4 Reasons Why I Started a Diabetes Blog

At the end of June, I was notified that someone nominated me for the 9th Annual WEGO Health Awards!

This is my second time being nominated for the “best in blog” category. And words can’t describe how much it means to me – in the two and a half years since I started Hugging the Cactus, I’ve questioned countless times (truly, at least once a week) whether it’s worth all the effort it takes me to run this blog. Knowing that there’s at least one person out there who sees value in what I have to say is simultaneously humbling and motivating and makes me want to continue writing this blog for years to come.

Of course, I certainly didn’t start this blog to receive nominations or awards! While the recognition is incredibly lovely, there are actually a few different reasons why I started a diabetes blog…

Pink and Orange Abstract Quote Instagram Post
I wish I had a cute little blogger’s corner like this, but in reality, my current desk is actually a dining room table. Maybe one day…
  1. To express my diabetes story in a creative format that works for me. Some people are gifted photographers and can curate amazing Instagram feeds through which they share their diabetes stories. Others might be video wizards and choose YouTube as their diabetes-storytelling platform. But me? I choose writing a blog because, well, I’m a writer. I’ve always loved words – reading, writing, and speaking them, so this is what makes sense for me.
  2. As a form of therapy. Diabetes evokes a lot of intense thoughts and feelings. It can be hard to voice every single one of them to a family member or a friend. So that’s what I use this blog for: an outlet through which I can sort through my more complicated diabetes emotions by writing about the experiences that create them. And let’s be real, it can feel amazing to just vent and let it all out in a blog post.
  3. To connect with other members of the diabetes online community (DOC). This is probably the best-known reason why I started this blog – social media is great, but sometimes it can be highly impersonal. On some platforms, we’re showing the filtered versions of our lives and perhaps choosing to only hit the highlights instead of including the lows along with them. I feel like on this blog, I can write about the good, bad, and the ugly, and all of it has the potential to resonate with different audience segments. To me, that’s really powerful and it’s resulted in some of my stronger DOC friendships.
  4. To be an advocate. I’ve always wanted to be a diabetes advocate, but I was never really sure how I could be an effective one. I know that advocacy comes in many forms, and I knew that the best type for me would be one that involved my writing. So sharing my diabetes experiences on my blog is one way that I’m an advocate, but I’ve amped up my efforts recently by becoming a digital advocate for T1International. Blending my blog with their resources has only enhanced my ability to advocate for diabetes and educate others in addition to myself (because even after 22 years of diabetes, I still learn new things about it all the time), so I’m really grateful for my partnership with their organization.

When I’m dealing with blogger burnout, I think it’ll help me to look back on this little list to remind myself of my “why”. These are the reasons why I started and continue upkeep of Hugging the Cactus. And you’re a reason why. For that, I thank you.

 

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.

Blogger Burnout

Blogger burnout…it’s very similar to diabetes burnout, only not quite as frustrating because it doesn’t affect my physical and mental health as severely.

But it does best describe how I’m feeling right now. To be honest, I’m a passenger on the struggle bus at the moment as I try to balance many of life’s demands. I’m traveling frequently this month, attending numerous family and social events, scheduling all sorts of appointments, and trying to remember to breathe in between everything. A lot of this stuff is self-inflicted, I’ll admit, as I tend to thrive when I stay busy. But I won’t deny that it’s hard. When running this blog is tossed into the mix, I feel like I’m on the cusp of spontaneous combustion. Oh, and it doesn’t help that my blood sugars have been up and down as I run – no, sprint – from one thing to the next.Love always wins. (1)

I put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver the best content that I possibly can to my readers, who I care about very much, even if I don’t know all of them personally. I do my best to post brand-new content three times per week, which involves a lot more work than you might think. I have to come up with a topic, create an image to go with it, edit the piece, schedule its publication, and prepare multiple social media platforms to promote it. And that’s just for one single blog post.

By no means is this a “farewell” post or even an “I’m-taking-a-break-for-an-undisclosed-amount-of-time” post; rather, I just want to be honest with my audience that I’m struggling to keep up delivery of solid content. Please don’t be surprised if I continue to republish old content (but still originally written by me) in the next few weeks. Please continue to visit the blog as often as you can. And please, bear with me as I get through this little burnout phase – I promise to come out of it and be a stronger writer before long.

That Time I Asked Someone to Prove Their Diabetes to Me

It was not my finest moment.

Yes, I doubted someone when they claimed to have diabetes. But there was no ill intent! Let me explain.

I worked at a local movie theater for five and a half years. During that time, I was trained to work the concession stand, sell tickets at the box office, and clean theaters with the ushers. More often than not, I was happiest working in the box office – it was nice and quiet when there weren’t any lines of customers to contend with, but when there were, time flew by as I worked at a frantic pace to get through the line as fast as I could.

One of my responsibilities as a ticket seller was to check to see what people were taking into the theaters with them. Mainly, I was supposed to make sure that outside foods or beverages weren’t making their way into our theaters, for a few reasons: 1) to encourage customers to buy snacks/drinks at our concession stand, 2) to reduce the possibility of customers leaving behind terrible messes for the ushers to clean up, and 3) to help ensure the comfort of other customers – after all, no one particularly enjoys the sharp stench of raw onions or malodorous tuna fish sandwiches.

IMG_7014
You have diabetes? Well, prove it! (At least I didn’t ask the kid to take a shot or show me his pump. That would’ve been over the top.)

So I was merely following protocol on this particular day when I asked a teenage boy to throw away his mysterious styrofoam food container once he entered the lobby. He looked at me, unsmiling, and said, “I have diabetes, I can’t throw it away.”

It’d been a long afternoon dealing with irate customers and pesky teenagers, so I figured he was just being bratty and didn’t want to toss the food he’d clearly just purchased from the mall. This is when I retorted back with, “Oh, really? I have type one diabetes, myself. Do you actually have it, too?”

He nodded. His face was expressionless, which made me even more suspicious. If I’d been in his shoes, I probably would’ve been a bit more emotional/passionate about my need to keep my food with me. His poker face prodded me into asking this next question, which nearly seven or so years later still makes me feel ashamed when I remember it:

“Well, then, show me your medical ID or your meter, or some other diabetes supplies!”

Ugh, I can practically hear my defiant tone. I was so certain I was about to catch a fibber! Alas, the boy lifted his arm to show off the gleaming medical ID hanging from his wrist. Again, he was completely wordless and his face betrayed no emotion – and for a beat, I couldn’t say anything, either…though I felt the blood rushing rapidly into my cheeks as I found my voice again.

“Oh, I’m sorry for the inconvenience. You’re all set to take the food in with you,” I said in a tone much higher for me than normal. I’m pretty sure I smacked my hand to my forehead out of pure embarrassment as he walked away.

To this day, I still can’t help but cringe when I reflect on this interaction that couldn’t have lasted more than two or three minutes. I felt horrible about it, but I guess that the one good thing that came from it is that it taught me to be a little more compassionate when I witness situations like this. Rather than assuming the worst, I should try to see the other side of the coin and view things a bit more rationally.

So to that teenage boy, who I never saw again: Please accept my extremely-belated but utterly sincere apology for that exchange of words.

Keep or Toss? Decluttering my Diabetes Supplies Stash

Warning: The following image may be disturbing to anyone adverse to messiness and general disorder.

Viewer discretion is advised!

Okay, ready? Here it is…

36F46E18-66F3-4999-9548-9487FBB27A8E
My extremely disorganized diabetes supplies stash evokes a one-word reaction: Yikes!!!

I told you it wasn’t pretty. Hence, I took it upon myself the other night to go through my entire stash of diabetes supplies to see what I should keep and what I should toss.

It was much easier than I thought it would be, albeit time consuming. It was a matter of putting the supplies into two separate piles (keep or toss), and then putting them away in a manner that made sense.

Items that wound up in the “discard” pile included expired test strips, duplicate instruction manuals, product boxes (which were empty; therefore, merely taking up space), old batteries, and used CGM transmitters. I decided to keep three or four spare test kits (you never know when they’ll come in handy), extra chargers, single copies of instruction manuals for all of my devices, all unused and unexpired pods/sensors, and that lava lamp – because it’s groovy, duh!

Once I had my two piles, I threw out the bunch I wasn’t keeping – freeing up my work space – and sorted through the items I was keeping. I wanted to make sure that items I need access to regularly (such as my pods and sensors) were within reach, so I left my box of pods on top of one set of drawers, and put my sensors in a stack in the front top part of the other set of drawers. Everything else, like the manuals and spare test kits, were placed neatly in the first and second parts of the bigger set of drawers.

43BBF4C4-F7B7-442A-9DD4-84E2EEF47AB8
Ahh…much better! (Don’t mind the Harry Potter mugs)

And…voila! Just like that, my supplies were organized and I’m feeling great about it. I like knowing the exact location of all my diabetes materials. This way, I won’t be rifling through a haphazard heap when I’m looking for something in particular – it’ll just be a matter of sorting through my tidy supplies stash.

Happy New Year!

Dear reader,

Happy 2018! I wanted to take a moment to wish you well. I hope the new year brings you health and happiness!

44592AD7-719A-45F6-95C1-2C59907BC8F7
Fireworks!!!

Like many others, I’ve come up with a few New Years resolutions that I’d like to fulfill in 2018. One revolves around this blog – I want to increase the variety of content featured here and, overall, improve it so it has a bigger impact on the diabetes community and beyond.

That’s where YOU enter the picture. Have a suggestion for me? Let me know! This blog isn’t just about me – it’s about you, too. That’s why I want to make sure I’m making good use of this site and offering content and insight that you care about. Thank you in advance for your ideas. I sincerely appreciate them!

Curious about my other goals for 2018? Look for a follow-up post about ’em sometime in the next couple of weeks. Sharing them will help keep me accountable, right?

Be well,

Molly

Cardio Workouts, Stink Bugs, and Diabetes

…What could those three things possibly have to do with each other?

Turns out, a lot more than you think. At least, if your name is Molly, you have diabetes, you do workouts in the mornings, and on top of all that, you have a paralyzing fear of bugs.

All of these things created a bit of a perfect storm last week during the early morning hours. My day started out normally: My alarm blared at 6:15, I rolled out of bed, changed into exercise clothes, and hit the play button on my DVD player. I completed a grueling half hour “Total Body Cardio Fix”, a series of exercises that are a part of the 21 Day Fix program. By the end of the workout, I was sweating profusely, but proud of myself for keeping up with this relatively new addition into my morning routine.

I proceeded getting ready (take shower, get dressed, do make-up). Towards the end of my make-up application, as I was blending concealer under my eyes in an attempt to cover up the dark circles, I happened to spot something on my carpet out of the corner of my eye. I hunched down to take a closer look and initially though it was a clump of stray threads on my floor – but I very quickly discovered it was something else. A nasty, ugly stink bug!!! Ugh, I hate those things. They’re so icky to look at, they FLY, and they release a horrible odor when you smoosh them. There is legitimately nothing to appreciate about them.

E149192F-5932-477A-B574-B3A0147C950E
My hyper-realistic rendering of what stink bugs look like. Those little squiggles represent their malodorous manner. The evil expression, though, is pure speculation on the artist’s part, as she has never gotten close

If you know me well enough, you know that I have what my parents kindly refer to as the “bug scream”. That’s how much I dislike creepy crawlies of all varieties. So as it dawned on me that I was looking right at one, I blood-curdling one escaped my lips and I ran as fast as I could out of my room. Unfortunately, though, I had to scamper back in to grab my test kit, PDM, and CGM so I could figure out what to do while I had my breakfast.

As I paced back and forth in the kitchen, trying to come up with a bug elimination stratagem, I heard a “BUZZBUZZBUZZ” from the other room. No, it wasn’t another bug – thanks heavens for that – but it was my CGM. The combination of early morning cardio and bug-induced mania must’ve done the trick. So there I was, in my absolute prime (not!): shaking, sweating, and most probably looking like a crazy person as I blended a breakfast shake together. Not cute.

Of course, the blood sugar issue was taken care of pronto. The bug issue, however? That was addressed. Eventually…

…meaning that my mother was my savior and eliminated the BUGger (sorry for the terrible pun*) later that evening. Thanks, mom.

 

*Not actually sorry for terrible puns because I love all puns!!!

It’s the Holiday Season!!!

Only 21 more days until Christmas! I’m so excited that the most wonderful time of year is here. To celebrate, I’ve changed the header on my site to…

DEA6BF6A-4CF6-4FAB-9EC5-0C530A4A9733

…this dorky T1D dancing lady (me)!!!

It was like kismet when I saw this sweater in the store a few days ago. It’s a cactus that lights up and has the phrase “hug me” on it. How could I not buy it?! Hence, I decked myself out with the sweater and danced gleefully with my OmniPod PDM in hand to bring some Christmas cheer to my type 1 diabetes blog, Hugging the Cactus.

I want to take a moment to say how special HtC is to me. Truly, the first two months I’ve spent putting this blog together and writing new material have brought me, in the spirit of the season, joy. It makes me so happy to share with readers, near and far, who take time out of their days to click through my posts. I’ve learned quite a bit from the DOC in the years that I’ve spent blogging, and I know that I will continue to do so!

Besides the holidays this month, I’ve got a major milestone coming up: 20 years with type 1 diabetes as of December 24th. What do you think I should do to mark the occasion?

Again, thank you for reading my blog. I have some big plans in the works for it in 2018, so stay tuned! And if you want to make sure that you don’t miss any of my new posts, please feel free to subscribe – the widget to subscribe is located on the right-hand side menu on the homepage here.

Christmas time is here!!!

Welcome to my Blog!

I couldn’t be more excited to start this new – and mildly daunting – venture in blogging. While I’m no stranger to sharing my diabetes story with others online, it’s a bit more intimidating to craft my own blog and show a more personal side of myself.

In fact, if you had told me 10 years ago that I would be a diabetes blogger who’s connected with T1Ds all across the country, I would have looked at you like you were absolutely insane. I was already accustomed to a life with diabetes in my teenage years, but that didn’t mean I was willing to talk about it. I shunned the notion of attending diabetes camp or meeting other peers with T1D. I figured that the only other T1Ds I needed in my life were my mom and my aunt – their support was enough for me.

This point of view changed, though, just before I started my freshman year at college. Suddenly, I was all too aware of the fact that I’d be forced to take full responsibility of my diabetes care and management for the first time in my life. College meant a true taste of independence, and with that came accountability for my health. This realization made me accept that perhaps I should welcome some additional support into my life.

That’s when the College Diabetes Network entered the picture. A quick search online brought me to this incredible nonprofit. After learning that a chapter existed at my school, I made it my goal to give it a try and go to a meeting. Little did I know that over the course of the next three years, I would become the president of this chapter and register it as a student organization on campus.

Hi. That’s me, attending my first CDN Retreat and basking in the endless amounts of diet coke available there.

My involvement with the CDN has provided me with many opportunities. I’ve attended conferences and gained internship experiences due to my connection to the CDN. I’ve met dozens of people like me all across the country – individuals looking for peer support as we navigate the tricky world of diabetes, college, the real world, and young adulthood. Hearing stories both similar to and different from my own never fails to make an impact on me, and the inspiration I draw from others gives me the courage to make my voice heard within and outside the diabetes community.

In fact, my openness over sharing my diabetes resulted in my blog’s title: Hugging the Cactus. Anyone who knows me knows that I wear an OmniPod insulin pump and a Dexcom CGM. As I rotate sites around my body, this means that I sometimes wear them in plain sight. On a particular evening, I was wearing one on the back of each arm. I had made a trip to the restroom at a restaurant and was walking back to my table when a not-so-shy waiter asked me, politely, “What are those things on your arms?”

“Oh, it’s my insulin pump and my glucose monitor. I have type one diabetes and these help me manage it,” I explained, in a patient tone.

“Oh, I’m sorry – that’s terrible,” the waiter replied. Remorse appeared in his expression.

“Please don’t apologize,” I said to him, reassuringly. “I’ve had diabetes most of my life. I accept it and I’m grateful for these devices. They make it much easier to take care of myself.”

“That’s pretty cool, you know,” he said, his face changing. He smiled at me. “It’s like your hugging the cactus. Accepting the bad for what it is and embracing it.”

I remember flashing him a giant smile and laughing as I said, “I like that. That’s exactly what it is.” He wished me a good evening, which I reciprocated, before parting ways. I cemented the phrase “hugging the cactus” into my memory that night, because it sums up my perspective on life with diabetes perfectly.

And this is why I’m here: to share my stories with others, as well as to hear your stories. It’s my humble hope to positively impact the life of someone who deals with diabetes, directly or indirectly. Whether we share the same feelings or completely different ones regarding diabetes, I think it’s wonderful to be part of the diabetes community and share in the strength, knowledge, and sense of belonging found within it.