Hugging the Cactus Turns Two!

It feels like just 365 days ago that I was celebrating the first birthday of this blog…

Oh, wait. It feels like that because it WAS like that.

So here I am, 365 days later, on the second birthday of Hugging the Cactus.

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Is my blog’s second birthday a good excuse to eat a cupcake today? (The answer is YES.)

Wow!

The second year of this blog hasn’t been without its challenges. To name a few:

  • Technical difficulties. I’m still learning a lot about how to successfully run a blog. It seems like the blogging world changes on the daily, so it’s tough to keep up with such a fast-paced environment. It’s far from easy – so let me give a shout-out to all the bloggers out there. Whether you have a small following or legions of fans, kudos to you for keeping at it because it’s a lot of work.
  • Time trouble. This year has been jam-packed for me – a move to another state, several weddings, and a whole bunch of personal shit – so, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I’d like to this blog.
  • Diabetes drama. Of course a girl who runs a diabetes blog has a life filled with diabetes drama. Between navigating the intimidating world of health insurance and coping with diabetes that is constantly keeping me on my toes, sometimes I straight-up just don’t want to write about it because I’ve already spent too much time merely trying to handle it. I struggle with finding the balance between oversharing and holding too much back.

Through it all, though, I keep finding myself returning to this blog time after time. As I’ve shared before, I’ve definitely questioned why I bother with it, especially when it feels like blogging is a semi-irrelevant medium in this day and age of micro-blogging on Instagram.

But I’ve started to answer those questions of self-doubt that I’ve posed to myself.

I think, at the heart of the answer, that the reasons why I keep doing this blog is because it both pushes me to take better care of myself, as well as it forces me to seriously examine how I live my life with diabetes. (And it also brings me closer to other people with diabetes, but that’s a reason that I’ve placed on a pedestal of utmost importance many times before – my desire to connect with other people with diabetes will never not be there.)

It pushes me to take better care of myself because it provides an active record of my thoughts, feelings, and struggles with diabetes that I can consult.

It forces me to look at those records and see how I can address the issues I’m experiencing, or prevent old problems from happening again.

This blog serves as the ultimate T1D diary for me – by documenting my life with diabetes, I believe that I can improve my quality of life with it…which makes it incredibly worth doing, IMHO. And if I can connect with and help others along the way? Well, that makes it even more precious and special to me.

So, happy 2nd birthday, Hugging the Cactus. Here’s to another year of thriving with diabetes.

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What the…BEEP!

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

A long, unfaltering, high-pitched beep was emitting from something in the pharmacy. I saw heads turn in the vicinity as fellow customers, as well as myself, tried to identify the source of the noise.

I gulped. Could it be coming from me? Did my OmniPod fail right then and there as I was picking up my prescription?

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I wish an image could accurately portray just how annoying the beeping sound can be.

I anxiously dug through my backpack, my fingers searching for my PDM, until they met it. I pulled it out and prayed that all was well, that my pod was working as it should be.

A quick press of a button, and…I confirmed that my PDM and pod were, indeed, working properly. Simultaneously relieved yet still bemused by the noise, I put my PDM away while I scanned the area around me, determined to find out what was making a sound so similar to my OmniPod.

What was the culprit? Well, you know those little plastic boxes that drugstores encase things like razor blades in, to prevent theft? That was the thing emitting a blaring beep, in this situation. And like I’d initially assumed, it was coming from me: I was holding one of those boxes in my hand (because I was about to purchase razor blade replacement cartridges), and I’d unintentionally obscured the sensor that triggers the alarm to go off.

Whoops.

While it was nice to know that my insulin pump hadn’t failed on me, it was still somewhat embarrassing to discover that I was the cause of the ruckus, anyways.

Lesson learned: Keep those protective plastic cases in plain sight so I won’t have to misidentify what the beep is coming from.

WTF is CGM Sensor Soaking?

I saw an Instagram story a few weeks back that intrigued me.

In it, a friend of mine was talking about how she “soaks” her CGM sensors. Instantly, I was confused: What the heck did she mean by that? Soaks them in what, hot water or some other liquid?

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Contrary to the connotation of the word “soaking”, this does not mean you’ll be submerging your CGM in any sort of liquid.

Within seconds, her definition of “soaking” became much clearer. “Soaking” a CGM sensor means inserting a fresh sensor hours before you intend to activate it. Rather than giving your sensor just two hours to warm-up, you’re giving it 4-6 hours so it can supposedly provide much more accurate readings immediately after the warm-up period has ended.

I was interested in this practice because I’ve definitely experienced sensors that were off for several hours post-insertion/warm-up. Sometimes, it even takes a full day for a sensor to start reporting accurate numbers, and I wouldn’t exactly call that efficient.

While I haven’t had the guts to actually try sensor soaking yet – I’d like to sometime in the near future – I’ve been doing some research on it so I’m fully prepared to try it whenever I’d like. Here are some questions I had about the process, and the answers I’ve found to them:

Q: Doesn’t this mean that you’re wearing two sensors at once?
A: Yes. But it’s only for a short window of time, until the old sensor expires and it’s time to activate the new one; in other words, for the full soaking period.

Q: How long should I let a new sensor soak?
A: According to what I’ve found online, it seems that 4 to 6 hours is the sweet spot for soaking. It’s basically doubling or tripling the built-in warm-up period that all sensors must go through, so I can see how this might contribute to improving immediate accuracy.

Q: How do I protect the new sensor if it doesn’t have a transmitter snapped in it for several hours?
A: The reason why I haven’t tried soaking yet is because I was worried about wearing a sensor that didn’t have a transmitter snapped in it. But I found some photos online of people who wore transmitter-less sensors with stretchy, self-adhesive wrap tape to protect the nook in which transmitters rest for the soaking period. It’s smart to protect that space, because in theory, it could be vulnerable to catching on clothing or other surfaces. Plus, tape like that is really easy to remove without damaging the sensor in the process.

Q: What changes about the sensor activation process when it’s finally time to start the new soaked sensor?
A: My research leads me to believe that nothing really changes at the end of the soaking period/when it’s time to activate the soaked sensor. All that will be needed is the sensor code so it can be properly activated within the receiver/Dexcom app. So the most important thing you can do at the very start of the soaking period is hold onto your sensor code/store it somewhere safe so you’ll be able to enter it at the end.

Q: So…why would anyone bother trying this again?
A: My understanding is that it all relates back to making sure a fresh sensor is as accurate as possible once it’s activated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put on a new sensor, only to discover a few hours after it has warmed up that it’s off by 40 or 50 points – and that just doesn’t cut it. So I don’t think there’s any harm in me giving sensor soaking a shot one of these days. I just have to remember to do it, and have the patience to wear three devices at once (my pod, the soon-to-expire sensor, and the new soaking sensor).

Have you tried soaking? If so, please drop a comment and let me know your thoughts on it – and be sure to tell me if I missed any key steps in my research!

A Farewell to my Endocrinologist

Well…the day I’ve been subconsciously dreading has finally arrived.

It’s time for me to part ways with my endocrinologist…the diabetes doctor that I’ve seen for the last decade…more than one-third of my life.

She’s moving onto new things, and I’m sad to see her go. She’s helped me tremendously over the years.

She’s seen me at my “diabetes worst”, when I was a college student who cared more about having a normal college experience than managing my diabetes.

She was the one who finally convinced me to quit MDI in favor of an insulin pump.

She’s one of the few medical professionals I’ve ever interacted with who treated me like an equal – she never made me feel “less than” or inferior to her.

In other words, I was pretty dang lucky to be her patient.

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The “thank you” card that I plan on giving my endocrinologist, pictured with two devices I started using thanks to her.

I’m trying to take this forced change in stride. Maybe it will be good to meet with another endocrinologist. Maybe it will help me continue to improve. But I am allowing myself to feel a little upset and sorry over the situation; after all, it’s never fun to part ways with someone, especially when you had no say in the matter.

Guess what else I’m allowing myself to feel?

Gratitude.

I feel thankful for my endocrinologist, so I plan on giving her a card with the following message during our appointment tomorrow…because it’s important to me for her to know all the positive change she’s brought to my life:

Dear [Name Redacted],

I wanted to thank you for all that you have done to help me (and my mom and aunt) in the last several years. You have always motivated me to take better care of myself after every appointment I’ve had with you. I appreciate you for being patient with me, listening to my concerns, and inspiring me to try new technologies and treatments to improve my quality of life with diabetes. I don’t like having a chronic illness, but having a doctor like you around to help me deal with it means the world to a patient like me.

Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors!

Sincerely,

Molly

Ye Olde…Insulin Pump?

Sometimes, you just gotta have fun with diabetes.

Which is why I didn’t think twice before writing “ye olde insulin pump” on my pod before attending a renaissance faire last week.

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Me, wearing a flower crown and showing off my ye olde insulin pump…just living my best life.

Yep, there I am, with my pod in full view, my Myabetic backpack slung on my shoulders, and turkey leg in hand. This is pretty much me in my full glory.

I could’ve let my diabetes get in the way of me enjoying the faire, especially because it’s been somewhat unpredictable lately, but I didn’t.

I ate what I wanted, drank some raspberry wine (much tastier than mead, IMHO), and socialized with friends.

I anticipated some people to notice or comment on my pod, which I actually wouldn’t have minded because maybe it would’ve been from another T1D or someone who is familiar with insulin pumps. But all day long, the only remark came from someone within my group, and we all had a chuckle over it…and that was it.

Which is perfectly fine by me, because even though my ye olde insulin pump and I weren’t trying to hide diabetes at the renaissance faire, it did give me a mental vacation from it for part of the day.

Huzzah to that, indeed.

I Don’t Care Why I Have Diabetes

I saw a post on Instagram recently that infuriated me (I hope you can get a sense of the vitriol I’m about to spew out).

An Instagram user (who shall remain nameless because it’s not cool to put people on blast) was exploring the reasons why they thought they developed diabetes in a series of Insta stories. Several questions were asked:

Was it because of an sedentary lifestyle?

Did it have something to do with being breastfed versus bottle-fed?

Does it have to do with diet?

Was it because of exposure to a certain set of germs?

Did it have something to do with a family history of diabetes?

And the list goes on…and on.

Why did it make me angry?

It’s because, well, personally, I don’t care WHY I have diabetes. I don’t think that exploring the reason(s) why I have it is a healthy way to spend my time.

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*Shrug emoji* I just think there are more important conversations to be had when it comes to life with diabetes.

All I know is that my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin – rather than trying to narrow down the reason why that is, I’d much rather put that energy into taking the best possible care of my diabetes.

Am I crazy? Doesn’t that make sense? It’s just that wondering about the why won’t do a damn thing to change the fact that I have diabetes.

I don’t want to make anyone feel badly if they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the “why” – I’m sure that when I was younger, I asked myself that question a lot – but I’m merely just trying to change the direction and the focus of the conversation.

Let’s not talk about why – let’s talk about how.

How we can live incredible, full lives with diabetes.

How fortunate we are to have access to tools and technology that help us manage it.

How, despite diabetes sucking a lot of the time, it’s actually brought about a lot of positive change and influence in many peoples’ lives.

Now that’s the kind of productive discussions I’d like to see on social media…not the ones that are all doom, gloom, and pure speculation.

The Curious Case of Rotten Insulin

I spent half of the month of August high.

NOT THAT KIND OF HIGH.

I’m talking about blood sugar here, people.

And I’m not talking about scary-high levels. I’m just referring to levels that are higher than I’d like – between 160 and 200. And I’d stay stuck right in that range, even after bolusing quite aggressively.

I chalked it up to stress – life has been a little unkind to me this summer. I also blamed it on making less-than-healthy food choices, and questioned whether I needed to seriously start thinking about taking Metformin again (even though I had a shitty experience on it).

In other words, I took the brunt of responsibility for my highs. I was angry with myself for letting my diabetes get out of my control, and was just starting to accept responsibility when it hit me that it might be something other than my body rebelling against me at play here.

As it turns out, I should’ve suspected an outside factor from the beginning. That’s because my insulin had, somehow, gone bad.

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The vial in question…it caused me a boatload of stress.

I’m still very confused about how or why it happened. My insulin had an expiration date that was like, 2 years from now. The contents within the vial were totally clear – discoloration would’ve indicated an issue – and everything about this vial of insulin looked completely fine.

It was, and still is, an utter mystery to me as to how or why the insulin spoiled.

If nothing else, the case of the rotten insulin made me wonder…why hasn’t anyone developed strips that can check the effectiveness of insulin yet?

Can somebody please get on that (and give me partial credit for helping to spark this genius idea)?