T1D and the Workplace: Feeling Envious of Coworkers with Professional Pancreases

I’m envious of people with functioning pancreases.

It goes without saying, but they don’t have to worry about all the things that PWD have to worry about. They can live life with a little more spontaneity. They don’t have to do as much math. They don’t have to lug around test kits and glucose tablets and strips and needles and whatnot at all times. They don’t have to hide their emergency snack stashes from their coworkers – well, okay, maybe they do, depending on some office environments.

They don’t have to worry about minute things, like “is my pod going to start beeping” or “is my blood sugar going to go low or high” during a very important meeting with a very very high-up executive.

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Conference room or anxiety-inducing room?

I’m envious of my coworkers, who were able to just sit there and listen to the executive speak when he made a special visit to the office last week. I was as attentive as I could be throughout the nearly 90-minute meeting, but I was definitely a bit anxious in there without any of my devices. I’d left them all at my desk to avoid awkward questions from the executive. I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded their presence, had he known they were medical devices, but still…I just didn’t want to deal with it.

I’m envious that a meeting is just a meeting to some people, but for a person with diabetes like me, it can trigger fear and concern and a gamut of other emotions regarding blood sugar/diabetes issues in the workplace alone – forget other social situations.

It goes to show that diabetes is never far from my mind, even in situations when I really want or need it to be. I wish my diabetes knew how to act more professionally.

But I guess from practically the beginning, my diabetes – or shall I say, my pancreas – was unprofessional. After all, my pancreas quit on me only four years into the job.

What a lazy jerk.

 

Favorite Things Friday: My Secret Snack Stash at Work

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

So, I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that none of my coworkers read my blog…because then my secret snack stash at work will become not-so-secret, and that could mean trouble for me when dealing with future low blood sugars. That being said, if you’re reading this and you work with me…stay away from the stash!!!

As I was saying…

I love having a snack stash stored away in one of the drawers at my cubicle. I like to stock it with snacks that have varying carbohydrate counts: more carbs for lower lows, and fewer carbs for the not-urgent lows. The items may vary from time to time, but usually, I keep the drawer filled with the following snacks:

  • Mini Lara bars (10 carbs)
  • Mini boxes of raisins (11 carbs)
  • Fruit snacks (all kinds, ranging from 10 carbs to 21 carbs)
  • Peanut butter crackers (15 carbs)

Sometimes, I’ll even add a jar of glucose tablets (which contains 50-60 tabs) to the lot. Glucose tablets are far less tempting to munch on then, say, a cracker pack, so when I’m dealing with a raging-hunger kind of low, it helps to have the tabs within reach because they prevent me from over-treating.

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In order to throw off coworkers (who are most definitely, probably not reading this post), I’ll share an image of my old snack CORNER. I’ve upgraded to a drawer now.

And when all else fails and my snack stash is depleted, at least I’ve got access to a fully-stocked Coca-Cola machine in my office suite, as well as a vending machine filled with all sorts of confections in the building’s basement.

But let’s be real here…who can possibly exercise enough self-control to stop eating a package of Skittles when low blood sugar comes ’round?

I’m Right, You’re Wrong: Debating with T1D

I found the diabetes online community (DOC) a few years ago – or perhaps it found me – and to this day, I’m incredibly grateful for it. It’s introduced me to new friends and it’s always been a reliable source of information. Whether I’m lamenting a low blood sugar at 2 A.M. or asking if anyone has advice on a pod problem at 2 P.M., odds are I’ll have someone reaching out to me within minutes in some form or fashion. That kind of on-the-fly support is invaluable.

That being said…the DOC is not always a perfect safe haven.

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When it comes to diabetes, there shouldn’t be a “right” or a “wrong” side. T1D is hard enough.

In fact, if there was one thing I could change about it, it would be to make it a judgment-free space: because all too often, people are unfairly judged for how they choose to manage their own diabetes.

I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to opinions. Of course they are! But what happened to respectfully disagreeing with people?

I’ve seen situations like the following across different social media platforms:

  • People getting attacked for following low/medium/high-carb diets
  • People getting criticized for sharing “good” and “bad” blood sugars/A1cs
  • People getting judged for dealing with diabetes burnout – as well as people getting judged for sharing their diabetes triumphs
  • People getting discouraged from posting only the pretty parts of diabetes

We can’t keep doing this to each other. Just because a certain diet or T1D management strategy works out well for one person, doesn’t mean that it will work the same for another. That’s because diabetes is not a one-size-fits-all condition.

And we shouldn’t be judging one another for our differences. In fact, our differences can teach us so much more than our similarities can. We should celebrate one another for living with diabetes: doing the best we can, day after day, whether it yields “ideal” or “not ideal” results. Because it’s damn difficult to manage, and anyone who says otherwise is being judgmental.

We can learn and grow from one another, which is pretty powerful, as long as we refrain from this “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude.

 

 

My Top 10 Diabetes “Yes!” Moments

This post originally appeared on my blog at ASweetLife.org on August, 3, 2015. But it’s one of my favorites that I’ve ever written, and I needed the reminder that diabetes isn’t all doom and gloom – in fact, it can bring bright spots and moments of triumph!

10. Finding a new, yummy snack that doesn’t skew blood sugar

I love cheese, veggies, and deli meats, but sometimes I get sick of turning to them when I’m looking for a low-carb snack that won’t make me skyrocket. That’s why I love discovering new, lower-glycemic index foods that taste great without triggering any CGM alarms.

Perfect BG Meme9. CGM and meter matches

Twins! It may be trivial, but I find it reassuring when the blood sugar that my meter reports happens to be exactly the same as the one on my CGM. It’s all about that accuracy!

8. Treating well for…well, treats

Speaking of accuracy, it can be ~hella~ tough to bolus after devouring a giant plate of nachos or a generous slice of cake with ice cream. The mental carb calculator might go a little haywire in the process of figuring out just how many grams of carbohydrate are in a given amount of “bad” food, but when you get it right, it feels so damn good.

7. Joining the Century Club

When I was a little kid and my blood sugar was 100 mg/dL, I would draw little fireworks next to the result in my logbook as a sign of my success. While I may no longer do that, I still feel happy when I reach the 100 mg/dL reading that I find pretty perfect. Definitely worthy of a meter advertisement!

6. Painless site changes

Oh my gosh, CGM changes and pod insertions can HURT. In fact, almost every time I change my pod I let out a little squeal of agony, whether it really was painful or not. So whenever I hit a sweet spot with a site change, it’s pure relief and makes the process less stressful.

5. Correcting accurately for a hyper

It’s not fun to have a hyperglycemic blood sugar. For me, it affects my mood by taking me from glad to grouchy within seconds. And don’t get me started on all the water/diet coke I down, resulting in endless bathroom trips! When I reverse a high by delivering a correction bolus that takes me back down to a better reading like 108 mg/dL, I feel that much better mentally and physically.

4. Conversely, correcting accurately for a hypo

Along the same lines, low blood sugars are so disorienting. I can’t stand feeling shaky, dizzy, and sweaty all at once. And it can be irksome to be forced to eat when you don’t necessarily want to. That’s why I take great pleasure in fixing a low with the bare minimum of carbs, which usually results in a near-perfect blood sugar reading later.

3. Seeing a doctor who just gets it

Over the last 17 years, I’ve seen my fair share of doctors – some I’ve loved, some I’ve loathed. Currently, I’m fortunate to have an endo who truly understands me and my needs. She listens, she cares, she doesn’t blame me diabetes mistakes. While I still don’t love having to see a doctor every three months, she makes it much more bearable.

2. Meeting other T1Ds

Talk about people who “just get it”! The only T1Ds I knew growing up were two immediate family members. When I went off to college, this completely changed and I connected with many other T1Ds. Suddenly, it was normal to whip out my meter or a syringe whenever needed, and conversations about carbohydrates were common.

1. Improved A1c results

A1c MemeThis. One of the ultimate victories! I’ll never forget how good I felt when my A1c dropped a whole point, marking major personal progress. An improved A1c is a true sign of your effort being worth it when it comes to your diabetes management. #FTW!

What’s Worse than High or Low Blood Sugar?

High blood sugar and low blood sugar are both incredibly draining. One turns me into a grump who can’t drink enough water and the other turns me into a shaky, sweaty, slurring hot mess who can’t string a simple sentence together. Needless to say, neither situation is fun.

But there’s one even worse than that: the roller coaster situation. It’s best illustrated using a CGM graph like this:

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I added the little graphic of psychedelic teddy bears riding a roller coaster – it seemed to illustrate my point well. 

It’s what I use to describe blood sugar that won’t level out to my target range. It just goes up, up, up, and falls dramatically – just like an actual roller coaster – once the high is corrected. And boy, does that drop down take my breath away.

But then wait, there’s more! After the crash and the inevitable need for lots of sugar (and fast) is satisfied, the blood sugar soars back up again, leaving me frustrated as I take another bolus to fix it…

…only for it to happen again. And again.

Get me off this ride!

When I’m stuck on these blood sugar roller coasters, it’s mentally and physically exhausting. I question my every action over and over again as I try to do the “right thing” and make my numbers level out, only to end up berating myself for getting into this situation in the first place.

I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters in real life – they make me a combination of anxious and nauseous that I’ve dubbed “nauxious” – but I’d rather ride one that goes upside down than experience the T1D roller coaster situation again any time soon.

T1D, the Common Denominator

I know a lot of people who have type 1 diabetes. And I consider many of them friends of mine.

You know what’s so cool about that? It’s that diabetes was merely the common denominator, something that we knew we shared, but not the sole reason for friendship. Diabetes provides a launching point into which we can find other shared interests: from TV shows to travel destination wish lists, the conversations we have don’t often linger on diabetes. But even when they do, it’s nice to talk about anything-and-everything diabetes with people who speak the same T1D vernacular.

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I’d met half of these people prior to this event, and I became fast friends with the other half, thanks to our common denominator: diabetes.

Case in point: An end-of-summer pool party I attended a few weeks ago that introduced me to a handful of T1Ds. Sure, we started off talking about things like medical research experiences and CGM trials, but then we moved on to the other topics we cared about and really got to know each other. It proved to me, for the umpteenth time, that it’s just so dang special that something as shitty as diabetes can bring so many good things into my life, including friendships with some marvelous human beings.

 

I Want to Love my Dexcom G6, but…

…this keeps happening on Day 9 of wear:

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I don’t understand why the sensor error occurs. But it almost ALWAYS happens on the ninth day: My sensor will work wonderfully and provide me with extremely accurate data, but then BOOM it’ll sporadically stop working and produce graphs like the one above that are virtually useless. Even worse, there’s no telling when exactly it’ll start communicating again with my receiver. The error message SAYS I’ll get data back within 3 hours, and I normally do, but there’s a big difference between going 10 minutes and going 2 hours without any readings.

This device has so many good things working in its favor: longer wear, painless insertion, increased accuracy, compatibility with acetaminophen, slimmer profile. But I’m of the opinion that if something says it will totally function for a certain length of time, then it WILL. The fact that it doesn’t, and that this has occurred more than once to me, is alarming and frustrating.

The only possible explanation I’ve come up with is that maybe the upper arm isn’t a great place to wear the G6. As we all know, Dexcom devices are FDA approved to be worn on one location, the abdomen. However, that hasn’t stopped the cheeky diabetes community from wearing it elsewhere. Besides the upper arm, I’ve seen people with it on their forearms, thighs, and calves. I even know one clever person who chooses to wear it on the upper bum during the summer months to prevent tan lines (hilarious and brilliant, IMO). I choose to wear my CGM on my upper arm most of the time because it’s comfortable there, and I like to give the sites on my belly a break. But maybe it’s time I start wearing it more frequently on my stomach, the “officially okay” site, to see if that prevents these ridiculous sensor error scenarios.

What I’d like to know in the meantime, though, is has this happened to you or anyone you know using the G6? Has anyone pinpointed a cause, and is it worth notifying Dexcom of this issue? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts – drop a note in the comments or get in touch with me directly!