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Posts from the ‘Real Life Diabetes’ 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!!!  

DBlogWeek 2017: Diabetes and The Unexpected.

Diabetes Blog Week prompt for Monday: Diabetes can sometimes seem to play by a rulebook that makes no sense, tossing out unexpected challenges at random.  What are your best tips for being prepared when the unexpected happens?  Or, take this topic another way and tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your, or your loved one’s, life that you never could have expected?

Diabetes Blog Week YAYYYYYY!

Unexpectedly, my iPhone decided to update itself on Saturday night.

I must have “agreed” to terms of service and scheduled the update, but I didn’t think the process through, because if my phone is updating the operating system, that means the processes on my phone are sort of stalled.

Including my Dexcom data transmission.  Which means I didn’t have any CGM data streaming overnight.  The low blood sugar came out of nowhere, a product of stupid poor planning and over-correcting a high in the wee hours of the morning.

Mother’s Day morning broke open with my body outlined in damp sweat, my color ashy, hands shaking, but my mind still sharp, considering my blood sugar was 35 mg/dL.

Super low glucose result - crappy way to start the dayOnly once or twice before, in thirty years of diabetes, have I ever felt close to passing out, but the precursor feelings seem to be waves of unconsciousness that lap at the edge of my mind coupled with a calm, reasoned mind, as if I knew I was about to go under and I needed to mentally take the biggest breath I could.

I had the sense to call Chris (he was downstairs with the baby) and ask him for juice.  I was afraid to sit up, thinking that might be enough to tip me into the abyss.

I asked him to put the baby in the crib in case I needed physical help.  I spoke to him through a mouthful of glucose tab dust, asking if he knew how to use the glucagon on the bedside table.  He said yes.  I asked if he could please hand me a towel so I could mop the sweat off my forehead.  The whole discussion was so calm, so structured, so oddly practical in contrast to the panic of being intensely low, the voice in the back of my mind screaming “AAAHHHHHHHHH!”

Makes me think I could solve quadratic equations while putting out a car fire while sitting in said car.  And the car is moving.  Fast.

Actually, that’s sort of what we do when severely hypo.

Unconsciousness due to a low blood sugar is the unexpected I think about the least, but prepare for the most.  I mean, I think about it, but not obsessively.  I just prepare all over the place, just-in-casing myself with juice boxes and raisins stashed in my frequently visited spots.  I try to always have fast-acting sugars on hand no matter where I am.  I share my CGM data while traveling. I keep that glucagon shot on the bedside table.

We’d talked about glucagon a few weeks early, after I’d refilled my prescription.  We almost used it when I was throwing up from the flu and my blood sugar was stuck at 45 mg/dL, not able to keep down the juice or tabs I was consuming.  It’s part of planning for the scary moments while simultaneously pretending, “Oh, that could never happen.”

Eventually, my blood sugar came up.  Exhausted from treading the hypo-waters for so long, I almost immediately fell back asleep on the damp pillowcase.  When I woke up again, I looked over at the glucagon kit, thankful for the fact that it was still sealed and hoping it continues to collect dust.

“Don’t you all know each other?”

A few weeks ago, we were in Venice and I almost walked right into the canal because I saw a lady with an insulin pump on her waist and a CGM sensor on her arm, speaking Italian to the shopkeeper and casually wearing her pancreas on her hip.

The flurried rush of emotions – excitement, understanding, the urge to shout “one of us!” – flooded me.  I grabbed my husband’s arm and said, “Hey DID YOU SEE HER PUMP?!” and he was all, “No, where?” and I pointed my finger while trying to make it look like I was itching my nose.

And my daughter said, “Yeah mom, I saw her!  And her pump! Do you know her? Don’t you all know each other?”

(You know, I wish we did.)

And even though we don’t all know one another yet, we can contribute to the growth and collective power of our diabetes community by participating in Diabetes Blog Week.  Sign-up details are on Karen’s blog – this is the 8th year! – and topics will be provided throughout the week.  And if you’re not into running a blog, you’re welcome to guest post here on some of the topics, if you’d like.  (Email me!  kerri (at) sixuntilme  (dot) com. )  Also, you can shape-shift the topics to fit into 140 characters on Twitter, or through Instagram, or other social sharing platforms.  Don’t let the “blog” in blog week keep you from sharing your story.  All voices are welcomed!

What to Work On.

I’ve gotten lazy in my diabetes management.  And I’m not proud of it.  My recent A1C result was still in my goal range but not where it was a few months ago, and I’d love to return to that level of control.  Thing is, I’ve gone soft when it comes to following through on my daily diabetes duties.

Yeah.  I’m at that point in the postpartum recovery thing:  finding ways to up my diabetes game.

I can check two things off my to do list with confidence:  I wear  my Dexcom every, single day and I also have been on top of my doctor’s appointments.  Those two things get big, fat gold stars.

Other stuff needs some grooming, though.  Here’s my wishlist:

  • Check fasting BG immediately after waking up.
  • Calibrate CGM right when it requests calibration.
  • Pre-bolus at least 15 minutes before eating.
  • Exercise 3 – 5 times a week.
  • Sleep more than 5 hours a night.
  • React faster to the high alarm from my Dexcom.
  • Rotate my device sites better.
  • Remember to eat more than coffee before 1 pm.

Hmmm.  That’s a lot.  Plan of attack for each:

  • Check fasting BG immediately after waking up.  We just moved the little Guy out of our bedroom and now he’s sleeping in his crib in his own room, so I have a little more time (3 min versus zero min) in the morning before I have to run and grab him.  I need to return to the habit of keeping my glucose meter on the bathroom counter and using it before I brush my teeth in the morning.
  • Calibrate CGM right when it requests calibration.  Ugh.  This just requires being less of a lazy tool and just checking/calibrating ASAP instead of ignoring the little red blood drop.
  • Pre-bolus at least 15 minutes before eating. This one is admittedly going to be challenging, as my schedule is a little non-scheduley these days.  My son is a busy little creature and also unpredictable, so it’s challenging to find the “right time” to do things like change out my insulin pump, eat breakfast, schedule conference calls.  But as he gets older, he does seem to be settling into something resembling a pattern, so maybe this will get easier.  I’ll try to pre-bolus.
  • Exercise 3 – 5 times a week.  This one is already going in the right direction.  As mentioned, I joined a gym and that gym has childcare, so there’s no excuse.  Except days like over the weekend, when I was away for work, or today, when the little Guy is so sniffling and booger-gross that I don’t want to bring him to the daycare and expose any other kids/adults to his germs.  We did go for a walk around the neighborhood today, clocking in at least a little bit of exercise, so that helps.  The weather warming up will help here, too.  This bullet point is one I’m putting like half a gold star on.
  • Sleep more than 6 hours a night.  OH HA HA HA HA.  The baby thinks 5.30 am is when human beings should wake up.  The early morning hours are gorgeous and I love the quiet of being awake that early, but around 10 pm my body starts to give up on doing body things, although I rarely make it to bed before 11.30 pm.  I need to work on this sleep thing.
  • React faster to the high alarm from my Dexcom.  Again, this one is something I just have to DO.  No excuses and no reason not to.  My high alarm used to be 140 mg/dL (pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy), but I’ve moved it to 180 mg/dL in the last few months.  I should be responding to 180s.  I will work on this.
  • Rotate my device sites better.  Yep, this is also a need.  My thighs have become a permanent home for my Dexcom sensors, but I am okay with the back of my hip or maybe my arm.  I’ll try to get creative.  As far as pump sites, I’ve been working on rotating those better, too.  Maybe it’s time to try a lower arm site?  (Has anyone ever done that and does it hurt??)
  • Remember to eat more than coffee before 1 pm.  Yeah, this is another whoops.  My mornings are generally a bit crazy, and sometimes I’d rather keep my CGM graph steady instead of interrupting it with breakfast.  But this is backfiring because I then get so hungry around lunch time that I eat the fridge, causing a nasty post-lunch bounce.  Moderation here.  Eat regularly throughout the day and I’ll be less likely to unhinge my jaws and devour the contents of the cupboard.

I hope writing this crap down will help up my accountability and will inspire me to keep moving forward.  If I can make one or two of these become habit in the next few weeks, I’ll mark that as a success.  Because backwards is all gross and disgusting feeling and also it looks like there’s a c-section back there and I am NOT going back to that.

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