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.

Beyond Diabetes

This November, I participated in the #HappyDiabeticChallenge on Instagram. This challenge centered around daily prompts to respond to via an Instagram post or story. I’ve decided to spread the challenge to my blog for the last couple days of National Diabetes Awareness Month. As a result, today’s post topic is beyond diabetes.

I can’t believe that today is the final day of November, A.K.A. National Diabetes Awareness Month. In a way, I’m relieved. After all, diabetes advocacy can be exhausting. I’ve kept up daily Instagram posts, in one way or another, in response to the #HappyDiabeticChallenge. I’ve tried to keep all of my blog posts this month on theme. I even participated in a fundraising live stream on YouTube, which was an anxiety-provoking yet exhilarating event all on its own.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to dialing it back down, temporarily, for the month of December. I won’t stop advocating, but I will take a small step back from it so I can recover and process everything from the month in my own time.

It’ll be a good way of reminding myself that I’m more. More than just this stupid chronic disease. There’s so much more to me than diabetes: I’m a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a best friend. I’m a dog lover (despite being allergic to most of them). I’m a young professional. I’m a millennial (who proudly owns the moniker). I’m a Disney fanatic and Harry Potter obsessive. I’m a creative and passionate person who cares about a lot of different people, things, and projects.

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I am more than my diabetes.

I’m beyond my diabetes. I prove that to myself each day by living my life unencumbered by it. When it knocks me down, I always get back up to remind it that I’m the boss.

Beyond National Diabetes Awareness Month is a broader realization that I’m a bit burnt out by this hardcore advocacy. And that’s okay. I’ll take a breather and remember to enjoy life more, because I know that I’m beyond diabetes.

Leadership in the T1D Community

This blog post is a response to a prompt provided by my friends at the College Diabetes Network, who are celebrating College Diabetes Week from November 12-16. Even though I’m no longer in college, I like to participate in CDW activities as much as possible to show my support for the CDN!

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Recently, I’ve asked myself, “Am I doing enough?”

I want to make meaningful contributions to the diabetes community. I think that I make a slight ripple by writing this blog, but to me, a ripple isn’t enough. I want to do more.

That’s why I want to put more effort into seeking additional advocacy opportunities. I haven’t defined those yet, but I know that there has to be more ways in which I can make my voice heard in a way that has a greater impact. Perhaps I can do more to further the #Insulin4All initiative, which, if you’re unfamiliar with, is explained on the Insulin Nation site in the following terms:

T1International is a global nonprofit that works to improve life-saving access to insulin, supplies, and healthcare for individuals with Type 1 diabetes around the world. Their mission is to support local communities by giving them the tools they need to stand up for their rights so that access to insulin and diabetes supplies becomes a reality for all. The organization helped to launch the #insulin4all hashtag and campaign, which has recently gained a lot of traction in the United States, where diabetes costs have grown especially exorbitant. Note: T1International is not limited to #insulin4all and vice versa, although both are discussed here.

I admit that it’s an effort that I’m only vaguely acquainted with, and I’d like to change that because it’s massively important. It goes without saying, but diabetes is difficult enough. Anyone who lives with it or cares for someone with it should be able to afford the insulin they need to survive, or to help a loved one survive.

If you’re someone who’s worked on this campaign, or if you know a way that I can step up and do more as a leader in the T1D community, please feel free to let me know. We’re in this together, and the more people we’ve got chipping in on various efforts, the more impact we’ll make.

Type 1 Diabetes, an Invisible Illness

This blog post is a response to a prompt provided by my friends at the College Diabetes Network, who are celebrating College Diabetes Week from November 12-16. Even though I’m no longer in college, I like to participate in CDW activities as much as possible to show my support for the CDN!

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Invisible illnesses like diabetes can be difficult for healthy people to truly understand. Typically, they only see bits and pieces of it; for instance, when someone performs a blood sugar check or injects insulin. There’s so much that they don’t see: doctor’s appointments, late/sleepless nights, complex calculations, careful monitoring, and so forth.

But what’s really difficult for anyone to see is the emotional impact of diabetes.

Unless I choose to open up to someone about it – which is easier said than done – then there’s no way for another person to grasp the magnitude of the emotional side of diabetes. There’s no way for someone to feel the incredible amounts of anxiety, fear, and anger that cycle through me as I deal with diabetes. While I don’t experience these emotions every single day, I DO have to experience diabetes daily, and it’s impossible for someone to know what that’s like unless they either have T1D or care for someone with it.

I don’t wish for anyone in the world who’s unfamiliar with the (literal and emotional) ups and downs of diabetes to actually learn what it’s like. But I do wish for a world that’s a little more understanding, accepting, and educated when it comes to all things related to diabetes – and that’s why I advocate.

Hugging the Cactus is One Year Old!

October 2, 2017: The day that I hit the “publish” button and Hugging the Cactus went live.

I can’t believe it’s been one year (and one day) since this blog was officially born. So much has happened in my life in the last 365 days, both related and not related to my diabetes.

HTC Birthday

And this blog has gone through so many changes in that time span. From aesthetic to logistical, it’s been a (welcome) challenge to figure out the best way to write and run Hugging the Cactus. I’ve learned so many new things along the way and I continue to learn more on practically a daily basis.

Although I wish that diabetes wasn’t a part of my life – or anyone’s life – I’m grateful that I’ve mostly made peace with it after 20 years of living with it. Actually, scratch out the “living with it” and replace it with “thriving with it”. I used to think that was totally cheesy, but that phrase really does encapsulate what it’s like to be undeterred by diabetes.

I’m also grateful for you, the reader. There are times in which I question why I write this blog. Those times are fraught with self-doubt, writer’s block, and listlessness. But then someone reaches out to me – directly through the blog, via social media, or even in-person – and they offer support or let me know that my writing has resonated with them in some way. And that, right there, reminds me why I write this blog: to connect with others, to remind people in the diabetes community who deal with this isolating chronic illness that they’re not alone, and to raise general awareness of T1D. There are many people in this amazing tribe of ours who write better blogs, take prettier pictures, and impact a larger audience than I do, but like them, I’ve found my own voice that has allowed me to channel my experiences with diabetes in my unique, storytelling way. And I plan on continuing to do so for a long time to come.

So thank you, reader, for stopping by here three times a week and supporting my mission. I hope that you enjoy the next year’s worth of Hugging the Cactus. For now, let’s celebrate today by reminding ourselves that we’re more than our current blood sugar values or A1c levels. Celebrate by choosing to do more than just live: thrive.

I Know, I Know: I Talk Too Much About Diabetes

Diabetes is never far from my thoughts.

I write a blog about it. I vent to family about it. I almost always casually mention it to new people that I meet.

I have multiple social media profiles dedicated to it. I own several t-shirts that identify me as a person with diabetes.

It’s the first thing I think about in the morning when I wake up, and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep at night.

And yet, sometimes people complain – jokingly and seriously – that I talk about it too much.

Of course I do! I totally own up to that fact. But think about it…

Doesn’t it make sense that I talk about it so much?

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…but there’s a reason for it.

It affects the most mundane decisions that I make on a daily basis. It affects my mood. It affects my body. It affects the foods I consume. It affects what I carry in my purse each day and what I pack in my luggage on vacations. It affects my finances and my gym routine and the doctors I have to see.

If someone thinks I talk too much about my diabetes, then I’d like them to understand this:

Talking about diabetes spreads awareness and saves lives.

Bold, italicized, and underlined so the message and its significance is clear. Too many people in this world just don’t understand type 1 diabetes. They don’t realize how dangerous it can be, or how it is managed. In my personal experience, being open with others, answering their questions, and dispelling diabetes myths has resulted in nothing but positive outcomes.

It’s even helped people I know save a life, because they knew what to do when a T1D close to them was experiencing a hypoglycemic event.

All because I “talked too much” about diabetes.

With that in mind…you can bet that I won’t be shutting up about it any time soon.