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Recently, I stumbled onto a site called Daily Prompt, and I have used it from time to time to jostle the thoughts in my head into a more respectable state.  This was a prompt from last week:  “The internet is full of rants. Help tip the balance: today, simply be thankful for something (or someone).”

I’m thankful for so many BIG things, like my family and my friends, but there are so many little things that deserve recognition.  Time for a bullet list o’ thankfulness, you say?  I couldn’t agree more.

  • I’m thankful for the fact that hazelnut coffee was on sale at the market and now I’m up to my ears in it and joy.
  • I love when my daughter burps – delicately, of course because she is a precious flower that wouldn’t ever dare let a raucous burp escape her rosebud mouth … nooooooo – and then blames it on Loopy.  “Hey, our kitten burped!  Say excuse me, Loopy.”
  • I enjoy Loopy, especially when she grabs Birdy’s little watercolor paintbrush off the floor and goes berserk with it.
  • I also enjoy seeing Siah and Loopy sitting next to each other.  It’s like watching Siah sitting next to a time travel mirror, with the reflection as her younger self.
  • I’m thankful that my daughter suggested I put my infusion set on my butt cheek.  Granted, she laughs at me all the time (“You have your pump on your butt!!” and then she collapses into a pile of her own giggles), but it’s new diabetes real estate for me, and it’s working out well.
  • I really like the Léon Foucault Google doodle today.  And this full list of Google doodles is awesome to poke around in.
  • I am thankful for going to bed with a blood sugar of 136 mg/dL and waking up at 136 mg/dL.  That seems like diabetes magic.
  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit Barcelona next week for the EASD meeting, having the opportunity to connect with friends from different time zones.
  • I was thankful that the mailbox yesterday had more real mail (packages, cards from friends, books) than bills.  That’s a first.
  • I’m thankful that we have a new dishwasher that actually cleans the dishes and doesn’t just cycle for an hour and then smell like burnt jewelry.
  • I’m thankful that the new Tom Odell album is available on Spotify.
  • Same for the Arctic Monkeys one.
  • See also:  Half Moon Run.
  • I’m thankful to have brave friends like The Briley, who is forcing herself out of her comfort zone this weekend and running her first half marathon … with type 1 diabetes, no less.  Cheer her on!
  • I’m also thankful for Scott and George.  They know why.
  • I love listening to Chris read out loud to our daughter before bed at night.
  • I’m thankful for Internet, and all the strange rangers who live on it.
  • I’m thankful for grapes, oddly enough.  The ones we bought this week are perfectly crisp and taste awesome.
  • And I’m thankful for Spibelt, who make it possible for me to bring glucose tabs, my Dexcom receiver, and car key when I feel the need to run out my stress.

You want to embrace the anti-rant today, too, you say?  Do it.  It helps peel back some of life’s yuck.

Short Dexcom Break.

It’s not just a matter of slapping on a new sensor, queuing it up, and making use of the data once it’s available on the graph.  Wearing a Dexcom sensor has now become this intricate pseudo-science of site rotation, skin maintenance, and scheduling, thanks to the dreaded Dexcom rash.

My first skin irritation from the Dexcom sensor popped up in August 2012.  It seemed that, overnight, my skin bloomed into this gross, oozing rash underneath the sensor adhesive, making me pull the sensor off after barely 24 hours due to excessive itch and irritation.  At first, I left sensors on too long, coaxing a bright red, blistering rash out on my skin.  It was nasty.  It looked like a chemical burn, and it itched like a son-of-a-bitch.  (How literal is that expression?  Also, there’s a whole Wiki entry on the word “bitch” and it’s fascinating.)

Now, over a year later, keeping the Dexcom as part of my life means bringing in some extra bits and pieces, things like a steroid inhaler, adhesive tape, and wound patches to act as skin barriers.  90% of the time, these strategies work great and I’m able to earn the FDA-approved seven days out of each sensor, without compromising accuracy or comfort.  Usually, one sensor is pulled and I put a new one on immediately, leaving me data-free for only the two hour calibration period.  Seven day seems to be enough time for one site to heal while I use another one, so the rotation from thigh-to-thigh works really well.

But 10% of the time, I need to take a break for a few days in order to let my skin heal.

I’m currently in that 10% moment, and it sort of sucks, because I miss that data security, big time.

After pulling my sensor off on Monday morning, I noticed that my skin was redder than usual, and a little puffy from reaction to the adhesive.  It itched like mad, and looked angry.  I’m traveling for work next week, so I want to make sure the sensor I have on as I’m switching time zones and taking red-eye flights is good to go.  I decided to give my skin a two or three day break, planning to stick the new sensor on Thursday morning so it would be in awesome-mode by the weekend.

I’ve been wearing the Dexcom every single day (with few exceptions) since I was pregnant, and being without the CGM data is a hard adjustment.  Before bed is particularly tricky, because I rely on the IOB on my pump and the direction of my CGM graph to dictate whether or not I set an alarm for 3 am to check my blood sugar.

Last night:  My blood sugar was 182 mg/dL before bed at midnight.  I had eaten a late meal (10.15 pm), so there was some insulin on board from that bolus.  I had gone to the gym to run around 7 pm, so there was residual exercise in the mix, too.  Normally, I’d pop my low alarm up to 70 mg/dL on the Dexcom and stick it in a glass overnight, but without the CGM to help guide me, I set the alarm for 3.30 am.

(In)Conveniently, Birdy woke up at 2 am, so I tested then (150 mg/dL).  I took a correction bolus and checked again at 3.30 am (110 mg/dL), and woke up this morning at 104 mg/dL.

Even though it worked out fine, blood sugar-wise, it was the insecurity of not having access to streaming blood sugar data that made me twitch.  The sensor is bulky and the receiver is easy to forget, at times, but the inconvenience of robot parts is outweighed by the information I get from a CGM.

… which makes me look forward to Thursday’s sensor reboot almost as much as I’m looking forward to Sunday’s second-to-last Breaking Bad.  🙂

A Plethora of Pancreases.

Etsy is great for finding pretty jewelry.  Or beautiful gifts for a baby.  But then you can find yourself deep down the rabbit hole of purchasable pancreases, and that’s where shit gets weird.

Here are some of the search-return endocrine gems that popped up:

Crochet Plush Pancreas from An Optimistic Cynic

Anatomical Pancreas Cufflinks from Anatomy Art

Gall Bladder, Spleen, and Pancreas Interaction Wall Hoop from Your Organ Grinder.

But Etsy isn’t the only place to find adorable (?) pancreases.

I Heart Guts can also give you a panc to cuddle.

The I Heart Guts Pancreas.

 The pancreas – so terribly useful, and dapper, too.  In that “looks like a wiener” sort of way.


“How long have you been on the pump?”

He stood next to his car, holding the gas pump to his tank, filling up his car while I was putting my debit card into the console near my car.

“I’m sorry?”

“Insulin pump.  How long for you?  I just got mine a few weeks ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!  I thought you meant like here, at this gas pump.  Yeah, I guess you can sort of see it, huh?”  I was wearing running shorts and a t-shirt, with the outline of my pump and CGM clearly visible underneath my clothes.  The tubing made a brief appearance underneath the edge of my shirt, even though I made an effort to tuck it away.  “About ten years.  I’ve been diabetic for twenty-seven years.”

“I was diagnosed about two years ago.  Started pumping recently.”

“Yeah?  How do you like it so far?”

“It’s good.  Better than injections, that’s for sure.”  He nodded towards my car, where Birdy was buckled in and talking incessantly about how I was putting gas in the car and how the gas makes the car go and soon we would go to the park and she could ride her bike and did that man have a bike, Mawm?

“Is that your daughter?  How old is she?”

“She’s three and a half.”

Does she have diabetes?”

“No, she doesn’t.”

“Yeah, I first learned about diabetes when my daughter was diagnosed, several years ago.  She was two, at the time.”

I didn’t know what to say.  Birdy filled in the awkward silence by yelling, “Hey, I see his pump!!  That mans has a pump, like your pump!”  The gas station stranger laughed, snapping the door shut on his gas tank.

“She’s got a good eye.  Have a good day, and good luck to you and your daughter.”

“Thanks.  Congrats on your new technology.  I hope it works well for you.”

He went inside the gas station to pay, and I finished up, climbing back into my car and buckling in.

“Mawm, he has the diabeedles like you do.  I saw his pump.  It was black, and yours is silver.  He needs to be careful in case his bwood sugar gets whoa.  Does he know the glucose tab man?  He should call him.”

My type 1 diabetes is often invisible, and evidence of its presence in my body is currently, and thankfully, limited to medical devices I chose to use to make diabetes management easier.  Going on a pump was a tough decision, and one I made as an adult, after seventeen years of insulin injections.  My pump and my CGM are external “symptoms” of diabetes, and sometimes they frustrate the hell out of me.  But other times, they make diabetes less invisible for just a moment, letting kindred spirits connect in the wild.

In other words, it was two pumpers meeting at the pump.  That’s a nice, full-circle moment, right there.

Filling Back Up.

It whispered in my ear two January’s ago, when a low blood sugar came too close to becoming terrifying as I felt the whoosh of that bullet go by. I’d never felt anything like that before, that aftermath of fear and numbness.  Then I marked twenty six years with type 1 diabetes, and I just wanted to outrun this disease, to stay ahead of it, to pretend that it can’t ever possibly catch me.

Then there was this weird feeling, one I’ve never felt before.  It wasn’t depression, I don’t think, because it didn’t feel … I don’t know … like anything I’d ever read about or been warned about by my doctor.  I didn’t feel uncontrollably sad, and I didn’t have thoughts that would have concerned my family.

There was this emptiness, though.  And I can’t put my finger on where it came from or what its role was in my life.  Not an all-consuming feeling, but it did strike me at the oddest times, like during a conference when I was hoping to be more social, or during a movie that was supposed to make me laugh, or like when I would be in the car by myself and pull into the driveway of my house, and I’d feel lost.  And empty.   Coming into the house and seeing my happy daughter and my husband filled me back up, but for those brief moments before opening the car door and letting the sounds from outside come rushing in, the quiet was overwhelming.  I’m normally a happy person – quick to laugh, and happy to be surrounded by people – but I suddenly wanted to be alone, only being alone made me feel better, for a few minutes, then ultimately worse.

I talked with some people, including my husband and my closest friends, trying to understand why I felt this way and how to keep the feelings from becoming everyday.  It wasn’t all diabetes-related, but there was something about having had this disease for twenty-six years that made me feel trapped.  I started doing destructive math in my head, about how nothing had been introduced into my life that I’d had longer than type 1 diabetes.  Diabetes has been part of my life for longer than school, longer than any romantic relationship, longer than any hobby, longer than any car or t-shirt or memory. I thought about life’s milestones and the influence of diabetes on each one, sometimes just a light touch, not enough to leave the smallest mark, other times a heavy-handed drag of claws.

A few months after marking the twenty-sixth anniversary of my diagnosis, I turned 34 years old and felt convinced that I was having a mid-life crisis.  I feared death, actively and aggressively, nervous to go to sleep at night because of the low blood sugars that sometimes crept in.  I started feeling nervous about unreasonable things.  Panic attacks, like the ones I had back in college (when my parents split and my immediate family life was very unsettled) revisited for a few weeks, making my chest feel tight and making me wonder if it was indeed panic or was I having a years-of-type-1-diabetes-induced heart attack.

But then I started filling back up, emotionally.  While marking a diabetes anniversary was the catalyst for darker times, acknowledging the feelings that made me feel unsettled made healing easier.  I didn’t see a therapist (though I would if these feelings were to resurface) and I didn’t add medications to my list (though I would have, were they necessary), but I did ease myself into things like family trips, private (non-blog) journaling, and finding time to dedicate to quiet jogs that stopped my brain from going into panicky overdrive.

One afternoon, I realized it had been days since I’d felt empty.  Weeks went by, turning into months, and then the emptiness started to become harder to remember, harder to pinpoint the “why” of, and life felt more like I remembered before my twenty-sixth diabetes anniversary.

I don’t miss feeling that way – all that emptiness – but I’m not surprised that I felt it.  Diabetes is intrusive and touches everything, like a kid with grubby hands.  For decades, I didn’t mind wiping away the fingerprints that were left everywhere, but last year, I reached not so much a breaking point, but a moment when I couldn’t bend things any further without snapping.  I didn’t want to deal with this disease.  I was mad.  Overwhelmed.  And then that empty.  It was a strange grieving process for a disease that wasn’t going anywhere and for a life that wasn’t over.

It was raining a little when I started running this past Tuesday morning, September 10th, but I decided to go anyway.  I set out after sticking my Spibelt underneath my shirt instead of over it, to protect the Dexcom receiver from the rain.  Sneakers worn from a year’s worth of logging miles and my pump clipped to the top of my pants, I ran.  I’m not a pretty runner – I slog and huff and puff and probably resemble more ‘laboring pug’ than ‘actual human’ while I’m on the trail, but I made the decision to keep going.   With each step, it didn’t get easier.  I wasn’t riding endorphins during my run, and I felt the strain on my muscles and my resolve, but I kept going because it’s good for me to run.  It’s good for me to try.  It’s good to feel healthy and to look healthy and to be healthy.

The following day, Wednesday the 11th, I marked my twenty-seventh anniversary with type 1 diabetes.

I wish I had a more gracious outlook on my experiences with diabetes, but I don’t.  I wish I felt that it was some kind of blessing, but to me, it isn’t.  It’s a thorn in my side that digs in deeper with every passing anniversary, but fuck you, diabetes.  I’m tired at times, but I’m not stopping.  I’m afraid, but I’m still going.  Diabetes has brought me to some of the edges of life, daring me to look into the abyss and wonder just how long I’d know I was falling before I hit the ground, but there’s power in that.  I’m living with diabetes, with all the accompanying ugliness and arrogance, power and determination, all the perspective and perseverance and bitterness, all the fear and fearlessness that comes with any life, but is micro-scoped and magnified by a disease that never, ever takes a breath and doesn’t leave my world until I do. 

Yesterday, my daughter and I baked a cake, but I didn’t eat it, or explain why or why not.  She wanted to make fancy treat, and I wanted to see her smile because she fills my soul.  We put candles on it, hummed a sort of tuneless ‘happy birthday,’ and blew them out, marking a celebration of absolutely nothing and at the same time, everything.


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