My Diabetes Hero

It’s November 6th which means that it’s Day 6 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt asks us to name our diabetes hero/heroine. Well, I have more than one…

My diabetes hero is not just one person. It’s a small group of people that I call my family. (Awwwww, how sweet.)

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Me with my heroic diabetes family.

My mom, dad, and brother are all-too familiar with diabetes. My mom is T1D, like me, and my dad and my brother were the lucky ducks who got to live under the same roof as us for many years. All three of them are diabetes heroes to me, but in some very different ways.

Let’s start with my brother. He is three years older than me and I’d say we were fairly close to one another in our shared childhood. Though he doesn’t share a diabetes diagnosis with me, he grew up with diabetes just as much as I did. And do you know what’s amazing about that? I’ve never once heard him complain about it. If he has ever felt any fear or worry for my mom and I, he definitely has done a good job of internalizing it. He treats us like we have normal, functioning pancreases, and I think the reason for that is he knows that we are more than capable of taking care of our diabetes ourselves. Although his thoughts and feelings about our diabetes have yet to be verbalized, I appreciate his unique brand of support for us and I continue to be wowed that he never seemed to be bothered by the extra attention I got as a child due to my diabetes. No unhealthy sibling rivalry there!

Next up is the other Type None in our family: my dad. I’ve written about my dad in a couple of previous blog posts. He is truly the Mr. Fix It in our family. If there is a problem, he wants to solve it – especially if it is something that is causing his loved ones emotional distress. He has had more than his fair share of situations in which my mom or I were seriously struggling with our diabetes. I can only imagine how he feels when all he can do is just stand by and let us work through our issues: It’s probably a combination of helpless, angry, and worried. He’s said numerous times over the years that he’d give my mom and I his healthy pancreas if he could, and I’ve never questioned the sincerity behind that sentiment. I know he means it, and to me, that’s the kind of heroism that nobody else in my life can even begin to compete with.

And then we’ve got my diabetes partner-in-crime, my mom. How on earth she managed to deal with her OWN diabetes, in addition to mine, all throughout my childhood is completely beyond me. Besides being there for me as a source of unwavering emotional support as someone who really “gets it”, my mom’s attended practically every single endocrinology appointment with me, encouraged me to start using an insulin pump, ordered alllllll of my supplies for many years (and kept track of the stacks of associated paperwork), and helped keep me as calm as humanly possible throughout my terrifying insurance transition that took place late this past spring. Let me just restate that she did all of this and still does all of this while still dealing with her own diabetes!!!!! It’s sort of mind-blowing to me that she can stay so much calmer about her diabetes than I ever could when it comes to either of ours, but she does it, and that makes her a heck of a diabetes hero to me.

What’s really neat about my diabetes heroes, as a collective unit, is that diabetes has never and will never define our family. It’s something that lingers there in the background, for sure, but it almost never steals our attention away from our time spent together. I can’t recall a single instance in the last 22 years that diabetes really, truly disrupted our family rhythm (maybe my parents would disagree with that and count in my diabetes diagnosis, but I barely remember that).

It just goes to show that even as something as life-altering and disruptive as diabetes only made my family stronger when it hit us with a double dose.

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How Diabetes Motivates Me

It’s November 4th which means that it’s Day 4 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is called Motivation Monday, so today’s blog post is all about how diabetes motivates me…

Diabetes is exhausting. It’s 24/7, 365. At times, it’s frustrating, depressing, frightening, and generally upsetting.

Considering all that, how the eff could diabetes also be motivating?

Let me explain the ways.

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When life gives you a lemon like diabetes, you’ve got to turn it into (sugar free) lemonade.

Diabetes tries to knock me down – not on a daily basis, but often enough that I have to fight back against it. I’m not about to let it keep me on the ground, so my diabetes is constantly forcing me to hit back at it harder and harder. It instills a determination and a ferocity within me that I might not have ever developed on my own.

How else does diabetes motivate me? Well, it’s constantly challenging me to strive for the better: Better “control” over my blood sugar levels, better management of my diet and exercise regimen, and better care of my entire body, in general. While it involves a lot of work, it’s extremely motivating because I know that anything I do for the better of my diabetes and my body now will pay dividends in the future. And that’s the answer to a question I am often asked by others.

How do you live such a normal life with diabetes?

It’s fairly simple, really. I’m just motivated to live my best life despite my diabetes. It can be my biggest headache, but also my greatest motivator, and I think it’s important for me to embrace the beauty of that.

Happy National Diabetes Awareness Month!

It is November 1st – the latter half of 2019 is really flying by, isn’t it – and you know what that means: It’s officially National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM)!

All month long, the diabetes online community is bound to go into overdrive as we make advocacy and awareness our number one priority. I know that one way in which I’ll be partaking is through daily social media posts on my Instagram account – thank you to Leah (@the.insulin.type) for creating that annual Happy Diabetic Challenge! I plan to use many of the Happy Diabetic Challenge prompts for my blog posts, too, so if you’re not an active Instagram user, you’ll still see posts related to the challenge here.

Before I launch into day one’s prompt, I have a little something to say about advocacy all month long. It can be a lot to see, read, and hear. As someone who’s been told more than a few times in her life that she talks too much about diabetes, it can be a bit difficult for me to get really pumped up about NDAM. Whether people realize it or not, comments like that can really deflate me – it’s even made me question whether I should continue making my voice heard in the diabetes online community and in other spaces.

Thankfully, I’ve had several type 1s and type “nones” alike encourage me to keep going and reassure me that my voice does, indeed, matter. The “I Hear You” campaign that my friend, Heather Walker (she’s a gem of a human being), initiated a few months ago woke me up to the fact that it’s important to acknowledge all voices and perspectives. It’s important for people to feel heard as well as to hear others because that’s what leads to personal growth and educational opportunities.

So if you think that someone talks too much about something – not just diabetes – then I ask you to use this month to shove your feelings to the side and just listen. Take just a minute to understand why that person might be so fired up about a topic and you might just learn something valuable. (And if you can’t bear to do that…remember that most social media platforms have “mute” buttons. Simply do that rather than tear into someone in a comment thread. Because that’s just straight-up bullying.)

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Here I am, showing off the new Dexcom G6 in their ad campaign last year and modeling a lovely purple cast from when I broke my arm. LIFE HAPPENS.

Anyways, off my soap box and onto the first prompt of the 2019 Happy Diabetic Challenge: It’s time to introduce myself!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m Molly. And I have diabetes! Type 1, to be exact. This Christmas Eve will mark 22 years since my diagnosis. (You can read my bio to learn a bit more about my diagnosis story.)

I use a Dexcom CGM, OmniPod insulin pump, and Verio IQ meter to dose my insulin and check my blood sugar levels. I used to be super against technology, but eventually I discovered just how much it improves the quality of my life with diabetes…and I haven’t looked back since.

I also used to be against meeting other people with diabetes – yes, really! As a child, I’d defiantly say NO YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GO I REFUSE whenever my parents or my endocrinologist gently asked me if I was interested in diabetes camp. I figured that it was overrated; after all, I already had two T1Ds in my life (my mom and my aunt). How much more diabetes could I really need in the form of other human beings?

It turns out that I would need – crave, actually – a lot more as I entered my adult years. My mom dragged me to an educational talk aimed towards parents and their soon-to-be-college-freshmen that would offer some advice with how to deal with this massive transition. It was there that I met the CEO and founder of the College Diabetes Network, Tina Roth. We struck up conversation and I learned that my college had a CDN chapter on its campus…though it needed someone to take over control of it.

That’s when I was immersed in the world of making diabetes connections. I took it upon myself to become that CDN chapter’s president, and before long, I was meeting T1D students all over campus. Quickly, I discovered just how magical it was to meet people who understood me in ways that my other friends simply couldn’t. It was awesome, and I felt foolish for depriving myself of it for so many years of my life.

My involvement with CDN lead to many other opportunities and friendships; in fact, I think you can make a dotted line from CDN to this very blog. It changed so much for me, and it’s one of the reasons why diabetes advocacy has been such an integral part of my adult life.

That’s the “diabetes” side of me in a nutshell. My other sides, well, they can’t be described in such a succinct way, but here are some “fun facts” if you’re curious to know me outside of diabetes:

  • I love crafting! I get called a grandma sometimes by my oh-so-funny friends, but I know that they appreciate my creative side (as evidenced by the scarves I’ve knit for them that keep them warm all winter long). I like knitting, party planning (and creating decor/games for said parties), baking, and just about any other activity that allows me to produce something from scratch.
  • I was almost on an MTV reality show when I was a sophomore in high school. Ever hear of Made? (Here’s a brief primer on it if you haven’t.) I was the only student in my high school chosen to proceed to semi-final rounds of auditions, which meant a cameraman from the network had to follow me around and document my life for a week. It was about as weird, embarrassing, and, erm, unique as it sounds. Oh, and I wanted to be “made” into a salsa dancer. I’m BEYOND RELIEVED I didn’t have to humiliate myself by dancing on national television…
  • I have an obsession with pop culture. I used to religiously watch shows that documented the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I loved learning about the fads of those eras and the types of shows and movies that were most popular then. This makes me semi-useful when I play pub trivia with friends – every now and then, even I’m surprised by the random facts I know.
  • My actual job is not this blog – I am a full-time associate editor for a financial company that offers a suite of products that financial advisors subscribe to in order to maintain relationships with clients and draw in prospects. On a daily basis, I’m reading through our library of content to make sure it’s up-to-date, researching for projects, and maintaining my reputation as the content team’s resident millennial/social media expert.
  • I am an introverted extrovert. I love meeting new people but tend to clam up in unfamiliar social settings. It’s a total conundrum! I’m always stepping out of my comfort zone in order to not be a hermit. It’s worth it, but if you ever happen to see out in a public setting, please be the first to break the ice – I’m so bad at it because I get freaked out, but if someone approaches me first, then I can come across as calm, cool, and collected (even though I’m still probably internally freaking out).

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Probably for the best, because we’ve got a long month of diabetes advocacy ahead of us! Let’s make it a great month and remember to hear one another rather than shut people out.

 

And the Nominee is…Me?!

Friends, I am pleased to share that I have been nominated for a WEGO Health Award. My blogging for Hugging the Cactus has qualified me to be a Patient Leader nominee for the “Best Kept Secret” award, which is very exciting to me! What’s more, if I advance to the finals round, I may be able to win a trip to Las Vegas for the HLTH conference in October. This would provide me the opportunity to be around other Patient Leaders who, I’m confident, I could learn so much from, as well as the rare chance to attend a health-focused conference based on merit rather than cost.

What exactly are the WEGO Health Awards? They were created to recognize and honor those who strive to make a difference in the online health community. In the past few days, I’ve scrolled through the growing list of nominees who are advocates for all sorts of conditions, from anemia to ulcerative colitis. It’s quite eye-opening to see just how many health topics inspire individuals to spread awareness via social media, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more. And it truly is an honor to be listed among these incredibly inspiring nominees.

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Well, this is just plain cool.

If you feel that I deserve to move on to the semi-finalist round, please follow this link to endorse my nomination. By clicking the link, you can view the other nominees and their profiles, which I strongly encourage so you can find out for yourself the sheer volume of skilled storytellers out there. Plus, you never know, you might just discover someone who you can relate to or who inspires you. After all, in a world of chronic conditions that can feel so isolating, isn’t it always a comfort to find out that you’re not alone?

 

Supporting T1D Students with my #SensorSelfie

I’m taking a departure from a “traditional” blog post today to tell you, my dear readers, that you should consider celebrating a special holiday with me today: National Selfie Day! Before you roll your eyes at the mere idea of that, please keep reading to learn how participating will help support students with diabetes.

Dexcom has partnered with a nonprofit that is very important to me – The College Diabetes Network (CDN) – to help put some focus on the diabetes community and raise money. They’ve created the #SensorSelfie social media campaign to encourage people with diabetes to take photos of themselves proudly donning their Dexcom sensors.

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Here’s my #SensorSelfie, which wouldn’t be complete without my cactus shirt.

But what exactly do you need to do in order to take part in the campaign? There’s four simple steps to follow today, June 21st:

  1. Take a picture showing off your Dexcom sensor
  2. Post the photo to your Facebook and Instagram pages
  3. Use the hashtag #SensorSelfie and tag @Dexcom
  4. Tell ALLLLLL your diabuddies to do the same

For every post that uses #SensorSelfie today, Dexcom will donate $1 to CDN. Can you imagine how much money could be raised if you got all the T1Ds you know to participate?

If you’re looking for some more information on this social media campaign, click this link. Otherwise, what are you waiting for? Get to snapping, posting, and tagging!

7 Questions People Always Ask Me About Type 1 Diabetes

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.

 

Don’t Feel Sorry About my Diabetes

Today’s blog post is going to be short and sweet, and about a subject that I think every person with diabetes deals with whenever they tell someone new about their diabetes.

It doesn’t matter how diabetes comes up in conversation. Whether it’s in a joking, serious, educational, happy, sad, or angry manner, the person I’m talking to almost always says…

“I’m sorry.”

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I’m not sorry that I have diabetes, so you shouldn’t be, either.

Sometimes, I think it’s because society has instilled this weird reflex in people to apologize for something that they didn’t do. Other times, I think it’s because people just don’t know how else to respond to something that may be sobering or grounded in reality. But the simple fact of the matter is…

People need to stop apologizing to me, and other people with diabetes, for having it.

Here’s why:

  1. It doesn’t make sense.
  2. We weren’t given a choice – it’s a simple truth that we’ve learned to accept.
  3. It makes me feel strange, because it’s almost like the other person is taking accountability for my diabetes.
  4. I believe that human beings apologize too much, in general, and it diminishes apologies when they matter most or are most sincere.
  5. I’m not sorry that I have diabetes, so why should someone else be?

While I genuinely empathize with and appreciate people who apologize as a knee-jerk response, I’m just here to gently tell them that it isn’t necessary. Save “I’m sorry” for times that it’s warranted, and not for something like having diabetes, a matter in which no one has a choice.