Thursday, September 28, 2017

Working with Other Online Health Advocates

Last year, I met Josh Robbins at HealtheVoices 2016. This was an amazing time where Jansen brought advocates from various mental and physical health areas together to collaborate and network. Even though Josh and HIV and I have Type 2 diabetes, we found that we had a lot in common. Both conditions deal with a lot of stigma and misinformation. I consider myself an educated woman, but that weekend I learned so much about HIV and changed my views about so much.

I was a teen in the 1980s, when the HIV scare was high. The media and uneducated people spread so much misinformation that I thought was true. Twenty years later, Josh and other HIV advocates have set me straight with loving, caring words meant to enlighten and not condemn. I learned even more during HealtheVoices 2017.

The desire to educate along with my desire to be educated helped to form some pretty tight friendships. Those who I have gotten to know have not just become connections that I can refer friends to; they have become my friends as well.

Recently Josh presented at TedX in Nashville, talking about the importance of social media as a means of support. During his presentation, he mentioned some advocates from areas outside HIV. I was honored to be the diabetes advocate that he mentioned. Even though he couldn't pronounce my last name (RARE-ick-ah), the gesture was not taken lightly. I am honored and humbled to have been mentioned by Josh, an amazing man, advocate, and friend. Thank you, Josh!



Disclaimer‬: Janssen Global Services paid for my travel expenses for the conference. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Blame Game

This is my third in a series of posts for Diabetes Blog Week 2017.

The Blame Game, huh? That's one of the prompts for D-Blog Week. Oh such a loaded topic. People with diabetes being blamed for their illness? Really?

ALL. THE. TIME.

Hey, I have Type 2 diabetes - the ultimate blame game is here! Society is convinced that we are nothing more than lazy overeaters that deserve our fate. Never mind the overwhelming evidence that it's more about genetics than if I ate a Twinkie last week.

Ummm... I don't like Twinkies, but Snickers.... oh off topic...

Yes, there are ways to lessen the risk of Type 2 diabetes through proper eating habits and regular exercise. However this lessens the risk. It does not prevent the possibility. Sometimes genetics bites you in the back side. 

Please don't blame anyone living with any critical illness. No one in their right mind would intentionally cause this for themselves. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Cost of a Chronic Illness

This is my second in a series of posts for Diabetes Blog Week 2017.

Today's topic is the cost of chronic illness. This is an awkward topic for me to speak of since I'm not using medication or insulin as part of my diabetes management, which is what most people think about when discussing the cost of diabetes. However, there are limitations in my care that are financially driven.

For example, many people with Type 2 diabetes are limited on the number of test strips they are allowed to get through insurance, if they're allowed any at all. My mom is only allowed two per day. At this time, I have a prescription of four per day. This was my requested number shortly after my diagnosis. Originally my doctor didn't think I needed any. (What?) However after much thought on my part, I called asking for test strips using our upcoming vacation as an excuse. Should I even have to ask for test strips? Should I have to use a vacation as an excuse? Why do I feel hesitant to ask for more? (I'd like at least six so I can test before an after every meal.) Do I fear being judged or turned down, either by my doctor or insurance?

What about a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)? Why can't everyone with diabetes get one? It's obvious the more data someone has about how their body reacts to various foods and activities then better that person can manage glucose levels.Why is it if a person's body still produces some insulin, whether it's not enough or just not using it properly, insurance will deny coverage for a CGM? Oh yeah, the cost. They don't think the benefits outweigh the cost.

Let's forget for a moment the financial cost of diabetes. What about my personal cost? Not being able to enjoy certain foods with my family? Avoiding making pancakes for my kids because I love them so much but they raise my blood sugar even more (even if I only eat 2-3)? Having to stop working in the garden with my family or helping my kids clean their rooms because my blood sugar is low? Does anyone consider those costs?

The cost of living with a chronic illness isn't just a hit to the pocketbook.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Diabetes and the Unexpected

This is my first in a series of posts for Diabetes Blog Week 2017.

Today's topic for d-blog week is "Diabetes and the Unexpected." I admit I'm not sure where to start here as everything about diabetes pretty much is unexpected. Physically and emotionally. Well, maybe that's not true.

What was *not* unexpected:

  1. My diagnosis. Since I have a family history of Type 2 and I personally had gestational diabetes five times, I was honestly expecting a diagnosis of diabetes eventually. The unexpected part: Getting diagnosed in my 30s as an active, healthy mom of five young children.
  2. High blood sugar after too many carbs. I mean, really. Isn't that pretty much expected. Too many carbs for someone who is insulin resistant means high blood sugar is pretty much a done deal. The unexpected part: High blood sugar from healthy foods such as carrots. Yeah, I know carrots have natural sugars in them (sugar=carbs), but who would think that carrots would be bad for you?
  3. Low blood sugar with too few carbs and lots of activity. The opposite of #2 - If a person with diabetes doesn't eat enough carbs and then exercises, there is a good chance that person will go low. The unexpected part: Going low from doing housework. Yes, housework. Picking up my kids' clothes off the floor, picking up dishes left here and there, sweeping, vacuuming, etc. I have actually gone low from simply doing housework.
  4. Information and advice from others online. The internet is full of information about diabetes. Some good. Some... ummm... Let's just say orca water will not cure diabetes. The unexpected part: The friends I have made because of diabetes. I was not expecting to meet so many wonderful, caring, loving people through the DOC (diabetes online community). Helpful and full of advice, yes. A family, no. I can honestly say that the people I have met have become my family. My brothers and sisters in diabetes. I also have my advocate cousins, those with other health issues that I have learned from and love with all my heart.
Thank you to my friends who have joined me on this journey. Your love and support means more than I ever expected!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Saying good-bye to a long-time friend and companion

Yesterday (yes, on Christmas) we had to say good-bye to our 13 year old dog, Sadie. Most of the kids remember when we adopted her from the shelter the Monday after returning form a family vacation. She was about six weeks old. It was six weeks after we had lost our first dog (Angel, 11) to bone cancer.

Sadie had been having seizures recently so we put her on medication. Overall she was doing well on meds with only an occasional minor shake that most people would probably not notice. In the back of our minds, we knew it was probably not a seizure disorder. Those usually don't show up in a 13 year old dog. Thankfully we have a wonderful veterinarian who remained hopeful but is also honest with us. He had the same concern.

In the middle of the night this past Tuesday morning, she had her biggest seizure yet. It lasted almost 45 minutes. Her previous ones never lasted that long. Previously, when the seizure stopped she would get up after a few minutes, though she would appear intoxicated until she recovered. This time she didn't get up. Later in the morning she would have two more seizures that lasted about 10-15 minutes each. She was still on the floor and hadn't taken her morning medication, so I took her to the vet.

They took awesome care of her there, but with at least one more seizure, vomiting and diarrhea, barely able to lift her head, kidneys shutting down, and difficulty breathing we realized it was time to say good-bye. Although we were hoping to wait until the day after Christmas, we knew that would be a selfish decision. Our last gift to her was to say good-bye and let her go.

What does that have to do with diabetes? Nothing. My life doesn't revolve around diabetes, but it does revolve around love - even for the pets in my care.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The emotional side of diabetes

I've vented here many times about my frustrations with diabetes. The outward emotions of anger, denial, and bitterness. However I rarely talk about my inward struggles. Call it emotional wellbeing, mental health, or any of the other terms. Whatever label you give it, one thing is true about many people with diabetes: We hide much of the emotional burden we bear living with a chronic illness most of the time.

Most people see me as a cheerful, caring individual, or so I've been told. Confession: There are so many times that I'm smiling on the outside while tearing myself up on the inside. I feel I need to be Super Mom, Super Wife, Super Teacher, Super Friend, and Super Diabetic. When it comes to diabetes, I might ask: Why did I eat that? Why didn't I do that? Why can't I make it to the gym? Why am I not the perfect diabetic? Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I not harder on myself?

Yes, I know that I can do better, but I also know that I could do worse. I'd like to do better at my own diabetes management. I'd also like to do more in the world of diabetes blogging and patient advocacy. I actually told my husband today that part of me would like to be a full-time advocate and part-time educator, maybe a tutor. However at this time my calling is to be a full-time educator and part-time advocate. We agreed that some day the roles may become reversed, when it's the right time.

"Diabetes Ramblings" - it's more than a blog title. It's how I process my thoughts and feelings. As I ramble, I am able to express myself in a way that helps me through some tough times. My hope is that I am able to also reach out and help others. There is no shame in admitting that you need help. If life seems to be dragging you down and you're not living the life you want to live, reach out. Find someone you trust - a doctor, a friend, clergy, a counselor. There is no shame in saying that you can't do it all. You don't need to be a super hero. You are loved and you are valued!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review: Diet To Go meals

A while ago I was approached by a representative from Diet to Go to try out their meals geared toward people with diabetes. Since they were sending me the meals for free in exchange for my own honest opinion, I figured why not.

Now I will say that I don't typically use pre-packaged meals for breakfast or dinner. My breakfast typically consists of a protein drink that can be easily consumed during my early morning commute to the school where I teach. Dinners are with my family, eating the same meals that they are having. As a result, most the meals I received were brought to school for my lunch.

The meals arrived in a large styrofoam cooler with ice packs and dry ice. Since they were shipped frozen, I placed them all in my freezer as I unpacked the shipment. There was no clear instructions on how to store the items or even how to prepare them. Were they just to be thawed or microwaved? Were they to be thawed before microwaved? A few of the meals had some basic instructions like heating to a certain temperature, but nothing as clear as one would find on a frozen meal from the grocery store. Perhaps this information was found on the website, which I will admit I have only given a brief look at a few times.

Overall the food was good. I don't think I tried anything that turned my stomach. Everything seemed healthy. Only a few of the meals had the nutrition information on the package (again this might be on the website, but I'm not sure). Some meals pushed the 45 g carbs mark. I believe that Diet to Go uses the American Diabetes Association's guidelines of everyone eating 30-45 g carbs per meal. This one size fits all approach is not something I cater to, as my body reacts to carbs differently at different times of the day.


If you're ok with the amount of carbohydrates per meal and the price of the meals, this might be something for you. The convenience was nice as I could just grab something from my freezer without much thought. The taste was also good. I was surprised how much I did like some items that I may have not tried otherwise. The main negatives were the lack of nutritional information and preparation instructions on the packaging.

Disclaimer: Diet to Go provided me with five days worth of meals free in exchange for my honest opinion.