Why I Wouldn’t Change the Age at which I Was Diagnosed with Diabetes

If I could cure diabetes for myself, my mom, my aunt, and all other people living with it, I would in a heartbeat, no question.

Unfortunately, I don’t have that capability, so I can’t change the fact that diabetes exists. Another thing I can’t change is that I was only four years old when I was diagnosed with it.

But let’s talk in hypotheticals here for a moment: If I could change the age that I was diagnosed, would I? Why or why not?

The answer is a resounding no, and here’s why.

I grew up with my diabetes. I don’t remember life before it. I don’t recall a time in my life in which I was finger-prick free or able to eat whichever foods whenever I wanted.

That might sound sort of depressing, but for me, it’s better that way.

See, little Molly clearly didn’t care about having diabetes – I was way too into my horsey to care about that!

I never have to long for the “before times”. I never have to look back on a time in my life that was hard because diabetes rudely interrupted it, causing a swift, drastic change to my daily routine. By the time I was old enough to start really recalling specific events, I already had diabetes. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always just been a part of me.

Some might argue that it’s “better” (imagine that I’m air-quoting that because it’s never better to have diabetes) to be diagnosed with something as life-altering as diabetes in adulthood, or at least in the teenage years, because comprehension of what it is, exactly, is stronger. I’d imagine that the adaptation of new technologies is easier, too, seeing as teenagers/older individuals tend to pick up on these things faster than, say, a toddler that is needing to learn how to safely use an insulin pump.

But for me, it’s been good to learn about diabetes as I’ve matured. As a kid, I just knew it was the thing that prevented me from eating certain foods at certain times, and that I needed my parents’ help at mealtimes in order to calculate carb intake and bolus amounts. As a teen, I started to actually learn the science behind diabetes in various classes I took throughout high school, and expanded on that knowledge in college by taking a nutrition course that taught me all about the glycemic index and how that impacts blood sugar. And as an adult, I’ve been able to make informed choices regarding the use of insulin pumps, CGMs, and other matters of that nature that require some research and understanding.

And more important than anything else…being diagnosed with diabetes at 4 years old had zero impact on my quality of life. I had a wonderful childhood and all the credit goes to my parents, who made sure that I was raised knowing that diabetes couldn’t stop me from doing anything. I know they would’ve handled a potential diabetes diagnosis later on in my life with an equal amount of grace and strength, but the fact that I grew up with it meant that we all, as a family, grew up with it as a normal part of our lives.

So even though I’ll never be okay in the traditional sense of the word that I have diabetes, I am okay with getting diagnosed as a little kid.

Meet Violet

Cactus Huggers, I have someone I would like for you to meet.

This is Violet:

Violet enjoys playing with her many toys as well as using them as pillows. Here she is laying on top of a puppy of her own.

Violet is a 10-week-old tri-color Shetland Sheepdog puppy. And for those of you who are familiar with my parents’ dog, Clarence (I’ve written about him on the blog before), Violet is actually Clarence’s niece by blood – his sister is Violet’s mommy.

And I’m Violet’s human mommy.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog of my own. I considered Clarence to be “my” dog in the last few years because we lived under the same roof most of that time, but I knew that when I eventually moved out, Clarence wouldn’t be coming with me. I also knew that my desire for a dog would only increase if I ever found myself living on my own. So I felt that the stars aligned when I discovered – soon after I moved out towards the end of 2020 – that Clarence’s sister was expecting a litter of puppies, and that one of those puppies would be mine.

This isn’t how I expected it to happen. I never wanted to raise a puppy on my own; after all, puppies are a lot of work. Clarence was a tough puppy to deal with and he had three humans taking care of him!

But I feel as though maybe this is how it was supposed to happen. This tiny creature relies on me for everything. I have quickly become her whole world, and she has become mine. That’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly, and though I know we will have our highs and lows – much like the ones I have with my diabetes – I know that we will live and thrive together happily.

Just like I do with my diabetes.

Happy New Year!

It is officially January 1, 2021.

When I think of January, the color gray comes to mind. This time of year is notorious for being a bit of a dull lull – a period in which everything abruptly slows down. The cold weather feels even colder and it can feel a bit like being trapped inside sometimes.

But we’re all pretty familiar with how that feels by now…

Anyways, that’s what I used to think of January. Now, I’m trying to shift my thinking and find the color and vibrancy in this month. After all, a new mindset – sort of like the one I touched on in Wednesday’s blog post but am still struggling to identify clearly – seems like it should just go together with a new year. If I keep the old mindset, I’ll get old results, and I don’t think I necessarily want old results (unless they pertain to the stretches of time in which my blood sugar levels have been spot-on, then I definitely want those results).

I’m rambling, I know. But this is my way of encouraging myself – and you – to do something that makes you happy today. Need some inspiration? I’ll share my plans: I’ll have a lovely homemade lasagna made by my mother, hang out at my parents’ house with our dogs, and text all of my loved ones to wish them a happy new year. If the weather cooperates, I’ll take a walk at some point to get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Maybe I’ll even get to totally veg out for a few hours and shirk the responsibilities of adulthood, pretending that a new workweek isn’t just around the corner.

All that sounds like a pretty great way to ring in a new year, don’t you think?

Here’s to a new year, your good health, hope, and of course, fabulous blood sugar levels.

Reflecting on 2020

2020. What a year, am I right?

This blog post is NOT going to be a recap of how “unprecedented”, “historical”, “chaotic”, or “uncertain” this year was – we all know exactly what it was like and we most definitely don’t need a summary of it.

Instead, this post is going to be a short reflection on some of the cards I was dealt with this year…

What exactly did I do in 2020?

Well, for starters, I made one of the most heart-wrenching decisions of my life to move back home last January.

In February, I was trying to heal from the damage caused by this decision.

And then, well, March happened, and suddenly nothing was certain.

I stumbled through April and May along with the rest of the world, trying to adjust to this “new normal” (I promise I won’t be using that phrase again in this post).

I flailed into the summer months, a time in which it seemed like things might be getting better, only for a bout of depression and anxiety to darken the light at the end of the tunnel I thought I had seen.

In September and October, I chose to dip my toes back into adulthood. By November, I was moving into my new place and getting used to living on my own.

Now it’s the final few days of December and I’ve got a dog (more on that in a future post) that’s joined me in my home, making it a little less lonely.

I’m marveling how in all the changes, challenges, and emotional upheavals lead me to this place that I’m in – and I’m not referring to my dwelling.

Normally, I try to go for bold and bright colors on photos for my posts, but this solemn black and gold scheme felt right with the theme of this post.

I’m talking about this new mindset – one that I haven’t quite defined yet, but one that has developed because of my determination to get through all of the above and still somehow maintain a good grip on my diabetes (and regularly keep up with this blog, to boot).

Please don’t mistake all this self-reflecting as tooting my own horn; in fact, I struggled for weeks as to whether I should share any of this. (Funny how my diabetes is less personal to me than, well, my entire personal life.)

I guess the point of this post, though, is to finally catch my breath and let everything I’ve accomplished and survived this year to sink in…and you should allow yourself that moment of recognition, too.

I doubt there’s a single person on this earth who can truly say that they were untouched in some way by any of the events of this year…so now that we are about to put 2020 into the past, I say that we all deserve to take some time and think about how we’ve adapted to everything and find some sort of joy in that – especially if you’re someone who also deals with anything like diabetes on a daily basis.

I’m not naive enough to think that everything will go back to the way it was “before” the second the clock says 12:01 A.M. on New Year’s Day, but I am hopeful that 2021 will exceed 2020 in many ways. And hope is a good thing to hold onto in times like these.

Happy New Year to all my Cactus Huggers, online friends, and IRL loved ones alike.

500 Blog Posts Later…

You know how in Spongebob Squarepants, title cards are held up every so often in episodes to depict the passage of time?

Imagine me holding one up now and saying in the Spongebob narrator voice: “500 Blog Posts Later”…

I can’t believe I’ve hit 500 blog posts published on Hugging the Cactus…all in the span of a little more than 3 years.

I wish I could claim this super tidy desk as my own; alas, it’s just a stock photo…my actual desk is quite messy.

Most of these posts I’ve written and posted here exclusively. A couple posts have appeared on sites like Beyond Type 1. A dozen or so posts I’ve shared twice because I either especially liked them or wanted to revisit something I’d written years ago. And a handful more posts were written by others for organizations like T1International and shared here because of their powerful messages.

I’m quite proud of this 500 post milestone and want to give credit…not to myself for it, but to you, and to the other writers and individuals who have helped me get this far.

Without YOU reading my posts and commenting, my desire to keep sharing and writing would wane.

Without other writers and individuals, I’d lack inspiration and perspective that are key to keeping this blog as interesting as possible.

Support means the world to me when it comes to managing diabetes, and as it turns out, when it comes to managing this blog, too. So thank you for yours.

I hope you continue to come back to read the next 500+ blog posts.

Merry Christmas!

This is my site heading all monthlong and it never ceases to crack me up…hence, my overuse of it!

Dear Reader,

Merry Christmas! I am taking today off from writing a longer blog post, but I wanted to be sure to 1) wish you and yours well during this holiday season and 2) remind you to take it easy this holiday. It’s no secret that just about everything about 2020 wasn’t great and certainly far from ideal…making it more important than ever to take a step back from everyday hectic life and take a moment to appreciate all your blessings, big and small. If you are spending the holidays alone or have trouble finding the joy in this time of year, know that you are not alone and be kind to yourself. Tell all the special people in your life that they are loved and you will instantly find yourself embracing the spirit of the season.

Have a beautiful day, my fellow Cactus Huggers.

Warmly,

Molly

My 23rd Diaversary

My 23rd “diaversary” (anniversary commemorating the date that I was diagnosed with diabetes) is tomorrow. Yes, that also happens to be Christmas Eve.

I was four years old when I was diagnosed with diabetes…so I don’t remember life without it. I’m not the type of person who gets overly emotional when sharing her diagnosis story because it’s just a foggy memory to me. So what is the significance of my diaversary to me?

It’s two-sided:

On the one hand, my diaversary is the day that my life changed forever, that I had something taken away from me, that I lost a “normal” childhood.

But on the other hand, it’s representative of the day that I was given something that gave me strength, independence, and courage unlike anything else in my life has ever given me.

I choose to focus on that latter part.

I’m not exactly grateful for diabetes itself, but I can’t deny that it has given me some very valuable things.

I don’t want to mourn the day that I was diagnosed with a chronic condition, I want to celebrate…and the fact that it coincides with Christmas Eve, a day that’s very special to me and so many others, is sort of beautifully poetic.

So rather than dwell on 23 years’ worth of insulin injections, fingerstick pokes, doctor appointments, and carb counting, I’m going to think about how all of those things have molded me into the person I am today: A person who has refused to let diabetes get in her way of the things she wants in life.

A T1D Christmas Craft

I love Christmas, crafting, and some might argue that I love T1D (that’s mostly false, but when you’ve got a chronic illness, you’ve got to learn how to love some aspects of it…otherwise, you’ll be miserable).

So I recently *attempted* to combine all three of these things and do a little DIY project with an empty insulin vial.

And I learned a few things along the way…

  1. I do not recommend messing with a glass vial without safety glasses, gloves, and a trash can nearby. I was lucky enough to avoid any major glass breakage, but some did happen, and I could totally see this craft getting wicked messy and potentially ouchie without taking the proper precautions.
  2. Insulin vials are stable AF…they are not meant to be tampered with.
  3. Glitter cannot be directly injected into an insulin vial. Period, bottom line, don’t even try it.

Okay, so now that I’ve got my disclaimers/lessons learned out of the way, let me tell you why I decided to fill an empty insulin vial with gold glitter.

For years, I’ve seen DIY projects floating around online involving old diabetes supplies. They range in the level commitment and skill involved, but there’s no questioning the creativity of our community when it comes to recycling supplies we’d normally throw away after using.

One project that I’ve seen over and over again is transforming an empty insulin vial into a Christmas ornament: Simply stick an ornament hook into the insulin vial’s rubber top, hang it on a Christmas tree branch, and bask in its beauty. I decided to take this concept to the next level by putting gold glitter into the vial because insulin is often referred to as “liquid gold” within the diabetes online community. What better way to represent that than to make it appear as though the contents of a vial were truly liquid gold?

In order to do this, I set aside a vial once I was finished with it/sucked every last drop of insulin out of it. Then, I made a sad attempt at combining glitter with water and using an old syringe to transfer it to the vial (needless to say, I had no luck). So I came up with a new strategy: Pierce the rubber stopper and try to funnel glitter in…and that didn’t work. It became evident that I’d have to remove the top entirely, so using my nifty new toolkit that my father just purchased for me (thanks, dad), I set about the task. I used a razor to carve the rubber stopper up and out, and then pliers to get the metal maroon covering off completely. I broke off a small piece of glass in the process – whoops – but using those tools did the trick for me…all I did after that was take the cap from a new vial of insulin and glued it to the top of the glitter vial to ensure most of its sparkly contents would remain inside.

And voila, here’s the end result:

Despite the glass breaking off, this DIY came out better than I expected.

As I held the glittery vial in front of my Christmas tree for a few photos (if I didn’t take pictures, then it didn’t happen), it occurred to me that there’s a strong likelihood that many families will have to make a difficult choice this holiday season: Give a special gift to a loved one, or use that money to pay for insulin instead. Or even more seriously, to have to choose between making this month’s mortgage/utilities payments, or getting life-saving medication.

The thought shook me, as nobody should have to make a choice like that ever.

And so I thought of something to add to my Christmas wishlist: affordable insulin for all.

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.