Diabetes and Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Post

Most years since I’ve been a diabetes blogger, I’ve tried to write some sort of blog post in which I reflect on the things that I’m grateful for.

My Thanksgiving gratitude list hasn’t really changed year after year…I’ll always be thankful for my family and friends, the roof over my head, and the food on my plate.

But what’s changed this year is that there are some new additions to the list:

Diabetes and gratitude aren’t two words that many people would probably put together in a sentence, but I do…keep reading to learn why.

My job. Given the record unemployment numbers this year, I feel especially grateful that I have a job that keeps me safe at home.

Access to insulin. I’ve always taken my insulin accessibility for granted. I don’t struggle to afford my 90-day supply (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.

Video chat programs. I used Skype in college to keep in touch with my high school friends and hadn’t really given it a second thought since then…until this year, of course. Between Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype, I’m so glad that this technology exists and helps me stay connected to my friends and family members.

Essential employees. There are a number of people who I consider heroes, and those who are essential employees are among them. It’s not just nurses, doctors, or first responders – it’s also the individuals who must risk exposure on a daily basis in order to support themselves and their families. I hope they know that their sacrifices don’t go unnoticed, and that they’re beyond appreciated for what they do to help the general public in so many ways.

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 nearly 23 years with it, how could I not find gratitude in life with diabetes? And in a year of what’s felt like perpetual change (both for me personally and for the world), I’m thankful that diabetes remains a constant that actually helps keep me grounded by being a part of my routine. I’m always going to want and fight for a cure, but for now, I actively accept my diabetes and find the positives in my life with it.

It’s true that my Thanksgiving celebrations tomorrow will be a little different than what I’m used to, but I know that one thing that will stay the same is my gratitude for it, my diabetes, and all that life has to offer.

A Song to Describe Diabetes Today…

On Instagram, I’m participating in the #TrueDiabeticChallenge all throughout November. Today’s post was inspired by the prompt for Day 9 of the challenge – name a song that describes diabetes today. Here’s a song that I think describes my relationship with diabetes today, even though it’s a throwback tune…

I’m a child of the 90s, so you can bet that I listened to a whooooole lot of boy bands and girl groups growing up – N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, and Destiny’s Child were just a few of them.

But of course, I loved my solo artists…especially Britney Spears.

Speaking of 90s throwbacks, doesn’t this color scheme remind you of Lisa Frank’s colorfully designed notebooks, folders, and pencils?!

Her first album, “…Baby One More Time”, was everythiiiiiiiing…oh, the NUMBER of times it was played in my house! Like most kids my age at that time, I couldn’t get enough of her bubblegum-sweet voice and catchy-as-heck lyrics/tunes. No matter what your opinion of her has been throughout her contentious career and life in the spotlight, you can’t deny her talent as a singer, dancer, and entertainer.

Brit’s been on my mind lately (I know I’m not the whole one – #FreeBritney!), so a few times throughout the workweek, I tend to listen to her music from all sorts of albums she’s put out over the years. I’m happy to report they’re still absolute BOPS today, but what’s more is that I found one that perfectly fit this prompt for me:

(You Drive Me) Crazy!

Okay, besides being an all-around excellent song with an entertaining music video (yes, that’s Melissa Joan Hart AND Adrian Grenier making cameos in it), it also tooooooooootally describes how my diabetes makes me feel these days. It drives me CRAZY!!! Let’s look at some of the lyrics…

Baby, you spin me around, oh

The earth is moving, but I can’t feel the ground

-Me when my blood sugar is low

You drive me crazy, I just can’t sleep

-Me every dang time my blood sugar interrupts my sleep

Oh, oh, oh crazy, but it feels alright

Baby, thinking of you keeps me up all night

-Definitely NOT alright because I hate when diabetes keeps me up at night and it sure as hell isn’t my “baby”

So maaaaaaybe it’s a bit of a stretch to say this song is perfect for me and my diabetes, because the way Brit sings it and how the lyrics are written, she’s enjoying being driven crazy. But not me! This is one of those songs where I could easily rewrite it and make it an eff-you diabetes anthem.

Really, though, the hook of the song captures it all: YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY.

The “you” here is YOU, DIABETES!

Don’t Feel Sorry About My Diabetes

This blog post was originally published on December 17, 2018 at Hugging the Cactus. I decided to repost it today because this is something that will ALWAYS be relevant – in fact, someone just said to me earlier this month that they are sorry I have diabetes! I wish people would stop apologizing for something that nobody can change, and something I accepted long ago…read on for more about why I never want people to feel sorry for me because I have diabetes.

Today’s blog post is going to be short and sweet, and about a subject that I think every person with diabetes deals with whenever they tell someone new about their diabetes.

It doesn’t matter how diabetes comes up in conversation. Whether it’s in a joking, serious, educational, happy, sad, or angry manner, the person I’m talking to almost always says…

“I’m sorry.”

I’m not sorry that I have diabetes, so you shouldn’t be, either.

Sometimes, I think it’s because society has instilled this weird reflex in people to apologize for something that they didn’t do. Other times, I think it’s because people just don’t know how else to respond to something that may be sobering or grounded in reality. But the simple fact of the matter is…

People need to stop apologizing to me, and other people with diabetes, for having it.

Here’s why:

  1. It doesn’t make sense.
  2. We weren’t given a choice – it’s a simple truth that we’ve learned to accept.
  3. It makes me feel strange, because it’s almost like the other person is taking accountability for my diabetes.
  4. I believe that human beings apologize too much, in general, and it diminishes apologies when they matter most or are most sincere.
  5. I’m not sorry that I have diabetes, so why should someone else be?

While I genuinely empathize with and appreciate people who apologize as a knee-jerk response, I’m just here to gently tell them that it isn’t necessary. Save “I’m sorry” for times that it’s warranted, and not for something like having diabetes, a matter in which no one has a choice.

How Keeping Constantly Busy Helps (and Hurts) My Diabetes

I don’t fare well when I have too much idle time.

I’m the type of person who needs to stay as busy as possible: I like being productive and having the satisfaction of saying that I’ve accomplished something each day. That doesn’t always mean that I’m successful, but I do my damnedest to make sure that I check off at least one item from my to-do list on a daily basis.

And I don’t like saying “no” to others, so whenever someone asks for my help, I’m on it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, close friend, or an acquaintance – I do what I can when I’m called on for help, and as you might be able to imagine, this is both good and bad for me.

How Keeping Constantly Busy Helps (and Hurts) My Diabetes
Who DOESN’T love the satisfying feeling of checking items off from a to-do list?!

In terms of diabetes management, it’s great because when I am particularly busy, this means that I’m probably not sitting around a whole lot – the constant go-go-go makes my blood sugars pretty happy. Plus, having a packed schedule keeps my mind occupied when I need to think about something – anything, really – other than my diabetes. If I’m having a tough diabetes day, I don’t have to dwell on it; instead, I have tasks X, Y, and Z to do. If I’m waiting for a stubborn high blood sugar to come back down, then I can start working on a project rather than stare at my CGM for the next hour. 

So in this way, keeping myself busy is a fabulous way to take my attention away from diabetes when I desperately need the mental break from it…but it’s also harmful at times, because let’s face it, there are many times in life where I really do need to concentrate on my diabetes care and management.

Whether it’s a big or small task that I’m working on, I put 110% of myself into it, which means that I really don’t have extra thinking room for my diabetes. Some examples of times that I’ve been far too lost in what I was doing to give diabetes a second thought are when I’ve been in the middle of a knitting project and my Dexcom is went off but I actively ignored it in order to keep my focus on whatever row I was working on (and my blood sugar stayed higher for longer than it should have), or when I should’ve taken a break from writing social media posts for my friend to eat something because my blood sugar needed it, but I just wanted to finish the job first.

Now that I’ve figured out how my diabetes is helped and hurt by my jam-packed days, will I continue to stay constantly busy? The answer is definitely. But I will also try to remember the importance of balance in order to keep my diabetes at the forefront of my mind in a healthy manner.

Diabetes Detective Work: Solving the Mystery of Prolonged High Blood Sugar

When it comes to solving the mystery of why I recently experienced high blood sugar for a prolonged period of time, let’s just say I was a wannabe Sherlock Holmes.

I’m going with “wannabe” here because I lacked the satisfaction of deducing the exact culprit, but at least I had my wits about me enough to come up with a few reasonable explanations.

Diabetes Detective Work_ Solving the Mystery of Prolonged High Blood Sugar
I wish that a magnifying glass was all it took to figure out the “why” situations in life with diabetes.

The scenario: I was riding between 200 and 250 for hours. I did a temporary increase of my insulin for a bit, took 2-3 micro-doses of insulin (in order to avoid stacking), and did my best to stay hydrated while avoiding carbs. And I barely budged, much to my frustration. All throughout dinner that night, I was anxiously eyeing my Dexcom and hoping to level out before long. It was only after I went on a 45-minute after-dinner walk that I started to drop, and it took me quite a while longer than usual for me to be totally back within range.

The questions: Did my mid-afternoon pod change throw something off? Was my carb counting wrong? Was it something I ate? Was my pod working the way it should’ve been? Did I get enough exercise throughout the day? Too much? Was it due to anxiety or stress? Some other factor that never even crossed my mind?

The clues: A couple of clues helped me eliminate the cause of the high blood sugar. For starters, it couldn’t have been the insulin – it’d been refrigerated and I’d been using the same vial for a couple of weeks without any issue. It also likely wasn’t either of my pods, because the one I’d worn for the full 3 days had worked fine, and the new one that I applied mid-afternoon did work for the full 3 days…even though it seemed to take some time to adjust to my body. I definitely didn’t eat the healthiest meal (my entree may have been a green salad, but I also ordered a sugary cocktail and had fried pickles as an appetizer). And I was dealing with slightly higher levels of stress than usual.

The case cracked (sorta): All of those aforementioned conditions combined could have contributed to the high blood sugar. Unfortunately, I can’t quite say with certainty that they did, because on paper, I did everything right in order to combat the highs. That’s just the thing with diabetes, though: You can do everything “perfectly”, and the way it “should” be done, but sometimes you can’t prevent these little mysteries from popping up and keeping life with diabetes…ah, well, “interesting”.

My Pharmacy Mailed Me a Broken Vial of Insulin. Here’s How I Handled It.

As soon as I opened the package, I knew something was wrong.

The contents of said package were five vials of insulin – my regular 90-day supply. On the surface, nothing seemed wrong. They arrived in their usual styrofoam cooler that was taped shut. After removing the tape, I saw four ice packs next to the plastic packaging containing the insulin vials; again, this was all expected.

When I picked up the plastic package and used scissors to cut it open, though, a pungent odor greeted my nose.

A medicinal, harsh, familiar scent…the smell of insulin.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that one of the five cardboard boxes encasing the vials was totally damp to the touch. Gingerly, I opened it from the bottom flap, which was sticking out slightly due to the wetness. That’s when I saw the shattered insulin vial: Somehow, the bottom part of the vial had broken, spilling and wasting all of its contents.

I wish that smell-o-vision was a thing, because OMG…the smell coming from this was STRONG.

I was shocked. In all my years of diabetes, nothing like this had ever happened to me before!

I didn’t really give my next step a second thought: Immediately, I jumped on the phone with Express Scripts, which is the mail order pharmacy that I use for my insulin and some other medications. I spoke with and explained the issue to a customer service representative, who connected me with a technician that promised a replacement vial would be mailed to me at no additional cost to make up for the broken one. I asked if they needed me to send the broken one back to them, but I was reassured that it wouldn’t be necessary because I had called them so they could document the incident.

My issue was resolved, just like that, in fewer than 15 minutes. While it was annoying to have to take time out of my day to figure that out, I’m very happy that I got a replacement quickly and easily. But really, where was quality control on this one?!

Insulin is expensive, as we all know. And to see that a perfectly good vial full of it was rendered useless due to defective packaging was a major punch to the gut, indeed.

But this reminded me of the importance of being proactive whenever I suspect something is wrong with any of my diabetes supplies…when in doubt, do something about it.

It’s Not Always Diabetes’ Fault

“OMG, it sounds like you have super brittle bones. What’s up with that? Is it because of your diabetes?”

I sighed into the phone, grateful that the telehealth professional couldn’t see my annoyed facial expression.

“Oh no, it’s nothing like that. I’m just clumsy!” I tried to keep my tone light and threw in a little laugh for good measure. She went on to say something about how I might want to consider taking calcium and/or vitamin D supplements, but while she went off on her tangent, my mind wandered.

What does bone health have to do with diabetes? And why does it seem like everyone assumes that all of my health issues are directly related to my diabetes?

it's not always diabetes' fault
When it comes to blaming diabetes for other conditions, some people have their heads in the clouds…

Truthfully, it’s a safe assumption – the vast majority of the time, anyways – that my diabetes does have some sort of influence over the rest of my health. Plenty of studies indicate that comorbidity is common with type 1 diabetes (in other words, other conditions are diagnosed alongside the primary condition, in this case, diabetes).

But is my diabetes the cause for my seasonal asthma? Is it the reason I’m allergic to cats and dogs? Did my diabetes create the digestive issues I’ve faced since childhood? I don’t know, maybe. There could be a tenuous connection there.

On the flip-side, is my diabetes responsible for my (almost always) excellent blood pressure? Does it have anything to do with my slight arrhythmia? It’s not as clear-cut in those areas; in fact, I’d be hard-pressed to find a real cause-and-effect relationship when it comes to those things.

So do I blame my diabetes for “brittle bones”? Heck no. I blame my breaks in the last couple of years purely on myself and my tendency to rush around in an uncoordinated manner. And on top of that, based on how quickly I healed from my last break, I expect my recovery to go as well this time around, and I doubt that’d be the case if I genuinely had brittle bones.

This time around, it’s not my diabetes’ fault, that much is clear. And it’s also pretty obvious that I need to exercise a little more patience with health professionals who 1) don’t know me well and 2) are just trying to help me improve my overall health.

It’s a gentle reminder to be a touch more graceful in how I move…and how I respond to innocent queries about my diabetes and other health conditions.

When it Comes to Dexcom Alarms…Never Assume

I may have had diabetes for more than three-quarters of my life, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t make silly mistakes with it from time to time.

But I must admit, I still surprise myself on the occasions that I make a slip-up that’s incredibly stupid…and incredibly avoidable.

When it Comes to Dexcom Alarms...Never Assume
In life with diabetes (and in general), mistakes are bound to happen…

For example, one morning my Dexcom started alarming, and I thought that I knew exactly why it was sounding off: It sounded like the signature triple buzz of a high alert, so I did what anyone else would do when it’s very early in the morning and not quite time to wake up yet…I ignored it and fell back asleep.

But true to typical Dexcom alarm nature, my sleep was interrupted again by continued buzzing. Rather than pick up my phone to dismiss the alarm, though, I decided to bolus for a couple of units without ever verifying that I was, indeed, high.

Yikes. Can you say rookie mistake?

Fortunately for me, I really did have to get up and start my day within a couple of hours of taking that bolus. Thank goodness I did, because when I got up, I immediately glanced at my Dexcom and was taken aback to see that my blood sugar had not ticked up past my high threshold in the last several hours…it had actually lost reception completely.

Ahh…so that’s what it was trying to tell me. Oops.

Furthermore, my blood sugar was inching below my low threshold – the two units I’d carelessly taken had kicked in, and all I could feel in that moment was relief that I hadn’t taken more insulin.

This story could’ve had a very different ending. I’m still kind of in disbelief that I didn’t just roll over to check my Dexcom and confirm the reason why it was alarming in the first place. I mean, that’s what I do any other time it goes off, regardless of the time of day. I suppose that I was just overly confident in what kind of alarm it was. Coupled with the fact that I was barely awake when this all went down, then it really isn’t all that crazy that this happened…but it doesn’t make me feel any less dumb.

Lesson learned. When it comes to Dexcom alarms, always check them, and never make assumptions.

 

4 Cocktails That Have Little or No Impact on My Blood Sugar

YAY, it’s FRIDAY! *Does happy dance*

In order to “cheers” the weekend’s arrival, I might indulge in an alcoholic bevvy or two tonight.

And if you’re like most people who are curious about my diabetes, you may be wondering…how does alcohol affect my blood sugar?

Remember that it’s different for everyone, but personally, alcohol itself (hard liquor/spirits) doesn’t really impact my blood sugars too much. More often than not, it’s the sugary juices, syrups, and sodas that are found in mixed drinks that are wreaking havoc on my levels. That doesn’t mean I don’t allow myself to have a carb-o-licious margarita or a frozen cocktail (a local bar makes them with ice cream and they’re incredible) from time to time, but I definitely don’t do it frequently because the inevitable blood sugar spike just isn’t worth it.

So what do I stick to instead? I have a few go-to cocktails that play nice with my diabetes:

1 – Gin and tonic. Did you know that diet tonic water is a thing? It is, and it can be purchased by the bottle from just about any grocery store. I love having diet tonic water as an option because it eliminates the carbohydrates that are found in regular tonic water. This means that any carbs in this cocktail are coming from the gin, and it’s such a trace amount that I don’t need to factor it into a bolus (again, this is just what works for me). All I do is pour my gin and diet tonic water over a tall glass of ice, add a squeeze of lime juice, and enjoy knowing that I’ve created a nearly carb-free cocktail.

2 – Rum and Diet Coke. People always seem surprised when they see me drinking rum because of the connotation that it’s a sugary spirit. But I’ve never noticed rum impacting my blood sugar more than any other spirit such as bourbon, scotch, tequila, or gin. So when I’m leaning towards something that’s on the sweeter side in terms of taste but not heavy on carbs, I’ll go with a rum and diet coke.

4 Cocktails That Have Little or No Impact on My Blood Sugar
Raise a glass to the weekend…and to drinking *safely* with diabetes!

3 – Whiskey on the rocks (or mixed with diet soda). This is pretty bare-bones in terms of mixology, but I’ve found that I can’t go wrong with this simple combination when I’m in the mood for something to sip slowly and enjoy. Whiskey purists might disagree with how “on the rocks” I tend to get, but I like whiskey best when it’s as cold as possible and, truthfully, a little watered down. But ice or no ice, I know that whiskey won’t make my blood sugar budge, which makes it a-okay in my book.

4 – A glass of wine. Okay, so this isn’t technically a cocktail, but it’d be very remiss of me to exclude wine from this roundup. Not only am I a big fan of whites, reds, and bubbly alike, but it just so happens that wine gets along very well with my blood sugar. The only time that I run into real trouble is if I’m drinking something super sweet like Moscato (which is rarely, if ever, because it’s waaaaay to saccharine for my tastes) or mixing the wine with something (such as Prosecco and orange juice for a mimosa). Otherwise, I know that a glass (or two) of most wines is the perfect way for me to unwind without it having a negative impact on my blood sugar.

To wrap up this particular post, I’m including a few links from Beyond Type 1 below about drinking and diabetes. I’ve found that this topic in general invites a lot of questions, so the resources on their website can help address some of the trickier ones. Remember that if you have diabetes, make sure that you go about it safely if and when you decide to drink alcohol (and if you don’t, that’s perfectly okay, too)!

How much alcohol and what type is best with diabetes?

Why doesn’t glucagon work with alcohol?

Why and how to adjust your basal rate when drinking

The Alcohol and Diabetes Guide

 

 

How a Broken Bone Affects my ‘Betes

I still can’t believe that I broke my wrist…again. At least I changed it up a little this time and broke my left one instead!

A broken bone is a broken bone, but my healing experience has been very different compared to last time.

For starters, when I broke my right wrist a couple of years ago, it was in the middle of winter (I slipped and fell on ice in the driveway). I was put into a cast that I wore for 4-6 weeks that felt like 4-6 months because of the challenges I faced. Between attempting to become ambidextrous as I built up strength in my left hand and taking a solo trip to Atlanta, Georgia to film a commercial for Dexcom, I did my best to work around my injury…even though I felt incredibly defeated in the face of the limitations it imposed; specifically, I felt that I couldn’t keep up with the exercise regimen I’d worked so hard to establish. I feared that I’d exacerbate the injury, so I didn’t even try to work around it.

This time around, it’s summer. The break happened after I tripped and fell down some stairs (klutz, much?). I’m wearing a brace for 3-6 weeks instead of a cast: My orthopedist said it’d be much more comfortable versus a cast, which can get seriously stinky and sweaty in the warm weather. And rather than stressing about how I’ll continue to exercise while also allowing myself to heal, I’ve made modifications that have kept my body, broken bone, and ‘betes happy.

How a Broken Bone Affects my 'Betes
Can anyone else spot the lone strand of fur, courtesy of my dog, stuck to my brace?!

I guess I learned from the last broken bone that it’s better to keep moving in some way, shape, or form than dwell too much on the injury itself. In other words, I’ve been trying hard to focus on the things I can still do while I’m wearing a brace as opposed to the things I cannot do. For example, my broken wrist can’t stop me from taking daily walks or, when I’m feeling more ambitious, going for an occasional run. It can’t stop me from making the shift to lower-body-focused workouts or core strengthening routines. I refuse to let this injury be the reason that I get sloppy with my nutrition or workout routines, and it certainly isn’t an excuse to become unmotivated in terms of my diabetes care. If anything, it might just be the reason that I tighten things up and make some much-needed improvements.

They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…so I’m going to try, because a broken wrist won’t stop me from getting something good out of this less-than-ideal situation.