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Posts from the ‘Diabetes Advocacy’ Category

Bright Spots & Landmines: An Interview with Adam Brown

Adam Brown has written a new – TERRIFIC – book for the diabetes community, full of the same brilliant, actionable advice that we’ve come to happily expect from his diaTribe columns.  His book, Bright Spots & Landmines, is billed as “the diabetes guide I wish someone had handed me,” and that sentiment is absolutely correct.  This book is a powerful tool that people living with diabetes can pour through and make their own, with moments of reflection and inspiration interspersed among research, recipes, and amazing graphic design.  
Bright Spots & Landmines by Adam Brown
Kerri: What inspired you to write Bright Spots & Landmines?

Adam:  When I started writing my diaTribe column (Adam’s Corner) four years ago, I never would have guessed that more than half a million people would read it! I’ve received hundreds of emails and comments sharing gratitude and kindness, which is what motivated me to do something loftier with Bright Spots & Landmines. Each Adam’s Corner column stands alone, so I wanted this book to be a single guide that distills all the most helpful diabetes tips I’ve learned in four areas: food, mindset, exercise, and sleep.

Kerri: What makes Bright Spots & Landmines different from what’s already out there? 

Adam:  I agonized over this question before writing this book – I wanted to make sure Bright Spots & Landmines would add value!

From the beginning, I had two major goals with this project: (i) write an extremely actionable book that anyone with diabetes can use to improve some aspect of his/her life immediately; and (ii) give it away at as low of a price as possible! Based on the early reviews and the free/name-your-own-price PDF download, I’m so excited about the outcomes. A few other things come to mind:

Bright Spots & Landmines is written from a person-with-diabetes perspective and based on more than 10,000 hours writing professionally about diabetes, over 50,000 hours of personal learning from CGM, and everything I’ve taken away from hundreds of diabetes conferences and leading thinkers.

The book focuses on food, mindset, exercise, and sleep, which are not often addressed in the same actionable diabetes guide.

Bright Spots & Landmines went through an extensive feedback process, with a combined 500+ years of diabetes experience between all the reviewers – yourself included!

Last (and perhaps most important), my girlfriend, Priscilla Leung, did all the wonderful illustrations and graphics in the book – these really make the writing come to life. I’m as proud of how it looks as I am of the words!

Kerri: How do you want readers to feel after reading your book?

Adam:  Uplifted, positive, and ready to try some new things and experiment! I hope people leave Bright Spots & Landmines with tangible actions and nuggets they can use to improve their life with diabetes – whether it’s a recipe I eat, a quote I like, or an answer to question that the book poses to them.

I hope this book also reminds readers that we all have moments of enormous diabetes frustration, self-sabotaging food decisions, negative thoughts and questions, busy days where exercise is hard to fit in, and nights without enough sleep. Bright Spots & Landmines shares my toolkit for navigating the choppy, unpredictable waters of living with diabetes. I hope it puts some wind in readers’ sails.

Adam Brown, author of Bright Spots & Landmines

Kerri: Is Bright Spots & Landmines made up of rules for living well with diabetes, or are these suggestions for people to implement in their own lives?

Adam:  Awesome question! This is a book filled with things that have made an enormous difference in my life with diabetes. By sharing them, I hope readers will glean tips they can try or adapt to fit their needs.

For instance, chia pudding is one that has been fascinating to follow. Some readers make it exactly like I do and love it! Others have tinkered with the recipe to fit their needs. And for others, it’s not a fit. I expect this variance with all 43 Bright Spots and 16 Landmines in the book – some will resonate, some will need to be adapted, and some won’t apply. This is why each chapter – food, mindset, exercise, and sleep – concludes with Bright Spots & Landmines questions so readers can identify what works for them.

Kerri: Is this a book you would want to give newly diagnosed PWD? Long-timers? Caregivers? Is there something for each group in this book?

Adam:  All of the above – and I don’t say that lightly. Every one of these groups read drafts of the book. A mom of a newly diagnosed son read Bright Spots & Landmines, as did a woman with over 50 years living with diabetes. Other readers fell in between (see testimonials and Amazon reviews). I even had some people with prediabetes read the book and find it useful!

Kerri: What was your favorite part to write?

Adam:  I love the Mindset chapter most of all, even though it comes second in the book. (Of course, Food had to be first in a diabetes book.) The right Mindset is like rocket fuel for living better with diabetes – it underlies everything and can provide such a boost, even on the toughest days. This chapter shares lots of tips and tricks related to perfectionism, motivation, stress, goal setting, hacking my brain and habits, and beyond. I’m a voracious readers of psychology and self-help, which is probably why I had so much to say in this chapter.

Kerri: What was the most challenging portion of this book for you to tackle?

Adam:  I struggled a lot with the title. We went through many iterations, including “Diabetes Bright Spots & Landmines” (too long), “Solving Diabetes” (a bit too presumptuous), and the original (read: not great) title, “Make Diabetes Awesome.” Probably the worst title in the original brainstorm was, “Diabetes should be less awful and more awesome.” Haha! I’m so happy about the final title:subtitle combination, since it really illustrates the book’s framework and why I wrote it in the first place.

I also spent an enormous amount of time trying to figure out how to make the book as low cost as possible, but still look amazing. I originally wanted full color interior printing, but this made the book twice as expensive in paperback. I wasn’t willing to accept that tradeoff. I love the current model of a name-your-own price PDF download in full color, a paperback on Amazon for under $7 (the black-and-white interior still looks really good), and a Kindle version for $1.99.

Funnily enough, the writing process was the easiest part, though getting feedback on the book was always scary. It’s never easy to show your work to other people.

Kerri: What’s next, now that the book is live?

Adam:  For now, I’m laser focused on finding every possible avenue to get this book into people’s hands – whether that’s print copies or free digital versions.  And we will certainly do follow-up Adam’s Corner articles that talk about different pieces of the book.I’d also love to do an audio version, video snippets of different Bright Spots & Landmines, weekly Facebook Live Q&As with readers, and perhaps translation into other languages. But whew… one thing at a time! If you have any ideas you’d like to see, please let me know at brightspots@diaTribe.org!

Kerri: And how can people find more of your writing?

Adam:  Adam’s Corner is here on diaTribe.org, diaTribe’s Facebook page is here, and diaTribe’s twitter is here (@diaTribenews), and my twitter is here (@asbrown1).

Kerri:  Thanks so much for chatting, Adam.  Also, you adopted a dog? Awesome!  What kind?

Adam:  A mini schnauzer mix! I talk about him in the introduction and the exercise chapter 😃 A dog is an incredible Mindset and Exercise Bright Spot, all in one package! I’m a huge convert, despite my skepticism when Priscilla wanted to adopt. Definitely one of the best life decisions we’ve made in the past year.

  *   *   *

Thank you , Adam, for taking the time to talk and also for creating such a powerful resource for the diabetes community.  (And I have a soft spot for Adam because he has never yelled at me, despite my occasionally being spotty back in the day on getting my diaTribe columns to him on time.  To that same end, look for a reboot of the SUM Musings column over at diaTribe in the coming weeks!)  

Adam is patient, ridiculously well-informed, and when it comes to bright spots in the diabetes community, don’t look directly at Adam or you may burn your eyes.  Congratulations again on the book launch!!!  

What I Did On My Bloggy Vacation.

Whoa – this was the longest unintentional blog break I’ve taken in ages. Maybe ever. And it’s not like I didn’t have diabetes-related things to say or conversations I wanted to contribute to.

I just didn’t feel like writing. Which is weird. I usually feel like writing.

After the Target low, I was on break with my family for a while, and then in Dallas for a TypeOneNation event.  I took a short pump break. I saw some PWD in the wild while traveling and the urge to hug them was unrelenting. I read a bunch of crap about “diabetes in a cup” and had that desire to climb on a soapbox clutching a unicorn frappuccino in one hand (but not taking a drink of it ever because my insulin has better things to unpack and also I keep picturing a liquified unicorn, which grossed me out further). I read a blog post and watched our community react to it. And I saw a bunch of angry Tweets and uncomfortable people and hurt feelings and just so much stress.

Oh, never mind the fact that I open the CNN homepage whilst looking through my fingers because there’s always some new yick storm.

I needed a breather.

Random street art ❤. @spacegirlw, thought of you.

A post shared by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

So I guess I pulled back for a while. We celebrated Birdy’s seventh birthday as she crossed that threshold into an age that I remember (I totally remember second grade and my friends back then and riding my bike in the neighborhood and reading books and all that stuff – I have some clear and vivid memories of seven. I was also diagnosed with diabetes that year, so I keep looking at her through that lens, wondering if I appeared simultaneously so big and so little to my own mother.) We traveled without the Guy for the first time and it was kind of stressful for me, being away from my smallest little, but made me grateful for my mom and stepfather once again, how they are always willing and thankfully able to mind my kid(s).

… oh, and I am the last person on the planet to learn that if you are typing a text message on an iPhone and you turn the phone sideways, you can create a handwritten text message. THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE THING and I am madly in love with this feature. I have sent several ragtag cats, two ten gallon hats, a pair of jeans, a plane that looked more like a shark, a bunch of grapes, and boobs to unfortunate recipients. Anyone in my contact list is at risk of receiving nonsense and I AM NOT SORRY.

After a few days, I felt a little clearer. I cracked open my email and confirmed calls for the coming week, met deadlines that were looming, and created a document titled “Shit to Write About” with bulleted ideas of shit to write about. We paid our taxes. The tulips bursted up in the front lawn and they look like an army of happy. I felt a little bit productive, not so drowning in diabetes, and kind of ready to open a “New Post” tab on my blog platform.

So I did. And here I am. And here it is.

It was nice to work a little bit on a non-diabetes writing project I’ve been tooling around with. I liked sending the plane shark. I really enjoyed dealing with diabetes as a stand alone thing instead of repeatedly documenting it. Diabetes is all day and sometimes it needs to be tabled as a content source, with “shit to write about” waiting until I feel ready.

Which now I do.

Plan Your Conversation.

“Do you understand everything we’ve talked about?”

Nods.

“Do you have any questions?”

Shoot.  I did, on the ride up here.  I had a whole pile of concerns and questions, but they disappeared awkwardly upon sitting in this chair.  And sometimes, even when I remember what I wanted to ask, I end up somehow caught up in the flurry of discussing medications, reviewing lab work results, physical examinations, and scheduling next appointments.

And admittedly other times my question stays at the back of my throat, either too shy to be asked or makes me feel weirdly vulnerable.

Despite feeling empowered as a patient and having a high level of health literacy, I sometimes sit in the doctor’s office and my mouth forgets to make words.

The team at the Patient Revolution (disclosure:  I’m on the board and also involved with content) has created a Plan Your Conversation exercise to help patients ensure that their concerns are addressed during their visit.

The simplicity of this exercise (created before I joined the team, so I’m not tooting my own horn 🙂 ) is where its power lives:  the action of writing down concerns and expectations makes them easier to articulate.  And hey, if you feel weird saying these things out loud, you can always physically hand the card(s) over to your clinician.  Whatever gets the words out of your face and into the discussion.

You can plan your conversation through the online tool or download a PDF of the cards to print out.  You can also watch this video about The Patient Revolution to get a feel for how storytelling is being brought to the forefront with this effort.  

Sign up for updates on the Revolution efforts here.

The NEW Jerry the Bear.

Since they’re local to me here in Rhode Island, I drove up to the Jerry the Bear office to meet with my friends Aaron Horowitz and Hannah Chung, creators of Jerry the Bear.

“It’s awesome to see you guys! Where have you been the last few years?”

After hugs and hellos, I realized my question was unfair. Because they haven’t been hiding but instead, the team behind Jerry the Bear has been working tirelessly to change their business in efforts to meet their mission of getting Jerry into the hands of every child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes globally.

That’s quite a mission. But if anyone can accomplish this goal, the driven, passionate, creative, and all-heart team behind Jerry can.

Just your friendly neighborhood Jerry the Bear!

A post shared by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“As a business, we know that Jerry the Bear works, but in order to succeed and survive, we need to make the business work. We’ve been working to move our company from a direct to consumer model to a business-to-business model. This means we’re not selling our bears directly to people but instead have partnered with two different distributors in order to get Jerry into kids’ hands,” said Jerry the Bear co-founder and CEO, Aaron Horowitz.

Namely, they’ve partnered with Beyond Type 1 to handle domestic and international orders (except Canada) and Diabetes Express for our neighbors to the north.

“We want to improve life with diabetes for kids by giving them something positive to associate with diabetes,” said Hannah Chung, co-founder and CCO.

The Sproutel team did a lot of research in developing new Jerry. In addition to marathon sessions with post it notes, building paper prototypes, and “body storming,” the team went into the field to access kids in their natural play habitats. Hannah told me that she went to playgrounds during the development phase in order to work with kids and see if they could hold a bear and a phone at the same time, testing out how the app might be physically managed by their target age range of 4 – 9 years old.

“I’d go into the playground with a bear peeking out of the back of my backpack and a handful of permission slips, talking with kids and their parents. We play games like Simon Says in order to see if kids could find the bear’s belly button or elbow, and whether or not they preferred phones or tablets.”

The mental image of Hannah traipsing through Rhode Island playgrounds with a mission to improve the diabetes experience and a stuffed animal keeping watch over her shoulder sums up the Jerry philosophy for me. This team – Hannah, Aaron, Joel Schwartz, and Brian Oley – are changing the way newly diagnosed kids with diabetes are introduced to diabetes.

I think about my own diagnosis back in 1986 – what a difference it would have made to be handed a friendly bear instead of an orange to practice injections on.

In meeting the new Jerry the Bear, the first thing I noticed was that the touch screen tummy of his predecessor was gone. Coming in at a price point of $55 versus the $299 cost of Original Jerry, New Jerry (henceforth known simply as Jerry) is a soft, plush animal without any plastic or metal hardware attached to him. He’s snuggle-ready. Looking similar to my daughter’s army of Build A Bear stuffed animals and sporting giant, Beanie Boo-esque eyes, Jerry looks like huggable buddy, the perfect comfort companion for kids with diabetes.

What’s replaced the touch screen belly, however, is an amazing upgrade. Jerry now comes with a digital world that lives on an iOS or Android device, and the app is completely free. And on Jerry’s plush body are scannable patches that serve as unique QR codes, giving rise to augmented reality play.

“We were excited to see Pokemon Go! come out and see such success,” said Aaron. “Jerry has that same kind of virtual world superimposed onto the real world. Now it is easier for Jerry’s actions to be procedurally detailed.”

Checking Jerry's BG.

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This means that you’re not just squeezing the pad of Jerry’s finger, but instead you’re walking through all the details of checking blood sugar, from putting the test strip into the meter, pricking his finger, squeezing out a drop of blood, and applying the blood to the strip. The tasks feel real, and they feel thorough.

DO feed the bear!

A post shared by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

The app doesn’t require an actual Jerry the Bear stuffed animal to engage in Jerry’s world, though, and that’s one of my favorite upgrades to this experience. While Jerry himself requires a purchase, the app is free for download. And with that download comes a full world of diabetes experiential learning through the Jerry lens.

“My favorite things about [new] Jerry are that you can explore Jerry’s world in full just on the app, and also that scanning his sites gives you detailed steps around how to use Jerry’s diabetes kit,” shared Hannah. Aaron agreed, adding, “Also that you can experience Jerry instantly through the app. And that the action of scanning changes the world around you, through augmented reality play.”

“What’s the weirdest thing you saw during the test group sessions?” I asked.

Aaron laughed. “You wouldn’t believe how often kids feed Jerry’s butt.”

So there’s that.

While Jerry is aimed at helping kids in the  4 – 9 year old range who are newly diagnosed with diabetes, his potential reaches FAR past that specific demographic.  Jerry, in our home, has been used to help my daughter understand her mother’s diabetes.  He’s been a teaching tool to show kids in her class and our neighborhood what diabetes is all about.  Imagine Jerry as part of a diabetes camp experience, where teenagers can lean on levity and being silly with a stuffed animal to work through some of their frustrations.  Or helping open up discussions for all age ranges about diabetes distress or burnout.  Jerry could be a powerful conduit for conversation for all people touched by diabetes.

This little bear has potential, and plenty of it.

One more thing:  I’d love to share Jerry with two Six Until Me readers, and all you need to do is leave a comment.  Through a random number generator, I’ll select two commenters to ship a snuggly Jerry to.  This giveaway will be open until Sunday night at midnight eastern time, and winners will be notified by email.

Want to enter?  Leave a comment, and be sure to include your email!

You can check out Jerry the Bear’s new app by downloading it from iTunes or Google Play. You can also follow Jerry on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. To order your own Jerry, visit Beyond Type 1 (or Diabetes Express, if you’re in Canada). Thanks to the Sproutel team for letting me come over and play!

Spare a Rose.

I’ve been writing this website for almost twelve years.  The support, advice, and camaraderie I’ve found in the diabetes online community has made the last twelve years with type 1 diabetes among my healthiest and most successful.  The supply of insulin carefully tucked away in my fridge, along with access to an excellent medical team and the financial means to manage my disease, keep me alive.

I’m lucky.  In a lot of ways.

Today is my birthday.  The greatest gift I can have is another year of life, and I don’t take that for granted.  If you’ve found hope, or support, or joy, or friendship, or love in the diabetes online community, I’d really appreciate it if you would consider donating to the IDF’s Life for a Child campaign through Spare a Rose.  If you aren’t able to donate, would you mind sharing the donation link?

Flowers die.  Children shouldn’t.  Every small donation helps save a child.

 

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