Minty Apple Juice

Some weird food combinations actually work – I know this for a fact because I Googled it and the Google machine is always right…right?

Okay, so maybe I’m not brave enough to try combos like olive oil and ice cream or oreos in orange juice, but at least I can tell you about an odd food pairing that most definitely does not work.

And that, my friends, is anything minty with apple juice.

I should know because I got to try this less-than-delightful combo two nights in a row…thanks to diabetes.

If you’re guessing that I experienced a low blood sugar immediately after brushing my teeth and chose to correct it with apple juice both times, then you’re a smart cookie (or at least a cookie who can put two and two together).

On the first occasion this happened, I figured that drinking a juice box for the low was probably the wisest decision because I wouldn’t have to worry about getting food stuck in my teeth – I could maybe even drink the juice without needing to brush again.

I was very wrong about this.

10/10 would not recommend drinking apple juice right after brushing teeth.

The moment I started drinking my apple juice, my taste buds were rocked by the unpleasant union of minty freshness with tart sweetness. It was truly disgusting and I wanted nothing more than to brush my teeth again…but laziness and exhaustion (from both my day and my blood sugar) caused me to collapse into bed instead. I fell asleep with that weird bitter taste lingering, much to my chagrin.

So you can bet that when the exact same thing happened the following night – my Dexcom alerted me to a low within 60 seconds of me finishing my teeth brushing – I forced myself to brush my teeth again because I simply couldn’t stand the minty-apple-y taste.

And I decided to make a mental note, after this second encounter with nasty minty apple juice, that I would check my Dexcom before brushing from that point onward.

Nothing to Complain About

I’m writing this blog post from my ophthalmologist’s office – I’m sitting in a chair in an exam room, waiting for my eyes to dilate so my doctor can complete the exam.

Just before my eyes were dilated, I checked in for the appointment and went over my information with a nurse who works here. During the check-in, she asked me how my eyes fared in the last year.

The chair from which I wrote most of this blog post – on my phone, to boot! (It takes time for eyes to dilate, okay?!)

“I have nothing to complain about, all is well!” I said to her.

“That’s great to hear. After all, after a year like we’ve had, it’s nice when there’s no complaints about something.” She replied.

I sat here in this chair and smiled under my mask. Too true. It’s refreshing when there aren’t any complaints about any aspect of my health and well-being, considering diabetes can be such a pill.

And I’m happy to report (now from the comfort of my own desk chair) that I have “gorgeous retinas”, according to my ophthalmologist.

Nothing to complain about, indeed.

First Impressions: The OmniPod DASH

At long last, the day has come…the day for me to share my first impressions of the OmniPod DASH!

Full disclosure: I’ve only been using the system for 3 days as of this writing. But I thought it was important to capture my beginning thoughts on how it works because they’re bound to change over time as I gain more experience and familiarity with the system.

So without further ado, here’s a bullet point list (‘cuz who doesn’t love a good list) that hits the highs and lows – yes, pun intended – of the DASH so far:

  • It was shockingly easy and fast to set up. I was worried about inputting all my settings from my old OmniPod into the DASH system and assumed that I would need a block of time to do so. This is why I decided to do my set up on a free and clear Sunday afternoon with minimal distractions around me. Turns out, though, that I didn’t need so much time set aside – it took me exactly 10 minutes to get all my settings straightened away. In fact, it probably would’ve taken closer to 8 minutes if I hadn’t agonized over choosing my background photo for my lock screen! The PDM made the entire setup process extremely intuitive and easy to navigate, much to my relief.
  • The PDM is incredibly high-tech…and, at times, suffers from that. I’ve spent a lot of time marveling over the clean, sleek design of both the touchscreen and the PDM itself. It’s almost identical to my iPhone, which I think is both a pro and a con because I can see myself confusing one for the other in the future (though it’d be extremely obvious which was which once I unlocked the device). The touchscreen and menus are thoughtfully designed, but my big beef with them is twofold: 1) Some menus are totally buried – it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to set a temp basal and 2) Anyone who ever claims to suffer from “fat fingers” or struggles to hit the right buttons 100% of the time on a smartphone might find navigation on the PDM to be a challenge. The good news is that it’s really easy to go back if you’ve mistakenly navigated to a menu that you didn’t need and to correct any accidentally hit buttons, but I could definitely see some users taking issue with the operation of the touchscreen as a whole – even though I personally haven’t found it bothersome.
Shout-out to the Insulet/OmniPod website for providing a much better image of the DASH PDM and pod than I ever could!
  • The pod change process has a new addition to it. DASH users have the option to record the site of their new pods, a feature that I think is pretty neat! I’ve always been pretty good about rotating sites, but having a record of exactly where I’ve placed my pods over time is bound to be helpful so I don’t ever use one particular site too much.
  • Speaking of the pod change process…I almost activated a pod when it wasn’t even on my body yet. I’m used to the pod change process consisting of multiple pages on my PDM that outlines everything step-by-step. The DASH system aims to consolidate things a bit and features more than one step on a page. This was all fine and dandy up until I hit the last step of the process – I touched the button to activate the pod, thinking that I was navigating to the last page in the setup process! This was mostly user error because I should’ve read the screen more carefully, but luckily, I had to hit a “confirm” button in order to actually activate the pod (so there’s basically 2 buttons that have to be hit to activate a pod, not one).
  • So far, I’m unsure how I feel about the rechargeable battery feature. I thought this would be a huge improvement over the old OmniPod, which took 2 AAA batteries, but now I’m having some doubts. Those AAA batteries easily lasted 6 weeks – maybe even longer. Now I’m going to have to recharge the DASH PDM at least once or twice a week, depending on how often I’m actively using it. This is going to be a slight pain, but according to what I’ve read, the PDM is still useable when it’s charging, so that makes it more tolerable. But I’m also thinking from the perspective of someone who is away from home at least a few nights a month – this is going to be just ANOTHER charger that I have to remember to pack every time I go away, which is a bit of a bummer.
  • The system sounds are SO MUCH BETTER!!! OMG, I think the days of OmniPod beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeps are in the past! I haven’t noticed any of those lingering, ear-shattering beeps yet; instead, they seem to have been replaced with a pleasant chiming sound. I’m sure that over time, I’ll grow to hate that sound, too, but for now I’m just loving that I’m not being pestered with pod reminders by those grating beeps!

Like any diabetes device, I knew there would be some faults with the DASH system. But generally speaking, those faults are extremely minor and I’m still thrilled that I’m on this new system…and extremely curious as to how my thoughts and feelings about it will change over time. I’ll be sure to post about my new discoveries and experiences with it in the future!

Sensor Snapping by the Seashore

Sensor snapping by the seashore…try saying that five times fast.

The past several weeks have been so busy that I completely forgot about an incident that occurred when I was away on vacation in July.

An incident that I’d never experienced in my decade of using Dexcom CGMs…

It was the second-to-last day of my trip. I was blissfully soaking up the sun’s rays – it was by far the best beach day of my entire week in Maine. That meant that the sun was strong that day…so strong that I was basically applying sunscreen every hour, on the hour, because I am as pale as Casper the friendly ghost.

During one of my sunscreen applications, I noticed that the Dexcom sensor on the back of my arm was looking a little off. I mean that literally – the transmitter seemed like it was jutting out at a weird angle. Upon further inspection, I realized that the grayish-purple prong that helps keep the transmitter in place was hanging on by a thread. I was pretty surprised to make that discovery, for a few reasons: 1) I didn’t know that could happen, 2) the sensor was only about 24 hours old and nothing went awry during the application process, and 3) I couldn’t remember bumping into anything that would’ve caused a plastic piece to break off my sensor. But the most surprising part was that it was enough to cause my sensor to stop collecting readings altogether – I was getting an error message on my Dexcom app.

My broken sensor prongs and me, sitting on the beach.

I didn’t know what to do other than carefully break the prongs off all the way – they weren’t going to do me any good now – and gingerly press my transmitter down into my sensor for several minutes to see if that did anything…and no dice. I resorted to plan B, which was to wait until I got back to the house I was staying at to do some more research into the matter.

Unfortunately, the internet had nothing helpful to offer me. I was somewhat relieved to know that this has happened to other people, but definitely bummed to learn that there wasn’t a real solution other than to apply a new sensor – which wasn’t an option for me since I had only packed the one sensor for my trip. Whoops. So much for me being the diligent, prepared T1D that I thought I was.

Ultimately, I decided to rip the sensor off and deal with finger stick checks for the rest of my trip; after all, I was going to be returning home the next day. I look at the whole incident as yet another example of why it’s important to pack extras of my extras, and as a reminder to expect the unexpected in life with diabetes!

The 1 A.M. Cupcake

Zzzzz…huh? What’s that? I was sleeping so deeply…

Oh, I’m low.

Dazed, I roll out of bed and suddenly become aware of how hot I am. Beads of sweat are rolling down my back, making my pajamas stick to my skin. I look at the number on my Dexcom – there isn’t one.

It just says LOW.

I grow more alert and turn to my test kit to do a fingerstick check and verify my Dexcom reading. My meter says that I’m 44.

And suddenly, I’m feeling that low. I need sugar, stat. I could open the bottle of glucose tabs conveniently perched on my nightstand, chew 5 or 6, and then get settled into bed and fall back asleep relatively quickly. But the desire to get downstairs and eat the contents of my kitchen strikes, even though it’s 1 A.M. and eating too much at this time of night wouldn’t be good for either my blood sugar or my sleep hygiene.

Ignoring my more rational side (as well as my glucose tabs), I grab my phone, my meter, my PDM, and my bathrobe and stumble down the stairs in the dark. I turn on the ceiling fan in my living room in a desperate attempt to cool down faster before I walk into the kitchen.

My eyes fall on a cupcake sitting innocently on the counter.

This isn’t a picture from this particular incident – nobody wants to see me when I’m this low – but this is one of the cupcakes that I’d made. Violet always wants me to share.

I don’t think twice – I tear the wrapper off and three bites later, it’s gone.

I collapse on the couch, directly under my ceiling fan. I am a sweaty mess. This low is hitting me hard. I put the TV on in a futile attempt to distract myself while I wait for the cupcake to kick in, but instead of paying attention to what’s on the screen, all I can feel is gross for choosing to eat a damn cupcake at 1 in the morning instead of doing the “right” thing and treating my low from the comfort of my bed with glucose tabs.

20 minutes later, I start to feel chilly. I’m no longer perspiring and I feel all of my low symptoms subside. I’m better, so it’s time to head back upstairs and try to fall back asleep.

I toss and turn for a bit, cursing diabetes and its middle-of-the-night low blood sugar curveballs, and the stupid 1 A.M. cupcake that my diabetes somehow convinced me to eat to treat a low instead of waiting to have it at a time that I could actually enjoy it.

Diabetes strikes again, I think as I drift back to sleep.

80 Days Later…

80 days.

That’s how long it took for me to receive the letter from my health insurance company notifying me (at long last) that the pre-authorization for my Dexcom supplies came through – and more importantly, was approved.

Those 80 days were fraught with anxious thoughts. On a daily basis, I wondered…

When would I get my next Dexcom order? Answer: Almost three full months after I started my new job and switched health insurance.

Would I even still be able to use Dexcom under my new health plan? Answer: Yes, although I wasn’t sure for a long time seeing as I didn’t find out until recently that I needed a prior authorization in order to get Dexcom coverage.

Why was it taking so long? Answer: It took so long partly because this stuff can be time-consuming. I work full-time, maintain a home, care for my dog, and juggle a jam-packed social calendar…and don’t often have the bandwidth to be waiting on hold with my doctor’s office, my health insurance provider, and my Dexcom supplier. I was counting on all three of the aforementioned parties to do a little more of the heavy lifting for me when I should’ve depended on myself alone to make sure I got my supplies as quickly as possible.

What was I doing wrong? Answer: Honestly, even though I sound like I’m shouldering most of the responsibility in the latter paragraph, I don’t think it’s fair to pin this all on me. Sure, I could’ve and should’ve hustled harder to get my Dexcom supplies, but I put trust in a system that I already knew is fundamentally broken. Health insurance can be ridiculous complicated to understand and contend with. I’d never needed a prior authorization for anything before, so that concept was new to me. Throw a new health plan that I had zero familiarity with into the mix and I was bound to encounter some bumps in the road to get my supplies.

I was so excited to get this letter in the mail that I took a damn picture with it.

That’s why I almost cried tears of relief and joy when I finally got the letter from my insurance company that informed me my Dexcom supplies were approved. The waiting period was over. 80 days of fretting over whether or not I’d have access to a tool that has revolutionized my diabetes care and management was absolute agony. That period of time also represented the first time I was truly worried over whether or not I could continue with the diabetes regimen that works for me. I was trying to remember the days before my Dexcom, the days that I had finger pricks and finger pricks alone to base my diabetes decisions on.

I could scarcely remember those days. And the fact that they could’ve become my new reality if I didn’t figure out the Dexcom situation frightened me.

I feel very fortunate that I was eventually able to successfully place an order for my Dexcom supplies under my new health plan, but I also feel rage that the system made it so difficult, as well as utter heartbreak for those who don’t have choice when it comes to diabetes supplies or even access to life-altering (and life-saving) medications.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…our healthcare system is broken. Choice and access matter.

They matter most of all when lives depend on it.

A Human Garbage Disposal

Sometimes, I feel like I am a human garbage disposal.

It’s not everyday, but there are occasions in which I want to eat anything and everything within arm’s reach like it’s the last meal or snack that I’ll consume for days. When I’m experiencing a low blood sugar, I’m especially likely to inhale food as if I’m a living Hoover vacuum…or as I’ve come to think of it, a human garbage disposal.

There’s no doubt about it: Diabetes has totally screwed up my relationship with food. I’ve written about this previously. I’m also just as sure of the fact that my relationship with food has gotten worse as I’ve grown older, a phenomenon that I blame on numerous factors such as the natural process of aging, social media, and society’s constant scrutiny of how women’s bodies “should” look. Add my diabetes into this mix and I feel like trash about my body and harvest negative feelings towards food (despite also loving food).

I definitely blame my diabetes for ruining my relationship with food.

So yeah, a human garbage disposal – with diabetes, no less – feels like an accurate way to describe me and my relationship with food.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a “pity me” post. Not at all. This post is more so me…trying to understand what can be done to repair my relationship with food. Because I think if I can repair it, then I can start seeing positive outcomes on my blood sugar and start to strengthen my own sense of self-love. These are important things, you know, and I’ve hit a point where I’m just tired of feeling so damn negative about my diabetes, food, and my body all the time.

I might feel like a human garbage disposal lately, but “human” is at the forefront of that phrase. I’m human, I make mistakes, and my relationships with my diabetes, my food, and my body are bound to ebb and flow over the years.

At the end of the day, I think it’s just a matter of making peace with that.

Highs Won’t Ruin My Happy

High blood sugar isn’t fun.

When I experience it for prolonged periods of time (say, 2+ hours), I’m far from a happy camper. I anxiously check my Dexcom every 5 minutes until I see my blood sugar start to come back down to range. I gulp down glass after glass of water. I stack insulin (only sometimes). And I will even march or dance around in place as a means of getting my number to come down faster.

Needless to say, my mood tends to be pretty foul when I have a high blood sugar…

…except on the occasions when I refuse to let it steal my happiness.

One such event recently occurred. I was away for the weekend to attend a wedding that I was so dang excited to go to. I couldn’t wait to get all dolled up and spend some quality time with my partner and his friends. It was the first large event that I was going to since the pandemic began, and I admit there were some nerves despite being fully vaccinated. However, I felt better knowing that 1) everything was taking place outdoors, 2) I was surrounded by other like-minded individuals, and 3) I would still be taking extra precautions (e.g., using copious amounts of hand sanitizer all weekend long) to make sure that I was protecting myself and others, too.

I just wanted to have fun without worrying about the what-ifs…delta or diabetes be damned.

High blood sugar was no match for me and my happiness bubble.

And I just wanted to live in what I’ve since dubbed my “happiness bubble”, otherwise known as my own personal la-la land, in which everything is lovely and safe and none of the world’s many issues can penetrate.

An ignorant and naive place? Yes, for sure, but one that allowed me to embrace everything about the weekend:

It allowed me to enjoy every bit of food and drink all weekend long, even though it caused crazy high blood sugars.

It allowed me to forget about my diabetes for awhile and just soak up the company of others and the (truly beautiful) environment that I was experiencing.

It allowed me to feel bliss that I hadn’t really felt since before the pandemic.

Sure, it’s not sustainable to live this way all the time, and it definitely is not an effective diabetes management tactic. However, it was beyond worth it, just for a weekend, to live in my happiness bubble that high blood sugars or diabetes couldn’t ruin, no matter how hard they tried.

Why I Went with an OmniPod Insulin Pump

This post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on February 28, 2020. I’m sharing it again today because while my affection for the pump is still very much intact, I still wish at times that I had explored other options. But that doesn’t deter my excitement about switching to the DASH soon! Read on to learn about the one major factor that made me decide to go with an OmniPod over all the other insulin pumps out there.

Choosing an insulin pump therapy can be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you’ve never pumped before.

Factors like tubed vs. tubeless, whether or not your insurance will cover a given pump, ease of use, reservoir capacity, and many others all play into the big pump decision…

Weird to think that soon, I will no longer be using this exact same OmniPod system!

…if you’re like most (logical) people.

But if you’re me, then you count on pretty much one thing when making the choice: familiarity. I solely relied on the fact that someone I knew and trusted used the OmniPod and had a positive experience with it, and that person is my mother. On top of that, I waited a solid 2-3 years after she started to use it before it was my turn, because I wasn’t willing to even think about trying it until I could feel fairly confident that I would even like it myself.

Luckily, I’ve been on it for just over five years now without any major issues. While I do love it more than I ever liked multiple daily injections, I do wish I had thought it over some more before just going with it…especially now that there are other insulin pumps out there with some amazing features. I know that the manufacturer of the OmniPod, Insulet, has some great upgrades in the works, but it can be hard to wait for them.

If I could go back in time, I’d definitely do more research before semi-idly deciding that the OmniPod is right for me. Of course, I could make the switch to a new insulin pump in the future…but if and when I do decide to try something else down the road, I know I’ll make much more of an effort to really learn everything I can about my options before committing to a new piece of diabetes technology.

Diabetes, The Great Interruptor

I sat down to write a blog post and didn’t make it past the first sentence when I heard a loud beep emitting from the pod I was wearing on my leg.

The beep was signaling to me that it was time to change my pod. And because I wore it for a full 80 hours, it couldn’t wait even 15 minutes – it had to be done immediately.

That little interruption got me thinking about how diabetes it the greatest interruptor that I know.

Diabetes makes my 10-month-old Sheltie seem like she’s got the patience of a saint.

Let me name just a few of the ways diabetes interrupts me on practically a daily basis:

  • When I’m exercising and I have to stop because I have a low blood sugar
  • When I’m in a work meeting and a high blood sugar gives me brain fog that prevents me from making any meaningful contributions
  • When I’m sleeping and a high or low alarm goes off
  • When I’m trying to cook dinner and diabetes refuses to wait any longer for food and makes my blood sugar go low, causing me to have to eat a snack before eating a full meal which is totally counterintuitive
  • When I’m in the middle of work, a conversation, or any ordinary task and my devices beep incessantly, not caring that they’re being obnoxious

These are just some of the scenarios I can think of in which diabetes is unrelenting in its immediate demands. It’s like taking care of an extremely fussy baby that doesn’t ever get any older. It’s exhausting.

Diabetes is truly the great interruptor, one that people like me living with it have learned to cope with…which definitely makes us some form of superhero, IMHO.