Emily Patton is one of those not-diagnosed-until-age-27 people with Type I. She is currently living in Seattle, Washington, where she admires Mt. Rainier from her car window during daily commutes. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but has since lived in Berkeley, California, Austin, Texas, and even served short stints in a small village in the Cascade Mountains. Read full bio

160 Cotton Ball Squares Later: Two Years with Diabetes

I don’t know why it is that a milestone such as emptying a bag of cotton ball squares hits me harder than a date on a calendar, such as my two-year diabetes diagnosis anniversary, but that’s just the way I am.  This year, I spent my d-day completely distracted by a certain young gentleman sitting across a candle-lit table from me.  I had anticipated the day–on my calendar–for weeks, but when March 6th came along, I treated it like another typical Tuesday.  I was excited about my date after work and I focused all of my energy on our conversation. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized I hadn’t stopped to think about my diabetes diagnosis on the anniversary of my diagnosis.  Or, at least not more than I usually do.  

 

Pulling the last cotton ball square out of the package, though–that’s the kind of thing that stops me in my tracks.  Cotton ball squares?  Yes.  

 

 

 

I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes about two weeks before my 27th birthday.  I was teaching preschool and living the bachelorette life in Austin, Texas.  I consider myself to be a relatively organized person, and I handled my diagnosis the way I handle many challenges that come my way:  with charts.  And a notebook.  And extensive notes.  

 

 

 

During this time, I also had no money.  Or health insurance.  My organization techniques were aimed at preserving my resources and consolidating my needs so as to be as efficient as possible with every aspect of my care.  In the Supplies section of my notebook, I sketched my first rough-draft version of a supplies tracking spreadsheet so that I could monitor how quickly I used various supplies and budget for when I would need to replenish them.  Things like test strips flew out of my hands faster than I wanted them to, but the one supply that I remember thinking, “I won’t be buying these again for a long time,”  was a $2.99 bag of cotton ball squares.  (It should be quite obvious at this point that I am an unashamed wiper.)  I estimated that I would be soaking up droplets of blood and using one cotton ball square every week or so.  With 160 cotton ball squares in the package, I could not even imagine where I would be after that kind of time.  As noted in my supplies chart, “two years and some” seemed like an unbelievably  distant day in the future.  

 

 

That day was today.  I reached into my supplies bin, pulled out the plastic package, and then paused in disbelief as I realized this was actually the last cotton ball square in the package.  The “two years and some” had arrived.  Thinking back on changes that have occurred in those two years is almost exhausting–a move to Seattle, a change of jobs, the entry into and discharge out of a clinical trial–and to think that this bag of cotton ball squares as been with me through it all is almost sentimental.  As silly as it seems, these cotton ball squares help me to pause and reflect on the life I’ve lived in these past two years.  The thought that resounds through my heart and soul is that I am wordlessly thankful for the people who have helped me thrive in the face of diabetes.  

I’ll head to Target and grab another bag this week.  In the mean time, tell me what you think:  should I save the packaging or not?

 

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Treating Hypoglycemia: A Chance to Revert to Toddler Behavior

At something like 4:30 AM on this past Thursday morning, my CGMS woke me up with the “low” alarm.  Hypoglycemia. I always keep my receiver in bed with me so that I can check it in the middle of the night if needed.  This particular night, I was so completely exhausted that I subconsciously ignored the alarm twice before I gradually became cognizant of what was going on and I pulled myself up in bed to check my blood sugar.  62.  I wasn’t too worried, but then again it was 4:30 AM; the only thing I was worried about was getting back to sleep.  The CGMS receiver still shone brightly as I slowly collected my thoughts.  And thus, with the realization of the “unfair” circumstance that was before me, I quickly plummeted into the realm of early childhood.  

 

The basket of low supplies I keep on my nightstand, complete with glucose tablets, glucose gel, juice boxes, emergency numbers, and a hand-carved angel my parents gave me when I was diagnosed.

 

 

First, there was the whining:  I don’t wannnnnnt to get out of bed!  I don’t wannnnnnnt to treat this low!  I’m not even hunnnnnngry!  I had flashbacks to my own toddlerdom, where I would find myself drawing out words I knew were important in the sentence.  I was so tired!  I just wanted to sleep!  

Then, the irrational decision-making:  Maybe if I wait it out, it’ll go back up!  Maybe I should just lie back down and call a friend to discuss the situation.  At this point, I was willing to stay awake; I just didn’t want to get out of bed.  

Next, the sudden awareness of bodily functions:  I think I have to go to the bathroom.  Why the desire to remedy a full bladder trumps the need to treat hypoglycemia, I don’t know, but it got me out of bed nonetheless.  I stumbled toward my bedroom door, then realized I hadn’t done anything to treat the hypoglycemia yet.  

And this is where the toddler-like behavior comes to a climax:  Great idea!  I’ll treat the low while going to the bathroom!  Next thing I knew, I was sitting on the toilet, in the dark, slurping down a Clifford juice box.  I still had my eyes closed as I sipped through the bent straw–the envy of 29-year-olds everywhere, I’m sure–and finally reached some normal level of consciousness.  I opened my eyes and stared at myself in the mirror.  What am I doing?  If someone would have walked in on me in that moment, I’m not quite sure how I could’ve explained myself.  My thoughts immediately traveled to when I used to teach preschool and I would catch students doing the most ridiculous, albeit earnest, things.  Blindly carrying a juice box to the bathroom could certainly be considered creative problem solving… right?  

Grasping for any sense of dignity, I trudged back to my room, empty juice box in hand, hoping my roommates didn’t happen to wander out of their rooms while this half-delirious episode was taking place.  I replenished my little basket of low supplies that I keep next to my bed.  I tested.  I checked the time.  And then, as if nodding adieu to the Terrible Twos, I climbed back into bed, victorious.  Victorious because I had successfully taken care of my body’s immediate needs, yes, but more importantly because I did something no two-year-old gets to do:  I actively chose to not brush my teeth again before returning to bed.  Take that!  I winnnnnnn!

 

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You, Too, Can Run Around In Public In Your Underwear

Yesterday, I had the privilege of running around Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood in some combination of my underwear.  Don’t worry; I was not alone.  In fact, I was joined by at least a couple-few hundred people, all of whom were scantily clad and jumping up and down to keep warm.  The purpose?  Cupid’s Undie Run to benefit the Children’s Tumor Foundation.  While this didn’t quite stop traffic the way I was expecting, it was still a hilarious sight to see hundreds of people–released from the “starting line” (ahem, front door of the bar) fifty at a time–running through the streets wearing very little clothing.  What a ridiculously good idea for a fundraiser, right?  

 

The Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF) works to treat and cure neurofibromatosis (NF).  A friend suggested the run as a fun way to raise money for a good cause and another friend directly benefits from research done by the CTF because she has NF, so it seemed like an excellent pre-training season event.  (Training season, you say?  Yes.  That’s right.  And, this year, I’m doing the full Olympic.  No more Sprints.  This is it.)  So I gathered my roommates, hired a driver (we paid him in chocolate), and hit the streets in full-on foolishness.  

 

On my fundraising page, I described how I’m often on the other end of this arrangement; I’m the one asking for funds for JDRF or other diabetes-related organizations and hoping that my peers will put themselves in my shoes and donate out of empathy.  This time, I had the true honor of helping someone else out.  To date, I’ve independently raised $220!  Many, many thanks to my generous friends and family.

 

If you’re brave enough, feel free to scroll through the highlights from our run.  And keep the faith that there are throngs of people out there who care about you so much that they’re about to reach into their pockets for you, too!  Beat the Bridge is only a few months away!

 

Crammed into a loud bar with hundreds of other half-naked people.  

 

 

First prize (in my book) goes to the broken-hearted onsie.

 

 

Second prize goes to the father-daughter onsie team.

 

 

And third prize goes to the boxer couple.  Plus their dog.

 

 

Just before the race, I realized that my CGMS would be pretty flippin’ visible.  Well, no turning back now…  Might as well throw on the receiver and run the race in style.  Loud & proud.  

 

 

Woo hooooo!!  Nothing says adrenaline-killer like a stop light!  

 

 

Just in time to storm The Troll.  

 

 

Finishers!  With our escort (and good friend).  Check out that sweet transmitter, complete with shower guard!… 

 

 

P.S.  Does it make it more legit if there’s a Washington Post link?  

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Carb-counting During Grace (and Other Holiday Diabetes Mishaps)

While I was home in Columbus, Ohio, for the holidays, I was able to see how significantly diabetes affects my daily routines. Or, rather, how significantly it affects other people’s daily routines. When I’m here in Seattle, it’s just me; nothing I do is weird. Nothing takes “too long.” Nothing interferes with my plans… because they are my plans. Constantly surrounded by large numbers of family members and friends, though, I was aware of how restricted I felt by others’ ideas of what should be happening and when.

Just a few of the ways diabetes took priority over whatever else was supposed to be going on this holiday season:

 

1. Carb-counting during Grace

My extended family always gathers for dinner on Christmas Eve (and then again for brunch and dinner on Christmas Day). We are a music-oriented Lutheran family, so we always sing The Doxology before holiday meals instead of saying a table grace. I laughed to myself after we sang the final “Amen” on Christmas Eve when I realized that I had been counting carbs through the entire thing. I held hands with my relatives and I sang in harmony, but my mind was far, far away… in the land of math. I had been surveying the beautiful arrangement of home-made food laid out on a large buffet in my parents’ kitchen. I had planned a sampling of the foods we eat every year, including butternut squash, grilled vegetables, beef bourguinion, and–did I mention we’re Norweigian Lutherans?–the much anticipated lefse. Instead of giving thanks like a good little Norweigian Lutheran, I was actually calculating how much insulin I would be taking for the meal. Is anyone else guilty of such a diabetes sin?

 

You'll notice, of course, that the napkins are Norweigian

 

2. Crashing after Christmas morning breakfast

Before heading out to my aunt’s house for our annual tradition of Eggs Benedict brunch, we usually open presents and have a small breakfast with just my immediate family at my parents’ house. My mom always has something relatively healthy for us to eat, along with egg nog. This year, it was delicious oatmeal (made overnight in the crock pot!) with dried cranberries and fresh fruit. I knew I could handle that. Last year, my first Christmas with diabetes, I completely overestimated the home-made rolls and egg nog we had, and plummeted to the lowest blood sugar I’ve ever had in my 22 months of diabetes. I was determined to play it safe this year and only took half of the insulin I would normally take for a bowl of oatmeal… and I still managed to crash down into the 50s an hour later. There I was, chugging my parents’ mango juice while everyone else got dressed to leave, wondering how this could possibly be happening. I thought nerves and excitement caused your blood glucose to go up! Can anyone explain my Christmas morning insulin sensitivity?

 

Christmas morning with my new soon-to-be sister-in-law!

 

3. Dismissing the wide-eyed glances of fellow passengers on public transportation

Between my travels to New York City for my cousin’s wedding on December 18th and my trip home to Columbus for Christmas, I rode multiple modes of transportation. Turns out you don’t give up diabetes when you step onto a plane, so your diabetes is about to go public. I am very much someone who lives diabetes “out loud,” meaning I give myself shots and check my blood glucose in the middle of church and at work and while sitting in bars. On a plane, though, I must admit: it’s pretty close quarters. My middle seat did not afford a whole lot of privacy and five hours is a long time to monitor one’s diabetes secretly. On one particular flight, I went to give myself an injection in my abdomen, and a little girl across the aisle from me said to her mother, “Look! That lady’s about to shoot herself!” You may think adventures like these would cause me to head for the folding-door bathroom, but you would be wrong. Instead, I decided to up the ante with my PDD (Public Displays of Diabetes).

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was awaiting my new Continuous Glocose Monitoring System, the Dexcom Seven Plus. It arrived a bit before the holidays, so I decided to take it home with me to “install” while I was with my family. With our holiday plans as jam-packed as they were, I still hadn’t started my first sensor by the time I left. I had watched the DVD and read the manual several times, but I hadn’t made time to sit down and actually insert the sensor. You know where you have lots of spare time, though? Lay-overs. That’s right; I started my first CGMS sensor in Terminal C of the Newark Liberty International Airport. I had just taken a shower, I had my alcohol swabs at the ready, and I had the whole seating area of Gate 34 to myself. Aside from a momentary freak-out when I couldn’t break the four-inch-long plastic applicator off of the sensor sticking out of my stomach, I am proud to report that everything went just fine. Who else has favorite non-traditional locations for completing diabetes tasks?

 

Off the plane, onto the train, into the subway, up onto the sidewalk, and this was my welcome to NYC: a perfect 100

 

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Losing to Diabetes and Learning from It

Milestones I’ve experienced in the past week:  receiving a new glasses prescription, acquiring a queen-sized bed, and ending the “Honeymoon Phase” of Type I Diabetes.  Probably.  

I say probably because I can’t actually verify that this is the end.  I remember my doctor telling me that it would most likely be a gradual transition and that I would begin to notice that my usual doses of Humalog just weren’t cutting it.  I would see some of the original symptoms of diabetes creeping back into my life caused by higher blood glucose levels that weren’t kept in check as easily.  Well, friends, I’m there–right there.  

  

The care-free, 100-filled life that I lived just a few short weeks ago. (This is a joke, or at least an oversimplification.)

 

I know that Type I is forever (at least for now).  I know that I have Type I.  And I’ve known this day would come.  I feel fortunate to have been in the Honeymoon Phase for as long as I have been and I’m thankful that I have a visit with my endocrinologist this Friday.  All of these intellectual reflections do nothing for me, though, when I see my meter repeatedly flash numbers in the upper 200s despite my Humalog correction doses.  I’m sure any endocrinologist out there–and many of you, as well–would tell me that the corrections aren’t so good for me and I need to be injecting higher doses with meals.  Try telling yourself that when you have the QwikPen in hand and you’re cranking the dial.  It feels like a death wish to inject more insulin than I’m used to and it’s honestly quite terrifying to think about increasing doses without any exact measurement or ratio.  

This period of harder-to-control blood glucose levels has lasted for just over a week.  I can remember a couple months ago when I had a few days of these same symptoms and it almost took me out, emotionally speaking.  I sunk into a pretty angry phase, feeling like nothing I could do would prevent the highs I would experience on an hourly basis.  On the third day of these roller coaster highs, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  

When I arrived to work on that day, after eating my usual breakfast and following my usual morning routine, I had a BG somewhere in the upper 200s.  I corrected with a unit of Humalog (which previously would have been enough to bring it down into my target range) and waited about an hour.  I checked again and was in the low 200s.  I could feel my heart racing and tears welling up in my eyes.  “This is it,” I thought.  “This is what it’s going to be like for the rest of my life.”  I corrected with another unit of Humalog and got back to my work.  An hour or so later, just before lunch, I checked again and I was in the upper 100s.  At this point, I was just furious.  I was starting to doubt my ability to monitor my diabetes for the rest of my life (as if me not being cut out for this line of work were actually a significant factor in this situation).  I almost doubled my dose for lunch, ate my typical meal, and walked back to my office with a heavy heart.  

While on the phone with a client some time later, I started to feel the familiar weakness in my legs and shakiness in my hands.  I set my meter on my desk–a tell-tale sign to my coworkers that something might be up–and saw my anger finally catch up with me:  42.  I called my go-to coworker and he immediately came into my office to sit across from my desk while I downed glucose tablets and a juice box.  I explained the situation to him with tears in my eyes and I confessed the guilt I felt for stacking (and stacking and stacking) out of anger.  He reminded me that it seemed logical for me to attempt to correct for what I felt were highs and he said it made sense that this transition would not follow a simple set of steps.  The next day, my levels were back to my normal and I moved on with what I thought was a lesson learned.  

 

I couldn’t fake these photos if I wanted to. I was full of 100s back then!

 

 

This past week, unfortunately, I fell victim to the same self-inflicted stacking low.  This time–don’t tell my mom–it was at 1:30 A.M.  Nothing scarier than the old waking-up-sweating-can’t-figure-out-why-you’re-so-hot low.  I reached for the low supplies I keep by my bed, called a friend, and waited it out after plowing my way through two juice boxes and a handful of glucose tablets.  (They don’t call me Emily “The Overcorrector” Patton for nothing.)  I had experienced almost an exact replay of what happened two months ago–highs after corrections–and somehow felt that it would again make sense to keep tossing Humalog into the mix so that I could bring it back down.  It’s shocking to me when I realize how much I allow a number to dictate my actions.  

And here is where I will confess that this time my levels did not settle themselves back into place.  I’m still struggling with these highs.  I broke down and called my doctor on Friday, but the office was closed in observance of Veteran’s Day, so tomorrow’s the day.  Even though I have an appointment on Friday, I can’t go on like this.  I need actual medical advice.  I need to accept that the honeymoon is over.  

One thought keeps swimming through my mind, though, which is the warning that a friend from the Sports and Diabetes Group Northwest issued at our most recent workshop:  flu shots can cause unpredictable high blood glucose levels that last for up to two weeks.  I realized yesterday that I got a flu shot about two weeks ago and I allowed my mind to linger on thoughts of this all being my immune system’s healthy reaction to a foreign substance entering my body.  

Or am I just lying to myself?

Either way, I’m hoping to have some answers sorted out by the end of this week.  I have that phone call to make tomorrow, my CGMS should be arriving by Tuesday, I have my parents coming to visit on Thursday, and I have my final visit for my clinical trial on Friday.  There have to be some answers out there somewhere.  No more experimenting with my pride versus my QwikPen.    

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Hawaiian Vacation Gets a Perfect 100

It’s been a wonderful week.  I had the privilege of traveling to the Hawaiian island of Oahu for this past week and loved every minute of it.  Living in Washington, everyone talks about going to Hawaii like people in my home state of Ohio talk about going to Florida:  everyone’s been there.  “This is your first time going to Hawaii?” people would say to me.  I wanted to reply, “How many times do you guys go?  Is this like a trip to the tanning booth for you people?!”  Cheap tickets out of Portland combined with my sister’s Fall Break made for excellent timing for the Patton sisters to hit up Oahu.  

 

 

 During an earlier visit with my sister in a mostly dissimilar location, I noted that all of the walking and sight-seeing of my vacation seemed to cause pretty stable blood glucose levels, despite increased carb intake.  Compared to that trip, our Hawaiian vacation included slightly less predictable amounts of physical activity and slightly higher levels of carb intake (they like their rice in Hawaii!).  It probably goes without saying, but my BG was noticeably more stable when we were on the move–walking through the museum at Pearl Harbor, hiking up the crater at Diamond Head State Park, or swimming in the bluest water I have ever seen with my own two eyes.    During those days, I would eat and eat and eat, maybe take a unit of Humalog here or there, and still wind up just above or just below 100.  (In fact, after one especially crazy day of haphazard eating and running to catch buses, I earned my first post on onehundredbg.com.  It was a happy moment, indeed!)

 

The personal frustration came in its own doses, however, with the sitting.  And the trekking.  And the traveling, in general.  

 

My dad, who has led his fair share of risk-management trainings in his day, would always say that vacations can be some of the most stressful times of your life.  Why?  Because of all the decisions that you have to make.  Every day, everything is up for grabs.  Even if you have things planned out, the unpredictable circumstances of a vacation always find their way into your “plans” and you find yourself re-planning.  Such was the case with our trip to Oahu.  There was no such thing as a “typical day” for my sister and me and I struggled to keep track of food–carbs and otherwise–and insulin timing.  My doctor still describes me as “insulin sensitive,” so I usually respond pretty quickly to the Humalog I inject, and that got me in trouble a few times this trip.  So did the hurry-up-and-wait-ing that often comes with vacation.  

 

Another favorite breakfast of ours: the Monkey Bowl from Lanikai Juice. All natural and only 40 carbs (for half)!

 

For example:  I would eat a reasonably healthy breakfast (fresh papaya, fresh juice, handful of SunChips, possibly some string cheese), run to catch a bus, then sit still for up to 45 minutes while we traveled over to Waikiki from Kailua.  I almost always give my insulin after I eat due to issues with digestion, so I would sometimes wait until we were on the bus to do my injection.  Before we got off the bus, I would be high as a kite, but after 20 minutes of walking around the touristy town, I’d plummet down low.  The same thing happened when I took insulin for the breakfast I ate the morning that we decided to walk straight uphill for 30 minutes in search of a cool look-out point in our neighborhood; I ate a carb-heavy breakfast, took less-than-usual Humalog, and had to stop after 15 minutes of walking to eat half of the low supplies I brought with me for the whole hike.  

 

Still working all this out.  Definitely looking forward to our next Sports and Diabetes Group Northwest workshop, which is titled, “Food, Glorious Food.”  

 

This is just the diabetes view of my trip, of course.  There are plenty of other stories involving luaus and leis and lingering heat rashes that have nothing to do with diabetes.  And with that perfect 100 BG stuck right in the middle, it was a trip I’ll always remember.  

 

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Days Are Getting Shorter, Climbs Are Getting Longer

Summer has just begun in Seattle.  No, really.  There was a depressing article written about how there had been very few days of summer “so far” in 2011 and that article was written in mid-July.  It is fair, then, to say that the last two weekends–which I have not taken for granted!–have been some of the first actual full days of summer in Seattle.  And now it’s Labor Day, which means summer is over.

Do not lose hope!  Everyone loves fall!  I, however, would love for the summer sun to stay just a few weeks longer (and by “few” I mean “few thousand”).

When I went climbing with Karmel a few weeks ago, before summer had really begun, I was struggling with V-1 problems and couldn’t get my hands to stick to the wall.  The long, sunny days we’ve had here recently have persuaded me to give up my indoor swimming and running for almost-outdoor climbing.  It’s amazing how adding just a few more sessions of climbing in the last month has helped me get back to where I was in the spring, before I gave up the climbing work-outs to focus on training for my upcoming triathlon.

Here is my favorite problem in the whole gym:

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And here’s my new favorite V-2:

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You’re waiting for the diabetes relevance, aren’t you?  Well, here’s the thing:  in the past few weeks, amidst all these climbing victories, I have had a few diabetes victories, too.  For one, I learned how to give myself injections in the back of my arm, something I had never learned in the first 18 months of injecting.  Also, I went out on the town without my meter; another “first” for yours truly.  And, lastly, I checked off scheduling my next endocrinologist appointment.  To the outsider, these things seem small and unimportant.  To me, though, they are the steps we take that allow us to continue to climb on.  There are no unimportant parts of my diabetes care; every aspect of my life is affected by diabetes and, therefore, every thing I do to take care of myself matters.  I have often equated my diabetes journey with climbing, and these parallel experiences confirm it.

Climb on, everybody.  The days aren’t getting any longer.

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Tales of Ridicule–From Me Not “Them”

Who among us hasn’t been the brunt of sugar-related jokes?  I was at a dinner for work, for instance, and started talking about how excited I was for dessert.  The waiter must have overheard me because he brought out the hefty platter of tiramisu and set it before me.  My work friends, who really are sensitive and considerate friends, erupted into variations of, “Sure, give the dessert to the diabetic!”  I struggled with my initial reaction–mostly a heaping pile of, “C’mon, guys, be a little more creative.”–but decided to take a breath and smile along with the crowd.  They don’t mean it like that.   This is a work party; everyone is nervous.  Being the means to an end for someone, though, no matter the intention, never feels good.  It causes me to judge that person as narrow-minded and ignorant and, mostly, unimaginative.

 

Besides, I really was excited for dessert.

 

 

Give me, like, 50 units of Humalog and a glass of milk--I'll be good to go.

 

 

In settings such as these, I like to reflect on all the things I do that do not fit the stereotype of someone who has diabetes, then I try to bring those up in conversation immediately following the, “Get it?  Because she has diabetes!!” moments.  (Let me add here that I’m not necessarily mad or even defensive in all these instances, but I do still feel a twinge of How dare you mock my genetically inherited medical condition that is more difficult to manage than you will ever understand?  Okay, so maybe I am a little defensive.  Regardless of the emotion, though, I feel a strong sense of duty to disprove whatever comment was made in order to instill a more positively framed association with diabetes.)

 

So I turned the conversation, ever so naturally, to the Lake Union 10K I ran last weekend as a fundraiser for an organization called Girls On The Run.  I talked about what a beautiful day it was and how my friend and I got up around 5:30 A.M. in order to get to the lake on time.  Then I described how I was really worried to run “away” from the safety of my meter and low supplies that were safely locked in my car.  I rambled on about how sweaty my plastic bag of dried fruit and glucose tablets gets when it’s wedged between my waistband and my skin.  I casually mentioned that the run around the lake was a full 6.2 miles and that there were only two aid stations along the way if something unexpected happened.  And just when I had them remembering, “Oh, right; this is a serious condition that demands unending mental sharpness,” I moved onto majestic depictions of our glorious finish and how I almost puked from sprinting to the end.  “Wait.  So, it was hard, and even dangerous, but she completed the race and feels good about it… so this must mean she is a strong person!  She must be as strong as I am!  Maybe even stronger!  Maybe having diabetes doesn’t keep her from doing difficult tasks, but she has to spend a lot of time and energy preparing for every step of the way!”  (Just slowing it down for those of you who needed a how-to on the whole positive association thing.)

 

6.2 ain't nothin'. Right? Right?!

 

 

It’s not like I go home and replay these conversations with a voodoo doll in hand or anything, but I’d be lying if I said I could easily let go of these kind of comments and not let them get to me.  I attribute this to the fact that I have only lived with these conversations for 18 months, but also to my lifelong passion for encouraging (ahem, insisting upon) language that shows respect for the people it describes.  I’m not obsessed with being Politically Correct–a term which, I believe, is a cop-out anyway–and I have a whole other set of double-standardized rules for vocabulary when speaking with fellow Type Ones, but I know that language is primarily how we communicate in this society.  If language is what guides us, I prefer that it at least somewhat accurately portray the people it is guiding.  Bottom line:  don’t put me in no box, man.

 

Karmel recently brought to my attention a certain athlete who has Type I and is a climber.  Reading about his plan for 2012 made my heart swell with pride and gave me another role model for my how-do-I-do-this phases.  It’s not about setting out with anger to laugh in the world’s face (at least, not for me), but it is about educating those around us who may not understand diabetes at all.  It’s about understanding each other, regardless of health condition or lack thereof, with the fundamental hope that people liking each other is probably better than people being mean to each other.

 

Call it karma, call it the Golden Rule, call it good manners:  let’s have more of it.  This goes for me, too.

 

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What It Means to Climb in Diabetes Cahoots

I had a special guest when I went climbing last weekend:  friend and fellow ASweetLife contributor, Karmel Allison.  Karmel has family in the area, so she suggested that we get together during one of her trips up north.  We met for lunch at a restaurant that hangs over the Puget Sound and then promptly headed to one of Tacoma’s climbing gyms.  Karmel tolerated my incessant questions (ranging from basic diabetes routines to convincing arguments for getting my doctor to write me a prescription for a pump to cool neighborhoods in San Diego), and I crossed everything off my list as she responded.  You have to take advantage of time with the experts when you get it, right?

Karmel prefaced our outing with statements like, “I’m really not that good,” and “You’ll have to wait for me.”  Here she is, below, being “not that good.”

Climbing with Diabetes
Ha! The only place I’ll be “waiting” for you is in the car!

Climbing with someone else who has diabetes was a bit of an adjustment for me.  I’m accustomed to explaining warning signs to my climbing partner and reminding them where I keep my low supplies.  Here I was, though, standing at the foot of a wall with someone who not only knew how to treat my potential low, but could even rely on me to treat her potential low.  It reminded me of being at my Sports and Diabetes Group Northwest workshops, where we discuss all things related to being active with Type I, except now I had the chance to actually live those practices out.  We climbed without issue (well, except for the fact that I couldn’t master anything above a V-0) and happily stopped when our fingers were losing grip and our arms were sufficiently pumped.

We posed for a picture before heading out and got into a quick conversation about diabetes with a member of the gym staff.  The staff member noticed Karmel’s pump, I believe, and then Karmel and I noticed the six-inch tattoo on her right forearm broadcasting her Type I.  She literally had the words “Medic Alert – Type I Diabetes” in size 48 font and a large rod of Asclepius insignia, all surrounded by a red rectangular box.  I told her my quick story about my not-so-good luck with a certain bouldering gym in Seattle (which shall remain unnamed) responding to my bag of low supplies and then explained that the gym where I now have a membership is on the other end of the spectrum and is completely accommodating of my diabetes.  We headed out to the car, and away from Tacoma, but the image of that woman’s tattoo stuck with me.  Part of me was reflecting on how bold that was of her to live her diabetes out loud, another part of me was realizing that she might rely on that info due to frequent lows,  and still another part of me was in shock–as if I didn’t have diabetes myself–and thinking, “Why would you ever get a huge tattoo like that?”  While driving home later that day, I decided to go with the stance that I almost always adopt when reflecting on other people’s diabetes:  that is her diabetes.  Let her handle her diabetes how she handles her diabetes.  Or, as my grandma would say, to each his own.  I love to ask questions and I love to discuss people’s diabetes preferences, but it is never something I will judge or force myself to understand.  We are, after all, quite different people bundled into this one category by just a slight genetic anomaly.

I am quite thankful to have the supportive community of ASweetLife surrounding me and talking face to face with Karmel was a dream come true.  She’s even prettier in person!  And talk about tight BG control!  And–after this I’ll stop gushing–she does an hour on her elliptical machine every morning!  Let that be a lesson to us all.

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Telling 127 People My Diabetes Diagnosis Story

This past weekend was my ten-year high school reunion in Columbus, Ohio.  It’s 2:45 A.M. PST and I just got home from the airport, so I don’t know that my reflections will be as eloquent as they might be after several hours of sleep, but here I am.  It was a wonderful, wonderful weekend.  I was not surprised to see all of my classmates looking healthy and happy and truly thriving, despite all kinds of setbacks life laid before them.  I was reunited with dear friends I haven’t seen for years and I had the privilege of hearing the details of their daily lives.  Food, drinks, conversation, and karaoke:  the makings of a successful high school reunion.

 

Classmates belting it

 

As I flew home last week, I tried to prepare myself for how the weekend might go.  I knew everyone would ask about where I was, what I was doing, how I was living my life, etc.  I knew, too, that intertwined in each of those stories was my diagnosis story.  We had 127 people in our graduating class and, while I knew that not all of our classmates would be in attendance, I knew I would be telling my story a few times over the weekend.  As I’ve mentioned previously, the storytelling can be quite exhausting.  I thought about how I wanted to word things and I wondered how many people would even know what Type I is.  I didn’t know if I wanted to explain the study or just leave it with my diagnosis or even discuss diabetes at all.  I care about my classmates and I trust them, but I didn’t know if it would weigh on me to rehash the life changes that have been forced on me over the last year.

 

If I don’t tell my honest story, though, who will?  My diabetes diagnosis is a huge part of my life and has very much defined my life–especially in this past year–and it is now part of my life story.  Besides, if I weren’t talking about diabetes, I suppose I’d just be talking about something much less exciting.  So, I went for it.  Open book.

 

Beloved high school sweetheart and dear friend (no storytelling here--he already knows all there is to know)

 

And people, of course, were very receptive.  Many had already read various posts on my blog and others had heard through the grapevine.  For people who had no idea, it was an opportunity to do some diabetes education and also to be honest about the significant challenges that diabetes has already presented to me.  For people who asked, I dove into the details of my clinical trial and what the research is attempting to prove.  Just like when I am telling my story to a new acquaintance here in Seattle, I gauged the person’s interest and proceeded with the appropriate level of explanation.  And, just like every other time I talk about my diabetes, I almost always end the conversation with, “So, we’ll see.”

 

We’ll see how this clinical trial ends up, we’ll see how my diabetes will change over the years, we’ll see where life takes me.  For now, to bed.

 

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