What I Wish my Dog Knew About Diabetes

Clarence the Shetland Sheepdog joined our family almost one year ago, and he’s brought us nothing but joy and unconditional love ever since then. Well, he’s also brought us a few headaches (when he has been disobedient) and some panic attacks (when he chews things he shouldn’t), but that’s besides the point – this little puppy is adored beyond his own comprehension and he fits in perfectly with us.

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But something else that Clarence doesn’t quite understand is…yep, you guessed it, diabetes. Realistically speaking, he’s probably totally unaware of it – the bliss of being a dog. I wish he had some sort of grasp of it, though, because there are times when it gets in the way of my interactions with him. How? I’ll get really specific here with my list of things that I wish my little peanut knew about diabetes:

  • I wish that he knew my pods/CGM sensors aren’t chew toys! He doesn’t often grab at them, but every now and then, he’ll notice them on my body and nudge them curiously. And since he’s a mouthy guy (being a puppy and all), he has tried nipping at them a couple of times, which always leads to me yelling at him and shoving him away. So it’d be nice if he could recognize that these things help me stay alive and shouldn’t be played with.
  • I wish that he knew how to fetch glucose tablets or raisins for me/my mother when we’re dealing with low blood sugars. Man, that’d be awesome! But knowing Clarence, if I tried to train him how to do that now, he’d be way more interested in drinking or eating anything intended to remedy a low blood sugar, rather than bringing it over to me or my mom.
  • I wish that he knew how to react, period, to any sort of blood sugar “event”. For example, if we’re out walking and I need to take a break in order to check my levels, it’d be swell if he could wait patiently rather than tug on the leash to keep the walk going. I can’t blame him, he’s just trying to continue his exercise. But if he knew WHY we had to stop – if he could understand in any sort of way – that would be hugely helpful.
  • I wish that he knew that, on the occasions that I can’t play with him, it’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because I HAVE to do something medically necessary, whether it’s change my pod or bolus for dinner, that takes my attention away from him.
  • And I wish that he knew that sometimes, diabetes can take a mental toll on me and my mom, and that there’s not much he can do about it besides continuing to be his sweet self. It’d certainly be convenient for him to realize that his impish side just exacerbates things when one of us is dealing with a stubborn high or shaky low.

That’s my list of wishes, but there’s one thing that I never had to wish for or teach Clarence when it comes to diabetes…and that’s his innate ability to bring us comfort in just about every situation with his mere presence.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Attaboy, Clarence.

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Walking to End Alzheimer’s

Type 1 diabetes sucks. It’s a chronic illness that is incredibly demanding, both mentally and physically. But it’s got nothing on Alzheimer’s disease.

I know this from experience because I watched my grandmother (and her sister) suffer through it.

I don’t have many memories of my grammy pre-Alzheimer’s, but by all accounts, she was an amazing woman. She raised six children alongside her loving husband. She was an active member of her community, working as a secretary for the Department of Public Works, a teller for the local bank, and a clerk at the neighboring city’s hospital. She was devoted to the local church and played the organ for it, and enjoyed singing. By the time she passed, she had eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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My beautiful grammy.

Alzheimer’s will never take away the contributions she made to the lives of her family, friends, and community, but it took away her ability to tell me stories, firsthand, about these experiences.

It took away her independence.

It took away her mind.

It took away her life.

Some facts about Alzheimer’s: It is the most common cause of dementia. It is a degenerative disease of the brain characterized by many symptoms, such as memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. The most mundane activities, like walking or swallowing, cannot be performed by an individual in the final stages of the disease. As a result, they require 24/7 care until succumbing to the devastating disease.¹

In 2018, nearly 6 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s. Every 65 seconds, another person in the United States develops the disease.²

I knew my grandmother when she was in the more severe stages of Alzheimer’s, and it was not easy to watch her experience them. It was even harder to watch how it affected her husband and children.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, just as I wouldn’t with diabetes.

This November marks nine years since my grammy passed away. She is missed every single day, but one way that my family celebrates her life and fights back against Alzheimer’s is by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. On September 15th, we’ll be partaking in our (sixth, I believe) Walk as Team Mary’s Little Lambs – a team name inspired by Grammy’s first name. I like to think that it’d make her smile.

The Walk is an emotional event for us in general, but especially when we hold up pinwheel flowers that represent our promise to remember, honor, care, and fight for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Imagine how powerful it is to see the colorful pinwheels lifted into the air, with each color having a distinct meaning:

  • Blue for a Walker who has Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Yellow for a Walker who supports or cares for someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Purple for a Walker who has lost someone to Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Orange for a Walker who supports the cause and the Alzheimer’s Association vision of a world without Alzheimer’s

Just like with diabetes, imagine how incredible it’d be if one day, there was a white flower lifted into the air: a flower that would signify a cure.

If my grandmother’s story moved you, or if you want to show support for someone you know affected by Alzheimer’s/the cause, please consider donating to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. You can use this link here, or click on the widget in the right sidebar of my blog – it’s the very first one listed. All donations advance the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you in advance, and thank you for taking the time to read this deeply personal blog post.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit www.alz.org. I recommend reviewing the report on their website, 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figuresto learn the most up-to-date statistics on the disease.

¹¯² Alzheimer’s Association, 2018

Dad Appreciation Post

Father’s Day was yesterday, but as I did the day after Mother’s Day, I want to use today’s blog as an opportunity to express my appreciation for dads: Namely, my own father.

Besides being the family patriarch, my dad is a firefighter/EMT. He makes his family feel safe with his emergency preparedness knowledge and skills. He also deals with his diabetic wife and daughter on an almost-daily basis, which warrants, at the very least, a ginormous golden trophy with his name engraved on it in fancy script.

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A dad and his daughter.

That’s because he sees the ugly side of diabetes from time to time. The side that causes blood to spurt out of mom’s abdomen when she removes a pod that struck a vein. The side that causes me to lash out, because my blood sugar won’t seem to come down from a sticky high, no matter what I do. The side that causes mom and I to lose sleep, because we’re treating another middle-of-the-night low blood sugar. The side that forces mom and I to be prepared for any and every possible diabetes scenario that could occur while traveling. The side that causes us to cry, because we just can’t deal with diabetes today.

And he’s there through it all.

He’s there to apply pressure and gauze to the bloody site. He’s there, feeling just as upset as I am, because he just wants my blood sugar levels to come back down, too. He’s there to make sure mom and I have enough glucose tablets or juice to bring our levels back up. He’s there, keeping us calm as we pack for our next trip and taking care of all the travel arrangements. He’s there to comfort us when we need him to, and he hates that we live with diabetes – probably even more than we do.

He’s the kind of guy who says he’d trade his pancreas with us in a heartbeat if it meant we wouldn’t have to live with diabetes anymore.

He’s the kind of guy I’m proud to call my dad.

Thanks, Dad, for helping me handle my diabetes over the years, and supporting every venture (diabetes and otherwise) that I pursue.

Mom Appreciation Post

I know Mother’s Day was yesterday, but mothers deserve more than a Hallmark-card holiday in order to be adequately recognized. (They also deserve more than just this blog post; however, I can only express my admiration for moms using my words.) Let me explain my appreciation for moms.

All of the mothers I know, especially my own mom, work tirelessly to support their families in multiple ways. This is especially true of mothers of children with diabetes. They spend so much time counting carbs, losing hours of sleep, injecting insulin, attending doctors’ appointments, and dealing with difficult diabetes emotions all on top of normal mom duties. And many of the diabetes moms I know work(ed) full-time jobs, to boot!

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My mom is so wonderful that Chewbacca (yes, the famous Wookiee) embraced her admiringly within the first few seconds of being in her presence.

I think my mom is particularly amazing because she did all of the above, all while managing her own diabetes, too. Now that I’m an adult, I can’t help but marvel over how she did it all with such capability, humor, and unconditional love. I’m blessed to have an incredible mom who taught me what it means to be a dia-badass.

I love you, Mom!!!

 

Attaboy, Clarence

The last lines of the 1946 classic film It’s a Wonderful Life are as follows:

Zuzu Bailey: Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

George Bailey: That’s right, that’s right.

George Bailey: [Looks heavenward] Attaboy, Clarence.

Those who know my family well are aware that this movie, and three of those above names, hold special meaning to us. Bailey was the name of our first dog. Zuzu was our second dog. Both were Shetland Sheepdogs and beloved members of our family. They shaped two very different parts of my life. I attribute the two of them for getting me through various challenges encountered by my family and me over the years, and I’m grateful that we got to provide a loving home to them. A home that’s been quiet since they left us.

A home that once again will be occupied by a puppy’s presence.

Everyone, meet Clarence:

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We are overjoyed that our sweet boy will be coming home soon! And in case you’re wondering what this possibly has to do with my diabetes, I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t really, I’m just bursting with excitement over Clarence’s arrival.

But I’m also pretty darn skilled at making diabetes connections where they don’t seem to exist.

I’m positive that Clarence will help with my diabetes. I plan on taking the little guy on plenty of walks, which will be great for my numbers. I’d also like to set up an agility course in our backyard for him, because based on my past experience with shelties, they have incredible amounts of energy to burn – so I’m certain that means I’ll be running the course and burning energy with him.

Plus, I’m starting to research diabetes alert dogs. I have no idea if I’ll train him to detect high or low blood sugars, but I’m very interested in the idea. Especially since there are multiple diabetics in my family.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonders he’ll work for my mental health. The calming presence of a pup will surely ease my anxieties as well as make me smile even more than I already do.

Attaboy, Clarence – I know that’s something I’ll be saying quite often and very soon.

The Cookie Conundrum

Merry Christmas, dear reader! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday yesterday. Thank you for your continued support of my blog. I’m looking forward to continue writing in the new year! Enjoy this new blog post about my favorite food weakness this time of year.

Hi, my name is Molly, and I have an addiction to cookies.

Not just any kind of cookies, though – Christmas cookies, to be exact. I think my obsession with them truly took shape when I was in eighth grade. That’s when my aunts, cousins, and I gathered for our first annual Christmas cookie swap, a joyous occasion during which we spend an afternoon sampling cookies we’ve baked. It’s just as glorious as it sounds.

Unless you’ve got diabetes, of course.

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Bags and baskets filled with sweet little sugar bombs (A.K.A. cookies!!!)

I say that because it seems no matter what I do, my blood sugar always ends up high after partaking in the cookie consumption. And I’ve tried many different strategies to combat it, including:

  • Pre-bolusing
  • Breaking cookies in half to cut down on the carb intake
  • Running a temp basal rate
  • Exercising pre- or post-swap, depending on my blood sugar

I’m fully aware that I don’t HAVE to eat the cookies – I could go to the swap and watch everyone else try them and plaster a fake grin on my face – but honestly, how miserable does that sound? I fully believe that just because I have diabetes, it doesn’t mean that I should deprive myself. And as a disclaimer, I’m not sitting there wolfing down cookie after cookie like I’m the Cookie Monster: My family sets out just enough so that each person can try one cookie from all participating bakers. So usually, accounting for all the cookies I split in half, I eat approximately 6-7 whole cookies (which vary in size but are typically no larger than 3-4 inches in diameter). All that said, I still account for at least 45 grams of carbohydrates when I bolus for the cookies, which should have me covered…

…in theory, anyways.

Hence, my cookie conundrum, which occurred yet again when I participated in the 2017 swap. I spent a solid few hours in the late afternoon and early evening battling blood sugars in the high 200s and low 300s, which proved to be extra challenging without my CGM’s aid (I had to remove it because the dreaded ??? appeared and wouldn’t go away for several hours). But I handled it: I managed to get my numbers back down, try an array of fabulous cookies, and spend an afternoon with my wonderful family members.

Cookie conundrum overcome, if you ask me.