Amy Tenderich, A Champion of Diabetes Awareness

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DiabetesMine Amy Tenderich’s blog, DiabetesMine™, is one of the most comprehensive online diabetes resources.  In Diabetes Mine you’ll find information “on every imaginable aspect of living with diabetes — from food scales to pharma news and book reviews, to the exasperating things other people say.”   Amy is a journalist, book author and Health 2.0 expert based in San Francisco, CA.  DiabetesMine.com is considered the best-read diabetes blog in the country,  and DiabetesMine™ ranks in the World’s Top Blogs on Health and Medicine at Healthcare100.com and at Wikio Health.  Amy is also Community Manager of a new social networking site for diabetics called DiabeticConnect.com. She recently collaborated with Dr. Richard Jackson, a leading physician from Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, to co-author the book, Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes.  Thanks so much for talking to A Sweet Life, Amy!

When were you diagnosed with diabetes?

May 21, 2003. My third baby had just turned five months old, and there I was looking and feeling like a skinny scarecrow.  I landed in the hospital for a week, with my sugars fluctuating violently. But I was bucking to get home in time for my oldest child’s birthday on May 26.  As soon as we drove home and I got out of the car, however, I realized  I was physically weak, and emotionally a mess. It was pretty brutal for the whole first year, especially with three kids under the age of 5.

Diabetes Mine is one of the most important and comprehensive diabetes blogs.  Please tell us how you got started as a blogger.

That’s a funny story, actually.  In 2004, a little less than a year after my diagnosis, my husband went to a conference on New Media. He sent me an email from there saying: “You’re going to be a blogger; it’s your calling.”  My reaction was: “I’m going to be a what?!”

I soon realized that blogging would allow me to connect with others living with diabetes, which I’d been desperate to do.  Remember, there were no social networks back then. Still, in the beginning I wasn’t sure who would find or follow a blog about diabetes. I’ve been completely blown away by the growth of the diabetes online community!

For my part, my background as a journalist has really helped me build out DiabetesMine into an information resource – as well as a networking place – for people affected by diabetes.  So in that sense I’ve been blessed.

How do manage to take care of your family, your diabetes, and stay on top of DiabetesMine?

Amy Tenderich - DiabetesMineI have no idea! Life is pretty hectic around our place most of the time. It’s a good thing that I enjoy being organized: keeping lists, and entering dozens of activities into Google Calendar. Seriously, this is how my husband and I make dates.

Jessica, wasn’t it you who said that managing diabetes + family + work is pretty much like having three full-time jobs?  My reply was:  Four, actually, if you count the laundry. I kid you not!

The biggest challenge, though, is always struggling to feel like you’re doing enough in any one area. When it comes to managing diabetes and raising children, there is no such thing as “just enough.”  You have to give it your all.

And my problem is, I want to do everything 120%. As long as I feel healthy and have the necessary energy, I guess I’ll just keep trying.

I think all diabetics would like a vacation from diabetes, but since you write about it too, do you ever feel like it’s taking over everything in your life?  Do you have an escape from diabetes?

Yes, I do feel that way sometimes. My doctor even worries about that (which is part of why I love her).  But my escape from diabetes is my offline life: a wonderful partner whom I adore, three spirited little girls with extremely busy activity schedules, and good friends who enjoy things like Sunday barbecues and weekends on the coast with us.

No one in this offline life has diabetes, so we don’t talk about it very much. Which is probably a very good thing for me.

You also suffer from celiac disease.  How does that affect your diet and diabetes care?

Officially, I am allergic to wheat, which means I’m not as ultra-sensitive as your average celiac. But the diet limitations are basically the same. It’s so hard to avoid wheat in this American life that it sometimes feels like a biblical curse!

At home, it’s pretty manageable because we prepare everything fresh with ingredients that we’ve selected. But when you go out in the world, there’s almost nothing you can order at a café or restaurant that’s allergy-safe. I absolutely hate it.

That being said, it certainly helps me keep my carbohydrate intake down. I barely eat any bread products at all.  (Chips are my weakness – made of corn and potato)

We’re very excited about the Keas Diabetes Mine Health Account Plan.  Please tell our readers what it is, and a little bit about the process behind it.

Keas.com is a new site created by Adam Bosworth, the former head of Google Health. Using a model like the iPhone store, they’ve basically created a platform on which a variety of health experts (‘content providers’) can build “apps” called Care Plans.  People can choose from a variety of different plans to help them with anything from asthma to pediatric ear infections.

My co-author Dr. Richard Jackson and I were lucky to be selected as the first partners to author Care Plans for diabetes.  Based on our book, Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes, our main plan is an easy-to-use guide to the 5 crucial tests everyone with diabetes needs to monitor on a regular basis: hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure, lipid profile, microalbumin, and annual eye exam. It actually walks you through tactics for improving your test results, and your overall health. There’s a lot of great information in the plan, so we really hope people will give it a try.

You created the Diabetes Mine Design Challenge.  Do you have any special favorite innovations that have come your way?  Is there anything you dream of, or wish someone would invent?

We received over 150 fantastic ideas this year, so it’s hard to pick just a few.  As you know, our Grand Prize winner was a very clever system for turning your iPhone or any smart mobile phone into the controller for a combined glucose meter/tubeless insulin pump. I can’t wait to see that one realized!

A few other submissions that were really dreamy were: a color-changing pacifier that could read a baby’s blood sugar levels, earrings called “Glucoluxe” that continuously monitor blood sugar, and a “SuperGlucometer” that would make setting precise insulin doses ultra-easy. Another dream that I would really like to see come true is the “magic box” that automatically counts carbs for any food you wish to eat.

Also check out the “Penguin Topper” and a few other fun and practical innovations here.

How about some Amy Tenderich fun facts, things about you that don’t have to do with diabetes… Hobbies?  Favorite books?  Movies?

I love a good loud aerobics class, a bike ride in the sunshine, freshly prepared seafood, California wine, and hiking on the pacific coast. I’m in good shape, but kind of uncoordinated, so I was never a good skier, for example. I like to dance, but mostly in my living room with my kids.

My husband and I are obsessive planners. That actually helps impart some method to our daily madness.

I love to read, and I’m in a book club that meets once a month for dinner and wine (pre-Oprah, btw). And did I mention wine?

Favorite books include: The Poisonwood Bible, Cold Mountain, I Capture the Castle, In the Beauty of the Lilies (Updike), The Power of One, and the Tales of the City series.

Favorite movies include: Big, Blade Runner, Boys Don’t Cry, Delicatessen, Dr. Zhivago, Little Big Man, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Tootsie, and Wings of Desire.

Comments (2)

  1. DrMom at

    I have Celiac and was just recently Dx with diabetes. How in the world do we find things to eat?????  I quit smoking last year and gained 20 lbs. Then had to do a prednisone regimen, which added another 5 Lbs. Then for some reason about the time of diabetes Dx I gained another 10 #….
    I have very fragile asthma so even walking is a chore, so I can’t exercise.
    Please, just shoot me.
    Hugs,,,,DrMom

  2. Hi,
    We just wanted to say that we are also big fans of Amy’s articles and her other work. When she shouted for more products and services from the “‘patient perspective”, at the Health 2.0 conference, WE LISTENED! :)
    We made RememberItNow! completely patient-centric software. We would love to get feedback too.
    Feel free to let us know what you think: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/206073/employee-benefits-research
    Or visit us:  http://www.rememberitnow.com
    Thanks!

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