle School Students (Part 2)

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

This is a continuation of last month’s Memory Monday, in which I reflected on what it was like to work on a diabetes-oriented community action project when I was a freshman in high school. There were two main components to my project: running a School Walk for Diabetes, and educating a group of middle school students on type one diabetes.

Ugh, the thought of presenting to a group of middle school kids horrifies me now, but I guess I wasn’t so afraid at the time – you know, because I was a cooler, older, more sophisticated 14 year old lecturing the immature 12-year-old children.

*I’ll pause to allow you a moment (or several) to laugh at that mildly ludicrous notion.*

The easiest part of prepping to talk to the students was devising a lesson plan. My project partner and I put together a beautiful slideshow (complete with Comic Sans font, how professional) that we would use in the first half of the presentation. During the second half, I would show the students all of my medical equipment and demonstrate things like priming an insulin pen and testing my blood sugar. We also provided students with examples of healthy snacks for a person with diabetes and when to eat them. The formal presentation would end with us giving students the chance to ask questions.

Sounds pretty neatly put together for just a couple of freshmen, right?

Turns out, it really did go over well with the students! There were a couple technical difficulties (blast those LCD projectors), but my partner and I knew our presentation like the back of our hands, so nothing deterred us from accomplishing the goal of our lesson plan: for the students to have a greater knowledge of diabetes.

We felt like our hard work was worth it when we received completed evaluation cards from the students. We’d asked them to tell us: 1) The best part of our lesson, 2) The worst part, 3) Rate it on a scale of 1-5 (1 being worst; 5 best), and 4) Write one fact about diabetes they learned. Our average rating wound up being 4.2, which made us feel like rock stars! All these years later, I still have some of the best comment cards preserved in a binder about my project:

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Personally, I really love how one student thought that diabetes is spelled “diabedes”. And I’m amused by how another student didn’t seem overly crazy about the PowerPoint (it must’ve been that damn Comic Sans font that ruined it).

But joking aside, this whole project still resonates with me ten years later because I think it marked the beginning of my passion for diabetes advocacy. It was one of the first times that I willingly shared my diabetes with others and let a real conversation take place about it with no holds barred.

 

Favorite Things Friday: Tabs2Go Cases

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

Traditionally, I’ve toted glucose tablets around in a tube. My tube of tabs travels with me everywhere, because lows can be unpredictable and it’s always wise to be prepared. Though the contents of the tube have quite literally saved my life countless times, said tube is bulky. It takes up room in my diabetes kit. The tube is awkward to carry around when I go jogging, and more often than not winds up getting tucked away in my sports bra – not the most comfortable feeling.

But then a little, square, plastic container came into my world and changed how I carry around glucose tablets.

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See that bright blue object attached to my purse? That’s a Tabs2Go case! It holds four glucose tablets at a time, the perfect amount to bring me back up from a low blood sugar. What I love most about it is that it’s dual purpose: It’s a case for tabs as well as a keychain. This means I can attach and detach it from my various key fobs, lanyards, and bags with ease, and as I please. I can tuck the case into my pocket without it creating an unsightly lump, and it stows away discreetly just about anywhere.

I have to give a shout out to Scott Bissinger, who created Tabs2Go and kindly supplied me with two of my own when I met him at the TypeOneNation Summit in Boston last month. Innovative products like this help to make the lives of people with diabetes a little easier, which makes me grateful.

Plus, I have to point out the fact that these cases are customizable. See the metallic embellishments I added to mine? Diabetes products that are functional and can be personalized are the real winners in my book!

3 Things I Learned From Giving up Alcohol for Lent

Unless you’re familiar with the Catholic faith, that title probably doesn’t make much sense to you. “Lent” is a period of time – the 40 days before Easter Sunday – in which Catholics traditionally practice penance, prayer, and almsgiving. In addition to avoiding the consumption of meat on Fridays during Lent, it’s also common for observers to give up something in order to focus more energy on acts of kindness and charity.

This year, I decided to give up alcohol.

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All of this, and more, was off limits throughout Lent.

I was inspired by my mom, who has eschewed alcohol during Lent for the last few years. I was a bit hesitant to take on the challenge; after all, I’m a young adult who enjoys going out and drinking every now and then. I wondered how it might affect my social life, and whether I’d experience any heckling or peer pressure from friends. But I was also open to the idea that forgoing alcohol during Lent could benefit me in some ways, so I felt ready to go forward with my plan.

Here’s what I learned from abstaining from alcohol for 40 days:

  1. My blood sugars were a little more predictable/easier to manage. One of my biggest issues with alcohol is that it’s hard to know just how many carbs are in one drink. Beer tends to be higher carb, whereas wine typically contains less. Hard liquor boasts even fewer carbs, but things get tricky when sugary mixers get added to the equation. So when I drink alcohol, I try to prepare myself for any possible scenario that could result from miscalculated carb intakes. But by giving up alcohol during Lent, I didn’t have this problem when I was dining out. I simply had to bolus for the food on my plate and enjoyed worrying less about what my blood sugar would be like later in the evening.
  2. Nobody gave me a tough time over my decision. This was a pleasant surprise, albeit one that I should’ve seen coming. After all, I’m not in college anymore. Peer pressure is practically non-existent in my life these days, and I’m thankful for its absence. If anything, my alcohol avoidance triggered discussions among my friends and colleagues, who generally seemed interested in the concept of giving something up for a length of time.
  3. It reminded me there are other (healthier!) ways to unwind that don’t involve drinking. Obviously, I knew that on a sub-conscious level. But I was automatically encouraged to explore alternative ways to relax after a long day at work. I definitely amped up the amount I exercised, and I probably ate a smidge more dark chocolate (okay, more than that) to reward myself throughout the week. And I didn’t become a shut-in on Friday and Saturday nights like I feared; rather, I participated in all my usual weekend activities, just sans alcohol. A huge plus to this was not having to worry about whacky blood sugars or who would be a designated driver – the safety element made the whole alcohol-avoidance thing much more appealing.

Does this mean that I’m going to avoid drinking alcohol forever now? No, because I still enjoy having a pint of beer, glass of wine, or specialty cocktail at my fancy. But I do feel more empowered to say “no” when I just don’t feel like drinking socially. I also feel good about cutting back on my alcohol intake overall and making a commitment to consciously deciding whether or not I want to drink. I think that my mind, body, and blood sugars will be better off.