Type 1 Diabetes…the Uninvited Bachelorette Guest

T1D is an unwelcome presence in my life, but I’ve made peace with it. However, it doesn’t stop me from worrying about how its existence might affect others in a wide variety of situations.

Take a bachelorette party, for instance…I wasn’t sure how my diabetes would respond to a weekend spent in Saratoga Springs with my soon-to-be-married cousin and the gaggle of girls who would accompany her to a few different wineries, a comedy show, and other various shenanigans. I went into the situation hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

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What does “expecting the worst” mean? Basically, it meant that I was preparing for the apocalypse. The bachelorette weekend was barely 48 hours total, but I was so paranoid about something going wrong with my diabetes that I packed twice the number of pods that I would need, extra insulin, spare syringes, Glucagon, and a low-blood-sugar-snack stash. Although I had a rough idea of what our itinerary looked like for the weekend, I still wasn’t 100% of what we would be eating and when, which as any T1D could tell you, is kind of a major concern when it comes to taking proper care of diabetes – and that concern is intensified when alcohol gets thrown into the mix, as it unquestionably would on our quest to find the best winery in Saratoga.

My worry only grew when things didn’t exactly start as I envisioned them. We hit the road around 4 o’clock in the afternoon that Friday, and picked up the delighted bride in Western Mass a short while after 6 o’clock. I expected that we would stop for food soon after the bride joined our caravan of cars bound for New York…only to be proven totally wrong when I discovered that most people were too excited to stop and eat. “No problem,” I said to myself. “I’m sure that by the time it’s 7:30 or so, people will be hungry.”

No such luck. As I watched my blood sugar slowly drop, my stomach roared with hunger as I thought about the last meal I ate, nearly seven hours ago. I knew I should speak up and ask the group to pull over, but I was scared. I didn’t want to be “that” person who was making such demands, especially since I was merely a passenger in the car and not driving.

But it was almost 8 o’clock and I knew that if I didn’t eat soon, it wouldn’t bode well for the rest of the night. My body tends to rebel if I go to sleep soon after eating a decent amount of food, and my blood sugars usually make me pay for the lateness of the meal. I feebly requested a stop to the girl who was driving, and discovered that she desperately needed to make a trip to the ladies’ room – at last, my chance for food! I called one of the girls in the other car to let them know that we would all be hitting up the next rest stop. “And Molly needs to eat!” The driver yelled into my phone before I could hang up. I felt myself blush, not wanting to be a pain in the ass…but little did I know, the girls wanted me to speak up.

When we all met at the rest stop, everyone asked with genuine concern how I was doing. As I assured them that I was much better now thanks to my Subway sandwich, I was gently scolded by the bride – my cousin – for not saying something sooner. Each girl agreed and I promised them that I would be better about letting them know about potential blood sugar issues for the rest of the weekend.

The funny thing is, though, that I really didn’t have any problems whatsoever. I was very surprised, due to the fact that we were eating late/inconsistent/not-very-healthy meals each day, drinking a few different kinds of alcohol, and spending less time than I anticipated moving out and about…normally, that’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. I can’t help but wonder if I avoided problems because I did everything the “smart” way – ate plenty of food to combat the effects of alcohol, took extra insulin as needed, and stayed hydrated all day, everyday. It certainly is a formula for success, and deserves credit for taming the unwanted bachelorette guest all weekend long.

Now if only I can replicate this for the upcoming wedding weekend…

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3 Things I Learned From Giving up Alcohol for Lent

Unless you’re familiar with the Catholic faith, that title probably doesn’t make much sense to you. “Lent” is a period of time – the 40 days before Easter Sunday – in which Catholics traditionally practice penance, prayer, and almsgiving. In addition to avoiding the consumption of meat on Fridays during Lent, it’s also common for observers to give up something in order to focus more energy on acts of kindness and charity.

This year, I decided to give up alcohol.

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All of this, and more, was off limits throughout Lent.

I was inspired by my mom, who has eschewed alcohol during Lent for the last few years. I was a bit hesitant to take on the challenge; after all, I’m a young adult who enjoys going out and drinking every now and then. I wondered how it might affect my social life, and whether I’d experience any heckling or peer pressure from friends. But I was also open to the idea that forgoing alcohol during Lent could benefit me in some ways, so I felt ready to go forward with my plan.

Here’s what I learned from abstaining from alcohol for 40 days:

  1. My blood sugars were a little more predictable/easier to manage. One of my biggest issues with alcohol is that it’s hard to know just how many carbs are in one drink. Beer tends to be higher carb, whereas wine typically contains less. Hard liquor boasts even fewer carbs, but things get tricky when sugary mixers get added to the equation. So when I drink alcohol, I try to prepare myself for any possible scenario that could result from miscalculated carb intakes. But by giving up alcohol during Lent, I didn’t have this problem when I was dining out. I simply had to bolus for the food on my plate and enjoyed worrying less about what my blood sugar would be like later in the evening.
  2. Nobody gave me a tough time over my decision. This was a pleasant surprise, albeit one that I should’ve seen coming. After all, I’m not in college anymore. Peer pressure is practically non-existent in my life these days, and I’m thankful for its absence. If anything, my alcohol avoidance triggered discussions among my friends and colleagues, who generally seemed interested in the concept of giving something up for a length of time.
  3. It reminded me there are other (healthier!) ways to unwind that don’t involve drinking. Obviously, I knew that on a sub-conscious level. But I was automatically encouraged to explore alternative ways to relax after a long day at work. I definitely amped up the amount I exercised, and I probably ate a smidge more dark chocolate (okay, more than that) to reward myself throughout the week. And I didn’t become a shut-in on Friday and Saturday nights like I feared; rather, I participated in all my usual weekend activities, just sans alcohol. A huge plus to this was not having to worry about whacky blood sugars or who would be a designated driver – the safety element made the whole alcohol-avoidance thing much more appealing.

Does this mean that I’m going to avoid drinking alcohol forever now? No, because I still enjoy having a pint of beer, glass of wine, or specialty cocktail at my fancy. But I do feel more empowered to say “no” when I just don’t feel like drinking socially. I also feel good about cutting back on my alcohol intake overall and making a commitment to consciously deciding whether or not I want to drink. I think that my mind, body, and blood sugars will be better off.

That Time I Lost my Dexcom, and a Cop Flirted with Me

I bet that title caught your attention, huh?

Not too long ago, I was fondly reminiscing about my college days. So many stories, so many of them related to diabetes in some manner. But this one that I’m about to share is one of the funniest, most cringe-worthy stories. Hopefully, you’ll be delighted by my awkward adventure:

It was the night of the “senior ball”. This was a dance held at the Mullins Center at the UMass Campus for graduating seniors. I was particularly excited to attend mine, because it presented me with an opportunity to see all of my college friends again. Technically speaking, I didn’t graduate with them – due to extra course credits and an overloaded schedule, I was able to graduate one semester earlier than the rest of my friends. This means I last hung out with the group in December; fast-forward to May, and it had been nearly five months since I last saw my crew.

So this meant we had to celebrate! As I got ready at my friend’s apartment, we caught up on each others’ lives and drank some wine. By the time we were ready for the grand ole ball, we were feeling more than ready to dance the night away.

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Drinking and diabetes: Things can get a little…dicey, when celebrating special occasions.

And we certainly did. We spent several hours that evening taking pictures, laughing with friends, snacking on appetizers and sipping more wine. And in the middle of it all, my Dexcom CGM somehow managed to vanish from my purse’s strap. I didn’t realize this until I needed to check my CGM to stay updated on my blood sugar, so I had no idea how much time had passed between then and when I lost the CGM.

What I do know for sure, though, is that I instantly panicked when I discovered it was gone. I rely heavily on my CGM when I’m at an event like this. It’s really useful for me to stay alert of how I’m trending, especially when I’m drinking alcohol. Typically, I know what to expect in terms of my blood sugar when I’m imbibing in different kinds of alcohol, but having my CGM handy makes me feel more secure.

So that’s why I freaked out. How the hell was I supposed to find my CGM in the Mullins Center? For context: It’s an arena that can hold almost 10,000 people. There weren’t quite that many attending the ball, but there were enough bodies in there to guarantee that searching for my CGM wouldn’t be easy.

I admit it, I was a little tipsy, so that definitely didn’t help in the situation.

After telling my friends what happened, and a brief group effort to search for my CGM, I knew I needed more manpower. So I found a police officer and told him what was going on. Once he found out I was a diabetic, he sat me down in a chair – he must’ve been afraid I’d pass out or something – and he assured me that we’d locate it by the end of the night. He struck up conversation with me while we waited for news from the other officers who were on the case. I had nothing else to do, so I gamely chatted with him.

I have no idea how much time passed. It could’ve been 20 minutes or 2 hours, but in a matter of time, my CGM was found. I jumped for joy when it was returned to me, cradling it in my arms. Meanwhile, the police officer seemed kind of bummed. He took something out of his pocket – a card – circling a number on it before handing it to me. “That’s my number,” he said, “just in case you need me again.”

I took it, nonplussed, and thanked him for his assistance. He nodded, and watched as I walked away to rejoin my friends. We all walked home and passed out soon after, exhausted from the fun but chaotic night.

The next morning, I woke up and rummaged through my purse to get my meter and CGM so I could do my first BG check of the day. As I looked through, I found a card in my bag – the cop’s card. I chuckled out loud, explained what happened to my friends, who laughed riotously as I relayed my interaction with him the night before.

“Molly, face it – you got hit on by a cop while you nearly had a medical crisis.”

Yup. True story.