500 Blog Posts Later…

You know how in Spongebob Squarepants, title cards are held up every so often in episodes to depict the passage of time?

Imagine me holding one up now and saying in the Spongebob narrator voice: “500 Blog Posts Later”…

I can’t believe I’ve hit 500 blog posts published on Hugging the Cactus…all in the span of a little more than 3 years.

I wish I could claim this super tidy desk as my own; alas, it’s just a stock photo…my actual desk is quite messy.

Most of these posts I’ve written and posted here exclusively. A couple posts have appeared on sites like Beyond Type 1. A dozen or so posts I’ve shared twice because I either especially liked them or wanted to revisit something I’d written years ago. And a handful more posts were written by others for organizations like T1International and shared here because of their powerful messages.

I’m quite proud of this 500 post milestone and want to give credit…not to myself for it, but to you, and to the other writers and individuals who have helped me get this far.

Without YOU reading my posts and commenting, my desire to keep sharing and writing would wane.

Without other writers and individuals, I’d lack inspiration and perspective that are key to keeping this blog as interesting as possible.

Support means the world to me when it comes to managing diabetes, and as it turns out, when it comes to managing this blog, too. So thank you for yours.

I hope you continue to come back to read the next 500+ blog posts.

National Diabetes Awareness Month 2020: A Recap

And just like that, we’ve somehow, bewilderingly, arrived at the final day of National Diabetes Awareness Month 2020.

Not sure how that’s possible considering it should still technically be March 2020 (you know, when shit hit the fan), but here we are!

The blue circle…a symbol of diabetes awareness and advocacy efforts.

At the beginning of November, I really wasn’t sure that I was ready to don my diabetes advocacy hat and amp up my awareness efforts for the entire month. I’ve had enough going on in my personal life (spoiler alert: I bought a condo and moved into it at the start of the month) and as a result, I’ve spent much less time on social media and a whole lot more doing my very best attempt at adulting.

And despite that, I still found myself immersed in advocacy efforts – and blown away by what everyone else in the diabetes online community was doing.

Daily posts, live IG videos, fundraising efforts, and so much more happened all month long. They were inspiring, educational, and highly motivational to someone like me who was tepid at best about diving into advocacy activities this year. They were definitely enough to encourage me to keep posting for one of the many diabetes-themed Instagram challenges for the month. As minor as it was to write captions each day based on the prompts, it’s still what worked best for me in this weird year.

My big takeaway from this, though, isn’t that I should have done more or that I should feel guilty for doing the bare minimum…no, it’s a reminder that advocacy doesn’t take place during a single month or on one day.

Advocacy is a year-round thing.

I’m proud to talk about diabetes practically every damn day in some shape or form because I think that it helps people in my life realize that diabetes itself is a 24/7, 365-kind-of gig.

And I’ll keep talking and writing and expressing and advocating ’til the day there’s a cure for it.

Diabetes and Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Post

Most years since I’ve been a diabetes blogger, I’ve tried to write some sort of blog post in which I reflect on the things that I’m grateful for.

My Thanksgiving gratitude list hasn’t really changed year after year…I’ll always be thankful for my family and friends, the roof over my head, and the food on my plate.

But what’s changed this year is that there are some new additions to the list:

Diabetes and gratitude aren’t two words that many people would probably put together in a sentence, but I do…keep reading to learn why.

My job. Given the record unemployment numbers this year, I feel especially grateful that I have a job that keeps me safe at home.

Access to insulin. I’ve always taken my insulin accessibility for granted. I don’t struggle to afford my 90-day supply (though it would certainly make my life easier if it was cheaper) and I am fortunate enough to have a solid supply on hand at all times. I know that other people with diabetes can’t say the same: an awful reality, but one that opens my eyes to something I should never take for granted.

Video chat programs. I used Skype in college to keep in touch with my high school friends and hadn’t really given it a second thought since then…until this year, of course. Between Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype, I’m so glad that this technology exists and helps me stay connected to my friends and family members.

Essential employees. There are a number of people who I consider heroes, and those who are essential employees are among them. It’s not just nurses, doctors, or first responders – it’s also the individuals who must risk exposure on a daily basis in order to support themselves and their families. I hope they know that their sacrifices don’t go unnoticed, and that they’re beyond appreciated for what they do to help the general public in so many ways.

Diabetes itself. Yes, I am thankful for diabetes. Here’s why: I could spend all my time resenting it for (occasionally) making my life miserable. A long time ago, though, I chose to embrace diabetes for what it is. In turn, I’ve learned to be grateful for diabetes because of all it has brought and taught me…friendship, independence, discipline, and so much more. After nearly 23 years with it, how could I not find gratitude in life with diabetes? And in a year of what’s felt like perpetual change (both for me personally and for the world), I’m thankful that diabetes remains a constant that actually helps keep me grounded by being a part of my routine. I’m always going to want and fight for a cure, but for now, I actively accept my diabetes and find the positives in my life with it.

It’s true that my Thanksgiving celebrations tomorrow will be a little different than what I’m used to, but I know that one thing that will stay the same is my gratitude for it, my diabetes, and all that life has to offer.

How Diabetes Told Me It’s Too Early for Christmas Decorations

We all know that 2020 has been a sucky year, so it’s not exactly surprising that immediately following Halloween, the world seemed to throw itself into the holiday spirit.

Between the commercials on TV, Black Friday sales, sparkly decorations, baking galore, and Hallmark movies, the Christmas season kicked off early and with major vivacity. Normally, I’m the kind of person who prefers to enjoy one holiday at a time, and I was somewhat repulsed to see all the Christmas merchandise in stores before Halloween was over.

So even though Thanksgiving hasn’t even come and gone yet, I’ve abandoned any remaining willpower I’ve had to hold off on decorating for Christmas. Like the rest of society, I simply couldn’t hold back my desire for some cheer!

One afternoon last week, I decided to haul up my Christmas tree and its accompaniments from the basement and start the process of decking the halls…

…but my diabetes had other ideas.

Maybe my diabetes would’ve liked it better if I decked the halls with glucose tablets and test strips…

I’d just finished assembling my modest tree when I heard my Dexcom alarm sounding off, alerting me to a low blood sugar.

And I hate to admit it, but it didn’t surprise me – I’d felt the oncoming low for about 10 minutes prior.

I just wanted to decorate so badly that I was willing to ignore my blood sugar in order to embrace the Christmas spirit!

Alas, not too long after I heard that alarm, I knew I had to change my priorities as I started to get sweaty and a little woozy…so I left my tree naked and sought out a low treatment, slumping at my table in defeat while I ate it.

My diabetes told me it was too early to decorate for Christmas at that moment in time…

But you know that I told my diabetes otherwise later that night when I spent hours trimming the tree!

‘Tis the season and ain’t no way that my diabetes will prevent me from basking in it.

PDM System Error: What It Is and What to Do When It Happens

I crack open the slot on the back of my PDM where two AAA batteries are nestled. I smack them out from their slots, insert two fresh ones, and replace the cover. I wait for the system to power back on and am greeted with a high-pitched beeping sound soon after it’s reactivated…

…and become simultaneously annoyed, confused, and a bit panicked when I see a “system error” message displaying on the screen.

I follow the steps that flash on its display, instructing me to reset the date and time. Once I take care of that, my pod immediately deactivates, aggravating me further. I assemble all the supplies I need to activate a new pod, and once I have it on, I receive a message that I won’t be able to use the bolus calculation function on my PDM for 3-4 hours.

The whole incident was majorly inconvenient, but such is life with diabetes…

Anyways, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what exactly happened, and why it triggered my pod to fail.

Error messages on diabetes technology are never something I’ll be glad to see, but they do happen.

Fortunately, I can explain it!

I’ve experienced this phenomenon before – it happens when the internal battery within the PDM (not the AAA batteries) has a problem and stops working the way it should. It causes the system to get confused when new AAA batteries are inserted (because the system shuts off and turns back on) and it doesn’t remember the date or time. Because of that, it can’t identify when the current pod was activated, so it immediately triggers it to stop working so new one can be applied.

It’s obnoxious as heck because it’s a total unpredictable phenomenon, but it is what it is. It can be dealt with in a matter of a few hours, and the best part is that Insulet can be contacted so they can be made aware of the issue and overnight a new PDM – which is what they did for me. The day after this PDM problem occurred, I gave them a call, and within 10 minutes I was promised a new PDM that I would receive in about 24 hours.

So when a PDM system error happens again – not that I actually anticipate it to for a long time – I know the right course of action is to keep calm, follow the system’s instructions, and give Insulet a phone call. In other words? Rolls with the punches, because diabetes is good at directing them my way.

A Check In on Diabetes and Mental Health

Today is Day 18 of the #TrueDiabeticChallenge that I’ve been posting about on Instagram all month long! I’m using the prompt to inspire the topic of today’s blog post: mental health. Read on to learn how I’ve been juggling my diabetes and mental health lately…

When I think of “diabetes and mental health”, a lot of things cross my mind: Burnout, self-care, and a whole slew of emotions, to name a few of them.

So as I pondered what I’d write about when it comes to this topic – and be totally transparent as to how my mental health is lately as it pertains to my diabetes – I knew that one emotion in particular would be the focus.

Loneliness.

I’m actually a bit envious of this cartoon girl because at least she has a furry friend to keep her company.

For the first time in my life, I’m living alone (mostly by choice). While this new chapter is certainly exciting, it’s also downright petrifying at times, especially when I’m contending with literal highs and lows of my blood sugar.

I struggle the most with being alone and managing my diabetes when I go low. This probably isn’t uncommon among other people with T1D who also live alone and I knew to expect to feel this way to a certain extent before making this transition. But I didn’t realize exactly how much comfort I take in the presence of others when my blood sugar is low.

I don’t know what it is, exactly…it’s not like I suddenly forget how to treat low blood sugars. It’s not that I ever relied on someone else to bring low blood sugar treatments to me (though I’ve always appreciated that on the occasions it’s happened). And I benefit from having a Dexcom CGM to monitor my blood sugars 24/7 and alert me to sudden changes. So…what gives?

As I search for that answer, I’m going to try to remember to be patient with myself as I navigate my new circumstances. It takes time to acclimate to a new environment and diabetes can make that more challenging. I mentioned self-care at the start of this post…maybe it’s time I start practicing it more deliberately to help make this transition smoother!

The Impact of Diabetes on My Relationship with Food

There’s no cutesy lead-in to this post…I’m going with a very straightforward statement here:

Diabetes has caused me to have a very weird and strained relationship with food.

How? Oh, let me count the ways…

Diabetes has positively impacted my relationship with food because it has helped me understand the importance of nutrition. I’ve had to learn how carbohydrates, proteins, and fats affect my levels, as well as the role that the glycemic index of foods play into the picture. I’m also grateful that diabetes has caused me to realize there are limits – I can’t mindlessly eat huge quantities of food (though on occasion I do, more on that in a minute). I must measure everything out, and I believe that this forced sense of portion control has helped me maintain a (mostly) healthy weight.

But diabetes has also, absolutely, negatively impacted my relationship with food.

Here’s pretend cartoon me, being absolutely adorable as she calmly whips up a feast in the kitchen (LOL there’s so much wrong about that sentence)!!!

For starters, I can get so fed-up with having to account for every single morsel I consume in a given day – I resent having to take insulin for foods I’d otherwise find enjoyable. Plus, there’s a lot of guilt associated with my regular food consumption. “Should you eat that?” is question I hear not just from others, but from myself as I have to think about whether certain foods are worth not just the calories, but also the amount of insulin that I have to dose for it. And don’t even get me started on how literally unsavory it is to have to eat food when I’m already full but dealing with a low blood sugar…

In a word, my relationship with food is complicated…and I don’t hesitate to blame my diabetes for that. Don’t get me wrong: At the end of the day, I loooooooove food. Really, there’s very few things that I don’t (or won’t) eat or at least try. I enjoy consuming a large variety of foods and I like to eat veggies almost as much as I like eating chocolate (that may be a bit of a stretch, but I think you get my point).

It’s just unfortunate that my diabetes forces me to overthink every food choice that I make. So I’m that much more hopeful for the day which I can eat food without having to think twice about it, without having to feel guilt, shame, doubt, anger, sadness…nothing but pure enjoyment.

The Best Time to Do a Pod Change

Whether you’re new to using an insulin pump or a seasoned pro, you might be wondering if there’s a time of day that’s most ideal to do a pod/site change.

And I’m here to tell you…there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. (Sorry!)

Like many aspects of life with diabetes, the best time to do a pod change will be different for everyone.

However, I do feel pretty strongly about what works best for me, and I can explain why it does. Maybe that will help you or a T1D in your life decide what makes the most sense for your individual situation!

The best time to do a pod or an insulin pump site change will probably vary for most people with diabetes, just like so many other things.

In my opinion, the best time to change my pod is within the 3-hour window after I’ve eaten dinner. Since I typically eat at about 5:30/6 o’clock, this means that I like to change my pod no later than 9 o’clock at night (but preferably sometime around 8).

Here are the reasons why:

  • I can take my dinnertime bolus using a pod that I know for certain is acting the way it should.
  • That timeframe is early enough for me to verify that my new pod is acting the way it should before I go to bed.
  • Usually, I don’t eat much in the evenings after dinner, so even if my new pod isn’t working right, it’s not too big of a deal because it’s not like I’ll be bolusing for mealtime carbohydrates.
  • When I change my pod at other times of the day, it interrupts other aspects of my daily flow (e.g., my wake-up time or my work schedule).
  • There’s something to be said for ending my day with a fresh pod and incorporating the pod change into my bedtime wind-down routine.

Of course, I’ve had to change my pod at less-than-ideal times (I recently did a 6 A.M. pod change because I was deliberately wearing my pod for the maximum 80 hours and it was not my favorite way to start my day). Pods fail or get knocked off and I’ve learned to roll with the punches by having back-ups at all times.

But since I know my best time for a pod change, it’s really nice when I can stick with it…because any reliable aspect of life with diabetes is one that makes it ever-so-slightly more tolerable.

Hugging the Cactus Turns Three!

On October 2, 2017, I publicly shared this blog for the very first time.

Oh, how much has changed in three years…

…heck, a lot’s changed in the last year alone!

Forget everything that’s been going on with the world since 2020 began – that would be a very depressing laundry list – I’ve personally experienced so much change in the last 10 months that it makes me dizzy when I stop to really process it all…but here’s a quick glimpse at the life transitions I’ve dealt with throughout the year (some of which I’m keeping deliberately vague because they’re painful to write about):

  • Made a major move
  • Mourned the hardest loss of my life
  • Said goodbye to a physical office location for my job
  • Dealt with depression and anxiety
  • Made the biggest purchase of my life so far

Yeah, it’s been quite a year so far. Not just for me, though: It’s been a doozy for all of us. I guess we can take mild comfort in the fact that we’ve all struggled together.

But on a more positive note, in this year of enormous, earth-shaking change, I’ve had a constant in this blog and the diabetes community.

Seems like I was anxiously anticipating the launch of my blog just yesterday…hard to believe it’s been 1,095 days.

I’ve taken solace in blogging and sharing stories three times each week. I’ve enjoyed seeing comments from regular and new readers alike. I’ve relied on the consistency of the diabetes community: its strength, knowledge, resilience, and of course, support.

So as Hugging the Cactus celebrates its third birthday, I remain grateful for its existence as my platform to connect with others, make new discoveries about my diabetes, and learn from it all in order to live the healthiest and happiest life possible.

Happy 3rd birthday, Hugging the Cactus!

Hugging the Cactus Turns Two!

It feels like just 365 days ago that I was celebrating the first birthday of this blog…

Oh, wait. It feels like that because it WAS like that.

So here I am, 365 days later, on the second birthday of Hugging the Cactus.

HTC Birthday (1)
Is my blog’s second birthday a good excuse to eat a cupcake today? (The answer is YES.)

Wow!

The second year of this blog hasn’t been without its challenges. To name a few:

  • Technical difficulties. I’m still learning a lot about how to successfully run a blog. It seems like the blogging world changes on the daily, so it’s tough to keep up with such a fast-paced environment. It’s far from easy – so let me give a shout-out to all the bloggers out there. Whether you have a small following or legions of fans, kudos to you for keeping at it because it’s a lot of work.
  • Time trouble. This year has been jam-packed for me – a move to another state, several weddings, and a whole bunch of personal shit – so, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I’d like to this blog.
  • Diabetes drama. Of course a girl who runs a diabetes blog has a life filled with diabetes drama. Between navigating the intimidating world of health insurance and coping with diabetes that is constantly keeping me on my toes, sometimes I straight-up just don’t want to write about it because I’ve already spent too much time merely trying to handle it. I struggle with finding the balance between oversharing and holding too much back.

Through it all, though, I keep finding myself returning to this blog time after time. As I’ve shared before, I’ve definitely questioned why I bother with it, especially when it feels like blogging is a semi-irrelevant medium in this day and age of micro-blogging on Instagram.

But I’ve started to answer those questions of self-doubt that I’ve posed to myself.

I think, at the heart of the answer, that the reasons why I keep doing this blog is because it both pushes me to take better care of myself, as well as it forces me to seriously examine how I live my life with diabetes. (And it also brings me closer to other people with diabetes, but that’s a reason that I’ve placed on a pedestal of utmost importance many times before – my desire to connect with other people with diabetes will never not be there.)

It pushes me to take better care of myself because it provides an active record of my thoughts, feelings, and struggles with diabetes that I can consult.

It forces me to look at those records and see how I can address the issues I’m experiencing, or prevent old problems from happening again.

This blog serves as the ultimate T1D diary for me – by documenting my life with diabetes, I believe that I can improve my quality of life with it…which makes it incredibly worth doing, IMHO. And if I can connect with and help others along the way? Well, that makes it even more precious and special to me.

So, happy 2nd birthday, Hugging the Cactus. Here’s to another year of thriving with diabetes.