This Time Last Year…

This time last year, I was under the impression that I’d be heading to the Friends for Life Orlando conference that is held each July.

It was supposed to be my “triumphant return” to in-real-life diabetes meet-ups. There were so many individuals I’d hoped to either reunite with or meet for the first time.

Obviously, the pandemic totally changed my plans – as well as everyone else’s.

I was upset for awhile, but took consolation in the fact that the FFL team worked hard to turn it into a virtual conference. IMHO, I think they did an excellent job, and I remember signing off from that one feeling hopeful to attend it in-person in 2021…

This time last year was supposed to go a little differently.

…except I just don’t think that’s going to happen for me this year.

As far as I’m aware, the CWD FFL Orlando conference is on and in-person for 2021. But I, personally, am not comfortable attending. I know this won’t be the case for everyone and that’s okay. Yet I still feel compelled to explain why I’m not going to attend and how this makes me feel.

I don’t feel good about traveling, well, anywhere these days. I have a lot of anxiety about it, so much that any type of getaway, as nice as it sounds right now, just wouldn’t be worth it in the end because of how much worry I’d have about the trip.

And of course I’m sad about this. Of course I want to escape somewhere, and OF COURSE I’d love the chance to see my diabetes community in person. I find that in-person interactions are so much richer and fill me with a sense of gratitude and camaraderie that just can’t be matched online. Plus, I feel that it’s much easier to forge genuine connections when interacting with others face-to-face…I struggle to keep up with all the tweets, Instagram posts/stories, and Facebook threads, so instead of trying to weed my way through them all, I typically just don’t engage whatsoever. I simply can’t find enough time to comment as much as I’d like, which means that I miss out on some great opportunities to satisfy my need for conversation with the diabetes community.

As much as my decision not to attend bums me out, I do take some solace in knowing that there are others in the same boat as me. And I also feel reassured thinking about how hopefully, this time next year, I will be planning my true comeback to the wonderful world of diabetes conferences (in the wonderful world of Walt Disney, to boot).

Why I Wouldn’t Change the Age at which I Was Diagnosed with Diabetes

If I could cure diabetes for myself, my mom, my aunt, and all other people living with it, I would in a heartbeat, no question.

Unfortunately, I don’t have that capability, so I can’t change the fact that diabetes exists. Another thing I can’t change is that I was only four years old when I was diagnosed with it.

But let’s talk in hypotheticals here for a moment: If I could change the age that I was diagnosed, would I? Why or why not?

The answer is a resounding no, and here’s why.

I grew up with my diabetes. I don’t remember life before it. I don’t recall a time in my life in which I was finger-prick free or able to eat whichever foods whenever I wanted.

That might sound sort of depressing, but for me, it’s better that way.

See, little Molly clearly didn’t care about having diabetes – I was way too into my horsey to care about that!

I never have to long for the “before times”. I never have to look back on a time in my life that was hard because diabetes rudely interrupted it, causing a swift, drastic change to my daily routine. By the time I was old enough to start really recalling specific events, I already had diabetes. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always just been a part of me.

Some might argue that it’s “better” (imagine that I’m air-quoting that because it’s never better to have diabetes) to be diagnosed with something as life-altering as diabetes in adulthood, or at least in the teenage years, because comprehension of what it is, exactly, is stronger. I’d imagine that the adaptation of new technologies is easier, too, seeing as teenagers/older individuals tend to pick up on these things faster than, say, a toddler that is needing to learn how to safely use an insulin pump.

But for me, it’s been good to learn about diabetes as I’ve matured. As a kid, I just knew it was the thing that prevented me from eating certain foods at certain times, and that I needed my parents’ help at mealtimes in order to calculate carb intake and bolus amounts. As a teen, I started to actually learn the science behind diabetes in various classes I took throughout high school, and expanded on that knowledge in college by taking a nutrition course that taught me all about the glycemic index and how that impacts blood sugar. And as an adult, I’ve been able to make informed choices regarding the use of insulin pumps, CGMs, and other matters of that nature that require some research and understanding.

And more important than anything else…being diagnosed with diabetes at 4 years old had zero impact on my quality of life. I had a wonderful childhood and all the credit goes to my parents, who made sure that I was raised knowing that diabetes couldn’t stop me from doing anything. I know they would’ve handled a potential diabetes diagnosis later on in my life with an equal amount of grace and strength, but the fact that I grew up with it meant that we all, as a family, grew up with it as a normal part of our lives.

So even though I’ll never be okay in the traditional sense of the word that I have diabetes, I am okay with getting diagnosed as a little kid.

National Diabetes Awareness Month 2020: A Recap

And just like that, we’ve somehow, bewilderingly, arrived at the final day of National Diabetes Awareness Month 2020.

Not sure how that’s possible considering it should still technically be March 2020 (you know, when shit hit the fan), but here we are!

The blue circle…a symbol of diabetes awareness and advocacy efforts.

At the beginning of November, I really wasn’t sure that I was ready to don my diabetes advocacy hat and amp up my awareness efforts for the entire month. I’ve had enough going on in my personal life (spoiler alert: I bought a condo and moved into it at the start of the month) and as a result, I’ve spent much less time on social media and a whole lot more doing my very best attempt at adulting.

And despite that, I still found myself immersed in advocacy efforts – and blown away by what everyone else in the diabetes online community was doing.

Daily posts, live IG videos, fundraising efforts, and so much more happened all month long. They were inspiring, educational, and highly motivational to someone like me who was tepid at best about diving into advocacy activities this year. They were definitely enough to encourage me to keep posting for one of the many diabetes-themed Instagram challenges for the month. As minor as it was to write captions each day based on the prompts, it’s still what worked best for me in this weird year.

My big takeaway from this, though, isn’t that I should have done more or that I should feel guilty for doing the bare minimum…no, it’s a reminder that advocacy doesn’t take place during a single month or on one day.

Advocacy is a year-round thing.

I’m proud to talk about diabetes practically every damn day in some shape or form because I think that it helps people in my life realize that diabetes itself is a 24/7, 365-kind-of gig.

And I’ll keep talking and writing and expressing and advocating ’til the day there’s a cure for it.

Do We Take Medical Technology for Granted?

Before I dive into this post, I want to make it abundantly clear that I don’t know the answer to this question. I’m not judging how anyone reacted during the recent Dexcom G6 outage, nor am I stating that there was a “right” or a “wrong” way to handle the situation. I merely think it’s important to ask ourselves questions like this when things don’t go according to plan with diabetes care/management.

Alright, now that I’ve got THAT out of the way…

Capture
Many variations of this graphic have floated around the Internet in the days since the outage. I am not mocking anyone by posting it here; rather, I am using it as an example of ways in which we cope with diabetes difficulties. This example, to me, is an attempt at using humor to deal.

For the last several days, the DOC has been in a bit of a panic. And when I say “bit” I mean “a helluva lot”. That’s because the day after Thanksgiving, Dexcom Follow stopped working. This means that parents/caretakers who rely on the technology to monitor their child’s/loved one’s blood sugar levels were left in the dark. It sparked confusion, outrage, and downright fear, all of which only seemed to intensify over the weekend and into this week when the problem was only partially solved for most users.

Rather than coming together to support one another, the DOC swiftly divided into two camps: The first consisted of individuals who sought to gently remind others that this technology is still pretty new. It hasn’t even been around for two decades. That meant that for many years before then, people with diabetes were doing things the “old school” way, and getting by just fine. Doesn’t this mean that we should all be able to make it through unexpected technology blackouts, knowing that we have our blood sugar meters to fall back on?

The second camp was in a greater fury over the issue. This camp relied on the Dexcom G6 system because those within it simply didn’t know a life without the continuous glucose monitoring technology. For them, the outage was a bit like asking them to Google something without access to the Internet – it’s pretty much impossible, unless you’ve got an Encyclopedia handy. Oh, and it’s MUCH higher stakes, because people who don’t recognize symptoms of low or high blood sugar need this technology to work in order to stay on top of fluctuating blood sugar levels. Let’s not even get into how much is PAID for this expensive piece of medical equipment…one would argue that the high cost of supplies means that the technology should work at all times, no matter what.

If you’re like me, you can see that both of these groups have perfectly valid points. I’ve had diabetes long enough that I didn’t even use – and didn’t see the point in using – continuous glucose monitoring or insulin pumps until a few years ago. I took care of my diabetes the old fashioned way growing up: doing fingerstick checks multiple times per day, treating low blood sugars with 15 carbs then waiting 15 minutes, checking blood sugar levels about an hour after injecting insulin to make sure highs were coming down the way they should. This way of handling diabetes worked for me for a long, long time…throughout elementary, middle, and high school, right up to college.

Then I got a continuous glucose monitor (I believe it was the Dexcom G4) just before starting my freshman year of college. And I haven’t really been without a CGM device since then. It’s changed my life and helped me navigate adulthood with diabetes. Whenever I do experience periods of the technology not working the way it should, it’s infuriating because I feel like it’s not worth throwing away buckets of cash on it in those periods of inconsistency and inaccuracy.

But here’s what I’m wondering, as a result of this Great Dexcom G6 Outage of 2019…do we take this technology for granted?

Do we truly appreciate the times that it works the way it should?

Do we expect too much from something that, technologically speaking, still has a long way to go in terms of working perfectly?

Do we rely too heavily on continuous glucose monitors to provide us peace of mind when, in reality, they simply provide us with real-time updates of our blood sugar levels (i.e., it’s a stream of data)?

I don’t have answers to these questions. I can reflect on my own answers to them; furthermore, I can ponder how and why the DOC gets so divisive in these times where we should try to come together, listen to (and learn from) differing perspectives, and figure out what we can do to best support one another during trying times.

 

Why You Should Get a Flu Shot (If You Haven’t Gotten One Already)

I’m not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination. But I am a highly opinionated person who happens to have a chronic illness and who feels strongly about vaccinations such as the flu shot.

So with that in mind, let me say that I truly believe it’s of the utmost importance that you get your flu shot this fall.

Whether you have diabetes or someone you know and love has diabetes, you need to help protect yourself (and your loved one) by getting your flu shot. Why? Because it’s common knowledge that people with diabetes simply have weaker immune systems. I’ve made it a practice, along with many other people with diabetes, to keep up-to-date on this vaccination annually because I know how easy it is to get it – and actually, I was excited to get it done this year because my best friend since childhood administered it to me herself. I’ve never had so much fun getting a shot before!

Why You Should Get a Flu Shot (If You Haven't Gotten One Already)

Yes, I know, not everyone is as fortunate as me to have a best friend who will stick you in the arm to help protect you during this year’s flu season. But it doesn’t matter who gives it to you, just get it done.

It doesn’t matter if you’re afraid of needles (besides, they have nasal flu vaccines).

It doesn’t matter if you have a “great immune system” and “never get sick”.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have time to go and get it done, because really, if you have time to read this post then you definitely can hit up your local pharmacy for a quickie shot.

I’ll get off my soapbox for now, because I’m sure you’ve stopped reading this post now in order to figure out when and where you can get yours! 😉