Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Real Life Diabetes’ Category

Looking Back: Rules of Love.

Today, in response to spending the day fighting traffic for yet another installment of “how long will I be in the waiting room?” at the doctor’s office, I’m revisiting a post from 2012 about love, PWDs, and permission.  It still blows my mind that this book was published, and I remain appreciative of how far we’ve come.

See also:  eff off, Morris Fishbein, MD.

  *   *   *

In Austin two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to finally meet Josiah Hammer (known affectionately across the world as “The Hammer”), who works at Dexcom and is my direct point of abuse contact at Dexcom for when I screw things up.  [Editor’s note:  Hammer is no longer at Dexcom but is now over at Tandem, which is half the reason why I wanted to switch to Tandem because Hammer is majorly awesome.]

During the course of an email exchange, The Hammer sent me a page from an old health book that he found – the Modern Home Medical Adviser: Your Health and How To Preserve It (edited by Morris Fishbein, MD [who, according to many online sources that may be less-than-credible-but-still-cracked-me-up said that Fishbein was originally aiming to be a clown, but realized there was more money in medicine], published in 1942) which included a chart, of sorts, dictating who should shag whom.

Excerpts:

Only four rules. The shortest rule list a PWD has ever seen, to date. About dating. ;)

Of course.  Because all decisions of love are made with diabetes in mind.  There’s something about this chart that makes me both roll my eyes and then picture a diabetes Punnett’s Square.  Love is a tangled web as it is – plotting decisions against a diabetes graph makes things even more complicated.  Thankfully, good ol’ Morris was there to help people sort out who they should be smooching on.  (/sarcasm.)

This book also featured “blameful” and “blameless” diabetes, helping to drive home the misconception that type 2 diabetes is something people should be beaten with a stick for having and that type 1 is the result of hereditary circumstances (just like in my case, where I”m the only diabetic in my entire family, of any kind … /sarcasm once again).

The Blame Game sucks.

Sometimes I look at how diabetes is currently portrayed in books, television, and other media outlets, and I’m frustrated.  It’s a potluck of misconceptions, facts, and always colored by opinion, but it is slowly becoming more accurate, and more “real.”  People are learning about all different kinds of diabetes and the varying treatments, and the discussion about diabetes entering the mainstream is increasingly credible.  But iooking back at the so-called “medical books” from the early 1940s has blown my mind in a way that Steel Magnolias never will.

We have come a long, long way.  And I’m grateful for that.

Looking Back: Diabetes Back in the Day.

This week is school vacation week for Birdzone, which means there’s plenty of Bird-watching and not a whole lot of inbox-management.  (Unless it’s after midnight … which is when all work-from-home happens … that’s normal, right?  So are these bags under my eyes, right?)  Which means that I might be re-visiting a few posts here and there.  Starting with today, and a look back at how diabetes has shown up in my diaries from years ago.

   *   *   *

Last night, I found a box of old diaries.  I’ve been keeping a paper journal since I was seven years old and I have so many hardcover journals with cats and flowers and balloons on them, my handwriting maturing as steadily and awkwardly as my content.

It’s strange, though, to see how little focus I put on diabetes in my previous journaling.  Most of my earlier journals (eight, ten years old at the time) talk about a boy I had a crush on in fourth grade or roller skating on the weekends or battling with my brother and sister.  But there were a few entries in particular that spoke to life with diabetes.  And while I’m not quite ready to recount the long, dramatic entry about my first kiss (gah!), I wanted to share snippets of my diabetes diary from my teenage years (these entries are from when I was 14 and 15):

May 13, 1993:  Beavis and Butthead is over.  It was strange, because they were in school and in home economics.  Their assignment was to carry around a back of sugar as a “baby.” But Butthead said he couldn’t do it because he was “diatetic.”  The teacher reprimanded him by saying, “That’s DIABETIC, and yes you can do this.”  I’m not exactly sure why, but that comment bothered me.  Alot.  I think it’s because I’m so sensitive about being a diabetic.  It makes me wonder how handicapped people feel about ‘HandyMan’ on In Living Color.  If I feel offended about an off-handed comment, how would someone else feel about a recurring segment?

Was this one of the first moments of diabetes in the mainstream media that I can remember?  I honestly can recall being affected by this, and wishing Butthead had said “diabetes” correctly.

June 27, 1994:  Today, my mother was talking with [name redacted] about diabetes camp and I couldn’t help but overhear.  She said, “As soon as Kerri left, we all relaxed and lead a normal two weeks free of worries and medical stuff.”  Am I a burden to my family?  Do they resent my diabetes?  Do I have a “normal” life?

This isn’t to call my mother out for saying this.  I’ve heard a lot of parents say the same thing about the weeks that their child is away at diabetes camp.  Diabetes requires parents to think on their feet all the time, so the reprieve of having their child away and under constant and capable medical care must have been such a nice break.

Funny – I’ve always wanted a break from it, too.

July 6, 1994:  I leave for Clara Barton Camp on Sunday.  I love camp.  We are all incredibly goofy and loved.  It is such a cool feeling to have people who understand it to talk to.  Sometimes I feel alienated at home because I am the only diabetic around.  No one seems to understand the emotions I feel concerning diabetes.  I am frustrated and angry sometimes, and other times I feel bad for myself.  Sometimes I even want sympathy, and that’s confusing because I say I don’t want to be treated differently at the same time.  It’s weird, though, because I want to be able to control every aspect of my health, so when my health emotions get all crazy, I feel like I’m going nuts.  At least at CBC I’m not the only one who feels that way.  If I tried explaining that to my friends, they’d look at me like I was nutso.

Ah, my longing for a diabetes community, even before I knew there would be one online.  🙂

And this paper was shoved into my diary from 1991, written on school paper and smelling softly of pencil boxes and recess.  It speaks volumes about how much a 12 year old kid grasps about guilt and diabetes:

A 12 yr old's diabetes to-do list.

It’s a lot to carry.  I felt so alone.  And as I read through these diaries late into last night, I was again grateful to know I’m not the only person out there living with this.  The power of this community is tremendous.  I also realized how everything has changed, but at the same time, nothing has changed.

Guest Post: Diabetes at Work.

When I asked folks in the DOC if they’d be willing to lend their voices and perspectives for a guest blog post, I was excited to hear from Susannah (aka @bessiebelle on Instagram and Twitter).  Susannah grew up in South Australia and is now working as a lawyer in Cambridge, in the UK.  She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during the course of her last year of high school (2000) and is currently using a Dexcom with her Animas Vibe insulin pump.  

Today, she’s taking over SUM to talk about diabetes in the work place, and how to handle the moments when discretion is preferred but diabetes still needs attention, and she’s looking from tips from our community on handling diabetes in the workplace.

  *   *   *

A significant aspect of my life with diabetes which I often feel is ignored is how it fits into my career. Diabetes goes with me to work everyday and has seen the highs (completing deals) and lows (being at work at 2am) of work and as well as sugar!

When I started to write this post about working life with diabetes I was armed with a list of anecdotes but I didn’t expect life to serve up another example of when the two worlds collide. One of the frustrating things that any diabetic knows is it can always throw you something unexpected.

After a seemingly average Sunday afternoon gym session Monday morning last week saw me battling a hypo that just wouldn’t respond (to glucose tabs, reduced basal plus bread with strawberry jam for good measure). With heart still racing and a foggy brain at 9am I emailed my boss to let him know I was somewhat delayed but I’d be in soon. Moments like this make me glad that I’ve been open with my boss about being a type 1 diabetic but also make me anxious that I will be judged as less capable because of it.

Am I the only one who feels like that?

The emotional side of diabetes creeps in too easily. After an experience like that morning I’m left worried that I’ll be judged because of it. Being late on Monday morning is the least of it… We all know there are the doctors’ appointments (6 monthly checks, annual reviews, eye checks, and other specialists – always longer than expected and involving long times in waiting rooms), hypos setting you back (sometimes only a few minutes, other times for much longer), pump sites pulled out causing hassle and even spurting fingers resulting in blood stained shirts! Some of these take up more time than others but they all intrude on what might otherwise be a normal day in the office. Something that I’m acutely reminded of when I’m filling in my 7 hours of 6 minute units of time each day.

I fear hypos at work more than anywhere else. I don’t want to explain why I’m sweating at my desk like I’ve been for a run or to be faced by a deadline but struggling to gather my thoughts clearly. I don’t feel any more comfortable in this situation now than I did when I first started work as a law clerk 10 years ago. Luckily, for many years I had the luxury of my own office and the ability to shut the door gave a level of privacy when required. Recently, I moved to an open plan firm and I am having to reconsider many things I took for granted with a (glass) door… pump site changes at my desk are a thing of the past (cue a few panicked mornings hastily inserting a new site and refilling so that I won’t have to later). I’ve been lucky not to ever have a hypo in a meeting, but this is not without taking care. Meetings with clients or all parties to negotiate a document are a balancing act of starting the meeting high enough not to crash but not so high that I feel sluggish. (and that’s not considering the blood sugar spikes from stress).

Thankfully there are the comical moments – taking a draft document to my boss and having to explain the red smudges on the print out (after 15 years it’s fairly easy to squeeze blood from my favourite fingers… I tested as I typed this and got blood on cue!); being in a meeting with the same boss and having my pump alarm go off – after a quizzical expression from a colleague my boss calmly commented “Don’t worry, Susannah’s bra is ringing!” Needless to say my pump alarms are strictly on vibrate these days.

There are moments that call for advocacy whether I feel like it or not. In a previous job I was surprised when HR requested that I remove my spare insulin from the work fridge or alternatively hide it in a container so other people didn’t have to worry about ‘contamination’. Why?! To this day I haven’t quite figured out who raised the concern (or why?!) but I defiantly ignored that request (with colleagues’ support) and also politely explained to HR that it was not a risk to anyone’s sandwich.

I’m always interested to hear how others handle disclosure with their employers (as well as see photos of their diabetes supplies stashed in their desk), and am always surprised by people who manage not to disclose it. I’m yet to perfect my ‘I’m busy having a hypo so please don’t ask me a question face’ so disclosure is what feels best for me. It may not be for someone else (YDMV). In contemplating my days in the office I realise I have it pretty easy if the worst is getting blood on a contract! I’m in awe of the many people who manage their diabetes while being responsible for others (whether a mother, teacher, nurse or doctor, just to list a few).

How do you handle your diabetes at work? Any tips on how to stress less?

Rasharoni.

As this pregnancy continues on, so does the rapid rounding-out of my abdomen (today’s issue = not being able to zip my jacket without over-taxing the zipper). Feeling quite like Violet Beauregard from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Pluses to this expansion are that a. the pregnancy is progressing on schedule and b. the real estate options for my pump site and Dexcom sensor are literally broadening.  Which is useful, since my adhesive rash is in full rawr mode.

In response to rashes that are taking weeks to heal properly (they aren’t oozing or anything gross, but a particularly cold day or a too-hot shower will make the area where the sensor and any tape was get madly scaly, red, and itchy), I’ve needed to really mix up where my diabetes devices are applied.  I put a sensor on my lower left-side abdomen for the first time in almost a decade and it hurt like hell going in but did not leave a residual rash when I removed it.

New skin holds up better than my favored spots, but with only seven days of wear and an aversion to abdomen sites, it’s getting tricky.  At the Friends for Life Falls Church conference in DC this past weekend, there was discussion in several groups about rash strategies, but I can’t recall everything that everyone said.  (If you have tips on dealing with skin irritation, please share them!)

I am seeing a dermatologist again this week to see if they can offer any relief/advice/assistance, so there is hope.  For now, Toughpads, DermaSarra lotion, and site rotation are my best defense.  Because hope remains an itch I refuse to scratch … especially when there are so many other bits of me that need scritch-scratching.

5 Worst Things to Consume If You Have Diabetes.

Today is World Health Day and the focus is on diabetes.  Every media outlet in the world is picking up on this health story and twisting it just so, highlighting misconceptions aplenty and feeding the stigma about diabetes.  Messages get muddled and broken down into clickbait headlines that sometimes hurt our community more than they educate.

What are the five worst things to consume if you have diabetes? HINT: This is not a list of foods.  

  1. Misconceptions. Don’t consume them.  There is a public perception about diabetes as a whole and about the individual types – don’t let society’s misinformed views shape your own.
  2. Other people’s misunderstandings. Don’t consume them.  Don’t let people’s ignorance about diabetes ruin your day.  Correct their information and move on.
  3. Misinformed messages from the media. Don’t consume them.  Address and correct articles that perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation. We’ll never be happy, as a community, with a public health campaign, but we can take steps to help shape it in a way that feels right.  If not us, who?
  4. Anger and hatred towards our community. Don’t consume it.  People get angry about diabetes and the people who have it are often the target of blame, shame, and disgust.  Don’t let anger infiltrate our community.  We’re better than that.
  5. Stigma. Don’t consume it.  Don’t swallow it and don’t let it define you.  Taking care of your health is nothing to be ashamed of, so wear your efforts towards good health with pride.


What do I wish people knew about diabetes?  This:  

There is more than one kind of diabetes.  This isn’t a knock on my type 2 and gestational diabetes friends, but definitely a knock on society’s perceptions at large.  People have one musty, old perception of what diabetes looks like, and it’s always someone older, heavier, and lazy.  Would they be surprised to meet our fit type 2 friends, or the 20 year old gestational PWD?  Or a “juvenile diabetic” who isn’t eight years old? Or any of our community friends? Diabetes doesn’t have “a look.”

Diabetes affects more than just the person playing host to it. I am the one wearing and insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor, and actually feeling these blood sugar highs and lows.  But I’m not the only one affected by diabetes.  My parents had to care for me when I was young, acting as my pancreas.  My friends have been affected by my lows and highs while we’re hanging out, sometimes forced to jump the bar and accost the bartender for orange juice.  (True story.)  And my husband has taken on this disease as his own as best he can, making it such an integrated part of our life together that I don’t feel alone.  Diabetes isn’t just mine.  It belongs to everyone who cares about me.

Diabetes isn’t just a physiological disease.  Mental health matters when it comes to diabetes management. It’s not just a question of blood sugar levels and insulin supplementation.  It’s about managing the emotional output that comes as part of life with a chronic illness.  It’s about the guilt of complications.  The pressure to control an uncontrollable disease.  The hope that tomorrow will come without incident. I feel that the emotional aspects of diabetes need to be attended to with the same care and diligence as an A1C level.  Maybe more so, because life needs to be happy, whether it’s a short life or a very long one.

Diabetes isn’t easy.  We just make it look that way sometimes.  Some of the perceptions that the general public has is that diabetes is easy to handle.  “You just wear the pump, test your blood sugar, and watch your diet and you’ll be fine, right?”  Wrong.  You can do the exact same thing every day and still see varying diabetes outcomes. It’s never all figured out.  Diabetes is a daily dance of numbers and emotions and even though we, as a community, make it look easy sometimes, it sure isn’t.

No diabetes is the same. Even within a community of diabetics, there are still widely varying ways of treating diabetes and even more ways of dealing with the emotional aspects.  There’s no winning combination and no “right” way to deal with this disease.  Being on a pump means you use a pump to infuse your insulin – this doesn’t necessarily mean you are taking better care of yourself than the person who opts for injections.  Low-carb doesn’t work for everyone, and neither do certain medications.  What works for you may not work for everyone. It’s important to remember that this disease, like life, doesn’t have a predictable path, so there are plenty of “right’ ways to handle it.

Just because we don’t look sick doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a cure.  That statement sums it up for me.  We might make it look easy, but it isn’t.  There’s no rhyme or reason to this disease, and even with the best care and the best intentions, complications can sometimes still come calling.  And their effects are devastating.  Diabetes, of all kinds, deserves a cure.  No one asked for any of this.  We deserve better than society thinking that diabetes isn’t worth their attention.

We deserve, we fight for, and we advocate for a better life, better health outcomes, … we deserve a fighting chance for a cure.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers