There’s no doubt that T1D directly affects my relationship with food.
Sometimes, I eat whatever I want with zero guilt. Other times, I painstakingly count not just the carbs, but every single macro of any morsel that meets my mouth. And more often than not, I fall somewhere between those two extremes.
But no matter what, my relationship with food is exhausting and probably one of the most inconsistent relationships I’ve ever had in my entire life.
It’s also a relationship that causes me to make what I’m calling “inspired” food choices.
Choices like eating dessert before dinner because my blood sugar is low.
Choices like only eating low- or no-carb foods because my blood sugar is high.
Choices like timing my meals down to the minute because I know that my body functions best when I eat regularly.
Choices like keeping snacks in my purse, my overnight bags, my car, and miscellaneous other locations because I never know when I might need food on the fly.
Choices like restricting my eating because a low blood sugar made me binge on food one day, and the guilt carried over to the next day.
Maybe “inspired” isn’t the right word to describe my food choices here. There’s so many more that could apply: weird, strategic, healthy, unhealthy…the list is limitless.
Just like the number of “inspired” food choices that my diabetes triggers.
Good, bad, and everything in between, though, the first step in making changes to my relationship with food is acknowledging the flaws in it. While I admit that I’m not sure what the next step is, I do know that I’m feeling determined to finally establish a guilt-free relationship with food.
Diabetes already takes too much from me…I refuse to let it continue to make my relationship with food negative.
Hey, it’s me, Molly, the blogger behind Hugging the Cactus.
As you may or may not be aware, I’ve had a lot going on lately.
The newest, most exciting thing in my life is, of course, my new job (I’m aware that I keep gabbing about it…I can’t help it and there’s definitely more to come about that in the future).
I’ve been busy getting acclimated to my role at CDN. When I’m not working, I’m taking care of my dog, Violet, maintaining/cleaning/attempting to update my relatively new-to-me condo, and trying to keep some semblance of a social life – which, now that summer is here, is getting downright crazy with plans. And I love it! I truly love staying busy in some form or fashion.
This blog is great at keeping me busy when everything else in my life is slow or when I need a distraction. But lately, life’s been so hectic that I’m getting distracted from the blog, so I’ve decided to temporarily decrease the frequency at which I post…from 3 to 2 blogs per week, posted on Mondays and Wednesdays (instead of Monday/Wednesday/Friday).
It’s not a dramatic change and I’m certain it’s only temporary…just like a temp basal decrease on my pump can improve my blood sugar levels, cutting down on the number of blogs I post per week will help me improve my overall blogger abilities and prevent me from feeling too pressured to keep churning out posts at the pace I’ve been doing so that last few years.
So I won’t have new content posted here on Fridays for the time being, but never fear: I’ll pick it up again before long. And maybe now this will mean that I can interact a little more with the diabetes community within other platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, which will be a nice change.
This blog post was written by me and it was originally published on the CDN website on June 8, 2021. I just wrapped up my first week as their new Community Engagement Manager, so I figured it’d be fitting to share the post I wrote for their website here so my readers can get a better understanding of what this role means to me! Read on for more…
Growing up, I wanted nothing to do with diabetes. My parents and doctors encouraged me to attend diabetes camp so I could meet and make friends with T1D peers, but I stubbornly resisted the notion…until it was time for me to go off to college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
I was nervous about making this transition, but this changed when I had a chance encounter with someone named Christina Roth. She told me all about a group she started when she attended UMass herself: And that happened to be the College Diabetes Network.
In September 2011, I attended my very first CDN chapter meeting and I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to hang out with people my age who knew exactly what it’s like to live with diabetes. I was hooked and wanted to make as many connections as possible! In my three-and-a-half years at UMass, I served as the Chapter President and started writing for an online diabetes magazine in my spare time.
When I graduated, I put diabetes work on the backburner and started my career as an Editor in the financial technology industry. But I still kept in touch with my contacts at CDN and volunteered at the annual student retreats and provided my editorial skills to some of their resource guides. Eventually, I missed actively forging connections within the diabetes community, so I decided to blend this with my love for writing/creating content by launching my own diabetes blog, Hugging the Cactus, in October 2017. My blog has cultivated and deepened my relationships within the diabetes community, and by choosing to leave the corporate world behind and officially joining the CDN team, I will continue to do so on a new, exciting level as the Community Engagement Manager.
I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that has given me confidence, skills, connections, and so much more over the years. I can’t wait to jump into all things CDN and help provide young adults with what they need in order to live their best lives, despite diabetes!
This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on May 13, 2020. I’m sharing it again today because I think it’s super important to weigh the answers to these questions before deciding to try new diabetes technology. This is coming from someone who waited 17 years before she tried her first insulin pump, and even though it has had an enormously positive influence on my life and sometimes I wish I’d tried it sooner, I’m ultimately glad that I waited that long! Read on for more details…
So you want to try your first continuous glucose monitor. Or maybe you’re ready to leave behind multiple daily injections and switch to insulin pump therapy. Whichever diabetes device you’re looking to start using, there are some questions you’ll probably want to have answers to before decide that now’s the time to introduce new diabetes technology into your daily routine.
The following is a compilation of the questions that I thought long and hard about (literally for years) and that I wish I’d thought long and hard about before I made the transition to the OmniPod insulin pump.
1.Am I ready for it? It took me 17 years before I decided that I was ready to try an insulin pump. 17 freakin’ years!!! I spent most of that time being too afraid of introducing such a drastic change to a routine I’d had down pat for such a long period of my life. There are times when I wish I’d gone onto my insulin pump sooner, but ultimately, I’m glad that I wasn’t swayed by my family or doctors to go on it before I truly felt ready. By the time I started using my OmniPod, I had the maturity, responsibility, and emotional intelligence that I felt that I needed for an insulin pump.
2. Will I be able to afford it? Obviously, this isn’t a question that I wondered about when I was younger, but it’s one of the first things that comes to mind as an adult on her own health care plan. We all know that diabetes supplies are expensive, and it seems that the more technologically advanced something is, the more money that has to be forked over in order to obtain it. This isn’t right or fair, but it’s a simple truth and an important one to think about before choosing one pump or continuous glucose monitor over another.
3.Why do I want to start using it? I wanted to start using my OmniPod because my mom experienced great success when she started using it. And I decided to get a Dexcom CGM because I fell in love with the technology after undergoing a trial period with my endocrinologist. In both situations, I felt very much in control of my decision to start using these devices and I didn’t really listen to anyone else’s opinions. But I am very aware of the fact that social media and real-life friendships with other people with diabetes can often sway people in different directions. After all, if I saw a post on Instagram from a dia-influencer who was singing the praises of a Tandem T:slim pump, then I might seriously start thinking about switching to it (this has actually happened to me). But the bottom line is to think about the why – will this device enhance quality of life for me? Will diabetes be easier to manage with it? Will it help me achieve my A1c and/or blood sugar goals? Do I need to add something new to my routine because I’m feeling burnt out by doing things the same way all the time? Knowing why I wanted to use an OmniPod or a Dexcom CGM made me feel that much better during the whole process of learning how to use them – I felt like I had clear goals that would help me navigate the integration of these new technologies into my daily routine.
4. Will I be comfortable wearing it 24/7? This is a big one! Pods, pumps, and CGMs are very visible, and it can be jarring to go from being “naked” to having bumps and lumps underneath clothes that can get caught on doorknobs, chairs, and the like. Personally, the benefits of my OmniPod and Dexcom outweigh something like this which is a bit superficial, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something to think about. But it’s also worth thinking about comfort and what is least painful when it comes to insulin delivery, so that’s why this is an important question to ask.
5.Do I know anyone else using it who can provide feedback from a patient’s perspective? I’ve talked about this before, but I’m not sure when, if ever, I would have seriously considered using the OmniPod if my mother hadn’t tried it first. The fact that we both have diabetes has probably made us a little closer and strengthened our bond, so if there’s anyone’s opinion that I’m going to trust when it comes to something like this, then it’s hers. I can actually remember her first few weeks on the OmniPod – in which she learned a lot of valuable lessons – and how pleased she was with it once a few months with it elapsed. She taught me the ins and outs of the OmniPod when I started to use it, and I’d argue that her advice was more helpful than that of my diabetes educator. So I’d advocate gathering opinions from family and friends (if either is applicable) or the diabetes online community before going on a new diabetes device, in addition to the research component below…
6.Have I done enough research on it? …Like any smart shopper, it’s crucial to really consider all options and research them thoroughly, especially when it comes to the top contender. I definitely did not complete sufficient research before going onto the OmniPod or Dexcom; rather, I trusted that they were just right for me. If I were to switch to something else tomorrow, though, you can bet that’d I’d spend a lot of time scouring the web for every last bit of information on the device so I could make the most informed decision possible.
New diabetes technology can be both scary and exciting. But more than anything else, it can really make life with diabetes much more carefree, and I’m glad that in this day and age there are so many options available to people with diabetes that continue to be technologically impressive
A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post series about my experience with Metformin. As I was paging through my blog, looking for either an old post to republish or inspiration for a new post to write, I came across that series and got to thinking about how I felt on Metformin.
If you aren’t familiar with what Metformin is, it’s an oral medication that’s typically used to help stabilize blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes. This is where you might be thinking…I (Molly) have type 1 diabetes, so why was I prescribed this medication?
Well, my endocrinologist at the time wanted me to try taking Metformin in tandem with doses of insulin in an attempt to reduce my overall insulin needs. She expressed concerns that my daily insulin intake was high (something I disagree with now, as I think about it a couple of years later), and that she had some general awareness of studies that indicated it might not be good for my future health if I continued using so much insulin each day. (Note: I don’t know what study or studies she was referring to, and this is where I should’ve done more research before just taking her word for it and going on the pill. This is an example of poor patient advocacy on my part.)
Even though I met her sentiments with skepticism, I trusted this endocrinologist, so I decided to give Metformin the old college try. And I hated it. Hated it! I tried taking it per my doctor’s instructions for two separate spans of time (each lasting a month or so) and made the decision to stop using it because I simply didn’t see that it was making any sort of difference. Actually, it was affecting something, just not my blood sugar levels or insulin intake – it was affecting my anxiety levels. I was afraid that Metformin, coupled with my insulin, would cause me to have low blood sugars all the time. While in reality, I didn’t experience many lows, I was still always paranoid about them and it was an unpleasant thing to have to deal with.
So now, about two years later as I think about these ineffective encounters with Metformin, I realize that I should have done a lot more before even considering taking it. I should’ve asked more questions. I should’ve done more research. I should’ve asked around the diabetes online community to see if anyone had advice for me. I should’ve pushed back more with my doctor to get to the bottom of the reason(s) why she wanted me to take Metformin. Going back to my point above…this was a big lesson in patient advocacy. It’s important to ask questions and gather all the facts, especially in situations like this where there was so much uncertainty, in order to receive the best care possible. And it’s important to remember that even the most trusted and well-liked doctors aren’t always right when it comes to the medical guidance they suggest or give. At the end of the day, I’ve got to keep in mind that nobody knows my body and brain better than I do, so it’s okay to challenge the authority of the experts (in a respectful, kind way of course).
In the last year and a half, change and I have grown to be more than just acquaintances: We’re very good friends now.
The big changes that I’ve experienced in that span of time (to name just a few) include buying my first home, getting my puppy, Violet, and naturally, coping with the numerous ripples of change that were brought about by the pandemic. As someone who has always found comfort in the “known”, these changes made me anxious and scared because of all of the uncertainties associated with them…but they also taught me that I’m capable of adapting to them.
So I figured, why not add one more change into the mix?
Today is my last day with my employer of the last six and a half years. On Monday, I start a brand-new job at an organization that means a lot to me, one that I’ve happened to write about here many times before…
I’m pleased to share that I’ll be joining the talented CDN team as their new Community Engagement Manager.
This job represents so much to me. It’s a career shift, for sure, but it’s a shift into a field that obviously is very near and dear to my heart. I’m excited to see how my personal passion, advocacy skills, and creative energy will translate to this professional role. And I’m even more thrilled to know that I will be working with an absolutely amazing group of individuals, both internally within CDN and externally with a community that I care so much about.
While I will miss my colleagues from my now-former employer very much, I do feel that taking this opportunity with CDN is the best possible decision I could’ve made. It feels like a dream come true. I’m honored that I was selected for this role and I am determined to achieve a lot with it.
For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to going to work on Monday and starting this new chapter…and I really can’t wait to see (and share) what the CDN team and I will accomplish in the future!
The other day, I decided to ask my puppy, Violet, what she thinks about my diabetes…
…and she just stared at me, nonplussed, because obviously she’s a dog and she can’t respond to me with anything other than tail wags, barks, or playful growls.
But really, I’ve been thinking about how much she notices my diabetes. I know that she sees my devices from time to time – and sheer curiosity causes her to poke and prod them with her nose in what I perceive to be an attempt to dislodge them from my body.
I know that she wakes up in the middle of the night when I’m experiencing a low blood sugar and have to come downstairs to correct it.
I know she watches me during every pod change, gazing up and tilting her head from side to side whenever my PDM beeps throughout the process.
I know that she gets excited when I get a box of insulin or Dexcom sensors in the mail – she’s right by my side, jumping up and down as I tear into the packages, thinking that it might be a special delivery for her.
I know she waits patiently when I have to pay more attention to my diabetes in a given moment than I can pay to her.
It’s just interesting to bunch all of these moments together and mull over the fact that she is definitely aware of my diabetes, though her understanding of what it is and why it takes up so much of my time is just as likely to be something she’s not aware of.
For her, it’s blissful ignorance.
For me, it’s blissful knowledge that my dog is seemingly patient and understanding when it comes to all diabetes matters.
This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on August 6, 2018. Call it an “oldie but goodie” because the ways in which hot weather can affect diabetes haven’t changed in the last few years and they won’t be changing any time soon…and with summer just around the corner, it’s good to remind ourselves of the extra precautions we might want to take in order to combat the heat. Read on for more on the ways summer weather can affect people with diabetes…
The summer heat seems to be here to stay in Massachusetts. We’ve experienced several weeks of soupy, high-heat weather that *almost* makes me long for cooler, autumnal days…but not quite, because that just means winter (and snow – blech) is right around the corner.
Truly, I do enjoy the summertime. To me, summer is about trips to the beach, ice cream consumption (and lots of it), barbecues with family and friends, long walks in the neighborhood, and endless outdoor adventures. Aside from all of those lovely things, summer also means that it’s time to be a little more diligent when it comes to my diabetes. That’s because hot weather can play some cruel tricks on a T1D’s body. What do I mean by that? Here’s five ways diabetes can be affected by hot weather.
Dehydration can lead to high blood sugar. Everyone knows that it’s important to stay hydrated when it’s hot out, but it might be less common knowledge that dehydration can directly affect blood sugar. There’s a scientific explanation for this: If not properly hydrated, the body sees an increase in blood glucose concentration because blood won’t flow as easily to the kidneys, making it difficult for the kidneys to get rid of excess glucose in urine. The best way to prevent this, naturally, is to drink plenty of water and monitor blood sugars.
Sunburn can drive up blood sugars. I’m very familiar with how a sunburn can result in higher blood sugars; in fact, just last week I was dealing with a particularly gnarly sunburn on my thighs and belly that not only made my numbers higher, but also really hurt. My skin was literally damaged, so the stress from the injury lead to retaliation from my blood sugar. Luckily, it only lasted about 48 hours, but those couple of days were challenging as I dealt with sticky highs that were practically resistant to insulin. And for the record, I DID apply sunscreen – numerous times – when I was at the beach. Next time, I’ll seek shade under the umbrella.
Sweat can make it difficult for devices to stick. I don’t know a single medical device that’s immune to prolonged exposure to moisture/water, but that doesn’t prevent me from spending as much time as I can outdoors/at the beach/by the pool in the summer. Thank goodness for Skin-Tac wipes and medical adhesive tapes that help preserve my precious pods and sensors!“
Insulin can overheat. There’s a reason why insulin vials come packaged in cartons with directions that specify what temperature insulin should stay at in order for it to be safe to use. Insulin can spoil easily when it reaches a certain temperature, so it’s important to store it in a cool place when the weather’s warm. I alternate between a mini portable cooler (that can hold 3 vials of insulin) and a pouch from FRIO – both do an excellent job at keeping my insulin cool.
Low blood sugars can occur more frequently. Summertime is prime time for outdoor activities that result in higher energy expenditure. So it’s no wonder that blood sugar tends to plummet in hot weather. Looking at it on the bright side, it’s an excuse to eat even more ice cream – but it also means that monitoring how I feel and checking blood sugars often is that much more important.
Regardless of the diabetes challenges it may cause, I love summer weather, and I know I’ll miss it the moment the first snowflake falls this year.
“Diabetes in the wild” is a phrase I first learned about several years ago from, of course, the diabetes online community.
The phrase refers to those moments when you’re out in public and suddenly, randomly, you happen to spy another person with diabetes. Perhaps their pump site gives them away, or maybe they’re doing a fingerstick check. The person could have a diabetes tattoo, or they might be doing an injection. Whatever the scenario may be, these moments can be kind of exciting because they often trigger me to think, hey, there’s someone just like me right over there – it’s like that instant knowing that this person knows better than anyone else what daily life with diabetes is like that results in an inexplicable comfort, that feeling of realizing you’re never alone. And it’s truly a powerful feeling.
More often than not, these diabetes in the wild moments also come with some level of interaction with the other person. Maybe I’ll toss a compliment their way (nice Omnipod!) or the other person might ask me a question about my diabetes devices, because they’re curious about them and considering whether or not they should try it. These interactions are almost always super polite and the awkwardness is minimal…
…but naturally, there are times when diabetes in the wild moments are not so nice and just plain weird.
Here’s the story behind my most recent, bizarre, and mildly uncomfortable diabetes in the wild experience.
I was at the grocery store on my lunch break, taking great care to somewhat hustle up and down the aisles because I had a short window of time in which to complete my shopping. The store was pretty empty and for the most part, I was able to go from aisle to aisle without bumping into other people.
Until John and Jane (not their real names, I actually have no clue what their names are) appeared.
John and Jane were what I like to call…spatially unaware. They had zero regard for my personal space and apparently, no manners, which I deduced from the fact that I had to move my cart and my body so close to the shelves of one aisle that I was practically touching the shelves in order to make way for them as they trod down the aisle in a wide berth as opposed to walking down single-file (like I would’ve done had I been with another person).
I was mildly annoyed, but it definitely wasn’t a big deal. I continued shopping and was dimly aware of the fact that John and Jane were going down a haphazard path, ignoring the arrows on the floors of the grocery store that indicated how to navigate up and down the aisles.
As I made my way to the next aisle, I realized that they were approaching me again, and even though we were the only three people in the aisle, they got extremely close. This time I was absolutely annoyed. I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to encroach on my personal bubble like that, but it got worse when I heard Jane say to John, directly behind my back, “Look, that’s a Dexcom like Stevie wears.”
I could feel my cheeks redden as two pairs of eyes ogled at the Dexcom sensor that I was wearing on my arm. I froze, wondering if I should acknowledge the comment, but before I could do so they were both wandering away.
The incident left me confused and a little angry. I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to discuss my Dexcom right within earshot of me – really, they literally talked behind my back. They could’ve waited until they were further away from me to talk about it if they wanted to, when I couldn’t overhear them and feel uncomfortable by the whole exchange, which left me feeling like I was a caged animal at the zoo. I can’t remember a time when people had so openly stared at my Dexcom like that, and it’s a weird feeling…and it’s one thing to stare, and a whole separate issue to comment on it without addressing me directly.
I don’t know, maybe I was being overly sensitive about the whole thing, but I can’t help how it made me feel. It would’ve been a much different story had they maybe talked to me about it – I can imagine spending a couple minutes talking with them about their little Stevie and ending the exchange by telling them to take care or sharing some other pleasantry. Who knows how it could’ve been different. But one thing it taught me is that diabetes in the wild moments, as fun as they can be for me, they can also be not so great for others. I’d hate to think that I ever made anyone else feel awkward or strange about their diabetes because I called them out on it.
I think that context is key when it comes to experiencing diabetes in the wild…sometimes it’ll be totally appropriate to talk about it in public, other times not so much. We all just have to be a little more careful about determining the right contexts.
The following is a post that was featured on the T1International blog on May 17, 2021. I’m sharing it here today because I want to help spread the word about the Gift to Greed campaign. Learn more about it by reading on (and visiting the links at the end of this piece)…
On Monday, May 17th – 100 years after Banting, Best and Macleod begin their first experiment trying to extract insulin in Toronto – T1International and its advocates around the world launch their year-long campaign. 100 Years: From Gift to Greed will tell the story of insulin’s discovery and how it went from being a gift to the world to a profit machine for the pharmaceutical industry. The campaign will be led by a combination of social media education and a variety of actions.
Insulin is as essential as oxygen for all patients with type 1 diabetes and many with type 2 or other forms of insulin-dependent diabetes. Globally, insulin rationing is common, and half of those in need of insulin cannot afford or access it. For every two people alive with type 1 diabetes, there is a third who did not survive. The production and distribution of insulin is dominated by three companies – Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi – who control more than 90% of the global market.
In the early 1920s in Toronto, Canadian physician and scientist Frederick Banting began working on an idea in the laboratories of J.R.R. McLeod to isolate and extract insulin. Medical student Charles Best and chemist James Collip worked with Banting to test, purify and refine insulin for clinical trials in humans.
After vowing that insulin would not be something to profit on, the discoverers sold their patent for $1 CAD each and eventually passed the rights to the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. so that it could be mass produced and widely available. Banting famously said, ‘’Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.’’
While this incredible advancement was intended as a gift from the discoverers, Eli Lilly and the two other major insulin producers, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, have turned insulin into profit machines, assisting in bringing in billions of dollars in profit every year. By 1923, insulin was the highest-selling product in Eli Lilly’s history, and profits from it accounted for over half of the company’s revenue. As we know, the prices have continued to skyrocket ever since. Since 1996, the list price of insulin has increased by over 1200% in the United States. Eli Lilly’s Humalog insulin increased in price by 585% between 2001 and 2015 alone.
T1International’s Founder and Executive Director, Elizabeth Pfiester, said, ‘‘A gift to the world has become a tool for price gouging patients all over the world. The greed of the pharmaceutical industry is keeping insulin out of the hands of millions. This greed leads to the loss of countless lives and dampens the dream of Banting and his colleagues, which was to make insulin a gift to the world. It is outrageous that this is the reality, and T1International will continue to speak out until the pharmaceutical industry is held accountable.’’
T1International advocates will be speaking out and educating the community about the story of insulin and how to get involved in T1International and the global #insulin4all movement. The aim is to put an end to the reality that far too many people die or suffer grave physical, mental, and emotional health consequences due to pharmaceutical greed.