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Posts tagged ‘type 1 diabetes’

Guest Post: LIVE! On-Air with Diabetes.

When I do speaking engagements, I get a little nervous about the arrow on my CGM before going on-stage, because a low during a presentation would be less than optimal.   How do you keep your wits when your blood sugar is tanking in front of an audience?  Live television anchors with diabetes know that feeling.  A few years ago, I met Cristina Frank through the #dsma Twitter chat and learned that she brings diabetes to LIVE TV every weekday evening, doing the blood sugar dance before every broadcast.  Cristina Frank is the evening anchor at KSNT News in Topeka Kansas. She anchors the station’s evening newscasts during the week at 5:00p, 5:30p, 6:00p, 9:00p and 10:00p, and today she’s taking the mic here at Six Until Me. 

*   *   *

A lot has happened to me on-air. I’ve played basketball with Harlem Globetrotters, reported from the scene of bridge collapse into the Mississippi River, covered severe flooding of upstate New York and even did a creepy ghost hunt in a haunted inn. While all that footage is sitting in news stations’ archives – what hasn’t been captured on tape is my type 1 diabetes.

I was diagnosed when I was 11 years old. So, by the time it came to graduating college and entering the grand ol’ workforce – I had the diabetes basics down pat (or as much as I thought!). Carb counting, insulin ratios – no problem…but now, throw into the mix the stress of breaking news, an unpredictable schedule (covering a ribbon cutting one day to then switching to a downtown fire that you cover overnight), deadlines…and this was a whole new game plan that (9 years into the industry) I’m still trying to navigate.

One of those twists and turns – has been how to handle a low blood sugar on-air. Low blood sugars are already a monster in itself. Now, try throwing that hypoglycemic beast with solo-anchoring a show, bright lights and facing a camera that is broadcasting out to hundreds of thousands of people.

I’m the evening anchor for the NBC/ABC affiliate in Topeka, Kansas. I have a co-anchor – but sometimes I have to solo-anchor some shows. In those moments (and even when my co-anchor is around) I am vigilant about making sure a low doesn’t hit while I am front and center on the newscasts. I test my sugar multiple times before the show. I try to keep my levels in (what I consider) the ‘safe range’ and then I always make sure to keep my meter right by the desk. But, sometimes – diabetes is stubborn and likes to make sure IT has the limelight.


One of those moments happened a night I was solo-anchoring. I felt good. I was walking out to the studio holding onto my pile of hundreds of pages of scripts. I headed to the desk prepped for 90 minutes of news. Back-to-back I was going to one-woman anchor the 5:00p, 5:30p, 6:00p news.

My sugar before show time was a steady 134. I felt confident in that range. The teleprompter was ready to go and keep on track, microphone was clipped on – lets do this!

The 5:00p newscast was cleared….the 5:30pm newscast was solid. One more newscast left. That’s when it hit. I got a little lightheaded (maybe it was just the fact I had talked for an entire hour), I was STARVING (it was almost dinner break anyways), I started to get a bit hot (I am sitting under a plethora of BRIGHT lights). All that reasoning went out the window when I did the no-excuses meter check: 54.

I didn’t have time to run to my desk to get a juice box. The newscast was starting and the news music was right on cue. There was no hiding. There was no, “good evening, northeast Kansas….can you give me 15 minutes to have a juice box?”

Nope. It was game time to power through this. I had to focus. I looked at the prompter (maybe it looked a bit hazy and those words appeared to be dancing around like they were doing the limbo) but I read it the best I could. I knew what stood between me and that fruit juice blend – was 10 stories. If anytime the phrase, “the show must go on” applied – it was here and now.

As soon as we got into the first commercial break – I talked through my microphone to my producer: “Can someone please go to my desk and open the first drawer? I need a juice box in there AS SOON AS POSSIBLE … I’m feeling low.”

Within seconds, a director was already down the hallway to come to my sugar rescue. I had 5 minutes – commercial break + weather forecast. Before the meteorologist had made it back to the anchor desk to cross-talk with me … I was feeling better.

At the end of the show, I asked everyone, “did I seem off?” To them, they couldn’t tell the difference.

When I first went into this industry, I secretly worried having my diabetes out there would be seen as a weakness. Raising questions from employers, co-workers, in the hiring process….is this going to be a negative held against me? This time had once again proven all of those fears and concerns – did not exist.

I am lucky to have always worked in newsrooms where my colleagues have always supported me – and have many times, ran out to a newsroom desk drawer to get me a juice.

Life in a newsroom can be very hectic and ever changing – no two days are ever the same. Throwing type 1 diabetes into that mix can be even a little more challenging. Juice boxes are a staple in my desk drawer. I have a special basal rate I have set with my doctors to make sure my sugars are on-point during a newscast. Even when I was a morning anchor, I had a special basal setting for waking up at 2:30 am (yikes!), being at work at 4am, on-air 5-7am and then going to bed at 6pm.

My producers, co-anchor, news directors, heck – the whole station knows I have type 1 diabetes! Most importantly, the community knows I have diabetes. Kerri was the person who inspired me to put my type 1 diabetes-ness (is that a word?) out there. And that has opened doors.

It’s introduced me to kids, people and families who are all impacted with type 1. I’ve been asked to visit local camps for kids with type 1 diabetes. I’ve met a man who is biking around the country taking part in several JDRF Rides to Cure. I’ve bumped into other type 1’s where I see a “pump in the wild.” Those moments have turned strangers into friends asking about temp basal rates before exercising.

Keep on talking about diabetes. Keep on tweeting about diabetes. Keep on posting about diabetes. Keep on creating awareness on diabetes. You can guarantee, I’ll be watching and cheering.

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Thank you so much for sharing your story, Cristina, and I am really glad you’ve become such an integral part of the diabetes online community.  Cristina grew up in Massachusetts and is a proud fan of the Boston Red Sox (yay!)!  You can follow her on twitter @CristinaKSNT or on Facebook at facebook.com/cfrankKSNT.

Guest Post: Keep Calm Once They Cover Dexcom.

Today, Colleen is taking over my blog while I’m taking a few days off.  And I love her introduction bio so much that I’m pasting it in without edits.  Colleen is terrific, opinionated in a way I respect deeply, and today she’s talking about the importance of having access to a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) as she ages.  Take it away, Colleen!

*   *   *

I signed up for Medicare this year. Deep breath. (I’m having a really difficult time believing that I’m 65.)

I’m not using Medicare (yet) because I’m still working. I like my job. I like my insurance. I like my five minute commute. But mostly, I like my Dexcom CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor).

I always thought I’d be retired, lazing around, maybe playing some tennis.

Not really, I’m not lazy and I haven’t played tennis in a gazillion years. But, I really was looking forward to doing some volunteer stuff, especially working with kids who have learning difficulties. I’m a former Special Education teacher and I love seeing/helping kids to “get it.” Literally watching that invisible light bulb start shining when they would “get it.”

Instead, I’m working so that I can keep my Dexcom CGM.

Not to worry. I’m not suffering – I work as a church secretary, an absolutely delightful job!

Several years ago, when I started seeing a dermatologist, he explained that removing those things growing on me would be covered by my insurance because, “It’s covered by Medicare.” I was insulted and stated, “For heaven’s sake, I’m NOT on Medicare.” He then explained that if it was covered by Medicare, then insurance would pay for the procedure. “Oh…”

And now, turning 65 – my own light bulb has turned on. But it’s not going anywhere.

I remember talking with my primary care physician at an appointment once and saying how I work so hard to maximize my use of health insurance. I am careful to coordinate lab work with her and my endocrinologist. I keep up with scheduled appointments. I try very hard to be a wise consumer of health insurance. And she calmly replied, “You’re cheaper to Medicare if you’re dead.”

Well, that sucks.

Maybe – but – the cost of keeping me alive might be a sh**load more (Kerri said I could use bad words) [Editor's interjection:  You can use all the words you'd like, Colleen.]  without my CGM.

And I truly believe that soon – Medicare will figure out that the expense of a CGM is whole lot less than the expenses of ambulances and ER visits and hospitalizations.

There is no public transportation up here in the woods so, I have to drive.

I almost always (I’m being honest) (95% of the time!) check Dexcom before I drive anywhere. I frequently have to make short trips during the day for work and Dexcom has certainly kept me in my office/the parking lot sipping on juice before leaving.

I hate shopping. Yes, really. Shopping irritates me. Shopping and going low is really annoying. The nearest real mall is over an hour away and there have been times that I’m pulled over at an exit or a rest area because Dexcom beeped at me. More juice … (Not easy in the winter when it’s frozen. Yes, I have glucose tablets, also.)

We get a whole lot of snow up here on our hill. And it’s not plowed every hour on the hour. There are times we literally cannot get out (or in). I’ve checked with our local police to ask – what would happen if I needed an ambulance in the middle of a snowy night? The answer – They’d hike up our hill with a sled to get me out if needed. Scares the sh** out of me.

Way back when I was diagnosed, I knew I would want a pump. At that time, you had to have been on MDI (Multiple Daily Injections) for a couple of years before they (insurance) would even think about approving a pump. By the time I was ready to start pumping, it wasn’t that difficult.

Thank you to everyone who advocated for pumps for all of us who want one.

Way back when, Kerri was one of those people writing about her fight to get a Dexcom CGM – with letters and refusals and more letters and more proof and finally – Dexcom. By the time I was ready to start using a CGM (I always swore there was NO WAY – have you seen the needle in those things?), getting a CGM wasn’t as difficult. (That needle? Not an issue.)

Thank you to everyone who advocated for CGMs for all of us who want one.

And now – those of us who are and will be the d-elders need to be able to continue using or begin using CGMs for better health and safer living. And your help is needed. You’re not just helping the older d-people. You’re helping yourself. Because you know what? We’re all leading healthier lives even with Diabetes because we work hard to stay healthy. If a CGM helps, we should all have access to that.

How can you help?

JDRF makes it easy. Go here:

Help others, and help your future selves -  and the children who will grow up – just by contacting a few of your state’s senators and representative.

It’s a win-win for all of us.

*   *   *

From Colleen:  “I’m Colleen and I have type 1 LADA – Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults. Diagnosed at the age of 55 (yes, really!), I was just a tad surprised. My husband and I live and work in New Hampshire and even enjoy the snowy winters. We could be retired but, the need for health insurance has us both working at a local church. Yes, together. Yes, we’re surprised. No, we haven’t killed each other, yet.  Hope you’ll introduce yourself and it’s nice to meet you!”

Please say hello to Colleen, either on this post or at her blog, D-Meanderings.  For more on the goal of covering CGMs for Medicare, check out these links:

Change Your Lancet.

This morning I woke up
And reached right over to the table.
Grabbing my receiver,
I saw my blood sugars stable.
Meter confirmation
Showed a 107 number
And that things had been quite steady
Overnight, while I did slumber.

(“While I did slumber?”
Yes, I used that phrase despite it sounding formal.
It’s fun to turn a stodgy phrase
To make sleep sound less normal.

“Okay, go on and tell you story,”
Thanks.  I almost blew it.)

I noticed, when I pricked my finger
That the lancet got stuck into it.

It was gross.  There was a shunk
As the lancet then deployed.
And the OUCH when it went in
Had me less shocked than quite annoyed.
Because I CHANGED that stupid lancet
Just the day before the last!
It wasn’t stale or all that old.
How dare it give my thumb such blast?

And not only did it sting
But the em effer didn’t bleed.
In order to check sugars,
“Change the lancet” was the need.

I gave it glance with both my eyes
After I took the lancet out
The tip looked worse for wear.
So what the hell – I swapped it out.

I tried again, this time determined
Not to let the prick be useless.
I resolved to change my lancet more
Lest diabetes think I’m truceless.
When the needle went in my finger
I squeezed it for a spell.
And blood came from the wound.
… and from a random spot as well.

What’s the moral of the story?
How can I work my D smarter?
Here’s advice for all the ages:
Change your lancet, or squeeze harder.

 

Diabetes Lifehack: Travel Tape.

Sometimes it’s an insulin pump infusion set that starts to peel back.  Other times it’s a Dexcom sensor that gives up on the edges and needs reinforcement.  And there are times when you just need a band-aid for one of those rogue blisters that pops up.

Which is why I keep little slips of Opsite Flexifix tape tucked into my wallet.  Because you never know when you might need an (opsite flexi)fix.

#diabeteslifehack

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

(There you go, Opsite.  Your new tagline, perhaps?)

 

Entering the Mancave.

There are issues we talk about openly in the diabetes community – tips on how to wear a pump, resources for good diet and nutrition, exercise goals, frustrations with blood sugar control, research, and on and on.  All of these topics matter because they play a role in diabetes management, and life as a whole.  But some of these topics are easier than others.  It can be easy to say, “I suck at counting carbs and I need help!” but it’s another discussion entirely to give voice to, “I’m dealing with reproductive issues and I need support.”

Those personal issues need discussing as much as the topics like counting carbs.  Complications are delicate.  Fertility is delicate.  Sexual issues are delicate.  Depression is delicate.  These topics are raw and riddled with social stigma, but they need unpacking.  Otherwise, they get heavier, already heavy all their own.

I remember when I first read about a woman who had given birth after decades with type 1 diabetes and it soothed a panic in me that was there for years, that idea that motherhood was beyond my grasp.  It was a moment, a good moment, that helped change the course of how I approached becoming a mother.

But I also remember the first time I found stories from people in their 20s and 30s who were dealing with diabetes-related complications.  This moment was good in a completely different way.  My diagnosis of macular edema in 2013 generated more than just a new medical condition to manage, but stirred up all these feelings of failure, guilt, and blame … a deluge I wasn’t really prepared for.  These emotions aimed to drown me.  I wanted to hide.  I had very dark, very uncomfortable thoughts that took me away, in a sense, from my friends and family.  I needed support, and am grateful that I found it.  Conversations with peers about dealing with complications at a point when I still felt young but realized how many decades of diabetes I’d logged helped me get through the initial diagnosis and kept me on the path of taking care of myself in order to preserve and protect, but also to continue living despite this new diagnosis.

“Me, too!” stories can help do that.  They confirm that you aren’t alone in what you’re dealing with and that there is support and camaraderie available even in the darkest of times.

I wanted to share a new website called The Diabetes Mancave, created by a writer who has decided to remain anonymous but not to remain silent, and his website is hosting discussions about the topics of male infertility, retrograde ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction, among other things.  From the site:

“You’re not going find my real name here. That’s because this isn’t something I am comfortable sharing online with these issues, because they are very personal and not something I’m comfortable letting everyone tie to my name.

But that aside, this also isn’t about just me. It’s about these issues, and the larger point of how so many men who may be experiencing these, just don’t share because they aren’t comfortable talking about them.

… In a Diabetes Community where we so often tell each other “You Are Not Alone,” I certainly do feel alone.

I’m hoping the D-Man Cave can help remedy that, to some extent. Because I don’t want to keep this in anymore, and I don’t want to feel so alone.”

Discussions and blogs (and Twitter profiles) like his are long overdue.  I’m really sorry you’re dealing with these issues, Diabetes Mancave guy, but I am so, so grateful you are putting them out there.  I hope you find community and support because by putting your story out there, you’re potentially providing a life preserver for someone else.  Thank you for being brave, and encouraging others to be brave, too.

Untethered, After a Fashion.

Around 8.30 am, I took an injection of Levemir.

At about 9 am, I switched my basal profile to “OTHER” and disconnected my insulin pump.  The OTHER profile has me at 0.025U basal rate per hour (as close to zero as I can get on my pump) but still holds all my other settings.  I kept the pump in my purse and the infusion set attached to my body, with one of those pump caps (there are two that come with every box of Insets) to keep the site closed.

At 9.03 am, I put on a skirt with a loose waistband that had previously been tugged down by the weight of my insulin pump BUT NOT ON THIS DAY.

Throughout the day, my basal needs are served by the Levemir injection, but I reconnect the insulin pump to deliver my boluses (allowing me to take my meal boluses and correction doses with precision and also without piercing my skin another time because the infusion set is still in place).

Around 9 or 10 at night, my Levemir injection is pretty much toast (over the years, I’ve seen that Levemir leaves my system after 12 hours, so I usually split my dose completely on pump vacations), so I reconnect my insulin pump and spend the overnight connected, receiving the basal bump at 5 am that is delivered to combat the dawn phenomenon my body experiences.

And then, depending on what I’m doing the next day, I’ll decide to keep my pump on or off during the day.  The Levemir pen in my toothbrush holder serves as a reminder to take a morning dose, if that’s my jam.

I like having a choice.  Can’t un-choose diabetes, so having a choice as to how I deliver my insulin is a plus.

It sounds complicated, but it works for where I’m at right now, because I am aiming to make good on the whole “fit diabetes into life, not work life around diabetes.”  And as petty and superficial as it may sound, it made me bananas (read: super angry, not yellow and slippery) when I went to get dressed for the sticky, summer heat and didn’t have a good place to shove my pump.  On the waistband pulled my skirt down.  Between the cups of my bra made for weird lumps and also unnecessary warmth.

This kind of frustration is the shit that can send me into a week-long DBM (Diabetes Bad Mood) and I am trying to mitigate as much of that as possible.  So off came the pump.  On came the highly structured plan to untether in the most graceful way possible.

Keeping an eye on my CGM showed when things were working and when things need tweaking, and I felt at peace with my diabetes instead of Rage Against the Islets.  Which, while a solid band name, doesn’t do much for my emotional health.

My IOB and Me.

There’s a lot of data that PWD (people with diabetes) spin through on a daily basis – carbs counts, insulin units, blood sugar results, blah, blah, blaaaaaaah there’s so much shit sometimes.  I’ve been encouraged by my endocrinologist to download my data and review it every week or two in order to assess trends over time, but I don’t do that as often as I should.  I’m more of a monthly downloader, and I definitely download every night-before-the-endo-appointment, but a systematic review of my diabetes data is one of those things I could do more consistently.

However, the data is crucial to my health success.  I just tend to lean more heavily on the daily data than the month-long reviews.

Like my beloved IOB.  IOB stands for “insulin on board” and it’s a tool in my insulin pump that calculates how much insulin from my most recent boluses is still “active” in my system.  And I don’t know if most pumpers love their IOB data as much as I do, but I LOVE mine.  Love.  Stupid love.  It’s part of the trifecta of diabetes that I rely on every night before bed.

The checklist is short, but always, always the same: every single night before I go to bed, I check my blood sugar on my meter, comparing that number against the CGM graph.  Then I click through on my CGM graph to get feel for how the day has mapped.  And then I click through on my pump to check my beloved IOB to see how much insulin might be in play.  (Okay, honestly I check on my daughter in her bed first.  She’s usually asleep with her hair tousled into a huge mess against her pillow, with Loopy curled up against her legs.  But then I do all the diabetes garbage.)

Checking the IOB in conjunction with the CGM graph and my glucose number gives me a fighting chance against middle-of-the-night hypoglycemia.  And in the last year or so, it’s been a check that’s worked really well.  Several times (last night, for instance), I will look at my data sources and determine that a low might be teased out overnight, and I can pop a glucose tab or run a temporary basal rate on my pump for an hour or two to keep me in range.

My overnight lows are way less frequent than they ever have been before, and that means I clean juice and sweat from my sheets way less often, so there is a practical bonus aside from the whole “not going wicked low while sleeping” thing.

There’s the takeaway:  IOB monitoring helps cut back on laundry.  Use all the money you save on detergent to buy a bionic pancreas!

 

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