The Meaning Behind Blue Fridays

It’s November 15th which means that it’s Day 15 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is about blue Friday. Umm, I admit I had to do some research on this topic, ‘cuz I never really understood why people with diabetes are encouraged to wear blue on Fridays…

…I’ve never even really known the reason why the color blue was chosen to represent the diabetes community as a whole.

So naturally, I decided to do a little research and find out answers to my questions.

First up: Why is blue the official “diabetes color”?

The answer is simple, but satisfying. Until 2006, there was no color or symbol that represented diabetes. The United Nations played a role in selecting a blue circle to change that. Blue was picked because of its unifying reputation: It represents both the sky and the flag of the United Nations. Since diabetes is an issue that affects individuals around the globe, it made sense to choose a circle as a symbol; thus, the blue circle was born.

What about the second question: Why “blue Fridays”?

9F213CA5-9D48-466C-AF30-B77C16E909C5
Sporting my blue, the hashtag, and the universal symbol for diabetes awareness!

The answer to that was also straightforward. The “blue Fridays” concept started a few years ago as a social media initiative intended to bring awareness to diabetes. It’s really easy to participate. All you need to do is snap a photo of yourself wearing blue on Fridays throughout the month of November. Add the hashtag #BlueFriday and maybe a caption about what diabetes awareness means to you or something else relevant to the meaning of diabetes awareness month and post it on all of your social media channels. That’s it! I love scrolling through feeds on Fridays in November and seeing the waves of blue all throughout. It’s a visual reminder of just how many people are affected by diabetes, and how our community finds strength through numbers.

Before you go, I’ve got an exciting announcement: I’m appearing on the podcast, “Ask Me About My Type 1” this Monday, November 18th!!! The wonderful host, Walt Drennan, asked me to be a guest and I immediately said yes. One of my dearest friends, Emma, is also on the show as my “Type None” guest and the three of us had an amazing conversation about diabetes and support. The episode will be available Google Podcasts, Spotify, and the Apple podcast app. Why not spend some time this weekend, though, checking out the complete Season 1 of the podcast as well as what Walt has recorded so far for Season 2? You’re in for a real treat as he’s had fantastic guests on for both seasons. I’ll post the link to my episode across social media when it debuts on Monday and you can visit the podcast website here to learn more about Walt and the series.

 

Advertisements

My Diabetes Hero

It’s November 6th which means that it’s Day 6 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt asks us to name our diabetes hero/heroine. Well, I have more than one…

My diabetes hero is not just one person. It’s a small group of people that I call my family. (Awwwww, how sweet.)

F428B899-72D9-4EBD-95A6-9AF8EB03C464
Me with my heroic diabetes family.

My mom, dad, and brother are all-too familiar with diabetes. My mom is T1D, like me, and my dad and my brother were the lucky ducks who got to live under the same roof as us for many years. All three of them are diabetes heroes to me, but in some very different ways.

Let’s start with my brother. He is three years older than me and I’d say we were fairly close to one another in our shared childhood. Though he doesn’t share a diabetes diagnosis with me, he grew up with diabetes just as much as I did. And do you know what’s amazing about that? I’ve never once heard him complain about it. If he has ever felt any fear or worry for my mom and I, he definitely has done a good job of internalizing it. He treats us like we have normal, functioning pancreases, and I think the reason for that is he knows that we are more than capable of taking care of our diabetes ourselves. Although his thoughts and feelings about our diabetes have yet to be verbalized, I appreciate his unique brand of support for us and I continue to be wowed that he never seemed to be bothered by the extra attention I got as a child due to my diabetes. No unhealthy sibling rivalry there!

Next up is the other Type None in our family: my dad. I’ve written about my dad in a couple of previous blog posts. He is truly the Mr. Fix It in our family. If there is a problem, he wants to solve it – especially if it is something that is causing his loved ones emotional distress. He has had more than his fair share of situations in which my mom or I were seriously struggling with our diabetes. I can only imagine how he feels when all he can do is just stand by and let us work through our issues: It’s probably a combination of helpless, angry, and worried. He’s said numerous times over the years that he’d give my mom and I his healthy pancreas if he could, and I’ve never questioned the sincerity behind that sentiment. I know he means it, and to me, that’s the kind of heroism that nobody else in my life can even begin to compete with.

And then we’ve got my diabetes partner-in-crime, my mom. How on earth she managed to deal with her OWN diabetes, in addition to mine, all throughout my childhood is completely beyond me. Besides being there for me as a source of unwavering emotional support as someone who really “gets it”, my mom’s attended practically every single endocrinology appointment with me, encouraged me to start using an insulin pump, ordered alllllll of my supplies for many years (and kept track of the stacks of associated paperwork), and helped keep me as calm as humanly possible throughout my terrifying insurance transition that took place late this past spring. Let me just restate that she did all of this and still does all of this while still dealing with her own diabetes!!!!! It’s sort of mind-blowing to me that she can stay so much calmer about her diabetes than I ever could when it comes to either of ours, but she does it, and that makes her a heck of a diabetes hero to me.

What’s really neat about my diabetes heroes, as a collective unit, is that diabetes has never and will never define our family. It’s something that lingers there in the background, for sure, but it almost never steals our attention away from our time spent together. I can’t recall a single instance in the last 22 years that diabetes really, truly disrupted our family rhythm (maybe my parents would disagree with that and count in my diabetes diagnosis, but I barely remember that).

It just goes to show that even as something as life-altering and disruptive as diabetes only made my family stronger when it hit us with a double dose.

How Diabetes Motivates Me

It’s November 4th which means that it’s Day 4 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is called Motivation Monday, so today’s blog post is all about how diabetes motivates me…

Diabetes is exhausting. It’s 24/7, 365. At times, it’s frustrating, depressing, frightening, and generally upsetting.

Considering all that, how the eff could diabetes also be motivating?

Let me explain the ways.

HUGGING THE CACTUS - A T1D BLOG
When life gives you a lemon like diabetes, you’ve got to turn it into (sugar free) lemonade.

Diabetes tries to knock me down – not on a daily basis, but often enough that I have to fight back against it. I’m not about to let it keep me on the ground, so my diabetes is constantly forcing me to hit back at it harder and harder. It instills a determination and a ferocity within me that I might not have ever developed on my own.

How else does diabetes motivate me? Well, it’s constantly challenging me to strive for the better: Better “control” over my blood sugar levels, better management of my diet and exercise regimen, and better care of my entire body, in general. While it involves a lot of work, it’s extremely motivating because I know that anything I do for the better of my diabetes and my body now will pay dividends in the future. And that’s the answer to a question I am often asked by others.

How do you live such a normal life with diabetes?

It’s fairly simple, really. I’m just motivated to live my best life despite my diabetes. It can be my biggest headache, but also my greatest motivator, and I think it’s important for me to embrace the beauty of that.

Happy National Diabetes Awareness Month!

It is November 1st – the latter half of 2019 is really flying by, isn’t it – and you know what that means: It’s officially National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM)!

All month long, the diabetes online community is bound to go into overdrive as we make advocacy and awareness our number one priority. I know that one way in which I’ll be partaking is through daily social media posts on my Instagram account – thank you to Leah (@the.insulin.type) for creating that annual Happy Diabetic Challenge! I plan to use many of the Happy Diabetic Challenge prompts for my blog posts, too, so if you’re not an active Instagram user, you’ll still see posts related to the challenge here.

Before I launch into day one’s prompt, I have a little something to say about advocacy all month long. It can be a lot to see, read, and hear. As someone who’s been told more than a few times in her life that she talks too much about diabetes, it can be a bit difficult for me to get really pumped up about NDAM. Whether people realize it or not, comments like that can really deflate me – it’s even made me question whether I should continue making my voice heard in the diabetes online community and in other spaces.

Thankfully, I’ve had several type 1s and type “nones” alike encourage me to keep going and reassure me that my voice does, indeed, matter. The “I Hear You” campaign that my friend, Heather Walker (she’s a gem of a human being), initiated a few months ago woke me up to the fact that it’s important to acknowledge all voices and perspectives. It’s important for people to feel heard as well as to hear others because that’s what leads to personal growth and educational opportunities.

So if you think that someone talks too much about something – not just diabetes – then I ask you to use this month to shove your feelings to the side and just listen. Take just a minute to understand why that person might be so fired up about a topic and you might just learn something valuable. (And if you can’t bear to do that…remember that most social media platforms have “mute” buttons. Simply do that rather than tear into someone in a comment thread. Because that’s just straight-up bullying.)

2FE8F0D1-3541-484A-B968-454A3421473B.jpg
Here I am, showing off the new Dexcom G6 in their ad campaign last year and modeling a lovely purple cast from when I broke my arm. LIFE HAPPENS.

Anyways, off my soap box and onto the first prompt of the 2019 Happy Diabetic Challenge: It’s time to introduce myself!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m Molly. And I have diabetes! Type 1, to be exact. This Christmas Eve will mark 22 years since my diagnosis. (You can read my bio to learn a bit more about my diagnosis story.)

I use a Dexcom CGM, OmniPod insulin pump, and Verio IQ meter to dose my insulin and check my blood sugar levels. I used to be super against technology, but eventually I discovered just how much it improves the quality of my life with diabetes…and I haven’t looked back since.

I also used to be against meeting other people with diabetes – yes, really! As a child, I’d defiantly say NO YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GO I REFUSE whenever my parents or my endocrinologist gently asked me if I was interested in diabetes camp. I figured that it was overrated; after all, I already had two T1Ds in my life (my mom and my aunt). How much more diabetes could I really need in the form of other human beings?

It turns out that I would need – crave, actually – a lot more as I entered my adult years. My mom dragged me to an educational talk aimed towards parents and their soon-to-be-college-freshmen that would offer some advice with how to deal with this massive transition. It was there that I met the CEO and founder of the College Diabetes Network, Tina Roth. We struck up conversation and I learned that my college had a CDN chapter on its campus…though it needed someone to take over control of it.

That’s when I was immersed in the world of making diabetes connections. I took it upon myself to become that CDN chapter’s president, and before long, I was meeting T1D students all over campus. Quickly, I discovered just how magical it was to meet people who understood me in ways that my other friends simply couldn’t. It was awesome, and I felt foolish for depriving myself of it for so many years of my life.

My involvement with CDN lead to many other opportunities and friendships; in fact, I think you can make a dotted line from CDN to this very blog. It changed so much for me, and it’s one of the reasons why diabetes advocacy has been such an integral part of my adult life.

That’s the “diabetes” side of me in a nutshell. My other sides, well, they can’t be described in such a succinct way, but here are some “fun facts” if you’re curious to know me outside of diabetes:

  • I love crafting! I get called a grandma sometimes by my oh-so-funny friends, but I know that they appreciate my creative side (as evidenced by the scarves I’ve knit for them that keep them warm all winter long). I like knitting, party planning (and creating decor/games for said parties), baking, and just about any other activity that allows me to produce something from scratch.
  • I was almost on an MTV reality show when I was a sophomore in high school. Ever hear of Made? (Here’s a brief primer on it if you haven’t.) I was the only student in my high school chosen to proceed to semi-final rounds of auditions, which meant a cameraman from the network had to follow me around and document my life for a week. It was about as weird, embarrassing, and, erm, unique as it sounds. Oh, and I wanted to be “made” into a salsa dancer. I’m BEYOND RELIEVED I didn’t have to humiliate myself by dancing on national television…
  • I have an obsession with pop culture. I used to religiously watch shows that documented the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I loved learning about the fads of those eras and the types of shows and movies that were most popular then. This makes me semi-useful when I play pub trivia with friends – every now and then, even I’m surprised by the random facts I know.
  • My actual job is not this blog – I am a full-time associate editor for a financial company that offers a suite of products that financial advisors subscribe to in order to maintain relationships with clients and draw in prospects. On a daily basis, I’m reading through our library of content to make sure it’s up-to-date, researching for projects, and maintaining my reputation as the content team’s resident millennial/social media expert.
  • I am an introverted extrovert. I love meeting new people but tend to clam up in unfamiliar social settings. It’s a total conundrum! I’m always stepping out of my comfort zone in order to not be a hermit. It’s worth it, but if you ever happen to see out in a public setting, please be the first to break the ice – I’m so bad at it because I get freaked out, but if someone approaches me first, then I can come across as calm, cool, and collected (even though I’m still probably internally freaking out).

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Probably for the best, because we’ve got a long month of diabetes advocacy ahead of us! Let’s make it a great month and remember to hear one another rather than shut people out.

 

Diabetes in Pop Culture: Is it Really That Hard to Get it Right?

I used to be an avid fan of the cultural behemoth, The Walking Dead. Imagine my delight and surprise when type 1 diabetes actually made a cameo in one of the episodes! T1D, in the zombie apocalypse! What could go wrong?

Turns out, a lot. A minor character in the show’s sixth season passes out, only for a main character to flock to her side just in time to give her a shot of insulin. Within moments, she’s totally fine, though – spoiler alert – she gets attacked by zombies and doesn’t survive at the end of the episode.

What’s wrong with this scenario is that if a person with diabetes passes out like that, it’s more than likely that their blood sugar is low, and the last thing that they need is more insulin. I can’t imagine her blood sugar being high seeing as it’s the ZOMBIE FREAKING APOCALYPSE and supplies are scarce. I doubt she’s eating, well, anything, let alone substantial meals. And how the heck does insulin stay fresh during the end of the world, anyways? I don’t necessarily expect a TV drama to explore that in a tight 60-minute time frame, but these are things to consider, as well as details that leave unusually informed viewers like me a little bemused and irritated.

Diabetes in pop culture_

And it’s not just The Walking Dead – it’s a LOT of shows that make mistakes or omissions that can be eyebrow-raising. A few shows that come to mind include The Big Bang Theory, Hannah Montana, and even my beloved soap, General Hospital. The errors have been to varying degrees, but a common theme among countless television shows is perpetuating the stereotype that all types of diabetes are caused by a poor diet; specifically, consuming sweets. It’s always an extremely cheap joke, and one that’s gotten stale in its overuse.

Surprisingly, reality TV doesn’t help dispel any myths, which is a bit ironic. Recent episodes of Southern Charm and one of the Real Housewives franchises spread diabetes misinformation that was just ludicrous to me. In the former, a licensed anesthesiologist implied that his girlfriend shouldn’t eat a pastry because it’ll cause diabetes (insert eye roll here) – last time I checked, an anesthesiologist does not know the intricacies of the endocrine system, so who is he, as a medical professional who ought to know better, to say something like that? And in the latter, one woman was scolding her T2D husband over not taking care of himself. She explained his condition in a confessional…but did a really rotten job of it. If I didn’t know anything about type 2 diabetes, and I “learned” about it from this source, then I would be seriously misled.

I’m not trying to be oversensitive here, but it is hard for me to understand why pop culture struggles to get certain aspects of diabetes right when it appears in various story lines. There’s a wealth of correct information out there that writers could rely on. It’s a shame that they don’t, because whether they mean to or not, all it does is add to the confusion and general misunderstanding of all types of diabetes.

Needless to say, pop culture in this day and age has a long way to go when it comes to the portrayal of diabetes.

 

Do You Have 2 Minutes to Spare?

If you’re reading this post, then the answer is YES – of course you have 2 minutes to spare. In that amount of time, you can share your opinions and help my dear friend, Heather, with her research.

Capture
Make your opinions heard by taking this survey.

Please click this link to access the survey. It’s very simple: You’ll see 24 phrases that relate to diabetes in some manner. You’ll rate how often you see these phrases around the Internet using a scale of 1-5. Then, you’ll share which one resonates with you the most and which one you see the most on various diabetes online communities. And…that’s it! You don’t even have to share your name or any of your contact information. It’s quick, easy, and you’ll get to share your opinions in a way that will make a difference. I’d say that’s a great way to spend 2 minutes, wouldn’t you?

And the Nominee is…Me?!

Friends, I am pleased to share that I have been nominated for a WEGO Health Award. My blogging for Hugging the Cactus has qualified me to be a Patient Leader nominee for the “Best Kept Secret” award, which is very exciting to me! What’s more, if I advance to the finals round, I may be able to win a trip to Las Vegas for the HLTH conference in October. This would provide me the opportunity to be around other Patient Leaders who, I’m confident, I could learn so much from, as well as the rare chance to attend a health-focused conference based on merit rather than cost.

What exactly are the WEGO Health Awards? They were created to recognize and honor those who strive to make a difference in the online health community. In the past few days, I’ve scrolled through the growing list of nominees who are advocates for all sorts of conditions, from anemia to ulcerative colitis. It’s quite eye-opening to see just how many health topics inspire individuals to spread awareness via social media, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more. And it truly is an honor to be listed among these incredibly inspiring nominees.

70AA0C50-FF9F-4BCC-A8DE-20A76C79A2A5
Well, this is just plain cool.

If you feel that I deserve to move on to the semi-finalist round, please follow this link to endorse my nomination. By clicking the link, you can view the other nominees and their profiles, which I strongly encourage so you can find out for yourself the sheer volume of skilled storytellers out there. Plus, you never know, you might just discover someone who you can relate to or who inspires you. After all, in a world of chronic conditions that can feel so isolating, isn’t it always a comfort to find out that you’re not alone?