Jennifer Jacobs grew up in Long Island, New York. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age twelve. The challenges of living with diabetes have inspired Jen to be creative. She makes “diabetes art,” which can be viewed on her website, www.diabetesart.com. Work from Jen’s Diabetes Revealed series has been exhibited at various events in the NY-metro area. She also writes about diabetes and is putting together an essay collection. Read full bio

A Pebble in My Shoe

boots - A Pebble in My Shoe

You know The Princess and the Pea?

I am not her.

For the better part of yesterday, I walked around with a staple in my boot.

It all began at school. I was taking down artwork from one of my bulletin boards. I suddenly felt something in my boot. I figured it was a pebble. (Though, where would a pebble have come from? I was inside.) It didn’t hurt. It felt the way a pebble-in-your-shoe feels.

I was so busy that I didn’t bother to remove the pebble. I told myself I’d do it in a few minutes; but one distraction after another and I never got around to the pebble extraction.

When I arrived home many hours later, I unzipped my boot and a sharp silver object dropped to the floor. The pebble was a staple. It must’ve fallen into my boot when I was taking down the artwork.

The staple left a reddish-purple imprint on the sole of my foot. No blood. Thank goodness for thick winter socks.

Nothing terrible happened. But my behavior left me feeling disturbed.

Good sense says that if something is wrong, albeit minor, fix it!

So what stopped me?

Most moms with toddlers will tell you that they are exhausted and preoccupied, and they put themselves second. I am no different. Maybe I’ve become so accustomed to putting my needs last, that I do so even when Maya is not around.

I also wondered about the role diabetes played in my leniency. Diabetes, after all, is the permanent pebble in my shoe. How often do I feel its pesky presence but ignore it anyhow?

Answer: too often.

Don’t get the wrong idea. My blood sugar control is pretty, pretty good (Larry David, anyone?). My A1c makes me proud. But I am not a machine. There will always be basal rates to tweak, pump sites to change, and high blood sugars to treat – PEBBLES. Most people don’t have time to stop in their tracks and address each and every pebble as it lands.

That’s why I left the staple alone. I cope with the abundant responsibilities attached to diabetes by occasionally putting them off, even if I’m left feeling badly. I’ve become comfortable with my discomfort.

I don’t like that.

I should take the time to deal with the pebbles, the staples, the imperfect basal rates, without delay. I know that with diabetes, old pebbles will be replaced with new ones. But if I ignore them, I could end up with a mountain of rocks in my boots.

Meanwhile, back at home, I opened my meter case and drew out an alcohol swab. I tore the paper and applied the alcohol to the small cut on my foot. The smell of alcohol brought me back to my hospital room during my diabetes diagnosis… which was fitting, because it was February 12th, the very day I was diagnosed with diabetes, but only 19 years earlier. Maybe the staple in my boot was the strange, yet necessary reminder that I needed – even after almost two decades – to keep up my A-game.

 

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Me ‘n My Pump

Me ‘n My Pump - priming at bus stop

My insulin pump is mostly a treasure. Except that lately it’s been driving. me. insane.

PUMP IS NOT PRIMED
NO DELIVERY

This error message, with a vibrating Bzzzz, appears on my pump screen several times a week, and sometimes several times a day.

This message is unwarranted and I would like very much if it would leave me alone.

Unfortunately, it pops up at the most inconvenient moments. Like when I’m standing at a crowded bus stop, bundled underneath a big green jacket. How does one access her pump site, let alone prime it, in an outdoor public space?

For those of you who don’t know, “priming” refers to the act of squirting insulin into the air from whatever contraption is delivering your insulin. Once you do that, it’s primed and ready to deliver insulin to you… until you see an error message that says:
PUMP IS NOT PRIMED
NO DELIVERY

So if you’re standing at a bus stop in New York in December, you’d have to undress in the cold, disconnect the cannula from your body, point a needle in the air, squirt medicinal liquid out, and plug yourself back in.

I called my pump provider and told them about my priming issues. The customer support representative was very sweet as she and I trouble-shooted.

If I understood her correctly, here are some possibilities as to why the error message could appear:

  • Cartridge cap is not tightly secured
  • At the time of your site change, you are not pulling the cartridge plunger back and forth with air to lubricate it before filling with insulin
  • You are using expired insulin, or insulin that is not at room temperature
  • You are refilling or overusing cartridges
  • There is a sudden change in force (i.e. pump dropped), or temperature (more than a 40 degree jump)

I am innocent of reasons 1 through 4. The only possibility, I told her, was number 5. Although I doubted that there was a 40 degree difference between inside and outside, I told her about my experience at the bus stop. The priming error popped up just a few minutes after I walked out into the cold. She asked if the pump was in my pocket. I told her yes. She said that wasn’t the issue then, because my pump would have still been warm.

She suggested that I try using a cartridge/plunger from a different box because sometimes a box can come from a faulty lot. She said that if I have even one loss of prime from the new box, I should call back immediately – I guess for more trouble shooting, or for a pump replacement.

***

Speaking of plungers, and other reasons why my pump is making me crazy…

My daughter often plunges at me, head on, for a big cozy snuggle. And sometimes her head hits the darn pump that’s hiding under my clothing. The poor thing points to her head and says “Boo Boo.”

I try to be serious when I tell her, “Watch out for Mommy’s pump!” As if it’s a common toddler problem alongside, “Honey, watch your fingers!” Or, “Sweetie, don’t eat the garbage off the floor!” But I know that most toddlers can plunge at their mommies and not have to worry about their head meeting a hard, clunky object.

That makes me sad. I need to be more careful too.

On the flip side, I know that Maya is only 20 months, but I think my pump has taught her a lot. Firstly, it has built her vocabulary. How many toddlers know what an insulin pump is? She proudly points at it and says, “Pum!”

Second, when I change my site, Maya often sits nearby and watches with wide open eyes. At some point in the process, she leans in and gives me a kiss, or says “Aww,” or pats my arm. Somehow she understands that I have a Boo Boo of my own – and that I have to do this even though I don’t like it. That’s a big lesson for a little girl. So I guess you can say that my pump, and diabetes, is beginning to teach Maya empathy, which isn’t too shabby.

Anyway.

I better go open a fresh box of cartridges.

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Diabetes Jokes: A Modern [Family] Approach

Diabetes Jokes AppWhen there’s nothing new on the news, I try to find something funny to watch on TV before my head hits the pillow. The other night, Gary and I caught a rerun of Modern Family. The episode was new to me.

It was Claire & Phil’s Anniversary. Thinking it was Phil’s favorite band, Claire arranged for Izzy, the bass player from Spandau Ballet, to come over and play a private concert. (Izzy was played by guest star Ed Norton.) Phil, who didn’t know any of the band’s songs, was not enjoying the show. Izzy tried to brighten things up by prompting Phil to kiss his wife. When Phil gave Claire a quick peck, Izzy teased, “Come on, man. She’s not your sister.” He went on to say that the joke he had just made was not funny… because his sister “lost her feet to complications from diabetes.”

I’ve written about diabetes jokes on TV before. Generally I’m not a fan. They are usually rooted in misinformation that leads to stereotyping. And they are often made flippantly, as if people with diabetes live in some distant land. As if they couldn’t possibly be watching the show… to understand the joke… to feel one way or another about it.

Nevertheless. In this particular case, while I didn’t find the joke funny in the traditional sense (diabetes – amputation – ha ha), I was amused for a different reason. I was struck by its thoughtfulness and accuracy. Izzy’s sister didn’t lose her feet to diabetes. She lost them to complications from diabetes.

I didn’t feel objectified or misrepresented, nor did I feel the need to stand up and shout that Not All People with Diabetes get Amputations! The joke already made that clear. Complications from diabetes can lead to amputation – not the diabetes itself.

The episode got me thinking about the writer who scripted the joke. Was it random? Or did he include the word ‘complications’ on purpose? Maybe he had a heightened awareness of diabetes and he knew it made more sense. A progressive diabetes joke! How appropriate coming from Modern Family. If the writer wanted to be even more precise, he could have written, “…lost her feet to complications from diabetes due to poor blood glucose management.” (But that would be asking for a lot.)

On the other hand, maybe the writer crafted the joke with the word ‘complications’ to poke fun at people like me who would have cared if the word was missing. Sneaky but clever. Still amusing. I wonder what’s next for diabetes comedy – maybe an app!

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Marjorie’s 15 Minutes

A few months ago, Jess Apple asked if I’d be interested in creating a t-shirt design for a fundraiser that would support Diabetes Media Foundation and A Sweet Life. Of course I was on board.

Immediately I thought of imagery related to meters, test strips, and pumps, oh my!

 Jess had a different vision. One that included a dog.

At first I was confused. A dog? Diabetes? Huh?  (Plus I’m a cat person.)

I soon learned that the dog Jess had in mind wasn’t any old dog. It was a canine hero named Marjorie.  

By now you’ve probably read about Frederick Banting and Charles Best. Or maybe you vaguely remember hearing their names in your middle school science class. They discovered insulin. What you may not know is that several dogs were used in their experiments, which led to the discovery of that very precious commodity.  Marjorie was one of them.

Jess wanted to give Marjorie the accolade she deserves. After learning about Marjorie, I couldn’t have agreed more. I was sorry that I had never heard of her before. Especially since she’s made such a big difference in my life.

I did some research and found just a handful of photos of Marjorie. I wanted her to stand out, so I selected the photo with the highest contrast and based my design on that.

After a few sketches, I painted the Marjorie design with black and white paint, and signature diabetes blue for her collar. I e-mailed the design to an artist friend of mine who is also a dog person. I wanted her to fact check my artwork and make sure it was truly dog like.

I finished my painting by adding a vial of insulin to Marjorie’s collar. It’s small and humble, just like Marjorie.   

The original Marjorie painting was donated to Jess, Mike, and Diabetes Media Foundation. I thought it was fitting because Marjorie helped people with diabetes live… and A Sweet Life helps people with diabetes live well.

This is Marjorie’s moment. Her 15 minutes of fame. Let’s honor her and donate to an amazing organization.

Here’s your chance to rock the Marjorie t-shirt: The fundraiser is up through Friday, October 17th. Show Me Your Shirt!  

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Misadventures of a Hypoglycemic Mom

Maya, my 16 month old daughter, was roaming around my parents’ backyard last weekend. She picked up a leaf and studied it, which was cute, until she stuck out her tongue and tasted it. That was my cue to scoop her up. I noticed the beads of sweat on her little face. The sun was glaring as it does in the summertime. The backyard, the sticky weather, children playing – I was reminded of my childhood. My siblings and I always asked for a pool. But we never got one. We were the sort of family that stayed cool by running through sprinklers and watching TV inside.

I decided that enough was enough. We would get a pool! Immediately! (A kiddie pool.)

My mom and I loaded Maya into the car and headed to Babies R Us. My mom drove and I sat in the backseat so Maya and I could chit chat and play peekaboo. But soon I began to feel sweaty and nauseous. I kept barking at my poor mother to crank up the A/C. It sounded like we were caught in a wind tunnel and still I felt sick. I blamed the heat. My mom said I was acting irrationally. “You sure you’re not low?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure.

I tested and, what do you know: 48.

My mom pulled into a shady parking spot at Babies R Us. I chowed down on glucose tablets. When I felt better, I unstrapped Maya from her car seat and transferred her to the stroller. We walked inside and the intense chill of department store air conditioning felt refreshing on my skin. But soon I began to feel shaky. My blood sugar was dropping again; a persistent low!

My mom pointed out chairs by the registry counter and told me to have a seat. I obeyed. She purchased a jug of Gerber Apple Juice and ran it over to me. Even though I was in Babies R Us with my own child, I felt like a child too.

We sat for twenty minutes while I waited to feel better. Maya rested quietly in her stroller. No one questioned our motley crew.  I guess a hypoglycemic woman with diabetes can pass for an overheated pregnant lady who needs a time-out.

Finally we were ready to shop and of course they were sold out of kiddie pools. The store clerk said we could find them at Toys R Us, which was only a 3-minute drive away.

I steered Maya’s stroller back to the car, unstrapped her, picked her up, buckled her into the car seat, collapsed the stroller and threw it in the trunk.

***

When we arrived in the parking lot of Toys R Us, I was no longer low, but my energy was sapped. I couldn’t be bothered to take Maya’s stroller out of the trunk. I decided that it would be easier to carry her.  

Inside, we found a kiddie pool right away. Mission accomplished. 

But Maya made it clear that it was not yet time to leave. She began to feel heavy in my arms. I didn’t want to seat her in a shopping cart because I didn’t bring my shopping cart cover and I am a bit of a germaphobe.

I set her down on the floor, held her hand, and let her walk around.

All was fine until Maya met a mysterious looking stuffed toy. She shouted “ME, ME, ME, ME, ME!” She engaged in the classic toddler point, which is firm and direct, and means THAT WILL BE MINE.

The all-pink toy looked like something you’d find at a carnival… in 1993. Was it a ball? A cat? No one could know for certain.

(For the purposes of this blog post, I will now refer to it as the Pink Thing.)

I lifted the Pink Thing off the shelf and set it down on the floor next to Maya. It was bigger than her, but she managed to lift it. And hug it. And snuggle it. And bounce on it. And walk up and down the aisle with it. She had a grand time. Then I told Maya it was time to leave. I placed the Pink Thing back on the shelf and tried to usher her away.

She was not about to leave this treasure. She pointed again and began to cry – a loud, hysterical cry that makes you feel like you’ve done something horribly wrong. I picked her up and tried to console her. That’s when she started kicking and screaming like they do in the movies, which was fitting because we had an audience.

I didn’t know what to do because this was the first time Maya had ever had a tantrum. In order to calm her, I allowed her to carry the Pink Thing to the register. I wondered about its price because it didn’t have a tag. My mom managed to wriggle it away from her and hand it to the cashier. Maya watched him suspiciously. 

We learned that the Pink Thing was on clearance. It cost under $4. A modest price given its size and unique appearance.

We made our purchase: a kiddie pool and the Pink Thing. Maya proudly carried it to the car.

On the ride home, Maya held her furry pink friend close while I made sure that she didn’t smother herself. I watched the trees whiz by and thought about the heavy feeling on my eyelids. I tested and I was high. A twisted consequence of low blood sugar. 

I realized that our trip to buy a kiddie pool was no longer about the pool at all. It had morphed into an adventure full of exhausting surprises. First the sneaky low blood sugar – with a shocking twist – a relapse!  And then Maya’s toy store drama.

I learned that diabetes and children have a lot in common:
They don’t always behave.
They don’t always do what you want them to do.
They can be controlled and they can control you.
They are delicate and they are powerful.
They are predictable and they are surprising.

Of course, big differences exist. Like, when diabetes is difficult, we hate it even more. But when children are difficult, we love them even more. If only diabetes knew how to be cuddly and cute, maybe it would have a better reputation. 

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Diabetes from the Eyes of a Baby: Mommy Says No Touch

Diabetes Blog Week is here and each day presents an exciting new prompt. I loved the idea of writing a poem about diabetes (Tuesday’s challenge). I was also interested in one of the wildcard options: “personify a diabetes tool… let it speak through you.” I decided to combine the two prompts and write a poem about diabetes from the perspective of something other than myself… but that something became someone: my 14 month old daughter.

 

 

Me tap screen

Me push button

Me pick up blue pieces

Mommy says No Touch

 

Me crunch wrappers

Me pull wire

Me squeeze belly band-aid

Mommy says No Touch

 

Me shake candies

Me open drawer

Me find little bottle

Mommy says No Touch

 

She hides it all away

Not for me to play

Mommy says No Touch

Mommy says No Touch

 

She hugs me, says she cares

That’s why she won’t share

Sounds silly to me

But I’m just a baby

 

Sometimes she is high

She puffs a great big sigh

Other times she cries

Me no know why

 

Sometimes she is low

She moves very slow

Daddy has to help

Mommy sits and melts

 

Maybe when I’m big

She’ll tell me what it is

For now me try my best

When Mommy says No Touch

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Recalling the Cure

I don’t know exactly when it happened. But a point came when I stopped regularly thinking about a cure for diabetes. It doesn’t cross my mind daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. I donate to and support causes that provide research for a cure, but I do so mechanically, not because I’m waiting for a cure.

When I was a kid, my dad used to come home with special teas, herbs in unmarked packages, and instructional pamphlets on foot reflexology. These were supposed to cure diabetes. My dad, like many parents of children newly diagnosed, was exasperated. He wanted my diabetes to be undone.   

As a kid on the receiving end of teas and other herbal remedies, I believed that I would be cured in no time.

But when I wasn’t cured over and over, my optimism began to dwindle. When my dad or other well-meaning people sent me information about promising research trials or a cure that’s five years away, my eyes would glaze over. I wasn’t bitter; I just took the attitude that if a real cure materialized, then I’d get excited.

After eighteen years with diabetes, my focus has shifted to being part of the diabetes community, being an advocate, and living well despite my faulty pancreas. Diabetes has become so engrained in my being that it no longer feels like an intruder. It’s not life with diabetes, but rather just life.

***

A few months ago, Gary and I received an invitation to the Diabetes Research Institute’s annual Crystal Ball. I’ve attended various diabetes events in the past, but none from DRI. I knew that DRI is cure-centric and even though I’m not always up on the latest research, the event looked like fun and I wanted to learn more. We hired Maya’s favorite babysitter, who also happens to work for free. (Thanks, Grandma!)

With my insulin pump strapped to my thigh and an evening bag bursting with diabetes supplies, I was ready to party.

The event took place at The Garden City hotel in Long Island, New York. The entry displayed a silent auction filled with an extensive array of jewelry, handbags, signed sports memorabilia, and more. Cocktails and food were plentiful. A live auction later that night offered unique gifts like an adorable puppy, and one night on a yacht for you and your friends. (Opening bid: $7,500!)

The speakers, most of whom were being honored, made it clear that they wholeheartedly believe in DRI’s mission. Allan L. Pashcow, for one, received the Gillin Family Humanitarian Award. He spoke of his wife’s diabetes diagnosis 38 years ago. He said that, at the time, he knew nothing about diabetes. And now, 38 years later, he knows everything about it… except how to cure it.

His words, so simple, were incredibly relatable. All of us with diabetes or close to someone with it know the disease intimately. If we had to test our blood sugar with our eyes closed, the muscle memory in our hands would know the dance by heart. Our loved ones cheer us on and all the while, allow diabetes to permeate their lives too. Before they know it, they’re calculating insulin to carb ratios like champs.

We know diabetes.

And yet.

The cure remains a mystery. But, Mr. Pashcow sounded confident that the researchers at DRI would be the ones to unlock the mystery.

I had the opportunity to meet Roberta Waller. She and her family were the event’s Presenting Sponsor. She was incredibly gracious and her dedication to DRI and finding a cure for diabetes was inspiring. 

A scientist from DRI spoke about a DRI BioHub. DRI’s literature regarding BioHub describes it as “a bioengineered ‘mini-organ’ that mimics the native pancreas, containing thousands of insulin producing cells that sense blood sugar levels and release the precise amount of insulin needed – in real time. A DRI BioHub brings the promise of restoring natural insulin production to millions of children and adults living with diabetes.”

Maybe it was the camaraderie in the room.  Or maybe it was the Rum & Diet Coke. But for the first time in a long time, the promise of a cure sparked my attention. It seemed attainable. I had a flashback to my childhood: to the hope for a cure. I was reminded that, Maybe I’ve forgotten. But DRI hasn’t! They have really, really smart people working on this all the time. How lucky we are!  

At the end of the evening, Gary and I made our way to a packed dance floor; a spirited crowd danced and sang to Don’t Stop Believin’ and it felt very apropos.

 

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The Danger of Doorknobs

Ever have one of those days where things aren’t going quite right? You overslept. You ran out of milk. You flipped on the light switch in your bathroom and Spark! It went out.

I had that sort of morning recently. The worst part was that my pump wire kept getting caught on my bedroom doorknob. That tug is unmistakable. Your body gets yanked back to the door like a boomerang and you begin to feel like a dog on a leash.  

When I finished getting dressed, I tucked that unruly wire deep into my pants pocket and told it to behave.

I left my apartment to go to work. I was glad to breathe in the fresh air as I walked toward the subway station. I rushed down the steps to catch my train. Naturally it was zooming into the tunnel. I missed it by a hair. In the heat of the moment, I pulled off my orange hat and accidentally dropped it into a pile of soot, also known as the subway platform.

When I arrived at work, I tested my blood sugar. Normal! Maybe my day would pick up. I ate a granola bar and then welcomed in my first period class. But later that morning when I tested on my break, my blood sugar was 334.

I checked my pump’s history to see if maybe I had forgotten to bolus for my granola bar. But 3.35 units had been delivered. Puzzled, I gave myself a correction bolus.

Unfortunately, over the next few hours, I felt sluggish and thirsty; I realized that my insulin was not doing its job.

When I tested at lunchtime, the number on the screen gave me a shock. It was not 257. Not 302. Not even 350. Those numbers are atrocious, yes. But they are within the realm of possibility.

This time I saw a number that was unfamiliar: 400.

400!

Frankly, I felt violated. I asked myself, How could it be!

What was wrong? Was it my insulin? My pump? My tubing? My site? Or something else entirely because you never really know with diabetes.  

My brown lunch bag caught my eye. I was really hungry. But I couldn’t eat. I knew that something was malfunctioning; bolusing would be useless.  

I decided it was time to go home. Instinctively, I felt that I needed to change my site. (I don’t keep pump supplies at work because I don’t have the privacy, or sanitary conditions, to change my site there.)

I walked over to the office to tell my principal that I needed to leave. But he wasn’t available. So I had to relay the message to another administrator.  

I paused for a moment and thought about what I wanted to say. Diabetes is not always understandable to those who aren’t connected to it. It would’ve been easier to say that I had thrown up in a stairwell.

I started with, I have diabetes. (I wasn’t sure she knew because I never told her.)

She nodded. (She knew.)

I continued. I am having a small emergency. My insulin pump does not seem to be working. I have to go home to fix it because I need insulin and I do not feel well.

I felt confident in my summary.

She seemed concerned and then asked if I’d be back after lunch. I explained that with the time spent traveling to and from work, changing my site, and waiting for my blood sugar to come down, the school day would be long over. She recognized that I was in a bind and kindly asked if I needed help getting home. I told her I’d be okay.  

I made it home without any mishaps. I said hi to Maya and her babysitter. Maya’s smiling face and enormous cheeks almost made me forget how crappy I was feeling. Almost.

I rushed into my bedroom and tested my blood sugar. 442. I began the process of changing my site. I usually change my site after a shower so that my skin is fresh before a new cannula moves in for three days. But when your blood sugar is 442 and rising, a shower seems unnecessary.

Click.

My site was secure. I bolused. The chhhhhh sound of insulin being released was music to my ears. I began to feel at ease.

I tested my blood sugar 90 minutes later. 284. I had never been so happy to be 284. My blood sugar was coming down.

I’ve been wearing an insulin pump for almost three years and it was the first time I had ever had an issue with my site. I wondered what caused it. Maybe it had something to do with my pump wire getting tangled up with my bedroom doorknob in the early morning hours. Were those little yanks really responsible for disrupting my steady flow of insulin?

I’ll never know for sure. But my guess is Yes, because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that diabetes is sensitive. To chocolate. To stress. And even to doorknobs.

 

 

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Time To…

Diabetes Art Day CLOSE UP 1

In case you missed it, last Monday was Diabetes Art Day. Diabetes Art Day is an annual art-making initiative created by Lee Ann Thill. She invites the diabetes community to make art about diabetes and share it online. The artist and art teacher in me loves this day. It’s an awesome concept and from what I saw in the Diabetes Art Day galleries, creativity was buzzing.

Even though I’ve been making art about diabetes for several years, I never created a piece on Diabetes Art Day. This year, Diabetes Art Day inspired me to make something new.

When I began working, I had no Big Idea – no final product in mind. All I knew was that Maya was napping and I had exactly one hour to be productive.

I gathered paint, markers, and glue, and set them on the table next to my easel. What else could I use?

My eye caught an old A1c record that had been hanging on my fridge. My doctor had given me a copy when I scored a five point something. It’s printed on a piece of paper that looks not unlike a taxi receipt. I moved the magnet, picked up my A1c, and carried it over to my pile of art supplies.

Diabetes Art Day  CLOSE UP 2

  

I also knew that I wanted to include test strips in my work. I opened up my meter case and retrieved the used ones that I had dropped in the side zip compartment. I think they were happy to be saved from their fate in the trash can.

Once the materials were set out in front of me, I had a loose framework formed in my mind. Mixed-media. Abstract. Shapes. Paint. A1c. Test strips. Words. Those were the elements I would include in my art. But what would bring them all together? Where was my focus?

“Eh, eh, eh.”

Maya woke up from her nap.

I felt frustrated because I needed more time! I stood up and headed down the hall to pick Maya up. When she saw me, she said “Meh,” which I’ve taken to mean Mom, and my heart melted. I didn’t know if I’d return to the project.

It was another snowy day. Not ideal for a stroll. So I made lunch for the little lady and myself. Then we read stories and had some solid playtime on the living room rug. By late afternoon, Maya was tuckered out and ready for her afternoon nap. This was the second hour in the day that I had a chance to be productive. With the seconds ticking away, I had to decide how to spend the hour:

Write a lesson plan for school.

Do laundry.

Sleep.

Make baby food.

Modify my basal rates.

Continue working on my art project.

I thought about my list of things to do and how my time always seems to run out. On any given day, my to-do list remains with items unchecked. Eventually the clock strikes midnight and my body fills with sleep. Artist, Keith Haring, once said, “I wish I didn’t have to sleep!”

And then I knew.

I would continue working on my art project, and my art project would be about The Time.

Diabetes Art Day  CLOSE UP 3

My issues with time are not mine alone. We live in a busy world and we all have responsibilities. As a parent, I’ve watched my responsibilities grow and my personal time diminish. And yet.  While Maya consumes a lot of my time, it’s the best time spent! It fills me with joy. I want more time with her. And I want it to slow down because I don’t know how it is that she is almost one year old.  

Diabetes is another huge responsibility that sits high on my priority list. But my time spent with diabetes is unlike my time spent with Maya. I want less of it. Because it’s a drag. It tugs my strings. It’s always time to do something.

Time To…

check my blood sugar.

prick my finger.

change my site.

go to the doctor.

pop a glucose tablet.

stop eating cookies.

How about Time For A Cure!

My art piece for Diabetes Art Day is a reflection on the time. It’s called “Time To…” It represents the face of a watch. A watch that’s glued to my wrist.

Please forgive me for posting it late. I was short on… time.  

Diabetes Art Day FULL PICTURE

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Diabetes in the Cold

I’ve never had so much to say about the weather. For a good part of January, we experienced something of a polar freeze here in New York.  

The air was frigid and the snow fell. It took me back to my childhood. My siblings and I would dress in plush neon snowsuits and rush outside to build forts and snowmen. We’d shovel the driveway for fun, and then have snowball fights. As kids we never complained of the cold. We didn’t seem to notice. We were too busy taking in the wonderful possibilities that the snow presented. After a while, someone (me) would inevitably get hit in the face with a snowball and my mom would call us in. “It’s enough!” she’d shout. We’d run inside red-faced and slide off our boots. Hot chocolate and cartoons awaited us.

Now that I’m older, the cold weather isn’t as appealing. The snow is still pretty, but I enjoy it better from the inside of my living room window. And I certainly feel the cold air, especially with recent temperature readings in the teens and lower.

When the temperature was well below freezing, I dressed myself and Maya in multiple layers. Poor Maya was so bundled up; it was hard to find her. As for me, I’m still wearing the down jacket that I sported when I was pregnant last winter. The belly area is stretched and welcomes my layers.

Some days were frigid enough to make my fingertips feel frozen. Even after coming in from the cold, it took time to warm up… which was bad news for people with diabetes who have to prick their fingers. My lancing device worked doubly hard. One prick didn’t always elicit blood from my cold fingers. It often took two or even three pricks. I found myself squeezing my fingers pre-prick in order to help the blood flow down – the way I was taught to do in the hospital after I was diagnosed.

I also noticed substantial and unexplained spikes in my blood sugars after being out in the cold. One morning, I woke up and tested my blood sugar. The reading on my meter read 110. A great way to start the day. Then I looked at the weather on my phone. Not as great: 14 degrees.

By the time I got to work, my blood sugar had jumped to 276!

I felt frustrated and angry (and thirsty). I blamed the frosty weather because I couldn’t think of any other explanation. And it wasn’t the first time it had happened. In the past month, I’ve had similar blood sugar spikes after being outside in the extreme cold.

I wonder if there’s any science behind cold-weather-induced hyperglycemia. Maybe there’s a threshold – a temperature that’s cold enough to cause stress on our bodies. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a link because generally, I require more insulin in the winter. I also typically gain a few pounds, not unlike a bear preparing to hibernate.

For now, I am just trying to test as often as I can, anticipate probable highs, and correct as quickly as possible. I suppose this is something to discuss at my next visit with my endocrinologist.

I am glad to report that February has gotten off to a warmer start. We’ve already had some snow, and it’s cold – but normal cold. 36 degrees is fine by me. I’m keeping warm and making the most of my predictable blood sugars… until the freeze returns.

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