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Posts from the ‘Robot Life’ Category

Plug It In.

I’m not a good traveler, but I am a good packer. Part of my preparation ritual is to make sure I only bring what I need and that outfits are tried on and coordinated before I go. (Because there was that one time I brought a shirt and forgot pants and that made for a different sort of panic before a presentation.)

Thinking ahead helps me prevent over-packing. (I have made a rule about not checking baggage, ever, if I can help it.) So before I left for a business trip on Thursday afternoon, my house was a brief flurry of coat hangers, dresses, and shoes. I tried on four or five different things before chucking them into my suitcase (who am I kidding – I military roll everything so it fits) and then it was time to get ready to leave the house.

It took me almost an hour to realize that, in my frenetic fashion show, I had my pump clipped to my hip but not connected to my infusion set. It wasn’t until I heard the Dexcom alarm let loose with the HIGH ALARM! that I realized my tubing was wagging like a tail. Disconnected from my body. Leaving me on an unintentional insulin hiatus.

So many variables influence my blood sugars – exercise! Insulin levels! Food! Stress! Exclamation points!

But sometimes it’s as simple as remembering to plug shit in.

Sharps, or “Shaaaahps,” Containers.

In the last few weeks, I’ve taken some device breaks and reverted back to some of my multiple injection (MDI) ways (until skin rashes healed up, bruises started dotting up my skin landscape, and frustration with trying to draw up 1/4 of a unit of Humalog using a syringe tossed me back into DeviceLand).  It was a good break and one I needed, but I was reminded of how many sharps I can accumulate during the course of a week on MDI.

Back when I lived at home with my parents, my mom used an empty detergent bottle to throw my sharps into.  When it was full, she taped it up with duct tape and my dad disposed of it somewhere “official.” (But to be honest, I have no idea where he brought it.  The shed at my childhood home could be filled with used insulin syringes shoved into fleets of Tide bottles, for all I know.)  When I moved out and went to college, I continued the same system only I brought my full sharps containers to our local pharmacy.

These days, I don’t generate a lot of sharps and currently have a few containers that need to be disposed of (tips from Joslin on sharps disposal here), but that’s largely in part due to the fact that I rarely use syringes these days.  Even when I’m on pump vacations, I tend to use insulin pens over orange-capped syringes.  (Did anyone use one of these back in the day?  I loved this thing.  It was like a fingernail clipper for my drug paraphernalia.)  I busted out a “formal” sharps container that I had in storage for the last few years and have been using it for pen needle tips, lancets, etc.

Sharps. Or, if you're from New England: "shaaaaahps."

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

It feels strange and foreign to not be shoving my sharps into a discarded laundry detergent bottle.  I feel like my sharps went all professional.  Like they wear tie clips and have board room lunches. But, at the very least, they are properly contained and will be properly disposed of and that makes me feel like I’m properly PWD’ing.
 

Dexcom SHARE: First Impressions.

“Your thing is going off.”

Though nondescript, that phrase is a loaded one.  It is Chris-speak for, “Your Dexcom is making an alarm of some kind; you need to take a look at it.”  And now that the Dexcom SHARE application is feeding my glucose results to my husband and a few other authorized viewers, when the thing goes off, other things go off and people are notified.

And by way of notification, I’m disclosing right here and now that I have a relationship with Dexcom.  It’s kind of serious, and I look forward to when they meet my dad.  Details here.

I’ve been using the Share for a few weeks, and have had some time to give it a good once-over.  My take on the SHARE 2 application itself:

  • Overall, my data transmits pretty seamlessly from the receiver to the phone, but there have been weird times when the data just stops.  (When I’m on a plane, this makes sense.  When I’m at my kitchen table, it does not.)
  • Essentially, that means I am poking this fine little fella in the face several times a week, to help jump start whatever is borked in transmission.  If he were less cute, I wouldn’t feel so bad about jamming my index finger into his jaw.
  • It feels weird to have to put my password into the app in order to access the “followers” screen.  Why protect that specific screen, but not the others?
  • I thought having the option to only add five followers would feel limiting, but in fact, the ability to share my CGM data has not made me want to broadcast my stuff to the world.  Five followers is fine so far; right now, I have my husband, a close friend, a doctor-who-is-not-my-doctor-but-we-are-trying-something-out-for-the-sake-of-SCIENCE, and myself.  And yes, I have added myself because I wanted to be able to access my data alongside the data of those who I am following when I go into the Follow app.
  • (Does any of that make sense?  Let me know if it does not.)
  • Also, iOS only?  Frustrating because anyone who is not using an iOS device can’t be added to my network.
  • The alarms that are issued through the phone are wicked loud, and very useful.  I recommended that Chris keep my high alarms off and only receive notifications for hypoglycemia, which is working out reasonably well.  (Especially when I am traveling, and can respond to his, “Eat something,” texts with a quick, “Already did.”)
  • The application doesn’t seem to eat up my battery life on my phone or on my receiver, which I appreciate.  I feel like the Share receiver holds battery life better than my previous receiver.  I charge it once a week and even then, it’s not drained.
  • I forget that the application is on and working because 85% of the time, it’s on and working.  I rarely switch it off because it doesn’t impact my battery life (or actual life) much to keep it on.  Except when it becomes emotionally charged, which is a whole different point and one I tackle a bit further down.
  • Using the receiver that’s Bluetooth enabled versus the dock you had to plug into the wall is obviously an upgrade, and contributes to ease of use.  Also, it’s easier to pack.  And harder to forget.

And my take on sharing, in general, with this application:

  • Sharing data is personal.  Wicked personal.  And it’s a choice, one I’m grateful I can make.  Again, I can’t rework my islet cells, but I can decide what devices and treatments I use to manage this disease.
  • And sharing makes me feel a little ashamed, at times.  I can reason as to why it should NOT, but it’s a reasoning I find difficult to follow through on.  Keeping my blood sugar data devoid of emotional valuation is difficult for me.  I was raised on “good” and “bad” blood sugars, not “in range” and “out of range,” and seeing a graph that pings and pongs all over the place makes me feel weird emotionally as well as physically.
  • For example, two weeks ago I had a urinary tract infection (much like this epic one).  It was nasty, and both the infection and the antibiotics for it sent my blood sugars into the stratosphere.  This glucose saturation was sent up to the cloud and pinged out to the people I trust.  None of them knew I had an infection, but I felt the need to say something about said infection so they’d understand why my numbers had gone bananas.  I felt good about having people I trusted so much that I knew they wouldn’t judge me, but at the exact same time, I felt the need to explain myself.  My knee jerk response of justification kind of flies in the face of the security and trust.  And it’s not because of them or how they judge me, but because of me and how I judge me.
  • Same goes for the following week, when I was on another medication (everything is fine, by the way – just a flurry of things all at once) that caused wicked blood sugar spikes.  We’re talking HIGH with arrows still pointing up.  I took a bolus that put every other bolus I’ve ever taken to shame.  And after a few hours, I mentioned this medication to those with access to my data because I felt the need to explain the numbers.
  • Which opens up my “what the fuck” mental folder, where emotional responses to diabetes end up filed.  On the one hand, I really like having a loved one or two able to see my data because that their access offers up a safety net I’m very grateful for (and have written about several times).  Also on that hand is the accountability that works to my benefit.  As I told my friend who has access to my CGM data, the commiseration angle is empowering because it makes me want to rein things in faster than if I was the only one looking.  Blood sugars on display are ones I watch more carefully, for whatever reason.
  • But on the other hand is my desire to turn off the data sharing because I want to let my blood sugars stutter and splutter without scrutiny.  I want to fail, or do what I perceive as failing, in private.  Sometimes I want to leave the Sharing option on only throughout the nighttime hours, or exclusively when I’m traveling, so I can keep a foothold on my dignity.  Not that my numbers are shit all the time, but the past two weeks have been tough even for me to see, and I’m familiar with my own bounce.  (And there I go again, explaining away the things that make me feel ashamed.  This is part of the fuckery, because my management does not come easily to me, and I try every single day to work these blood sugars out.  I test and exercise and track and eat well and truly make efforts and yet blood sugars bounce.  I can blame diabetes, but since the due diligence list is so long, there’s always something I can look at and blame myself for.  Which is a fun dance.)
  • Have I mentioned that sharing data is personal?  Let’s go back to that for a second, because it is.  And the level of sharing that works for me on days when my blood sugar is 94 mg/dL and holding steady is very different than when I’m riding out a 287 mg/dL for three hours.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I appreciate options, and the option to Share is one I’m happy to have.  Coming full circle, I can choose to share or not share.  I can also turn off accessibility to others with the click of a button.  Honestly, I am grateful that I have a network of people I trust with this kind of personal data because it’s some soul-baring kind of shit.  And as an adult, I can decide how these data are dealt with because they are mine.

Maybe, with time, I’ll stop viewing these data as little dots of validation and instead as information to help me live better.

 

Potent Potion.

Turns out I’m not unique in experiencing the dreaded “Dexcom rash.”  (Which sucks for anyone else who gets the major sensor scratchies, but at the same time, the diabetes community is innovative as eff.  We work around the workarounds.)

When it comes to dealing with my own Dexcom rash, wearing the Toughpad underneath my sensor helps a ton, but it doesn’t remove the reaction entirely.  Which means that after a seven days, I will peel off a sensor to find a raised, slightly irritated area underneath.  (And that patch of skin usually gets worse the next day, particularly after showering or if I’m in recycled air like in an airplane.)

After talking about the rash with my endocrinologist, I asked her for some recommendations for lotions to use after the fact, when I need to soothe my skin post-sensor removal.  She said that Amlactin was something that she’s used in the winter when hand-washing causes rotten skin, and suggested I give it a go.

So I did.

Magical rash healing powers.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

And it works better than I had expected.  It’s not the best smelling stuff (kind of like a stick of butter mixed with stale toothpaste and a dash of freezer burn), and it sometimes makes my skin feel hot for a few seconds after application, but if I slather this stuff on my sensor-irritated skin, it helps so much.  Rashes that took a week to properly mend were fine after two days, and the rapid-healing helped keep the curb appeal of my skin real estate intact.

There you go.  A post about a lotion that helps deal with Dexcom rashes.  No, it’s not sponsored.  Yes, it’s kind of boring.  But this shit works for me.  And it might work for you.  So go forth and slather.

Here’s a flying cat, just in case you wanted one:

McDave from the Plane.

“Were you saving these seats for us?”

I travel regularly for work, and because I’m usually on the road without my family, I end up in various discussions with strangers to fill the time.  Since my days as a breakfast waitress in college, I’ve always enjoyed those snippets of single-serving conversations.  Airplane travel can offer insight at 30,000 feet (sometimes from the pilot).

“Yes.  I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours,” I replied, standing up so that the couple could join me in row 9.

This was my introduction to Dave and his lovely wife.  Throughout the course of the flight from Orlando back up to Providence yesterday, I spent some quality time talking with these two and over-sharing to a frightening degree.

We talked about flying, and how none of us cared for it.  We talked about the Patriots and how mother  (and his wife) are hardcore fans.  We talked about how his daughter has been an extra in several films and TV shows.  And we talked a lot about food.  After a discussion about what I do for work and what brought me into the diabetes space (see also:  diagnosed 28 years ago, felt alone, founded a blog, found some friends), Dave admitted that his own diet could use a shift in priorities.

“We could eat better,” he said.

“We could eat a LOT better,” his wife said from the window seat, smiling ruefully.

“Everyone could eat better, but our fast-food society doesn’t exactly make it easy.  You have to go above and beyond to make sure you aren’t eating junk.  Junk is mainstream!  Think about how screwed up our perception of ‘breakfast’ is; we dump sugary syrup onto pastry-esque pancakes and call it a healthy meal.  That’s not a meal … it’s dessert!”  They nodded, and I realized I was on a mile-high soapbox.  “I’m so sorry.  Food stuff makes me ranty sometimes.  Like when I think about the kinds of foods marketed towards my daughter.  Chicken nuggets and french fries and sugar cererals.  Stuff is gross.”

“So she’s never had a Happy Meal from McDonald’s?” asked Dave, half mocking me, half actually asking.

“She’s had McDonald’s food two or three times in her life, but that’s it.  And no, she’s never had a Happy Meal.”

He laughed.  “You’re missing the chance to make her happy!  But not the food – I get that you don’t want to give her the food.  I used to make my own Happy Meals for my daughters.  I’d take a toy that they hadn’t played with in ages and pack it in with their lunch.  Instant Happy Meal!”

“That’s a good idea.  I like that.”

“Yeah.  Now you can write about it in your blog, right?  I want to be in there.  People would want to read more about me.”

His comments made me laugh.  “Sure.  I’ll write about you.  But the blog post has to have some kind of resolution, right?  Where we both promise to make changes and then we hold one another accountable?  Or is that taking it too far?” I asked him.

Dave thought for a minute.  “I can do that.  Listen, my wife and I will make a change.  We promise to eat something green with every meal.  A vegetable, like spinach or broccoli or squash.  Except that squash isn’t green, so we’ll have to be flexible with the color requirement.  But a vegetable with every meal.”  He made a fist and jabbed it towards the air with conviction.  “A vegetable with every meal!”

“And I promise to make my kid a happy meal, like the one you described.”

He handed me his business card and I promised to send him a link to the post once it was live.  (Hi, Dave!)  The plane landed and we all went our separate ways, resolute in our decision to make positive changes.

This morning, as I packed Birdy’s lunch for preschool, I put one of her small, forgotten toys in the lunch bag, alongside her healthy food options (and a crappy drawing of Loopy drinking a mug of steaming coffee).  I wondered what kind of vegetable Dave managed to work into his breakfast that morning, and smiled.

What’s the point of going through life without ever making eye contact, or making a connection?  Single-serving or not, I’m better for having sat next to Dave.

All Night Long.

Some nights just plain suck.

In related news, I brushed my teeth ten times last night.

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