Finding Gratitude for Diabetes

On the surface, “gratitude” and “diabetes” don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly…but for me, they are natural companions.

Every year since I’ve been a diabetes blogger, I’ve done some sort of post that explains why I’m grateful for diabetes around the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a nice opportunity for me to take time to reflect and express appreciation for some obvious and not-so-obvious people and things.

Of course, there are a number of repeats year after year, including my family, friends, and partner; my dog, the roof over my head, the food on my plate, and so forth.

But as changes take place over time, additions are made to my list. Here are some new ones for this year:

New opportunities. Yesterday marked my final day working at a diabetes nonprofit. This Monday, I’ll begin a new job and continue my writing/editing career at a company that I’m thrilled to join. I’ve got mixed emotions about leaving diabetes behind professionally, but one thing is for certain – as a member of the diabetes community, I’m excited to continue being an active advocate and supporter of the people and programs that I’ve encountered in the last year and a half.

Access to diabetes supplies. I’ve always taken my diabetes supplies accessibility for granted. I don’t struggle to afford the medications and technologies I use (though it would certainly make my life easier if it was cheaper) and I am fortunate enough to have a solid supply on hand at all times. I know that other people with diabetes can’t say the same: an awful reality, but one that opens my eyes to something I should never take for granted.

Another thing I was grateful to do this past year? Travel to New Orleans for the ADA’s Sci Sessions and be surrounded by literally thousands of incredible people working to make a difference in the lives of people living with diabetes.

Exploring hobbies. I’ve had the wonderful chance in the last year to explore hobbies both old and new. I’ve recently picked up my knitting needles again and have made solid progress on my first sweater in a couple of years. I’ve been borrowing more books digitally from the public library so I can rekindle my love for reading. And I’ve been able to try tons of unfamiliar pastimes that I’ve grown to really embrace, such as volleyball, tabletop games, and even video gaming. It’s been a goal of mine to refamiliarize myself with the concept of down time and using it as a chance to do things that make me happy, and I’m so glad that I’ve leaned into this.

Diabetes itself. Yes, I am thankful for diabetes. Here’s why: I could spend all my time resenting it for (occasionally) making my life miserable. A long time ago, though, I chose to embrace diabetes for what it is. In turn, I’ve learned to be grateful for diabetes because of all it has brought and taught me…friendship, independence, discipline, and so much more. After all, this December 24th will mark my 25th anniversary with it – how could I not choose to find gratitude in something that’s been a part of me for nearly as long as I’ve been alive?

It seems especially significant that my departure from my role at a diabetes non-profit is just before the Thanksgiving holiday, which is a perfect time to express gratitude. So it is with zero exaggeration when I convey how grateful I am for this community, and in turn, for diabetes itself.

How I Managed to Avoid High Blood Sugar on Thanksgiving

2021 marks the most triumphant Thanksgiving celebration of my life.

No, it wasn’t because of the accolades that my tasty apple bourbon pie received (though that was for sure among the highlights of the day). It was because, for the first time in recent memory, I avoided high blood sugar the entire day. I got up to 164 at one point, but that was a brief high point in an otherwise wonderful day of smooth blood sugar sailing.

How the heck did I do it?!

Good blood sugars all Thanksgiving-day-long makes for an extra grateful Molly.

Well, for starters, I did my best to follow the tips I outlined in this blog post. But I figured it would be helpful to describe exactly how I went about following these tips and to explain what did and didn’t work. So here’s the method behind my blood sugar success:

  • I started out my day with a walk and an English muffin for breakfast. The exercise made me feel slightly better about all the calories I’d be consuming later in the day, and the small breakfast kept my appetite satisfied until I sat down for my first real meal of the day. I knew exactly how many carbs were in that English muffin, too, which helped me not only dose for it perfectly but also kept my blood sugar steady in the low 100s right up until mealtime.
  • For my first Thanksgiving meal of the day (yes, that’s right – I was lucky enough to attend two feasts), I kept the portions on my plate small and mostly carb-free. I had a bit of turkey, a scoop of brussels sprouts, carrots, and a few pieces of cubed sweet potato. By my estimation, I had no more than 25 or so carbs on the plate, but I bolused for just under that amount because my CGM was alerting me to an oncoming low.
  • There was only an hour and a half between my first meal and my second, and I knew I was going to load up on carbs for my second meal. So I took my next bolus a few minutes before sitting down for food in order to give my insulin a head start. I loaded up my plate with all the good stuff – more turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a roll, etc. I calculated that I was consuming at least 60 carbs (though I definitely ate more than that) and chose to wait an hour or two after dinner before taking more insulin because I was drinking wine and didn’t want to run the risk of the alcohol/insulin combo making me go low.
  • After the second meal, I spent the next couple of hours assisting with cleanup and chatting away, eyeballing my CGM every so often to ensure that my blood sugar wasn’t skyrocketing – and feeling very proud when it didn’t!
  • The final food event of the day was dessert at a relative’s house. Even though a few hours had lapsed between then and the second meal, I wasn’t as keen as I usually am to hit up the dessert table because there were far too many yummy looking options in front of me. I knew there was no way I could try every single item, so I settled for the two things I wanted the most: a pie of my pie and a cannoli. This time, I was aggressive with my insulin intake, bolusing for about 45 carbs for both desserts (I cut a smaller slice of pie and wound up splitting the cannoli with my boyfriend). I also decided to set a temp basal increase out of fear that my complex carbs from earlier in the day would catch up to me later in the evening.
  • Fortunately, my proactiveness worked like a charm and I actually went a little low by the end of the day! I couldn’t believe how well I finally executed my own advice.

All of that, and I didn’t even have any exercise after dinner or dessert. But I felt 100% in control the entire time because I chose exactly what I wanted to eat, I was familiar with all of the foods, and I didn’t make it a priority to consume as many pieces of pie as I possibly could. It felt awesome and it made me that much more grateful for the fact that I was surrounded by the people I love all day long.

And now that it’s December, I’m especially excited to see repeat success during the holiday gatherings happening throughout the month!

Diabetes and Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Post

Most years since I’ve been a diabetes blogger, I’ve tried to write some sort of blog post in which I reflect on the things that I’m grateful for.

My Thanksgiving gratitude list hasn’t really changed year after year…I’ll always be thankful for my family and friends, the roof over my head, and the food on my plate.

But what’s changed this year is that there are some new additions to the list:

Diabetes and gratitude aren’t two words that many people would probably put together in a sentence, but I do…keep reading to learn why.

My job. Given the record unemployment numbers this year, I feel especially grateful that I have a job that keeps me safe at home.

Access to insulin. I’ve always taken my insulin accessibility for granted. I don’t struggle to afford my 90-day supply (though it would certainly make my life easier if it was cheaper) and I am fortunate enough to have a solid supply on hand at all times. I know that other people with diabetes can’t say the same: an awful reality, but one that opens my eyes to something I should never take for granted.

Video chat programs. I used Skype in college to keep in touch with my high school friends and hadn’t really given it a second thought since then…until this year, of course. Between Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype, I’m so glad that this technology exists and helps me stay connected to my friends and family members.

Essential employees. There are a number of people who I consider heroes, and those who are essential employees are among them. It’s not just nurses, doctors, or first responders – it’s also the individuals who must risk exposure on a daily basis in order to support themselves and their families. I hope they know that their sacrifices don’t go unnoticed, and that they’re beyond appreciated for what they do to help the general public in so many ways.

Diabetes itself. Yes, I am thankful for diabetes. Here’s why: I could spend all my time resenting it for (occasionally) making my life miserable. A long time ago, though, I chose to embrace diabetes for what it is. In turn, I’ve learned to be grateful for diabetes because of all it has brought and taught me…friendship, independence, discipline, and so much more. After nearly 23 years with it, how could I not find gratitude in life with diabetes? And in a year of what’s felt like perpetual change (both for me personally and for the world), I’m thankful that diabetes remains a constant that actually helps keep me grounded by being a part of my routine. I’m always going to want and fight for a cure, but for now, I actively accept my diabetes and find the positives in my life with it.

It’s true that my Thanksgiving celebrations tomorrow will be a little different than what I’m used to, but I know that one thing that will stay the same is my gratitude for it, my diabetes, and all that life has to offer.

How Diabetes Told Me It’s Too Early for Christmas Decorations

We all know that 2020 has been a sucky year, so it’s not exactly surprising that immediately following Halloween, the world seemed to throw itself into the holiday spirit.

Between the commercials on TV, Black Friday sales, sparkly decorations, baking galore, and Hallmark movies, the Christmas season kicked off early and with major vivacity. Normally, I’m the kind of person who prefers to enjoy one holiday at a time, and I was somewhat repulsed to see all the Christmas merchandise in stores before Halloween was over.

So even though Thanksgiving hasn’t even come and gone yet, I’ve abandoned any remaining willpower I’ve had to hold off on decorating for Christmas. Like the rest of society, I simply couldn’t hold back my desire for some cheer!

One afternoon last week, I decided to haul up my Christmas tree and its accompaniments from the basement and start the process of decking the halls…

…but my diabetes had other ideas.

Maybe my diabetes would’ve liked it better if I decked the halls with glucose tablets and test strips…

I’d just finished assembling my modest tree when I heard my Dexcom alarm sounding off, alerting me to a low blood sugar.

And I hate to admit it, but it didn’t surprise me – I’d felt the oncoming low for about 10 minutes prior.

I just wanted to decorate so badly that I was willing to ignore my blood sugar in order to embrace the Christmas spirit!

Alas, not too long after I heard that alarm, I knew I had to change my priorities as I started to get sweaty and a little woozy…so I left my tree naked and sought out a low treatment, slumping at my table in defeat while I ate it.

My diabetes told me it was too early to decorate for Christmas at that moment in time…

But you know that I told my diabetes otherwise later that night when I spent hours trimming the tree!

‘Tis the season and ain’t no way that my diabetes will prevent me from basking in it.

This Thanksgiving, I’m Thankful for…Diabetes?

This post originally appeared on my blog at ASweetLife.org on November 26, 2013. It’s hard to believe that I wrote it nearly five years ago, but with Thanksgiving occurring tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit it since it captures my feelings about diabetes this time of year. Of course, life has changed quite a bit in the last five years, so I’ve made a couple amendments (below, italicized) to the original…

Each year around Thanksgiving, I think about the things that I am thankful for in life. Some obvious answers come to mind: my parents. My brother, my boyfriend, my dog. The fact that I am able to attend an amazing college. The roof over my head and the food on my plate. The list could go on and on. I’m sure most of my answers are unsurprising.

But is it weird that I’m thankful for diabetes, too?

Don’t get me wrong here. Oftentimes, I resent that I have to deal with the burden that is diabetes on a daily basis. I cry about it, I get angry about it, I curse about it. I wish that it didn’t impact me or my loved ones the way that it does. I’m all too aware, however, that I cannot change the role diabetes plays in my life. All I can do is accept it. When I did that and truly thought about what acceptance means, I began to think of why I might feel blessed in some bizarre way to have diabetes.

For starters, my diabetes has brought me closer to my family. My mom and I are able to relate to each other on a different level because of it. My dad and my brother show concern and unrelenting support for us that might not be the same if Mom and I did not have diabetes.

Sometimes, I think about how even though my diabetes seems to have a mind of its own, it adds a certain degree of control regarding some aspects of my daily life. It helps me get into a routine that is pretty static. It relies on what I choose to feed myself; in this way, it motivates me to make the right choices when it comes to my diet.

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And it has brought some amazing opportunities my way. Without diabetes, I would not have become president of the UMass Amherst chapter of the College Diabetes Network. I would not have discovered the Children with Diabetes: Friends for Life conference that I attended in Disney this past summer, where I made some awesome friends who keep in touch with me. And I certainly would not have begun blogging for ASweetLife.org. This experience itself has allowed me to get in touch with my feelings regarding diabetes to a greater extent. I have been able to explore my interests as an individual who loves to write. I have the pleasure of speaking with a wider variety of people within the diabetic community and hearing individual stories that I might not have ever heard.

I never would have guessed that a mere five years after writing this post, I’d be writing content for my very own diabetes blog. The creation of Hugging the Cactus is a huge diabetes-related accomplishment itself, but I’m reflecting on other diabetes changes I’ve experienced and how I’m thankful for them…so many come to mind. My OmniPod insulin pump, my improved A1c levels, new friendships formed…I’ve come a long way, and I’m grateful for every single positive experience that diabetes has brought into my life.

That’s why I’m seeing diabetes as something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I long for the day where diabetes is cured and I no longer have to think about it. But for now, I want to make the best out of something that could be perceived as the worst.

With all that said…enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday! No matter how you choose to celebrate it, remember that you are loved, you matter, and there’s people in your life who are endlessly thankful for your love and light.

10 Tips for T1Ds Celebrating Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

A holiday that promotes gratitude and eating…what’s not to love? As much as I enjoy Thanksgiving, though, I can’t quite say that my diabetes feels the same about it. Fortunately, I’ve developed a bit of a game plan as to how to handle diabetes when Turkey Day comes rolling around – here are my top 10 tips for making the most of a Thanksgiving feast with diabetes!

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A tree of thanks I made many Thanksgivings ago – note my gratitude for Lindt chocolate, specifically.

10) Don’t skip breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. This helps me avoid over-eating when Thanksgiving dinner is served later in the day. Breakfast doesn’t have to be a huge thing, maybe just a bowl of oatmeal or a piece of fresh fruit – anything that will sate me for a few hours.

9) Volunteer to prepare a couple of dishes. If I’m going somewhere for the feast, I like to know what my host needs me to bring. If I have creative control over the dish, I prefer to make it something that I know won’t be too hard on my blood sugars, such as a side of veggies or a sugar-free dessert.

8) Familiarize yourself with what’s being served prior to sitting down for the meal. Before my family sits down to eat, I like to know what exactly we’re being served so I can plan accordingly. I can usually get away with strolling around the kitchen to get an idea, but sometimes the chef (my aunts or my mom) kick me out while they finish cooking dinner!

7) Don’t feel pressured to try everything. It all looks and smells so good, but I have to remind myself to use some restraint when piling my plate with Thanksgiving food. I’ll add staples like turkey and green beans (both of which are low-carb!) and take smaller portions of the heavy things, such as stuffing and potatoes.

6) If it’s necessary, extend my bolus. This all depends on what my blood sugar is before the meal, but sometimes, I’ll extend it in order to prevent lows or highs post-feast.

5) Check my blood sugar often. I’m not afraid to check my blood sugar as often as I need to throughout the Thanksgiving feast. I’d rather have an idea of where my blood sugar is headed than leave it to chance and guess incorrectly.

4) Go for a walk or organize another outdoor activity. The weather doesn’t always cooperate with this idea, but I’ve found that dragging my cousins on a 20-minute walk after eating helps my blood sugar and provides us all a chance to hang out while our uncles take control of the TV and our aunts chitchat over cups of coffee.

3) Wait a bit before having seconds or starting on desserts. I try to indulge a bit on the sweets at Thanksgiving, but I know that it never works out for me if I help myself to desserts too soon after consuming the main course. So I avoid the temptation by staying busy after eating dinner – my mom and aunts always appreciate an extra set of hands to assist with clean up!

2) Look up carb counts if I’m struggling to come up with them on my own. Sometimes, I can’t quite determine how many carbs are in a serving of pumpkin pie – I’ll guess too low and end up high, as a result! But I know that there are tons of carb counting resources at the tip of my fingers, thanks to my smartphone. I rely on the MyFitnessPal app and the handy Thanksgiving carb chart from Beyond Type 1 to help me come up with complex counts.

1) Remember what the holiday’s all about: being thankful! Enjoy the day and time with loved ones! Whether you’re part of a large family like mine, a small one, or choose to spend the day with friends or a partner, just relish it for what you want it to be.