Luck O’ the Irish Diabetic

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Last week, it occurred to me that in more than 3 years of running this blog, I’ve never written anything about St. Paddy’s Day here…so I sought out to rectify that immediately; hence, today’s blog post.

I love St. Patrick’s Day. Always have, always will. I celebrate it each year decking myself out in head-to-toe green. I eat a traditional Irish dinner – always prepared by my mother, until this year when I will attempt to cook the meal myself – that consists of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and Irish soda bread. We eat it while listening to Irish music and more often than not, we’ll have a Guinness or an Irish coffee along with the meal. My family’s attended St. Patrick’s Day parades in various locations in years past, though obviously, we didn’t go to any last year and we won’t this year, either. But we’re still proud of our Irish heritage and we made the most of it in 2020, as I know we’ll do today.

My parents’ dog, Clarence, and I certainly made the most of the day last year. I was dressed up like this for all of my work video conference calls, which made my colleagues laugh at a time when we all needed one.

So you know my plans for St. Patrick’s Day, but what does this have to do with my blog that’s about diabetes?

Let me explain.

The common denominator between this holidays, all the others, and my diabetes is…food.

Foods consumed on holidays are often special and laden with carbohydrates. Rather than deprive myself, I like to indulge on holidays, and worry a little less about my topsy-turvy blood sugar levels.

You might be thinking, “But the food you described isn’t even that carb-heavy!” and you’d be right, for the most part. Corned beef, cabbage, carrots…those are all easy to bolus for seeing as the carbohydrate content is negligible.

It’s the combo of potatoes – which normally, I can bolus for without any troubles – and Irish soda bread – hellooooo, carbs – that really screws me up.

You see, the problem is that Irish soda bread is too delicious. It’s a quick bread that has a buttery exterior and a tender, mouthwatering interior that’s densely packed with raisins. It doesn’t sound like much, but my mother’s recipe is sheer perfection and I can’t resist helping myself to a big ol’ slice (and a couple of mini, just-one-more-taste slices) of the stuff every year.

So more often than not, my St. Patrick’s Days end with high blood sugars (which I suppose is better than ending with a trip to the toilet due to excessive…ahem, celebrating).

The Irish soda bread is worth the high blood sugar alone, but this year, I’m hoping for a little luck when I tuck into this festive feast. I’m tired of simultaneously welcoming holidays and high blood sugars…it’s about time that I make more of an effort to have better levels when I’m eating special meals. I know the extra work will make the day and the food that much more enjoyable and special.

With a little luck o’ the Irish (and some aggressive bolusing), this diabetic will finally have a St. Patrick’s Day filled with lots o’ green, Guinness, and great blood sugar levels.

TypeOneNation, Boston: A Wicked Fun Family Reunion

St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday of mine because I enjoy celebrating my Irish heritage. Almost every year, I eat a traditional boiled dinner, listen to Irish music, and wear an excessive amount of green.

This year, though, was a little different. In addition to all of the above, I attended the TypeOneNation summit in Boston. The event was organized by JDRF and just about 900 people with diabetes attended, along with their families and caregivers.

There’s nothing like being in Boston on St. Paddy’s day, even if it is for an event that has nothing to do with the holiday’s shenanigans. The spirit of the day made it slightly less painful to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to catch an early morning commuter rail into the city. As I sipped an Irish cream iced coffee from Honey Dew (absolutely delicious) on the ride, I got myself pumped up for what would surely be a fun day.

Once we arrived at the Back Bay station, I was one frigid (and mercifully short) walk away from the event space: the Boston Marriott Copley hotel. I went straight to the registration table so I could receive a name tag and itinerary, then made a beeline for the vendor hall. You can never have too much free diabetes swag, am I right?

Within the hall, I recognized many familiar faces and happily made the rounds to chat with some of my T1D friends in attendance. I couldn’t help but feel like I was at a family reunion of sorts as I reconnected with people who I don’t get to see often enough.

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I was pumped to see some friends I’ve made through the CDN at the summit!

Before long, the events of the day got into full swing as the keynote speaker, Nicole Johnson, addressed the crowd. Nicole won the Miss America pageant in 1999 soon after she received her diabetes diagnosis. She’s done many incredible things since earning that accolade, and she delivered an inspiring speech about living life with diabetes to the fullest. As she spoke, I looked around the room and noticed all the little kids who were there. It warmed my heart to see how they received Nicole’s words. Many of them looked at her in absolute awe. It was obvious that they thought she was pretty great, and I bet that having diabetes in common with her helped them to feel just as cool. Nicole is definitely a wonderful role model!

The rest of the day went by much too quickly as I went to two different talks offered at the summit. One was about going to college with diabetes, and the other was about sex and drugs – the “taboo” diabetes topics. Even though I’ve already experienced what it’s like to go off to college with diabetes, I wanted to go to this talk because it was given by my friends from the CDN. I also wanted to meet the parents and children at the session because I was curious to learn about their concerns. As someone who went to a very similar talk seven (?!) years ago, I felt that I could potentially offer reassurance to these families, especially since the whole college experience was so recent for me. And it turned out that the woman seated next to me was an anxious mom who seemed receptive to the words of encouragement I spoke to her at the end of the panel. While I believe that the session could’ve lasted many more hours (everyone was so engaged in the conversation), I think that the session acted as a good launching point into future discussions for many families who are going to make this transition soon.

I wolfed down a quick lunch – I loved seeing the food labeled with carb counts – before heading to the next session. I chose it because, c’mon, a title like “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll” can get anyone’s attention. Plus, I feel very strongly that the touchier diabetes topics SHOULD be talked about more often. They can be scary to approach, but it’s important to know what to expect in certain situations in which diabetes can play a major role. I had to duck out of this one a bit early to catch the commuter rail back home, but they were delving into some pretty juicy stuff when I got up to leave. I give major credit to all of the panelists in that one – it can’t be easy to talk about highly personal intimate matters in a room filled with strangers!

Although my time at the summit was truncated, I’m so glad that I took the time to go to it. It’s no secret that I enjoy talking with other people with diabetes. Hearing their stories and sharing experiences makes diabetes feel less isolating. And I’m thrilled that I finally got to meet a few people I knew from the DOC but had yet to see in person!

Diabetes conferences, meet-ups, summits…they’re the types of family reunions you actually get excited about and want to attend.