Training for my First 5K

At the start of the year, I told myself, this is your year. You’re going to be in the best shape of your life and finally run a 5K. I’ve never particularly enjoyed running, which is why the challenge of a 5K was more alluring than a different fitness goal. I felt that doing something I practically dreaded would make accomplishing it that much more gratifying.

But just a few short weeks into 2018, I broke a bone in my arm. I was crushed, because the kinds of physical activity I could do suddenly became severely limited. Instead of taking the injury in stride, I spent a long length of time moping over it. My exercise levels decreased and I stopped caring (for a short while, anyways) about my lean and mean pursuits. All I wanted was to heal, and heal swiftly.

Fortunately, I’ve fully recovered from the fracture, and so have my spirits. A renewed vigor took hold of me in April, and I spent many weekday mornings waking up early to complete a variety of workouts. I started to feel stronger and more confident in my athletic ability. So in the second week of May, just a few days after my 25th birthday, I decided the time was right to register for my first 5K.

And so I did, and I’ve devoted time training for it since then. It’s far from easy, but I must admit that each time I successfully complete a run, the feeling of accomplishment and pride that courses through my body makes it all worth it. It’s doubly wonderfully when I’m able to achieve in-range blood sugars before, during, and after each run.

I don’t have a convoluted strategy for stabilizing my blood sugar while running; rather, it seems to work best for me if I simply complete a fasting workout first thing in the morning. This eliminates a few variables affecting my blood sugar, including carbs consumed during a meal or insulin on board. I’ve found that I don’t even need to run a temporary basal or suspend any insulin – my body seems to do well if I’m running my normal basal rate. But with diabetes being a fickle fiend, I’m always prepared for a potential high or low blood sugar to occur on a run. In other words, portable glucose and my PDM are my constant running companions.

Race day is just a few short weeks away, and I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to it. Sure, I’m a little anxious, but I’m choosing to focus on the fact that I’m finally taking on something that tests me – and my diabetes – in all the right ways. I should be proud of that alone, but I must say, I’ll be over the moon when I get to cross that finish line.

Favorite Things Friday: Lauren’s Hope Medical IDs

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!

I’d been meaning to replace my medical ID for ages.

It was in rough shape. The medical snake symbol (a quick search on Google told me that the technical term for it is “Caduceus”) was scarcely recognizable, for the red paint that once made it stand out had peeled off a few years ago. The etching on the charm was nearly illegible due to age, and the bracelet itself was a Frankenstein creation: The original clasp it came with broke last year, so I had to transplant a mismatched clasp from an old bracelet onto it to be able to continue to wear it. All things considered…it’d seen better days.

Fortunately, I knew exactly where I should look for a new one: the Lauren’s Hope website. I’d heard about Lauren’s Hope a few years ago at a diabetes conference, and made a mental note to check it out some point down the road. Fast forward to the present and I’ve finally had a chance to shop on the site.

I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a wide variety of medical IDs available. There were bracelets, charms, tags, and necklaces that ranged in style from fancy to simple. The choices were so varied that I decided to cut to the chase and check out bracelets only, since I knew that was the kind of ID I wanted.

 

But there was still quite a selection under that subcategory: I could choose from different metal tones, bracelet styles (cuff, stretch, woven, wrap, beaded, etc.), material types, and colors. Rather than go with something loud and flashy, I decided to stick with a basic silver link bracelet that came with an ID tag that allowed up to six lines of text to be engraved on it. I was thrilled that the space on the tag permitted so much information – I was even able to put a line on it about where I keep my glucose tablets stored.

And the part that’s really cool? The fact that the ID tag is interchangeable. This means I can go back to Lauren’s Hope whenever I want, order a new bracelet, and swap the tag from the old bracelet to the new one. It’s really refreshing to see a company understand the wants and needs of its customers so well; obviously, Lauren’s Hope gets that customization and options are important to people with medical conditions.

I’m loving my shiny, high-quality bracelet from Lauren’s Hope. It feels good to finally wear a piece of medical equipment (yes, I consider it medically necessary) that is both stylish and practical.

Diabetes Connections: Gym Edition

“Are you a diabetic?” Despite the fact that I was wearing earbuds, I heard the question that was undoubtedly being directed toward me.

I glanced to my right and met the gaze of the teenage girl on the treadmill next to me. I smiled, tugging an earbud out, and said, “Yes, I am. My OmniPod gave it away, didn’t it?”

She nodded eagerly. “I have a Medtronic pump, but I know what an OmniPod looks like. When I saw it, I had to say something to you.”

This marked the beginning of what wound up being a thirty minute interaction with Shae, a high school senior with bucketloads of energy and questions for me about life with diabetes. We specifically chatted about college, and I couldn’t resist telling her all about the College Diabetes Network and what a useful tool it was for me during my three and a half years at UMass. The more we spoke, the more it felt like I was looking at a mirror image of myself from seven years ago. She had just finished taking her AP Psych exam and was relieved it was done. Her senior prom was in a few days, and she described how she’d wear her pump while donning her fancy gown. She was excited about college, but a little nervous about the dreaded “Freshman 15” and whether her diabetes would adjust well to college dining halls.

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It’s so funny to think how something as crappy as diabetes can introduce so many amazing people into your life.

I did my best to answer Shae’s rapid-fire questions frankly but reassuringly. As I told her about how much my CGM helped me in college (especially since I was still on multiple daily injection therapy at that time), she exclaimed that I was inspiring her to want to give her CGM another shot (pun unintended – I love spontaneous diabetes humor).

As we parted ways, we both grinned broadly and wished one another well. This is why moments like this – diabetes in the wild – are so great. Diabetes instantly bonds you to a stranger who you might not otherwise ever interact with, and the beauty in that immediate connection is priceless.

Mom Appreciation Post

I know Mother’s Day was yesterday, but mothers deserve more than a Hallmark-card holiday in order to be adequately recognized. (They also deserve more than just this blog post; however, I can only express my admiration for moms using my words.) Let me explain my appreciation for moms.

All of the mothers I know, especially my own mom, work tirelessly to support their families in multiple ways. This is especially true of mothers of children with diabetes. They spend so much time counting carbs, losing hours of sleep, injecting insulin, attending doctors’ appointments, and dealing with difficult diabetes emotions all on top of normal mom duties. And many of the diabetes moms I know work(ed) full-time jobs, to boot!

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My mom is so wonderful that Chewbacca (yes, the famous Wookiee) embraced her admiringly within the first few seconds of being in her presence.

I think my mom is particularly amazing because she did all of the above, all while managing her own diabetes, too. Now that I’m an adult, I can’t help but marvel over how she did it all with such capability, humor, and unconditional love. I’m blessed to have an incredible mom who taught me what it means to be a dia-badass.

I love you, Mom!!!

 

The CGM Experiment: Comparing the Dexcom G5 to the G6

I have the extremely good fortune of being one of the first people in the world to receive the Dexcom G6, the latest in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology. After spending almost two years eagerly anticipating its FDA approval, I could scarcely believe that I finally had it in my hands when it first arrived a few weeks ago.

I am partway through my second-ever G6 sensor, so I’ve had enough time to come up with some initial opinions on the system as a whole compared to the G5.

Let’s start with what I knew going into the first insertion of the G6. I knew that the transmitter would have a sleeker profile than the G5. I also was aware that the insertion process would be much more streamlined – all I would need to do is push a button and it would be on my body.  Plus, the G6 required 0 finger sticks or calibrations, could be worn for 10 consecutive days, and would no longer block acetaminophen (Tylenol) like its predecessors did. So far, me and the G6 were off to a solid start.

Then, it came time for me to actually put it on. Rather then end my current session with my G5, I decided to leave it on so I could see how accurate it was compared to the G6.

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I was amazed by how easy it was to insert the G6. All I had to do was input a 4-digit code located on the sensor into my receiver. Once the code was accepted, I peeled the adhesive off the sensor, placed the system on my abdomen, folded the orange safety clip until it snapped off, and pushed the big orange button. I cringed when I did it for the first time; truthfully, I was prepared for it to hurt. It made a ka-shunk sound as the sensor inserted itself into my skin, and I…didn’t feel a thing. I marveled at how ridiculously comfortable it felt as I snapped the sleeker transmitter into place. I pressed one more button on my receiver to get the sensor warmed up, and that was it. Once two hours elapsed, my G6 system would be fully operational and could determine my blood sugar without requiring manual calibrations.

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While it felt great to know that I didn’t need to worry about calibrating my new device, I was more interested in seeing how well it matched up with my G5.

And I was a little let down…at least, I was in the beginning.

Initially, I was not impressed at all by the G6’s reports. They matched pretty damn closely with my G5. I was beginning to wonder whether the technology really was that excellent, and then my G6 proved to me that it was, indeed, kind of a big deal.

That moment came when it caught a low blood sugar sooner than my G5. I was feeling the early signs of a low, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it alarmed. But what was particularly neat to me was that it was able to tell me that a serious low blood sugar (below 55 mg/dL) was oncoming in the next 20 minuets or less. In other words, it knew that I needed to treat my blood sugar right away to prevent a more urgent hypoglycemic event. That predictive feature was definitely a pleasant surprise.

As I wore my first G6 sensor for a few more days, it seemed to adjust better and better to my body. As evidenced in the above picture, it proved to be spot on when I compared it to the blood sugar readings I got from my meter. There’s absolutely still a bit of the classic CGM lag, as it takes about 15 minutes or so to catch up to what’s actually going on in the body, but that was to be expected.

I’m already on second sensor and I think it’s safe to say that I’m sold on the G6. But I don’t think that any product comparison/review is complete without a list of pros and cons, so here’s what I’ve come up with:

Pros of the G6 (compared to the G5)

  • Slimmer transmitter profile
  • 0 fingerstick calibrations (which I really loved when I didn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to calibrate a sensor I inserted before bed)
  • Predictive low feature
  • Modern touchscreen receiver
  • Absolutely painless and foolproof application – honestly, it was THAT good that it might win me over from the G5 if that was the sole difference between the two

Cons of the G6 (compared to the G5)

  • Clunky applicator – as many other members of the DOC have noted, the system is comprised of a lot of plastic. Probably not very environmentally friendly. I wish it was possible to recycle it somehow
  • Automatic expiration after 10 days – with the G5, you could restart a sensor after a week had elapsed, and in theoryyou could use the same single sensor more than once for a few weeks in a row. The G6 automatically shuts down after 10 days, so you’re forced to put on a new sensor. This medical device is already pretty expensive, and you could at least get your money’s worth with the G5
  • No super noticeable improvement in blood sugar reporting capabilities

The bottom line is that the G6 is unquestionably an upgrade in diabetes technology. It requires fewer blood sugar checks and allows for greater discretion with its smaller size. The G6 is far from perfect, but it’s still a valued component of my diabetes toolkit. I’m excited to continue on this journey with it and discover just how much it helps me take the best possible care of myself.

So THAT’S How Long and Sharp the Dexcom G5 Insertion Needle is…

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Oh, I cringe just looking at that.

This is a rare photo of the Dexcom G5 insertion needle. Yikes! I only captured it because somehow, my last sensor change with the G5 went awry and I wound up being unable to use this particular sensor. Before I threw it away, though, I played with it a bit to see if I could get a closer look at the needle that helps secure the sensor to my skin.

Obviously, the mission was accomplished. Even though I was slightly horrified by the needle’s pointy length, I was also relieved to know that it would be the last time it would puncture my skin. That’s because I knew my G6 was on its way and that one of the major improvements to it was making the whole process painless. Little did I know how true that would be until I put my first G6 sensor on…

In a couple days, I’ll *finally* publish a post that reveals my initial thoughts on my brand-new Dexcom G6. I’ll compare it to my experience with the G5 and share whether I think the G6 is worthy of all the hype it’s received.

 

What It’s Like to Wear a Medical Device 24/7

A question I’m often asked is: “Can you feel your CGM or insulin pump on your body?”

The simple answer to that is: usually, no. It’s something that you just get used to. You grow accustomed to seeing a lump underneath your clothing. You adjust to putting clothes on (and taking them off) carefully to avoid accidentally ripping a site out. You acclimate to showering without being completely naked.

And, of course, you get used to the questions from strangers asking about that device stuck to you.

But the more honest answer to that question would be that there are times that I feel it more than others. For example, sometimes I forget where I’m wearing my pump until I hit it against something (I’m a major klutz who constantly runs into doorways and trip over things, almost always managing to catch my pod on whatever it is), resulting in pain at the site and a curse word or two to fly out of my mouth.

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My OmniPod (on my arm) and my Dexcom (on my stomach) are stuck on me 24/7.

I feel it the most, though, when people stare. Whether unconsciously or purposely, people do ogle at it in very not subtle manners. Which makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. It’s worse when they don’t even ask me what it is – I’d rather have a chance to use it as a teaching moment than to have someone walk away not knowing what the device does. This tends to make swimsuit season a little less welcome for me. Nothing will stop me from donning a bathing suit at the beach or by the pool, and I do so as much as possible in the summertime. But it’s just not as fun when I’ve got to cope with lingering looks, especially when I’m an admittedly insecure person in the first place.

So it’s a more complex question to answer than you might realize. Wearing a medical device 24/7 is humbling. It keeps me alive. I’m privileged to have access to it. I’m grateful for the ways it’s improved my life. I’m always wearing it, but it’s not at the forefront of my mind – unless it chooses to make its presence known by alarming, or I’ve got people blatantly checking it out. It’s kind of like diabetes itself. It can make you feel a gamut of emotions, but no matter what, it’s always there. It’s just a part of me, and I can deal with that.