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Posts from the ‘Diabetes Community’ Category

Guest Post: What FFL Was Like as a First Timer.

Wondering what it’s like to be surrounded by thousands of people affected by diabetes?  Today, my fellow Friends for Life faculty member and longtime family friend, Scott Johnson, takes over SUM to share his experience as a first-timer at FFL back in 2010.  

Scott was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes back in 1980 and has been blogging about his experiences since 2004 over at Scott’s Diabetes Blog.  Today, he’s an integral (and huggable) part of the diabetes online community, working tirelessly as an advocate and also as the US communications lead for mySugr.

(And if you’re looking to connect in person with like-pancreased people, you can register for Friends for Life here.  Or, if July in Orlando is not your thing, there’s another conference in Falls Church, VA that might hit the mark for you.)

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As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I started noticing people with diabetes stuff around the hotel. A Dexcom sensor or OmniPod pump on their arm. Maybe a diabetes-related t-shirt. A used test strip. I was gawking at everyone! Rubbernecking my way from place to place as I walked around the hotel. It’s so uncommon to see people like me out in the world, but at Friends for Life, it’s the norm, which is a very powerful experience.

And when it comes to powerful experiences, Friends for Life has plenty to offer. One of my favorite moments was walking into the big breakfast room for the first time. By dumb luck, I picked a corner door and walked inside. That moment stopped me in my tracks.

I was stunned by how massive the room was. I couldn’t see everyone because it was too big. The other side of the room felt lost to the curving horizon line of the earth. And it hit me, suddenly, that everyone there was there for me. Well, not me, exactly, but “me” as in type 1 diabetes. I’d never seen so many people together specifically for type 1 diabetes before I’m my life – and I’ll never forget feeling so amazed, so grateful, and so ready to drink it all in. It tugged on some heartstrings I hadn’t known were there. I’d found a family I didn’t know I was missing.

Friends at Friends for Life

photo credit: Jeff Hitchcock

The whole conference was extremely emotional for me. Seeing little ones with diabetes knowing they’ll grow up with a better experience than me thanks to Friends for Life made me so hopeful and happy for them. But knowing they’ll know the shitty sides of diabetes too made me want to hug them and cry.

Some sessions were presentation style with slides, others were small group sessions offering a safe place to vent about tough topics with others in similar situations. There were different tracks to choose from, depending on interest, relationship to diabetes, age group, and more. I bounced around from session to session and was impressed by all of them. Jeff, Laura and the FFL team pull together an impressive roster of faculty members and volunteers to make magic happen. It was the first time in my life where I could listen to a famous doctor or scientist that I’d only read about give a presentation one hour, then find myself visiting with them later that day somewhere else in the conference. It felt surreal in so many amazing ways.

And then there’s simply sitting with a group of PWDs for hours and commiserating about some situation that we’ve all dealt with or just laughing the night away and talking about everything but diabetes.

It’s hard to describe the level of understanding present at Friends for Life. I remember listening to Rick Philbin give a talk about insulin pumps and exercise, and as he’s up at the podium he described the subconscious urge to check his pockets for glucose tabs every time he programmed a correction bolus out of fear for going low down the line. I was like, “whoa… he can see inside my soul..” but I’d never been able to articulate that subtle fear! And then there’s the story of getting to play basketball with Rick and Gary Scheiner – an awesome experience – until they got into a “discussion” about the score. That’s a day I’ll never forget!

And stay tuned for another guest post all about eyes …

I have to acknowledge Roche Diabetes Care’s huge roll in my first Friends for Life experience. They invited me to the second Roche Social Media Summit and hosted the event at the same location as the Friends for Life conference. This reduced some of my out of pocket expense (airfare) which made it possible for me to attend. That small logistical favor changed my life in so many ways. I’m forever grateful.

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Thanks, Scott.  See you in a few weeks!

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.

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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!!!  

Twelve Years Old.

My blog turns twelve years old today.

Twelve years ago, I was a twentysomething mess wondering if I was the only PWD who wanted to connect with other like-pancreased people.  Twelve years later, I’m a thirtysomething mess who has found her peers and benefitted from those connections in ways that far surpass any drop in A1C.

Grateful doesn’t even begin to touch how I feel about the last 12 years.  Thanks for being part of it.  And for making the journey with diabetes one we’re on together.

Guest Post: My Magical Disney Moment.

The power of peer-to-peer connections is not lost on the diabetes community.  While insulin remains our strongest medication tool, our mental and emotional health is nourished by connecting with like-pancreased people, making any diabetes burden that much lighter.

One of the most amazing peer support cultures in the diabetes community is found at Children with Diabetes’ Friends for Life conference.  As a board member, I’m extremely proud of the influence FFL has on families affected by diabetes.  Which is why stories like Noor’s are so powerful, because they illustrate how finding your tribe can make all the difference in your health.  

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Born and raised in the Middle East, in a culture where a lot of stigma is attached to people with medical conditions, growing up with T1D was very isolating, lonely and resentful. I was diagnosed at the age of 5, the first 8 years went by smoothly; my mom took on majority of my care load and those pesky hormones still hadn’t made their grand appearance. My doctors put me on a pedestal; I was their most “compliant” patient (yes that was a word that was actually used back then). Puberty kicked in and life as I knew it was over; the hormones took me on a never-ending whirlpool ride. I was embarrassed, tired, exhausted and done with diabetes. I was done with being different. I didn’t know how to explain that to my family and doctor. I felt like I was failing them and they wouldn’t understand, so I decided the easiest way to deal with it is to not deal with it at all. The next 3 years were a nightmare; I was in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. I was in severe DKA 3 times, once so severe the doctors said that I was going into cardiac arrest. I was in a coma for 5 days due to a hypo seizure. My a1c was 13%.

My parents did everything in their power to try and help; they tried soft love, tough love, grounding, reasoning, bribing, yelling, etc. but nothing worked, nothing fazed me. My doctor back home recommended attending the Friends For Life conference in Orlando; he thought it would be an encouraging experience. Little did he know it would save my life, LITERALLY. My parents dragged me kicking and screaming (maybe less kicking and more screaming); the last thing I wanted was to be in a room filled with “outcasts” and “weirdoes,” because you know as a teenager I was a “cool kid.”

The turning point of my life wasn’t when one of the amazing inspirational speakers talked about how he won the super bowl with T1D nor when a world renowned researcher talked about the effects of high and low blood sugars on our organs. It was on a Disney bus on the way to EPCOT with a group of teens who took me in and invited me to join. Kenny, a T1D teen, who was on top of his diabetes game, was checking his blood sugar using his forearm. I asked him the reason behind it and he casually answers, “In case I ever develop complications and need to read braille, I don’t want calluses on my fingertips.”

THAT was my wake-up call, THAT was my holy moly moment, THAT was all it took, THAT was my magical Disney moment.

Fast-forward 13 years; I haven’t missed a single conference, besides one because I was too busy having my twins (I know my priorities are off psht). I am not a mushy cheesy person; sarcasm is my language but brace yourself for this. These people have become my family, my friends for life and my squad. We have been through birthdays, relationships, breakups, marriages, childbirth, graduations, political turmoil (yes that’s a big one), highs and lows together. They inspire me everyday to do better and be better, not only with T1D but also with life in general. They made me comfortable in my own skin (after that summer I agreed to go on a pump after years of resistance); proud of the person I am with my diabetes and embrace it every day. When I’m having a screwed up T1D day, I know I can text them and they “get it.”

When I manage to workout and stay in perfect range they “get it” and understand what a huge deal that is. When I send them a screenshot of my dexcom with 2 arrows up after eating pizza, their “but that was worth it” response lets me know they “get it.” They have normalized this disease; suddenly I wasn’t alone, an outcast, or scared. They are nurses, doctors, advocates, athletes, chefs, photographers, businessmen/women and the list goes on. They proved to me that you can be anything you want to be and be amazing at it, in spite of the struggles.

That is the power of a community.  This is what they meant when they said “it takes a village.”

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Noor Alramahi has been living with diabetes since the age of 5 and since she wrote her own bio, I’m going to paste it here in full.  Mostly because she adds “had twins” as this NBD sort of thing when it is SUCH a BD.

“I’m a 28 year old curly brunette who’s in love with Tiramisu and Justin Timberlake. I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 5, since then I have learned to play piano, played varsity soccer, competed in horse jumping, travelled to more than 19 countries, had twins and can’t think of one thing that having diabetes has stopped me from doing. I am married to my best friend and have 2 year old boys. I have been part of  CWD FFL staff for the past 8 years, I also help run their social media platform. Five years ago CWD FFL inspired me to leave my corporate job and join the T1D nonprofit world and focus on helping people. I work as the community manager at Carb DM and am the co-founder of T1D females group in the family planning, pregnancy and post pregnancy phases called Sugar Mommas

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Thanks for sharing your story, Noor!

If you’re interested in seeing how Children with Diabetes can change your life, check out the website and consider coming to a conference.  If you already know how Children with Diabetes can change your life, please consider donating to support the organization.  And if you’d like to share your story about how the support of CWD has influenced your life, please email me at kerri (at) sixuntilme (dot) com.

Muted.

Ahh bullet points.  Ye be the only(e) way I can process things at the moment.

  • I don’t have a lot to say over here lately, and there are a dozen different reasons for that.  One is that the new baby kiddo keeps me extremely busy, what with his cluster feeding and chatty ways, and also the fact that he is still not much of a nighttime sleeper, with his sleepless nights becoming my sleepless nights.  Which translates into not a lot of creative brain power during the daylight hours.
  • (But holy fuck am I creative at night.  I make up songs on the fly, can produce ounces of breastmilk without a second thought, and have taken to texting writing ideas to myself with one hand while hugging Guy Smiley with the other.  The problem is executing on these ideas once the sun rises, because it’s then that I fall apart.)
  • The baby is getting much bigger, though, and even though we’ve had some issues getting him to gain weight (not a problem now – more on that tomorrow or Friday), he’s thriving perfectly now.  He has also entered that super smiley/finally giving feedback stage, which I love.  The baby grins and gurgles are my favorite.  He sounds so much like his sister at this stage, and yet he’s so distinctly himself.  His smile lights up the room, even when he’s spitting up into my freshly washed hair.
  • My kids are my focus these days, which keeps my heart full but my blog kind of empty-ish.
  • I’m also reluctant to get political in public, mostly because the diabetes community is united by busted pancreases and political discussions have the potential to cut our crucial community in half, but the election did not go the way I had hoped and I have grave concerns about health insurance, safety, and social issues these days.  This is contributing to the maelstrom of thoughts in my head, and the CGM frowns on my desire for Tylenol.
  • The election circus also sort of sucked the wind out of my sails in terms of diabetes awareness month activities, as well.  I’m having a difficult time focusing on the diabetes community when the country as a whole seems to be imploding to a certain extent.  I wear my blue circle pin when I’m out and I gave a presentation at a local hospital system last night, but for the most part, I’ve felt quieter than normal these days.
  • And another reason for my silence is that diabetes isn’t fun to talk about lately.  Back when I first started blogging, I would share a lot of the minutiae because I’d never had the chance to get that sort of stuff off my chest before.  Talking about a rogue low blood sugar that hit while I was in the shower?  That story came out easily.  But all of those diabetes moments feel redundant lately.  Yes, I was low.  I was high.  I was frustrated.  I was burnt out.  I was empowered.  I made steps forward in some areas, backwards in others.  It isn’t interesting to me at the moment.  When I think about diabetes, it’s this hamster wheel of the same tasks and the same emotions earning similar outcomes.  I’m still living with this disease, still trying to manage it, still having good and bad days.  Documenting those moments isn’t coming as easily to me anymore.
  • Maybe it’s because of my increased desire to keep more things private, even in the health space.  I looked back at some of my past blogs and saw that I’d chronicled a lot more of my pregnancy with Birdy than I did with my son.  I definitely blame infertility and fear of losing another pregnancy for that silence, but even now that my son is out and safe, I’m still reluctant to share a whole bunch about him.  I have a monthly letter than I’ve been writing to him (there’s two done already and a third one is in my mental queue … maybe I’ll feel up to sharing that third one here sometime) but I like keeping those in his email account (password to be given to him when he’s older).
  • Maybe this privacy surge is a result of being older.  Or tired.  (Or maybe being tired is a result of being older.  See also: non-sleepy cute infant person)
  • I love the diabetes community – truly love it – and I remain a big fan of blogging,  but maybe long form blogging is starting to shift a little bit.  Lots of activity on Instagram and Twitter (never got into Snapchat – my luck, the cat would walk by and puke while I was recording a video or something), but the long and winding blog posts are harder to find these days.  Do they require more effort to read?  I keep seeing things on Medium marked as “long reads” that are also marked as “8 minutes” and that sends me into “get off my lawn” mode because is eight minutes really a long read?  Does that means all books are becoming pamphlets and Jodi Picoult will suddenly start writing her tomes in tiny tattoo form?
  • I think I’m a little tired, overall.  Tired of diabetes (post-pregnancy burnout in full swing, thank you very much) and tired from adjusting to the arrival, chaos, and joy of a newborn baby. (I think there’s some guilt half-baked into that, because I wanted my son so much that I feel a little guilty about some of the exhausted frustration I’ve felt.  I could not possibly love him more, and I simultaneously could not need a nap more.)

Things will settle down.  I’ll post here as time allows and as inspiration strikes.  Diabetes will always be here, right?  It’s okay to take a breather from talking incessantly about it.

90% of my day is this snuggly.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

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