Favorite Things Friday: FRIO Insulin Cooling Case

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

*Insert bad pun about how COOL this product is, like, literally AND figuratively!*

Alright, now that I’ve got that out of my system…let me tell you about my FRIO cooling case.

I heard about cooling cases from the DOC a few years back, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect when I did. I was about to go on a weeklong vacation to Disney World. In Orlando, Florida. In August. A.K.A., one of the hottest and most humid times of year to be going there. And I was sweatin’ over what I was going to do about carrying my insulin around in the parks.

Before you even think it, no, my option wasn’t just to throw it in my backpack and call it a day. PWD know well that insulin needs to be kept a certain temperature – i.e., cool – in order for it to be viable. It CAN and WILL expire if it’s left out in extreme temperatures for too long. So clearly, I had to figure out how to keep my insulin cool in the Florida heat.

Fortunately, I’d read about the cooling cases on Twitter at some point and decided to order one a few weeks before the trip. When it arrived, I put it to the test right away to see how it fared.

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My magical FRIO cooling case

I followed the instructions that came with the pouch: Immerse the black inner casing in cold water for 10-15 minutes, allowing the beads stuffed within it to turn to gel. After the time elapsed, I removed the case from the water and pat it dry. Then I put two of my Humalog pens (because I was still on injections at this time) into the black case, put that inside the purple pouch, and forgot about the contraption for a few hours so I could see if it would stay cool for that span of time.

And it did! The case worked beautifully. It was just as cool as it was when I had first removed it from the water, meaning my insulin was kept properly refrigerated. The only downside was that my pens felt slightly damp when I removed them from the bag, but they weren’t damaged whatsoever. I knew right then and there that it was just the thing I needed for my vacation.

Fast-forward to present day and the FRIO case continues to serve its purpose as I need it. I couldn’t recommend it more to PWD who travel – even if it’s to a mild-temperatured place. It helps keep insulins cool no matter what, and to me, that makes the case more than worth it. Check out friocoolingcase.com to learn more about their products!

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Testing My Patience: My Struggle Obtaining my A1c

People with diabetes understand the significance of a hemoglobin A1c test well. It provides information about an individual’s average levels of blood glucose over three months. While diabetes is about much more than numbers, an A1c reading is still important because it is one of the main points of discussion between an endocrinologist and a patient. It helps an endo determine how a patient is managing diabetes and can help direct course of treatment.

This test is a big deal, but the actual process of having it done is one of the simpler aspects of diabetes care and management. Historically, all I’ve had to do is show up to my endo’s lab the week of an appointment, write my name/date of birth/insurance provider/whether I’m fasting on a sheet of paper, and walk into the lab to have a small needle inserted into a vein located in my upper forearm. I have zero aversion to needles or blood, so it doesn’t hurt and takes less than five minutes. And it’s always mildly entertaining that every phlebotomist I’ve encountered feels the need to comment on how nice and visible my veins are – one even went so far as to call one of them beautiful! (My response: um, thanks?!)

Since my A1c blood work has been so quick, easy, and (relatively) painless in the past, I was anticipating it to go smoothly once again when I recently went into the lab one Sunday morning. But I didn’t have such luck. Moments after signing in, the receptionist informed me that they could not perform the blood draw. Nonplussed, I politely asked why not. She told me that the lab hadn’t received the orders from my endo. I explained that I would be seeing my doctor in just a few days and that this was a routine part of the process. She did her best to help me by making a couple phone calls to other suites in the medical facility, but it was to no avail. I was frustrated but walked out, accepting that I would need to call my endo’s office first thing the following Monday to figure out why my orders had not been sent to the lab.

Early that Monday morning, I received a message from a nurse who works in my endo’s office. She apologized for my inconvenience over the weekend, and let me know that she submitted orders for lab work for all future appointments for the rest of the year. That was great and all, but I still had to find time to get lab work completed for my upcoming appointment. I couldn’t go on Monday, but I carved out some time in my schedule at work to go back on Tuesday morning.

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The patient’s perspective: too much time spent waiting

I was flustered when I walked into the lab for the second time in three days, because it had taken me twice as long to get there due to local road work. I told myself to relax, it would be done in a couple minutes and then I could head back to work with this task checked off from my to-do list. But…of course it wasn’t, because upon entering the lab, the receptionist told me that the power was down and they would be unable to complete my blood work.

For a couple seconds, I just stood there while I let that sink in. I explained how I was rejected on Sunday and practically begged her, please, isn’t there anything you can do? Despite having access to both my medical history AND the orders on her computer, she said no, but I could try one of the two other “near” lab locations. Completely exasperated, I told her no, that I guess I’d have to try again tomorrow, and walked away with tears stinging my eyes. I was mad that I wasted another trip, confused as to why this was so difficult, and defeated by the lack of understanding from the receptionists.

The bottom line is that I have a few questions after experiencing all this:

  1. How come my lab orders weren’t submitted?
  2. Why did I let this affect me emotionally?
  3. Why does everything about diabetes management have to be so complicated?

While I don’t have an answer right now to the first question, I intend on finding out how the slip-up occurred. And my answer to the second question, I think, is tied to my response to the third one: Diabetes management is hard. I try my best every single day and deal with the curveballs that are thrown my way. But lately, diabetes is like a pesky gnat, flying around my head so it’s always in my line of sight and incessantly buzzing to keep my attention. It’s annoying as hell and gets in the way of living my life. So to have something that’s normally easy, something that barely even requires me to think about my diabetes, become so complicated is just ANNOYING.

The one positive result from this whole ordeal? My A1c was better than I expected. Thank goodness.

Planning for Office Potlucks with T1D

Today is my office’s 10th annual holiday potluck! I’m looking forward to sampling a wide variety of dishes prepared by my coworkers. I know that it’ll be a carb heavy feast, though, so I’m going to have to do a little planning in order to prevent my blood sugar from spiraling out of control.

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I feel like I consume the amount of carbs that this gingerbread house contains on office potluck days (okay sort of exaggerating but that’s how it FEELS).

Honestly, my strategy for office potlucks is a little similar to what I do on other food-centric holidays: test often, extend boluses as needed, consume everything in moderation, and so forth. But there’s a few additional things I like to take into account when it comes to potlucks:

  1. Request labels for the food. I want to know precisely what’s in front of me. No, I don’t expect or want someone to write down every single ingredient they used to prepare a dish, but I do think it’s not too much to ask for the name of the dish. Labels are everything!
  2. Ask the cook if more explanation is needed. Case in point: At our last potluck, I tried noodle kugel without knowing what was in it. I mean, it’s obvious that NOODLES are a main ingredient, but pasta aside, I had no clue that sugar, cinnamon, and raisins were also used to make it. Needless to say, my blood sugar was sky high after sampling this (delicious) carb bomb, and I think I could’ve mitigated the situation if I’d only spoken up.
  3. Find someone to share the sweet stuff with (or save it for later). Chances are, I can find a coworker who’d gladly split a cookie with me so we save ourselves from the calories and carbs in a whole one. But if I truly can’t resist having a big piece of cake to myself, then there’s no problem in saving it for later – I never know when my next low blood sugar will strike!
  4. Load up on low carb options. Typically, I take as much as I want of the veggies, salads, cheeses, and meats that people contribute to the potluck spread. I know that if I fill up on lower carb items first, then I won’t overdo it as much on the heavier pastas, breads, and cakes.
  5. Be upfront with coworkers. My colleagues are very understanding when it comes to my diabetes, which is awesome in certain situations – like a potluck! But every now and then, I encounter someone who just doesn’t get my diabetes (even if I’ve tried to explain it to them). They’ll insist upon me eating whatever they’re offering to me, and take it personally if I turn them down. So I’ve decided that the best way to cope with this is to be totally honest with my coworkers and tell them why I can’t or don’t want to have what they are offering. So if Edgar* is begging me to try a slice of the chocolate torte he slaved over, I’ll straight-up tell him my reasons for skipping it (whether it’s due to high BG or simply being too full!). There’s a reason it’s said that honesty is the best policy, and this certainly applies in an office setting.

Either way, I look forward to this potluck every year and I won’t let my diabetes prevent me from enjoying it. Here’s to an afternoon filled with food and festivities!

*Edgar isn’t a real coworker. I just made him up for the purpose of this post. But I bet his hypothetical chocolate torte is amazing.

A Mother and Daughter with T1D Take on Disney World

About five months ago, I turned to my mother and asked, “Want to go to Disney World with me?”

“Just the two of us?”

“Yup.”

And just like that, a girls’ trip was born! I was so excited about the prospect of going to Disney World with my mom – the first and only other time she’d gone was back in 2000 – that I didn’t really think about some of the logistics; namely, that it would be somewhat daunting to handle a couple parts of the trip due to both of us having type 1 diabetes. I couldn’t help but wonder and worry about really minor issues, like:

  • How would we handle pod changes?
  • How many extra medical supplies would we need between the two of us?
  • What about food – did I schedule all of our dinners at appropriate times? Would we find healthy options in the parks?
  • How would we keep our insulin vials cool?

It’s not like I haven’t been to Disney World in recent years – in fact, this was my fourth time going in the last five years – but it was just different going with my mom. I was the only T1D there in the recent trips, so I only had to worry about taking care of myself. My mom certainly doesn’t need me to take care of her, but I just get anxious when it comes to making sure we’re both adequately prepared when we’re away from home (and from my dad)!

But I was absolutely not going to let diabetes get in our way. And truthfully? It didn’t, for the most part. After all, we’ve encountered just about every kind of diabetes scenario possible. And we’ve dealt with all of them. Just because we were away from home didn’t mean that all of our knowledge on how to take care of ourselves was going to disappear. Plus, traveling with another T1D comes with a major bonus: They know just as much as you do about diabetes. They’ll understand if you need to have a snack while waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion or if you can’t drink a beer in Germany because you’re too high. They just get it.

Of course, a vacation to Disney World is unlike any other getaway. There’s a lot of considerations to make, particularly if you have T1D. My mom and I made so many memories on our trip (most of them unrelated to T1D), but the following parts of our vacation stick out as I reflect on what it’s like specifically for two T1D girls to go to Disney World.

The most exciting part was having the chance to do something like this with my mom in the first place. For various reasons, I never thought we’d get the opportunity to do a girls’ trip – so the fact that we went was really cool for me (and hopefully for her, too).

The scariest part was planning the trip. I took on this responsibility and was happy to do it, but it was a little added pressure to make sure our daily plans would accommodate our wish lists of what we wanted to do, in addition to both of our diabetes.

The most frustrating part was guessing the carb counts for most of our meals. This is something I would love for Disney to work on – offering nutritional information for as many food items as possible. For the most part, we had success making educated guesses, but it would still be awesome if Disney could be a little more accommodating in this respect.

The most difficult part was finding a good place for us to change our pods. Due to how we schedule our pod changes, they were set to expire when we’d be well into our days at the parks. And even more irritating was that between the two of us, we’d need to change our pods on four separate days of our vacation. So it was definitely inconvenient timing, but diabetes doesn’t care about that! However, we worked it out by asking a cast member (a Disney employee) for some help. She told us that a companion bathroom would be our best bet, so each time we had to deal with a pod change, we located the nearest one and did what we needed to do. It was a little stressful to do our pod changes in such a small space, but the privacy was worth it. And even though it was a challenge, we overcame it.

The most relieving part was what didn’t happen – no pod failures the entire trip! That meant we watched our favorite Beauty and the Beast show at Hollywood Studios without interruption and rode countless rides in Magic Kingdom (her favorite was the Little Mermaid ride, mine was Pirates of the Caribbean) with nary a BEEEEEEEEEEP to be heard.

The most tiring part was walking 10 miles every day of our trip. Yes, 10 miles! We actually made a bit of a game out of it, to see if we could beat our mileage as we traveled from one park to the next. But I can’t say that this part didn’t come without its perks – walking so much really helped our blood sugars! It came in handy if we didn’t bolus enough at mealtimes, and when we were running low from all the movement, we were happy to correct with Mickey ice cream bars.

The most magical part was having dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table during the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Seriously, we lucked out – it’s said that Cinderella’s castle is the hardest dining reservation to make at Disney World, and if you hope to snag a booking, you’d better try to do it at least six months in advance. I desperately wanted to make this happen for me and my mom because Cinderella is our favorite princess. So when I did get a reservation for us, I knew it would be one of the best parts of our trip. Rest assured that diabetes was far from our minds as we milked this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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The castle looked spectacular for the holidays.

From enjoying a glass of champagne over dinner at the castle to reveling at the gorgeous Christmas decorations adorning the Disney property, this trip was worth it in every way. Thank you to my mom for accompanying me, and an even bigger thank you to my dad for being cool with it. And at the end of the day, it was a pretty perfect way for a mother and daughter with diabetes to kick off National Diabetes Awareness Month, don’t you agree?

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.

Memory Monday: 60-Second Meters

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…

…it took blood glucose meters a full 60 seconds to generate a reading?!

A full minute to get a blood glucose reading. That just seems crazy now, considering most meters can deliver a number in a mere 5 seconds. But growing up, it was all that I had to use. I remember being sent down to the school nurse every day in elementary school to test my blood sugar before lunch. I would pace around the nurse’s office as I waited to see my number, making a game out of it. Those 60 seconds felt agonizingly long as they cut into the amount of time I had to eat my lunch. It wasn’t fun.

By the time I reached middle school, I obtained a OneTouch Ultra Mini blood sugar meter, which I coveted. It took only 15 seconds to check my blood sugar, and it came in a rainbow of colors! Over the years, I collected different versions of the mini in pink, blue, and purple. And as time went on, the countdown went from 15 to 5 seconds – so checking blood sugar was quicker and easier than ever before!

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I kept one of the UltraMini meters – just in case.

These days, OneTouch meters are still my product of choice. I use the Verio IQ meter and I love how it lights up, allows data input, and tracks patterns. It serves as a reminder of the progress that’s been made in meter technology alone in the last 20 years!

What’s your blood glucose meter of choice? Why?

 

Happy Diabetes Awareness Month!

It’s November 1st, which means…

Diabetes Awareness Month is here!!!

To celebrate, I’ll be posting a variety of content that’ll give non-T1Ds a bit more insight into life with diabetes. I’m going to *attempt* to respond to the many wonderful prompts provided by Beyond Type 1 and the College Diabetes Network, starting today!

Beyond Type 1’s first prompt is easy enough: Post a photo of your #bgnow! (This is a hashtag commonly used on Twitter to share current blood sugar readings.)

So here it is:

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Hey, not bad! Especially for a post-breakfast blood sugar! I’m hoping for some tighter numbers this month, seeing as I just saw my endocrinologist a few days ago. I had a good A1c reading, but not my best, so I was a little disappointed. But she reminded me that my A1c is just an average, and that I should be proud of the progress I’ve made in the last few years. Her faith in my ability to take the best care of my diabetes that I can is super reassuring. That, combined with my excitement to advocate all month long, is exactly what I need to meet my personal goals.

Looking forward to an awesome month of diabetes advocacy!