Molly Johannes was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1997 at the age of four. She controls her diabetes with an OmniPod insulin pump, Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, and daily exercise. Molly graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in December 2014 with a degree in English. Currently, she works fulltime as an associate editor for a financial company. In her spare time, Molly enjoys spending time with her loved ones, reading books, watching movies, and playing games. She’s an avid fan of Disney, dark chocolate, wine, Harry Potter, and fun times. While Molly does not know a life without diabetes, she is determined to defy the daily obstacles the disease presents. Read full bio

Show-and-Tell with the TSA

Two years ago, I was unable to say that I’ve flown on a plane by myself. Fast-forward to present day and it’s a feat I’ve accomplished about a dozen times now. I was petrified the first time, mainly because 1) traveling with diabetes is stressful and 2) I really hate heights and turbulence.

Fortunately, my severe anxiety regarding air travel has lessened a bit as I’ve grown more accustomed to flying solo. It helps that I know what to expect when it comes to going through security. The first time, I was scared that something would go awry. I wondered: Would it be safe for my pump and Dexcom sensor to go through the metal detector/electromagnetic screening system? Did I remove all my medications from my carry-on and place them into the appropriate clear plastic bag? Would I be subject to a creepy pat-down by a TSA agent? Would my diabetes significantly delay me from reaching my gate, or worse, cause me to miss my flight?

Of course, I was completely fine and made it through security without a hitch. In fact, my experience with security is almost always the same: I approach the conveyor belt, remove my shoes, place my purse and carry-on into plastic bins, and walk up to the screening system. Prior to entering, I always look directly at the TSA agent running the screen and say, “I have type-one diabetes. I’m wearing an insulin pump and a glucose monitor,” motioning to the locations on my body at which they’re positioned. Once the screening is complete, I’m asked to wait while they have me touch the areas over my clothes where my pump and Dexcom are so they can run a swab over my hands for additional security screening. It only takes a few seconds for me to receive the all-clear, and then I’m done with my TSA interaction.

Something strange happened, though, during my last TSA encounter. Everything went as expected until I stepped out of the electromagnetic screening system—the agent who performed the swab on my hands also asked me to show her my pump and my glucose monitor. I pointed at them again, and she told me I needed to lift up my shirt so she could do a visual check. Incredulously, I lifted my shirt up no more than necessary so she could see them, and once she did, she thanked me and proceeded to swab my hands. I was free to go once that was complete.

It didn’t bother me TOO much in the moment it happened; after all, it was so fast that I couldn’t register anything other than surprise. But the more I think about it, the more nonplussed I am over the situation. What if I was wearing my pump on my thigh? Would she have asked me to pull down my pants to show her? Did she ever think that it was embarrassing for a young woman who is not particularly self-confident with her body to have to pull up her shirt so a perfect stranger could gape at her belly? Did I look suspicious, so that’s why a visual check was needed in tandem with an electromagnetic screening and swab test?

I wish I had some answers to these questions. If I knew why it had to be done, then perhaps I wouldn’t care to the degree I do now. I’m hopeful that this was a one-time only experience considering all other TSA encounters have been standard protocol. Now, I’m just curious whether any other person with diabetes has had a similar interaction at the TSA, and whether they’ve said or done anything about it, or felt bothered by it.


My Diabetes Dislikes Broken Bones

Showing Off My Broken Toe and Snazzy SocksFour weeks ago, I broke the sesamoid bone in my left foot’s big toe. In the x-ray, you can clearly see two cracks running down the minuscule bone, which itself is no larger than a kernel of corn. Sesamoid bones aren’t connected to other bones; rather, they connect to tendons and act as pulleys when exerting force in the forefoot. According to my research (and experience), they also assist with weight-bearing.

I wish I had some interesting or thrilling tale that explains how and why I broke my bone, but I don’t. The fact of the matter is that I woke up one Tuesday morning in quite a bit of pain. When I tried to walk normally, I felt nothing but agony in the entire ball of my foot. It was alarming, but I went about my day as usual, albeit slowed down by my apparent injury.

When the pain didn’t subside by the end of the day, I decided to get my foot checked out at a non-emergency medical facility that evening. One hour later, I walked out with no further knowledge of my injury, other than that there was “no obvious fracture detected” in the x-ray. I was told a radiologist would take a closer look in the morning, and all I could do in the interim was rest, elevate, ice, and take anti-inflammatories for the pain.

Wednesday went by with no improvements and no additional communication from the medical facility. As a result, I made an appointment with my primary care doctor on Thursday to get my foot checked out by a nurse practitioner. I didn’t feel particularly reassured when she told me she was “stumped” by my pain and wanted me to go to a sports medicine doctor to get another opinion. It was at this doctor’s office, though, where I found out the extent of my injury and how it would need to heal.

The sports medicine doctor showed me the sesamoid fracture from the first x-ray that was taken at the non-emergency facility. He magnified the image so it became large enough to identify the two indisputable cracks in the bone.

Within minutes, the doctor fitted me with a flat-soled boot and told me he would see me again in 5 weeks to see how the bone was healing. I’m one week away from my follow-up appointment, and let me tell you, I’m quite eager for it. I’ve missed my mobility, and my diabetes does, too.

How do I know? Well, for starters, I’m a person who thrives on being active. Lately, I’ve been trying to be healthier and exercise for at least 45 minutes each day. My injury has made accomplishing this goal virtually impossible, seeing as I can only do non-weight-bearing exercises. I didn’t even bother working out the first week of my injury (because the pain was intense), and my blood sugars paid the price. I was higher than usual as a result of my forced sedentariness. Plus, lounging around all day meant that I got bored more quickly, which spells out trouble for someone who likes to snack when she gets bored. I’ve tried to minimize my snacking as much as possible, but I must admit I’ve slipped up more than once.

In Week 2, I started to incorporate more movement into my day by using the stationary bike at the gym. This exercise is considered non-weight-bearing, so it hasn’t strained my foot at all. But it has put me to the test in terms of my blood sugars. I don’t normally do such a strenuous workout during the day, so my blood sugar reacts to the more intense exercise by plummeting 20 minutes or so after I started cycling. It was super annoying during that second week, but between now and then, I think I’ve figured out a solution that works well enough: Eat a larger snack (15-20 grams of carbohydrates, depending on current bg) before exercising and suspend insulin for an hour. It may seem like an extreme measure to some, but it’s what works for me and my diabetes.

Needless to say, it will be a relief when I get the all-clear from my doctor to resume my normal exercise habits that I’d established prior to my injury. My diabetes and I are ready to get back on track regarding both my fitness and my blood sugars.

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Glucose Tablets vs. Glucose Gummies

glucose gummiesMy pancreas went kaput almost 19 years ago. In that span of time, I’ve consumed countless glucose tablets to cure low blood sugars. I’ve tried all sorts of brands and flavors to see what I liked best, because if I’m forced to eat something, I might as well enjoy it as much as possible.

I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter who produces glucose tablets into whichever flavor varieties, they will still essentially be the same thing: chalky discs of pure sugar meant to be scarfed down in the event of a hypoglycemic episode. Yes, I have demonstrated a preference for tropical flavored tablets over the years, and no, I don’t miss the days of punching rectangular tablets out from foil wrapping and being mystified as to how they achieved “pleasant orange flavor” despite their pure white appearance. Despite my obvious taste for some glucose tablets over others, I maintain some resentment towards them for being a boring (but super effective) low treatment.

Before you say, “Wait, why don’t you try gels?”, let me explain why I shy away from them. In my experience they’re 1) messy/sticky and 2) less portable than tablets. I also think that it’s more cost-effective to buy economy-size bottles of glucose tablets (good for at least a dozen lows) than to spend money on little four-packs of gels (good for only four lows). But that’s just my opinion.

What exactly am I getting at here? Well, until recently, I thought that I was resigned to stick with glucose tablets as a low treatment. Sure, I can use real food/juice to cure lows (and I do), but if I’m having a particularly symptomatic low, there’s something about treating it with glucose tablets—I know that they’ll work more quickly than virtually anything else I could consume. So even though they get old after 19 EFFING YEARS of eating them, they do the trick and I guess I’m okay with sticking with them…

…Until I discovered that an alternative exists: Glucose GUMMIES. I could hardly believe my eyes when I first saw them in the store, but I didn’t think twice about buying myself a bottle. I was eager to try them next time my blood sugar was low. Naturally, I didn’t have to wait long. Here’s my official review of glucose gummies:

They come in “assorted flavors”, meaning that there’s apple (green), grape (purple), and orange (um, obviously, it’s colored orange). One serving is three gummies and contains 10 grams of carbohydrates and 40 calories.

I usually like apple flavored candies, so I decided to try the green gummy first. Aesthetically speaking, it LOOKED like a delicious sour gummy: Ring-shaped and coated with a layer of sugar. I started to chew it and noticed its texture was also akin to a regular candy gummy—chewy, soft, and not too sticky. But the more I chewed, the more I noticed a taste that was competing with the apple flavor…I can only describe it as grassy? Disappointed, I finished that gummy and tried orange next. That one tasted like I expected it to, albeit with a slight aftertaste that wasn’t as strong as the apple/grass one. I decided to try grape last, because I’m not a fan of artificial grape flavors. But surprisingly, this was the best of the bunch! It tasted like I wanted it to and came most closely to the flavor of real grape gummy.

While I waited for my blood sugar to come up, I examined the bottle and checked out the ingredients list. Glucose syrup, glucose sugar, invert sugar syrup…no surprises there. My eyes went further down the label and I saw…modified pea starch? Food and plant extracts (black currant, black carrot)? Hmm…perhaps these were the ingredients responsible for the bizarre aftertastes I experienced.

This little dalliance with glucose gummies made me realize that if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The gummies work fine and taste okay, but they were a real let-down because I expected them to blow glucose tablets out of the water. But it’s okay, I don’t really mind continuing my use of glucose tablets. They’ve been one of the few constants when it comes to my diabetes and I can’t imagine kicking them to the curb after all these years together.


News Flash: Sweets Did Not Cause Our Diabetes

News Flash: Sweets Did Not Cause Our Diabetes

So, three people with diabetes walk into a bar and deal with a whopping case of diabetes ignorance. Nope, this is not a joke, but it sure sounds like one!

Despite a not-so-funny comment being made at the bar we visited, a recent Saturday evening was filled with laughter and good conversation as I caught up with my friends, Greg and Jesse. I met Greg three years ago at the first College Diabetes Network (CDN) student retreat in Bridgton, Maine. Since then, we’ve stayed in touch thanks to social media, but our busy schedules make it tough to hang out often. This year, I met Jesse at the very same retreat, and it was there that I got reacquainted with Greg. The three of us hit it off at the retreat and agreed to get together later in the summer.

And so we did! After catching a matinee showing of Finding Dory (a gem of a film made funnier by the three of us cracking up intermittently), we decided to get some food and poke around downtown. This led us to the bar where we encountered a classic case of diabetes ignorance.

Before I jump right into my anecdote, let me first establish the scene: It was early in the evening. The bar was on the smaller side, so it was nearly full when we arrived. The three of us perched on stools at the end of the bar, and to my immediate left was a couple in their mid-thirties. The couple (at least, the male counterpart) plays a central role in my ensuing story.

When it came time to order some drinks, Jesse asked the bartender whether it was possible for her to create a lower-sugar cocktail. He mentioned his diabetes to the bartender to help her understand why it was an important question. She was happy to accommodate his request, and soon we three had our drinks in hand. We were immersed in our conversation when a plate being delivered to the couple next to us caught our attentions. It was a leviathan of a confectionary creation: A gooey s’mores dessert that probably could have served a family of four.

One of us commented aloud that the dish looked delicious. The man and the woman nodded in tacit agreement as they chowed down. Then the man looked up at us and said something along the lines of, “Yeah, this dish could give me diabetes.”

…and that’s when I sucker-punched him in his face. Nah, just kidding! Instead, I sat there in a fleeting, stony-faced silence as I contemplated whether or not I should bother correcting him. I glanced sideways at Jesse and Greg to see their reactions, and when we made eye contact, we laughed awkwardly and sort of shrugged it off.

Should we have said something? Maybe…but there’s a time and place for teaching moments, and a bar isn’t exactly my idea of an educational environment. Sure, the ill-informed comment made us roll our eyes, but we dwelled on it for no longer than 60 seconds before we resumed our spirited talking.

Later in the evening, the whole incident was a distant thought in our minds as we received an informal tour of my town’s fire station (thanks, Dad!). As we parted ways soon after that, I thought about how the day wasn’t about diabetes, anyways: It was about hanging out with friends, and laughing with them—lots!

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Don’t Tell Me How My Diabetes Affects Me

I like to think that I am fairly tolerant of people asking me questions about my diabetes. From “What’s that thing on your arm?” to “What do glucose tablets taste like?”, I’ve heard quite the gamut of queries from friends and strangers alike over the years. More often than not, I try to provide honest and thoughtful answers to these questions and field follow-ups with patience.

I don’t respond well, though, when someone TELLS me something about my diabetes rather than ASKING me. It’s one thing if you’re telling me something that you know to be factually correct about diabetes as a whole, but it’s completely different if you’re telling me something about my diabetes as it pertains to me alone. And when I say “I don’t respond well” to that, I mean to say I keep smiling on the surface, but on the inside, I’m seething.

It’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with annoying assertions of this nature; unfortunately, this past week I had to grin and bear through two incidents in which I was being told what I should and should not do. (Note that I chose to not specify when and where each comment occurred, for my privacy and the privacy of others!)

Scenario One: At an undisclosed location, I’m helping myself to dinner. I add a cookie to my plate. A person in the vicinity says, “You shouldn’t be having that!”

This is a classic case of what you should never say to a person with diabetes. Most T1Ds will tell people that we can eat whatever we like, as long as we do so in moderation and remember to bolus for it accordingly. I was a little taken aback to hear this remark considering this person has known me since birth; therefore, they should realize I know how to take care of my diabetes by now. Initially, I was annoyed with this comment, but I decided to be graceful about it and say, “Yes, I can have that—I can eat whatever I like, within reason,” before exiting the room.

Scenario Two: At an undisclosed location, I’m cold, so I wrap myself in a blanket. A person in the vicinity says to someone else close by, “Molly has poor circulation because of her diabetes. That’s why she’s always cold.”

In the 18.5 years that I’ve had diabetes, I’ve never had someone tell me that it’s the reason why I get cold from time to time…just like anybody else might, whether or not they have a chronic illness. This comment really bothered me because I’ve had plenty of conversations with the individual about my diabetes, and I’ve never once linked it to my body temperature. Last time I checked, my circulation is perfectly normal. No doctor has ever told me that it’s poor. Plus, with air conditioners being put on full blast all summer long, I think it would be natural to get a little cold after sitting inside all day long without exposure to the sun’s warmth. I wish I had said something to put this person in their place, but wanting to avoid confrontation, I forced a smile and changed the subject.

In both of these situations, I probably wouldn’t have felt irritated if these comments were phrased at questions. Believe it or not, there’s a huge difference between telling me that my diabetes affects my circulation and asking me whether it does. Regardless of how diabetes-related remarks, queries, jokes, and references are phrased, though, I’ll still try hard to handle them with poise and a smile. I may internalize my frustration at the time of a bothersome statement, but it’s there and it does get to me.


7 Things I’ve Learned from Writing a Diabetes Blog

Since writing my very first blog post for ASweetLife more than three years ago (my sophomore year of college), I’ve discovered quite a bit about myself, others, and diabetes. Some lessons I was eager to learn, others not so much. I love writing my blog and I’m looking forward to writing future posts, but I just wanted to take some time to reflect on what this experience has taught me so far.

1) It’s not always easy.

As much as I enjoy writing, I get writer’s block from time to time. It’s tough to write a blog post when I don’t know what I should focus on, and it’s even more difficult when I have so much to say in a given piece and can’t quite articulate my feelings properly. Often, I worry about whether readers will find what I have to say remotely interesting or helpful. As a writer, engaging my audience is one of my top priorities and something I strive to do with all materials I create.

2) It’s scary to share my emotions with (mostly) Internet strangers.

I know that some of my family and friends (hi Mom and Dad) read my blog faithfully; otherwise, my blog is viewed by perfect strangers. That being said, it stresses me out to think that people I don’t know might judge me for thinking or feeling a certain way. This makes me extra sensitive to the other bloggers out there. I know it’s not easy to be vulnerable, especially to nameless and faceless people. But I do it anyways, in the hopes that my openness can offer support to someone struggling.

3) It can make me overly critical of myself.

In my spare time, I like to read other diabetes blogs. There are so many talented bloggers out there who inspire me. But my exploration of other blogs leads to something that I know is a huge no-no: Comparing my diabetes to other people’s diabetes. I know I shouldn’t do this, but I put myself down when I read about people who have “better control” (I hate that phrase, but I don’t know any other way to describe it) over their diabetes than I have over mine. When I get too caught up in this, I get burnt out…so it’s a habit I’m trying hard to break.

4) It can offer perspective.

I read ALL comments on my blog posts. It doesn’t matter if the comment is posted directly to the site or if it’s on Facebook/Twitter, I’ll read it and (more often than not) take the commenter’s words to heart. Most of the time, the comments are appreciative or offer kindly words of advice. But once in a blue moon, someone will leave a hurtful or judgmental comment that, depending on the degree of severity, will leave me fuming or depressed. When it comes to my personal and professional writing, I’ve developed a thick skin when it comes to criticism, but I shouldn’t have to face criticism when it comes to my personal thoughts and feelings.

5) It helps me troubleshoot.

I find that writing can help me solve problems. It’s sort of like talking something out—as you put something into words, you can stumble across solutions unexpectedly. This has happened to me a couple times in the process of writing a blog, and other times insight from readers serves as the answer to an issue.

6) It’s fun.

Have I mentioned how much I love writing in this post? (I’m pretty sure that was the third time I’ve said so.) I get a rush from putting my thoughts into words and experimenting with language in my writing. Growing up, I wrote so often in my spare time—poems, short stories, long stories, vignettes, and so forth—that I miss it now that I’m older and have more responsibilities that take away from time I could spend on my writing. Blogging allows me to tap into my creative side sometimes, and it has helped me satisfy the part of me that longs to devote more time to writing in my own unique style.

7) It can be rewarding.

This is the best part of blogging. It’s only happened a dozen or so times over the years, but when I have someone reach out to me and say that my blog has positively affected them, I feel overjoyed. Whether they’re getting in touch with me to say that they can relate, or that they learned something from me, or just to say thank you, I genuinely appreciate the time, effort, and sentiment offered by that person and their message. It makes me feel validated that writing this blog serves a greater purpose than just writing it for my own personal reasons.

I’m humbled by the fact that people read, and hopefully enjoy, what I have posted on my blog over the past three years. Here’s to more blogs being written, connections being made, and support being offered across the DOC.

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Pod Failure: The OmniPod Problem


Pod Failure: The OmniPod ProblemThis past January, I celebrated my first insulin pump anniversary. I wrote a blog post in which I discussed the pros and cons of the insulin pump that I use, the OmniPod, to mark the occasion. Generally speaking, my post was a glowing review of the system and I still firmly believe that choosing to go on the OmniPod is one of the best decisions I have made regarding my diabetes. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that my post focused more so on what I like best about the pump and how these features help me.

It wouldn’t have been a true review, though, if I didn’t highlight what I dislike about the pod. The most prominent item on my list of cons was pod failures—they’re disruptive, discouraging, and downright frustrating. Fortunately for me, I experienced less than a handful of pod failures in my first year in a half of using the OmniPod. This all changed this past April and May, when I experienced nearly ten pod failures total.

It all started one Monday morning—I was getting settled at work when I heard an aggressive and ceaseless beeping sound, indicating pod failure. I joked about it with my manager, brushing it off as a random incident and saying something to the effect of, “I guess my pod didn’t feel like showing up to work today, either!” I drove home, retrieved my insulin, drove back to work, and changed my pod in a meeting room. It was not the ideal way to start a fresh work week, but I took it in stride.

But then it happened a second time, that same week. It was nearly the same scenario as what had unfolded that Monday. Except this time, it pissed me off. I knew it was odd to experience a second pod failure in one week. Again, I drove home and got what I needed, and applied a fresh pod. I called OmniPod (again) and asked for another replacement pod. They were happy to oblige.

Irritatingly and inexplicably, a pattern emerged in which once or twice a week, for 5-6 straight weeks, my pod would fail. Each time, I would call OmniPod to explain the situation and request a replacement pod. I told them how almost every time, the pods would fail approximately 24 hours prematurely—so instead of routinely changing them every 3 days, I was now changing them every other day.

They asked me the standard gamut of questions after my explanation: Was I rotating my sites? Was I pinching up my skin during the application process? Did I notice anything unusual during the pod change process? Was the cannula kinked? Was there blood? My answers were like reflexes: Yes, yes, no, no, no. The first few phone calls ended the same way, with them promising to send me a replacement pod and apologizing profusely for my troubles.

The tables turned and I started asking the questions after my fourth or fifth failure. I wanted to know if other OmniPod users were reporting issues with pods from the same batch as mine. I wanted to know if this was unusual. I wanted to know, more than anything else, why I was encountering these issues now after a year and a half of using the system with scarcely any issues.

While the people at OmniPod were very sympathetic and courteous to me, I was upset with the “solutions” they provided me:

A) I could either ask my endocrinologist to change my pod prescription for more frequent pod changes, or

B) I could go on a pump holiday. I couldn’t help but feel ripped off, because to me, neither of these options seemed feasible. I already feel a bit of inconvenience having to change my pod every 3 days, and taking a break from pumping sounded like an awful idea. It was hard to imagine having to go back to multiple daily injections after enjoying the freedom and improved A1c that the OmniPod helped me achieve. So I came up with and decided on option

C) Conduct my own investigation into my pod problem.

Conveniently, I happen to live in the same household as another T1D who uses the OmniPod (hi, Mom). I took one of her new pods, from a completely different lot number than mine, and gave her a “bad pod” to see if my intuition about the batch was correct. And my discovery was…

…my batch was indeed faulty; however, it was seemingly only malfunctioning on me. My mom didn’t experience any issues from the bad pod, but I did manage to successfully wear her pod for the 3 day timespan. Weird, right?

This experience taught me a few things:

First, trust your intuition. When it comes to diabetes, we T1Ds know a thing or two. I knew that it didn’t make any sense for my pods to just stop working for me. I’m glad that I didn’t just give up and resign to the fact that I might have to change my pods every other day or even look into getting a different pump.

Second, don’t be afraid to talk to doctors, pump reps, and anyone else who may need to get involved when you’re having a problem. I consulted my endocrinologist and my diabetes educator regarding the whole ordeal, and they were very supportive of me trying to get to the bottom of it. I also contacted OmniPod close to a dozen times to get insight from their team as well as replacements for the bad pods. My last call with them resulted in me sending back my remaining ten pods from the defective lot and, in turn, OmniPod shipping ten brand new pods to me from a different lot number.

Third, don’t underestimate the power of site rotation! I’m just about convinced that this was a factor into my problem. I never use the same site two times in a row, but I do tend to resort to using my arms more than any other location. This means I’ve conquered my irrational fear of placing my OmniPod on my thighs, so now I have my stomach, lower back, arms, and thighs (on the right and left sides for each) as potential OmniPod real estate. And guess what? I kind of like having so many places to choose from, though I’m not sure how I’ll manage to put a pod on my legs when skinny jeans season comes rolling around again…

I’m still a happy OmniPod customer. If anything, this experience has made me a little more cautious, but definitely still grateful for the convenience and better diabetes management that the OmniPod has brought into my life.



My Experience at the 2016 CDN Retreat

CDN Retreat

Two years ago, I attended the inaugural College Diabetes Network (CDN) Retreat in Bridgton, Maine. As a college student about to enter her senior year, I was eager to connect with other CDN chapter leaders across the country and gain practices and ideas I could implement at my chapter at UMass Amherst.

I knew the retreat would help improve my leadership skills, but I had no idea that it would invigorate and inspire me to the degree it did. I was able to return to school in the fall and have a successful final semester with my chapter that ended with a new leader taking over my presidency. I felt confident in my chapter’s future.

Now, a year and a half later, I’m an alumni of both the CDN and UMass. I joined the “real world” and started my career about a week after my graduation from college; as a result, I’ve been quite busy since then. Even though I’ve moved on from UMass, my involvement with the CDN on the national level remains intact. I enjoy helping CDN out on a volunteer basis whenever possible and when it was evident that I could attend the 2016 CDN Retreat as an alum, I jumped at the chance.

As excited as I was to go, I was also a bit hesitant. I wasn’t sure how the retreat might impact me as an alum/volunteer as opposed to an active college student. Questions streamed ceaselessly though my mind for a solid week before the retreat: Would my presence there have a positive influence on other retreat attendees? Would I learn as much as I did during the first retreat? Would I fit in with everyone else? Would I have fun?

I’m pleased to say that the answer to all of those questions is yes. The retreat lasted from a Monday evening to a Friday morning, and from the moment I set foot into the house and was greeted by dozens of other T1Ds, I felt like I belonged.

I bonded immediately with the students as well as the other volunteers and CDN employees. Sure, diabetes was our most obvious connection, but our friendships formed on a basis that was far beyond that. Conversations flowed easily as we all tested our blood sugars and bolused before mealtimes: The beeps and alerts from our various devices were akin to background music that was barely heard over our enthusiastic ramblings. We talked about our experiences in college—what we majored in, roommate stories, our aspirations for the future. Plenty of diabetes humor was injected (ha, get it?) into most group chats.

When we weren’t basking in the great outdoors of Maine, we were participating in workshops designed to help student chapter leaders and members alike thrive in running their school’s CDN chapter. These sessions ranged in focus from social media tips and tricks to fundraising tactics. In each session, I was in awe of the energy and passion that each chapter attendee demonstrated. I was amazed by how strongly I felt that I could relate to them as we shared struggles that we experienced in running respective chapters, but reassuring to know that there were solutions to these problems as shown by mutual perseverance and a desire to be great leaders. I felt pride when I sat with other CDN and college alums and shared our journeys into the “real world” so far with the other attendees—it was incredible to hear how much they have accomplished in less than two years since graduating, and I hope that those who listened to us felt encouraged by what we had to say.

There was a particular moment in the retreat that was beautiful and emotional for me. It was our last full day in Maine and we had two hours in the afternoon to spend however we wanted. Many of us chose to bask in the sunny weather by either swimming or kayaking in the lake, or merely sunbathing together on the dock and the small boat tethered to it. We blasted music and talked and laughed together, and for a short time I was able to forget about not just my diabetes, but everyone else’s, too. It was an awesome shared moment and that was when I knew that this retreat impacted me just as positively, if not more so, than the first one.

When Friday came around, it was time to part with my newfound friends. I was sad, but I knew that our conversations and friendships were just beginning. I’m looking forward to the future: I’m excited to see the other retreat attendees kick some major ass in the next few years and I have no doubt they’ll continue to inspire me just as much as they did in those short five days. A huge thank you to all of you—the retreat attendees and the CDN staff/volunteers, especially Tina, Mindy, Emily, Sarah, Meghan, Dan, and Greg. It was a fantastic week and I’m so grateful to all of you for making it memorable. Here’s to the 2017 CDN Retreat and the continued success of CDN on both the chapter and the national levels!

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#DBlogWeek Day 5 – Tips and Tricks

My desk at work, low snack stash in the upper right hand corner.

My desk at work, low snack stash in the upper right hand corner.

This was a favorite prompt of mine from the 2014 Diabetes Blog Week, so I’m glad to see it has made a return for 2016:

“Let’s round out the week by sharing our best diabetes tips and diabetes tricks. From how you organize supplies to how you manage gear on the go/vacation (beach, or skiing, or whatever). From how you keep track of prescription numbers to how you remember to get your orders refilled. How about any “unconventional” diabetes practices, or ways to make diabetes work for YOU (not necessarily how the doctors say to do it!). There’s always something we can learn from each other. (Remember though, please no medical advice or dangerous suggestions.)”

My favorite tips and tricks usually involve ways to handle lows. I’m always on the hunt for the ideal low recovery snack (because after 18 years of glucose tablets, they get a little old). A year or two ago, I discovered that most grocery stores carry mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins and they have become my go-to low snack.

You might be wondering what’s so special about raisins. Well, they’re perfect for lows because 1) they’re portable, 2) there are 10 carbs in one box—a good portion for when you need less than 15 grams to fix a low, and 3) they taste yummy! I keep a bunch stashed at my desk at work as well as in the pantry at home so both my T1D mom and I have easy access to them at all times.

Speaking of my desk at work, I have part of a shelf in my cubicle that functions as my designated low snack supply. I keep the aforementioned raisins, some juice boxes, and granola bars (for blood sugars in the 70s/80s) in this area, and I’ve been grateful for my advanced planning many times. After all, when you’re low at work and trying to function in between the shakes and sweats, it’s much easier to grab something to bring my sugar back up without even having to get up from my chair.

Generally speaking, dealing with diabetes in the workplace can be tricky—so it’s necessary to devise diabetes “hacks” that make it easier to manage diabetes. For instance, if my blood sugar is higher than I’d like (sometimes due to being desk-bound 9 hours a day), I seize the opportunity to both get some exercise in and lower my blood sugar without having to take extra insulin. I’ll do this by walking outside around our building, or climbing the stairs inside when the weather’s uncooperative. A mere 15 minutes of movement often does the trick for me. Plus, I know that sitting all day long is bad for me, so it’s an extra excuse to stretch my legs and do something not just good for my diabetes, but my whole body.

These are just a few of my favorite tips that work well for me and my diabetes. Remember, your diabetes may vary—your own tips and tricks might work better for you than for me!



#DBlogWeek Day 4 – The Healthcare Experience

If you had asked me to write this blog post before I started seeing my current endocrinologist, it would have probably turned into a long rant about my frustrations with various doctors I’ve seen over the years. I have been relatively lucky compared to other people in that I’ve never had a truly horrifying experience with a doctor—except for the time when one (not an endocrinologist) told me I would never find a job with a degree in English. That doctor was very wrong! I digress…

It’s interesting having diabetes since the age of four. This means I’ve had it for more than three quarters of my life. Growing up with diabetes is the name of my blog here on ASweetLife, and I think it fits perfectly because as I’ve matured, so has my diabetes. My needs have changed over the years just as I have changed. As a result, my expectations and desires for my healthcare team have evolved dramatically.

When I was little, all I wanted was to avoid the doctor’s office at all costs. I hated being pulled out of school early for them, I hated waiting, I hated sitting in the room and hear my doctor converse with my mom about things I didn’t really understand. And I hated that each visit meant I would be asked whether I would consider going to diabetes camp. The answer was a firm no for reasons I still can’t quite understand, but all I know is that I did not like the idea of it and was bothered by the fact that it felt like my healthcare team was really pushing for me to do it despite my blatant reluctance.

I compare my visits as a kid to my visits now and notice many differences. Now, as an adult, I’m on a pump and use a CGM. I go to my appointments by myself and have a conversation with my doctor in which I’m an active participant, not a passive listener. I feel engaged and reassured when I visit my endocrinologist. She knows me well and never scolds me, which I appreciate because I HAVE had doctors (on rare occasions) chide me as an adult—and it infuriates me. I expect to be able to visit a doctor in any field and have my concerns addressed with respect and knowledgeable answers and opinions. For the most part, I am fortunate enough to say that this is usually true when I visit not just my endocrinologist, but the other members of my healthcare team.

There is one thing I wish, though: I wish that my appointments didn’t feel so RUSHED. I know that all doctors have a schedule that they do their best to keep up with, and a number of factors prevent them from doing so. But sometimes, it feels like my time with them is being cut short because they might be trying to catch up. I often find myself leaving the doctor’s office and remembering a question I had meant to ask on my drive home, a question that I had forgotten because of the high speed pace of the appointment. I know that I’m welcome to reach out to my doctor via the messaging service the office uses, but for me, it’s not the best method. My doctor is only at this office once a week, so unless she happens to be in when I send a message to the office, chances are that a random nurse practitioner who doesn’t know me will respond. Maybe I would also add a better messaging system to my wish list, but I understand that for the sake of practicality this might not be entirely rational.

As I’m wrapping up this post, I realize I haven’t even touched upon the question about dealing with health insurance companies…I’ll have to save it for another day where I feel like I could use a really good rant, like the one I described above.


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