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 can’t believe I’m about to admit this on my blog, but…
Diabetes socks are a THING and they’re amazing.
I don’t remember when I first tried a pair. My aunt may have recommended them to my mom or to me, and even though we laughed them off at first, we decided to buy a couple at a local pharmacy.
And we were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable they felt. Socks that are marketed as “diabetes socks” are made without elastics to be as non-binding to the foot as possible. This special design is intended to increase blood circulation and alleviate pressure in the foot. I can’t say for certain whether they actually accomplish those goals, but they are like clouds for my feet.
Blood glucose meters serve the sole purpose of checking current levels of glucose in the blood. Pretty self-explanatory, right? And it’s equally obvious that it’s crucial for all meters to generate accurate results so PWD can make the right treatment decisions based on those numbers.
Unfortunately, though, accuracy isn’t always what I get.
The other day, I was running low before bedtime. I corrected with an organic rice crispy treat (honestly, it was a million times better than the brand name kind). I waited nearly an hour for my blood sugar to come up. When my CGM wasn’t showing any progress, I tested: I was 47. It’s rare for me to be that low, so I tested again. 52. I believed it, especially since I was experiencing several hypoglycemic symptoms.
I chugged a glass of orange juice and plopped down on the couch to wait for signs of improvement. Before long, I was freezing cold – a sure sign I was coming up, because I had been sweating 20 minutes prior. But I didn’t feel comfortable going to bed yet. I wanted to see if my CGM would show an up arrow. When it finally did, I made my way upstairs to brush my teeth and wash my face. In the middle of my routine, though, I decided to glance at my CGM again – and saw the dreaded ??? screen.
I decided then that the Dexcom should be out of commission, a.k.a. not trusted at all, for the remainder of the evening.
I ripped it out and inserted a fresh one, not really caring that it would wake me up in two hours to be calibrated. I would need to set at least two alarms for the middle of the night, anyways, if I decided to go to bed disconnected from my Dex. So it just made sense.
Once that was done, I tested again. I was pretty tired at this point and really didn’t want to have to eat something else, so I did it as quickly as I could. In my haste, I jostled my meter just so – enough that I saw the test strip, already marked with my blood, move slightly as it brushed against my PDM and was placed next to it.
113 mg/dL flashed upon the screen. Normally, I’d be thrilled! But I furrowed my brow. Something just felt…off about that reading. So I tested again.
I tested a third time – 203. Okay, something was definitely wrong. Either that 113 was wrong (likely) or my meter had just produced two wildly inaccurate blood sugars in a row (less likely).
This is one of the many times that it’s convenient to live with another PWD. I asked my mom if I could borrow her test kit and see what result it generated. Seconds later…a twin 203 popped up on the screen, reassuring me that the 113 was a fluke on my meter.
Relief with the reality and irritation with the technology washed over me simultaneously as I went to correct the high with a bolus. I was glad I wasn’t heading down again, but irked that my meter had failed me. True, it was a bit of human error there, but aren’t we at a point in technological advancements where this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen? I put my life into the “hands” of my meter, Dexcom, and OmniPod. They should produce results that are undoubtedly accurate.
St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday of mine because I enjoy celebrating my Irish heritage. Almost every year, I eat a traditional boiled dinner, listen to Irish music, and wear an excessive amount of green.
This year, though, was a little different. In addition to all of the above, I attended the TypeOneNation summit in Boston. The event was organized by JDRF and just about 900 people with diabetes attended, along with their families and caregivers.
There’s nothing like being in Boston on St. Paddy’s day, even if it is for an event that has nothing to do with the holiday’s shenanigans. The spirit of the day made it slightly less painful to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to catch an early morning commuter rail into the city. As I sipped an Irish cream iced coffee from Honey Dew (absolutely delicious) on the ride, I got myself pumped up for what would surely be a fun day.
Once we arrived at the Back Bay station, I was one frigid (and mercifully short) walk away from the event space: the Boston Marriott Copley hotel. I went straight to the registration table so I could receive a name tag and itinerary, then made a beeline for the vendor hall. You can never have too much free diabetes swag, am I right?
Within the hall, I recognized many familiar faces and happily made the rounds to chat with some of my T1D friends in attendance. I couldn’t help but feel like I was at a family reunion of sorts as I reconnected with people who I don’t get to see often enough.
Before long, the events of the day got into full swing as the keynote speaker, Nicole Johnson, addressed the crowd. Nicole won the Miss America pageant in 1999 soon after she received her diabetes diagnosis. She’s done many incredible things since earning that accolade, and she delivered an inspiring speech about living life with diabetes to the fullest. As she spoke, I looked around the room and noticed all the little kids who were there. It warmed my heart to see how they received Nicole’s words. Many of them looked at her in absolute awe. It was obvious that they thought she was pretty great, and I bet that having diabetes in common with her helped them to feel just as cool. Nicole is definitely a wonderful role model!
The rest of the day went by much too quickly as I went to two different talks offered at the summit. One was about going to college with diabetes, and the other was about sex and drugs – the “taboo” diabetes topics. Even though I’ve already experienced what it’s like to go off to college with diabetes, I wanted to go to this talk because it was given by my friends from the CDN. I also wanted to meet the parents and children at the session because I was curious to learn about their concerns. As someone who went to a very similar talk seven (?!) years ago, I felt that I could potentially offer reassurance to these families, especially since the whole college experience was so recent for me. And it turned out that the woman seated next to me was an anxious mom who seemed receptive to the words of encouragement I spoke to her at the end of the panel. While I believe that the session could’ve lasted many more hours (everyone was so engaged in the conversation), I think that the session acted as a good launching point into future discussions for many families who are going to make this transition soon.
I wolfed down a quick lunch – I loved seeing the food labeled with carb counts – before heading to the next session. I chose it because, c’mon, a title like “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll” can get anyone’s attention. Plus, I feel very strongly that the touchier diabetes topics SHOULD be talked about more often. They can be scary to approach, but it’s important to know what to expect in certain situations in which diabetes can play a major role. I had to duck out of this one a bit early to catch the commuter rail back home, but they were delving into some pretty juicy stuff when I got up to leave. I give major credit to all of the panelists in that one – it can’t be easy to talk about highly personal intimate matters in a room filled with strangers!
Although my time at the summit was truncated, I’m so glad that I took the time to go to it. It’s no secret that I enjoy talking with other people with diabetes. Hearing their stories and sharing experiences makes diabetes feel less isolating. And I’m thrilled that I finally got to meet a few people I knew from the DOC but had yet to see in person!
Diabetes conferences, meet-ups, summits…they’re the types of family reunions you actually get excited about and want to attend.
The last lines of the 1946 classic film It’s a Wonderful Life are as follows:
Zuzu Bailey: Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.
George Bailey: That’s right, that’s right.
George Bailey: [Looks heavenward] Attaboy, Clarence.
Those who know my family well are aware that this movie, and three of those above names, hold special meaning to us. Bailey was the name of our first dog. Zuzu was our second dog. Both were Shetland Sheepdogs and beloved members of our family. They shaped two very different parts of my life. I attribute the two of them for getting me through various challenges encountered by my family and me over the years, and I’m grateful that we got to provide a loving home to them. A home that’s been quiet since they left us.
A home that once again will be occupied by a puppy’s presence.
Everyone, meet Clarence:
We are overjoyed that our sweet boy will be coming home soon! And in case you’re wondering what this possibly has to do with my diabetes, I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t really, I’m just bursting with excitement over Clarence’s arrival.
But I’m also pretty darn skilled at making diabetes connections where they don’t seem to exist.
I’m positive that Clarence will help with my diabetes. I plan on taking the little guy on plenty of walks, which will be great for my numbers. I’d also like to set up an agility course in our backyard for him, because based on my past experience with shelties, they have incredible amounts of energy to burn – so I’m certain that means I’ll be running the course and burning energy with him.
Plus, I’m starting to research diabetes alert dogs. I have no idea if I’ll train him to detect high or low blood sugars, but I’m very interested in the idea. Especially since there are multiple diabetics in my family.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonders he’ll work for my mental health. The calming presence of a pup will surely ease my anxieties as well as make me smile even more than I already do.
Attaboy, Clarence – I know that’s something I’ll be saying quite often and very soon.
How could I forget? After all the disaster and emergency preparedness articles I’ve read over the years, it should’ve been one of the first things I thought of when I wrote that post. But it didn’t even come to mind until last week’s situation.
On Thursday morning, I woke up to eerie silence. I rolled over and saw that my alarm clock’s light was dimmed, indicating that we had lost power overnight. Groaning, I wandered over to a nearby window and tugged the shade open to reveal a winter wonderland. Or it may be more accurate to say winter horror show. The world outside was coated in freshly fallen snow so heavy and compact that even the strongest trees in our yard found themselves compromised. Branches hung limp and defeated from their trees, and the weaker limbs that had fallen off were strewn haphazardly on the icy ground. But what really got our attention was the power line that lay across our driveway, struck down by the winds and snow.
It helped to explain our lack of power, and it also made it clear that we should get out of our house sooner rather than later – that is, if we wanted to keep warm and work remotely for the day (as opposed to making treks into our offices or taking personal days). So we packed overnight bags speedily, just in case we would need to spend the night away from home, and made our way out into the arctic tundra.
We set off for the refuge of my aunt and uncle’s home, where the wifi was working and the heat kept things cozy. Plus, Monty the black lab and Lucy the yellow lab were present and welcomed us warmly.
As I logged into my work laptop, it suddenly dawned on me that I neglected to pack my diabetes supplies. In fact, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to grab any insulin from our powerless refrigerator to ensure it stayed cool. But it didn’t make sense to make the trip back home for any of it, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
Our house ended up being without power for about 36 hours. Not too bad in the grand scheme of things, but long enough to make me realize it’s important to come up with a plan for future freak power outages like this. Even though the outage was relatively brief and it was cold out, meaning the odds of my insulin going bad were slim, I know that this won’t always be the case (especially in the summertime). So I’m going to put together a rudimentary emergency kit that I can grab and go on a moment’s notice. I’ll include a checklist with this bag that will serve as a reminder to take as much insulin as needed with me in an emergency situation. I’m also going to try to be better about charging my meter and my Dexcom more frequently – I have a habit of waiting until the battery is dangerously low before I recharge either device.
As the saying goes, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
I’ve heard the following phrase for just about my entire life:
“There will be a cure for diabetes in the next five years, just wait!”
Uh, I’m still waiting over here. Where’s the aforementioned cure? *Taps foot impatiently*
Oooookay, while I sit here and wait for another 20 years of diabetes to come and go, I’ll daydream. Ooh! I’ll daydream about a day without diabetes. What would it look like for me? I have some ideas…
In the morning: I’d wake up feeling incredibly well-rested. That’s because I’d sleep through the night without my CGM going off. After rolling out of bed with a head of perfectly-mussed hair (this is MY fantasy here, so just go with it), I’d head down into the kitchen to indulge in a ginormous cinnamon bun slathered in cream cheese frosting for my breakfast. I’d savor every bite and relish in not having to poke myself with needles multiple times in order to eat the tasty treat.
In the afternoon: After actually enjoying a workout at the gym (cue my Anna from Frozen singing voice) for the first time in foreverrrrrr, I’d probably treat myself to a massage/spa day. But a shower first because a masseuse should never have to deal with a smelly and stinky person. You know what would be awesome about that experience? I wouldn’t be worried about my blood sugar all throughout it and I could just appreciate the act of self-care. And for lunch? I’m not a TOTAL junk food junkie – I’d eat a healthy, balanced lunch that day. Perhaps a smoothie bowl laden with fabulous fructose-filled fruits that WOULDN’T spike me? Maybe a massive salad topped with carb-y croutons? The possibilities are endless.
In the evening: The day would wind down with a sense of accomplishment, because I would’ve been able to run errands without a single diabetes-related complication slowing me down. I’d glam myself up for a night on the town in which I’d consume one or four cocktails, free from wild swings due to alcohol’s effects on blood sugar. And then I’d run into Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, A.K.A. an extraordinary man) and he’d sweep me off my feet and we’d take off into a sunset sans diabetes.
Okay, yeah, I’m definitely stretching my imagination as I picture a couple parts of this day…but it sure is fun to think about life without diabetes.
Water is crucial to life. Half of the human body is water, nearly three-quarters of Earth is water, and it’s recommended to drink half a gallon of water per day. Clearly, there’s no disputing its benefits. Especially when it’s a naturally zero-carb beverage – a benefit to people with diabetes, who must keep careful track of the amount of carbs consumed in a day. That’s why it’s usually easier for a PWD to stick with diet or sugar-free drinks as opposed to alternatives.
But let’s face it, water can get boring. Sometimes, a drink with flavor is the only way to quench a thirst. So I decided to assemble a list of my favorite simultaneously diet/low-carb, tasty, and refreshing drinks that I enjoy and are a notch above ole H20:
Diet Cranberry Juice. Ocean Spray makes a classic flavor as well as a variety of blends – my favorite is cranberry lime. It runs at about 2 grams of carbohydrate for 8 ounces, so to curb this, I typically pour 2-3 ounces and fill the rest of my glass with water.
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk. A few years ago, I started drinking almond milk with my cereal instead of traditional dairy milk, and I haven’t looked back. It’s both a low-carb and low-calorie alternative that satisfies just as much as other milks.
Seltzer water. Look beyond plain old lemon seltzer water – there’s a whole world of flavors out there! Polar beverages makes a seemingly endless array of seltzers. They even had a unicorn variety over the summer that tasted like cotton candy and rainbows. I love experimenting and trying new flavors frequently, which helps assure that I don’t get tired of seltzers.
Sparklingwater. This tends to pack a bit more of a punch in terms of flavor than seltzer water. I’ve found a bunch of great-tasting bottles at the supermarket, from coconut pineapple to açai blueberry.
Bai drinks. Sometimes, I take a break from the carbonation and stock up on bottles of these antioxidant fusion drinks. They’re made with erithytrol, which is a kind of sugar that has no affect on blood glucose levels. They’re seriously tasty and come in several tropical flavors that make you feel like you’re lounging on a beach. Plus, their advertisers get bonus points because they used a favorite N*Sync song as part of their marketing.
Drink packets. There’s about a million different kinds of drink packets, drops, and mixes out there. Just about all of them clock in at zero carbs, and few to no calories. It can be fun to try all the mixes out there to find out which ones taste the best.
Tea. A great alternative hot drink and another beverage with tons of flavors out there. I drink tea black, and most do not have carbohydrates, so it’s another “freebie” drink option that hydrates as well as warms me up.
Do you have any favorite zero-carb or diet drinks that I didn’t mention on this list?