T1D Tests More Than Just Blood Sugar…

Turns out, living with type 1 diabetes means that I’m testing a whole lot more than just my blood sugar levels…

…I’m testing my memory, too – and rather frequently.

As a person with T1D, it’s on me to remember to do basic things like bolus for meals, be prepared with back-up supplies at all times, get prescriptions filled before I run out of anything, and so much more. More often than not, I pass these memory tests.

But naturally, I’m bound to fail one every now and then.

Case in point: I forgot where I left my PDM the other day. I had prepared my dinner and went to take a bolus for it when I realized that I couldn’t remember when or where I last saw it.

When the “Find my PDM” feature fails, there’s nothing to fall back on other than memory…and maybe a bit of luck, as well.

It was an infuriating scenario. I knew it was somewhere in my home. I hadn’t left the house all day, other than to take my dog outside to do her business. I spent the better part of a half hour wandering up and down the stairs, searching with an increased sense of franticness, for my PDM. The urgency to locate it only heightened when I tried to use the “Find my PDM” feature on the Omnipod Display app and it wouldn’t work. That was a first – up until this day, I’d always been able to use it to track down my PDM when I’d misplaced it. It showed no indication that it was going to suddenly start working again any time soon, so I gave up and was forced to retrace my steps in order to find my PDM…which was going to be difficult considering in the middle of my search, my Dexcom went off, alerting me to an impending low blood sugar.

Think, think, think…I could practically feel the wheels turning in my head as I tried to recall where I last saw my PDM. I’d bolused for lunch earlier in the day, most definitely. That much I knew. I had eaten lunch downstairs, so I surmised that I brought my PDM upstairs with me when I was done so I could have it nearby as I continued on with my workday.

I looked high and low, all around my bedroom, without success. That’s when it dawned on me that there was a slim chance that my PDM fell outside of my pocket when I took my dog out just before I’d made my dinner. So I ventured outside, sweat starting to bead on my forehead as I grew shakier from my low blood sugar. I scoured the parking lot and the lawn for my PDM and no dice. That was when I decided to head back inside, drink a juice box, and take a moment to really contemplate the time and place I last saw my PDM.

That’s when it hit me – it had to be on my bedroom floor, next to my bed, because I suddenly remembered how it had accidentally slipped off my bed when I’d placed it there after lunch! I raced back upstairs, feeling triumphant and relieved when I saw the PDM in that precise spot and could confirm that my memory had finally served me correctly.

Now, this might sound like some silly, random anecdote about how I had a forgetful moment. But to me, it actually demonstrates just how much a person with diabetes needs to remember to do on a daily basis. It’s so much more than the finger stick pokes or insulin injections – it’s a lot of accountability. It shows that diabetes tests a whole heck of a lot more than blood sugar…it tests patience, responsibility, and yes, in this particular situation, memory. This is why I think people with diabetes deserve recognition for dealing with these daily, innumerable tests as gracefully as we can.

The T1D Taste Test: My Unofficial Ranking of Drugstore Glucose Supplements

This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on June 27, 2018. I’m sharing it again today because it’s a blog post that has a surprising number of views – likely due to the fact that people have strong opinions (rightfully so) on glucose tablets and their various iterations! Read on for my thoughts on the best version of drugstore glucose supplements…

You may have heard of glucose tablets, but what about glucose gummies? Or liquid glucose, or glucose gel? Have you tried any of these forms of glucose?

The four forms of glucose (that I’ve tried).

I’ve used them all, and I’ve formed some pretty strong opinions about each of them. I thought it’d be fun to rank them in order of most appetizing to least appetizing, because while they can effectively and efficiently correct low blood sugar, they certainly aren’t created equally:

  1. Best Tasting: Glucose Tablets. I can hardly believe that the most boring variety is the winner here, but it blows the competition out of the water for several reasons. For starters, glucose tablets come in an array of flavors. Orange, raspberry, fruit punch, grape, tropical, and sour apple are among the flavors I’ve tried over the years, and most of them are palatable. Plus, glucose tablets are most akin to actually candy: I’ve described them as giant Smarties to inquiring friends in the past. While actually Smarties are more fun to eat, glucose tablets are their closest counterpart in the diabetes world, making them a number-one choice in low blood sugar situations.
  2. Runner-Up: Glucose Gummies. I’m awarding second place to glucose gummies, mainly because of their novelty. It’s not particularly a standout in other categories like taste and texture. The gummies only come in three flavors: grape, orange, and apple, leaving something to be desired in terms of variety. And all three of those flavors taste a little…off, like there’s a little too much artificial additives going on. Maybe this was done deliberately to distract from the texture of the gummies, which tends to be hard/stale in my experience. It’s nice that the gummies have a layer of sugar on them to convey the likeness of real gummies, but that stuck-to-your-teeth feeling makes it harder to appreciate the gummies for what they are.
  3. Third Place: Glucose Gel. I’ve only ever found glucose gels in the fruit punch flavor at Walgreens – do they actually come in other flavors? Besides being one-note, the gel is a unique texture situation…not quite a liquid, not quite a solid. Gels aren’t a mainstay in my low blood sugar kit because I’m not fond of having to slurp them out of the pouch like a tube of Go-Gurt; in fact, I’d much rather have yogurt from a plastic tube than a gel because the yogurt is much tastier. The gel is just too artificial, with a medicinal aftertaste. And it doesn’t help that the consistency of it reminds me of hand sanitizer.
  4. The Loser: Glucose LiquidIt’s surprising that the glucose liquid wound up in last place, because on the surface, it had a lot going for it. I liked that it came in a small bottle and it seemed like it would be super easy to consume. All I’d need to do is pop the cap off and swig it down. But MAN, the taste was HORRIBLE! I thought I’d like the mixed berry flavor, but it tasted so supremely saccharine and fake that I could scarcely force myself to swallow it. I know, I know, it’s liquid glucose, it’s supposed to be very sweet. But this stuff was just over the top. I definitely will not be buying glucose liquid again any time soon. I’ll stick with my tried-and-true tablets.

Do you agree with my rankings? Did I miss any form of glucose that can be bought in most drugstores, and you think I should give it a try? Let me know in the comments!

T1D and Guilt

So many emotions accompany living with type 1 diabetes: occasional sadness, some anger, a bit of bitterness, flares of acceptance, and a whole lot of frustration.

But another emotion that comes with it that I recently found myself thinking about (and feeling) is guilt. Not guilt over the fact that I have diabetes, per se – because my diagnosis was out of my control – but guilt over the ways that it affects those around me.

Life with diabetes is so much more than blood sugar checks and insulin injections – it’s also about learning how to navigate emotions like guilt.

I feel guilty for all the times my devices’ alerts and alarms disrupt my partner’s sleep.

I feel guilty for complaining to family and friends about my diabetes because they don’t deserve to be burdened by it.

I feel guilty when I have to leave a social event early because I forgot to bring back-up supplies with me or because I experienced a device failure.

I feel guilty when a high blood sugar makes me lash out at my loved ones…and when a low blood sugar causes them to be worried about me.

This guilt weighs heavy on my shoulders, and when coupled with the guilt I carry around when I have a bad diabetes day or let my emotions about diabetes get to the best of me, it can sometimes feel like I’ll collapse at any second because I’m simply not strong enough to handle it. Of course, I don’t feel crushed by the weight of guilt all the time; in fact, it’s only occasional. But when it does rear its ugly head, it’s not fun, and it makes it that much harder to deal with the day-to-day of diabetes.

The reason why I chose to write this blog post about guilt and diabetes is to bring awareness that living with diabetes is so much more than daily insulin injections and blood sugar checks. It also means coming to terms with the fact that it’ll cause a lot of discomfort, both physically and emotionally – and finding out ways to overcome that discomfort, and the emotions of diabetes (guilt included), is what makes people who live with diabetes absolute warriors in my eyes.

Navigating New Insulin Pump Sites and Nerves

This was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on September 7, 2020. I’m sharing it again today because my mom and I were recently talking about pod placements and the places where we would (and would not), hypothetically, feel comfortable wearing a pod. It got me thinking about how I’ve had to work up the courage to try new sites over the years, which inspired me to write this post to hopefully help others who feel the same way about navigating new pump sites and nerves. Read on for more…

Am I the only T1D out there who feels incredibly nervous about trying new insulin infusion sites?

I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, now that I’m thinking about it. Throughout my childhood, I stubbornly stuck to injecting in my arms, legs, and upper buttocks (tee-hee) because those were the areas I felt comfortable with. I don’t think I even considered jabbing myself in my stomach until I was in my teens, and it was only after I realized the importance of site rotation and reducing scar tissue.

So it’s kind of funny that when I went on the OmniPod just over five years ago, I only used my stomach and my lower back (just above the upper buttocks region, tee-hee) for pod placements. It was partly because my guinea pig – I mean, my mom – used those areas for her pods with success, and also because I was hesitant in the beginning to wear my pods on my arms or legs because of their increased visibility.

It went that way for a couple of year – four basic sites ’round my abdomen – when it occurred to me yet again that site rotation was also important for insulin pumpers, not just MDI-ers (multiple daily injection…ers). So I added my upper arms into the mix, and soon after, my upper thighs followed.

The little diagram (courtesy of Insulet/OmniPod) above only shows a few of the sites that people with diabetes use…over the years, we’ve gotten a lot more creative!

But lately, I’ve shied away from wearing pods on my thighs because the area isn’t overly comfortable. When I roll over in my sleep at night, my pod presses up against my leg and the resulting pressure is just enough to disrupt my sleep and make it difficult for me to find a more restful position to sleep in.

As a result, I’ve started contemplating potential new pod sites, and one of the first places I went to for advice was…Instagram! Because…duh.

The DOC (diabetes online community) on Insta is a natural resource for this sort of thing because many people tend to share photos of their sites. It’s kind of a thing. One simple scroll through my feed taught me that people can get very inventive when it comes to finding new locations to place their CGMs and insulin pump infusion sites.

I saw people wearing Dexcoms on their forearms and calves. I saw pods on backs, calves, and even the upper chest area, the latter of which I found most intriguing. For men, it seems like a very accessible spot that causes little irritation, but for women? How the heck did the T1D ladies I saw with pods on their chest deal with it?

The general consensus, it seemed, was that women wearing pods on the upper chest agreed it was a site with great absorption and minimal discomfort.

I was still skeptical, though. I was worried about how it would look if I was wearing a v-neck tank with my pod poking out of, well, my bra! Then it hit me that my pod garners questions from strangers regardless of where it’s located. Furthermore, people will (probably?) be less likely to ask about it if it’s located on my chest because, um, that’s really awkward. My eyes are up here, people!!!

Then I remembered: I could give the site a try without wasting a pod because I have a demo pack that I got from a diabetes conference awhile back! The demo pack comes with a dummy pod that looks and feels just like a regular pod, but there’s no reservoir built into it, so insulin can’t be injected into it.

So right now, as I’m writing this, I’m wearing two pods: one on my upper arm that’s actually giving me insulin, and a fake one on my chest just to see how I like it. I must admit, so far, so good! I slept comfortably with it on last night and I haven’t had any issues wearing clothing or undergarments with it. I even went for a jog with it on and got pretty sweaty, but it stayed secure/I didn’t feel it bouncing around at all (thought the adhesive got a bit too damp for my liking…it stayed on but if I wasn’t careful I totally could’ve knocked it off).

While I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around an actual cannula piercing my skin at this location (eeeek), now that I know I can handle the pod itself living there, I’m one step closer to trying (and liking) a site that’s more intimidating to me – a win in my book.

Diabetes in the Wild: Self-Defense Class Edition

“I have diabetes, too.”

A woman enrolled in the self-defense class that I took this month approached me, remarking on our shared condition, with a knowing look on her face. She glanced down at my pod, which I had marked with red duct tape to signal to others that this area of my body couldn’t engage in some of the movements that we’d be asked to do.

Diabetes in the wild moments happen when they’re least expect – I certainly didn’t anticipate this interaction when decked out in protective gear!

I smiled widely at her and we launched into a brief, but friendly and supportive conversation about diabetes in which we covered everything from devices to years lived with diabetes. We spoke for a few minutes before we wished one another well and parted ways.

Diabetes in the wild encounters are always interesting because they either spark instant camaraderie or, on the complete flipside, a flurry of ignorant questions/comments that prove to me just how much diabetes stigma is still alive.

Encounters like this one, fortunately, fall in the former category.

It’s just nice to know sometimes that I’m not alone, even in the most random of circumstances. That I don’t have to explain myself, or the nature of my fragile pod, to a person who actually understands why it needed to be protected. That I have someone who totally gets why I was in a panic the week before when I didn’t have a functioning CGM or my meter as a back-up when my blood sugar went low.

It’s a form of support that might not last more than 5 minutes or so, but still has a meaningful impact on me and my diabetes.

A Rookie Mistake

You’d think that 24 years of living with diabetes would turn anyone into a seasoned veteran of the condition, but even the most experienced people with diabetes slip up and make mistakes every now and then…

Case in point? Me, because I neglected to make sure I had a way of monitoring or checking my blood sugar when exercising…and then experiencing a scary low that I probably could have caught sooner, or maybe even avoided, if I hadn’t been so careless.

This all happened because I inserted a new Dexcom sensor just before taking off for my 3-hour self-defense class. I knew that the sensor’s warm-up period would end and that my continuous blood sugar readings would begin partway through class, so I felt fairly comfortable going without a blood sugar meter as a back-up. After all, my Dexcom sensors almost always start up without any issue, so I was trusting that this one would follow suit.

And that was my biggest mistake: trusting my technology.

Any time I make a rookie diabetes mistake, my palm goes straight to my face in embarassment.

When the warm-up period was complete and the class was taking a quick water break, I decided to check my Dex to see what my first blood sugar readings were. I was surprised (and instantly annoyed) to see that instead of a number, my Dexcom was displaying a request for a blood sugar calibration – just like the old G5s used to ask for upon insertion of a new sensor. I couldn’t understand why this happened, but I knew that pondering the matter wouldn’t make any difference…the only thing that would get my Dexcom running normally again was the finger stick checks, which wouldn’t be possible for me to do until I got home from the class because I was without my meter.

So I had no choice but to rely on nothing but my instincts and sensations in order to get a sense of where my blood sugar was headed for the remainder of the class.

And let me tell you, I can’t remember the last time I felt so vulnerable in terms of my diabetes. I was running on zero information, other than the fact that I typically can feel oncoming low blood sugars and that I tend to feel thirstier when my numbers are on the upswing. It was disconcerting – even more so when a little while later I started to feel shaky and dizzy, like I was starting to go low.

I knew I could either 1) treat what I thought was a low blood sugar and deal with the potential consequences (high blood sugar) when I got home, or 2) take a chance and ignore the low symptoms because I couldn’t confirm whether or not I was actually low. I hate to admit it, but I let a good 15-20 minutes pass before I decided it was better to correct what felt like a low rather than run the risk of passing out in front of the entire class. Turns out that I made the right call to treat my low: I felt much better after I ate some fruit snacks, and my blood sugar when I got home that evening was in the low 80s, indicating that I probably avoided a pretty nasty low in class.

While the whole incident could’ve been easily avoided, it did remind me that I ought to take some of the trust that I have in my technology and distribute it a little more evenly between it and my instincts. I proved to myself that in emergency situations, I don’t need a meter or a CGM to pick up on low blood sugars (though I obviously would prefer to have that equipment at my disposal at all times). Instead, I need to trust my instincts more and procrastinate less when it comes to taking an action – because if I had waited longer than those 15-20 minutes, the situation could’ve escalated and then I would’ve really been kicking myself for leaving my meter at home.

Rookie mistakes suck when they happen, but at least the silver lining is that there’s always a lesson to be learned (or reinforced) when they do.

Stress: The Sneaky Blood Sugar Spiker

Carbohydrates. Insulin intake. Exercise. These are things that most obviously impact blood sugar levels. But things like sleep, time of day, medication interactions, environmental changes, and yes, stress, might be more surprising factors that can wreak havoc on blood sugar in much stealthier ways.

Stress, in particular, is the one that’s been driving me (and my blood sugars) up the wall lately.

Truth be told, I’ve invited most of this stress into my life by committing to one (or seven) too many things this month. My calendar is positively overflowing with meeting invitations, hangouts, classes, and appointments, making the one or two evenings a week that I have to myself feel incredibly precious. Honestly, I kinda knew what I was doing when I flooded my schedule with so much because a significant part of me thrives under pressure and needs to stay busy. This is the same part of me that misses working full-time in an office because it broke up my otherwise fairly mundane routine; ergo, I felt justified in amping up my recent social activity.

Yet, there is another (smaller but still powerful) part of me that wishes I knew when to say “enough is enough”.

This image sums up the month of March perfectly for me: a bit of a time warp.

And now, that smaller part of me is standing with her hands on her hips, looking at the busy bee part of me defiantly, and saying “well, what did you expect?” in regards to the stressed-out feeling I haven’t been able to shake lately, as well as the high blood sugar levels that have been a direct result of that.

I’ve been doing everything I can to combat them – increasing my temp basal rate, lowering my carb intake, staying hydrated, getting daily exercise, and taking (nearly) double mealtime insulin doses at times. Some of these things have worked better than others, but as I sit here and write this post, I’m wondering if taking time to actively destress, in addition to prioritizing sleep, are the missing pieces in the puzzle.

Between jetting off from one thing to the next, I’ve barely had enough time to breathe, let alone practice self-care such as meditation or just…sitting on the couch and just being. And I’ve definitely not been getting as much sleep as I should. My teenage tendency to stay up late has collided with my adult habit of getting up early, which is an unpleasant combination.

So I’m thinking that the best way to evade stress, the sneaky blood sugar spiker, is to tackle it head on by addressing my lack of sleep and self-care. I know that my diabetes, and the rest of my body, will thank me once I take the chance to slow down.

5 Tips for People with Diabetes Who Live Alone

This was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on January 6, 2021. I’m sharing it again today because there seems to be a lot of stigma about people with diabetes who live alone. I wrote this post because I wanted to reassure other people who live with diabetes and who might be nervous about living alone. I was definitely scared when I moved out of my parents’ home for good, but I’ve learned lessons along the way that really helped me become comfortable with it and enjoy it more. Read on for my perspective…

For the first time in my entire life, I’m living alone. (Well, I have my puppy Violet to keep me company, but no other humans.)

The prospect of living by myself always freaked me out a little bit, mainly because of the fears I have about diabetes and the “what ifs”: What if my blood sugar goes too low and I can’t get help? What if I’m sick or spilling ketones and need someone to assist me? What if “something bad” (pick any bad scenario here that you can think of) happens, and because I live alone, I can’t take care of myself?

With these questions lurking in the back of my mind, I decided to do something about my worries. I moved into my new place a couple of months ago and since then, I’ve come up with some strategies on how to manage my concerns about living alone with diabetes that have provided both peace of mind and confidence in my ability to thrive in my new home.

Tip #1: Utilize the Dexcom Share feature. This is the best thing that I have done since moving out of my parents’ home. I had a conversation with them after a particularly frightening middle-of-the-night low, and we all agreed that it would be wise for me to invite my dad to follow my blood sugars using Dexcom Share. My favorite part about this arrangement is that my dad and I discussed what we were both comfortable with in terms of data sharing – we decided that it wasn’t necessary for him to view my blood sugar graph at all times, but that he should get alerted when I’m below 50 or above 400. It makes me feel so much safer knowing that he will know if and when those situations should happen, and that he will be able to help me (albeit, from a slight distance) if I can’t help myself.

Tip #2: Keep low snacks all over the place. I keep low snacks on every floor of my condo (the main floor, upstairs, and in my basement) and right next to my bed on my nightstand. It might seem like overkill to have juice boxes, gummy snacks, and glucose tablets all over the place, but the point of that is I never know when a bad low blood sugar will strike, and it’s much easier to walk a few steps to get a low treatment than to walk up or down a set of stairs. I’m able to treat lows very quickly using this method, and since my fear of low blood sugars is one of my biggest concerns about living alone, this helps me make sure that I can handle them efficiently when they occur.

A bonus tip: Get a dog! Violet helps me manage loneliness and has a (mostly) positive impact on my mental health (I say “mostly” because my pup can be naughty).

Tip #3: Stay organized. It might sound strange that staying organized is a big help when it comes to living alone with diabetes, but I’ve found that it ensures that I’m able to access any of my supplies within seconds, if needed. I don’t have to rifle through drawers or cabinets to find out how many pods I have left, I simply have to walk into my bedroom closet and look at my shelf to see. I also have all of my medical paperwork – receipts, prescriptions, health plan information, etc. – stashed away in a clearly labeled folder in the filing cabinet by my desk, which again makes my life much easier when I need to find particular documentation at a moment’s notice.

Tip #4: Have emergency contacts identified and readily available. Nobody likes to think about something bad happening…least of all me. But I give myself peace of mind by having emergency contacts labeled in my iPhone using the Medical ID feature. If I needed to call one of them, it would simply take the push of a button (and a quick swipe).

Tip #5: Seek support over social media. When in doubt, I’ve had great success turning to my different social media platforms and chatting with others about issues surrounding living alone. Whether I add a story to my IG profile or send out a tweet when I have blood sugar concerns, I know that the diabetes online community will respond with guidance and insight to help me through whatever issue I may be experiencing. There’s something extraordinarily comforting about knowing that even though I’m living alone, I’m never truly alone because of the support I have.

6 Tips for Snowboarding with T1D

I’m in an interesting phase of my life right now where I don’t like to say no to most things.

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve let fear and anxiety hold me back in many different areas. But if there’s anything I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s that life is too short to not jump at opportunities when they’re presented to me and to do my best to abandon my assumptions before deciding how I feel about something.

So when my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go snowboarding with him last month, I enthusiastically said yes. I’ve never been a winter sports person, per se, but I’ve definitely spent too many weekends in the last couple of months cooped up indoors – so spending an afternoon outside at a nearby ski resort trying something completely new sounded like an awesome way to beat winter blues.

I should’ve expected it would also be a literal crash course in snowboarding with diabetes! Literal in more ways than one, because I fell…a LOT. Like, so many times that I lost count. But I was also learning how to navigate a brand-new physical activity with diabetes, which can be daunting. I handled it by preparing as best as I could, and practiced these tips and tricks that worked wonderfully for me when I hit the slopes:

#1: Set a temp basal. In the days leading up to snowboarding, I did a little research online to see what kind of tips other people with diabetes had to share about what to expect when snowboarding with diabetes. The most interesting piece of advice that I found and wound up taking was setting a temp basal with my pump. The physical activity of snowboarding, combined with the mountain’s higher altitude, meant that my insulin could be absorbed in my system at a more rapid pace. So I reduced the amount of basal insulin by about a third for a few hours, which worked out great because I didn’t have to worry about impending low blood sugars and could instead focus on trying to glide effortlessly across the snow like all the other skiers and snowboarders (I had little success in that, but that’s besides the point).

#2: Wear ALL the layers. The night before the snowboarding trip, I laid out all of the clothes that I would layer on the next day. I had thermal pants and a thermal undershirt that I wore for layer 1. I wore jeans and a sweatshirt for layer 2, followed by a fleece zip-up for layer 3. Before heading out onto the slopes, I put on my snow pants, winter jacket, waterproof gloves, snowboard boots, scarf, hat, helmet, and goggles…and yes, even though I resembled the Michelin man with all that clothing on, it was worth it because I didn’t feel the sting of the cold not even once. Plus, my diabetes devices, snacks, and other personal items were extra protected under all those layers, which gave me a sense of security throughout the day.

#3: Protect diabetes technology. This was my main concern for the day. I’ve heard horror stories about PDMs falling victim to particularly nasty skiing and snowboarding collisions. I refused to run the risk of smashing my screen by protecting it as best as I could. So I brought an extra sock with me that I used as a pouch for both my PDM and my cell phone. Once they were safely nestled in the sock, I placed it into a plastic baggie, which served as an extra layer of protection that was waterproof. I then put the plastic baggie into the pocket of the fleece I was wearing under my snow pants and zipped up the aforementioned pocket so there were zero chances of anything falling out of it. It was probably a little extreme in terms of protection, but my devices stayed completely dry and intact (despite the many, many falls I experienced over the course of the afternoon), and that was what mattered most to me!

If Shaun White (the pro snowboarder) is known as the Flying Tomato on the slopes, I want to be known as the Rainbow Wonder – I loved rocking my bright snowboarding accessories on the mountain!

#4: Be smart about packing snacks. I knew I would be limited in terms of what I could carry up and down the mountain – it’s not like I could safely snowboard with my purse or backpack strapped onto me (that would’ve added extra weight that would’ve made me even more wobbly on my board) – so my many pockets definitely came in handy and helped ensure that I had plenty of snacks stashed on me at all times. In addition, I chose to pack things like glucose tablets and granola bars because they were more likely to hold up in the cold weather/not freeze like a packet of honey or a juice box might.

#5: Stay hydrated. I think what surprised me more than anything else was how thirsty I felt after only about an hour of attempting to snowboard. In hindsight, though, it made sense – I was outside in the dry wintry air and trying to partake in fairly strenuous exercise, so of course I would be thirsty. Since I couldn’t carry around a water bottle with me, I made sure that any bathroom breaks that I took at the lodge also included trips to the water fountain – a strategy that kept me well hydrated out on the bunny slope.

#6: Monitor, monitor, monitor. I must’ve pulled out my phone to check my Dexcom graph a dozen different times over the course of the 4-5 hours we were snowboarding. That might sound like a bit much, but I had no idea what to expect in terms of the impact of snowboarding on my blood sugar. Watching my levels like a hawk helped me determine how much to eat at lunchtime, what kind of temp basal I should set, and how long I could stay committed to the activity before having to stop to treat a high or a low blood sugar. I felt extra grateful for my Dexcom on this day, because it would’ve been a pain and very inconvenient to check my blood sugar with a finger prick that many times.

Even though I wasn’t quite as badass as I wanted to be on the slopes (more like bruised-ass), I’m still really happy that I gave it a try and proved to myself that this is yet another thing that diabetes can’t stop me from enjoying. I look forward to my next attempt, which will hopefully include similar diabetes-related success as well as a lesson or two from an experienced instructor – because goodness knows I could benefit from that!

Dungeons, Dragons, and Diabetes

Dungeons, dragons, and diabetes…one of these things is NOT like the other! And add “drams” into that mix, and you’re likely very confused and wondering what kind of bizarre, alliterated laundry list this is supposed to be – and why on earth I’m talking about it here on Hugging the Cactus.

Well, let me start by saying that one of the hobbies that I started to explore in the early pandemic days is Dungeons and Dragons! Yup, the fantasy role-playing game that’s been a staple of pop culture nerd-dom since the mid-70s. One day in Fall 2020, my boyfriend (who is extremely well-versed in DnD) invited me to play with a small group of his friends. I agreed to give it a try, though I admit that I went into it knowing nothing about it other than what I’d seen on the television show Stranger Things – which, quite frankly, is a highly stereotypical depiction of how a DnD campaign is run that resulted in me thinking that DnD was super limited in terms of gameplay.

Very quickly, every assumption that I had about DnD, who plays it, and how it works was shattered.

Click the image above to find out about the character I’ll be playing!

Over the course of the last year and a half or so, I’ve been involved in a handful of different DnD campaigns. All of these campaigns have varied drastically in terms of storyline, characters, and players, and to me, that’s the most exciting part about the game. Besides its ever-changing nature, I also enjoy that DnD allows me to explore my imagination – I get to come up with the entire backstory for original characters, and the creative writer within me is thrilled to be stretching those storytelling muscles that I’d long thought were atrophied.

But the best part of DnD, for me anyways, is how it’s brought me closer to friends and strangers alike. DnD has been a great way to meet new friends for the first time, as it’s something we can automatically talk about and refer to whether or not we’re actively playing a game. It has also strengthened my friendships with some of my coworkers from my last job who, like me, were newbies to DnD but willing to learn how to play during the pandemic because all of us generally like games and fantasy realms, and we were happy to have something to do virtually that wasn’t just another boring Zoom session.

And I can’t neglect to mention that DnD has been a wonderful escape from the reality of our world in the last couple of years. In DnD, the horrors going on in the real world don’t exist (unless you want them to, but nobody’s dared to do that in any of the games I’ve played). This means DnD is a nice mental break from not just the soul-sucking 24/7 news cycle, but it’s also a temporary vacation from diabetes. Any character that I’ve played in a campaign doesn’t have to worry about checking blood sugar or taking insulin injections before slaying bugbears, displacer beasts, or flameskulls. It might seem like an unconventional way to find reprieve from diabetes, but it’s a challenge to find something that can get me to stop thinking about my diabetes for even a short window of time. This is one thing that works for me and that makes me grateful for it.

So, coming full circle here and getting to the point of this blog post: I am participating in a new DnD campaign called Dungeons and Drams! The game runner (called the Dungeon Master) is actually an aforementioned former coworker and good friend of mine who delved deep into the DnD universe over the course of the pandemic. He’s combining his knowledge of the game with his extensive YouTube experience as a whiskey reviewer (hence the “drams” element to our game) to create the ultimate campaign that I’m honored to be part of. I’m joined by a few of his fellow whiskey YouTubers and I’ve got to say (shoving my obvious bias to the side here), the characters we’ve created are a thrilling combination of hilarious, badass, adventurous, and entertaining…so whether you’re a fan of DnD and/or drams of whiskeys, and the diabetes-related content that I feature here on Hugging the Cactus, you’re going to want to check this game and our channel out.

The adventure begins tonight, March 14, 2022 at 9:30 P.M. ET…looking forward to seeing you there.