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Spare a Rose, Save a Child.

From February 1 – 14, the diabetes online community is hosting our annual Spare A Rose campaign.  You remember that one, right?  The one where you send eleven roses instead of twelve on Valentine’s Day, taking the value of that saved rose (averaged out to $5) and donating that to the International Diabetes Federation’s Life for a Child program, which provides life-saving insulin and resources for children with diabetes in developing countries.

We need you.

Yes, you.

You’re part of this, you know.  If you’re reading these words, or any words written by a person touched by diabetes, you are touched by diabetes.  Maybe you’re the parent of a child with diabetes.  Maybe you’re an app developer looking to connect with the diabetes community.  Maybe you run a magazine that hosts health-related articles.  Maybe you’re a PR company that hopes to influence the diabetes community.  Maybe you’re a representative from a diabetes company, or a teacher who has a student with diabetes in their class, or a researcher who studies this disease.

We need you to help amplify the Spare a Rose message.  You can donate to the charity, share the Spare A Rose link with your friends and colleagues, and truly take this initiative, this passion – and our global community -  to a powerful new level.

If you’ve emailed a diabetes advocate, asking them to share your latest press release or to engage in your survey, please spare a rose.

If you work in the diabetes industry and you leave diabetes in your office when you go home at night, remember that people with diabetes don’t ever leave diabetes behind.  And that many people with diabetes struggle to gain access to the drug that keeps them alive.  Considering bringing this campaign to your office.  Please spare a rose.

If you are touched by diabetes in any way – the partner of, the friend of, the coworker of, the child of, the parent of, the neighbor of a person with diabetes – please spare a rose.

If you are part of the greater patient community, I’m asking you to walk with the diabetes community for two weeks and help us make a difference in the life of a child.  With your raised voices, we make a greater difference.  Please spare a rose.

This is where we shine, you guys; where we take care of our own.  Where we can take our collective power, not as people with picky pancreases but instead as people with full and grateful hearts.  Show your love for this community on Valentine’s Day by sending one less rose to a loved one and instead providing life for a child.

Flowers die.  Children shouldn’t.

Please spare a rose.

And please spread the word!

 

Cutting Back on Artificial Sweeteners.

My sweet tooth is completely jacked up.

Bypassing the dessert table isn’t a tough choice.  I can skip the brownies and pie since the Great Palette Change of 2010 (when I was pregnant and my body decided that chocolate was gross and seafood was suddenly on the approved list) and now that I’ve been off the gluten stuff since August of last year, avoiding sweet treats has been a no-brainer (because if I have gluten, my body becomes a vessel of extreme bloat – no effing thank you).

But oh holy cow do I love coffee, and the amount of sweetener I would add to a cup of coffee was abysmal.

I think my taste buds ended up a little warped as a result of drinking diet soda when I was a kid.  After my diabetes diagnosis in 1986, Equal replaced sugar in my house, and the sweet power of Equal is eleven billion times sweeter than regular sugar.  (Not entirely true – 160-220 times sweeter than sugar seems to be the information I found online.  Correct me if I’m wrong, please?)  Convincing my tongue that less sweet is sweet enough has taken some time.

Over the last few months, I’ve been actively cutting back the amount of artificial sweetener I’m cramming into my coffee cup.  At one point, I was using three Splenda in one iced coffee, and for me that felt like way too much.  So, week by week, I tried to use less.  The first few days it was two and a half packets, in an attempt to show my tastebuds that less is more.  After a few weeks, I had cut back to one packet.  (And one packet helped, because then I felt like I could let go of that matchy-matchy OCD thing.)


And now I’m using half of a packet, or sometimes none at all (depending on how nice the coffee/milk combo is).  My goal is to make “none” the new standard.

It took some time to adjust to the lack of sweet.  My body craved that cloyingly sweet taste bud burst, but weaning was the way to go for me because cutting out sweetener entirely and all at once would have been an exercise in futility.  I’m not there yet, but working to make this a “habit of less” because I’m ready to ditch sweetener as much as possible.

It’s hard, though.  Sometimes I just want to rub the contents of a packet of Truvia on my gums.  (Too much?)

Have you ever worked to ditch a habit?  How did you do it?  I think the process of weaning is BORING and if there are ways to trick my mouth into not caring about sweetener, I’d love a tip or two.

 

The Friday Six: New Products, New Movie, and New Year.

Happy Friday!!  I’m on the road this weekend for the JDRF South Region TypeOneNation event in Nashville (or just south of Nashville, if you want to get all technical), and today I’m sharing a few links to things that have caught my eye.  See below for eye-catchy bits.

I love this list of Seven New Diabetes Products to Look for in 2015 from A Sweet Life. (This one excites me the most, so far!)

Knitted broccoli!

Chris’s film, THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE, is available for download on iTunes today.  Check out the trailer (below) and you can download the film here!  (Yes, I’m biased.  And proud. Proudly biased!)

A t-shirt I want.

The Diabetes UnConference is coming up in March, and you can still register to attend this ground-breaking meeting.  Registration details are here.

This pump pouch from Too Sweet Boutique caught my eye because of its overwhelming amount of awesome.  Check out more designs here!

New favorite Twitter account:  Faces in Things


‘Tis almost the season to spare a rose.  Are you ready?

And lastly, happy diaversary, Cristina!


Chipped Battery Cap.

When you wear something every, single day, you notice every, single bit of it.  I’ve been wearing this pump for four years and I know the lines of it by heart.  (I remember the day that I switched from Medtronic to Animas and even those similarly-structured insulin pumps felt entirely different to me in weight, curve, and especially clip.  As I wrote in my Animas Vibe initial review, change can be awkward.)

Two weeks ago, I dropped my insulin pump on the bathroom floor.  It survived the fall, but happened to fall just so and smashed the edge of the battery cap the teeniest bit.  See?  (Ignore the hard knocks look of my pump overall.  I’m tough on this thing.)

Okay, so maybe it’s not obvious (I can barely see it myself, even when it’s pointed out to my eyeballs), but my hip knew instantly.  The jagged catch on the battery cap bit into my skin all day long and drove me bananas.  (The photo is not accurate as far as how the chip lined up with my skin.  The battery cap pictured is not screwed tightly onto the pump.  When it’s on right, the chip faces my body.)

“Do you feel this?”  I asked Chris, running his finger over the edge of the battery cap.  “That teeny chip?  It’s making me crazy.”

“You can feel that?” he asked, surprised.

“I can.  I’m like the Princess and the Pea of insulin pumps.”  (That would make for an excessively long fairy tale title.)

The point of this post?  To illustrate how fully integrated these devices become into our lives, where we notice even the most seemingly insignificant blip.  And to also note how awesome it is when your local pump rep just happens to have a replacement battery cap in the trunk of her car.

Looking Back: Pumped for the Pizza Man.

Diabetes pops up in the weirdest places, and while the snow is falling here in New York City, I remember two summers ago, when it was 98 degrees in the morning when we woke up.  (I hate swelteringly hot weather.  Not my thing.)  Today, I’m looking back at the day the oven broke and the pizza man rang twice.

*   *   * 

The oven broke.

It took me a while to notice, because it was upwards of 90 degrees inside of my house (no central air … we will not be making this mistake with our next house), but once I realized the stove was kaput, it was about 6.30 pm and very much time for Birdzone’s dinner. While I’d like to say that I walked out to our garden and picked enough fresh green beans, tomatoes, and lettuce for a healthy salad, then followed up with chicken on the grill, with a dessert of fresh blackberries and cream, I can’t. Because I never ended up planting the garden I wanted to (too much time on the road) and we don’t have a grill (still haven’t bought one) and the frigging birds keep snaking our blackberries so, to this day, I haven’t had a single blackberry from the huge bush outside due to the aforementioned dickheaded birds. /digression

So we ordered a pizza. Judge all you want.

Birdy and I were playing in her air-conditioned room when the door bell rang, signaling the arrival of the pizza man.

“The pizza man is here!” Birdy opened her door and let in the dragon-breath heat from the kitchen, scurrying towards our front door with her yellow Batman Princess tutu flapping at her waist. (She wears pieces of that costume all the time. Even the itchy bits.) I handed her a few dollars so that she could tip the delivery person.

I opened the door and the guy handed us our pizza and drinks.

“Here you go, miss. It’s hot, isn’t it!” It wasn’t a statement, but a declaration, as the heat was undeniable.

“Yeah. Our stove broke, so there was even less of a chance of me cooking.”

He smiled as Birdy said, “Hi!” from behind my legs and darted out to hand him the money.

“Thank you … um, Batman,” he said, slightly confused but offering her a friendly smile.

“You’re welcome!” and she took off. I thanked him, and shut the door. A few seconds later, the door bell rang again. (The pizza man always rings twice?)

“Hi again. Sorry, but I forgot to have you sign the debit card slip.” He handed me a slip of paper, and as I signed it, he asked, “Do you have diabetes?”

“Excuse me?”

“Diabetes. Do you have diabetes? I noticed the sticker on your car said ‘insulin’ or something on it, and I wondered if you were diabetic.”

I laughed, surprised. “Yes, I do have diabetes. Type 1, diagnosed as a kid. Do you?”

“Yeah. Diagnosed as a kid, too.” He reached into the pocket of his cargo shorts and pulled out a Minimed insulin pump. “I’ve been pumping for about six years.”

I lifted the corner of my shirt and flashed him my silver Animas Ping. “Almost ten years for me. Small world! And that sticker on my car is for Insulindependence. It’s a diabetes organization focusing on sports and exercise.”

“Cool – I’ll check it out,” he said, winding his pump tubing around his fingers as he shoved the pump back into his pocket.

“Cool.” I paused, and the words tumbled out like I was confessing. “I don’t normally eat pizza, you know.”

The pizza man grinned. “It’s like the most complicated bolus ever. No matter what, I never get it totally right.” He started to walk back towards his car, waving at Birdy. “Have a good night! Stay cool!”

Birdy appeared from behind the door. “Mawm, he had a pump, too! He has diabeedles!”

“He does!”

The diabetes world is a small, small one. Never before had I been so pumped to see the pizza man.

(Yes. We went all that way for a horrible pun.)


 

 

Animas Vibe: First (and Quick) Impressions.

Again, disclosure:  I work with Animas and have a sponsorship contract.  Here are more details on my disclosures.  I link to my disclosures more than I link to cat .gifs, which is saying QUITE A BIT.

As I mentioned, I’m testing out the Animas Vibe.  Here are my first, quick impressions after a few days using the Vibe.  (What, you wanted some long, flowery introduction paragraph?  I’m out of words.)

First things first. Change can be awkward and uncomfortable.  When I switched from Medtronic to Animas back in 2010, I had trouble with the switch not because of the pumps themselves but because of the change, in general. Wearing an insulin pump means being connected to a small box and tubing 24 hours a day, so you really get to know that box/tubing combination.  The curves and edges of the pump  became something I knew by heart, and wearing a pump that was even half a millimeter different than whatever I was used to made me grouchy.  It took me about three weeks to become used to wearing the Animas Ping pump, and about a month and a half to become entirely used to the differences in filling the reservoir, changing the infusion set, responding to alarms, etc.  (I experienced this all over again when I took the t:slim pump for a spin over the end of the summer.  The pump itself was fine but the different size/shape/process made me grumpy like this cookie and I was less accepting of the pump because it wasn’t what I was accustomed to.  This isn’t a comment on which pump is superior, but a commentary on why the learning/acceptance curve, for me, is a true curve.  It also illustrates my hate for change.)

I was set up on the Animas Vibe on 12/31, so I haven’t had this thing for more than a few days, but going from Ping to Vibe was simple in terms of learning curve because I’d already done that curve.  I have worn an Animas Ping since 2010, so the routine is familiar.  Keep that in mind as you read through my perceptions, as they are colored by familiarity.  And coffee.  (I had two cappuccinos with dinner.  TWO!!  Bees in fingers [h/t CSparl].)

CGM Integration.  I was unsure how I’d feel about integration, to be honest.  I like having my Dexcom separate sometimes, and things like CGM in the Cloud and Share are important to me because I most-often travel alone, so having my data streaming to the cloud is an important safety feature.  But, on the whole, I don’t stream my data (with overnight exceptions as noted).  Basically, I am the main person who needs access to my data.

However.  (And this is a big however.)  I like, and appreciate, options.  I don’t have the option of ditching diabetes, but I do have options on the tools and technology I use to make sense of diabetes.  I LOVE having the Dexcom data showing up on my pump screen.  Love, love, love.  Why?  Because I always have my pump clipped to me.  I didn’t realize, until a few days ago, how often I was keeping tabs on my external receiver, bringing it from room to room with me, and keeping it clipped to my purse while I was out of the house.  I went for a run the day that I hooked up to the Vibe and it was exciting to bring only one device with me.  With a tube of glucose tabs in my pocket and pump clipped to my hip, I was good to go.  It felt liberating.


The best part, for me, is that I can run my separate Dexcom receiver at the same time.  Yes, they can run simultaneously.  (No, I have no idea how that impacts the battery life of the transmitter.  Nor am I certain this is a sound idea.  But I’m doing it anyway.)  Both the Vibe and the receiver need to be calibrated separately, but for the times when I’m away for work, I’m happy I can still make use of the Dexcom Share without getting all weird. Options where there once weren’t any at all; I’ll take it.

(And I haven’t had a chance to test the accuracy of the receiver vs. the Vibe, but since I haven’t yet upgraded my receiver to reflect the 505 algorithm [we don't have a PC], I don’t know if my comparisons would be best.  Once I hijack someone’s PC and update my receiver, I’ll circle back on this.)

One concern I had about integration was whether or not I would hear the alarms on the pump.  In setting up my pump, I customized my alarms to reflect a vibration for any low blood sugars and a beeping for any highs, thinking that a vibration would be good for middle-of-the-night low warnings.  While I haven’t had much time to test the highs and lows (thankfully, numbers have been reasonable for the last few days), I did have one 2 am low blood sugar and the vibration woke me up.  I’ll have to wait a few more weeks/months to truly test how responsive I will be to the alarms.


Graphing it.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

One other concern I have is about the color indications for the different numbers.  I’m a creature of habit (see above bit about hating change) and I am used to the way that the Dexcom G4 receiver lays out blood sugars, in terms of color.  Ketchup and mustard, you know?  Highs are yellow, lows are red, and white means don’t touch anything because in range.  However, since companies cannot sync up their shit in a way that makes things easiest for end users (aka the PWD), the CGM graph on the Vibe is entirely different than that of the G4.  On the Vibe, highs are red, lows are blue, and in range is green.  For me, this has been a weird change because I like at-a-glancing at my CGM throughout the day, and now I need to readjust my mindset for what “red” means.

Screen Resolution.  This might seem ridiculous, but there’s a new feature on the Vibe that allows for the brightness to be turned up/down with a click.  The button on the edge of the pump with the little lock (or lightbulb, or whatever that icon is)  makes whatever screen you’re on brighter, or less bright, with a click. I like this more than I should, I think.

Food Database.  I haven’t used the Ping meter in a few years (I switched to the Verio when it came out, and am now using the Sync), so I haven’t done much with the food database in the past.  On the Vibe, the food database is built into the pump, so if I go in to give a bolus and use the EZCarb bolus, I can access a customizable database on the pump itself.  I haven’t had much time to play around with this feature yet, but I plan to as I fiddle around with the pump.  (One note:  on the “snack” screen, the food options are all junk food.  Chocolate cake, cannoli, donut holes, key lime pie, just to name a few.  Who categorized these as “snacks” instead of “junk food”?  Confused the small, rational part of my brain.)

To that same end about not using the Ping meter for a while now, it’s important to note that the loss of meter remote capability in the Vibe vs. the Ping did not matter to me at all. I haven’t used the meter remote option in ages, so not being able to use it with the Vibe made zero difference to me. Your preferences will vary, of course.

WearabilityFor better or for worse, this pump does not feel different on my body because it is essentially the same physical pump shape/size on my body.  Having worn the Ping now since switching to Animas, the Vibe feels the same.  But, for the record, I did try a blue pump this time instead of my time worn silver one, which feels sassy.  Also, not needing to carry the Dexcom receiver makes for a lighter purse.  (And when my purse holds glucose tabs, my meter, an insulin pen, car keys, wallet, gum, Batman, and a deck of Crazy Mates on an average day, one less thing is awesome.)

Battery Concerns.  Since it’s only been a few days, I don’t know how quickly running the CGM and the insulin pump will burn through the battery.  As it stands now, my Ping went through about one battery per month (maybe every 5 weeks), and my concern is that the Vibe will require more battery change outs.  Time, again, will tell.

Software Questions.  I haven’t uploaded my data to Diasend yet, but I’m excited to see what the overlap looks like for my pump, CGM, and blood sugar data.  My past experiences with Diasend have been good – I like the software – but I’m not the best at uploading data from my pump (read:  I never, ever do it because the process is annoying).  I’m hoping that future iterations of the upload process make it more plug-and-play instead of “hey, weird dongle.”

Overall, I’m excited about the Vibe.  (And even if you aren’t, let me be excited, would you please?  I’m appreciating the fact that this system has finally been approved in the US.)  I like carrying one less device while still using the CGM and pump combination that I trust and prefer (bias, bias, remember). 

I’m looking forward to sharing thoughts at the close of this trial period, and then moving forward with a Vibe of my own … even if the name of the product gives me a bit of a smirky smirk.

Bulk Solutions.

Due to adhesive change/skin sensitivity/dermis witchcraft, the Dexcom rash seems to be a now-reliable side effect of wearing a CGM (or anything else with adhesive ability, honestly.  Sometimes a bandaid gives me the scritchy-scratch).  I feel best with the Dexcom data streaming, though, so I do whatever keeps the sensor on and the itch at a minimum.

Which means ordering the ToughPads in bulk.


Necessary. And in bulk!

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

The extra cost isn’t fun, but my sensor is currently rolling through it’s second start-up cycle, so I won’t complain.  Whatever frigging works, right? (Besides, a tattered Dexcom sensor feels like a diabetes Girl Scout badge. Next, I’m going for my “pile of test strips NEXT to the garbage can instead of IN it” badge.)

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