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.

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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.

 

Hugging the Cactus Turns Two!

It feels like just 365 days ago that I was celebrating the first birthday of this blog…

Oh, wait. It feels like that because it WAS like that.

So here I am, 365 days later, on the second birthday of Hugging the Cactus.

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Is my blog’s second birthday a good excuse to eat a cupcake today? (The answer is YES.)

Wow!

The second year of this blog hasn’t been without its challenges. To name a few:

  • Technical difficulties. I’m still learning a lot about how to successfully run a blog. It seems like the blogging world changes on the daily, so it’s tough to keep up with such a fast-paced environment. It’s far from easy – so let me give a shout-out to all the bloggers out there. Whether you have a small following or legions of fans, kudos to you for keeping at it because it’s a lot of work.
  • Time trouble. This year has been jam-packed for me – a move to another state, several weddings, and a whole bunch of personal shit – so, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I’d like to this blog.
  • Diabetes drama. Of course a girl who runs a diabetes blog has a life filled with diabetes drama. Between navigating the intimidating world of health insurance and coping with diabetes that is constantly keeping me on my toes, sometimes I straight-up just don’t want to write about it because I’ve already spent too much time merely trying to handle it. I struggle with finding the balance between oversharing and holding too much back.

Through it all, though, I keep finding myself returning to this blog time after time. As I’ve shared before, I’ve definitely questioned why I bother with it, especially when it feels like blogging is a semi-irrelevant medium in this day and age of micro-blogging on Instagram.

But I’ve started to answer those questions of self-doubt that I’ve posed to myself.

I think, at the heart of the answer, that the reasons why I keep doing this blog is because it both pushes me to take better care of myself, as well as it forces me to seriously examine how I live my life with diabetes. (And it also brings me closer to other people with diabetes, but that’s a reason that I’ve placed on a pedestal of utmost importance many times before – my desire to connect with other people with diabetes will never not be there.)

It pushes me to take better care of myself because it provides an active record of my thoughts, feelings, and struggles with diabetes that I can consult.

It forces me to look at those records and see how I can address the issues I’m experiencing, or prevent old problems from happening again.

This blog serves as the ultimate T1D diary for me – by documenting my life with diabetes, I believe that I can improve my quality of life with it…which makes it incredibly worth doing, IMHO. And if I can connect with and help others along the way? Well, that makes it even more precious and special to me.

So, happy 2nd birthday, Hugging the Cactus. Here’s to another year of thriving with diabetes.

I Don’t Care Why I Have Diabetes

I saw a post on Instagram recently that infuriated me (I hope you can get a sense of the vitriol I’m about to spew out).

An Instagram user (who shall remain nameless because it’s not cool to put people on blast) was exploring the reasons why they thought they developed diabetes in a series of Insta stories. Several questions were asked:

Was it because of an sedentary lifestyle?

Did it have something to do with being breastfed versus bottle-fed?

Does it have to do with diet?

Was it because of exposure to a certain set of germs?

Did it have something to do with a family history of diabetes?

And the list goes on…and on.

Why did it make me angry?

It’s because, well, personally, I don’t care WHY I have diabetes. I don’t think that exploring the reason(s) why I have it is a healthy way to spend my time.

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*Shrug emoji* I just think there are more important conversations to be had when it comes to life with diabetes.

All I know is that my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin – rather than trying to narrow down the reason why that is, I’d much rather put that energy into taking the best possible care of my diabetes.

Am I crazy? Doesn’t that make sense? It’s just that wondering about the why won’t do a damn thing to change the fact that I have diabetes.

I don’t want to make anyone feel badly if they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the “why” – I’m sure that when I was younger, I asked myself that question a lot – but I’m merely just trying to change the direction and the focus of the conversation.

Let’s not talk about why – let’s talk about how.

How we can live incredible, full lives with diabetes.

How fortunate we are to have access to tools and technology that help us manage it.

How, despite diabetes sucking a lot of the time, it’s actually brought about a lot of positive change and influence in many peoples’ lives.

Now that’s the kind of productive discussions I’d like to see on social media…not the ones that are all doom, gloom, and pure speculation.

I’m Jealous of Your Working Pancreas

Sometimes, I look at my friends and family members and think, I’m jealous of your working pancreas(es). 

It’s not their faults for having perfectly functioning organs – and believe me, I’m glad that they do work the way they should. I’d never wish diabetes on anyone, especially the ones that I care about and love.

But I can’t help but think to myself, it must be nice to not have to worry about any of the crap that I’m constantly thinking about. 

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How lovely it must be to order whatever the heck you want at any restaurant you walk into, without having to worry about how many carbs it contains or how much to bolus for it.

How freeing it must be to live spontaneously, to go out and about wherever you desire without having to lug around a bunch of supplies and snacks, because you never know what you might need to have on hand.

The last time I had these thoughts was when my best friend visited me a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C. We had an absolutely wonderful weekend together that was filled with excellent culinary experiences and lots of walking (we logged 30,000 steps in a single day). Even though we had a blast, I was having a difficult time with my diabetes all weekend long, probably due to all the unfamiliar foods we were eating and the amount of movement we incorporated into each day.

I remember being in the Museum of Natural History when I checked my blood sugar and it was sky high, no thanks to the falafel wrap and soft-serve ice cream I’d consumed for lunch. I felt so defeated – not only was my blood sugar high, but my feet were aching and I felt icky after walking around in 95-degree heat for most of the morning and afternoon. But as an eager-to-please host to my guest, I felt like I still had to paste a smile on my face and show her and her boyfriend a good time.

That’s when the thought came – I’m jealous of your working pancreas – and went….because I knew that I shouldn’t waste any more time or energy begrudging my bestie of her healthy, insulin-producing pancreas. I’m so grateful that hers works – along with many other beloved family and friends – and that she doesn’t have to worry about all the crap that I’m constantly thinking about.

Isn’t it funny – funny interesting, not funny ha-ha – how perspective can change from one moment to the next? How jealousy can turn into gratitude? It’s kind of awesome.

Thank You

Today’s blog post is intended to be short, but sweet: I want to take this as an opportunity to say thank you.

To my sweetie,

 

Since I published my post last Friday about being “dia-feated”, a dozen or so members of the DOC – and even a couple nonmembers – have reached out to me via social media to share their words of encouragement with me:

“…I enjoy your blog posts and your voice is important to me”

“…your blog reached one person, and that’s enough (for me)”

“I read your blog all the time, and it helps me.”

Each message expressed similar sentiments using different words: Don’t give up. My voice matters to someone.

Again, the intention of that post was never to drive traffic to my blog or messages to my inbox. I was merely trying to express some sentiments that I’d been feeling for a few weeks now. But the fact that so many people DID, in fact, take the time to reach out to me and exchange a few messages with me meant the world. I found each one to be uplifting and truly touching, and if you were one of the individuals who wrote to me, I can’t thank you enough.

It’s funny – but truly wonderful – how kind words from friends and strangers alike can do so much to revitalize your soul and make you see what’s right in front of you: an amazing, supportive community who just gets it.

Thank you.