My A1c Results are in and…

Before I left for my vacation, I had my (long overdue) annual physical with my primary care doctor. Like he does every year, he ordered bloodwork for me which meant that I had a whole host of health data to review on my online patient portal, including my current A1c.

When I saw that value up more than half a point from my last reading, my heart sank.

Now, I’m not going to say specifically what the reading was, because I’m a strong believer in keeping that sort of information to myself (and if you’re the type of person who shares their A1c, that’s okay, too – it’s just not for me). But I will say that it definitely isn’t the worst A1c reading that I’ve ever had, though it upset me because I think it’s the highest I’ve been since my college years.

Once it fully sunk in that this was my current A1c reading, like it or not, I started thinking about the why. Why have I gone up? I could think of a few factors…

  • I haven’t been eating super healthy; rather, I probably eat too many sweets that cause my blood sugar to fluctuate more than it ideally should.
  • The pandemic has changed a few things about my daily lifestyle – I don’t get out of the house as much I used to because I work from home, which means I’m in very close proximity to my kitchen and that gives me too many opportunities throughout the day to snack.
  • I get lazy and don’t bolus for “small” snacks (i.e., snacks with 10 carbs or less).
  • On the subject of laziness, I’ve been really bad about “eyeballing” my plates and portions lately when it would obviously behoove me to measure out my food and study my nutrition labels.

So those are the things I could think of that are the likely culprits behind my dissatisfactory A1c. As I sat and stewed over them and chided myself for my carelessness, though, I also tried to gently remind myself that A1c is only one measure of blood sugar “control”: I told myself that I need to bear in mind that my overall time in range is something that I should study and try to learn from, rather than dwell on this narrow snapshot of my 90-day blood sugar averages.

This is as close as I’ll get to sharing my personal A1c/time in range metrics… 😉

Using my Dexcom Clarity app, I learned that my time in range was suffering. I prefer to spend 80% of my time in range, and lately, I’ve fallen short of that goal. So after studying the amount of time that I spend “high” or “very high” (high blood sugars are always more troublesome for me than lows), I started to get a clearer picture of what was going wrong for me and what I might need to do to fix it.

This whole exercise, as bummed as I was to have to go through it, is going to serve as a great reminder to me that whenever I get disappointing news about my diabetes management, the best way to cope with it is to study the facts that I quite literally have available to me at the tips of my fingers. I know why my A1c is where it is, and I also know now the areas in which I need to improve. And that’s something to be grateful about and use as a motivator so that I can improve both my A1c and my time in range.

I know I can do it – I’ve done it before and can’t wait to feel that triumph over my diabetes.

Temp Blog Post Decrease

Hey, it’s me, Molly, the blogger behind Hugging the Cactus. 

As you may or may not be aware, I’ve had a lot going on lately.

The newest, most exciting thing in my life is, of course, my new job (I’m aware that I keep gabbing about it…I can’t help it and there’s definitely more to come about that in the future).

I’ve been busy getting acclimated to my role at CDN. When I’m not working, I’m taking care of my dog, Violet, maintaining/cleaning/attempting to update my relatively new-to-me condo, and trying to keep some semblance of a social life – which, now that summer is here, is getting downright crazy with plans. And I love it! I truly love staying busy in some form or fashion.

This blog is great at keeping me busy when everything else in my life is slow or when I need a distraction. But lately, life’s been so hectic that I’m getting distracted from the blog, so I’ve decided to temporarily decrease the frequency at which I post…from 3 to 2 blogs per week, posted on Mondays and Wednesdays (instead of Monday/Wednesday/Friday).

I’ve decided it’s time for a temp basal – I mean blog – decrease.

It’s not a dramatic change and I’m certain it’s only temporary…just like a temp basal decrease on my pump can improve my blood sugar levels, cutting down on the number of blogs I post per week will help me improve my overall blogger abilities and prevent me from feeling too pressured to keep churning out posts at the pace I’ve been doing so that last few years.

So I won’t have new content posted here on Fridays for the time being, but never fear: I’ll pick it up again before long. And maybe now this will mean that I can interact a little more with the diabetes community within other platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, which will be a nice change.

As always, lovely readers…stay tuned for more.

My New Role as Community Engagement Manager at the College Diabetes Network

This blog post was written by me and it was originally published on the CDN website on June 8, 2021. I just wrapped up my first week as their new Community Engagement Manager, so I figured it’d be fitting to share the post I wrote for their website here so my readers can get a better understanding of what this role means to me! Read on for more…

Growing up, I wanted nothing to do with diabetes. My parents and doctors encouraged me to attend diabetes camp so I could meet and make friends with T1D peers, but I stubbornly resisted the notion…until it was time for me to go off to college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

I was nervous about making this transition, but this changed when I had a chance encounter with someone named Christina Roth. She told me all about a group she started when she attended UMass herself: And that happened to be the College Diabetes Network.

In September 2011, I attended my very first CDN chapter meeting and I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to hang out with people my age who knew exactly what it’s like to live with diabetes. I was hooked and wanted to make as many connections as possible! In my three-and-a-half years at UMass, I served as the Chapter President and started writing for an online diabetes magazine in my spare time.

CDN…the best thing since insulin.

When I graduated, I put diabetes work on the backburner and started my career as an Editor in the financial technology industry. But I still kept in touch with my contacts at CDN and volunteered at the annual student retreats and provided my editorial skills to some of their resource guides. Eventually, I missed actively forging connections within the diabetes community, so I decided to blend this with my love for writing/creating content by launching my own diabetes blog, Hugging the Cactus, in October 2017. My blog has cultivated and deepened my relationships within the diabetes community, and by choosing to leave the corporate world behind and officially joining the CDN team, I will continue to do so on a new, exciting level as the Community Engagement Manager.

I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that has given me confidence, skills, connections, and so much more over the years. I can’t wait to jump into all things CDN and help provide young adults with what they need in order to live their best lives, despite diabetes!

Change is on the Horizon

In the last year and a half, change and I have grown to be more than just acquaintances: We’re very good friends now.

The big changes that I’ve experienced in that span of time (to name just a few) include buying my first home, getting my puppy, Violet, and naturally, coping with the numerous ripples of change that were brought about by the pandemic. As someone who has always found comfort in the “known”, these changes made me anxious and scared because of all of the uncertainties associated with them…but they also taught me that I’m capable of adapting to them.

So I figured, why not add one more change into the mix?

Another big change is headed my way.

Today is my last day with my employer of the last six and a half years. On Monday, I start a brand-new job at an organization that means a lot to me, one that I’ve happened to write about here many times before…

…and that is the College Diabetes Network!

I’m pleased to share that I’ll be joining the talented CDN team as their new Community Engagement Manager.

This job represents so much to me. It’s a career shift, for sure, but it’s a shift into a field that obviously is very near and dear to my heart. I’m excited to see how my personal passion, advocacy skills, and creative energy will translate to this professional role. And I’m even more thrilled to know that I will be working with an absolutely amazing group of individuals, both internally within CDN and externally with a community that I care so much about.

While I will miss my colleagues from my now-former employer very much, I do feel that taking this opportunity with CDN is the best possible decision I could’ve made. It feels like a dream come true. I’m honored that I was selected for this role and I am determined to achieve a lot with it.

For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to going to work on Monday and starting this new chapter…and I really can’t wait to see (and share) what the CDN team and I will accomplish in the future!

28 and Feeling Great

I turn 28 years old today!

As I say farewell to 27 and welcome a new year of life, I can’t help but reflect on how different the world was this time last year.

The pandemic was in full(er) force. The new normal was just establishing itself. Each day was scary and uncertain as hopes for a vaccine any time soon were somewhat bleak.

Fast-forward to the present: As the weather gets warmer, social distancing and masking guidelines are easing. More and more people are getting vaccinated on a daily basis. While we’re far from returning to life before the pandemic, we’re definitely much closer to being able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life (such as hugging a family member or friend) with less anxiety.

So even though the milestones I met in my 27th year (buying my first home, getting my puppy, surviving heartbreak and falling in love again, to name a few) are things that I celebrate daily, I’m also really looking forward to the minutiae of the next 365 days…seeing my family and friends in-person more frequently, breaking out of the bubble (safely, of course) that is my home, going to new and old places for both familiar and unknown experiences…in other words, I’m excited to embrace the things that I took for granted pre-pandemic.

Me with one of my favorite parts of 27

I’m hoping that year 28 brings a whole lot of “great” with it: lots of love, joy, adventures, and hugs from all the people that I’ve missed hugging in the last year or so. Just like with everything else in my life, I’ll bring my diabetes along for the ride and celebrate it, too, because it just makes me appreciate all the things that make life worth living that much more.

Stuck.

I’m stuck in a creative rut.

Lately, I just can’t seem to come up with fresh ideas for the blog. The desire to write is there, for sure, but the ability to compose engaging content is definitely not.

Does this have anything to do with the bout of burnout that I mentioned I’m currently experiencing?

I don’t think so.

When it comes to blogging, lately, I’m as stuck as this sticky note (so no fear, y’all – it’s not permanent).

I’ve gone through burnout periods before in which diabetes was the last thing I wanted to talk about, and I can recognize that this isn’t one of those times. In fact, this “stuck” feeling with my blog is rather inconvenient, because I count on my ability to come up with new posts to help me sort through some of the emotions associated with diabetes…ah well, such is life.

Anyways, I’m asking you, my lovely reader, to bear with me for a bit. I promise new material is on the way. In the meantime, please don’t be deterred if you see me republishing old blog posts. I’m quite selective in choosing which blog posts to share again, so rest assured that I’m doing my best to re-up pieces that I think you’ll care about. Thank you, as always, for stopping by and checking out the blog – I’m infinitely grateful for your support.

How I Realized I’m Experiencing a Bout of Diabetes Burnout

Diabetes burnout is the generic term used to describe a state in which a person with diabetes becomes tired of managing it and may become neglectful of one or more aspect of diabetes care.

I say “generic term” because diabetes burnout doesn’t look the same for every person, though, so it can be tough to recognize it when it’s happening. I know this from personal experience: I’m going through a bout of diabetes burnout right now.

Diabetes burnout is just a part of having T1D.

It took me weeks to realize it, but I finally came to the conclusion that I was burnt out because several things dawned on me at once:

  • It was taking me longer to respond to CGM alarms. I would hear them going off, but I didn’t necessarily care to even look at them, let alone correct them. As a result, I let a lot of high blood sugars linger much longer than I should have, which made me feel frustrated and bad about myself for causing harm to my body.
  • I wasn’t eating healthy foods. The Easter holiday brought an abundance of chocolates and sweets into my kitchen, so instead of choosing fruits or veggies to snack on, I was going for high-carb items with zero nutritional value…and I didn’t bother bolusing for them, which of course, wreaked havoc on my blood sugar.
  • I did the bare minimum to keep my blood sugars in check. I was still bolusing for all my meals, but the snacks in between? The little desserts I’d have? The alcoholic beverages I’d enjoy? Nope, certainly wasn’t taking those into account when I took mealtime boluses.
  • I got lazy with carb counting. I kept gravitating toward bottomless bags of snacks when I did my weekly grocery store trips, even though I knew that I have no restraint when it comes to highly addictive, faux-healthy foods like Annie’s cheddar snack mix or cute little teddy graham cookies. Whenever I’d crack open a fresh box or bag, I’d dig in and wouldn’t stop digging in, going way over the recommended serving sizes and not bothering to slow down and count out my carbs.
  • I was allowing my emotions to influence my diabetes care (or lack thereof). I’m a self-professed emotional eater. That, coupled with excess stress/anxiety levels, shifted my attention away from my diabetes.

So, yeah, there’s no question that I’m in a period of diabetes burnout. Joy.

As tired as I am of taking care of my diabetes, though, it doesn’t compare to how exhausted it makes me to beat myself up over my burnout day after day.

I’ve been through burnout before. I know I’ll make it through, just like I have in the past, and I am also aware that I’m likely to experience it again in the future. And rather than come up with a super-specific action plan to conquer it, or give myself a timeline to overcome it, I’m just going to ride it out knowing that I’m trying my best each and every day, and that’s what matters most.

The Comparison Culture and How I Tune It Out

We all know that social media can be…damaging.

Scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or any other social network and 99% of what you see is the idea of “perfection”: Beautifully dressed and made-up individuals showcasing their gorgeous homes or families or possessions. Usually, some sort of caption will accompany the post and it might say something like “so blessed to do life with my dream partner” or “we just bought our first home, can’t wait to fill it with joyous memories” or some other gushing, effusive language that is followed by a series of exclamation points and emojis.

There’s nothing wrong with this…except for the fact that, obviously, people’s lives aren’t as “perfect” as they seem.

Life is messy, but we don’t get to see that side for many people on social media.

This is true not just about life events, but something as specific as life with diabetes.

I think that our community has gotten a lot better about it, but I used to see so many posts that showed “perfect” blood sugar graphs and “perfect” A1c readings.

And I used to obsess over these posts.

I’d wonder why I wasn’t achieving the same levels of success as these other individuals. I’d convince myself there was something wrong with me, and that I’d never have blood sugar graphs or A1c levels that were “good enough” to share online.

Between diabetes perfectionism and real-life perfectionism (Why aren’t I married yet? When will it be my turn to start a family? What’s wrong with me that I haven’t met all the other adult goals that so many of my friends have met?), I was starting to drive myself insane.

Social media was breeding a culture of comparison for me.

I couldn’t log onto an account without immediately comparing myself to the images I saw and the stories they told.

It’s taken time, and I’m not always good about it, but I’m learning to tune out the noise on social media and how to stop comparing myself so much to others.

So how did I start to unsubscribe to that culture of comparison?

For starters, I came to terms with the fact that I didn’t want to leave social media altogether. I like how it keeps me connected with family and friends on top of connecting me with individuals all around the world. I like how it functions as a support system when I need to consult my diabetes online community for wisdom and guidance.

But I knew that I needed to take a step back. So I started slowly and gradually: I removed the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone, telling myself that if I really wanted to check the feeds for either, I could do so using my Internet browser. I also spent less and less time scrolling, a habit that was addicting to me because I wanted to see as much content as possible, but also one that I recognized as damaging because more content meant more comparisons to others.

The most important thing that I did, though (and continue to try to do) is repeat a few mantras to myself:

This is just one page of this person’s story.

You don’t know the whole picture.

You don’t want to be anyone other than yourself because you truly do love the people and things in your own life.

It might sound silly, but reminding myself that social media is designed to show off the “best” parts of our lives really did help me come to terms with the fact that I needed to stop comparing myself to everyone. Just like I have plenty of bad things that happen in my life, I have a hell of a lot more good, and just because I don’t choose to showcase everything on my feed doesn’t mitigate the good.

And one last thing that I’m trying to do? I’m simply trying to be happy for others who revel in their successes and choose to share them online. I’m also trying to pay closer attention to those who are brave enough to showcase their failures online, diabetes-related or not. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to open up my Instagram app, scroll through my feed, and see the most “perfect”, straight-lined Dexcom graph followed by an “imperfect” topsy-turvy Dexcom graph. I’m training myself to react to the former graph not by comparing myself, but by feeling good for the person who posted it. And in terms of the latter graph, I also don’t want to compare myself to it (I’m not proud of it, but I’ve taken a look at “bad” graphs before and said OMG, my numbers are sooo much better), but instead offer words of encouragement or commiseration – because we’ve all been there.

The comparison culture is toxic. It’s taken time for me to realize just how much it was affecting me, but now that I have, I’m glad because removing myself from it will help enrich the relationships I have online and in real life. When it comes to diabetes specifically, it’s difficult enough managing my own, and that much harder when I compare how I take care of it to how other people with diabetes live their lives. Learning to appreciate our diabetes differences instead of stressing over them makes it so much easier to support and uplift one another when we need it most.

My Speckled Fingertips

A lesser-known fact about me: I used to love writing poetry. I wrote tons of it when I was a middle schooler and sometimes used it to explore the emotions I associated with my diabetes. I even won a prize in a poetry competition once for a poem that was about my journey to accepting my diabetes. Today, I revisit my poetry roots in this short piece about the scars that years of fingerstick checks have left on my fingertips.

If you squint reeeeeeeal hard, then you can see the careful placement of fingertip scars that I put onto this graphic hand. (I tried to take a picture of my own with less-than-satisfactory results, so a cartoon representation will have to do.)

Tiny black dots
Littered across my fingertips
These fingertip freckles are
Constant reminders of
Decades of life with type 1 diabetes
My speckled fingertips
Rough from the scars
Worn from thousands of pricks
Poked and prodded and pinched
Countless times
As part of the process to
Help keep me alive
Blood droplets
Flood scarlet, startlingly red
In contrast to my fair skin
Temporarily masking the marks
When wiped clean
They reveal themselves
Unashamedly
Loudly
Proudly
Maybe I should be
Proud of them, too.


4 Ways Diabetes Motivates Me

Life with diabetes can be inconvenient, unpredictable, and downright frustrating. But it’s not all bad. In fact, after living with it for more than 23 years now, I’ve actually identified a few different ways in which it helps motivate me.

And what, exactly, are those ways? Well…

#1: 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.

#2: Diabetes encourages me to ask questions. I think that my diabetes is the reason why I’ve learned to be curious. It pushes me to want to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of various scenarios, both relating to and not relating to diabetes. It’s natural for human beings to be inquisitive, but they don’t always do something to pursue answers to questions. My diabetes pushes me to do that, with varying degrees of success, and that’s something I’m grateful for.

After having diabetes for more than 23 years, I’ve realized that it can be highly motivating.

#3: It pushes me to prove people wrong. There’s so much stigma surrounding diabetes…”You can’t eat that! You can’t do this! You can’t do that!” are exclamations that I’ve heard my entire life from different people. Rather than nodding and smiling politely at these poor, misinformed individuals, I strive to show them exactly why they’re wrong. Whether it’s explaining the facts or going out and doing the very thing they said I wouldn’t be able to do because of diabetes, it’s empowering for me to smash down diabetes misconceptions.

#4: Diabetes inspires me to seek more out of life. This goes hand-in-hand with point number 3, but it counts as a separate notion because this is all about how I view my life with diabetes. I didn’t fully accept my diabetes until I was a teenager. That acceptance represented a turning point for me during which I realized that just because I was dealt this card in life, it doesn’t mean that it should stop me from accomplishing my hopes and dreams. Over the years, my diabetes has made me want more: opportunities, experiences, relationships…you name it and I’m hungry for it.

Sure, diabetes can be my biggest headache…but it can also be my greatest motivator, and I think it’s important for me to embrace the beauty of that.