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Posts from the ‘Traveling’ Category

Missing Meter.

The initial search through my bag was kind of nonchalant.  “Where is my meter bag?”  Bright pink with a smiling bear on one side, it’s a hard bag to misplace, even in the seemingly unending abyss of my purse.

But the flurry of leaving the house that morning to catch an early flight left me mentally snowed-in.  I brought it with me, right?  I know I checked my blood sugar that morning, and I had a clear memory (didn’t I?) of pricking my finger on the plane after we had reached cruising altitude, so where the hell was my glucose meter?  I had it just a few hours ago?

“Where is my glucose meter?”

The search went from casual to frantic in a matter of minutes, when I realized that my meter bag was nowhere to be found.  Not in my suitcase, not in my book bag, not in the rental car.  No memory of where the hell it could be, and all the moments I’ve ever checked my blood sugar on a plane were melting together.  Did that happen today, or had I been working off info from my CGM graph all day long?

Just as Chris and I confirmed that my meter was, indeed, MIA, my Dexcom sensor alarm went off, warning me that my sensor was going to die in two hours.  And the “low battery” alarm went off a few minutes later on my pump, reminding me that it needed a new battery.

“Everything is breaking and I’m an idiot.  I’ve never, ever left my glucose meter behind before.  Ever!  On so many of my trips, I’ve packed an extra meter, but even on the trips where I didn’t, I still didn’t lose my meter!  I’ve never lost my glucose meter before, in like three decades with diabetes.”  I was rambling, but frustrated.  The device I needed most to properly dose the drug I needed most?  Missing.  Data crucial to my safe survival?  Inaccessible without purchasing a backup system.

(And, as luck would have it, I had just refilled my meter bag with a brand new bottle of 50 test strips and a fresh AA battery for my pump.  Reminded me of the time I replaced my car’s exhaust system, filed the tank up with gas, and then proceeded to total the car.)

Thankfully, finding a pharmacy that sold the brand of glucose meter I had strips at home for was easy enough.  (I didn’t want to have to replace the meter, again, when I got home.)  And thankfully, we have the means to purchase a meter and a bottle of test strips without insurance coverage.  But holy shit, I was shocked to see the sticker price for a bottle of 25 test strips.

“Forty five dollars?  For 25 test strips?  That’s bananas!”  I said the pharmacist.  “How do people afford these things without insurance coverage?”

She shrugged.  “They don’t.  They buy the CVS brand and the strips that go with that one.  Most people don’t pay for the top tier strips out of pocket.”

“But the accuracy is …”

“It’s what it is,” she said.  She finished ringing up the meter and strips (and AA batteries for the pump), bringing my grand total up over $100.  For a meter, 25 test strips, and batteries.

“This is the price for maintenance,” I said to Chris.  “For the stuff that keeps me healthy.  I can’t imagine what the cost would be to do more than “maintain.’”

After reuniting with a glucose meter, our trip continued on without issue.  But throughout the rest of the week, I thought about having access, and having the financial means to replace things I accidentally lose, and being grateful.  I thought about the Spare a Rose campaign and how far $5 goes.

This holiday season, I’m more grateful than ever for more things than I realized.

(And when we came home on Friday evening and I went into the bathroom, I saw my glucose meter sitting on the bathroom counter, halfway hidden underneath a hand towel.  Never again!)

 

Airport Connections.

The plane from Cincinnati to Washington, DC was a petite one, leaving little room for carry-on luggage and even less for calm.  After ferreting out my medication bag from my suitcase, I checked it at the gate and ended up second-to-last to board the plane.

“Smells like … something, doesn’t it?”  The gentleman behind me asked casually.  I wasn’t sure if he was addressing me, but I answered anyway.

“It does.  Like a ham sandwich.  Or Bad Thanksgiving,” I replied, noticing that the plane had a “stale cold cuts” smell to it.

We boarded the small plane and took our seats at the back of it.  Turns out the scent-sitive man who boarded behind me was also my seatmate.

We chatted briefly for a few moments about what we did for work – he worked for a surgical medical device company, I told him I was a writer – and then the discussion turned specifically to medical devices.

“I’m familiar, to a certain extent, with some medical devices.  I wear a few for diabetes management,” I said.  “Going through TSA is always interesting.”

He looked at me for a minute.  “Diabetes?  Type 1?”

“Yes.  Since I was seven years old.”

“My daughter is nine.  She also has type 1.”

And over the course of our flight to Washington, DC on the plane that smelled like spoiled lunch, this kind man and I compared notes on life with type 1 diabetes from our different perspectives.  It wasn’t a life-changing moment or a pivotal interaction, but served to confirm once again, how diabetes becomes a common thread that brings strangers together.

Even on a stinky plane.

 

Pros and Cons of Going Gluten-Free. (and a brief lament about the smooshed banana)

It’s been about seven weeks on this “no way, gluten!” lifestyle, and I’m starting to find my footing.  But there are still many pros and cons to balance, so I’m listing them here.  That way, I can look back at this post in a few months and be all, “Pfffft.  Whiner.  You’re in the zone now.”

Here we go – PROS and CONS of Going Gluten-Free in ALL CAPS at times because that’s the only way my brain can operate this morning.

CON:  It’s a pain in the ass, doing this.  Reading food labels for carbohydrate content and grams of sugar in pursuit of better blood sugar control is second nature to me by this point.  After 28 years with type 1 diabetes, I’m comfortable with the carbs.  But trolling labels for that bright, shiny GF logo, or reading through each ingredient to ensure that I’m not inadvertently eating gluten is a new adventure, and one that I find very intrusive.

PRO:  As a result, weight management has been easier lately.  Which I guess is a plus but at the same time, I’m hungry, so I can’t call this a total pro.

CON:  I’m hungry.  (See above.)  All the time.  Mostly because I’m unsure of what to eat, and that insecurity leads me to eat the same things all the time.  Staples like hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, spinach salad, yogurt, almonds, and every fruit I can get my paws on dominate my days.  Menu items like gluten-free pizza, butternut squash (done with GF ingredients), and chicken soup are being explored, but my natural inclination to be a lazy chef makes this sort of exploration tougher.

PRO:  Eating the same things all the time makes me very familiar with how they map out, blood sugar wise.  So I’m best able to pre-bolus with precision and my post-prandials aren’t gross.  This is boring as eff, but effective for diabetes management.

CON:  Low blood sugars have been really weird lately, especially the ones that follow a visit to the gym.  Before going gluten-free, I’d eat froast or some other glutened up snack to keep my blood sugar steady through cardio (yes, there are other options, but I can’t pretend to have chomped on kale during a run – that would be a big, fat lie and kale hates lies).  Now, I’m erring on the side of fruit and sometimes those sugars get in and out of my system too quickly to hold me for an entire workout.  I’m still figuring out what foods work best to deal with during- and post-exercise hypoglycemia.

PRO:  Glucolift Wildberry tabs are gluten-free.

CON:  Traveling is weird now, too, keeping gluten off my plate.  Airports are not designed for people with dietary needs or preferences, especially little airports like the one I frequent here in Providence.  Finding foods that are gluten-free while on the road is tough, with little exception.  Once I land somewhere, I’m fine, but while in transit, I keep my bag stashed with snacks.

PRO:  I’m learning a lot about what foods travel well.  These gf bars are among my favorites to toss in a backpack, and while they are not as healthy as something fresh, they can stand up to traveling with me and they are more filling than the Southwest pretzels that I can’t eat.

CON:  Bananas do not keep well in backpacks.  They turn brown quickly and often end up smeared on … oh, let’s say the lid of a laptop.

PRO:  I wash my backpack more often than I ever have before, and now it permanently smells like dryer sheets.  Which is a nice contrast to my computer, which smells permanently like bananas now.

CON:  I hate being “that girl.”  The one who asks waitstaff if certain menu options can be made without gluten.  The one who reads labels before taking a bite of anything.  The one who might be mistakenly marked as someone following a “trend diet” instead of someone who is unhappily-but-smartly following through on feedback from her body.  As good as I feel off gluten, I wish I could still eat the stuff and not make waves.

PRO:  I’m learning not to care about feeling slightly embarrassed because DUDE I feel so much better.

“You’re more … you.  The change between then and now is significant,” Chris said the other day.

He’s right.  My mood/disposition/health/everything since kicking gluten out of my diet has been ten steps in the best direction.  All of the non-celiac gluten sensitivity symptoms are gone.  The “head fog” where I would forget what I was doing or what I was about to say has receded.  The numbness and tingling in my hands and wrists is gone.  The ache in my hip joints after running is gone.  I don’t want to spend the afternoon taking a nap on the couch.  My energy is back.  My face is less puffy.  I can chase Birdy without feeling like my feet are in lead boots.  It took months to tune in to how poorly I felt, but now that I’m feeling better, the change is undeniable.

As much as I miss being more carefree about food, a gluten-free diet is the best fit for me.  And after almost three decades of type 1 diabetes, what’s one more food constraint?  So long as coffee and wine remain in the mix, I’m good.

Best Intentions Need to Stick.

Yesterday, my bag was packed with all kinds of good intentions.  My CGM sensor was only three day old, on a bright and shiny Toughpad to prevent adhesive rash!  The Dexcom receiver was fully charged!  My CGM in the Cloud rig was all charged up and ready to send my data into the cloud so that I would have a safety net while traveling to Washington, DC for the night.  Extra test strips and a fully charged Verio Sync meter?  I’M ON IT.  My wallet even had a few slips of Opsite Flexifix tape cut into band-aid sized strips and wedged into the change purse, ready to help hold down a wilting sensor.

Much best!  So intentioned!

… which did me zero good when I arrived in DC and my receiver threw a SENSOR FAILED error message after I went to the gym, forcing me to reboot before dinner.  Which meant I went to dinner without a CGM graph, which made me feel like I was sort of flying blind, but then I realized I left my glucose meter in my hotel room so I was actually flying blind without any way to check my blood sugar or calibrate my CGM during the meal.

… and then, sometime during the night, the sensor came loose and fell off my thigh.

All these good intentions? They need to STICK.

Not Guten for My Gut.

Skipping gluten was once classified as a preference, but the last few weeks have shown me – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that gluten is not “guten” for my gut.  It feels good, figuring out what was causing so much chaos, and I feel more human, and much healthier.

So all that “oooh, so healthy!!” stuff aside, going gluten-free while traveling is a pain in the ass.

Choosing gluten-free options isn’t unfamiliar territory for me, as we did skipped gluten entirely for Birdy for the first 15 months of her life.  I’m accustomed to carefully reading food labels while shopping, and I’m no stranger to reshaping recipes to fit nutritional needs.  But on the road, it’s hard to tell what foods contain what.

Last week, my family and I were in Vienna, Austria and it was my first experience with “needing” to be gluten-free and being away from home at the same time.  At home, I can read labels.  In Vienna, I couldn’t even read the menu unless it had English subtitles.  The language barrier, plus the dessert constants, made this trip a challenge.

“Let’s stop at that cafe and get strudel!”

“How about some chocolate cake?”

“The schnitzel looks delicious!!”

Everything in Vienna looked delicious, and covered in a layer of gluten.

Being gluten-free is a double-edged sword, but one “for good,” as my daughter would say, because rethinking carb consumption is (sigh) good for my blood sugars.  Avoiding the cream-filled desserts and opting for coffee instead gave me some really steady post-prandial blood sugars.  Not piling on the carbs made for awesome Dexcom graphs, but it was frustrating to have yet another food rule in place.

“I’m pissed off because it’s not a matter of choice.  I like choosing healthier foods, but I really don’t like being forced to because of all this gluten crap,” I said to Chris over yet another boiled-chicken-over-greens lunch.

“I know,” he said, diving compassionately headfirst into a plate of schnitzel.

And sometimes things just got all screwy.  Like on the plane ride home to Boston, where I avoided the roll of bread and opted for the chicken-and-rice meal choice, only to find out from the flight attendant that the sauce on the chicken contained flour (the presence of which was confirmed by my belly about 45 minutes later).  Or when I ate a bag of plane pretzels, forgetting that I needed to care about gluten.  My brain isn’t rewired yet and I need to constantly remind myself (see also:  grabbing a bite of Birdy’s breakfast cereal, only to remember that it contains gluten, and then spitting it into the garbage).

Because it’s not all in my head.  Removing the fog and bloating from my body’s repertoire is such a relief, and I have no desire to go back to the way I’ve been feeling over the last year.  The few times I made the mistake of eating something with gluten in it, I regretted it.  The return of bloating, headaches, abdominal discomfort, and exhaustion were a reminder that my body does not respond well to gluten.  Even if the tests for celiac and gluten sensitivity came back negative, there are clear and present markers that I feel better going gluten-free.

This is an adjustment, but in time, I’ll have a plan.  I’ll have this figured out.  My health is worth the investment.  Besides, Riesling is gluten-free, so I’ll be just fine.

Not A Single Decent Number.

“Huh.  223 mg/dL.  Still.”

This was the mumbled mantra of our vacation to Maine.

Aside from the long drive to Bar Harbor (six hours, plus coffee stops and bathroom stops and “Hey, look at that lobster!” stops), the time we spend in Maine is usually very active.  As a family, we did the hike around Jordan Pond (about 3.5 miles), the hike up South Bubble Mountain (with a stop at Bubble Rock), and spent hours walking through downtown Bar Harbor.  The lure of blueberry ice cream was enticing, but I tried to avoid the sweets and instead downed buckets of iced coffee instead.

And yet my blood sugars were complete shit while we were traveling.

I wanted to blame my infusion set, but I changed it once while we were in Maine and my blood sugar numbers remained crap.  I wanted to blame the bottle of insulin but it was the same bottle that worked just fine at home (and it wasn’t like we microwaved it or let it bake in the car).  I wanted to blame my own actions but I was exercising, checking my blood sugar, pre-bolusing for meals, correcting highs, and sticking with reasonable carb intake.

So I blamed diabetes.

The graphs over the four days we were in Maine were gross.  When I wasn’t high (which was the majority of the time), I was erring on the side of high, teasing the edges of 160 and 180 mg/dL all day long.  Why?  No clue.  Hesitant to up my basal rate in the face of constant walking, I just watched the graph ride the mustard for a few days.  Not convenient, because blood sugars running higher means more water, more “Hey, it feels like someone put cement in my sneakers,” more teeth sweaters, more bathroom breaks.

“Mom, do you have to go potty?”

(Fun when the four year old is asking me, instead of the other way around.)

Sometimes the numbers don’t make sense, and this time, I choose to roll with it for a few days.  There are probably six dozen different things I “could have done” to take a bite out of the high blood sugar trend, but I didn’t want to the micromanagement of diabetes to eat up my brain on vacation.  Instead, I did what I was willing to do and thankfully, now that we’re back at home, my Dexcom graphed has settled back into a more forgiving pattern of Pac-Man dots.

I prefer mountains in the landscape, not in my Dexcom graph.

 

 

Mainly Maine.

(There were about a dozen different places called “Mainly Maine” that we saw en route to Mount Desert Island.  Also, every time I saw a sticker boasting “MDI” I thought about multiple daily injections.  Diabetes for the acronym invasion win.)

A few days in Maine helped sweep away some mental cobwebs.

Blood sugars were pretty much crap the whole time (source of glucose chaos unknown; currently blaming pancreas) but our trip was still main(e)ly awesome.

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