How My T1D and I Handled My First COVID Vaccine

Imagine my surprise when I went to write about today’s new blog post on my Instagram account and swiftly realized…I didn’t have a new post! Life’s busy and as a result, I’ve fallen a bit behind my blogging schedule.

Luckily, I have the day off from work today, so I’m able to whip up a quick post on something that people might be wondering about: How did my diabetes and I fare after receiving dose 1 of 2 of a COVID vaccine?

I am officially halfway there on the vaccine front.

I’m going to rapid-fire this one and sum it all up with some bullet points:

  • I got the Moderna vaccine
  • I felt 0 pain when I was injected – in fact, I didn’t feel anything and was surprised when the nurse told me I was all set
  • I had to wait 15 minutes after the dose was administered to make sure I didn’t experience any type of reaction
  • I had no reaction whatsoever
  • About 18 hours after I got the vaccine, I noticed some slight pain around the site
  • I could not see any marks around the site – no redness, no apparent injection location
  • The pain was only noticeable when I was changing my clothes
  • My blood sugar within the first 24 hours was mostly fine (I wasn’t eating super healthy so any high blood sugars can be blamed on my poor diet)
  • My blood sugar was fine 48 hours later, leading me to believe that the vaccine had 0 impact on my blood sugar levels (I had somewhat anticipated elevated blood sugar levels because my mother, who also got the Moderna vaccine, said her levels were higher 2-3 days later post-vaccine)
  • I felt absolutely normal! I got the vaccine three full days ago as of this writing and I can’t say that I’ve noticed anything different

That was my experience; remember, all people with diabetes (and without diabetes) are different and may experience different things. If you have any questions after reading this post, I highly recommend reading this post from Beyond Type 1 that tells you what you want to know about the vaccines. And here’s my little disclaimer to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.

I’m glad that I got my first vaccine and that it was a hassle- and pain-free experience. I’m looking forward to getting dose number 2 at the end of April and will be sure to recap what it’s like then. In the meantime, I’m happy to continue masking up and practicing social distancing – after all, we’re in this together, and just because I got one vaccine doesn’t mean that I can’t do my part to help protect others.

4 Ways Diabetes Motivates Me

Life with diabetes can be inconvenient, unpredictable, and downright frustrating. But it’s not all bad. In fact, after living with it for more than 23 years now, I’ve actually identified a few different ways in which it helps motivate me.

And what, exactly, are those ways? Well…

#1: It’s constantly challenging me to strive for the better: Better “control” over my blood sugar levels, better management of my diet and exercise regimen, and better care of my entire body, in general. While it involves a lot of work, it’s extremely motivating because I know that anything I do for the better of my diabetes and my body now will pay dividends in the future.

#2: Diabetes encourages me to ask questions. I think that my diabetes is the reason why I’ve learned to be curious. It pushes me to want to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of various scenarios, both relating to and not relating to diabetes. It’s natural for human beings to be inquisitive, but they don’t always do something to pursue answers to questions. My diabetes pushes me to do that, with varying degrees of success, and that’s something I’m grateful for.

After having diabetes for more than 23 years, I’ve realized that it can be highly motivating.

#3: It pushes me to prove people wrong. There’s so much stigma surrounding diabetes…”You can’t eat that! You can’t do this! You can’t do that!” are exclamations that I’ve heard my entire life from different people. Rather than nodding and smiling politely at these poor, misinformed individuals, I strive to show them exactly why they’re wrong. Whether it’s explaining the facts or going out and doing the very thing they said I wouldn’t be able to do because of diabetes, it’s empowering for me to smash down diabetes misconceptions.

#4: Diabetes inspires me to seek more out of life. This goes hand-in-hand with point number 3, but it counts as a separate notion because this is all about how I view my life with diabetes. I didn’t fully accept my diabetes until I was a teenager. That acceptance represented a turning point for me during which I realized that just because I was dealt this card in life, it doesn’t mean that it should stop me from accomplishing my hopes and dreams. Over the years, my diabetes has made me want more: opportunities, experiences, relationships…you name it and I’m hungry for it.

Sure, diabetes can be my biggest headache…but it can also be my greatest motivator, and I think it’s important for me to embrace the beauty of that.

The Best Time for Me and My Diabetes to Exercise

I am a phony morning person.

By that I mean that I pretend that I like getting up early in the mornings, but truth be told…I hate it. Oh how I long for the days that I could sleep in as late as I wanted and shun my very few responsibilities…

Even though I clearly don’t love waking up early, there is one benefit to it that truly lasts all day long. And that is getting my workouts done within the first hour or so of my day.

Listen, I’m not a fitness freak. I don’t have a ripped bod. More often than not, I’m working out so I can eat and drink the things that I like without feeling as terrible about it (only light sarcasm used in that previous sentence). But I do like exercising and try to do so every single day because, well, it’s good for me and definitely helps me to produce better blood sugars.

Exercising is a thousand times harder than it needs to be, though, when my blood sugar crashes halfway through a routine – which happened a lot more than I wanted it to when I was working out in the afternoons or evenings.

Fed up with the lows, I changed up my routine and that’s when I discovered the beauty of fasting morning workouts.

I am definitely not as flexible as this cartoon lady.

I learned that if I work out soon after I wake up in the morning and wait until after I’m done to eat breakfast, then lows almost never happen. It’s like magic. I’m able to get through my exercise routine (which is usually a half hour circuit of some sort) without having to modify my basal rates whatsoever. Since I don’t have any insulin on board (because I haven’t eaten any food yet), I’m only working out with my basal rate running in the background, so there’s a much lower chance that my blood sugar will really fluctuate when I’m exercising. Of course, mornings that I wake up with a low or a high blood sugar are a little more challenging, seeing as I either have to bring it back up to a good level for working out or get some insulin pumping in my system, but I wake up most mornings with my blood sugar in a range that makes me feel comfortable working out in.

All the diabetes business aside, I gotta say…my other favorite part of working out first thing is that it’s over with and done for the day. Ba-da bing, ba-da boom. It’s not looming over my head for the remainder of the day, and that’s a really nice feeling.

A.M. exercise is A-O.K. to my diabetes and me.

A Postponed Physical and the Resulting Questions

“Molly, we’re calling to inform you that your 10 A.M. appointment for this Thursday has been canceled. We still aren’t taking patients in the office and we won’t be rescheduling you until April. Please give us a call back so we can set up a new appointment time.”

I listened to the voicemail twice before it sank in that my primary care doctor’s office was calling me to postpone my annual physical.

Why, exactly, did it get postponed? And how do I feel about it?

My doctor’s office called me two days before I was scheduled to come in…leaving me to also wonder why such short notice of the cancellation?

Well, I can only theorize the answer to the first question. I’m certain that my doctor’s office is absolutely overwhelmed with phone calls and appointments…and they’ve probably been like that for the past year or so. I’m guessing that they’re only keeping appointments with higher-priority patients that absolutely need to be seen…someone like me, a pretty healthy (discounting my diabetes) and younger individual, is likely not very high on the list of patients they want to see. Plus, even though I know they’re doing virtual appointments for medical questions as they come up, there probably is no purpose in doing a virtual physical because there’s only so much they can do via video call. So I get the postponement, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

My annual physical is the doctor’s appointment for me, the one that I have each year that I know won’t be a total waste of time. Each year, I get my blood work and urinalysis completed at this appointment, as well as an EKG to monitor my heart. I also get to go over any general health concerns I have with my PCP, who is very thorough when explaining things to me. During this particular visit, I’d hoped to talk about (what I believe to be) the stress-induced hives I’ve experienced in the last month, but now it sounds like I won’t have the chance to do that until April.

But I’m also wondering…when I go to the appointment in April, will I receive my COVID vaccine then, too?

I messaged the doctor’s office to find out and learned…nothing helpful:

I believe by that time you should qualify for the vaccine so you should be able to get it. This of course depends on if the state has given us the vaccine. We will know soon about that and will be sending information to all our patients. 

Uhh…according to the multi-phase vaccine plan outlined by the state of Massachusetts, I should be eligible for the vaccine prior to April. (But quite frankly, the whole phase plan has been a bit of a hot mess. I’m just glad to have 2 out of 4 immediate family members vaccinated at this point.) And the “if” there? Definitely unsettling.

I have so many questions: Can they postpone again in April? When will they be able to tell us more information about the vaccine? Do they think that it’s safer to wait in April because there will hopefully be more vaccinated individuals overall then? Or are they actually worried about vaccine distribution and don’t want to clue anyone into that?

So I feel not-so-awesome about having to wait three more months to check in with my PCP. I take my overall health very seriously, not just my diabetes. One thing has everything to do with the other. However, I do have a virtual appointment with my endocrinologist in a few weeks…maybe that will be the health check-in that I’m desiring?

I’m not banking on it, but I’m hopeful.

“You’re Being Too Paranoid”

They didn’t say that to me, but they didn’t have to…it was written in bold all over their faces.

Recently, I dined outside with people who are close to me (I’m not going into specifics as to who exactly they were to maintain some level of discretion). I was explaining to them that come the winter season, I probably won’t be dining out much out of COVID concerns.

I wish people would spend less time judging others and more time taking the proper precautions to help protect themselves and their loved ones.

I’m just not ready to dine indoors yet. In fact, since March, I’ve only set foot into a physical store, dwelling, or other establishment a dozen times. For me, the risk associated with spending time inside when it’s completely avoidable just isn’t worth it.

But what sucks about this is the judgment I receive from others. Just like I did in this scenario, the looks on their faces make me feel like I have to defend myself. I wanted to scream at them, “you try having a chronic illness and dealing with it during a global pandemic!”…but of course, I’d never do such a thing, and I’m very glad that they don’t have to worry about that.

I do wish, though, that they – as well as other people who are quick to judge individuals like me who are scared and overly cautious these days – would use a little more grace and humility when conversing with those of us who are high risk.

Please try to put yourself in my shoes.

Please understand that not only am I considered high risk, but I’m in direct contact with loved ones who are also considered high risk.

Please know that, yes, I do have a desire – a very strong one – to get back out there and do “normal” things.

But think about the things holding me back…a chronic condition that requires a lot of my time and energy, for starters.

And think about how there are millions of other people like me who share this great responsibility for an underlying health condition that they didn’t ask for on top of a great fear.

I hope it changes your perspective.

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.

An Enjoyable Eye Exam

I think I just had the best doctor’s appointment of my life (so far).

And the most incredible part about that statement? This was my very first appointment with this particular doctor and she absolutely nailed it. I’m almost bummed that I only have to see her annually…

Let me back up a bit. This doctor is my new ophthalmologist (eye care specialist). I switched to her because I’d seen my previous one for just about my entire life, and while he was unquestionably an excellent and knowledgeable doctor, we had some…personality clashes that made my yearly visits with him not so great. It wasn’t like we had a breaking point or anything during my last appointment with him, I just decided that now was the time to make the switch to someone else.

So I did. In August, I contacted the new doctor’s office and set up an appointment. I also wrote to my old doctor and requested the last few years’ worth of notes to be faxed to the new doctor. I’d never written a formal letter like that before, but I kept it short, sweet, and professional by informing him that I’d be seeing a new doctor, providing him with her location and fax number, and thanking him for taking great care of me over the years.

An Enjoyable eye exam
I totally snagged this picture of the exam equipment during the few minutes I was in the room alone. 

Making the switch was as simple as those steps – I had nothing else to do but show up for my appointment on September 1.

When I arrived to the office, I took note of all the social distancing protocol in place. There were only a dozen or so chairs spread out throughout the waiting room. There were dividers in place and stickers on the floor to mark six or more feet apart from the next person in line. The receptionist took my temperature with a contact-less thermometer and of course, nobody was allowed into the area without a mask.

Pleased with the careful measurements the office had taken, I waited for a few minutes before being called into an exam room. A nurse gave me a brief exam and had me read an eye chart using my current glasses prescription, then she dilated my eyes before leaving to go get the doctor.

Within a couple minutes, the doctor entered…and it was nonstop chatter from the moment she came in to the moment I left the practice. Her bubbly energy was infectious and it was obvious I was speaking to someone who truly loves her job. She let me know straightaway that her son is also a T1D right around my age, so she’s more than familiar with every facet of caring for it (with, of course, a special focus on eye health).

We talked a little about everything from insulin pumps, careers, CGMs, my broken bone (she was rocking a brace on her foot, so we shared a laugh over our injuries), and our studies in college. And yes, eventually we did get to the eye exam component, which took barely 60 seconds. She exclaimed with enthusiasm over my “gorgeous” eye health and told me that she is a T1D cheerleader, meaning she recognizes how hard we work to take the best possible care of ourselves.

Absolutely amazing, right?!

The appointment ended with me mentioning my appearance in Dexcom G6 advertisements, and she requested that I send her a clip via email. I did so shortly after I got home, and received the loveliest response back:

“You are spectacular. See you next year!”

I swear, I’ve never left a doctor’s appointment feeling so wonderful about myself. It’s a credit to all physicians like this one, who are passionate about what they do, happy to really engage with patients, and demonstrate in-depth knowledge of medicine and the human body.

It’s Not Always Diabetes’ Fault

“OMG, it sounds like you have super brittle bones. What’s up with that? Is it because of your diabetes?”

I sighed into the phone, grateful that the telehealth professional couldn’t see my annoyed facial expression.

“Oh no, it’s nothing like that. I’m just clumsy!” I tried to keep my tone light and threw in a little laugh for good measure. She went on to say something about how I might want to consider taking calcium and/or vitamin D supplements, but while she went off on her tangent, my mind wandered.

What does bone health have to do with diabetes? And why does it seem like everyone assumes that all of my health issues are directly related to my diabetes?

it's not always diabetes' fault
When it comes to blaming diabetes for other conditions, some people have their heads in the clouds…

Truthfully, it’s a safe assumption – the vast majority of the time, anyways – that my diabetes does have some sort of influence over the rest of my health. Plenty of studies indicate that comorbidity is common with type 1 diabetes (in other words, other conditions are diagnosed alongside the primary condition, in this case, diabetes).

But is my diabetes the cause for my seasonal asthma? Is it the reason I’m allergic to cats and dogs? Did my diabetes create the digestive issues I’ve faced since childhood? I don’t know, maybe. There could be a tenuous connection there.

On the flip-side, is my diabetes responsible for my (almost always) excellent blood pressure? Does it have anything to do with my slight arrhythmia? It’s not as clear-cut in those areas; in fact, I’d be hard-pressed to find a real cause-and-effect relationship when it comes to those things.

So do I blame my diabetes for “brittle bones”? Heck no. I blame my breaks in the last couple of years purely on myself and my tendency to rush around in an uncoordinated manner. And on top of that, based on how quickly I healed from my last break, I expect my recovery to go as well this time around, and I doubt that’d be the case if I genuinely had brittle bones.

This time around, it’s not my diabetes’ fault, that much is clear. And it’s also pretty obvious that I need to exercise a little more patience with health professionals who 1) don’t know me well and 2) are just trying to help me improve my overall health.

It’s a gentle reminder to be a touch more graceful in how I move…and how I respond to innocent queries about my diabetes and other health conditions.

How a Broken Bone Affects my ‘Betes

I still can’t believe that I broke my wrist…again. At least I changed it up a little this time and broke my left one instead!

A broken bone is a broken bone, but my healing experience has been very different compared to last time.

For starters, when I broke my right wrist a couple of years ago, it was in the middle of winter (I slipped and fell on ice in the driveway). I was put into a cast that I wore for 4-6 weeks that felt like 4-6 months because of the challenges I faced. Between attempting to become ambidextrous as I built up strength in my left hand and taking a solo trip to Atlanta, Georgia to film a commercial for Dexcom, I did my best to work around my injury…even though I felt incredibly defeated in the face of the limitations it imposed; specifically, I felt that I couldn’t keep up with the exercise regimen I’d worked so hard to establish. I feared that I’d exacerbate the injury, so I didn’t even try to work around it.

This time around, it’s summer. The break happened after I tripped and fell down some stairs (klutz, much?). I’m wearing a brace for 3-6 weeks instead of a cast: My orthopedist said it’d be much more comfortable versus a cast, which can get seriously stinky and sweaty in the warm weather. And rather than stressing about how I’ll continue to exercise while also allowing myself to heal, I’ve made modifications that have kept my body, broken bone, and ‘betes happy.

How a Broken Bone Affects my 'Betes
Can anyone else spot the lone strand of fur, courtesy of my dog, stuck to my brace?!

I guess I learned from the last broken bone that it’s better to keep moving in some way, shape, or form than dwell too much on the injury itself. In other words, I’ve been trying hard to focus on the things I can still do while I’m wearing a brace as opposed to the things I cannot do. For example, my broken wrist can’t stop me from taking daily walks or, when I’m feeling more ambitious, going for an occasional run. It can’t stop me from making the shift to lower-body-focused workouts or core strengthening routines. I refuse to let this injury be the reason that I get sloppy with my nutrition or workout routines, and it certainly isn’t an excuse to become unmotivated in terms of my diabetes care. If anything, it might just be the reason that I tighten things up and make some much-needed improvements.

They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…so I’m going to try, because a broken wrist won’t stop me from getting something good out of this less-than-ideal situation.

 

 

 

 

Fighting for LGBTQ+ Justice and #insulin4all

This post was written by Quinn Leighton and it was originally published on the T1International blog on July 8, 2020. June may have been Pride Month, but it’s important every day to understand the challenges faced by the queer and trans communities on a daily basis and raise awareness. Thank you to Quinn for sharing your story, fighting for LGBTQ+ justice, and supporting efforts to make insulin available and affordable for all.

I remember stepping up to the counter to check into an appointment with a new medical provider, when the woman at the desk asked me to step to the person to her right saying to her colleague, “Can you help this…” I had to finish the sentence for her, “person. I’m a person.”

I have often felt fear and uncertainty as a person living with Type 1 Diabetes: when I wake up in the middle of the night confused, reaching for my glucose tablets because my blood sugar reads between 40-50; when my spouse is driving me to the ER because I can’t stop throwing up or get my ketones down while I’m home sick with the flu; and of course the overwhelming financial burden we face daily and monthly in order to stay alive and as healthy as possible.

All of this is assuming we don’t face additional barriers such as discrimination, bias or mistreatment the moment we walk through the front door of a pharmacy, or a provider’s office simply based on who we are and how we show up in the world. For people in the LGBTQ+ community, such as myself, this fear is real and based on lived experience. I am queer, non-binary and married. I’m also white, and acutely aware that while my experiences have filled me with anxiety and have led at times to delaying medical care, I recognize I have not experienced medical racism in the way an LGBTQ+ person of color likely has.

Capture
“We must recognize LGBTQ+ people often do not receive the same level of treatment or care that non-LGBTQ+ do, and LGBTQ+ people of color – particularly transgender women of color – are at the highest risk of discrimination, mistreatment and fatal violence.”

Delaying care due to these fears as a queer or trans person is not uncommon in any medical setting, however if you delay care living with diabetes, it can lead to life-threatening complications or even worse. It’s imperative that LGBTQ+ people living with diabetes and other chronic illnesses have the security, affirmation and resources to access the care they need.

We also know that LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and non-binary people make less money, despite having the same, if not higher levels of education as their cisgender, heterosexual peers. Even with a patchwork system of employment protections across communities, states and now federally; discrimination in the workplace is still very real. Among LGBTQ+ people, cis-bisexual women and transgender people have particularly high rates of poverty at 29.4%.

Together we can work toward greater health equity, but collectively, we must recognize the disproportionately high impact of poverty, violence, prejudice, mental health issues, discrimination and fear that so many LGBTQ+ people face living with diabetes. We must recognize LGBTQ+ people often do not receive the same level of treatment or care that non-LGBTQ+ do, and LGBTQ+ people of color – particularly transgender women of color – are at the highest risk of discrimination, mistreatment and fatal violence.

Understanding these inequities is paramount in moving forward in advocacy for affordable and accessible insulin for everyone who needs it, particularly those most vulnerable to bias, mistreatment and discrimination. This includes healthcare policies protecting people with pre-existing conditions and protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination when accessing healthcare. Efforts to repeal or rollback protections put into place through plans such as the Affordable Care Act that seek to provide care to people who need it most, particularly during a pandemic, is simply cruel and will only result in more harm and negative health outcomes. Non-discrimination protections are critical in providing the care needed for so many LGBTQ+ people living with a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, who already face a gamut of uphill battles in other areas of daily life.

Queer and trans communities are formidable. They overcome extraordinary obstacles to gain economic self-sufficiency, put a roof over their heads, maintain their health in the best of conditions, and simply exist and live in this world. What I’ve really noticed most is the courage and resiliency to navigate these barriers while celebrating community and showing up as our true and whole selves.

I recognize structural and systemic change won’t happen easily or quickly; however, I am hopeful that the movements around us will support communities of color, particularly black and indigenous people fighting for their lives and Asian people under attack due to prejudice and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. I am hopeful people will elevate their support of LGBTQ+ people and those most vulnerable within our community while working to make insulin affordable so that no other person living with diabetes is forced to make life-threatening decisions. And it is my hope that this momentum of support will carry us forward toward justice.