Diabetes in the Wild, Investment Seminar Edition

I always get kind of excited when I’m out and about and notice another T1D. There are some pretty obvious signs that clue me into their similarly useless pancreases: spotting insulin pump tubing, witnessing a finger stick check, and spying a syringe injection are chief among them. Even though I know what to look for and what it means, though, I still can’t help but feel a little thrill when I know I’m in the presence of another person with diabetes.

I know, I know…that makes me sorta weird/creepy, depending on your perspective. But whatever, it is what it is!

Anyways, I experienced another edition of “diabetes in the wild” when I was stuck, in all places, in an investment seminar. I (willingly) signed up for it as part of ongoing educational training for work and didn’t really know what to expect from it. All I knew going into it was that it was expected to last THREE FRIGGEN’ HOURS.

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I never thought I’d be writing about diabetes and the investment sector in one single piece, but then again, I never thought I’d do a lot of the things I’ve done so far in life.

That’s a long-ass time to spend talking about stocks, bonds, and ETFs.

To make matters slightly worse, upon seeing the other students enrolled in the class, I figured I had basically nothing in common with them. The other seven people were around my parents’ age and up, with a couple of them looking like they were retirees. It was also a predominantly male group, with the seminar being conducted by a male financial professional…so yeah, didn’t seem like there would be much for me to talk about with everyone else.

No big deal. I settled in for what was bound to be a long evening. Just when the seminar instructor started diving into a very-not-fascinating slide on poor diversification within individual investment portfolios, I heard a high-pitched beep from across the room.

My attention immediately drifted from the front of the room to where I thought the sound had come from. My eyes landed on a man (who looked like the oldest of the bunch) who was reaching into his pocket for something…aha! A glucometer!

One of me, one of me…I started chanting. In my head. Because I’m not THAT weird.

I wondered what kind of meter it was – I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head that beeped. But then I saw the man reach back into his pocket to grab…oh, so that’s where the beeping noise was coming from – his pump. It wasn’t an OmniPod; rather, I saw the trail of tubing peeping out from his jeans.

For the next half hour or so, I noticed the man fiddle with his glucometer and pump a few times. I felt badly for him and hoped that he wasn’t experiencing any blood sugar issues or technical difficulties. Plus, I’m sure he must’ve felt a little self-conscious about his devices being out in the open – the instructor did glance at him a few times, as if he was thinking that the man should stop playing with his electronics and focus on the presentation. Given that was the correct interpretation of the situation, I felt defensive for the man. I wanted to tell the instructor to give him a break, that he was doing what needed to be done for his health.

At the seminar’s conclusion, I had every intention of going up to the man, introducing myself, and having a conversation about diabetes. But then…I stopped myself. I’m trying to get better about remembering that many people with diabetes are not as comfortable as I am when it comes to talking about it to perfect strangers. Maybe it would’ve embarrassed him further or made him angry. So I walked out of the classroom, quietly, albeit with a slight smile on my face…because diabetes isn’t always an illness of isolation. It can be the common denominator between you and someone else you don’t think you could possibly share anything with. And sometimes, you can find it in the most random, unexpected places and suddenly feel a bit less lonely.

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Sugary or Sugar-Free Soda? Find out Using This Trick!

Have you ever ordered a diet soda, sipped it, and immediately doubted whether it was truly diet? Then you might find this little tip useful.

Whenever you’re not certain that your drink is diet or regular, try grabbing your glucometer, putting a test strip in it, dipping your finger in the drink, and wiping it onto the strip – just like you would do when checking your blood sugar. If the drink is diet, then you’ll know because your meter will display an “extreme low” result, or something to that effect. The key is to not panic and remember that it isn’t your blood sugar you’re looking at, it’s the sugar levels in the drink! It’s just the opposite in the case that your drink is regular/sugary – you’ll get a “high” reading that’ll make it obvious that your beverage isn’t what you ordered.

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Photographic evidence of my soda test results.

This trick has come in handy several times for me. Most recently, I was doing some Christmas shopping at the mall with my boyfriend when we decided to stop at the food court for some lunch. We split a chicken tender meal from Arby’s, which came with a medium soda that we could fill on our own.

I took on the task while he waited for our food, and was excited to see that they had Diet Dr. Pepper on tap (seriously, that’s rare for most fast food joints). I filled up the cup, fitted a lid on top, stuck a straw in, and took a sip. Hmm…it tasted sweeter than I thought it should. I mentioned this to my boyfriend as he picked up our food and we made our way to a table. I told him that I definitely got it from a tap that was labeled “diet”, but we both knew that just because the label says it is, it doesn’t guarantee that the right soda bib is hooked up to the proper line. (Our shared experience working at a movie theater several years ago clued us in to the fact that employees can make mistakes with this.)

He expressed his doubts, as well, and then it occurred to me to do the old soda test strip check. So I did, snapping a picture of the results and feeling reassured by the factual evidence that I was drinking a sugar-free – not sugary – beverage.

Diabetes and Technology

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 will be about diabetes and technology.

Diabetes and technology: a pair as iconic as peanut butter and jelly, Lucy and Desi, and Han Solo and Chewbacca. I can’t imagine managing my diabetes without all the technical tools and devices I have in my arsenal.

I’m grateful for all the tools we have at our disposal these days, because I know that this wasn’t always the case. I didn’t have to experience a time without a test kit. I didn’t have to deal with checking my blood sugar only once or twice daily using a complicated urinalysis system. Though I chose to take insulin via manual injections for many years, I had the option to try an insulin pump whenever I was ready. And when the CGM came around, approximately ten years after my diagnosis, I was able to start using this new technology.

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Just a few of the key technological components in my diabetes toolkit.

So I guess that diabetes and technology makes me think of two, somewhat contradictory, concepts: privilege and freedom.

It’s a privilege that I have a wide array of technology available to me. I’m lucky that I’m able to use it, because I know that many people with diabetes in this world cannot afford it or do not have access to it. It makes me upset to think about how diabetes might be harder for these individuals due to a lack of treatment and care options, but in that way, it reinforces how freeing diabetes technology has been for me. I have the freedom to bolus quickly and easily as needed. I’m free from annoying tubing, thanks to my OmniPod pump. I’m free to live a life less interrupted by diabetes, because my technology helps me manage it with greater finesse than if I were doing it 100% on my own.

That being said, I won’t ever take my access to diabetes technology for granted.

I can only hope that, as technology innovations continue to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes, technology accessibility becomes more widespread, as well.

The Sounds of a Blood Sugar Check

What does a blood sugar check sound like, exactly? And why would I want to capture those sounds in words?

I was thinking about it the other day – the precise ritual that is a blood sugar check. It involves very distinct sounds from start to finish.

The ziiiiiiiiiip of opening up the meter case. The soft pop from flipping the cap off a vial of test strips. The pulling back of the lancing device to get it ready – click – and choosing a finger to draw blood from before pressing the button to prick it, a sound that’s a bit like a pow that ends in a dull thud.

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These three things make very distinct sounds.

I’ve been in rooms filled with other T1Ds checking blood sugars all at the same time. It’s a chorus of the aforementioned sounds that are so recognizable to anyone with diabetes that they can’t be mistaken.

Sounds that punctuate our lives multiple times each day.

Sounds that help us make so many decisions – from mealtime boluses to deciding whether to have a snack before a workout or not.

Sounds that are a constant reminder of diabetes and its perpetual presence.

Sounds that will be there, always…until there’s a cure.

Favorite Things Friday: My Verio IQ Meter

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!

One of the most crucial components of a T1D toolkit is the glucometer, also known more simply as the meter. This little device instantly measures blood sugar levels in a person with diabetes: stick a test strip in the meter, poke a finger, and wipe a drop of blood on the test strip in order to get a blood sugar check within seconds from the meter.

Ideally, a meter is used multiple times a day by a person with diabetes – the exact number depends on how often they prefer to check their levels. Personally, I check my blood sugar five or six times each day, so I’m using my meter fairly frequently. As such, it’s always been important to me that I have a meter that is accurate, user-friendly, and compact.

Fortunately, I found all of that with my Verio IQ meter.

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I can’t imagine checking my blood sugar with any other meter.

The slim, bright white device fits nicely into my Myabetic case, making it easy to tote around with me everywhere. It’s pretty trusty and generates results commensurate with my CGM. It doesn’t run on batteries; rather, it can conveniently be recharged every 10 days or so. But my favorite feature of my meter is the back light: If I need to wake up in the middle of the night to check my blood sugar, I don’t have to switch on the lamp that sits on my nightstand. Rather, I merely stick a strip into the meter and it lights up on its own, making it easy for me to see where to wipe my drop of blood. After five seconds elapse, bam, my blood sugar reading pops up on the screen in bold numbers.

I can’t remember exactly when I started using my Verio IQ – definitely prior to college – but I’ve stuck with it for at least eight years now because it works so well for me. When I got onto the OmniPod three years ago, it never even crossed my mind to give up my Verio in favor of using the PDM to check my sugars. It might seem crazy to others that I carry around one superfluous device, but it’s what works for me.

Testing for Accuracy, in Addition to Blood Glucose

Blood glucose meters serve the sole purpose of checking current levels of glucose in the blood. Pretty self-explanatory, right? And it’s equally obvious that it’s crucial for all meters to generate accurate results so PWD can make the right treatment decisions based on those numbers.

Unfortunately, though, accuracy isn’t always what I get.

The other day, I was running low before bedtime. I corrected with an organic rice crispy treat (honestly, it was a million times better than the brand name kind). I waited nearly an hour for my blood sugar to come up. When my CGM wasn’t showing any progress, I tested: I was 47. It’s rare for me to be that low, so I tested again. 52. I believed it, especially since I was experiencing several hypoglycemic symptoms.

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My unicorn bg quickly turned into A Situation.

I chugged a glass of orange juice and plopped down on the couch to wait for signs of improvement. Before long, I was freezing cold – a sure sign I was coming up, because I had been sweating 20 minutes prior. But I didn’t feel comfortable going to bed yet. I wanted to see if my CGM would show an up arrow. When it finally did, I made my way upstairs to brush my teeth and wash my face. In the middle of my routine, though, I decided to glance at my CGM again – and saw the dreaded ??? screen.

I decided then that the Dexcom should be out of commission, a.k.a. not trusted at all, for the remainder of the evening.

I ripped it out and inserted a fresh one, not really caring that it would wake me up in two hours to be calibrated. I would need to set at least two alarms for the middle of the night, anyways, if I decided to go to bed disconnected from my Dex. So it just made sense.

Once that was done, I tested again. I was pretty tired at this point and really didn’t want to have to eat something else, so I did it as quickly as I could. In my haste, I jostled my meter just so – enough that I saw the test strip, already marked with my blood, move slightly as it brushed against my PDM and was placed next to it.

113 mg/dL flashed upon the screen. Normally, I’d be thrilled! But I furrowed my brow. Something just felt…off about that reading. So I tested again.

206.

What?!

I tested a third time – 203. Okay, something was definitely wrong. Either that 113 was wrong (likely) or my meter had just produced two wildly inaccurate blood sugars in a row (less likely).

This is one of the many times that it’s convenient to live with another PWD. I asked my mom if I could borrow her test kit and see what result it generated. Seconds later…a twin 203 popped up on the screen, reassuring me that the 113 was a fluke on my meter.

Relief with the reality and irritation with the technology washed over me simultaneously as I went to correct the high with a bolus. I was glad I wasn’t heading down again, but irked that my meter had failed me. True, it was a bit of human error there, but aren’t we at a point in technological advancements where this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen? I put my life into the “hands” of my meter, Dexcom, and OmniPod. They should produce results that are undoubtedly accurate.

I guess we aren’t quite there yet.

Diabetes Data Overload

I’ve always been a words girl – never a big fan of numbers. So isn’t my T1D ironic, being that it’s an illness ruled by numbers?

Think about it. PWD have a ridiculous number of…numbers to be concerned about on a daily basis. Between blood sugar checks, insulin dosage calculations, carbohydrate counting, basal rate testing, and more, there’s a lot to take into account.

And as time has gone on and technology has evolved, it seems like these numbers are constantly accessible on an endless volume of devices. I can determine trends using my Dexcom CGM – using either my mobile app or my sparkly pink receiver. I can scroll through my record log of blood sugars on my meter. I can find out how much insulin I took in one day using my OmniPod. I can even download several weeks’ worth of blood sugar graphs from my Dexcom by simply hooking it up to a computer.

It’s information overload.

As much as I love having the ability to access all of this data, it’s also too much to swallow at times. I could drive myself nuts looking through days’ worth of graphs and logs to figure out why I was inexplicably high at 3 o’clock in the morning one day, but I can also just chalk it up to a fluke and better spend my energy worrying about my blood sugar in the present (as opposed to the past).

The point is, it’s exhausting to have my life dictated by all this data. I wish I could take a break from it sometimes, but then again, it’s helped me become more accountable for my own health. And I can still express my hatred for numbers by using my love of words, so it’s not all that bad.