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Posts from the ‘Traveling’ Category

Reaching the Summit.

Last week, I was in Sweden for work, for the fourth annual blogger summit that Animas hosts during the EASD conference.  (Here’s a look at the first summit, and the second one, and last year. And here’s a look at my disclosures, as my work with Animas is what brings me to these different places.)  I’m in the process of downloading my brain on conversations that took place over the last week, in search of a few thousand words to express what I’ve learned, but in the meantime, isn’t there a thing about pictures saying a thousand words? 

If so, I’m cashing that concept in for this blog post.

EU Blogger Summit

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More Sweden.

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Stockholm. #nofilter #latergram

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Old City. #latergram

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Me and my Bird, checking out Stockholm Old City.

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And, in unrelated news, I have discovered a new favorite writer. That person is whoever the genius is behind the Iceland Air in-flight menu copy.

@icelandair, you are fun.

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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.

Bring Pants.

Last night, I unpacked the suitcase I had used a few days earlier for a trip to Toronto for a conference. And then I promptly refilled the suitcase with clean clothes to prepare for my trip to Washington, DC today. It’s kind of exciting but also a wee bit of a bummer to be away from home so much.

I travel quite a bit, mostly for work-related events that bring me somewhere for a night or two, and then shuttle me back to Rhode Island. It’s a big departure from when I was in my 20′s, when I didn’t travel much at all. My 30′s appear to be the decade of departures (and arrivals), and over the course of the last few years, I’ve made a point to streamline how I travel. I used to bring the biggest suitcase in my arsenal and cram it, but now I make a game out of how far I can get with one, small carry-on.

Travel bird.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

A reader emailed me a few weeks ago (I read every, single email but I am a sorry creature when it comes to timely responses) about travel and diabetes, asking what kinds of tips I would have for would-be travelers. I ran through a quick list in my head, and it was strange to see how what was once a hyper-prepared, diabetes-obsessed list has (de-)evolved into a quest to not bring more than I need. But there are still diabetes nuances shoved in there.

  • You need to have your government issues identification. You aren’t able to rent the car or board the plane or stay on the train if you don’t have your ID. Smart to start there.
  • You also need to be wherever you are well in time to get onto the plane, train, or spaceship. My friends make fun of me for arriving at the airport two hours before my flight – “Do you really need to get there so early? Don’t you know how to do this?” – but being on time alleviates a lot of anxiety for me. So I get there early, damn it.
  • You need your medications. Whatever stuff you need (insulin? blood pressure medication? test strips?) make sure you take, and bring a little more than you need. Most often, I travel for two or three days at a time so I bring a week’s worth of medical supplies. (It goes up from there.) When I travel domestically, I don’t worry about original pharmacy packaging for my insulin, etc. but when I travel internationally, I make sure I have the box the insulin came in.
  • People talk about a note from their doctor explaining what the different diabetes devices are and do, and I carried one of these notes for a year or two. But I haven’t had much trouble at all with explaining things, and the few times that TSA wanted to go full-grope on me, it was minimally offensive (except that one time and I hated that one time).
  • You also need pants. Or some kind of nether region undergarment that covers up your parts. Not wearing pants or similar will have you ushered out from many different situations that escalate pretty quickly.
  • And in my travels, I need to have a jar of glucose tabs or other fast-acting low blood sugar treatments within reach at all times. You never know when you’ll need to treat a low (or when you might need a burrito) and it sucks to have what you need most tucked, and out of reach, in the overhead compartment.
  • And lastly, you need a destination. Our trip a few weeks ago brought my family and I to Birmingham, then Huntsville, then back to Birmingham, AL. It was a very mellow trip (lots of very nice people, some rocket ships, a fistful of rage-filled mosquitos) and we saw some of the northern Alabama sights. (Like this rocket and this space suit and this beautiful bride.)

When I was younger, the biggest travel hurdle for me was actually booking the trip. Anxiety about traveling and being away from my comfort zone kept me from experiencing a lot of things I now regret missing. Over the last few years, I’ve broken away from my trepidation and am trying to be braver. (And judging my the miles I’ve logged over the last few years, I think I’m making up for lost time.)

Flick of the Wrist.

In the interests of getting through TSA in Orlando as quickly as possible and making my way over to my gate so I could find some iced coffee and a banana, I disconnected my insulin pump and put it through the x-ray machine, caring very little if it melted in the transaction because I was melting in the transaction.

The tram to the gates was arriving just as I was finished at security, so I grabbed my pump off the tray and held it in my hand. dragging my bag to the shuttle. Just after “stand CLEAR of the closing doors,” I reached around to the top of my hip and reconnected my infusion set, sticking the pump into my pocket.

A woman boarded the tram, her infant daughter strapped to her chest. I noticed her noticing me while I reconnected my pump.

“Insulin pump?”

“Excuse me?”

“Is that an insulin pump? Sorry – my son has diabetes and I recognized the pump.”

“Oh, yes.” I searched her wrist for an orange or green CWD bracelet but didn’t see one. “Were you here for the conference?”

“What conference?”

“The diabetes conference. It’s called Friends for Life and it’s put on by an organization called Children with Diabetes. It takes place here in Orlando, over at Disney.”

She smiled. “I’ve never heard of it, and I live right here in Orlando. What’s it called?”

“Friends for Life. It’s a diabetes conference for families with diabetes. Lots of kids with type 1 attend with their parents, and lots of adults like me who go to connect with other adults who have diabetes. It’s really nice, like diabetes camp. Community helps, you know?”

She nodded, and the baby on her chest flapped her arms happily. “My son goes to camp. He loves it. But I’ve never heard of the conference before.”

I reached into my bag and fished around for a pen. Nothing. Checked my pockets for a business card. Nothing. The tram was about to stop and ditch us at the gates, leaving me just a few seconds to try and explain how a few days in Florida can change your life for the better.

“What’s the conference called again?”

I grabbed the edge of my green bracelet and pulled it off my wrist.

It's on. #ffl15

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“I know this seems weird to hand you a slightly-used conference bracelet, but the URL for the conference website is on it. Everyone who has diabetes wears one of these green bracelets. You see one of these and that person understands, you know?” I handed her the bracelet, pointing at the website address. “I hope this doesn’t seem creepy. It’s just an amazing experience, being around all of those other families, and it would be great to have you and your family check it out, if that’s your thing.”

She took the bracelet and put it in her pocket. “This is very nice of you. Thank you. I’ll check it out for sure.”

The tram doors opened and we stepped out.

“Where are you headed home to?”

“Rhode Island.”

“And you come here just for that conference?”

I thought about the week that had just passed, when I was surrounded by people who redefined family.

“All the way here. Green bracelets are pretty awesome.”

She waved, and her baby waved, too. “Thank you for passing this along. Safe travels back home. Maybe we’ll see you next year.”

Usually when I board the plane home from Friends for Life, I like to look down at my green bracelet because it reminds me of my PWD tribe.  This year, with a flick of the wrist, I was grateful it had found a new home.

The Need for Naps … I mean, Self-Care.

Ten years ago, if you told me I’d have to bail out of a conference in the middle of the day to take a nap, I’d have laughed in your face because I thrived entirely on insulin, caffeine, and chaos and what do you mean, NAP?  I don’t need to nap.

Funny how being in my 30′s and hosting almost three decades of type 1 diabetes in my body has changed my whole stance on naps, and self-care in general.

This past week, at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions meeting, there was a lot going on.  Informative sessions, meetings with colleagues, social things with friends in the DOC, and a big exhibit hall full of diabetes companies, both established and up-and-comers.  Lots of stuff going on, and the pace of the conference is enough to wipe you out entirely.  (To catch some of what happened, take a peek through the #2015ADA Twitter hashtag.  There’s quite a bit there.)

Self-care is important for people with diabetes, but it’s not something I used to focus on.  I don’t mean self-care as it pertains to the specifics of diabetes, like checking blood sugars and taking insulin, but more the overall need to listen to my body and take it easy as necessary.  Things like “eating lunch” and “sleeping more than five hours” are included in self-care, but I had a bad habit of not doing either of those things.  I used to power through, soldier on, keeping going, [insert more phrases about not taking a moment to rest here] even when my body was throwing up its hands and hollering, “HOLY SHIT WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP?!”

But the effects of pushing too hard oftentimes wore through my good intentions and left me exhausted, with crummy blood sugar control to boot.  This past week, I embraced PTMO (permission to miss out) in efforts to stay healthy and feel “present” when I was at an activity, and it was a nice change of pace.  I went to sessions and wrote up my notes, and then took an hour to decompress in my hotel room.  I took naps in the middle of the day, grateful for the recharge that 15 minutes with my eyes closed provided.  I did not over-schedule myself but instead tried to keep the flow of the day less frenetic.

Permission to miss out, to take care of my own needs, makes me feel a little meh, as though I’m not able to keep up and that makes me weak somehow.  It also forces me to acknowledge that some parts of diabetes are taking a bit more of a toll on me than they have in decades past (ex. I had a low blood sugar during the conference that wiped me out for two hours.  The hangover is real.)  To Me 10 Years ago, the concept of taking it slower sounds ridiculous and the stuff that weak-sauce is comprised of, but to Current Me, it sounds necessary.  Because I’m older.  And possibly slightly smarter.  I felt present and able during the course of this conference, and I blame taking advantage of PTMO.

Because ultimately, PTMO leads to TGC (taking good care).  And it’s NWF (not without fun).

With Marissa Town at the TCOYD / diaTribe forum where we learned, laughed, and Facetime'd her kid. :)

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Mike Bloom from Dexcom has awesome shirts. #2015ADA

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Collector card.

A photo posted by renzas (@renzas) on

Diabetes Hands hosts some of our diabetes faces. #2015ADA #honored

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

The Friday Six: Catching Up.

Hi!  I still write here.  I write a blog about things here.  This is my things blog, with diabetes stuff and other times not so much diabetes stuff.  Welcome to it.  (My brain is not entirely tuned in this morning.  Working on it.)  Coffee is helping, but it may take a few days to kick in.

Yesterday was a long day of traveling and I can say with certainty that my five year old kid is managing her jet lag better than I am.  (And we, as a family, were all up at 5 am and confusingly chipper about it.)  Thankfully, I really love to fly.

The wifi access while we were traveling was majorly woofy, allowing me to connect for brief minutes to let emails load and then not letting me reply to them, so my inbox is a muddled mess of things I’ve read and spazzed out about but haven’t had a chance to reply to yet. I missed a lot of really excellent Diabetes Blog Week posts.

Like this one.

And this one (the photo, once you see it, is un-see-able)

This one as well.

And this, about the personification of Sugar.

Oh how I loved this one, tooAnd this.

But this one was my favorite of all.

A huge THANK YOU to Karen for bringing the DOC together for the sixth year running.  I love Diabetes Blog Week, and she works so hard to keep it fresh, engaging, organic, and inviting.  You rock, Karen.  (#meowmeowmeow)

And in non-Diabetes Blog Week linky sort of things, I wanted to make sure I share, and reshare, the PLAID Journal.  Martin will be contributing a little Q&A here about the inception and development of his journal in the coming weeks, but in lieu of that you can read his post about it here.  His work is amazing, and as a contributor and a member of his editorial board, I am really proud to be part of it.  You can view issue 1 here.

Here’s a great update on glucose-responsive insulin.

I learned quite a bit about the type 2 experience from Brian’s post.

And a big CONGRATULATIONS to the lovely Dayle and Chris!!!

Oh, some photos from our trip?  I have a ton.

I feel like I missed a lot of work in the last week, with spotty Internet access.  Woofy wifi is not my favorite, but I can’t complain too much because the distractions of traveling were worth it.  Happy to have gone, but very happy to be home.


Diabetes on the Red Carpet … Ish.

For Chris’s Sea of Trees premiere this past weekend at the Cannes Film Festival, diabetes was almost the furthest thing from my mind because we were so damn excited about the event.

Diabetes came into play for a brief moment when I was looking for a dress. I tried to adopt a “dress first, diabetes second” philosophy, picking a dress that felt comfortable and pretty without caring if my insulin pump fit into it. After spending some time looking for and trying on a bunch of dresses (a post I’ll never write, because I made the mistake of looking for formal ball gowns in the same week that girls were shopping for their prom dresses, leaving the ladies that worked at the dress shops very confused about why this older woman was coming in amongst the sea of teenyboppers and leaving me just as confused about my place in this world of women … not my best moments), I settled on a navy blue dress that hit the marks for fancy and comfortable without making me feel like I was trying to be someone I was not. Trouble was, my insulin pump did not fit into the dress easily. Or at all. Instead, it felt once again like I was clomping around with a toaster clipped to me. Which is why I decided to go on injections for the night and not wear my pump. Going MDI meant I needed my CGM data more than ever, though, so I kept my Dexcom sensor on my lower back, underneath some of the lace overlay for the dress, which perfectly masked the subtle bulge of the transmitter. (Hee hee … bulge.)

Thankfully, going back to injections and monitoring via Dexcom receiver wasn’t too tricky because my insulin pens fit easily into the glittery clutch I had for the night, as did a tube of Glucolift. I decided not to carry a glucose meter for the night because it was too bulky. Chris tucked my Dexcom receiver into the inside pocket of his tuxedo (“You turned it to vibrate, right?” “Yes, I promise you won’t go off during your own movie.”) I deliberately ran at the 160 – 180 range so I wouldn’t go so low as to need a snack or so high as to need to dash to the bathroom.

Aside from checking my Dexcom a few times before we arrived at the event, diabetes took a wicked back seat to the whole experience. Instead, we were able to focus on the surreal aspects of the event itself.

Cannes SEA OF TREES red carpet

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CSparl on the red carpet

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After party for SEA OF TREES at the Cannes Film Festival.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

After a grumbly critical review the day before, it was amazing to watch the filmmakers receive a two and a half minute standing ovation after the screening. I have always felt proud of Chris and I recognize his tremendous talent as a writer (insert all my bias here), but it was so nice to hear from people who felt the same way, both in his industry and in our diabetes community alike. We are very grateful for everyone’s support, and it means the world to me to know our DOC family supports one another in diabetes-related ventures and decidedly non-diabetes adventures.

Thanks for being there on this insanely odd, hard-earned, and exciting journey, you guys. I’m forever grateful.


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