Memory Monday: The Shattered Insulin Vial

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the insulin vial that my mother and I accidentally broke in the bathroom of a restaurant, many years ago. R.I.P., tiny vial of Humalog.

This goes back to the days of having to scurry off to the restroom soon after ordering our meals to check blood sugars and inject insulin. And it was a pain. We wanted to be considerate of other diners around us in the restaurant, so doing our diabetes things at the table wasn’t an option. That left us with the most logical choice, the bathroom.

On the night of the broken vial, we were having dinner at a local restaurant. Once our dinner orders were placed, we headed off to complete our routine. And it went just as expected: We knew our blood sugar levels and did the mental math necessary for figuring out our insulin intakes. If memory serves correctly, I was still at an age where I wasn’t totally comfortable with injecting myself yet and would ask my parents to help me whenever we were in a public place (I felt better about self-injecting at home, my literal comfort zone). So my mom ushered me into a stall and went about filling her syringe, then mine. Soon after she stuck me with the needle, it happened…the vial fell. I don’t know if it was my hand or her elbow that knocked it off from its perch, but something caused it to tumble down to meet its end.

Capture

 

It was a dramatic moment. If a slo-mo camera had captured the ordeal, I’m sure it would’ve shown my mother and I donning identical, horrified expressions as the vial smashed into smithereens on the tiled bathroom floor.

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t the end of the world; after all, we’d just taken our shots before the incident, and the vial wasn’t completely full. But it was just full enough that we were upset about all the wasted insulin that formed a small puddle on the floor.

I remember my mom gingerly picking up the pieces of the fractured vial and disposing of them, sighing as she went about the task. That whole experience resulted in a few things. 1) We made sure to get a vial protector soon after it happened to help cushion future insulin vials that were accidentally dropped and 2) We got insulin pens a bit further down the road, which proved to be much more durable and portable than vials. In fact, they made it so we could do injections at the dinner table, in the car, and just about anywhere with ease and discretion.

But this incident remains etched in my memory because it instilled always being careful with my diabetes supplies from that moment on. All of my diabetes stuff is expensive and extremely precious because of what it does for me, my mom, and millions of other people on a daily basis – it’s got to be treated carefully, always.

Memory Monday: That Time a Classmate Said That Having Diabetes Means You’re Screwed

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…that one time in college when some random kid sitting near me in class said that having diabetes means “you’re screwed”. In other words, you can’t live with it, it’s a death sentence.

Before I talk about how I responded to that, I’ll provide some context. It was my freshman or sophomore year of college. I was in a discussion group for my Nutrition 101 seminar. It was early enough in my college career that I still felt painfully shy around most of my classmates, unless they happened to live in my dorm or I had known them in high school (even though I went to a college with an undergraduate population of more than 20,000, I’d still occasionally encounter a high school classmate – it’s a small world after all).

But when it comes to diabetes…well, I have a reputation for not being able to shut up about it. So when it inevitably came up over the course of the Nutrition class, and the teacher’s assistant asked us to define it, I felt a natural impulse to say everything I knew about it. I had to suppress it, though, because my fear of raising my hand in class was stronger than my desire to spew out an overly in-depth definition of diabetes.

So I let someone else answer the question, noting what was right and wrong about the response. As the T.A. launched into her notes on diabetes and nutrition, I overheard a muttered, ignorant comment from the kid next to me:

If you have diabetes, that means you’re screwed!

Your art is yours
As you might imagine, I didn’t take too kindly to his words.

While the dude sitting next to him laughed, I felt instant rage surge throughout my body. Without even thinking, I blurted out loud, just audibly enough for him to hear, “No, having diabetes does not mean you’re screwed. Whether you have type 1 or type 2, you can live a perfectly normal life with it. I would know, I have type 1.” I felt my face flush as I turned my attention back to the oblivious T.A. in the front of the room. In the corner of my eye, I saw that the kid was sitting there, mouth slightly agape, probably surprised that the quiet girl in discussion group spoke up to shut down his idiotic way of thinking.

It’s been several years since I was in this particular class, and I don’t remember much of the materials that were taught in it. But I do remember this exchange. It stands out to me because it’s a reminder of how far we’ve got to go as a society to defeat diabetes stigma and prove that you can do more than survive with diabetes – you can thrive with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Monday: Attending my First CDN Meeting

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…attending my very first CDN meeting as a college freshman who had no idea what to expect.

I remember wandering into one of the dilapidated buildings on campus, my stomach twisting in knots out of anticipation. I had no clue what to expect. I’d decided to go to the meeting partly to find out what it was like to interact with other T1Ds who were my age, and partly to placate my mother, who encouraged me to give it a shot (pun definitely intended).

When I walked into the room, I was greeted by the then-president of the UMass Amherst chapter, a couple of members, and the chapter’s adviser. I remember smiling nervously at them, introducing myself, and sitting down to join in on the animated conversation.

That would be the first and only CDN meeting in which I didn’t have much to say, only because I was too fixated on the novelty of the whole thing. Growing up, my mom and my aunt were the only two T1Ds I had in my life, and I was very okay with that. They were (and still are) excellent resources for my diabetes-related questions, so much so that my young/naive mind couldn’t see what I’d possibly have to gain by befriending other people my own age with diabetes.

If I’d known then what I know now…!

85EEFF80-7438-46A8-B5C0-ECD07AAE5A04
CDN became such a big part of my life that I even wound up on the cover of their Advocacy and Awareness Guide!                    Who woulda thunk?

To make a long story short, that meeting marked the start of something wonderful for me. A journey, of sorts, to feeling empowered with diabetes. The beginning of many treasured friendships. An introduction to leadership in the diabetes community. A foray into feeling less afraid to rely on others for emotional support when I struggle with my diabetes.

That first meeting showed me what it was like to be around peers who I don’t have to constantly explain things to because they already know the ins and outs of diabetes just as well as I do. And that is invaluable.

I like reflecting on my involvement with CDN because so many positive things are associated with it, and it’s especially fitting on this Memory Monday in question, because Diabetes Awareness Month is right around the corner! My upcoming posts will reflect that, and they’ll also address prompts provided by the CDN to celebrate College Diabetes Week. Even though I’m not in college anymore, I’m looking forward to writing posts that respond to those prompts, because they’ll serve as a great way to reflect and reminisce some more. Be on the lookout for those posts in the next two weeks!

Memory Monday: That Time I was Bullied for Having T1D

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…when my alleged “best friend” picked on me for having diabetes. It sucked.

Let me recount this tale by saying first that this was many years ago – I think it was in third or fourth grade. Since my grade school days, I’ve made much smarter choices when it comes to my social circles.

But back then, I didn’t really know any better. I just wanted to be friendly with everyone.

I digress…

Back in elementary school, we were awarded fitness “medals” for being able to complete a series of exercises in physical education. These medals were really just flimsy little patches that you could sew on to a backpack, but nevertheless, I wanted one very badly. But no matter how hard I tried in gym, I just couldn’t complete as many reps as it took to earn a medal. I was always just shy of the threshold, much to my frustration.

I’ll never forget when my “best friend” told me that there was a very obvious reason as to why I couldn’t, and would never, earn a medal:

It’s because she has diabetes, she can’t do anything right with that!

In that moment in time, I was too dumbstruck by the stupidity of that comment to tell her that she was wrong. I was also incredibly hurt by her words, and they haunted me for many years after they were so callously said to my face.

IMG_3978
My Lilly medal means more to me now than a stupid grade-school medal ever could.

Now, as an adult reflecting on it, I wish I had told her that diabetes could never stop me from doing anything. I wish I told her that she was in the wrong for saying what she said, and I wish that she could see all that I’ve accomplished over the years in spite of my diabetes.

But most of all? I wish I could thank her for that comment – because as mean as it was, it gave me something to think about on the days when I just want to quit because of diabetes. Her words serve as a reminder to me that I can and will succeed at anything I set my mind to, diabetes and all.

Memory Monday: The First Time I Met an Endocrinologist that I Didn’t Like

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the first time I met a diabetes doctor (endocrinologist, or endo for short) who I didn’t like. At all.

I knew right off the bat that we would be a bad fit, because he started the appointment by sharing his own blood sugar with me (as he was also a T1D). “Oh, I’m 136 right now…that’s a bit high, so I’m going to take insulin for it.” He reached for his insulin pump and I stared at him, nonplussed. Since when was 136 a “high” blood sugar? Why was he sharing this with me? If his own target blood sugar range is so narrow, then what the hell is he going to think of me when he reviews my own data?

C0E4AC20-C524-432B-8F8C-8161C2F776CD
The face I make when I think about that awful appointment and the negative thoughts it gave me about my A1c.

The appointment only went downhill from there. At this point in my life, I was a brand-new college freshman, and my diabetes was simply no concern of mine. So my blood sugars and A1c weren’t great.

And I got scolded for it.

Throughout the entire appointment, I felt judged. I held back tears at points because I felt that I had to explain myself to this guy, that I had to somehow get him to understand that the transition to college hadn’t been easy on me, and that’s why my A1c was high. But I couldn’t get the words out. Instead, I sat there, numb, as he lectured me on what I should and shouldn’t be doing to take care of my diabetes. He kept insisting that I go onto a pump, which at that time, was totally scary to me – a non-option. He was so adamant that I got frustrated and shut down towards the end of the appointment, nodding and smiling tightly at his words.

I’m certain that I cried on the way home from that appointment out of frustration over how it went. I didn’t feel motivated to take better care of myself; instead, I felt rotten. I realized that just because someone is a doctor, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily know how to convey messages about health to patients. In other words, not everyone has an appropriate bedside manner.

Fortunately, that was the first and last time I saw that doctor. He moved to a different practice weeks after I saw him. My next endo appointment was with my current doctor, and seven years later, it’s one of the healthiest doctor/patient relationships I’ve ever experienced. When I look at it that way, it was worth experiencing the worst in order to get the best.

Memory Monday: The First Time I Tried Sugar-Free Chocolate from Yummies

Memory Monday is following a slightly different format from here on out! One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the first time that I tried sugar-free chocolate. Not just any sugar-free chocolate, though: It was from Yummies, a massive candy emporium in Southern Maine. The store is lined, floor to ceiling, with bags upon bags of candy. You can bulk buy your favorites to your heart’s content as well as discover weird, relatively unknown confectionery creations. If you have a sweet tooth, it’s basically a saccharine paradise.

When I was younger, I watched a lot of Phantom Gourmet – partly because it was always on the TV in my Grammy’s nursing home when we visited her each Saturday afternoon, and partly because I was a growing foodie who loved learning about local hot spot eateries. At around nine years old, an episode that featured Yummies aired on TV, and I discovered that they had an entire case devoted to sugar-free chocolates in their store. I knew I had to go check it out; fortunately, my parents were willing to take me there next time we trekked up to Maine.

31E33B9B-61EB-4AC9-9894-C1AAE220D4F9
Yummies, also known as candy lover’s paradise.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into that store. My jaw dropped as I laid eyes on the 10,000 pounds of candy they had on display. As I wove through the rainbow-hued aisles, I could practically feel my blood sugar spiking. But I was on a mission to find the sugar-free section that looked so delectable on television that I could practically taste it.

I heard angels sing hallelujah when I laid eyes on the aforementioned case of chocolates. There were so many choices! And all of them were made in the store, guaranteeing higher quality! It was a T1D chocolate lover’s paradise: There were fudge meltaways, peanut butter cups, almond bark, coconut clusters, sea salt caramels, chocolate peanuts, malted milk balls, peppermint patties, and even more beyond that. I remember marveling at the variety for a solid five minutes before I was told by my father to hurry up and make my selections. I don’t remember exactly what I chose, but it definitely included the meltaways and peanut butter cups. Once they were paid for and I was back in the car with my chocolate treasures, I took my first bite and could scarcely believe it was sugar free candy – that’s how awesome it tasted.

Every summer since then, I’ve made an annual visit to Yummies to pick up my tasty sugar-free chocolates. It brings back memories of being a little kid stepping into that store for the first time, memories that are almost as sweet as the candy inside.

Memory Monday: The Diabetes Diet, 100 Years Ago

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…insulin had yet to be discovered? Of course you don’t actually remember it, unless you were born in or prior to 1921 (and if you were, wow!!! Thanks for checking out the blog!).

Anyway, prior to the groundbreaking discovery of insulin, people with diabetes lived difficult – rather miserable, actually – lives. I started reading a book called Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle a little while ago. This book has made me realize just how fortunate I am to live during a time when insulin is around (even if it is grossly overpriced).

Many parts of this book have surprised, horrified, and downright depressed me. One of the more shocking things that I’ve learned from it, though, is the diabetes diet that was prescribed to patients in the early 1900s. Patients like Elizabeth Hughes, the T1D daughter of a U.S. politician, were expected to follow a strict meal plan upon admission to the Physiatric Institute in Morristown, New Jersey. Imagine following an eating plan like this every day:

Breakfast – One egg with two and one-quarter tablespoons of string beans boiled three times, and one tablespoon each of cream and coffee.

10 A.M. – Half a small orange for a snack.

12 P.M. – Two and a half tablespoons of cod with two heaping tablespoons of Brussels sprouts boiled three times, as well as five small olives and a half pat of butter…with a cup of tea to wash it all down.

Dinner – One egg and one egg white, 2 tablespoons of spinach (yes, boiled three times), with a half pat of butter.

Oh, scratch that part about following this diet every single day – patients had to fast one day each week. No food was permitted, at all.

Does that not sound vile?

I mean, I love eggs, and I happily eat veggies on a daily basis. But I’m certain I’d get sick of them no matter how they were prepared. And veggies boiled THREE times? I would think that they’d be reduced to mush, which, according to the book, is the point. Boiling them so many times would ensure minimal carbohydrate consumption since the nutrients would basically be cooked out of the vegetable. Plus, with portions so tiny, it’s hard to imagine that anyone ever felt full after consuming a “meal”.

DD0B7735-4A89-42C5-81A4-732B91E1F4BF
For context, one egg is about the same size as one tablespoon, meaning that portions on this diet plan were miniscule.

This extremely restrictive diet left patients yearning for pictures of food they saw in magazines, as well as severely undernourished. Following this meal plan practically guaranteed that patients would become emaciated. In fact, by the time 15-year-old Elizabeth Hughes left the Physiatric Institute, she weighed a mere 45 pounds – less than half what a healthy girl that age should weigh.

Even though I haven’t finished the book yet, it already serves as a reminder to be grateful for what I’ve got in this day in age: not just insulin, but amazing technology, wonderful doctors, and radical ongoing research in the diabetes field.

All of today’s advancements make me hopeful for the possibility of the eradication of diabetes, maybe not too far after the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of insulin.