As I say farewell to 27 and welcome a new year of life, I can’t help but reflect on how different the world was this time last year.
The pandemic was in full(er) force. The new normal was just establishing itself. Each day was scary and uncertain as hopes for a vaccine any time soon were somewhat bleak.
Fast-forward to the present: As the weather gets warmer, social distancing and masking guidelines are easing. More and more people are getting vaccinated on a daily basis. While we’re far from returning to life before the pandemic, we’re definitely much closer to being able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life (such as hugging a family member or friend) with less anxiety.
So even though the milestones I met in my 27th year (buying my first home, getting my puppy, surviving heartbreak and falling in love again, to name a few) are things that I celebrate daily, I’m also really looking forward to the minutiae of the next 365 days…seeing my family and friends in-person more frequently, breaking out of the bubble (safely, of course) that is my home, going to new and old places for both familiar and unknown experiences…in other words, I’m excited to embrace the things that I took for granted pre-pandemic.
I’m hoping that year 28 brings a whole lot of “great” with it: lots of love, joy, adventures, and hugs from all the people that I’ve missed hugging in the last year or so. Just like with everything else in my life, I’ll bring my diabetes along for the ride and celebrate it, too, because it just makes me appreciate all the things that make life worth living that much more.
Sushi. Wine. Not one, but two slices (I swear they were slivers, honest) of cake. A pod with a cannula that got bent out of shape accidentally due to clumsiness.
The above sounds like some sort of weird laundry list, but it’s really just all the factors that contributed to a night of high blood sugars and relative sleeplessness.
Let me explain what happened: The night started out fabulously! I got sushi for dinner from a local spot that I was trying for the first time. I was excited about it because sushi is a rare treat for me, and I figured the occasion warranted some wine – my first glass(es) that I’ve had in about 2 months (I gave it up for Lent).
Those two things right there are definitely a “dangerous” duo that can cause carbohydrate calculation errors or prolonged blood sugars, but I tucked that in the back of my mind because I wasn’t done with indulgences for the evening.
That’s right, I kept up with the carb-loading by enjoying some cake (white chocolate blueberry cake that I made myself that is just as decadent as it sounds) soon after dinner was done. My problem is that I thought I’d curbed the impact of the carbs by setting a temporary basal increase and stacking a small amount of my insulin, but no such luck. I’d destroyed my second piece (it was just a tiny sliver, people) and noticed that I was creeping up. I took more insulin and soon forgot about my high blood sugar as I immersed myself in episode after episode of Impractical Jokers, which, side note: It’s a series I just discovered and it’s hilarious cringe comedy that is the perfect thing to watch after a long day.
A handful of episodes later, it was time for bed. Or so I thought…because soon after I was settled in bed, I twisted around in just the right – or in this case, wrong – manner that was rough enough to loosen my pod from its allegedly secure location on my back. The smell of insulin was pungent and indicated to me immediately that the pod would have to be ripped off completely and replaced. And the sooner, the better, because my blood sugar was getting closer and closer to 300…definitely not a level I want to see before I go to sleep.
By 12:30 A.M., the new pod was on my arm and a temp basal increase was running to combat my lingering high blood sugar. I also gave myself yet another bolus and crossed my fingers, hoping that the combination would be enough to bring my levels down overnight.
At around 2 A.M., my PDM started beeping to let me know that it’d been about 90 minutes since the new pod was activated, so in response I woke up to silence it and glance at my CGM. My blood sugar barely budged! Frustrated, I gave myself more insulin and fell back into a restless sleep.
Several hours later, my alarm was blaring, far sooner than I wanted it to. I hit the snooze button, also taking care to check out my CGM yet again before I made an attempt at 15 more minutes of sleep. And guess what – I was still high. Quite high. Not 300, but in the mid-200s.
It was official: My blood sugar was punishing me for my night of careless carb consumption and reckless pod-handling. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the resulting chaos, but at least I was able to restore peace again the next morning…eventually.
Just about three years ago, I was helping my parents raise their puppy, Clarence. And naturally, with me being who I am, I found that raising him was a lot like dealing with diabetes – and wrote about it in this blog post.
Now that I’m a puppy parent, I revisited that post and found that there are even more similarities between the two.
For starters, one of the biggest parts of diabetes management is the constant monitoring involved in it. As it turns out, the same can be said about raising a puppy! Much like my blood sugar, I am watching her like a hawk during all waking hours. I’m prepared to pounce on her if she’s chewing up a puppy pad or squatting down to her business indoors, just like I’m prepared to act when my blood sugar is going higher or lower than I’d like.
Also, as it turns out – shocker – having a puppy around is exhausting. My sleep has been interrupted several times over the last few weeks by Violet’s whimpers. Before, I used to only have to worry about a Dexcom alarm waking me in the middle of the night, but now I have to respond to her cries, too. Fortunately, having a puppy isn’t totally like having diabetes in this regard, because at least I can nap when she’s napping! (We all know that diabetes never sleeps…)
Another similarity, one that I don’t mind so much, is the frequent exercise that Violet needs. Just like my diabetes tends to be “better controlled” when I exercise each day, Violet also responds really well to playtime. The best part is that after a nice, long session of fetch or tug-of-war, she tends to zonk out afterwards, which I see as the puppy equivalent of having the coveted 100 mg/dL blood sugar.
However, there are tons of obvious differences between raising a puppy and managing diabetes. But the best, perhaps biggest one of all? Violet improves (well, when she doesn’t have an accident indoors) my overall mood and mental health. I know that her ability to do this will only increase over time as she matures. And I know that having her around will help me through the tough diabetes days that I’m bound to face in the future, and for that and so much more, I’m thankful for my little pup.
For the first time in my entire life, I’m living alone. (Well, I have my puppy Violet to keep me company, but no other humans.)
The prospect of living by myself always freaked me out a little bit, mainly because of the fears I have about diabetes and the “what ifs”: What if my blood sugar goes too low and I can’t get help? What if I’m sick or spilling ketones and need someone to assist me? What if “something bad” (pick any bad scenario here that you can think of) happens, and because I live alone, I can’t take care of myself?
With these questions lurking in the back of my mind, I decided to do something about my worries. I moved into my new place a couple of months ago and since then, I’ve come up with some strategies on how to manage my concerns about living alone with diabetes that have provided both peace of mind and confidence in my ability to thrive in my new home.
Tip #1: Utilize the Dexcom Share feature. This is the best thing that I have done since moving out of my parents’ home. I had a conversation with them after a particularly frightening middle-of-the-night low, and we all agreed that it would be wise for me to invite my dad to follow my blood sugars using Dexcom Share. My favorite part about this arrangement is that my dad and I discussed what we were both comfortable with in terms of data sharing – we decided that it wasn’t necessary for him to view my blood sugar graph at all times, but that he should get alerted when I’m below 50 or above 400. It makes me feel so much safer knowing that he will know if and when those situations should happen, and that he will be able to help me (albeit, from a slight distance) if I can’t help myself.
Tip #2: Keep low snacks all over the place. I keep low snacks on every floor of my condo (the main floor, upstairs, and in my basement) and right next to my bed on my nightstand. It might seem like overkill to have juice boxes, gummy snacks, and glucose tablets all over the place, but the point of that is I never know when a bad low blood sugar will strike, and it’s much easier to walk a few steps to get a low treatment than to walk up or down a set of stairs. I’m able to treat lows very quickly using this method, and since my fear of low blood sugars is one of my biggest concerns about living alone, this helps me make sure that I can handle them efficiently when they occur.
Tip #3: Stay organized. It might sound strange that staying organized is a big help when it comes to living alone with diabetes, but I’ve found that it ensures that I’m able to access any of my supplies within seconds, if needed. I don’t have to rifle through drawers or cabinets to find out how many pods I have left, I simply have to walk into my bedroom closet and look at my shelf to see. I also have all of my medical paperwork – receipts, prescriptions, health plan information, etc. – stashed away in a clearly labeled folder in the filing cabinet by my desk, which again makes my life much easier when I need to find particular documentation at a moment’s notice.
Tip #4: Have emergency contacts identified and readily available. Nobody likes to think about something bad happening…least of all me. But I give myself peace of mind by having emergency contacts labeled in my iPhone using the Medical ID feature. If I needed to call one of them, it would simply take the push of a button (and a quick swipe).
Tip #5: Seek support over social media. When in doubt, I’ve had great success turning to my different social media platforms and chatting with others about issues surrounding living alone. Whether I add a story to my IG profile or send out a tweet when I have blood sugar concerns, I know that the diabetes online community will respond with guidance and insight to help me through whatever issue I may be experiencing. There’s something extraordinarily comforting about knowing that even though I’m living alone, I’m never truly alone because of the support I have.
When I think of January, the color gray comes to mind. This time of year is notorious for being a bit of a dull lull – a period in which everything abruptly slows down. The cold weather feels even colder and it can feel a bit like being trapped inside sometimes.
But we’re all pretty familiar with how that feels by now…
Anyways, that’s what I used to think of January. Now, I’m trying to shift my thinking and find the color and vibrancy in this month. After all, a new mindset – sort of like the one I touched on in Wednesday’s blog post but am still struggling to identify clearly – seems like it should just go together with a new year. If I keep the old mindset, I’ll get old results, and I don’t think I necessarily want old results (unless they pertain to the stretches of time in which my blood sugar levels have been spot-on, then I definitely want those results).
I’m rambling, I know. But this is my way of encouraging myself – and you – to do something that makes you happy today. Need some inspiration? I’ll share my plans: I’ll have a lovely homemade lasagna made by my mother, hang out at my parents’ house with our dogs, and text all of my loved ones to wish them a happy new year. If the weather cooperates, I’ll take a walk at some point to get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Maybe I’ll even get to totally veg out for a few hours and shirk the responsibilities of adulthood, pretending that a new workweek isn’t just around the corner.
All that sounds like a pretty great way to ring in a new year, don’t you think?
Here’s to a new year, your good health, hope, and of course, fabulous blood sugar levels.
Just breathe…a mantra easier said than done when each breath flows in and out smoothly, instead of in ragged, wheezing gasps.
I’m no stranger to asthma. I dealt with it throughout most of my childhood. The details are blurry on when I experienced my first asthma attack, but all I know is that it left me rasping and feeling (on top of sounding) like the cute little penguin from the Toy Story series, Wheezy.
The only thing that would keep my asthma symptoms at bay was nebulizer treatments. The nebulizer is one of those loud machines that generates vapors – albuterol medicine – that must be breathed in through a mouthpiece. I hated these treatments because they left me feeling shaky for a long time afterward and often caused high blood sugar, but it was much easier and more comfortable to breathe after them…so they were worth it.
Throughout my teenage and most of my young adult years, though, asthma slowly became a distant memory. I experienced it less frequently until it stopped altogether, and suddenly diabetes was the only thing I had to worry about. And I was glad for it.
But then…let’s fast-forward to the week leading up to Christmas. I was busy. I mean, wicked busy. I was running all over the place, jetting from one party to another, interacting with all sorts of people who were bringing germs from all over to each of these merry gatherings. I was getting run down and sleeping less due to the holiday celebrations, so really, it shouldn’t have surprised me when I felt the first tinge of a sort throat in church on Christmas Eve. But when that sore throat was soon followed by a tight chest and a whistling sound whenever I exhaled, I was taken aback – not to mention straight-up annoyed.
I treated the initial waves of wheeziness with my rescue inhaler. But when that started to be less effective over shorter and shorter lengths of time, I knew I needed to get in touch with my primary care doctor. So I did, and I met with a nurse practitioner who diagnosed me with something new: reactive airway disease. I left the office feeling shell-shocked over a new diagnosis that would mean that I would have to use a different kind of inhaler twice daily for the next two weeks.
I was afraid to start it for many reasons, but the two biggest ones were 1) I was nervous it would make my blood sugar go up and 2) it can cause thrush (also known as an oral yeast infection, which sounds positively nightmarish) if I forget to rinse my mouth out with water after each dose.
Overall, though, it doesn’t sound like too big of a deal, right? If it helps my breathing, it shouldn’t be an issue to add this inhaler into my morning and evening routines.
Silly old me, however, did turn this into a big deal. I wasted far too much time fretting over this inhaler and saying “woe is me” for having to deal with yet another medication that was extremely expensive (I paid $56.83 for the darn thing…I have no idea what the total would have been if I was uninsured).
My logical self knows that this won’t do any good. So now, I’m getting my act together and just rolling with the punches.
It’s November 18th which means that it’s Day 18 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! The prompt for today was fairly simple – state where you’re from – so I decided to delve a little deeper and explain what my diabetes community is like at home…
Home is where the heart is, and it just so happens that I’ve got quite a diabetes community there, too.
I spend most of my time in Virginia these days, but I’m originally from Massachusetts. Growing up in that state shaped me as the human being that I am today, and it’s also where I had a total change in perspective when it comes to diabetes, community, and support.
I’ve said it many times here, but throughout my youth, I had my mom and my aunt as my type 1 influences in my life – that was it, and that was all that I needed and wanted.
Or so I thought.
When my feelings on diabetes support changed in college, I quickly discovered the value in fostering a sense of community wherever I go. So I made it a mission upon graduating to make sure that I maintained diabetes connections at home. It felt especially important as I was about to undergo another major life transition: joining the workforce full-time.
And I’m glad I fulfilled that goal. Through the power of social media, I attended a handful of diabetes meetups in the last few years that provided that sense of belonging that I yearned for and introduced me to many local T1Ds.
So as you may be able to imagine, it’s been tough for me to still receive invites to events and gatherings that I can no longer readily attend since I’m in a different state most of the time.
This is why I finally decided to do something about it. Feeling inspired by the spirit of National Diabetes Awareness Month, I found a group that meets up semi-regularly in my new location. I was nervous about it, but I made an introductory post on their page. I explained that I work from home; as such, it’s hard meet new people. And not only would I like to connect with other T1Ds, but I’m also interested in volunteering in the area.
My “bold” move paid off. Within hours, several people had commented on my post and made it known that I could reach out to them whenever to arrange a lunch or explore the city. I haven’t taken anyone up on it yet (with the Thanksgiving holiday being so close and all), but it’s really nice to know that the offers are there when I’m ready to take them up on it.
Even though the concept of “home” has been a little shaky in the last year, I know this much: Wherever I wind up, I’ll find and nurture a diabetes community there because people who just get it make even the strangest of places feel a whole lot more welcoming…and like home.
In Hugging the Cactus’s infancy, I wrote a blog post called French Fries Are Evil. In this post, I came to the conclusion that french fries are evil because they’re fatty, slow-releasing but high carb little jerks.
I’m here today, almost two years after that post, to let you know that these feelings toward french fries have not changed one bit.
Yep, they’re still evil.
They straight-up tricked me into thinking that I was bound for a night of beautiful blood sugars not too long ago, despite the less-than-healthy decisions I was making regarding food and drink.
Why did I (naively) think that french fries would play nice with my blood sugars?
Well, for starters, I was doing my best to cut carbs the rest of the carbs I’d be consuming for this particular meal, which was a pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries. I ate less than half of the bun and I certainly didn’t finish the heaping portion of fries. But I did eat a lot more than I normally would (and savored every single one), making sure to bolus semi-aggressively for the indulgence.
And I was literally coasting for hours afterward – I didn’t budge above 130 for at least three hours post-meal. I was confused, but elated! Did I finally figure french fries out? Did I master the correct portion of carbs/protein/fat to eat with them? Or maybe my pancreas decided to resuscitate itself for a narrow window of time that particular evening?
I’m gonna go with the latter.
Because a bit after midnight – a witching hour, indeed – that’s when the crazy corrections, and excessive cursing on my part, started. The french fries had made a proper fool of me again, and I couldn’t believe I’d really fallen for their conniving ways again.
Needless to say, I won’t be ordering french fries with my meal again any time soon. Some foods just aren’t worth it when it comes to figuring out how to make them play nice with my diabetes, and french fries don’t quite cut the mustard.
So basically everyone in my life right now is engaged, or on the fast-track to getting engaged.
And that’s awesome! No, seriously, it’s an exciting time for a lot of my family and friends. And I’m happy to be part of it all because I like going to weddings. Who doesn’t love to celebrate love?
Well, I can tell you what doesn’t love to celebrate love…MY DIABETES.
My diabetes effing hates weddings.
My diabetes hates weddings SO much that I’ve yet to go to one where it doesn’t act up in some way.
I was naive enough to think that it would actually be a good diabetes day during the last wedding I attended. And it was, for the most part: I woke up, had a Dunkin Donuts sandwich for breakfast, got dressed and made-up. I showed up for the ceremony with a slightly low blood sugar that was swiftly corrected with a mini box of raisins (oh, if only I knew how many more I’d consume that night…).
I was fine, right through the cocktail hour and the start of dinner. But that’s where the troubles began. You see, there weren’t many passed hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail hour, and I could’ve really used some because I hadn’t eaten anything besides the sandwich and the raisins all day long. By the time dinner started, I was ravenous and basically shoved anything within arm’s reach into my mouth. This included a lot of cheese, meats, and pieces of flatbread.
If I’d actually been thinking about how my blood sugars usually respond to slow-acting carbs in things like flatbread, I might’ve actually wound up okay. But over the course of the next several hours, as wedding guests were whooping it up on the dance floor, my blood sugar was making a slow and steady climb up into the 300s! When I finally realized this, I started taking correction boluses that, apparently, were far too aggressive…because when I finally ended the night in my hotel room around 1:30 A.M., I was in the 70s. And dropping.
My lowest blood sugar was 43 that night. I ate multiple packs of raisins, 5 or 6 glucose tablets, a FiberOne bar, and half a pack of peanut butter crackers. All between the hours of 1:30 and 4 in the morning. It was exhausting. I was tearful and sweating so badly at one point that it looked like I had just come out of the shower. I even wound up sending my sleepy boyfriend down to the lobby at one point to buy me an orange juice, because I was running out of low blood sugar remedies. I drank half of it and was relieved to see my CGM showing, at long last, a diagonal up arrow. I couldn’t believe that I’d just spent the last few hours hovering below my “low” threshold on my CGM, but I didn’t waste any more time thinking about it – I was extraordinarily tired and happy to finally go to sleep.
But now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’ve realized that I need a new strategy for myself and my diabetes when it comes to weddings. I’m going to be my cousin’s maid of honor next month, for goodness’ sake, so I want to do everything I can to ensure “decent” (i.e, blood sugars under 200 but over 80) for the special day.
A key to success, I think, will be regularly scheduled meals and making sure that I avoid an empty stomach at all costs.
This post originally appeared on my blog at ASweetLife.org on August 8, 2016. I modified the title a bit by adding in the word, “please”…because a little extra kindness can work wonders! This particular blog post is still very relevant to how I feel when strangers make uninformed comments on my diabetes. The bottom line? If you don’t know me and my medical history with diabetes, then please, please, PLEASE avoid telling me how I should handle it. Much obliged!
I like to think that I am fairly tolerant of people asking me questions about my diabetes. From “What’s that thing on your arm?” to “What do glucose tablets taste like?”, I’ve heard quite the gamut of queries from friends and strangers alike over the years. More often than not, I try to provide honest and thoughtful answers to these questions and field follow-ups with patience.
I don’t respond well, though, when someone TELLS me something about my diabetes rather than ASKING me. It’s one thing if you’re telling me something that you know to be factually correct about diabetes as a whole, but it’s completely different if you’re telling me something about my diabetes as it pertains to me alone. And when I say “I don’t respond well” to that, I mean to say I keep smiling on the surface, but on the inside, I’m seething.
It’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with annoying assertions of this nature; unfortunately, this past week I had to grin and bear through two incidents in which I was being told what I should and should not do. (Note that I chose to not specify when and where each comment occurred, for my privacy and the privacy of others!)
Scenario One: At an undisclosed location, I’m helping myself to dinner. I add a cookie to my plate. A person in the vicinity says, “You shouldn’t be having that!”
This is a classic case of what you should never say to a person with diabetes. Most T1Ds will tell people that we can eat whatever we like, as long as we do so in moderation and remember to bolus for it accordingly. I was a little taken aback to hear this remark considering this person has known me since birth; therefore, they should realize I know how to take care of my diabetes by now. Initially, I was annoyed with this comment, but I decided to be graceful about it and say, “Yes, I can have that—I can eat whatever I like, within reason,” before exiting the room.
Scenario Two: At an undisclosed location, I’m cold, so I wrap myself in a blanket. A person in the vicinity says to someone else close by, “Molly has poor circulation because of her diabetes. That’s why she’s always cold.”
In the 18.5 years that I’ve had diabetes, I’ve never had someone tell me that it’s the reason why I get cold from time to time…just like anybody else might, whether or not they have a chronic illness. This comment really bothered me because I’ve had plenty of conversations with the individual about my diabetes, and I’ve never once linked it to my body temperature. Last time I checked, my circulation is perfectly normal. No doctor has ever told me that it’s poor. Plus, with air conditioners being put on full blast all summer long, I think it would be natural to get a little cold after sitting inside all day long without exposure to the sun’s warmth. I wish I had said something to put this person in their place, but wanting to avoid confrontation, I forced a smile and changed the subject.
In both of these situations, I probably wouldn’t have felt irritated if these comments were phrased at questions. Believe it or not, there’s a huge difference between telling me that my diabetes affects my circulation and asking me whether it does. Regardless of how diabetes-related remarks, queries, jokes, and references are phrased, though, I’ll still try hard to handle them with poise and a smile. I may internalize my frustration at the time of a bothersome statement, but it’s there and it does get to me.