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Posts tagged ‘type 1 diabetes’

“Instead of making insulin …”

“What’s insulin?” my daughter asked me as I was buckling her into the car seat.

She knows the word because vials of insulin sit where the butter usually resides in other people’s refrigerators.

“Insulin is a hormone that people’s pancreases make.  It helps make the foods we eat into something our bodies can use for energy.  My pancreas doesn’t make any insulin, so I put it into my body using my pump or the needles,” is my explanation.

“Right.  And that’s why you have diabetes and my dad and I don’t,” she replies.

“Exactly.  My pancreas is lazy sometimes.  Instead of making insulin, maybe my pancreas goes to the beach?”

She latched onto this idea immediately.  “Yeah!  Instead of making insulin, your pancreas goes in a ferris wheel!”

“Instead of making insulin, my pancreas has an ice cream party!”

“Oooh, oooh!  Instead of making insulin, your pancreas goes to the library and listens to story time and then takes out three books!”

“Very specific!”

The game went on for the entire car ride home.  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas writes a letter to Santa!”  “Instead of making insulin, my pancreas takes a trip around the moon!”  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas jumps on a trampoline!”  “Instead of making insulin, my pancreas grows peanuts on a peanut farm!”  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas hangs out on Sundays with Batman!”  (On Sundays only.)

As the car pulled into the driveway, we were giggling madly about the adventures of my under-employed pancreas, outlined in great detail.

“Mom, your pancreas is extremely silly.”

“It totally is.”

“I wish it made insulin, though,” she said, snapping reality back into place in that plain, matter-of-fact way only she can.  She gave me a grin that made my heart swell and my pancreas shift uncomfortably in its seat.

“Yep.  Me too, love.”

A Wicked Rash.

When I was younger, my pediatric endocrinologist told me that I shouldn’t be poking the syringes into the parts of my skin that didn’t hurt.  “If you don’t feel the pinch of the needle, that means you have scar tissue building up, which can lead to poor absorption of the insulin.”  She stayed on me about rotating injection sites, and even though I didn’t like rotating to new spots that hurt a little, she was right.  The more I rotated, the better my skin felt and fewer egg-bumps of scar tissue formed under my skin.

… shame on me for not following that same rotation protocol when it comes to Dexcom sensors.  I wear mine almost exclusively on my outer thigh because that’s where they feel the best, stay put the best, and are least apt to peel away before their time is up.  For several years, this worked fine because I rotated within the thigh site, making sure not to reuse an area in the same month.  But once the Dexcom adhesive rash started, I was screwed because the skin was taxed not just by the sensor itself, but by the residual rash.

Dexcom rash management has been better lately because of precautionary measures, but sometimes the rash flares up as a result of ten different factors (all ones that itch).  Last week, I was traveling for work and kept applying Opsite Flexifix tape to my Dexcom sensor as it was starting to peel away (and yes, I had a spare sensor on me but still didn’t want to pull the one that was working.  I’m a stubborn human.)  I covered that thing with tape.  And for two days, it was great.  But then it started to turn a little red underneath the tape (not the sensor adhesive, but the skin underneath the tape).  After another day, it went entirely bananas and turned bright red and started to swell.

“I can feel the heat of the infection through my jeans,” I said out loud to Chris.  At which point, I realized I was a frigging idiot for not pulling the sensor off.

Off it came, and what lurked beneath was gross.  (“It was the worst Dexcom rash … I ever seen!!”  Actual Large Marge quote.)  No way was I going to take a picture for evidence because it was horribly nasty and I’m irresponsible for letting the cost/convenience/reinstallation of the sensor supersede the integrity of my skin.  What was underneath the Toughpad was completely fine, but every bit of skin that had come into contact with the Opsite tape alone was raised, red, and borderline blistering.

It took a week for that site to heal, and only after I carefully applied Neosporin and bandaged to it.  Which brought me to that unfortunate realization:  I suck at rotating my Dexcom sensor sites.  And I need to be better about it, especially since the data is very important to me.

So I’m trying out a new spot in efforts to give my thighs some time to properly heal.  For the last week, I’ve had a sensor on my lower hip and it has worked much better than I thought it would.  It’s just below the belt time on my outer hip (see Gingerbread Man for placement accuracy because holidays) and despite the rub of pants, etc. it is staying put and not peeling up.  I have a little bit of Opsite tape on the lower edge and so far, so good.

I hope this sensor can run its seven day course without leaving a mark.  Because otherwise … itch, please.

Diabetes Month, Diabetes Year.

Diabetes Awareness Month is almost over, closing out on November 30th.  Throughout the month, I’ve watched some really inspiring efforts take flight to raise awareness for diabetes, including the Project Blue November campaign.  Project Blue November has been a big part of my Facebook feed throughout the month, showcasing photos of advocates and celebrities alike sporting their blue circle pin.

My blue circle pin is something I wear every time I’m out in public.  I have one that I take on-and-off whatever jacket I’m wearing and a one permanently stuck on the bookbag I use when I’m traveling.


Diabetes Month is almost over, but I wear my awareness everywhere I travel. #PWDpride. Also, #rhodypride.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

I don’t spend the majority of my days on a diabetes advocacy soapbox, but having that pin on me at all times makes me feel like I’m wearing a teeny Bat-Signal of advocacy.  It sends out a signal that I love someone (many someones) with diabetes.  It’s a beacon for broken islets.  It’s a sign that I care about the community as a whole.

Every month is diabetes month when you live with it.  This disease is every day, every month, all year long without respite.  But it’s not a “woe is me” headgame.  It’s more a “keep going; life is worth the effort” sort of mentality.

This month has been more scattered than usual, and I felt like I kind of phoned it in for diabetes month.  My focus was on other things, other people, other events and honestly?  That break felt good.  I think when the focus is “supposed to be diabetes,” I lose steam.  (File it under “Don’t Tell Me What To Do,” which might be the biggest file in my mental cabinet.)  Advocacy has to feel right, and natural, and not forced for me.  Finding my footing sometimes requires a few weeks of mental quiet.

I’ll keep my pin on.  And when I’m ready to raise my voice again, I’ll do just that.  In the meantime, I need to feel comfortable with whatever level of storytelling and sharing fits my need, regardless of the month or awareness initiative.

Tootsie Roll of Doom.

Low blood sugars can sound like stories told ’round the campfire, with great embellishments and drama as to who can tolerate the lowest number without tipping over.

“Low?  I wasn’t just low.  I was so low that my eyes were swimming away from my face and my meter said 52 mg/dL but I still got my own juice.”

“52?  I was 41 mg/dL without any symptoms at all and then my hands fell off so I ate them.”

“Pfffft.  I was 30 mg/dL and eating popcorn and I was coherent enough to eat individual kernels of popped corn until 100 hours passed and I had steadily climbed back up to 115 mg/dL without a rebound high.”

Impressive.

Most of the time, my lows are symptom free and I can function properly.  I feel lucky that, in the last 28 years, there have been more functional hypoglycemic episodes than ones requiring assistance.  I’m glad I can treat my own lows.

But sometimes numbers hit differently.  A blood sugar around 65 mg/dL usually feels a tiny bit off, but nothing too jarring.  No shaky hands, clumsy tongue, loss of peripheral vision stuff going on, mostly just a Dexcom alarm going off, forcing me to take a closer look at my graph and thinking, “Huh.  Time for a snack.”  (This lack of hypo symptoms is what prompted me to look into a continuous glucose monitor in the first place.)

At other times, the 65 mg/dL comes in like a freight train, barreling towards me with symptoms hitting full force, which happened yesterday while I was brushing my teeth.  A waves of confusion washed over me and put a twitch in my hands, making my desired grip onto the bathroom counter hard to come by.  My tongue went numb and I forced myself to spit the toothpaste into the sink, knowing the next mission was more challenging: get downstairs and eat something fast.

The first thing I saw was a giant Tootsie Roll in Birdzone’s Halloween bucket.  (Flashbacks to being a kid growing up with diabetes, where the Halloween bucket was always saved as a “for low blood sugars!” salve but instead was something I dipped into without admitting it, until there were only Almond Joys left.)  Normally, Tootsie Rolls are a candy that repulses me enough to steer me clear, the low symptoms were intensifying and my knees felt wobbly, so I unwrapped the candy and shoved it into my mouth.  And then I learned of a new hypoglycemia symptom that was in play this round:  a confused jaw.

Chewing on that Tootsie Roll candy was a disaster.  It was slightly cold, making it tough to work through regardless, but the massive chewy scope of the thing was too much.  In the fog of a low, I clamped down on the stupid thing and felt a familiar popping sensation.  The Tootsie Roll was working to raise my blood sugar, but in the interim, it had pulled off one of the frigging composites from my tooth.

Once the low had subsided, I called the dentist to fess up and make a fix-it appointment.

“What happened?  Did you bite into an apple or something?” asked the receptionist.

“No, it was actually a Tootsie Roll but …”

“Oh, Halloween candy.  Yeah, we get a lot of calls this time of year for stuff like this.”

And in my head, I was all, “Wait, no it was a low blood sugar and it was THIS BIG and I finally had symptoms – they were rotten – in the 60′s which is why I went for the Halloween candy …”

… but instead, I was all, “Yep.  Tootsie Roll of doom.”

 

#DayOfDiabetes Went a Little Rogue on Me.

I started the day strong, but after hours of a frustrating high blood sugar and seemingly bolusing saline instead of insulin (but it was insulin – I checked), I hit a big NOPE when it came to documenting the end of my #dayofdiabetes. I didn’t want to keep documenting my frustrations, not because I was ashamed of them, but because I was FRUSTRATED, you know?

Even though there isn’t a hashtag for my day today, I’m still here. I’m still doing this diabetes thing. And despite some frustrations, I remain fine.

Chronicle. (See also: #dayofdiabetes)

(Chronicle was a movie from a few years ago that I actually liked very much, even though it god a little crazypants towards the end.  Still, a quality film, IMO.)

But today’s post is not about that movie.  It’s about chronicling a day with a chronic condition.  For Diabetes Awareness Month, I’m taking diabetes awareness to task by documenting the daily duties of life with type 1, from site changes to emotional responses to blood sugar numbers … and all the non-diabetes-yet-still-diabetes crap in between.  A big advocacy “thank you!” to Chris Snider’s #dayofdiabetes campaign, and I think November is a perfect time to pop the bubble of diabetes awareness.  People living with diabetes know what diabetes is like.  Let’s show people who might not understand what a day in the life truly means.

Join in on Twitter using the hashtag #dayofdiabetes and share what strikes you about life with diabetes.  Then share that hashtag with your non-diabetes friends, family, coworkers, and Internet connections because Diabetes Awareness Month should be about educating outside of the DOC (Diabetes Online Community).

HypoPedicure.

“Mom, can I [something something] ?”

“Sure, kiddo,” I responded.  But I had no idea what she was asking me – her words were swirling around in the fog of my brain.  My blood sugar was 38 mg/dL and my Dexcom was wailing.  Chris was a few feet away, stirring something on the stove while he kept an eye on his wife.  “My blood sugar is really low, so I’m going to sit here for a few minutes.”

“Okay, that’s fine.  Do you need some glucose tabs?” she asked, sitting on the floor near my feet.

“I already had some.  I’ll be okay in a minute.  Don’t worry.”

What was directly in front of me hard sharp edges of focus, but everything on the peripheral was hard to see.  My body was concentrating on chewing and swallowing and trying to slow down the speed of my heartbeat in my ears.  I knew stable blood sugars were coming, but they needed a glucose jump-start.

“Okay, Mom.  I’ll just do this while I wait.”

And it wasn’t until later that night, after she had gone to bed and once I was readying myself for sleep, that I realized she spent the duration of my hypoglycemic episode painting my toenails bright pink with a glitter topcoat, globs of glitter and pink stretching all the way up to my ankle.

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