Molly Johannes was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1997 at the age of four. Molly controls her diabetes with a combination of insulin shots, daily exercise, and a healthy diet. She utilizes a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor to remain aware of her blood sugars throughout her busy days at school. Molly is a sophomore English major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Read full bio

#DBlogWeek Day 7 – Continuing Connections

Did #DBlogWeek fly by this year, or what? I’m really glad that I had the chance to participate again this year. I like having the chance to do some exploring with the prompts provided by Karen at Bitter-Sweet!

This topic is all about fostering connections that can be made by participating in Diabetes Blog Week. In fact, that can be extended into the Diabetes Online Community. I’m still amazed by the number of people I’ve met strictly through the DOC, and I’ve enjoyed the different opportunities it has presented to me.

In particular, the DOC introduced me to the CWD Friends for Life Conference in Orlando, Florida. I went there in July 2013 and made some great friends over the course of a few days. I also delved deeper into the world of diabetes blogging by taking a look at the other blogs out there. Every single one is awesome, and I give major credit to those of you who maintain blogs regularly! Here’s a short list of some of my favorites:

  • Kerri Sparling, Six Until Me – Kerri’s sense of humor made this blog stand out to me in a very positive way. She’s very honest with herself and others regarding her feelings about diabetes, and I find her inspiring.
  • Heather Gabel, Unexpected Blues – Heather was one of those great friends I made at the CWD FFL conference, and her blog is just as cool as she is. Her writing style is incredible and utterly relatable.
  • Naomi Kingery Ruperto, Live to Love Diabetes by the Diabetic Diva – Naomi’s blog is one that I just discovered during this year’s #DBlogWeek. I got a kick out of her “Diabetic Diva” moniker, and her blog is really well-written.

I could go through the entire #DBlogWeek participant list and say what I like about each one, but who knows how long that would take! Kudos to all of you for the roles you played in this year’s #DBlogWeek. I look forward to reading about your future adventures, and I hope you stop by my blog every now and then to say hi!

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#DBlogWeek Day 6 – Favorites and Motivations

I started blogging for ASweetLife two years ago. Prior, I hadn’t really explored my diabetes in writing. It was the subject of a poem or two, but indirectly. Now that I’ve been writing about it on a consistent basis and exploring my feelings about my diabetes, I find that it has been therapeutic and eye-opening.

I’m proud of all of my posts for unique reasons, but a couple stick out to me more than the others. Particularly, the post that I wrote about how my mom and I deal with our diabetes is a favorite. It opened the door for my mom to feature a piece she wrote on my blog, which in turn gave me some insight as to how she feels about my diabetes. I was also grateful for the opportunity to express gratitude to my mom, dad, and other family members who have been instrumental in helping me manage my diabetes. I know that I don’t thank them enough for all they do for me, so it felt good to be able to do that in my writing, a mode of expression that I treasure deeply.

The posts that I wrote while I was in college also speak to me. They are more motivational in my eyes than some of the other posts I wrote because they are evidence of me overcoming some serious obstacles in my path while I was on my own at school. There was the time when I was freaking out over a low blood sugar before an exam, and the time I was forced to take a CGM hiatus. Oh, and I can’t forget all the times that hitting the gym on campus lead to either crushing defeat or joyful victory. Each post about my time in college reflects my resilience, which can be incredibly motivating for me to stick it to my diabetes.

And if I had to choose a favorite sentence(s) that I’ve written on my blog so far, it would have to be this introduction to my post about my vacation to Disney World last August:

“Once upon a time, a young woman named Molly was bound for the magical Disney World for a week’s worth of fun and frolicking. Her tale does not involve hallmarks like evil witches, poisonous apples, fairy godmothers, spontaneous singing, or charming woodland critters capable of human speech. Rather, it is a story about balancing diabetes while trying to make the most of a much-needed vacation with her handsome prince – erm, boyfriend.”

Why is it my favorite? Here’s the list of reasons:

  • I got to flex my creative writing muscles with this post. I wrote it in the fashion of a satirical fairytale, and really enjoyed the writing process.
  • It was a wonderful memory of an awesome vacation with my boyfriend and his family.
  • It’s a wonderful memory associated with diabetes, proving it’s not all bad.
  • It reminds me of the fun that’s to come – in roughly one week, I’m headed on a DISNEY CRUISE with my parents and my brother!

This reflection on favorites and motivations just goes to show me the power of writing and expression, which I love so much!

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#DBlogWeek Day 5 – Foods on Friday

Foods on FridayLet me open this by saying that I love food. I enjoy buying it, preparing it, and consuming it. I wish I could spend more time exploring my creative side and trying new recipes, and I’m sure I’ll be able to do more of that in the future. Most of all, I love the social aspect of food. Each time I have dinner, I’m almost always with someone, whether it be my parents or my boyfriend or my friends. It’s always nice to sit down with people I love and eat a delicious meal together.

Those are the reasons why I’m particularly excited about today’s prompt for Diabetes Blog Week. The following is a list of what I ate on Wednesday of this week. It’s right in the middle of a typical work week for me, so I thought it would be a good example of the foods I consume on a standard day.

7:30 A.M. Breakfast: Mixed berry smoothie. I’m really into smoothies lately, likely because the weather is getting warmer and smoothies can be very refreshing. On this particular day, I took about ¾ of a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and blended it with a ½ cup of frozen strawberries, a ½ cup of frozen blueberries, and a couple tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt. I also added a packet of Splenda to the mix to make it a bit sweeter. This smoothie wasn’t too bad, and it was only about 25 grams of carbohydrate. I think it would have been better if it had half a banana blended in with it; alas, we were all out in my household. Still, it was a decent way to start my Wednesday.

12:00 P.M. Lunch: Turkey and provolone cheese on a sandwich thin, a Fiber One lemon square, and an apple. The sandwich thins are usually a good option because they’re only 20 grams of carbohydrate, so you don’t wind up skimping out on bread. I really like the Fiber One squares. They come in several flavors, with lemon being my recent favorite. They’re around 18 grams of carbohydrate, but have the benefit of being light in calories without lacking in flavor. I threw an apple into the mix as well because they keep me full and because I felt like I needed some sort of fruit or vegetable at lunch. Overall, it was a higher-carb meal consisting of roughly 60 grams of carbohydrate. I went on the treadmill about an hour later to walk some of it off.

5:30 P.M. Dinner: Home-cooked sausage, mushrooms, and onions on a bulkie roll with green beans and a small serving of vanilla ice cream. Normally, I would be hesitant to have a dessert when consuming a large amount of bread, but luckily this particular roll wasn’t too heavy in carbs. In addition to hitting the spot on a lovely spring evening, it was also a satisfying meal that kept me full for hours afterward. I calculated about 60 grams of carbohydrate total in the meal and bolused accordingly. I worked some of it off by digging out our old Dance Dance Revolution mat and playing a few rounds on the Wii – you’d be surprised by how hard you wind up working when playing this game.

9:30 P.M. Snack: Most nights, I don’t seem to need a snack before I go to bed. My blood sugar was 123 mg/dL at this time, which is a pretty awesome reading. In this case, I felt like I deserved a small reward and I couldn’t resist a handful of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies. These mini snack crackers are a lot like Goldfish, except their claim to fame is being organic. They taste wonderfully cheesy and can be addicting. I took a very small bolus to prevent going up and fell asleep about an hour later.

There you have it, a list of what I eat in an average day. After writing this, my mouth is (predictably) watering. And I still have an hour to go until lunch…

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#DBlogWeek Day 4 – Changes

#DBlogWeek Day 4 – Changes - An example of how diabetes treatment has changed for me.

An example of how diabetes treatment has changed for me.

I think that “changes” and “diabetes” complement each other fairly well. In the nearly two decades that I’ve had diabetes, change has been inevitable and fascinating to watch.

First and foremost, the technology itself has changed drastically. I remember using a meter that would take a full 60 seconds to test my blood sugar. This is around the time I was in elementary school, and I would go to the nurse’s office to test before every lunch period. I’d pace the room while I waited the agonizingly long minute to obtain my blood sugar reading. Over time, the amount was reduced by a whole 55 seconds, so testing is much faster than it used to be.

That’s just the tip of the technology iceberg. Roughly five years ago, I was introduced to the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) for the first time. This really changed the game for me and was super helpful when I went off to college. Since then, the CGM has become sleeker and more accurate: a trend that most diabetic devices seem to follow.

Okay, so those are a couple examples of big changes concerning blood sugar monitoring. But how has insulin injecting changed? When I was diagnosed, my shots were administered by drawing insulin out of a vial using a syringe. That changed when insulin pens came out. Now, all I had to do was screw a needle onto the pen, dial up how many units I needed at a given time, and inject myself. While it made transporting insulin from point A to point B much easier, it was also an imprecise injection practice. Your only choice was to inject a whole number of units instead of fractional amounts, forcing you to round up or round down each time you gave yourself a shot.

It was tough at times, but not as stressful as mixing insulin, as I had to do way back when. Remember cloudy and clear? Rapid-acting and long-acting insulin used to have to be combined in order to effectively manage my diabetes. I was a bit older when I started giving myself my own insulin injections, so this was primarily my parents’ job. I do remember “helping” them by rolling the little glass vial of NPH (which does not stand for Neil Patrick Harris) between my hands to mix up the cloudy insulin. I have to give major props to my parents for being pros at mixing the insulin. It’s stressful enough having to give your own child multiple shots daily. Nobody needs the extra challenge of making sure not to cross-contaminate vials of insulin.

And how could I forget the incredible strides that have been made in the realm of insulin pumps? As a relatively new pump user, I’m still getting acquainted with the many advantages associated with a pump. I’m not even sure of the exact number of insulin pumps that are out there, but I do know that they vary greatly – some have tubes, some don’t, some are touchscreen, some function as both a pump and a CGM…such an array makes me feel optimistic about future advancements to come.

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#DBlogWeek Day 3 – Clean it Out

Alright, the first two blogs for #dblogweek have been sort of heavy, so let’s lighten things up a bit by taking a peek into my diabetes supply bag.

A peek into#DBlogWeek Day 3 – Clean it Out -  my diabetes supply bag.

This little guy has been dwelling within the depths of my purse for about a year now. You can see that life there is a bit rough, seeing as the plain black bag is somewhat tattered around the edges. Yet it still serves its purpose, which is to house the majority of my diabetes supplies in one compact location.

You can see some of my just-in-case items in the zippered mesh pocket. This includes a few pen needles, syringes, gauze pads, and a couple of AAA batteries. It’s fairly unpredictable as to when my PDM battery needs to be changed, so I like to carry some on me at all times. Similarly, I make sure that I have back-ups of the aforementioned items because they could come in handy at any time.

You’ll notice that my meter, tissues, test strip vial, lancing device, Humalog pen, and a glucose gel all fit into the rest of the pouch. Besides the vial of test strips, you probably notice the dozens of used test strips littering the bottom of the bag. And you’re most likely wondering why my tissue looks so crumpled and shredded. I doubt you overlooked the overflowing zippered compartment, as well.

What I’m getting at by these last few observations is that my bag clearly could do with a thorough cleaning. There’s no reason why those test strips should have amassed to that degree. I guess I’m just lazy when it comes to throwing them away. Likewise, I find myself reusing the same tissue for several days in a row, causing it to become a bloody mess within that short window of time.

As for the stuffed pocket, maybe it couldn’t hurt to go through the items there and see if I need ALL of them. Hopefully, a quick pick-up and clean-out of my supply bag will spruce it up nicely as well as serve as a reminder to myself that cleanliness is next to godliness (laugh all you want, Mom and Dad!).

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#DBlogWeek Day 2 – Keep it to Yourself

Over time, I’ve grown more comfortable with the concept of sharing as much of my diabetes story as possible. I’m open to the idea of answering questions that others may have for me, but there’s a key piece of information that I don’t think I will ever willingly share online: my hemoglobin A1c.

Some might make the assumption that this is because I feel ashamed or defeated by that number. I won’t lie, there are times in which I do get disheartened by my current A1c – particularly when I expected to hear a more favorable report from my endocrinologist.

Rather, I think the real embarrassment stems from the comparisons I make between my own A1c and the numbers reported by others. When I began blogging for ASweetLife just over two years ago, that marked the start of me exploring the world of T1D blogs. It was awesome to connect with others virtually by reading about their own personal experiences with diabetes. I admired the courage that many demonstrated by revealing some of their greatest challenges and obstacles they had overcome in their journeys. It seemed that improved A1c numbers were a common theme for nearly all of them.

At that point, I started to compulsively compare my number to everyone else’s numbers. I seriously questioned myself and my ability to obtain a better A1c reading. I mentally berated myself for having a less-than-perfect number. The rational part of me knew that it was not wise to measure myself against others, but I just couldn’t seem to help it.

After a while, it dawned on me that the road to better A1cs had not been smooth for any of these individuals. It was marked by divots, twists, and turns along the way. As such, I wasn’t being fair to myself as I sought to see a better A1c. I know that it’s hard work and that I just need to focus on my own overall health and well-being (as opposed to that of other people) as I continue to strive for that 6.

Regardless, don’t expect to see me posting my A1c to my blog any time soon. I don’t really think I need a daily reminder out there for all to see of what my A1c was at a given moment in time. Instead, I think it’s important that I focus on what’s happening now and what I can do to help my current state of being. So for now, I’m content with keeping my A1c to myself.

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#DBlogWeek Day 1 – I Can

UMass Graduation

“I can do anything.”

This empowering mantra is something I would wholeheartedly believe in regardless of my diabetes. However, it resonates with me that much more because of my diabetes.

Seeing as I was diagnosed as a young child, I don’t recall life without diabetes. That being said, I never really went through a period where I felt like diabetes was stopping me from doing something that I was able to do with greater ease pre-diagnosis. I’ve always been a motivated person. I don’t allow anyone or anything to prevent me from accomplishing my goals in life. Most of all, I don’t let diabetes intervene by bringing me to a screeching halt.

I will admit that it seldom slows me down. There are moments where I panic and can’t help but wonder if I’ve finally stumbled into something that diabetes won’t let me do or enjoy. A prime example of this is when I recently visited my boyfriend in Washington, D.C. It was the longest distance I have ever traveled by myself, and I was practically petrified at the mere prospect of something going wrong concerning my diabetes care and management.

That’s when my fiery determination kicked into high gear. I went through a list of “I can” moments that have happened to me over the course of the past year that were concrete evidence that there is no limit to what I can do:

  • I can graduate college early
  • I can start a brand new job and get promoted in less than six months
  • I can sign up for a gym membership and get back into shape
  • I can endure devastating losses
  • I can change my insulin therapy from shots to the pump

I can eat ice cream for dinner, I can go out for a drink with my friends, I can paint my nails fuchsia or chartreuse or navy blue…whether it’s trivial or tremendous, my list of “I can” moments could go on and on.

Diabetes is infuriating. It’s exhausting and it’s inconvenient. But it is not what determines what I can choose to do in life. It cannot and I refuse to let it.

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Molly and Diabetes Take on Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument

When I graduated college this past December, I was concerned that this meant my life would come to a screeching halt as I began to work full-time. I thought it would mean I’d be stuck in a cycle of waking up, working, coming home, and going to sleep (sans the work part on weekends).

On the contrary, I find that each day is filled with a different sort of hustle and bustle, whether it is expected or not. It keeps me on my toes, and I enjoy this newfound level of activity. Instead of having a jam-packed schedule consisting of classes, homework, studying, and various other student activities, my days are filled with things that I actually want to do and didn’t necessarily have time for in college. For instance, I’ve taught myself how to knit. I’m able to read books – a favorite pastime of mine – that I truly want to read. I value having time to try new things when I’m not at my office job – things that push me out of my comfort zone.

At the Lincoln MemorialThis is where my recent trip to Washington, D.C. comes into play. My boyfriend recently moved to that general area, and I’ve eagerly anticipated paying him a visit. The opportunity struck for a visit consisting of four days and three nights at the end of April, so I jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately, this meant doing something that I was terribly anxious about: flying solo on a plane. I’ve flown only a handful of times in my life, and it’s not something that I particularly like. That stomach-lurching feeling as the plane ascends thousands of feet into the air, head jerking back abruptly as your ears begin to pop uncontrollably…all these sensations make flying positively dreadful. Not to mention the fact that my diabetes added to my anxiety. All sorts of terrible scenarios ran through my mind, such as the possibility of a pod failing mid-flight or forgetting a crucial component of my supplies at home.

The gorgeous cherry blossomsBut then I had a thought: these are daily risks that I take; therefore, mostly invalid concerns. I mean, there is never a convenient time for a pod to fail. It will piss me off at 3 in the morning just as much as it would in an airport. Either way, though, the solution remains the same – get a new one and set it up. It’s as simple as that. Likewise, any other issue I could think of that I may encounter was something I knew how to handle. For instance, if I had a low on the plane, all I would need to do is have some glucose tablets or juice. Really, it would be easier to fix than if I was driving myself.

After this sequence of notions, I knew that it was more than worth it to travel alone to see my boyfriend and explore his new home with him. And it couldn’t have happened more seamlessly. I transported myself to Boston and was landing at the Baltimore airport before I knew it. I spent the next couple of days visiting monuments and museums I’d only ever read about or seen pictures of. I shared many laughs and made new memories with my boyfriend as we acted like tourists and dined out for nearly every meal. And my diabetes wasn’t a problem. Even when I did experience a random high or low, I did what I normally do to treat it and continued on in our adventure.

As a whole, this trip was multi-purpose. I got to spend time with my boyfriend as well as boost my confidence in a major way. I’m feeling better than ever about traveling independently, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to do so again.

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Accurate Blood Sugar Testing is Key

If you know me personally, then you’re probably aware that I am a professional at panicking and ac certified worrywart. You might think I’m too young to be so overly anxious, but what can I say, it’s in my nature.

Accurate Blood Sugar Testing - The False Low... (1)So as you might be able to imagine, I didn’t react well when I woke up one recent morning to a blood sugar reading of 33 mg/dL.

33? It seemed impossible! Mere moments before testing, I was begrudgingly waking up to my alarm blaring. The thought of getting ready for work made me want to hide under the blankets for the remainder of the morning. I knew this wasn’t a viable option, though, so I got out of bed to test my blood sugar as I do every morning.

Five seconds later, that scary number was glaring at me in black and white. I was momentarily dumb-founded and found myself reflexively reaching for my tube of glucose, which I always keep near me when I go to bed. I chewed four tabs furiously as I contemplated how this could have happened. If I was that dangerously low, then how come I didn’t hear my CGM? I sleep lightly enough that I almost always wake up when it vibrates to call my attention to a high or a low.

Accurate Blood Sugar Testing - The true reading...That’s when I started thinking more rationally and reached for my CGM. The screen showed that I was in the 70s, with an arrow pointing to the right – this means that the blood sugar wasn’t going up or down, it was steady. I cursed myself for my rash actions and hastily grabbed my vial of test strips so I could use a new one to test one more time. I did and, voila, my meter informed me that my blood sugar was 78 – what a difference!

After learning what my true number was, I knew I could proceed with getting ready. As I went about my routine, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to cause a false first reading. My hands had been clean. My lancet was relatively new. Could it have been an issue with the test strip? The meter itself?

Unfortunately, I can’t be sure of what caused the error, but it did make me realize a few important things. Technology may be great, but it’s not always accurate. In situations like these, accuracy obviously matters more than anything. That being said, maybe I should learn to trust my body and what it might be trying to tell me instead of depending solely on my meter.

It also showed me that sometimes I need to stop and evaluate a situation before I act. A blood glucose reading of 78 almost will never require me to use four glucose tablets to correct it, but it was too late by the time I did my second test. I was fortunate enough to avoid a horribly high blood sugar later on in the morning, but I did have to wait for my blood sugar to level out before I could eat my breakfast – definitely irksome.

This incident showed me that sometimes, certain circumstances may call for me to second guess what technology tells me and read my body’s signs more carefully in order to care for it optimally. Accuracy is invaluable, especially to someone with diabetes.

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Diabetes on the Road

Diabetes on the Road

When my boyfriend asked me to accompany him on an 8+ hour drive to Virginia this past weekend, I didn’t give it a second thought before saying yes. He will be moving there soon to pursue a new career, so I wanted to support him in this endeavor and help him find a new place to live.

Upon reflection, maybe I should have given it just a little more thought before agreeing to go. To elaborate, I didn’t really consider how this would affect my diabetes. We’d be on a fairly hectic and unpredictable schedule between actually driving down there and visiting the half dozen apartments my boyfriend scouted out. I know that most people don’t bother to worry about when they would be able to eat on such a trip, but this was my first pressing concern.

I addressed this matter using two methods. First, I made sure to buy a variety of snacks for the trip. I bought some low carb beef jerky for when I wanted something to eat that wouldn’t spike my blood sugar, as well as some yogurt covered raisins and applesauce-on-the-go to fix any lows I might encounter in a way that wouldn’t be totally unhealthy. I also brought a few different diet drinks, granola bars, and trail mix (an entirely appropriate snack choice for a road trip!) to add some variety. My food preparation turned out to be a smart call. As the weekend went on, both my boyfriend and I turned to the snack stash whenever we were feeling peckish but didn’t have quite enough time to make a stop anywhere.

Speaking of food stops, there was a second way that I handled being on the road this past weekend. My boyfriend and I were all over the place to the degree that it made the most sense to grab quick meals in fast food places. Normally, I try to avoid fast food because of the unhealthy stigma and my preference for fresh fare, but I knew I didn’t have much of a choice given the circumstances. That being said, I made menu selections at places like Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread, and Five Guys using a couple of criteria: availability of nutritional information and, from there, choosing what would work best with my blood sugar at the current mealtime.

That may sound tricky, but it really wasn’t difficult at all, thanks to the apps that I have on my phone that allows me to quickly look up nutrition facts. Prior to ordering my meal, I could look it up within seconds on my phone to view the carbohydrate counts. Then, all I had to do was input that into my PDM and my pump would deliver the bolus. That reminds me, I was particularly grateful for my pump this weekend. I was giving myself the majority of my boluses in the car. Before, this would mean whipping out an insulin pen and attempting to poke myself with a needle in a moving vehicle – not the brightest idea. Now, this merely means programming my blood sugar and carb information into my PDM and hitting the “continue” button. How much easier could it get?

Cumulatively, we spent something like 20 hours in the car this weekend. It was a total departure from my usual schedule and a bit tough to adjust to since I like to be more active when I have time off from work. However, I’m glad I went because I helped my boyfriend find a new place to live, accomplishing our goal. I also reassured myself by taking the situation in stride. Despite having an abnormal diet and being far more sentient than normal, I managed to maintain pretty good blood sugars. Plus, I was able to add another pro to the growing list of positive things I have to say about my new pump. As such, the weekend was a win all around for me.

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