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That Big, Effing Frog. #DOCtober

Busy weekend, with a pile of unrelated-to-diabetes moments and a few that were decidedly diabetes.  But to start, I’ll catch up on my #DOCtober photo posts.

How is your #DOCtober going?

Diabetes 365 Giveaway Winners.

Thanks for all of the comments on Wednesday’s post about burnout and “diabetes overwhelmus.”  There were some great strategies and tips on wrangling in the chaos and living well.

Congrats to the three commenters who won copies of the new book, Diabetes 365, penned by Paula Ford-Martin and Susan Wiener!

Here are the winning entries:

[When I am] Overwhelmed…I look around and count 5 blessing. It can be a good reality check and a notice that it could be worse.

I get most overwhelmed when dealing with a sticky high. I have learned that going for a walk will clear my head and help lower my blood sugar. A two-fer!
Colleen Grogan

Whenever I begin to feel “Diabetes overwhelmus” I remind myself that while it might be tempting to stop caring/trying, it is SO not worth the return of constant thirst (in addition to all of the other symptoms / complications)…there’s nothing worse then the relentless thirst of a high blood sugar! I just try and look at how far I have come, and everything I have to look forward to. When that doesn’t work, I try and see my diabetes educator- after getting to see or talk to her, I always feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

Bonnie, Colleen, and Erin, I’ll be emailing you this morning with details on delivering your book to you.  Thanks to Paula and Susan for offering copies of their book as a giveaway!


Photo Challenge: #DOCtober.

Taking pictures is something I like to do very much.  I’m not terribly talented when it comes to doing it and my equipment is pretty basic, but I enjoy framing something up and preserving that moment.  I used to take a lot of pictures, but I’ve tapered off in the last few years, and I miss it.




I am forcing myself to get back behind the lens with a daily photo challenge for October.  The twist – BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING – is to see if I can find something diabetes-related to photograph for the month.  If I can, awesome.  If I can’t, that inability shows how diabetes can’t and shouldn’t always be front-and-center.

Want to join me?  I’ll be posting on the blog and Instagram under the hashtag #DOCtober.

For #DOCtober 1/31, I’m already cheating a little by posting a photo from last week.  The sign reads, “Unusual Pumpkins + Gourds.”  And it reminded me of you guys, the diabetes community.  The patient community.  The community of people who are touched by some kind of health condition but aren’t owned by it and are beautiful because of and despite it.

Well sheeeeeeeeet, if we aren’t all a pile of beautifully unusual pumpkins and gourds.

Guest Post and Giveaway: Overcoming Diabetes Overwhelmus.

Today, I am honored to have Susan Weiner and Paula Ford-Martin contributing a guest post to SUM, writing about diabetes burnout and their new book, Diabetes 365: Tips for Living Well.  I’m pretty biased, as I used to work for Paula at dLife (and with Susan), but their book and their message are a tremendous resource for newly diagnosed and veteran PWD alike. 

I’m also excited to host an opportunity for three folks to win a copy of the book.  To enter to win, please leave a comment with your best tip on dealing with “diabetes overwhelmus.”  (Be sure to include your email!)  The giveaway will be open until Thursday night at midnight EST, and winners will be announced on Friday morning. 

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Overcoming Diabetes Overwhelmus
Guest bloggers Susan Weiner and Paula Ford-Martin

The late, great Dr. Richard Rubin had a great knack for turning a quality phrase. “Diabetes overwhelmus” (a.k.a. diabetes burnout) was one of our favorites. Layman’s definition? When the continuous demands of diabetes, and the non-stop flow of diabetes-related information, simply become too much to deal with and you’re ready to throw up your hands and have a mad as hell moment.

The side effects of diabetes overwhelmus are a tendency to become less active in one’s own self-care. So diabetes management starts to slip, stress goes up (along with stress hormones and blood sugar), and then you’re caught in a vicious cycle of bad feelings – both physical and emotional. It’s a crappy place to be.

Now we want to take a moment to pause for a disclaimer here. We both work in diabetes, we support friends and family with diabetes, and we know a lot about the academics of the disease. But neither of us can say we have the intimate knowledge of knowing what it’s like to live with diabetes 24/7.

But stress, the broader idea of “life overwhelmus,” and the negative impact both have on the human body? We’ve got loads of personal experience there. The busier life gets, the harder you need to work to maintain your physical and emotional well-being. Yet most of us let life’s obligations push those things down in the priority list. And even though we’ve both worked in the health education field for many years, we admit we have let stress get the better of our health and well-being more than once in our lives. In fact, we wish there was a frequent flyer program for hospital visits and doctor’s appointments – we’d be Platinum Club Members.

A survey on stress in America found that almost half of the population has experienced a major stress in the prior twelve months, and health problems were cited as the most common source of stress. Thirty-six percent of people living with a chronic illness reported high stress levels in the prior month, with a whopping 60 percent of those in “poor health” reporting those same high stress levels. That’s probably not a surprise to anyone reading this blog post. Being “sick” makes you stressed, and stress makes you sick.

Susan has a patient, Tess (not her real name). Tess has type 2 diabetes, works full-time, takes care of a family, parents teenage children, and is the primary caregiver for her live-in mom, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Over time, she found herself completely overwhelmed and bombarded on all fronts. Eventually she stopped taking care of herself. She ate food on the run, sometimes skipped her meals completely, didn’t refill her medications, and didn’t keep doctor appointments.

Tess felt terrible and had high blood sugars. But she went to visit Susan because she was ready to take one small step to get out of her diabetes rut. Susan listened to what Tess’s biggest stressors were and her desire to address them, and they started with one simple goal focused on an issue plaguing Tess – taking time each night to pack up snacks and plan the next day’s meals. Over time, they added more small goals based on Tess’s real life problems, and now she feels in control of her life and health again. She isn’t eating out of frustration or anxiety, and is starting to gain better control over her blood sugar.

It was this small step approach that inspired our latest project, Diabetes 365: Tips for Living Well (Demos Health, 2015). We wanted to help people like Tess come at diabetes from a less intense, more manageable angle. Our intent was not to offer a soup to nuts guide on treating your diabetes; instead each day of the year offers a new start and a focused tip, idea, or action you can take to improve your health and happiness. In other words, it’s not the OED of diabetes, it’s daily Cliff Notes. As our friend Jim Turner says, “Diabetes is complicated and overwhelming enough. I like simple, straightforward suggestions.”

“Bite sized” diabetes goals may be your way out of diabetes overwhelmus. Or, you may find relief in other ways – diabetes support groups, meditation, or reading a daily dose of inspiration here at SUM. But at the root of it all is not letting life get in the way of living, and finding a way to co-exist with all of those personal, professional, and diabetes challenges. In the words of our gracious host Kerri: “I need to remember that I can do this. I can conquer this. I can design this and devour this and delight in this.”

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Susan Weiner is owner of Susan Weiner Nutrition, PLLC, in New York. She is an award-winning author, registered dietitian-nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator. Susan is the 2015 AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year, the 2015 Diabetes Health Monitor LifeChanger award winner, and the 2014 Alumna of the Year for SUNY Oneonta. She is also the 2015–2016 editor for On the Cutting Edge, a peer-reviewed journal for the Diabetes Care and Education practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Susan advises several nonprofit groups devoted to diabetes advocacy; she is on the advisory board of Diabetes Sisters, and is an educational advisor for Marjorie’s Fund. She is also the diabetes medical advisor for and is on the medical advisory board for dLife.

Paula Ford-Martin is an award winning health writer, editor, and content producer. She is the author of more than a dozen consumer health and parenting books, and currently works as a freelance content strategist and consultant. Paula was part of the core team that created and launched dLife, a groundbreaking multimedia diabetes consumer resource. She served as the Chief Content Officer of dLife for eight years, and her work on CNBC’s dLifeTV—the first and longest running primetime diabetes television show—garnered her 26 Telly Awards. You can learn more about Paula and her work at


Care What the Community Thinks, Not What the Community Buys.

[I have a working relationship with Animas. My disclosures are here; please read them.]

During the middle of one of our discussion sessions, Daniela D’Onofrio let fly a statement that defined the whole blogger summit for me:

“Care what the community thinks, not what the community buys.”

Last week, the European Animas team brought a group of diabetes advocates together for a face-to-face discussion. This meeting is very special to me because it serves as a portal into the global diabetes online community, bringing advocates from different countries, speaking different languages, together at the same actual table.

And at that same table is the company responsible for believing in our voices: Animas. Several years ago, there was an air of awkwardness when it came to plunking different diabetes demographics into the room – did you really want to talk about the company RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE COMPANY? It felt weird. Strange, kind of like when someone asks if they have something in their teeth and you know you owe it to them to fess up about the giant chunk of broccoli sitting between their two front fangs but instead you say, “Nah! You’re fine,” and then nothing changes.

This was a meeting that included talking about that broccoli. We weren’t in an ivory tower talking about ivory tower-type things. We hit upon topics that felt uncomfortable at times, including the absence of type 2 voices at the table, and the perception of our meeting from the outside. It got sticky, the discussions, because we didn’t dance around any awkwardness. Instead, we tried to embrace it to move forward. When respect is coupled with honesty, more good comes of it. Now, years after those first meetings between the diabetes community and diabetes companies, people are being straight up about their needs and wants. There’s a power to that.

And, as a group, we recognized our privilege. We knew we were flipping lucky to be in that room, many with the support of Animas, and that the meeting is not a yearly guarantee. So we took advantage of our time together. We were honest, regardless of who was listening or taking notes. Our agenda included topics around incorporating and encouraging type 2 diabetes voices, diabetes and well-being, working through advocacy burnout, and building trust between diabetes companies and diabetes communities.

Annie has written about her experiences at the summit here, with some detail from her perspective on the sessions. More posts from other attendees are in the works, and the event was sort of documented on Twitter using the #IntlDOCExchange15 hashtag.

For me, the discussion about type 2 voices was the most eye-opening. It was understood that we were there with the Animas team, so therefore the folks in attendance were either Animas users or caregivers to Animas users. With insulin pumps not indicated for use by people with type 2 across the board, it made sense that the attendees were people touched by type 1 diabetes. Made sense, but still seemed wrong. We talked for a long time about how uncomfortable it can be, at times, to bring different groups together at times, but how necessary it is on the whole. I’ve been a longtime proponent of bridging the gaps between types (ashamed to admit my own preconceived notions in the past) and it felt good to see the people in our sessions talking openly about the common ground between the diabetes types, even if not everyone saw that common ground at first glance. People are people, regardless of their diabetes “type,” and to pretend we don’t have common ground is truly unreasonable.

Together, we’re stronger; no caveat added.

It was in that last session that Daniela summed up every company interaction (or simply every interaction, ever) that’s been productive, at least for me. Understanding and caring about the needs of the people touched by diabetes is what really matters; community and business objectives alike benefit from that level of interaction and involvement. This applies to people with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, type whatever diabetes.

So how can diabetes companies best serve the overall community? By caring more about what people think than what they buy. (Or, in terms that are more my speed: Give a shit about PEOPLE, not purchases.)

And I think that’s happening. Less slowly than before, and certainly surely, patient advocates across the health condition spectrum are raising their voices and being HEARD.

EU Blogger Summit

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Our group’s viewpoints were not representative of the entire diabetes community (just as my post here is not representative of the entire summit), or even of our respective regions, but it was powerful to have different individual opinions shared comfortably and openly. Many people in the group were returning to the meeting for the third or fourth time, but there were a few new faces, and it was encouraging (inspiring, even) to see those new voices welcomed into the fold.

I’m very appreciative that Animas trusted me to facilitate these discussions, and allowed me the opportunity to meet with my global DOC partners to move the mission forward. Especially when they, as a company, are not dictating the mission, but are instead along for the ride with our community as a partner. Props, and thanks, for that, and for pointing out the broccoli while simultaneously picking it out of their own teeth.

(And with that, I’ll end that particular gross and specific metaphor.)

Lower Arm Real Estate.

“Rotating sites?  Hell yeah, I rotate.”

… sort of.

I’m good about rotating my pump and CGM (continuous glucose monitor) sites, but I’m decent, at best, about exploring new real estate.  Most of the time, I use my outer thigh or lower back/hips for my CGM, going back and forth between those four areas.  This sounds like proper rotating, in theory, but in practice, I am re-using and abusing the same patches of skin.

Because my skin has a persistent and scaly reaction to the sensor adhesives, it takes several weeks for parts of me to heal after they do their seven days of data due diligence.  Which means that I need to stay the eff away from my last two most recent sensor sites, or else a skin reaction blooms in a matter of hours, regardless of preventative measures.

tl;dr – My skin hates everything and I need new real estate for my diabetes devices.

I’ve seen a few of my PWD friends sporting their sensors on their arms, but until recently, I’ve never been able to keep an arm sensor stuck.  On me, the tape always comes loose and even extra adhesive goes rogue on me.  Arm sensors, up where I used to pinch up and do injections on the back of my arm, are a disaster for me.

But a few days ago, I took a crack at a lower arm sensor, placing it six inches or so above my elbow.  It’s more on the front of my arm (giving my bicep a strangely LEGO’ish look), but so far, so good.  The adhesive is staying put, the Toughpad seems fine, and no skin irritation here on day three.

Above the elbow Dexcom sensor. #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Placement of sensor on arm. My arm. (Why does this caption sound so formal?! Over and out.) #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

I’ve been having trouble keeping sensors comfortably stuck in the last few weeks, so I’m hoping a true and proper site rotation helps heal what ails me.  Otherwise, I may scratch my skin into oblivion and will be forced to slather it with Brad Pitt lotion.

[Dexcom disclosures. And all my other disclosures, if you'd like some light reading.]

One More Sneaker.

This week, in my quest to become a Lady of Suburbia, I went to Marshall’s to pick up a lamp.  (I also bought pumpkin coffee beans.  Whilst wearing yoga pants yet not doing yoga.  In the middle of the day.  Forgive me.)

This visit was on the same day that I was sharing a #dayofdiabetes (peek in on the hashtag here), so diabetes was a documented focus.

The cashier was a nice lady who wanted to chat.  As she was ringing my purchases up, we both overheard the cashier next to her ask a patron if they’d like to donate to the JDRF.  “No, not today.”

“I hope some people say yes about donating to JDRF,” I said quietly to my cashier.

She nodded as she put my things into a bag.  “Yeah, most people say no.  I haven’t had a single donation yet today, but I had a few yesterday.   I always ask, though.  It means a lot to me.”

“Oh yeah?  Do you have a personal connection to diabetes?”

“I do.  My dad has diabetes.  Type 1, since he was about eight years old.”

“Really?  Me, too.  I was diagnosed when I was seven.”

She looked at my face, then her eyes drifted to my hip, where my insulin pump was visibly clipped.  “No kidding?  Is that your pump?”

“It is.  I’ve been pumping for about ten years.  I use a continuous glucose monitor, too.”

“My dad is old school.  He does the injections with syringes.  He’s had it my whole life.  He’s had some low blood sugars that I remember.”

“My daughter is five.  I bet she’ll have stories about my diabetes when she’s our age, too.”  I smiled at this woman who was the fast-forward of my own little Bird, a child without diabetes raised by a person with diabetes.  This woman’s understanding of my own day-to-day was intimate, and we had yet to exchange names.

As I paid for my purchases, she raised an eyebrow.  “Do I even have to ask if you’re donating?”

I shook my head.  “Nope.  Count me in for a sneaker or two.  One for me, one for your dad.”



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