3 Things I Want the World to Know About Insulin

See that tiny glass vial in the below image? Can you believe that the contents of it are extremely precious?

Can you believe that, at approximately $9,400 per gallon, insulin is ranked as the sixth most expensive liquid in the world?

It’s kind of crazy, right? But besides knowing that insulin is priced outrageously, there’s actually a few other things that I think the world should know about insulin.

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  1. Not all insulin is created equal. Just like diabetes, insulin exists in various forms. Besides liquid insulin, there’s also inhaled insulin (Afrezza). And some people with diabetes may even take oral medications that are designed to help increase the effectiveness of insulin that they either receive via injection or produce on their own. There’s brand-name insulin produced by several drug manufacturers (the big three being Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi) as well as generic versions of the drug…but that doesn’t mean that generic insulin works just the same as brand-name insulin for all people with diabetes. Insulin is complicated and different types work better for different people.
  2. Insulin is incredibly sensitive. Take one look at the vial in the above photo and tell me that the insulin inside it is safe at all times. Nope, it sure isn’t! Besides the packaging being super fragile, people who rely on insulin must also be careful to keep it at the proper temperature at all times. All it takes is dropping the vial once or leaving it in an unstable environment for the insulin to be rendered useless, potentially wasting a few hundred dollars. It’s as volatile as it sounds.’
  3. Taking too much or too little insulin is dangerous and life-threatening. For some people, there can literally be a life-or-death difference between one unit of insulin. Too much can cause blood sugar to plummet and a person can experience severe hypoglycemia that may result in shock. Too little insulin has the opposite effect: A person will experience hyperglycemia that can have ranging consequences, some that are minimal/temporary, others that are very serious. That’s why precision is so important when dosing for insulin; on top of that, nobody wants to waste a single drop of the stuff because it is so expensive. But this is what many people with diabetes need in order to survive.

So when you see the hashtag #Insulin4All or hear someone talking about how overpriced it is, you’ll know some of the basic characteristics about insulin that make it invaluable to people with diabetes. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to join the fight to make insulin affordable and available to all – as it should’ve been to begin with.

7 Questions People Always Ask Me About Type 1 Diabetes

This blog post was originally published on March 2, 2019 at Hugging the Cactus. I’m reposting it now because…these seven questions are timeless.

Human beings are naturally curious creatures. So it’s never really surprised me when, upon discovering my T1D, people tend to ask me boatloads of questions about what it’s like. And it’s definitely not at all shocking that many of these questions are recurring.

I've missed you terribly!

Here’s a list of seven questions that I’m almost always asked when I encounter someone who’s just learning about my diabetes. You’ll notice a trend as you read, because even though there’s “no such thing” as a stupid question, this list kinda gets dumber as it goes on. There, you’ve been warned…

7. What does it mean when your blood sugar is high/low?
This is definitely a fair question. I never expect someone who is unfamiliar with diabetes to know the meaning of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. I actually kind of appreciate being asked this question, because it helps me spread awareness. The more people that know how to react in severe high or low blood sugar cases, the better, IMHO.

6. Why do you wear all of those devices?
Another decent question – I never mind explaining how my CGM and my pump work, but I do mind when people say ignorant things, like “Oh, are those patches to help you quit smoking?” *Eye roll*

5. Can you eat/drink [fill-in-the-blank]?
Ugh…I get why people ask me this, but it’s a little more tiring to explain. My answer is usually along the lines of: “I can eat or drink whatever I like, but I need to take insulin to account for it. So I try to eat a limited amount of carbs at a time, because that means I have to take less insulin, and there’s less room for error.” But even after that easy-to-understand explanation, the typical follow-up questions are “BUT CAN YOU EAT CAKE/COOKIES/ICE CREAM/ANY SUGARY FOOD?!” And that’s when I lose a bit of my patience, TBH.

4. Does it hurt when you check your blood sugar/give yourself a shot?
I mean, no? I’m not trying to be facetious or anything, but really, after 21+ years of checking blood sugar and giving myself insulin multiple times per day…there’d be a real issue if it hurt every single time. I concede that there are the occasional sites that sting, but it’s not nearly as bad as many people seem to assume.

3. What’s that beeping sound/ARE YOU GOING TO EXPLODE?!
Honestly…use common sense. What’s the likelier scenario here: That my devices have built-in alarms, or that I’m going to spontaneously combust?

2. How did you get diabetes/WHAT DID YOU DO WRONG?
This. is. such. an. ignorant. question. Nobody, myself included, did anything “wrong” that resulted in my diabetes diagnosis. I didn’t catch it and no number of lifestyle changes could have prevented me from developing diabetes. My immune system merely decided to attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells that lived in my pancreas. There’s no real answer as to how diabetes is caused, though genetics likely play a role in it. Don’t worry, you won’t “catch” the ‘betes by being in my presence.

1. Do you have the…bad kind of diabetes?
This question is THE WORST of them all because there is no good kind of diabetes! Gestational, type 2, LADA…none of them are favorable. They all suck. They all require constant care, regulatory medications, and endocrinology expertise. So please for the love of all that is sacred and holy, next time you hear someone ask this question, gently inform them that there’s no such thing as good/bad diabetes.

 

Spare a Rose this Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day in a couple of days. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I’d like to make you think about something that represents the day well: a bouquet of a dozen roses.

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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Who knew that the value of a dozen roses could pay for a child with diabetes to live another year of life?

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.

I’ve written about the Spare a Rose campaign for the last few years because I think it’s a beautiful way to celebrate a day that makes some swoon and others sick to their stomachs. A common complaint among people in this day and age is that too many holidays are all about raking in the dough for companies like Hallmark; in other words, most holidays have lost their original meaning and have become too commercialized.

So here’s your chance to bring back some significance to Valentine’s Day, whether you’re single, partnered, or married.

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

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”?

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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.

 

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.)

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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.

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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.)

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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.