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Posts from the ‘Real Life Diabetes’ Category

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.

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.”


ALL NEW Jerry the Bear Revealed.

My daughter loves Jerry the Bear.  And not because he’s this fancy teddy bear aimed at teaching children about type 1 diabetes.  She doesn’t care a whole lot about that.  She likes that Jerry is soft and cuddly and has a friendly face, and that he also needs her to give him food and check his blood sugar.

Birdy getting to know Jerry the Bear. #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Like you do, Mom,” she says while she counts the carbs in the snack Jerry is about to have.  She’ll bolus him, feed him, and then drag him outside to her playset, where she and Jerry play in the clubhouse.

It’s not about diabetes, it’s about life.  But as she’s playing with this toy, she’s learning about diabetes in a way that speaks directly to her five year old sensibilities.  Jerry is a powerful teaching tool.

Today, there’s a new Jerry the Bear in town, the brainchild of Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz (two Rhode Island locals, making them even more awesome in my Rhody Pride mind).  Hannah and Aaron were kind enough to answer a few questions about Jerry and what’s coming next for the Sproutel team.

Kerri:  How long have you been working on the new Jerry, and what is new about this iteration of the amazing bear?

Team Sproutel:  We’ve been cooking up “new Jerry” in our labs for the past 9 months or so. This new version of Jerry is built from a curriculum centered on general health and wellness education for all kids. We now have expansion packs to customize Jerry’s eduction for kids with type 1 diabetes and food allergies.

Through our work with kiddos with type 1 diabetes and our research into other childhood conditions we began to realize that there are certain pillars of health education that apply to all children. We see this new bear as a platform to deliver high quality health education to all kids.

Kerri:  Why move from an embedded device to Jerry’s new “portal?”  And what are some of the different features of the portal?

Team Sproutel:  Jerry’s new portal is a window into Jerry’s world. As you wave the portal over Jerry’s body it show’s an x-ray view of what’s happening inside. Besides being cool, the new portal enables some neat features. First of all, it means that Jerry is now washable! This is something that parents really wanted because it wasn’t so easy to keep little Jerry clean with all of the playtime he was getting. It also enables us to grow Jerry’s world with new characters. Next year we plan on releasing additional plush characters from Jerry’s world, like his little sister Isabella, who will be brought to life with the same portal.

Kerri:  I see you’ve moved from diabetes into food allergies.  How are you able to have one bear to unite them all?

Team Sproutel:  With this new bear we’ve created a core set of play patterns that are fun for all kids. In order to keep Jerry happy, you have to feed him healthy foods, exercise with him, and keep him nice and clean with a good tooth brushing. This enables us to layer disease specific education on top of Jerry’s core functionality with expansion packs. For each condition we have an accessory (like an insulin pen or epi-pen), condition specific storybooks that teach hard skills, and new behaviors (like a blood glucose level!).

Kerri:  What’s next for our friend Jerry?

Team Sproutel:  Our aim is to continue adding more conditions onto the Jerry platform! We have a long list we’re currently thinking of for our next expansion pack and welcome any suggestions.

Kerri:  How can the diabetes community help move the mission of Jerry the Bear along?

Team Sproutel:  We have so much love for the diabetes community. For the past 3 years it’s felt like we’ve had a new family, one that has supported our growth and loved us unconditionally. We couldn’t be more grateful! It would be incredibly to have the support of the diabetes community to spread the word of what Jerry has done for kiddos with T1D and the hope for what he can do for all children.

Kerri:  And lastly, how can families order their own Jerry the Bear?

Team Sproutel:  We’re currently taking pre-orders on our website for the new Jerry the Bear at a special 30% off discount.

The press release from Sproutel this morning has some great information about Jerry, including Sproutel’s mission to continue to give back to the community.  From the release:  “Best suited for children ages 4 to 9, Jerry the Bear will be available to preorder at $99. Sproutel has pledged 1% of sales to help fight obesity and hunger through the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Expansion packs will support finding a cure for type 1 diabetes through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), and food allergies through Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).”

You can find out more about Jerry the Bear, and his team, through their website.  Or by following @JerryTheBearCo on Twitter.  Or by watching this video about the new and improved Jerry.  Huge thanks to Hannah and Aaron for continuing to remain true to the cause and the community, and for creating a profoundly effective teaching tool that you can hug.

29 Years with Type 1 Diabetes.

Even though my diabetes diagnosis was twenty-nine years ago today, I feel kind of done with letting it serve as a milestone marker for me.  In years past, I liked marking the day because it felt like a moment of flipping the bird (not this Bird) to diabetes.  Over the last few years, I’ve kind of liked not paying much attention to the anniversary; it was an opportunity to remove the bold underline from diabetes.  Diabetes is something that’s part of my life, but letting it blur my focus isn’t a good head space for me to be in.


Instead, I’m focusing on the shit I like.

Like how my daughter is five and a half years old and she’s a really happy kid.  The smile that spreads across her face when she sees the school bus approach in the morning is my new favorite thing.  That, and watching her walk with a book bag that’s half the size of her body.

[Total aside:  I also really like that, in our neighborhood, the school bus drives in and picked up the kids, goes up the road and through the cul-de-sac, and then drives by us again as it leaves our street.  Which means that the parents stand there and wait for the bus to come back, then we all wave like lunatics.  It's a very strange custom and one I already find comforting.  (I wonder if the sidewalk group of showered-and-dressed parents eventually devolves into a ragtag pile of bed-headed, bathrobe-wearing, coffee-cup-clutching adults.)]

I like my husband.  So much that I taught our daughter how to write names in the peanut butter.  She thinks it’s a weird custom, but got all excited when given the opportunity to write “LOOPY” in the untouched surface of a new jar.

I like my job.  Living with diabetes can be an intrusion and as I mentioned last year, the intrusion seems to have dulled over time for the most part, but the career and the voice that I’ve had the good fortune to build as a result of this frigging disease is more fulfilling than any other job I could imagine.  I’m looking forward to the chance to meet with my European counterparts in Stockholm next week, and very excited for what’s on tap for 2016.

I like my health.  There are bits and pieces I’d change, if given the chance (see also:  bringing diabetes back after 30 years, mostly because I’ve kept the receipt this whole time), but on the whole, I am extremely lucky to have a disease where I can strongly influence my personal health outcomes.  I am in the driver’s seat, even if I have an unruly passenger.  Despite diabetes, I can still run.  I can still dance (badly).  I can make mistakes.  I can make a difference.  I can still stay out late and laugh hard (resulting sometimes in a snort, which is not cool, body).  I can raise a family.  I can be a crumb.  I can also be a good person.

I canAnd you can.  (Toucan.)

And I like you guys.  A lot.  Your support and camaraderie has been instrumental over the last decade, and I think I’m in a better mental health place as a result of this community.  Twenty-nine years ago, community was limited to my zip code.  Now, some of my best friends are based in this community, and I’m grateful as eff.  Access to this digital database of truly amazing human beings has been the best thing diabetes has brought to my life, islets down.

So onward, you guys.  ONWARD.  To another year of BYOI(nsulin).


Longest Dexcom Break in Six Years.

“Is it because of the skin thing?” he asked, watching me put the transmitter and receiver on the bedroom dresser.

“Yeah,” I replied, only it wasn’t exactly the truth.  Sure, my skin had some pretty irritated patches from the constant application/reapplication of my CGM sensors, but it was manageable, especially if I was more diligent about rotating my sites.  But it wasn’t just the physical itch or the bulk of another device stuck on me.

I needed to fly blind for a while.

Which sounds ridiculous, because I am lucky as hell to have access to that data insight in the first place.  Twenty-some-odd (they’ve all been odd) years ago, I would have laughed in you face if you told me I could have access to all-day streaming blood glucose data without having to prick my finger ever five minutes.  I remember putting on my first Dexcom sensor and being amazed at the trends alone (the old STS wasn’t up to G4 standards).  Using a CGM helped me corral my blood sugars in pursuit of a happy-baby-range A1C without working in a pile of low blood sugars.  And throughout my pregnancy (and the subsequent raising of my now-not-so-small Bird), the data was beyond useful.  It became indispensable.

But after six years of wearing the sensor almost all the time, feeling like the two hour booting up time frame was an eternity, I needed more than two hours off.  I needed more than two days off.  I needed to take the sensor off and put it on a shelf for a week or two in order to stop leaning on it so heavily and to help retrain my body and my mind to tune in more actively to diabetes.

Because when the sensor is on and throwing data, I trust it.  Trust to the point of crutching out on it, not testing my blood sugar often enough throughout the day and making corrections and meal doses off the CGM data.  (Do as the FDA and Dexcom say, not as I do.  Consult your doctor before ever consulting the likes of me.  See also my Dexcom disclosure.)  For years, the CGM data was making me better at the job of managing my diabetes.  I liked it that way, but in the last few weeks (admittedly, months), I haven’t been doing a good job of staying on top of my diabetes.  Instead, I’m letting the technology take control, when the one at the helm should be me.

Took a break.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

So I took off the sensor about a week and a half ago.  Defiantly, but also half-expecting to cave and put another one on right away.  For the first two days, going to bed at night was the toughest part because of my concern for overnight hypoglycemia.  But I was testing more, and I set an alarm one night to double-check, and then there was this moment when I wasn’t panicking about the lack of data because I had started re-trusting my own ability to do this myself.

Because I can do this. I have done this. This Friday marks 29 years of doing it and doing it and doing it well. I’m in control, despite the work it takes to get there and the patchy moments of “Yeah?”

This afternoon, I’ll pop a new sensor on and watch my glucose live-stream again.  But it will be different because I won’t feel like I’m along for the ride with this diabetes bullshit.  I feel a little more like I am back in the driver’s seat, with technology as my seat belt instead of my airbag.

Traffic Jam.

Last week, I was up in Boston visiting with Ed Damiano to hear some updates on the bionic pancreas (now known as the iLet – more on that later meeting this week), and our meeting ended late in the afternoon.

Which means I climbed into my car to make the drive home on Route 93 south towards Rhode Island at 6 pm.

For anyone who lives in New England, you know this is a recipe for sitting in the car in maddening traffic for hours.  The drive in and out of Boston is abysmal and unforgiving.  Sitting in traffic for hours on end trying to get to one stupid exit only to have to sit in traffic again for another long while is a waste of time and makes me endlessly grateful for my short commute.

But dude … I was on an iLet high, excited after hearing about how this new technology might help keep me healthy while freeing up brain space previously assigned to diabetes management.  Unfortunately, after peeking at my Dexcom, I was also on a bit of a blood sugar high.

212 mg/dL with an arrow pointing straight up, to be more precise.

“Gosh darn it,” is what I would have said if Birdy was in the car with me.  I was already in traffic.  It was going to be a long, needing-to-pee-because-hyperglycemia.  Time to bolus.

Several boops and beeps later, the correction bolus was en route.


“Oh for pete’s sake,” is another thing I would have said if Birdy was in the car.

I looked at the pump.  I haven’t had an occlusion alarm in ages, so I wasn’t sure what would happen next.  After confirming that none of the insulin had been delivered, I tried it again.


Well okay then.  Time for Plan B.

Plan B is always an option because I am painfully prepared for all kinds of crap things to happen at the most crap of times.  (Except that one time.)  My family mocks me for my giant purse, but when someone needs a bandaid or an insulin set or a t-shirt or a 3 lb bag of coffee or a brick or a small (small) weasel, I am their go-to girl.

Which explains why the contents of my purse often paint me as some kind of drug lord, because I thankfully had a syringe in my meter bag and a back-up insulin pen in my purse, just for moments like these when I’m in Boston traffic and need to shoot up quickly.  I disconnected my pump, uncapped my pen, and took my correction bolus old school style.  Nineteen and a half hours (read: two) later, I was back in my diabetes supply closet safety zone, where I could swap for a new pump set up.

This is exactly why I carry an insulin pen with me at all times. Even when it seems like overkill.

Which also reminds me – I need to update my stash of small (small) weasels.


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