3 Moments When Diabetes Surprised Me

Despite the best of efforts to “control” all aspects of life with diabetes, the bottom line is that it can still be totally unpredictable from time to time.

Usually, these unexpected diabetes experiences aren’t exactly welcome…but sometimes, diabetes surprises me in wonderfully delightful ways.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by diabetes?

Here’s three of ’em that have occurred in semi-recent memory:

1 – That time I was able to eat an entire homemade blueberry muffin WITHOUT BOLUSING FOR IT. Um, that’s crazy, right?! I had planned on eating half of said muffin in order to bring up a low blood sugar, but, well, it just tasted so damn good that before I knew it OOPS the whole thing was gone. I hemmed and hawed for a long time over whether I should bolus for the excess carb intake, and finally decided that I would just monitor my blood sugar and correct it as needed. But, weirdly enough…I saw my BG slowly rise and settle into the mid-150s and STAY there. Absolutely amazing, right? Maybe blueberry muffins are the new cinnamon cure for diabetes…

2 – When a pod change coincided with said pod running on its very last unit of insulin. Talk about using insulin to the very last drop, right? I still don’t know how I managed to pull this one off, but all I know is that I wore a pod for the maximum amount of time (80 hours) and had just one unit of insulin left inside it by the time it expired for good. I wish I could make this happen with every pod change, but then again, it is a little nerve-wracking to go down to the wire like that on a pod…

3 – That one instance when I drank one cocktail too many and my blood sugar behaved perfectly. This was a total freak incident and let me say upfront: I condone drinking with diabetes as long as it is done by individuals 21 and over in a safe, educated manner!!! Okay, now that I have that out of the way…like other grown-ass adults, sometimes I like to unwind with an adult beverage…and like OTHER grown-ass adults, once in a blue moon (please acknowledge the pun) I go a little overboard. Now, normally when I go a little too hard, I pay for it the next day with a hangover and high blood sugar, but on New Year’s Eve? When I drank Prosecco and a beer and a frozen Irish cream cocktail that was insanely good but carb-o-licious? I wound up with stellar blood sugars (and only a slightly hangover that was likely me just being overtired thanks to my puppy)…a head-scratching occurrence that was an absolute pleasant surprise.

And these are just three happy diabetes accidents that I can think of – I’ve absolutely had others over the years. Dumb luck? Total coincidences? Events that happened because I actually do kind of know what I’m doing? Whatever you want to call them, I can for sure classify these moments as the good kind of diabetes surprises.

The Bad ‘Betes Habit I’ve Tried to Break for 23 Years (and It’s Still a Work in Progress)

Bad habits are notoriously difficult to break.

Nail-biting. Forgetting to floss. A social media addiction. Swearing. Luckily, I only struggle with two out of the four of those (I’ll let you figure out which ones are a big fuckin’ problem for me while I go check my Instagram account real quick).

When it comes to diabetes-specific bad habits, though, well let’s just say that in more than two decades of life with diabetes, there’s a biiiiiig bad (Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, think Big Bad like Evil Willow or Glorificus) habit that feels impossible to break.

And for me, that’s snacking freely without bolusing.

When I’m snacking throughout the day, I am not nearly as adorable about it as this cartoon girl (and I am almost never snacking on something as healthy as the piece of fruit she’s cutting up).

When I say “snacking freely”, I think it’s more accurate to call it grazing…I’m not eating large quantities of food or anything particularly carb-heavy, but it is usually enough to impact my blood sugar, at least moderately.

I’ve acknowledged this as a bad habit in a previous blog post, but for the first time, I’m really taking a step back and thinking about how if I stop doing this, I might see a tangible change in not just my blood sugar levels, but my A1c.

Don’t get me wrong, my A1c reading isn’t the most important thing to me (I’d rather focus on time in range, or the amount of time I spend each day below my high limit and above my low limit). But it is something that does come up, and will always come up, during appointments with all of my healthcare professionals. It’s definitely not something that they will be ignoring any time soon, and this year, I’d like to have an A1c that I’m a little more proud to own.

So I’m going to actively try and break this bad habit.

Whenever the desire to snack/graze strikes, I’m going to do what the pros recommend: Have a glass of water. Walk outside for a few minutes. Play with my puppy. Find a task around the house to focus on instead. Actively seek something else that will consume my time instead of me consuming something that will ultimately have a negative impact on my blood sugar as well as my mood. Be more careful about portion control when treating low blood sugars, because I can really spiral and eat half the damn kitchen when correcting a low, and it ain’t cute. And when all else fails and I need a snack (no shame in that game) actually take a freaking bolus for it because it’s okay to eat something extra throughout the day, I just need to stop being lazy and measure out whatever it is so I know exactly how much insulin I need to cover for it. That part isn’t rocket science, so I should stop treating it as such.

All bad habits are difficult to break, and I know one that’s been around for most of my life will make it particularly challenging…but it’s a new year, a great excuse for making a positive change with my eating habits and blood sugar levels, so I say bring on the challenge.

Why I Wouldn’t Change the Age at which I Was Diagnosed with Diabetes

If I could cure diabetes for myself, my mom, my aunt, and all other people living with it, I would in a heartbeat, no question.

Unfortunately, I don’t have that capability, so I can’t change the fact that diabetes exists. Another thing I can’t change is that I was only four years old when I was diagnosed with it.

But let’s talk in hypotheticals here for a moment: If I could change the age that I was diagnosed, would I? Why or why not?

The answer is a resounding no, and here’s why.

I grew up with my diabetes. I don’t remember life before it. I don’t recall a time in my life in which I was finger-prick free or able to eat whichever foods whenever I wanted.

That might sound sort of depressing, but for me, it’s better that way.

See, little Molly clearly didn’t care about having diabetes – I was way too into my horsey to care about that!

I never have to long for the “before times”. I never have to look back on a time in my life that was hard because diabetes rudely interrupted it, causing a swift, drastic change to my daily routine. By the time I was old enough to start really recalling specific events, I already had diabetes. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always just been a part of me.

Some might argue that it’s “better” (imagine that I’m air-quoting that because it’s never better to have diabetes) to be diagnosed with something as life-altering as diabetes in adulthood, or at least in the teenage years, because comprehension of what it is, exactly, is stronger. I’d imagine that the adaptation of new technologies is easier, too, seeing as teenagers/older individuals tend to pick up on these things faster than, say, a toddler that is needing to learn how to safely use an insulin pump.

But for me, it’s been good to learn about diabetes as I’ve matured. As a kid, I just knew it was the thing that prevented me from eating certain foods at certain times, and that I needed my parents’ help at mealtimes in order to calculate carb intake and bolus amounts. As a teen, I started to actually learn the science behind diabetes in various classes I took throughout high school, and expanded on that knowledge in college by taking a nutrition course that taught me all about the glycemic index and how that impacts blood sugar. And as an adult, I’ve been able to make informed choices regarding the use of insulin pumps, CGMs, and other matters of that nature that require some research and understanding.

And more important than anything else…being diagnosed with diabetes at 4 years old had zero impact on my quality of life. I had a wonderful childhood and all the credit goes to my parents, who made sure that I was raised knowing that diabetes couldn’t stop me from doing anything. I know they would’ve handled a potential diabetes diagnosis later on in my life with an equal amount of grace and strength, but the fact that I grew up with it meant that we all, as a family, grew up with it as a normal part of our lives.

So even though I’ll never be okay in the traditional sense of the word that I have diabetes, I am okay with getting diagnosed as a little kid.

How Raising a Puppy is Similar to Dealing with Diabetes, Part 2

Just about three years ago, I was helping my parents raise their puppy, Clarence. And naturally, with me being who I am, I found that raising him was a lot like dealing with diabetes – and wrote about it in this blog post.

Now that I’m a puppy parent, I revisited that post and found that there are even more similarities between the two.

For starters, one of the biggest parts of diabetes management is the constant monitoring involved in it. As it turns out, the same can be said about raising a puppy! Much like my blood sugar, I am watching her like a hawk during all waking hours. I’m prepared to pounce on her if she’s chewing up a puppy pad or squatting down to her business indoors, just like I’m prepared to act when my blood sugar is going higher or lower than I’d like.

Raising a puppy is only this cute and sweet about 2% of the time. (Okay, total exaggeration here, but I’m writing this after Violet decided to do her business in her playpen just after I had her outside.)

Also, as it turns out – shocker – having a puppy around is exhausting. My sleep has been interrupted several times over the last few weeks by Violet’s whimpers. Before, I used to only have to worry about a Dexcom alarm waking me in the middle of the night, but now I have to respond to her cries, too. Fortunately, having a puppy isn’t totally like having diabetes in this regard, because at least I can nap when she’s napping! (We all know that diabetes never sleeps…)

Another similarity, one that I don’t mind so much, is the frequent exercise that Violet needs. Just like my diabetes tends to be “better controlled” when I exercise each day, Violet also responds really well to playtime. The best part is that after a nice, long session of fetch or tug-of-war, she tends to zonk out afterwards, which I see as the puppy equivalent of having the coveted 100 mg/dL blood sugar.

However, there are tons of obvious differences between raising a puppy and managing diabetes. But the best, perhaps biggest one of all? Violet improves (well, when she doesn’t have an accident indoors) my overall mood and mental health. I know that her ability to do this will only increase over time as she matures. And I know that having her around will help me through the tough diabetes days that I’m bound to face in the future, and for that and so much more, I’m thankful for my little pup.

Meet Violet

Cactus Huggers, I have someone I would like for you to meet.

This is Violet:

Violet enjoys playing with her many toys as well as using them as pillows. Here she is laying on top of a puppy of her own.

Violet is a 10-week-old tri-color Shetland Sheepdog puppy. And for those of you who are familiar with my parents’ dog, Clarence (I’ve written about him on the blog before), Violet is actually Clarence’s niece by blood – his sister is Violet’s mommy.

And I’m Violet’s human mommy.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog of my own. I considered Clarence to be “my” dog in the last few years because we lived under the same roof most of that time, but I knew that when I eventually moved out, Clarence wouldn’t be coming with me. I also knew that my desire for a dog would only increase if I ever found myself living on my own. So I felt that the stars aligned when I discovered – soon after I moved out towards the end of 2020 – that Clarence’s sister was expecting a litter of puppies, and that one of those puppies would be mine.

This isn’t how I expected it to happen. I never wanted to raise a puppy on my own; after all, puppies are a lot of work. Clarence was a tough puppy to deal with and he had three humans taking care of him!

But I feel as though maybe this is how it was supposed to happen. This tiny creature relies on me for everything. I have quickly become her whole world, and she has become mine. That’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly, and though I know we will have our highs and lows – much like the ones I have with my diabetes – I know that we will live and thrive together happily.

Just like I do with my diabetes.

Happy New Year!

It is officially January 1, 2021.

When I think of January, the color gray comes to mind. This time of year is notorious for being a bit of a dull lull – a period in which everything abruptly slows down. The cold weather feels even colder and it can feel a bit like being trapped inside sometimes.

But we’re all pretty familiar with how that feels by now…

Anyways, that’s what I used to think of January. Now, I’m trying to shift my thinking and find the color and vibrancy in this month. After all, a new mindset – sort of like the one I touched on in Wednesday’s blog post but am still struggling to identify clearly – seems like it should just go together with a new year. If I keep the old mindset, I’ll get old results, and I don’t think I necessarily want old results (unless they pertain to the stretches of time in which my blood sugar levels have been spot-on, then I definitely want those results).

I’m rambling, I know. But this is my way of encouraging myself – and you – to do something that makes you happy today. Need some inspiration? I’ll share my plans: I’ll have a lovely homemade lasagna made by my mother, hang out at my parents’ house with our dogs, and text all of my loved ones to wish them a happy new year. If the weather cooperates, I’ll take a walk at some point to get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Maybe I’ll even get to totally veg out for a few hours and shirk the responsibilities of adulthood, pretending that a new workweek isn’t just around the corner.

All that sounds like a pretty great way to ring in a new year, don’t you think?

Here’s to a new year, your good health, hope, and of course, fabulous blood sugar levels.

Reflecting on 2020

2020. What a year, am I right?

This blog post is NOT going to be a recap of how “unprecedented”, “historical”, “chaotic”, or “uncertain” this year was – we all know exactly what it was like and we most definitely don’t need a summary of it.

Instead, this post is going to be a short reflection on some of the cards I was dealt with this year…

What exactly did I do in 2020?

Well, for starters, I made one of the most heart-wrenching decisions of my life to move back home last January.

In February, I was trying to heal from the damage caused by this decision.

And then, well, March happened, and suddenly nothing was certain.

I stumbled through April and May along with the rest of the world, trying to adjust to this “new normal” (I promise I won’t be using that phrase again in this post).

I flailed into the summer months, a time in which it seemed like things might be getting better, only for a bout of depression and anxiety to darken the light at the end of the tunnel I thought I had seen.

In September and October, I chose to dip my toes back into adulthood. By November, I was moving into my new place and getting used to living on my own.

Now it’s the final few days of December and I’ve got a dog (more on that in a future post) that’s joined me in my home, making it a little less lonely.

I’m marveling how in all the changes, challenges, and emotional upheavals lead me to this place that I’m in – and I’m not referring to my dwelling.

Normally, I try to go for bold and bright colors on photos for my posts, but this solemn black and gold scheme felt right with the theme of this post.

I’m talking about this new mindset – one that I haven’t quite defined yet, but one that has developed because of my determination to get through all of the above and still somehow maintain a good grip on my diabetes (and regularly keep up with this blog, to boot).

Please don’t mistake all this self-reflecting as tooting my own horn; in fact, I struggled for weeks as to whether I should share any of this. (Funny how my diabetes is less personal to me than, well, my entire personal life.)

I guess the point of this post, though, is to finally catch my breath and let everything I’ve accomplished and survived this year to sink in…and you should allow yourself that moment of recognition, too.

I doubt there’s a single person on this earth who can truly say that they were untouched in some way by any of the events of this year…so now that we are about to put 2020 into the past, I say that we all deserve to take some time and think about how we’ve adapted to everything and find some sort of joy in that – especially if you’re someone who also deals with anything like diabetes on a daily basis.

I’m not naive enough to think that everything will go back to the way it was “before” the second the clock says 12:01 A.M. on New Year’s Day, but I am hopeful that 2021 will exceed 2020 in many ways. And hope is a good thing to hold onto in times like these.

Happy New Year to all my Cactus Huggers, online friends, and IRL loved ones alike.

500 Blog Posts Later…

You know how in Spongebob Squarepants, title cards are held up every so often in episodes to depict the passage of time?

Imagine me holding one up now and saying in the Spongebob narrator voice: “500 Blog Posts Later”…

I can’t believe I’ve hit 500 blog posts published on Hugging the Cactus…all in the span of a little more than 3 years.

I wish I could claim this super tidy desk as my own; alas, it’s just a stock photo…my actual desk is quite messy.

Most of these posts I’ve written and posted here exclusively. A couple posts have appeared on sites like Beyond Type 1. A dozen or so posts I’ve shared twice because I either especially liked them or wanted to revisit something I’d written years ago. And a handful more posts were written by others for organizations like T1International and shared here because of their powerful messages.

I’m quite proud of this 500 post milestone and want to give credit…not to myself for it, but to you, and to the other writers and individuals who have helped me get this far.

Without YOU reading my posts and commenting, my desire to keep sharing and writing would wane.

Without other writers and individuals, I’d lack inspiration and perspective that are key to keeping this blog as interesting as possible.

Support means the world to me when it comes to managing diabetes, and as it turns out, when it comes to managing this blog, too. So thank you for yours.

I hope you continue to come back to read the next 500+ blog posts.

Merry Christmas!

This is my site heading all monthlong and it never ceases to crack me up…hence, my overuse of it!

Dear Reader,

Merry Christmas! I am taking today off from writing a longer blog post, but I wanted to be sure to 1) wish you and yours well during this holiday season and 2) remind you to take it easy this holiday. It’s no secret that just about everything about 2020 wasn’t great and certainly far from ideal…making it more important than ever to take a step back from everyday hectic life and take a moment to appreciate all your blessings, big and small. If you are spending the holidays alone or have trouble finding the joy in this time of year, know that you are not alone and be kind to yourself. Tell all the special people in your life that they are loved and you will instantly find yourself embracing the spirit of the season.

Have a beautiful day, my fellow Cactus Huggers.

Warmly,

Molly