The Best Laid Plans

You know what they say with the best laid plans…

…something always goes awry with them. It doesn’t matter how meticulously pre-calculated they are, or when/where they take place – sometimes, they just aren’t meant to be.

Such was the case with my Christmas plans this year. (And a partial reason why I’ve fallen behind on my twice-per-week blog posts.)

I know, I know – I had written a whole blog post about how I was going to spend Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve, celebrating my diaversary in the company of my loved ones. And I did…sort of. Except it was just one loved one, who unfortunately had tested positive for it-shall-not-be-named just a day before.

Even though he was entirely asymptomatic – and I was testing negative with at-home test kits and a PCR test conducted by my primary care doctor – we decided it was best to stay away from others and skip out on our highly anticipated Christmas Eve plans with my family. It was pretty devastating, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t count my blessings over the situation. First of all, my partner was feeling great (seriously, it was a completely different experience compared to what we both dealt with when we fell ill with the same condition this past spring) and I was on the road to recovery from a mild head cold I’d been dealing with. Second, we were still able to make the most of the holiday by going for a ride around town to see lights in the neighborhood and ordering sushi to feast upon at home while watching Christmas movies. It was an enjoyable way to spend the holiday, but I definitely missed my family and was a bit heartbroken I couldn’t see all my relatives as I’ve done my entire life, every Christmas Eve.

The only thing missing from the whole ordeal – besides my loved ones, of course – was that I didn’t think about my major diabetes milestone of officially living with diabetes for 25 years, not once, throughout the entire day. My mind was far too preoccupied. But now, in hindsight, it’s serving as additional proof to me that diabetes isn’t always at the front and center of my mind. Sometimes, there are things that take precedence over it. And honestly, that’s a pretty cool thought for me to hold onto, especially on the days where it seems like diabetes is determined to ruin everything for me.

It’s only in charge when I allow it to be. I have ultimate control. I can’t think of a better message to be driven home to me on my 25th diaversary (rather, in the days following my diaversary).

25 Years

This Christmas Eve marks 25 years since I was diagnosed with diabetes.

25 years feels like a significant milestone – and that’s because it is. Diabetes has been my “normal” for that entire length of time; I don’t remember what it’s like to live free from its burden.

I accepted that long ago, but still experience some sadness and bitterness over it from time to time. Can you blame me? There are times when I find myself envious of people with diabetes who were diagnosed later in life and have memories that remain entirely unimpacted by diabetes, but when I find myself getting swept up in morose emotions, I ground myself by remembering that (as trite as it may seem) everything happens for a reason. My diabetes story has taken very deliberate twists and turns, whether or not I was aware of them when they were happening. Each and every challenge, all the emotions, and the many experiences and relationships it has brought into my life were bound to happen, and I’m glad that they did because they’ve made me who I am today.

And today, just a few days shy of officially celebrating my quarter-century diabetes diagnosis, I find myself once again being so happy that it’s happening on a day that I will be around so many of my loved ones. I say it every year, but having my diaversary on a major holiday makes the celebration that much more special to me. The day is always more about spending time with my family than it is about diabetes. Instead of sadness, I feel joy in the reminder that diabetes can’t and won’t overshadow Christmas or any other day for that matter.

So here’s to 25 years of a life enriched and uninhibited by diabetes – and many more to come.

It’s the Most Bolus-Worthy Time of the Year

This post has appeared on Hugging the Cactus a few times now over the years. It’s popping up again today because, well, I had fun writing and singing along to this piece. Plus, in light of a couple of Christmas celebrations over the weekend in which many bolus-worthy goodies were consumed, it only felt appropriate to share this post again today...

It wouldn’t be the Christmas season if I didn’t attempt to rewrite a classic Christmas carol…

I apologize in advance for the cheesiness of this “new” tune, but I was thinking about how there are just so many parties, gatherings, and opportunities to eat absolute junk food this time of year. But even though I’m feeling pretty disgusting by the time January rolls around, I don’t regret it because I love everything about this season…so you might say that I think it’s worth every extra unit of insulin I have to take to cover the food I eat, making it the most “bolus-worthy” time of the year.

So naturally, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was the perfect song to redo for this blog post.

I sprinkled in references about questions that people with diabetes commonly get, as well…because with all the time that’s spent with family and loved ones, they’re bound to come up again just as they do year after year.

Without further ado, here is my rendition of the song…please feel free to read (sing!) along to the tune of the original – it makes it so much more fun, trust me!

It’s the Most Bolus-Worthy Time of the Year

It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year
With the Dexcom CGMs yelling
And everyone telling you “what’s that I hear?”
It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year

It’s the ca-carb-iest season of all
With those holiday sweets
And so many treats when friends come to call
It’s the ca-carb-iest season of all

There’ll be parties for pumping
Temp basals a-bumping
And answering the same old,
There’ll be “can you eat that?”
And all that chit-chat
You can’t help that your eyes rolled

It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year
There’ll be so much indulging
And insulin will be flowing when goodies are near
It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year

There’ll be blood sugar for checking
Marshmallows for correcting
And sensors and sites to change
There’ll be silly relatives’ questions
And answers in your irate expressions
They should know by now ‘betes isn’t so strange

It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year
There’ll be so much indulging
And insulin will be flowing when goodies are near
It’s the most bolus-worthy time
It’s the most bolus-worthy time
It’s the most bolus-worthy time
It’s the most bolus-worthy time of the year!

How I Handle my Diabetes During the Holiday Season

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but my diabetes doesn’t necessarily agree with that sentiment.

In fact, this December 24th (yep, Christmas Eve) marks my 25th year of living with diabetes – crazy thought, right? I’ll have a dia-versary reflection post ready later in the month, but for now, I find myself thoroughly immersed in the overall spirit of the holiday season.

And with that immersion comes a certain level of strategizing. After all, several of the days leading up to and including Christmas are fraught with a variety of celebrations – some more diabetes-friendly than others. For example, a blood-sugar friendly Christmas activity for me is shopping for gifts in stores, as I can spend a handful of hours walking around and keeping my level nice and steady. Conversely, seasonal staples that are decidedly not conducive to my diabetes/blood sugars are the annual cookie swaps (yes, I have more than one that I go to) hosted by family and friends, as well as just about any type of holiday gathering (whether it’s an office party or gift exchange with my two childhood besties).

So in light of the upcoming festivities, I’ve found myself thinking about what’s worked (and what hasn’t) in terms of making the most of the holidays without letting my diabetes interfere – or suffer. Here’s my general game plan for accomplishing that, loosely inspired by Christmas carols…because I couldn’t resist the chance to put a seasonal spin on this how-to post:

  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Pre-Bolus (or pre-bolusing to help ensure more balanced blood sugar levels) – If there’s one tried-and-true technique to keeping my blood sugar levels more stable throughout the many decadent dinners and desserts I consume this time of year, then it’s pre-bolusing. Taking insulin 15-20 minutes before I actually start eating food can be tough to remember, but it pays off big time, particularly when I’m eating foods that I don’t typically have otherwise. So pre-bolusing is perfect for avoiding crazy blood sugar spikes and, in turn, keeps me very merry indeed.
  • Dexcom the Halls (or don’t be afraid to talk to others about diabetes loudly and proudly) – It’s interesting how the holidays bring you closer to both those you know well and those who are total strangers, by way of various gatherings. I know that I’ll be spending at least a couple of holiday parties in the company of people I’ve never met before, and I know I won’t hesitate to talk about my diabetes if it comes up organically or if people are curious about the devices adorning my body. In fact, from experience it can be a pretty good talking point when meeting people for the first time, so I won’t try to hide my diabetes from anyone this holiday season and embrace every opportunity to answer questions about it.
  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like a Pharmacy (or stay prepared with back-up supplies) – Honestly, nobody wants to have to worry about running out of essential medical supplies any time of the year, but least of all during the holidays. So I like to keep back-ups of my back-ups on hand so I don’t have to stress about ordering more supplies or waiting for them to show up in the mail along with all the Christmas presents I’ve ordered.
  • I Saw Molly Eating All the Carbs (or enjoying every treat with minimal diabetes guilt) – This is arguably my most important holiday how-to, and it’s all about remembering to enjoy every little part of this special time of year. It’s such a short window of time that’s filled with so many celebrations (and treats) that it can be easy to get caught up in guilt over indulging in everything or putting diabetes on the backburner for a couple of weeks. But I’ve found that it’s easier to cope with both of those as long as I keep everything in perspective by reminding myself that the holidays fly by so I might as well just enjoy them for what they are rather than putting any sort of negative spin on them. It’s a lot more fun that way!

Finding Gratitude for Diabetes

On the surface, “gratitude” and “diabetes” don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly…but for me, they are natural companions.

Every year since I’ve been a diabetes blogger, I’ve done some sort of post that explains why I’m grateful for diabetes around the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a nice opportunity for me to take time to reflect and express appreciation for some obvious and not-so-obvious people and things.

Of course, there are a number of repeats year after year, including my family, friends, and partner; my dog, the roof over my head, the food on my plate, and so forth.

But as changes take place over time, additions are made to my list. Here are some new ones for this year:

New opportunities. Yesterday marked my final day working at a diabetes nonprofit. This Monday, I’ll begin a new job and continue my writing/editing career at a company that I’m thrilled to join. I’ve got mixed emotions about leaving diabetes behind professionally, but one thing is for certain – as a member of the diabetes community, I’m excited to continue being an active advocate and supporter of the people and programs that I’ve encountered in the last year and a half.

Access to diabetes supplies. I’ve always taken my diabetes supplies accessibility for granted. I don’t struggle to afford the medications and technologies I use (though it would certainly make my life easier if it was cheaper) and I am fortunate enough to have a solid supply on hand at all times. I know that other people with diabetes can’t say the same: an awful reality, but one that opens my eyes to something I should never take for granted.

Another thing I was grateful to do this past year? Travel to New Orleans for the ADA’s Sci Sessions and be surrounded by literally thousands of incredible people working to make a difference in the lives of people living with diabetes.

Exploring hobbies. I’ve had the wonderful chance in the last year to explore hobbies both old and new. I’ve recently picked up my knitting needles again and have made solid progress on my first sweater in a couple of years. I’ve been borrowing more books digitally from the public library so I can rekindle my love for reading. And I’ve been able to try tons of unfamiliar pastimes that I’ve grown to really embrace, such as volleyball, tabletop games, and even video gaming. It’s been a goal of mine to refamiliarize myself with the concept of down time and using it as a chance to do things that make me happy, and I’m so glad that I’ve leaned into this.

Diabetes itself. Yes, I am thankful for diabetes. Here’s why: I could spend all my time resenting it for (occasionally) making my life miserable. A long time ago, though, I chose to embrace diabetes for what it is. In turn, I’ve learned to be grateful for diabetes because of all it has brought and taught me…friendship, independence, discipline, and so much more. After all, this December 24th will mark my 25th anniversary with it – how could I not choose to find gratitude in something that’s been a part of me for nearly as long as I’ve been alive?

It seems especially significant that my departure from my role at a diabetes non-profit is just before the Thanksgiving holiday, which is a perfect time to express gratitude. So it is with zero exaggeration when I convey how grateful I am for this community, and in turn, for diabetes itself.

Happy Halloween from Hugging the Cactus

This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on October 27, 2021. I’m sharing it again today because it’s all too appropriate for the haunted happenings of today! Read on for my perspective on enjoying Halloween with diabetes…

Now that I’m in my late 20s, Halloween is less about the candy – though I still very much enjoy that part – and more about having fun dressing up, even if it’s just for my own entertainment. But this is also my first Halloween at my condo, so I hope that I get to see a decent number of trick-or-treaters and cool costumes.

Diabetes can’t steal my joy on a day like Halloween!

Thinking about Halloween as an adult got me thinking of Halloween and haunted happenings from my childhood, and I’ve got to say, T1D never once got in the way of my enjoyment of the spooktacular holiday. Sure, there were plenty of other things to do besides trick-or-treat – I watched the Charlie Brown Halloween special (and still do) every year and I almost always make a point of carving a pumpkin or two each October – but collecting (and feasting) on candy was still a key component of Halloween for me that diabetes couldn’t take away. In fact, I think that it helped me feel a little more “normal”, like I had something in common with my peers without diabetes.

I’ve seen posts over the years about treats that T1D kids can be given in lieu of candy – things like pencils, sugar-free sweets, fruits or vegetables, and stickers – and that’s perfectly okay. But I think it’s also totally okay for T1D kids to have a break from worrying about diabetes and how it makes them different from everyone else every now and then, especially on a night like Halloween. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m really grateful that I always had super positive experiences around Halloween throughout my childhood that were never tainted by memories of anyone telling me I can’t eat a piece of candy or that I shouldn’t partake in the holiday because of my chronic condition.

So that’s why I’m excited to celebrate it just as I always have this Halloween weekend…though maybe with the added trip to the store the day after to see how much of a discounted low blood sugar/emergency candy stash I can accumulate.

Happy haunted happenings, Cactus Huggers!

Hugging the Cactus Turns 5!

Yesterday, October 4, 2022, marked this blog’s fifth birthday.

How wild – five whole years of writing on this blog, connecting with the diabetes community at large, and gaining invaluable insights from fellow people living with diabetes.

Proudly donning my cactus cap and diabetes devices.

It’s a humbling experience. Any time someone tells me that they’ve read my blog, I’m truly honored that they’ve taken the time to check out my little passion project. And when someone visiting this site turns into a neat opportunity, such as appearing on a podcast, I’m beyond thrilled and appreciative that I get to use other media to reach out to our community.

When I think about where I was five years ago, I marvel over how much has changed not just for me, but for the world. We’ve experienced a global pandemic. We’ve undergone times of enormous celebration, as well as those of great contention. It’s kind of an imperfect metaphor for what it’s like to live with diabetes – it’s filled with ups and downs, triumphs and tribulation – and it takes strength, determination, and resilience to get through it all.

My plan today is to quietly celebrate that, as I reflect on my blog’s birthday as well as the true privilege I have to be able to work professionally within the diabetes space. I am proud of Hugging the Cactus. I am proud of the nonprofit I work for, which has recently experienced its own rebirth into The Diabetes Link. I am proud of all the people with diabetes in my life who live courageously and healthily with diabetes.

And I’m proud of myself for my blog’s milestone, as well as my nearly 25 years of life with diabetes.

Pumpkin Spice: A Very Nice Diabetes Treat

This post is adapted from something I wrote and published on Hugging the Cactus on October 1, 2018. I decided to revisit it as a reminder of the many ways pumpkin spice can be enjoyed this time of year that won’t wind up making my blood sugar spike!

Since pumpkin spice manifests itself in many carb-laden treats this time of year, you might be wondering exactly how I can get away with enjoying a mass quantity of the stuff. And no, my method doesn’t involve dosing tons of insulin so I can down endless amounts of pumpkin spice M&Ms, ice cream, Oreos, yogurt, muffins, or any other kind of pumpkin-spicy product you can imagine (including the dearly beloved pumpkin spice latte).

I love a pumpkin spice latte, but I don’t love what it does to my blood sugars…so I find a way to enjoy the flavor that’s carb-free.

It’s much simpler than that – all that I do is make it my mission each year, right around mid-August, to find as many carb-free or low-carb pumpkin spice products as possible, buy them, and revel in them for the following three months. I’ve been a bit behind this year, but I’m stoked to stock up on favorites from the last few years which includes… gum, tea, coffee, butter (yes, pumpkin spice BUTTER), peanut butter (with pumpkin spice literally swirled in it), English muffins…the list can go on and on, and it does, considering that the gamut of pumpkin spice offerings only increases year after year.

I’ve hunted down foods that have both pumpkin spice and a lower carb count, like Halo Top Pumpkin Pie ice cream or FiberOne bars (ugh, they’re so good it’s not fair). I’ve even mixed it up by combining pumpkin spice with some more manageable carbs, such as plain oatmeal. I just can’t get enough, especially since this is a seasonal offering that plays pretty nicely with my diabetes.

Spare a Rose and Save a Life this Valentine’s Day

The world has turned upside down in the last couple of years, but some things remain the same. For instance, we still celebrate holidays and special occasions with those we love. And today just so happens to be a holiday that’s all about love!

Valentine’s Day…whether you adore or abhor the day, it exists. It’s a day that’s synonymous with chocolate, love, and flowers; more specifically, a dozen red roses.

A dozen red roses is a classic Valentine’s gift. 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 provide insulin to someone who needs it to live?

I bet you wouldn’t mind getting one less rose in that case. And it might just make you like the holiday a little bit more!

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

A little bit of history: Nearly 10 years ago, folks from the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) started the Spare a Rose campaign for the organization Life for a Child. This campaign was able to give insulin and diabetes supplies to children and young adults with T1D in under-resourced countries. Starting in 2022, these individuals looked at how they might be able to support all people with diabetes, seeing as the need for insulin and related supplies and care lasts well beyond childhood.

Thus, Spare a Rose, Save a Life was born! Donations to this campaign go to Insulin for Life, a charity that provides resources, education, and advocacy to many of the same under-resourced countries that were supported by the original Spare a Rose campaign.

It’s an absolutely wonderful idea that will positively impact – and save the lives of – even more people living with diabetes who need access to vital medication, supplies, and healthcare.

I’ve written about the Spare a Rose campaign for the last few years on this blog because 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. In the light of the health challenges the world has collectively faced in the last couple of years, it’s more important than ever that we do all that we can to help people with diabetes access life-saving supplies and care.

Learn more about Insulin for Life, Spare a Rose, and donate here.

My 24th Diaversary

My 24th diaversary shall be known as…the one I almost forgot.

My diaversary, which falls on Christmas Eve, has never been something that I actually actively celebrate because I’m always too busy celebrating the holiday season with my family. And that’s exactly what happened this year: I was living in the gift of Christmas present (there’s a pun in there, I know) rather than reflecting on that fateful one 24 years ago.

My 24th year of living with diabetes…my, how time flies when you’ve got a broken pancreas and robot parts on the outside of your body.

It feels fitting, really, that I didn’t remember my diaversary until a couple weeks after it came and went, because this Christmas Eve was extra special in a different way. It was the first significant holiday since the pandemic hit that my entire family could be together. And I mean my entire family – I saw both my mothers’ side and my fathers’ side, and even my big brother was able to come home from Nashville for the week. So I was spending the holidays really rejoicing in the fact that we were all able to safely see one another for the first time since Christmas 2019, rather than dwelling on my diabetes diagnosis.

After all, it’s the people who surround me that make something like diabetes manageable. My supporters – family, friends, partner, dogs – are the ones who motivate me when I’m experiencing diabetes burnout. They’re the ones who let me cry on their shoulders when diabetes is too much. They’re the ones who high-five every diabetes triumph that I experience. They’re the ones who remind me that my life is not defined by diabetes (despite how much I talk about it). So with that in mind, I can get behind doing what I did this diaversary: celebrating them instead of my diabetes for every Christmas Eve to come.