7 Questions People Always Ask Me About Type 1 Diabetes

This blog post was originally published on March 2, 2019 at Hugging the Cactus. I’m reposting it now because…these seven questions are timeless.

Human beings are naturally curious creatures. So it’s never really surprised me when, upon discovering my T1D, people tend to ask me boatloads of questions about what it’s like. And it’s definitely not at all shocking that many of these questions are recurring.

I've missed you terribly!

Here’s a list of seven questions that I’m almost always asked when I encounter someone who’s just learning about my diabetes. You’ll notice a trend as you read, because even though there’s “no such thing” as a stupid question, this list kinda gets dumber as it goes on. There, you’ve been warned…

7. What does it mean when your blood sugar is high/low?
This is definitely a fair question. I never expect someone who is unfamiliar with diabetes to know the meaning of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. I actually kind of appreciate being asked this question, because it helps me spread awareness. The more people that know how to react in severe high or low blood sugar cases, the better, IMHO.

6. Why do you wear all of those devices?
Another decent question – I never mind explaining how my CGM and my pump work, but I do mind when people say ignorant things, like “Oh, are those patches to help you quit smoking?” *Eye roll*

5. Can you eat/drink [fill-in-the-blank]?
Ugh…I get why people ask me this, but it’s a little more tiring to explain. My answer is usually along the lines of: “I can eat or drink whatever I like, but I need to take insulin to account for it. So I try to eat a limited amount of carbs at a time, because that means I have to take less insulin, and there’s less room for error.” But even after that easy-to-understand explanation, the typical follow-up questions are “BUT CAN YOU EAT CAKE/COOKIES/ICE CREAM/ANY SUGARY FOOD?!” And that’s when I lose a bit of my patience, TBH.

4. Does it hurt when you check your blood sugar/give yourself a shot?
I mean, no? I’m not trying to be facetious or anything, but really, after 21+ years of checking blood sugar and giving myself insulin multiple times per day…there’d be a real issue if it hurt every single time. I concede that there are the occasional sites that sting, but it’s not nearly as bad as many people seem to assume.

3. What’s that beeping sound/ARE YOU GOING TO EXPLODE?!
Honestly…use common sense. What’s the likelier scenario here: That my devices have built-in alarms, or that I’m going to spontaneously combust?

2. How did you get diabetes/WHAT DID YOU DO WRONG?
This. is. such. an. ignorant. question. Nobody, myself included, did anything “wrong” that resulted in my diabetes diagnosis. I didn’t catch it and no number of lifestyle changes could have prevented me from developing diabetes. My immune system merely decided to attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells that lived in my pancreas. There’s no real answer as to how diabetes is caused, though genetics likely play a role in it. Don’t worry, you won’t “catch” the ‘betes by being in my presence.

1. Do you have the…bad kind of diabetes?
This question is THE WORST of them all because there is no good kind of diabetes! Gestational, type 2, LADA…none of them are favorable. They all suck. They all require constant care, regulatory medications, and endocrinology expertise. So please for the love of all that is sacred and holy, next time you hear someone ask this question, gently inform them that there’s no such thing as good/bad diabetes.

 

How I Decided to Start Using the OmniPod Insulin Pump

Choosing an insulin pump therapy can be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you’ve never pumped before.

Factors like tubed vs. tubeless, whether or not your insurance will cover a given pump, ease of use, reservoir capacity, and many others all play into the big pump decision…

…if you’re like most (logical) people.

But if you’re me, then you count on pretty much one thing when making the choice: familiarity. I solely relied on the fact that someone I knew and trusted used the OmniPod and had a positive experience with it, and that person is my mother. On top of that, I waited a solid 2-3 years after she started to use it before it was my turn, because I wasn’t willing to even think about trying it until I could feel fairly confident that I would even like it myself.

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I may or may not have changed my PDM’s display screen for the sake of this picture.

Luckily, I’ve been on it for just over five years now without any major issues. While I do love it more than I ever liked multiple daily injections, I do wish I had thought it over some more before just going with it…especially now that there are other insulin pumps out there with some amazing features. I know that the manufacturer of the OmniPod, Insulet, has some great upgrades in the works, but it can be hard to wait for them.

If I could go back in time, I’d definitely do more research before semi-idly deciding that the OmniPod is right for me. Of course, I could make the switch to a new insulin pump in the future…but if and when I do decide to try something else down the road, I know I’ll make much more of an effort to really learn everything I can about my options before committing to a new piece of diabetes technology.

Catch Me On “This is Type 1”, Episode 28!

Yesterday, episode 28 of This is Type 1 went live – and surprise, it’s the episode in which I was interviewed!

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My podcast promo shot and bio!

Click this link to give the episode a listen. And be sure to let me know your thoughts!

Here’s a little sneak peek of what Colleen and I discuss:

  • How “Hugging the Cactus”, the T1D blog, came to exist
  • My diabetes story – when I was diagnosed, etc.
  • How I define diabetes burnout (and how I deal with it)
  • My process for writing blog posts
  • My favorite posts so far
  • …and so much more!

So, now that I’ve piqued your interest…listen to the episode! I hope you enjoy it. A special shout-out to Colleen and her co-host, Jessie (who unfortunately wasn’t available when we recorded the episode) – thank you BOTH for your time. I appreciate your contributions to diabetes advocacy and the diabetes online community, and I know many, many others appreciate it, too!

“Real People” Sick

I’m sick. I’ve just got a cold, but my throat and head are aching so much that it’s knocked the wind out of me.

I spent the weekend confined to my bed, only getting up to blow my nose, use the bathroom, and eat something every now and then…not that I’ve had much of an appetite.

I think this is my body’s way of punishing me. It’s trying to force me to slow down, and I have no choice but to heed its commands.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…I’ve purposely kept myself as busy as possible in the last month. I’m always involved in something, whether it’s making plans with people, distracting myself with a new pet betta fish (his name is Tyrion and I love him), or crafting up a storm (I’m almost done knitting my first sweater and I’ve made two hats within the last two weeks). I’ve had a rough start to the year and unconsciously decided at some point or another that the best way to cope was to not cope at all. Hence, my body is rebelling against me, making it impossible for me to engage in any of the activities that would keep me busy.

And I’m annoyed.

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A sick PWD must have these essentials: a fully loaded test kit and a cup of tea made with honey and lemon. (Don’t forget to bolus.)

The silver lining is that my blood sugar/my diabetes don’t seem to be bothered by the cold. I’m sure my numbers would be better if I was exercising regularly, but that’s to be expected.

So I’m what we, people with diabetes, call “real people” sick: I’m definitely fighting something, but since it’s not affecting my blood sugars, it doesn’t have anything to do with my diabetes. And that’s a relief. Because handling sickness ON TOP OF out-of-control blood sugars/diabetes would be enough to drive me insane right now.

It’s almost nice that my blood sugar isn’t the first thing I’m worried about at the moment; instead, my priority is on relieving the pressure in my head and catching up on sleep. But I admit that it’s also frustrating because slowing down means that all of my other concerns, bothers, and feelings have time to catch up with me.

I guess all I can do now is practice being patient with myself (ha) so I can resume my routine of going from one thing to the next as soon as possible. And hey, I’ve had a genuine excuse to lay in bed and binge-watch Sex and the City for hours, so it can’t be all that bad, right?

How I Handle “Roller Coaster” Blood Sugar Days

“Roller coaster” blood sugar days happen to the best of us. Wild fluctuations from high to low and back again are sometimes just part of life with diabetes, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating. So how can they be handled without losing your mind?

The answer is simple, and probably a bit unsatisfying: I just take the highs and lows as they happen. Rather than dwelling on the literal big picture of ups and downs that my CGM displays, I decide to treat each instance uniquely and have faith in the fact that everything will stabilize eventually.

How I Handle _Roller Coaster_ Blood Sugar Days
Honestly, give me high and low blood sugars over the twists and turns of a real roller coaster any day of the week.

For example, a recent weekday started off wicked badly for me when I had a low blood sugar at around 4 A.M. I did the thing that you’re not supposed to do and totally over-treated it (whoops), resulting in me having to take insulin to counteract the carbs. Well, I didn’t take quite enough insulin, because I was pretty high still when I woke up again a couple hours later. I took an aggressive bolus for the high and did my morning exercise routine…

…which backfired on me because soon after completing my workout and eating a quick breakfast, I was dropping like crazy. I’m almost certain that most other T1Ds would agree with me when I say that having a low blood sugar right after eating (and taking insulin for said meal) is SO obnoxious. I knew my carbs would kick in eventually, though, so I opted to suspend my insulin and went about getting ready for work…

…only to be sky-high again when I arrived to the office. I took another big bolus, knowingly stacking my insulin but not caring because I just wanted to get my blood sugar down…

…and that absolutely worked like a charm! By lunchtime, I was low again and literally eating frosting out of a Tupperware container (don’t @ me). Usually, I have zero restraint when it comes to sweet things like frosting and I was worried that I’d gone overboard with my spoonfuls of it. But magically, the low/high roller coaster stopped for the rest of the day after that! In fact, I was level between 90 and 110 for THE REST OF THE NIGHT.

I’m not saying it was worth it to deal with the incessant ups and downs all morning and part of the afternoon; rather, I’m trying to point out that I just did what I could in order to get off the roller coaster ride and it paid off  by the day’s end.

Sometimes, with diabetes, it’s more important to focus on blood sugar in the moment rather than stress about what it did or what it’s going to do. That way, I find that I can help treat my diabetes the way it needs me to treat it then and there rather than trying to anticipate what it might do later on. It’s all about perspective and remembering to keep it simple, even if it doesn’t always yield the fastest results.

“This is Type 1”: A Podcast to Know

Back in November, I had the pleasure of making a guest appearance on the Ask Me About My Type 1 podcast (which I wrote a blog post about that you can check out here).

The whole experience, from being interviewed by Walt and my Type None Emma to hearing positive feedback from listeners, was so enjoyable that I jumped at the opportunity to do another podcast called This is Type 1.

What makes This is Type 1 special? For starters, it’s hosted by two life-long T1Ds. Colleen Mitchell is a writer, analyst, and entrepreneur who has had type 1 diabetes for 24 years. On her website, Inspired Forward, she explains that she’s an advocate for educating others about diabetes. Her co-host is Jessie Tuggey, who Colleen describes as her “pseudo-daughter” that she’s known since her days attending diabetes camp.

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The podcast logo, featuring the two co-hosts.

Colleen and Jessie have explored a variety of topics in their podcast since it launched in August 2019. Examples of subjects they’ve discussed are insulin, insurance, weight loss as a T1D,  how to handle stress as a T1D, and diabetes in pop culture (which was a theme of one of my blog posts last year that happens to get quoted in the episode). They’ve also interviewed a handful of guests, from family members to get parent/sibling perspectives to fellow diabetes podcast hosts.

After listening to one of their recent episodes, I was thrilled when Colleen and Jessie invited me to come onto the show so they could ask me about my life with diabetes and my blog. That episode is coming out next week and I plan on linking to it in a blog post, but for now, I highly recommend that you check out some of their other episodes. They range from 20-60 minutes, so it’s easy to listen to a few in one sitting.

You can listen to This is Type 1 on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and generally, any other place you can find and listen to podcasts.

Remembering My Grandpa

Six years and one day ago, my maternal grandfather passed away. He was 87 years old and lived a very full life, but his passing felt sudden to all of his family members who simply believed that we had more time with him.

In the immediate days following his death, my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins experienced a wide array of emotions, as well as physical side effects from overwhelming grief. I had some of the highest blood sugars of my life during this time, and I also came down with some sort of fever that left me boiling hot one minute and head-to-toe shivering the next.

I remember that getting myself ready for his wake was a real process – I was collapsed on the floor just outside of the bathroom, waving a hair dryer not just on my head, but also all over my body because I felt so frigidly cold. Little did I know, my blood sugar was also well over 400, but even if I’d known that fact sooner, I probably wouldn’t have cared very much.

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A photo from my Grandpa’s last birthday with us.

Anyways, the intent of this post isn’t to remember a truly heart-wrenching period of my life. It’s to help me remember my grandpa, and catch him up on everything that’s happened since he left us. I thought it’d be most appropriate to do this in the form of a letter.

Dear Grandpa,

I have so much to tell you. But let me start with an apology. I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate you more when I was younger. I’m sorry that I didn’t try harder to talk to you and hear your many stories firsthand. I always respected you throughout my youth and teenage years, as my parents instilled upon me early on to respect my elders. And even in childhood, I knew you were the elder to respect; after all, I was convinced that you single-handedly ended WWII. What’s more respectful than that? Anyways, I digress – the point is that I wish I made more of an effort to learn more from you and I’m sorry that I’ll never get a chance to make up for that.

You probably already know most of what I’m going to tell you. We lost Zuzu the same year we lost you, and I’m sure she’s with you in heaven now, but then we gained Clarence a couple of years ago and I think you would get such a kick out of him. There’s been a few more losses in our family, too, but many more gains of all kinds, and I know that in a way, you were there with us for those occasions and everything in between.

You also probably already know that since we lost you, I graduated college and started my career. Weird, right? I also started a blog about diabetes, and really, it’s become a much bigger part of my life than it ever was before. I would love to see your eyes widen in awe at our diabetes technology and how advanced it has become over the years. (I remember how amazed you used to be when we showed you our computers and early-model eBook tablets, I can only imagine your reaction to medical technology!)

As I sit here and type this and marvel at how much (and how little) has changed since you left, I remain grateful for the fact that you were a big part of our childhoods (“our” meaning my brother’s and my cousins’ childhoods, as well as mine). I also take comfort in the fact that just because you’re not physically here to witness all of this stuff, you’re here in our hearts and you’re with us in that manner for every step in our journeys. I know that when I’m having a tough diabetes day, you’re one of the guardian angels looking out for me and helping me recover from it.

And I also know that you’d be proud of me for what I’ve accomplished so far in life, and for me, that’s more than enough motivation to keep going, fighting, and working hard to beat diabetes and be successful in other arenas, too.

Love,

Molly