My One-Month Dexcom G6 Review

My first month on the Dexcom G6 went by so quickly. The G6 entered my life during a particular hectic period: between a trip to Vegas, my 25th birthday, family gatherings, and work obligations, May was marked by constant activities…which made me that much more grateful to have my G6.

Before I continue with this review, I’d like to note how I got priority access to the G6. Approximately one year ago, I applied on Dexcom’s website to be a “Dexcom Warrior”. Basically, this just means that I filled out a form with my information and some background on my diabetes story. I didn’t expect anything to come of this; if anything, maybe I’d be contacted for someone to write a bio piece about me.

Fast-forward to January 2018: I receive an email informing me that I’ve been selected to participate in a Dexcom marketing campaign. There weren’t too many details other than that a shoot was taking place over two days in Atlanta, Georgia in February and that Dexcom would pay for my flight and hotel if I gave them my time that weekend. I was thrilled to receive the offer and gladly accepted. And I’m grateful I got to have such a unique, fun experience.

I didn’t learn until several weeks later that my participation in the marketing campaign would allow me to receive early access to the G6. In other words, I was going to be one of the first in the world to try this technology. My head is still spinning from that fact, and it’s not something that I take lightly. I understand that I’m fortunate to have access to it, and in return for this special privilege, I am putting as much truth and transparency as possible into my reviews of it.

Onto my one-month evaluation…new observations include:

  • The whole 10-day automatic shutoff thing bothers me a little more than it did in the beginning. There’s no workaround, so I’ve got to know exactly when my sensor is going to expire so I can have a fresh one on hand. This can be irritating, especially when *life happens* and I forget about changing my sensor.
  • The adhesive seems to be one thing that has made zero improvement (but it’s not like it’s gotten worse, it’s the same). I think the surface area of it is a little smaller? But it’s held up fairly well for me for the full 10 days. I’ve only had to use OpSite FlexFix tape on it once, and that was on the ninth day.
  • I am LOVING not having to calibrate the receiver after the two-hour warmup period. My blood sugars automatically start getting recognized by the receiver after the two hours have elapsed, and it’s awesome.
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A view of the G6 mobile app.
  • I’m still experiencing an utterly painless application. I’ve yet to try a site other than my abdomen, though. I don’t think a different site will hurt more, though I’m curious to see if readings are less accurate.
  • Speaking of readings, I’d say that they’re within the ~15 point range compared to the blood sugars my meter reports. Not bad at all.
  • The battery on the receiver is kind of weak. I have to charge it at least twice per week, which is slightly annoying. But I also have the G6 app downloaded on my phone, so it’s not a huge deal if the battery on my receiver depletes completely.
  • The G6 app works well. Aesthetically speaking, it’s clean and modern looking, and very easy to read. It works better for me than the G5 app did, but I had a myriad of issues going on with it that affected my user experience.

I’m pretty satisfied with my G6 experience so far. I’m hopeful for the future – perhaps it’ll be possible to extend a sensor’s lifespan or easily recycle the chunky plastic applicators.

But I’m interested in questions you might have – are you still wondering about something regarding the G6 that I haven’t addressed? Please let me know. I’d be happy to provide insight.

CDN Creates New Guide for Young Adults Entering the Workforce

In 2014, I learned that I was eligible to graduate college one semester earlier than expected. The prospect should have excited me, but it made me more anxious than anything else. I couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that I’d be starting my career sooner than I planned. The thought terrified me. Questions coursed through my mind: How would I adjust to an entirely new daily routine? Would my employer be okay with my diabetes? How should I handle it when it inevitably comes up with my new colleagues? Was I really and truly ready for this?

I can’t emphasize enough how valuable the latest resource from the College Diabetes Network (CDN), the Off to Work Guide, would have been as I made this scary transition.

This new addition to CDN’s Guides is chock full of information for young professionals. In tandem with current CDN students, CDN alumni, and professional resources, CDN has crafted a guide that contains both advice and facts intended to help readers worry less, learn how to be prepared for the workplace, and make a healthy and successful transition into adult life. It covers everything from writing a resume to navigating health insurance options with an employer, and it even features general financial planning advice that could benefit more seasoned professional individuals.

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As I read through the Guide for the first time, I found myself appreciating the sections that talked about workplace rights and networking. There are many legal rights that people with diabetes have as it pertains to the workforce, but I wasn’t familiar with most of them. The Guide presents this information in a way that’s easy to read and less intimidating. And it helped me be more comfortable with the word “disability” and what it means in a professional environment.

The networking section was also a great addition to the Guide. It covered both networking with others in the diabetes community as well as networking at professional events. I learned about several different ways I can keep up with my T1D peers now that I’m a CDN alum. From online groups to in-person meetups, there’s a bunch of options available to young professionals like me who value staying in contact with the diabetes community. Plus, there were some useful tips on how to handle social events when networking in a professional setting (and you’re not around other T1Ds). Check out this section and you’ll see quotes from yours truly on how to find a balance between networking on both a diabetes and non-diabetes level!

The Guide also features several other sections, including one about mental health, one with on the job tips, and one that details the steps to take after getting employment. Beyond that, the Guide covers so much more.

If you’ll be graduating college soon and you’re nervous about joining the professional world, don’t worry. You’re not alone in how you feel. CDN’s Guide contains all the information, advice, and materials you’ll want to know as begin this next chapter in life. And take it from me, someone who’s been through it already: This transition should excite you more than anything else. Don’t let your fears get in the way as you embark on your career path, and don’t let your diabetes deter you from pursuing your professional and personal goals. You can do this!

Request your free copy of the Guide now! https://www.tfaforms.com/4676766

Four Factors that Impacted my Diabetes in Las Vegas

Recently, I returned from a trip to Las Vegas with my best friends in the universe. It was awesome to take a vacation with them, especially in a place that’s virtually a playground for adults.

Before I went on the trip, I knew to expect some sort of disruption with my diabetes care and management routine. I did as much as I could to prepare myself for every potential scenario, from packing extra snacks and supplies, to asking the DOC how I should account for a sudden change in time.

While my preparation really did help, I still encountered the unexpected when it came to my diabetes on the trip. Four factors in particular come to mind…

  1. The heat – At first glance, this is a no-brainer. I’ve been to many hot climates on vacation, so it isn’t news to me that intense sun can make blood sugar go low quickly. We were literally in the middle of the desert, so I knew it would be important for me to watch my numbers closely, as well as keep myself hydrated. But I think the fear of going low all the time was a little too strong, which meant that I was running a bit higher than I’d normally like for most of the vacation. My paranoia about drinking plenty of water, though, was not a joke. I pride myself on being good about staying hydrated, but I struggled to keep up with the dry desert heat. I can’t help but wonder: If I’d been better about drinking water, would it have benefited me during some of the stickier high blood sugars? Speculation can only get me so far now; however, all signs are pointing to probably yes.
  2. The strip – The Las Vegas strip is less than five miles in length, but the whole stretch of it, marked by hotels, stores, casinos, and ginormous flashing lights, feels incredibly long. Nevertheless, my friends and I naively believed that we could skip taking taxis and walk all over the place. For the most part, we could, but it was definitely dicey when we walked nearly a mile and a half from the Cosmopolitan to the Rio one evening. It influenced my blood sugar in a positive way – the exercise brought my levels down to a nice and stable place – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t scary to walk practically on the highway at nighttime.
  3. The alcohol – I’m well aware of the fact that different kinds of alcohol can have different affects on blood sugar. To minimize blood sugar swings, I stuck with the less-sugary options as much as I could (i.e., opting to order a rum or whiskey with diet coke), only getting fancier drinks when I was consuming fewer carbs at mealtime. For the most part, this strategy worked well and proved to me that a little extra thought can go a long way when it comes to deciding how to treat yourself. But it also reminded me why I don’t have weekends like this often – it’s exhausting enough to take care of myself on a daily basis without alcohol being a factor. Throw it into the mix and I’m watching my blood sugar so carefully that my CGM’s battery is drained in half the time it normally takes to zap it.
  4. The pizza – The scientific answer to the reason why pizza is tough on blood sugar involves the glycemic index and some fairly complex calculations…boring! All you really need to know is that it takes a long time for pizza to have an affect on blood sugar due to its high fat-to-carb ratio. As a result, it tends to be a “treat” food for me that I only indulge in every once in a while. But when in Vegas…you have as much of it as possible. Pizza was one of the quickest and easiest food options for me and my girlfriends throughout our trip, so we ate it multiple times. I don’t regret a single cheesy, delicious bite…but I am slightly remorseful for not doing a better job bolusing for it. The first time we had pizza, I didn’t give myself enough insulin. The second time, I gave myself too much and went low, though that may have happened because I didn’t finish both slices like I thought it would. The bottom line? I didn’t realize that pizza would be a dietary staple on this vacation, and I’ll probably refrain from eating so much of it on future vacations.
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A slice a day does not quite keep blood sugar at bay. But it’s tasty as hell.

Despite the diabetes curveballs I encountered, I enjoyed my trip to the fabulous Las Vegas. I managed the challenges as best as I could without letting them interfere too much with what I wanted to do. Plus, it helped that my best friends were with me the entire time. I have to give them credit for making the most of my diabetes difficulties, too. For instance, I felt badly about sidelining them in the Bellagio on our last night there due to a low blood sugar that crept up on me after walking (the strip!) and over-bolusing (the pizza!), but they really rolled with the punches and made the most of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure they experienced their favorite people-watching moments while we sat and waited for my sugar to come up (I got a kick out of the weird people coming in and out of the lobby, too, but was slightly more focused on raising my number).

Thank you, Kortney and Roshani, for accompanying me on an incredible girls’ trip and for being my best friends in the world. Maybe Las Vegas 2020 needs to happen – now that we know to expect, perhaps my diabetes will be a more cooperative travel companion the next time around!

Celebrating 100 Posts on Hugging the Cactus

I’ve officially reached the 100-post mark on Hugging the Cactus. Wow!!!

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I can’t believe I’ve already reached this milestone!

This blog debuted on October 2, 2017. I’ve spent the last eight months writing new content as often as possible, meeting more people with diabetes (both in person and online), and focusing on my personal health and well-being. It’s been an awesome ride, and I can’t wait to keep on enjoying it.

As always, thank you for your continued support. Every click, tweet, comment, and visit means the world to me, and every share couldn’t be more appreciated. Thank you for reminding me daily why this blog is so important to me and why I should continue to share my story.

Here’s to the next hundred posts – and many more after that.

Memory Monday: Cloudy and Clear

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…it was a thing to mix insulin?

Yup, I’m referring to the days of cloudy and clear insulins – also known as NPH and Regular, respectively (insert corny Neil Patrick Harris joke here). Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? This is going back at least 15 years, probably more like 20, to when short-acting and long-acting insulins needed to be mixed in order to avoid having to take two separate shots. I only vaguely remember mixing my insulins, but here’s what sticks out in my memory about the process:

  • It was always “clear before cloudy” – the Regular insulin had to be drawn up in the syringe first to avoid getting any of the cloudy insulin into the clear vial.
  • The cloudy insulin needed to be rolled between the hands before inserting a syringe into it…I can’t remember why. Maybe to help bring it to room temperature, or make sure it was adequately mixed?
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I definitely do not miss the days of filling these bad boys with two different kinds of insulin.
  • Drawing the insulins into a single syringe was nerve-wracking as hell. Precision was everything.
  • Air bubbles! They ruined everything!

I certainly don’t miss the tedious process of having to draw up insulin in such a careful, precise manner. If only I’d known how much easier an insulin pump would make my life sooner…

…but I guess that just makes me appreciate my pump more.

 

How Time Traveling Affected my Blood Sugar

I traveled through time last week.

No, I didn’t use a magical device or step through a portal. It’s much more boring than that: I flew across the country, east coast to west coast, to spend a few days in Las Vegas.

Okay, there’s no way in hell that I could justifiably describe my Vegas trip as BORING.

But my point here is that flying through a couple different time zones is totally trippy. And, of course, it impacted my blood sugar. Because why wouldn’t diabetes just cooperatively come along for the ride?

I knew I should anticipate some sort of blood sugar swings going to and from my destination, I just wasn’t sure of when and how they’d hit. But I did know that when I landed in Vegas, the first thing I needed to do was adjust the time on my PDM (my insulin pump). Surely, my blood sugar would not react kindly to thinking that it was three hours later than it truly was in my new time zone. My question, though, was when should I do this? On the plane? After we landed? Should I adjust it slowly, in one-hour increments? Or should I dial it back entirely in one go?

Normally, I would’ve asked my endocrinologist what to do – but I forgot to bring it up during my last appointment with her a few weeks ago. So naturally, I asked the next best source: the Diabetes Online Community (DOC).

The answers I received were varied…

…nevertheless, I appreciated the immediate replies. I decided to quit stressing about it so much and focus on getting to the actual destination, vowing to keep an eye on my blood sugar for any suspicious trends while on the flight.

Five and a half long hours later, my travel companions and I arrived at our hotel. While in line for check in, I fixed the time on my pump and glanced at my CGM (which I didn’t bother adjusting, since none of the settings on it or my meter were dependent on time). I was steady at 97 mg/dL…not too shabby at all. And I’m pleased to say that I maintained that decent graph for the next day or so. I was nonplussed by the phenomenon, but I couldn’t complain about it.

The next few days are a different story, due to some “lifestyle choices” I made while in Vegas (c’mon, you know all I mean by that is eating junk food and imbibing alcohol). But that’s a tale for another post, coming soon.

This one’s about time travel, and while I had no issues flying TO Vegas, I did encounter trouble flying home FROM Vegas. My friends and I chose to a red-eye flight, which I don’t regret per se, but I’d never done one before and didn’t realize how much trouble I’d have falling asleep on the plane. It was disorienting enough leaving one place at 9 P.M. to arrive in another at 5 A.M., but add a freezing cold aircraft, turbulence, and an unsettled stomach to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. As I tossed and turned in my seat, violently shivering a few times, my blood sugar was very slowly, incrementally, rising. I didn’t realize how much until we landed and drove home, where I had to bolus for an out-of-the-blue 308 mg/dL. I was so bloody tired, yet sleep evaded me further as I anxiously waited for my blood sugar to budge – which it did, but not for several, agonizingly long hours.

It definitely didn’t help matters that I wasn’t eating regularly; at the time of our arrival home, I hadn’t eaten real food in about 36 hours due to nausea that wouldn’t seem to leave me alone. I’d muscled down toast and a couple of granola bars, but not much else. I’d like to think that my entire body was just rebelling against me for spending the weekend eating too much pizza, staying up too late, and drinking a little too much whiskey, because that train of thought at least helps me make sense of my lack of appetite and recurring high blood sugars.

I’ve been back on the east coast for a couple days now, and I’m relieved to report that things have settled down. I’m eating regular meals (and I actually feel hungry for them), and besides a few flukes in my CGM graph, my blood sugars are mostly back to normal. I wish I could say that there was some big takeaway from this all: that I know exactly what to do next time I travel through time zones, or that I know just what to do to prevent it. But that’d be silly, because with diabetes, there are just too many variables. At least I CAN say that I know to take it in stride next time, to roll with the punches. Monitor my blood sugar like a hawk, correct as often as needed, eat normal meals as much as possible, and drink plenty of WATER. In any case, isn’t that what diabetes is all about…

…regardless of time travel and/or sorcery?

 

Why I’m Thankful I DIDN’T Attend Diabetes Camp as a Kid

Growing up, the notion of diabetes camp was gently nudged into my brain each Spring. My endocrinologist and my parents would ask me, “Do you want to give it a try this year?” and my annual response, unfailingly, was “NO!”

To this day, I still don’t really know why I was so against diabetes camp. Part of the reason may be because I was a bit of a nervous Nelly growing up (okay, okay, I still am) and didn’t like the thought of sleepaway camp: It meant being away from home for an extended period of time, which made me feel nothing but anxious.

But my best guess as to why I didn’t want to go is that I felt that camp wouldn’t benefit me in any way. Both my mom and my aunt have type one diabetes, so they were (and still are) my go-to sources whenever any sort of diabetes issue crops up for me. I didn’t see how meeting kids my own age with diabetes would help me; after all, I thought I had everything I needed in my mom and aunt.

Things changed drastically for me when I started college and made the transition to caring for my diabetes independently. I got wind of a diabetes student organization on my campus and was interested in attending a meeting. That was it for me: for the next three years, I was very involved with this organization (the College Diabetes Network), eventually becoming the President of my school’s chapter and continuing to this day to volunteer for them whenever I can.

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I wasn’t ready for any kind of diabetes camp as a kid…but it’s a different story now that I’m an adult.

My involvement with the CDN has resulted in me meeting countless other T1Ds my own age, and it’s been amazing. I love sharing stories and learning from them. And as it turns out, most of these individuals went to diabetes camp when they were young and loved it. In many cases, diabetes camp is where they thrived and met some of their closest friends. They learned a lot about caring for their own diabetes and became more independent with diabetes management at a younger age.

But even after hearing the rave reviews about diabetes camp…I’m still thankful that I didn’t go to it when I was a kid.

Why? Because I think that a person’s journey with their own diabetes is highly personal. Like insulin-to-carb ratios or multiple daily injections versus insulin pumps, diabetes is often a disease about choices and responsibility. As an individual with diabetes, I hate being told how to handle my condition by someone who thinks they understand it better than me. I’m the one person in this world who understands MY diabetes better than anyone else. I know my body and I know what diabetes treatments and decisions are best. And for those few years of my life, I thought it was best for me to not go to camp. It was out of my comfort zone, and I refused to be coerced into going.

Perhaps in the back of my mind, I knew I’d have an opportunity later in life to connect with people my age who have diabetes. And I’m so thankful that I did because it came at a time in which I felt ready and was more accepting of my diabetes overall.

So there are no regrets for me when it comes to my choice to not attend diabetes camp. You could say that my decision to stay at home during those summers made me a happy camper…

Sorry, not sorry for the bad pun.