Memory Monday: 1st Generation Dexcom CGMs

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…Dexcom CGMs made their debut?

It was just over ten years ago that the Dexcom SEVEN CGM System launched. I didn’t actually know more about it, though, until a couple years after the fact. That was when my endocrinologist encouraged me to sign up for a week-long trial run with this new technology to see how I liked it.

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Then: The Dexcom SEVEN CGM System

I didn’t like it, I LOVED it. I quickly became obsessed with the ability to monitor my blood sugar levels at all times. But it’s funny to think back to how bulky and just plain different that first-generation system was compared to today’s sleek and highly functional models.

A few key differences between now and then:

  • Size. The first CGM was large. It was roughly the size of my OmniPod PDM, which might not seem so significant, but it is when measured up against newer CGM models.
  • Display. The screen on my first CGM was very simple. No colors, no frills – just readings of my blood sugar. That was all fine, but I have to say that I’m a fan of color-coordinated blood sugar reports (red for low, yellow for high, gray for in-range numbers). In a weird way, it motivates me to keep my graph as gray as possible.
  • Distance restrictions. I hated that I had to keep my first CGM so close to me at all times, or else run the risk of losing data! It was hyper sensitive and my readings would be lost if I left the same room as the CGM for more than a couple of minutes. My CGM is now able to pick up readings from much farther away – sometimes, even when I’m downstairs and it’s upstairs.
  • Sounds. My memory is a little foggier on how the sounds compare between old and new Dexcom CGM generations, but I do recall the beeps and vibrations being far more aggressive and annoying on older models.
  • Smartphone access. This might be one of the biggest and best changes – the ability to download an app on your smartphone that can replace a Dexcom receiver. How awesome is that? Plus, if you choose to do so, you can invite family and friends to monitor your blood sugar along with you, which can be helpful in certain situations. Cell phones are so ingrained into society, so this move was brilliant on Dexcom’s part.
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Now: Dexcom data, on my iPhone!

All these improvements have made me a member of Team Dexcom for life. It’ll be neat to see what they come up with next to help make the lives of people with diabetes easier and better.

Behind the Scenes: Shooting a T1D Marketing Campaign

Last week, I had the exciting opportunity to participate in a T1D marketing campaign! I won’t say too much about the brand or product itself, because I don’t want to share more than I’m allowed, but I WILL say that there is some very cool stuff in the works for the diabetes community – and that’s a total understatement.

And I also wanted to share what it was like to be on a production set like that! I arrived in Atlanta late on Thursday night, woke up early on Friday, and got myself ready to head over to the shoot for 11 A.M. From there, it was a long blur of a day. I was whisked from wardrobe to hair/makeup to a holding room to one room filled with wicked bright lights and dozens of people to another room with a plain backdrop and just a few people to another room that’s best described as a closet. Actually, that latter room was where I did an audio-only interview, and I felt just like Harry Potter in the fourth book when he was being interviewed by Rita Skeeter in a broom cupboard. Except I wasn’t being grilled by a nosy reporter like he was; on the contrary, my interviewer couldn’t have been friendlier.

This whole process took about seven hours – that’s a pretty long while to be going around from room to room and having to be on my feet for varying lengths of time. But it was so exciting that I didn’t mind one bit.

But I DID mind my blood sugars; at least, as much as I could when I wasn’t having my makeup touched up or staring into a camera, responding to questions. I had no clue how it would fare after several hours on location and minimal physical activity. I was also worried about the food/drink situation: Would I have access to ample snacks and beverages?

Fortunately, that was a total non-issue. The production company had numerous snacks and bottled water in nearly every room on set, on top of a hot lunch. Around one o’clock in the afternoon (five hours after I ate breakfast), I helped myself to a serving of salmon, squash, and green beans. I was impressed with the quality and healthiness of the food, and even more pleased to discover that among the diet drinks was unsweetened iced tea and sparkling water. Score!

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Not perfect, but manageable and steady. A win in my book.

This food kept me fueled all throughout the afternoon on set, and I enjoyed steady blood sugars for the duration of the shoot. Rather than stressing about my blood sugar, I was focusing on posing for photos and answering prompts from producers. It really, truly was a one-of-a-kind experience. I feel so lucky to have been invited to partake in this campaign, and even luckier to have met a diverse and welcoming group of individuals (T1D and non-T1D) along the way.

On top of all that, I proved to myself that I CAN do “crazy” and unique things like this without my diabetes getting in the way. It’s more proof that diabetes will never stop me from living a full and extraordinary life.

Spare a Rose this Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I’d like to make you think about a dozen roses today.

A dozen roses is a classic Valentine’s gift, right? But what if you received 11 roses in your bouquet, instead of 12? What if you knew that a rose was spared because the value of that flower helped support a child living with diabetes in a less-resourced country?

I bet you wouldn’t mind getting one less rose in that case.

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This Valentine’s Day, please consider sparing a rose. Life for a Child is a nonprofit charity that created the Spare a Rose campaign. They’re able to support nearly 20,000 young people living with diabetes by using donations to buy them insulin, syringes, clinical care, diabetes education, and more. Anyone who’s familiar with diabetes realizes that access to care, education, and resources is critical to living a healthy and normal life. No one would want to deny another, especially a child, from having to forgo these resources because of the financial burden associated with them.

Spare a rose and save child this Valentine’s Day.

Highs Happen, and That’s Okay

Nothing makes me feel as defeated as high blood sugar.

Maybe it’s because it takes so long for my blood sugar to come back down from a high.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I directly caused it – miscalculated my carb intake, or snuck in a snack that I shouldn’t have.

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Most of these highs occurred due to a bent cannula in my pod a couple weeks ago.

Maybe it’s because it makes me feel like I’ve lost all control. That I can’t do anything but monitor the situation and take more insulin as necessary. I hate feeling so dependent, so trusting, of my insulin alone.

Maybe it’s because the technology has failed me, and there’s few things more frustrating than that. Imagine doing everything the “right” way, the way you’re supposed to, and getting the “wrong” results. You begin to question everything and your emotions get the better of you.

Whatever the reason is, I know I’ve got to work on accepting the fact that highs happen. I’ve dealt with many over the years, and I know I’ll encounter plenty more in the future. They’re upsetting, tiring, and irritating. They test my patience as I wait for long stretches of time for my insulin to finally kick in and stabilize my blood sugar. They are one of the more mentally and physically draining components of type 1 diabetes management.

But highs happen, and that’s okay.

Favorite Things Friday: Adhesive Remover Wipes

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!

“Adhesive remover wipes” sounds about as exciting as dryer lint. But these really are a nifty invention, especially for someone like me who wears multiple T1D medical devices.

My pods stay on my body for three days at a time, and my CGM sensors can last as long as two weeks. So needless to say that they need to be equipped with super strong adhesive to ensure they stick for the necessary length of time.

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These adhesive remover wipes look lame, but trust me, they’re pretty impressive.

I’m grateful for the high-quality adhesive, but man, it can be difficult to completely remove from my body. Before I discovered these magical wipes, I’d rub my skin raw in an attempt to get rid of all traces of leftover adhesive. As a result, I’d either walk around with gray circles of adhesive on my abdomen and arms, or with irritated, pink skin that I needed to let heal before reusing as a site. A surefire lose-lose scenario either way, right?

A quick search online caused me to discover these adhesive remover wipes. I purchased them immediately and I can say it was a brilliant buy. I no longer scratch at my skin until the adhesive disappears; rather, I merely wipe the area with one of these towelettes and within seconds, all adhesive is painlessly removed.

If you’ve struggled in a similar manner with removing your medical adhesive, definitely look into these wipes and save your skin from stress.

Sometimes, You Just Need to Enjoy the Sushi.

Or the pizza. Or the burrito. Or the decadent three-layer chocolate cake. Whatever the high-carb indulgence is, I’d rather just relish in it rather than focus on my diabetes.

Does that make me a “bad” diabetic? No. It’s not like I’m skipping an insulin dose or binge-eating food. I’m merely trying to enjoy a rare treat as well as the social experience that comes with it – like having sushi with coworkers.

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A recent sushi dinner reminded me that it’s okay to stop thinking about my diabetes for a little while.

So instead of staring at my double-up arrows on my Dexcom, I’m staring at the artfully arranged sushi platter in front of me.

Instead of ordering the lowest-carb item on the menu, I order what I actually want to eat.

Instead of fretting over how quickly my insulin will kick in, I fret over which sushi roll I should try first.

Instead of letting my diabetes take over my dinner, I’m letting it go and living.

Sometimes, I need to remind myself that it’s okay to stop obsessing over my blood sugar in order to just live and enjoy my life.

Insulin Pumps and X-rays

“You have to remove your insulin pump before we can take your X-rays,” the technician said to me. I stared at him, and responded point-blank, “What? No, I can’t take it off.” I tried to hide the panic in my voice, but it quavered as tears stung my eyes.

“Well, let me check our insulin pump protocol…” his voice trailed off as he left me in the dark room with my right arm held up in the air in an attempt to mitigate the throbbing sensation going up and down my forearm.

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That pod on my arm can’t simply be removed on command.

When I fell and broke my ulna a couple weeks ago, my insulin pump was one of the last things to cross my mind as I was shuffled from doctor to doctor and one medical facility after the other. All I could concentrate on was the injury – how severe was it? Would I be able to work? Could I keep up my exercise regimen? Was I going to need surgery? My diabetes, for once, was far from my thoughts.

But this instantly changed when I went to get an X-ray. When the technician told me that I’d have to remove my pump, I wanted to shout at him, “No! If I do that, my blood sugar will skyrocket! You can’t expect me to do that!” It was hard to keep calm, and my emotions were already running amok due to the chaos of the morning so far. So even as I tried to fight the tears, a couple escaped and ran down my cheeks. When he came back into the room, the X-ray technician’s expression changed. He looked at me empathetically.

“It’ll be okay. Come on, let’s call your endocrinologist. We’ll see what she has to say and get this all figured out.”

Twenty minutes later, after a series of phone calls and a few accidental hang-ups, we received confirmation that I could, indeed, wear my pump for the X-ray. The nurse practitioner who I spoke with at my endo’s office said that it was safe as long as I wore the protective vest. “It’s really only a problem if you’re going in for an MRI or a CAT scan, because those involve magnets,” he told me.

Once I got off the phone, I ran over to the X-ray technician and explained it to him. He smiled at me and said, “Got it. Let’s get these pictures over with – you’ve already had quite a day so far.”

I nodded and thanked him for his patience. He was right, I was overwhelmed from the events of the day – it wasn’t even noon yet – but in hindsight, I’m glad that the technician didn’t try to fight me when I said I couldn’t remove my pump. His willingness to hear me out was huge. It’s not easy to be your own advocate in a high-stress situation like that. But I’m proud of myself for speaking up and getting the answers we needed. Everything worked out in the end – well, except for that pesky broken-bone bit.