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Posts from the ‘Traveling’ Category

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.

Unexpected Advocacy.

The last thing I wanted to do was take my cover-up off.

Chris and Birdy (and our friends and their daughter) were at a water park in New Hampshire where kids can run and play in safe-for-littles sprinklers, pools, and water slides, and as the adults, we were tasked with guarding the perimeter.  Pacing back and forth, the four of us kept watch on our kids, ready to jump in at any moment to help them climb a slide, pick themselves up if they fell, or slather on more sunscreen.

I didn’t care who saw my body.  Not really, anyway.  I’ve run miles and given birth (not simultaneously), so I know there are strengths and weaknesses to my frame, but it wasn’t the shape and curve of my body that made me want to stay covered up at the water park.

I didn’t want people staring at the diabetes devices stuck to my body.

“Oh, suck it up.  No one is looking at you.”

Of course they aren’t.  They don’t mean to.  But when someone walks by wearing a bathing suit with a few curious looking devices hanging off it, it’s hard not to notice.  My standard beachwear is a bathing suit with my pump clipped to the hip, the tubing snaked out to wherever the infusion set happens to be living, and my Dexcom sensor taking up more real estate elsewhere.  These items aren’t jarring, and people don’t snicker, but they do look twice because cyborgs aren’t the norm.

Most of the time I don’t think twice about who might look, but on this particular day, I felt self-conscious.  Why?  Who knows.  Who cares.  I just felt eh that day.

But motherhood dictated that my self-consciousness take a backseat to being part of Birdy’s waterpark experiences, so I sucked it up and removed my cover-up.  My insulin pump infusion set was stuck to the back of my right arm, the tubing snaking down and tucked into my bathing suit, where the pump was clipped to the back.  My Dexcom sensor was mounted on my right thigh.  Even though these devices are reasonably discreet, I felt like I had two giant toasters stuck to my body.


Birdy needed help climbing to a higher platform in the play area and I helped her do that, thankful that my pump was waterproof.  We ended up in the sprinkler pad for a while and I was thankful that the tape around my Dexcom sensor was strong enough to withstand the water.  After a few minutes, I got over the whole “blargh – I don’t want to wear giant toasters” feeling and got on with things.

“Excuse me.  Is that an insulin pump?”  All casual, the question came from behind me, where one of the park lifeguards was standing.  His arms were crossed over his chest as he confidently watched the pool, but his question was quiet.

“Yeah, it is.”  I wasn’t in the mood to have a full chat about diabetes, but I didn’t want to make him feel awkward for asking.

“You like it?”

“I like it better than taking injections.  I was diagnosed when I was a kid, so the pump is a nice change of pace from the syringes.”

“I bet.”  He paused.  “I was diagnosed last August and I’ve been thinking about a pump.  But I hadn’t ever seen one before.  Is that it?”  He pointed to the back of my arm.

“Kind of.  That’s where the insulin goes in, but the pump is this silver thing back here,” I pointed to the back of my bathing suit, where my pump was clipped.  “This is the actual pump.  It’s waterproof.”  A kid ran by, arms flailing and sending splashes of water all over the both of us.

“Good thing,” he said.

“For real.”  Birdy ran by to give me a high-five and then took off playing again.

“Your kid?”

“Yep.”

“How long have you had diabetes?”

“Twenty-seven years.”

He gave me a nod.  “Thanks for not making it seem like it sucks.  Enjoy your day,” and he moved towards a group of kids that were playing a little roughly.  I stayed and continued to watch my daughter play, very aware of my diabetes devices that, for the first time ever, didn’t seem quite noticeable enough.

 

(Also, today has been unofficially designated as a “day to check in” (hat tip to Chris Snider) with the DOC blogs that we’re reading.  I read a lot of diabetes blogs, but I don’t often comment because I usually want to say something meaningful, instead of “I like your post.”  (But I do like your post!)  But instead of finding that meaningful comment, I usually roll on and forget to return to comment.  NOT TODAY!  Today I’m commenting on every blog I read, because that’s the name of the game.  I love this community, and today I’ll show that through comments.  So please – if you’re here, say hello!  And thanks. xo)

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