The $2,000 Mistake

Have you ever received an email that made you stop breathing for a moment? Did it feel like time stood still as you blinked rapidly and tried to comprehend the meaning behind it?

It sounds like a dramatic overreaction, but imagine getting a notification from your pharmacy notifying you that your prescription would cost almost $2,000. That’s a big old chunk of change. The mere thought of paying that much for a supply of insulin makes my heart race and my palms sweat.

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I nearly keeled over when I saw this dollar amount.

I’m happy to report that this was a giant mistake; for whatever reason, my doctor’s office sent my prescription for Humalog to my local pharmacy, even though I explicitly told them that I use Express Scripts for my insulin orders. It was a total mix-up, and the approximately $2,000 was an amount that I would pay if I didn’t have any insurance coverage. I do, and though I’m not sure how much I’ll be paying for my insulin yet, I know that it can’t possibly cost this much.

I’m relieved that I was able to call the pharmacy and straighten this out without spending a cent of my money. But it was also a major wake-up call to a reality that many people are forced to face when it comes to refilling insulin prescriptions. It’s not fair. (That last sentence is the understatement of the century.) I can’t make any sense of it and I don’t know how many people have no choice but to fork over such a large sum of money on a monthly basis in order to live. Thoughts of those individuals and their dire situations scare me far more than navigating the world of health insurance ever could.

While I didn’t appreciate the mini heart attack this email triggered, I guess I am glad that it alerted me to the fact that I’m going to have to be aware of things like this going forward. As I figure out my health insurance costs and coverage, I anticipate more confusion, surprises, and expenses…but hopefully I can also expect/experience a pleasant discovery or two along the way.

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Advocacy is not “One Size Fits All”

Not too long ago, someone told me that my blog wasn’t really a form of diabetes advocacy, a point that I strongly refuted.

Advocacy looks different to everyone, and people can be advocates in countless ways. I think it depends largely on 1) what someone is trying to advocate and 2) their personality. For instance, maybe someone is really good at fundraising and wants to raise money to donate to a particular charity. Perhaps someone thrives from advocating at the group level, whereas another person prefers to do it individually. Maybe political advocacy for a cause like diabetes is right up one person’s alley, and another person is more comfortable with using social media to raise awareness and interact with others in an environment like the diabetes online community.

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My blog is my diabetes advocacy outlet.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, my preferred way to partake in diabetes advocacy is blogging. I feel that writing down my story, whether it’s lessons I’ve learned over the years or mundane anecdotes about life with diabetes, is the form of advocacy that makes the most sense for me. It allows me to open up to a large, eclectic audience (i.e., the entire Internet) and show them what it’s like, to some degree, to live with diabetes. I keep things real in my posts and write about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to T1D, and to me, that is advocacy.

Favorite Things Friday: Diabetes Apps

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

Diabetes is a chronic condition that involves several different pieces of technology. Unsurprisingly, quite a few of these technological components are available via mobile apps, and some of them have become instrumental in helping me understand the patterns that my own diabetes follows. Let’s walk through the four that are mainstays on my iPhone home screen.

For starters, there’s the Dexcom CGM apps (there’s one for the G5, another for the G6). When I first downloaded the app for my G5, I marveled at how stinkin’ cool it was to be able to check my blood sugar on my phone. I spend far too much time each day playing with various apps on my phone, anyway, so it was very convenient for me to have this particular app installed.

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A screenshot from the G6 app

Dexcom also makes an app called Clarity, which happens to be something I’ve come to rely on in between appointments with my endocrinologist. That’s because Clarity links directly to my CGM and gathers data from it that creates reports for my analysis. With just a few taps, I can view information such as my time spent in range, average glucose, patterns, and risk for hypoglycemia. Even better, I can generate results for periods of time ranging from 48 hours to 90 days. The app also produces results in clean, easy-to-read charts and graphs, making it extremely easy for me to figure out how I can improve my A1c.

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A view of the Clarity app

A few years ago, I found an app called Glucagon that’s made by Eli Lilly. As you could probably tell by the name of the app, it’s all about Glucagon: namely, how to inject it. It’s an interactive experience that I like to walk myself through every now and then so I’m familiar with how to use Glucagon – because you never know if and when it could come in handy.

A more recent discovery is DiaBits. Besides having a cute name, this app provides another breakdown of blood sugar data. It has a neat feature that estimates your current A1c, as well as other predictors that indicate how rapidly your blood sugar is rising or falling. It doesn’t replace any of my tools that more accurately check my blood sugar levels; it merely is a complementary app that gives me more insight on trends and averages.

One quick visit to the Apple App Store shows me that there are tons more diabetes-related apps out there. Quite frankly, I don’t know which ones to try next! Do you have any favorites or recommendations? Leave them in the comments!

Three Things I Learned about Myself after Running a 5K

I recently ran in my first-ever 5K race. In the weeks leading up to the race, I experienced a variety of emotions – particularly self-doubt – that made me question whether I could really do it. Would my diabetes cooperate the morning of the race? Should I eat a big breakfast before running, or go into the race fasting? How would I handle correcting a low blood sugar while running? What about a high blood sugar? Was I even competent enough to run?

All of my diabetes anxieties aside, I’ve always hated running. HATED it. I played field hockey every fall when I was in high school, and we were required to run a timed mile before the start of each season. I dreaded this mile because I usually wound up finishing the mile last, or close to last – my asthmatic lungs and negative attitude helped ensure that I would give up running halfway through and resort to walking a sluggish, defeated pace.

So like I explained in a recent blog post, making the decision to go through with this 5K wasn’t easy. But I wanted to take on the challenge and prove something to myself.

AND I DID IT!!! I’m pleased to say that I completed the race on a gorgeously sunny Saturday morning along with hundreds of other runners. I was totally proud of myself for accomplishing this goal, especially since I had less than a month to train for it. Plus, I learned a few things about myself after participating in the race:

  1. I should have more faith in my ability to manage my diabetes. I spent so much time dwelling on the “what ifs” (a bad habit of mine) regarding what my diabetes might do during the race that my stomach was doing somersaults as I approached the start line. But as soon as I turned my music up and started running with everyone else, my doubts vanished. And better yet, I was absolutely fine throughout the race. I didn’t eat anything beforehand and went into it with a blood sugar of 142, and I stayed pretty steady for most of the 3.1 miles (I did start to spike soon after crossing the finish line, but I’m certain that was because of the adrenaline). I simply did what I’d been doing during my past month of training, and my experimentation with fasting vs. non-fasting paid off.
  1. I’m a lot more determined than I realized. I’ll admit that there were a few points throughout the race when I wanted to give up. I was breathing hard and my legs were starting to ache, but not once did I stop running and slow down to a walk. I pushed myself to keep going, even though I didn’t want to, and my determination helped me achieve my personal best running time.
  2. I’m ready to train for future races. This experience awakened something in me that wants more challenges. I’m still not in love with running, but I think I am a fan of trying things out of my comfort zone. I want to continue to get faster and stronger so I can try tougher races and physical tests. It’s almost like it’s an outlet for me to tell my T1D that it can’t stop me – that I’m stronger than it no matter how hard it tries to knock me down.

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends (Diabetes Edition)

Let me introduce you to Nelly Needle:

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A cactus filled with needles that don’t prick is my kind of cactus.

This adorable cactus-in-a-cup was handmade for me by one of my dear college friends, Emma. She made it for me for my birthday and I nearly cried tears of gratitude when she gave it to me. I felt the same way when another college friend, Kira, sent me a box for my birthday that contained a thoughtfully-chosen book and a cute little cactus pin that now adorns my meter case.

Emma and Kira, as well as our other friends from college, probably don’t realize how nervous I was to explain my diabetes to them when we first met. All my friends from back home had known about my diabetes growing up; as a result, it’d been a very long time since I had to open up about it to brand new people. I worried that they wouldn’t accept it or would treat me differently after learning about it.

I’m happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within the first few days of my freshman year of college, I found the group of people that I wanted and needed to have in my life. They were not only accepting of my diabetes, but genuinely curious about it. They peppered me with questions that I was pleased to answer and marveled at my ease with injecting myself in the middle of the dining commons. To this day, they still express interest and desire to learn about diabetes, which means more to me than words can express.

The cacti I’ve amassed over the last few months, courtesy of my friends, serve as daily reminders that I 1) have some really incredible and supportive friends and 2) should always remember to embrace diabetes for what it is, needles and all.

Celebrating 100 Posts on Hugging the Cactus

I’ve officially reached the 100-post mark on Hugging the Cactus. Wow!!!

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I can’t believe I’ve already reached this milestone!

This blog debuted on October 2, 2017. I’ve spent the last eight months writing new content as often as possible, meeting more people with diabetes (both in person and online), and focusing on my personal health and well-being. It’s been an awesome ride, and I can’t wait to keep on enjoying it.

As always, thank you for your continued support. Every click, tweet, comment, and visit means the world to me, and every share couldn’t be more appreciated. Thank you for reminding me daily why this blog is so important to me and why I should continue to share my story.

Here’s to the next hundred posts – and many more after that.

Favorite Things Friday: Adhesive Remover Wipes

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

“Adhesive remover wipes” sounds about as exciting as dryer lint. But these really are a nifty invention, especially for someone like me who wears multiple T1D medical devices.

My pods stay on my body for three days at a time, and my CGM sensors can last as long as two weeks. So needless to say that they need to be equipped with super strong adhesive to ensure they stick for the necessary length of time.

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These adhesive remover wipes look lame, but trust me, they’re pretty impressive.

I’m grateful for the high-quality adhesive, but man, it can be difficult to completely remove from my body. Before I discovered these magical wipes, I’d rub my skin raw in an attempt to get rid of all traces of leftover adhesive. As a result, I’d either walk around with gray circles of adhesive on my abdomen and arms, or with irritated, pink skin that I needed to let heal before reusing as a site. A surefire lose-lose scenario either way, right?

A quick search online caused me to discover these adhesive remover wipes. I purchased them immediately and I can say it was a brilliant buy. I no longer scratch at my skin until the adhesive disappears; rather, I merely wipe the area with one of these towelettes and within seconds, all adhesive is painlessly removed.

If you’ve struggled in a similar manner with removing your medical adhesive, definitely look into these wipes and save your skin from stress.