Monday, December 28, 2015

Grief, Illness, Denial, and Diabetes

The last few months has been a physical and emotional rollercoaster for me. With everything that's been going on, it's been hard to keep track of my diabetes. One way to help me get back on track with my diabetes management is to examine what's been going on with my life: grief, illness, denial, and diabetes.

At the end of September, we lost a great man in our family - my father-in-law. My husband and I started dating in high school, so this man had been part of my life for almost 30 years. He saw me grow from a 16 year old with a crush on his oldest son into the confident mother of five and educator that I am today. He wasn't a man of many words, but he had a way to let you know how he felt. I know he was proud of all of his children and grandchildren. He will be dearly missed. (My father-in-law did have Type 2 diabetes as well as several other medical conditions. The blue candle is for him.)

I've also been dealing with one cold virus after another since early November. I've had two rounds of antibiotics and three bottles of prescription cough syrup. This last round also included pain medicine for pulled muscles around my ribs due to coughing. At this point I only have a slight cough, minor case of the sniffles, and one area of pain remaining from the pulled muscle.

Denial? Yeah, that leads into the last word - diabetes. I've been so busy dealing with grief and illness that I haven't been paying attention to my diabetes. I've tested here and there. I've tried to eat right, but honestly comfort eating during the last three months has taken over my focus from diabetes management. I've overall neglected my diabetes, which honestly may have prolonged my recovery from the various little bugs going around.

So what do I do now?

Grief: I'm going to forever miss my father-in-law, but the pain won't sting as much as time goes on. Yes, every once in a while it hits and I find tears flowing without my consent. However my belief says that his is in heaven waiting for us. In the meantime, we have a purpose here on earth.

Illness: I'm trying to make sure to take care of myself. It's hard to get rest over the holidays, especially when entertaining. However I now have a few days to rest and relax before school starts again next week. There is grading and lesson planning to do, but I can do a little at a time this week. Tomorrow I'll be getting some dental work done, so I'll be relaxing in the afternoon.

Denial: I can't deny that I need to take care of myself while I take care of those around me.

Diabetes: Yup, that's still here even though I ignored it for the most part over the last three months. Comfort eating is understandable during times of illness and grief, however it needs to be controlled.

Why do I share this in such a public way? Because I know I'm not the only one dealing with these emotions. I know I'm not the only one. The DOC (diabetes online community) includes people with all types of diabetes as well as their loved ones. We are here to love and support each other. Yes, I need support, but I also hope that in some way my words will be an encouragement to others during their tough times. It's been a tough year (I also found out that my minivan needs some expensive repairs this week. Ugh!), but I have hope for the future.

I'm not going to pretend that everything is perfect because it's not. However I know with the support of others and my own personal beliefs, I can get through this. I'm going to be ok. So are you!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Tribe

In September, I met up with some awesome people to raise money for the American Diabetes Association Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. It's hard to explain the connection I have with these people. Bea, Anna, and Mike are three amazing people with diabetes. I've only met Anna previously. I was lucky to have met her at MasterLab. Bea and Mike are two that I had only known online. However that didn't stop the hugs and laughter, as if we had been face to face friends for years.

Sue, Bea, Anna, & Mike
Every time I meet up with others who have diabetes, even if I've never talked to them before, it's like an instant connection. Some call it our tribe. It doesn't matter what type we have. There's a connection there. We talk about carbs, lows, highs, exercise, and insulin. Even though we all manage our diabetes differently, we still have common ground that makes us a part of a family. At the moment of diagnosis, we are welcomed into this amazing family that, to be honest, no one wanted to join. Even though none of us wanted to join this tribe, we're ever so grateful to have each other.

Taking a picture with Little G and Pancreas

Our team. 
Next year it will be bigger. 
Let me know if you'd like to join us, either in person or as a virtual walker!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Type No Type

(C) Diabetes Ramblings
There are times in diabetes advocacy that it feels like we're fighting ourselves. "That's the other kind of diabetes" should not ever come between us and diabetes advocacy.

During last month's MasterLab, I heard several times the sentiment that we need to put the "types" aside and focus on *everyone* with diabetes.

We need to take that energy that is wasted in arguing amongst ourselves and channel it in helpful ways. 

We need to work together for better access to the treatment and supplies each of us needs to manage our diabetes. Even people with the same type have different needs. I may only need a glucose meter at this time, but my mom needs a meter and medication. We both have Type 2, but our needs are different. 

Even if we get the tools we need, like a glucose meter, we may not receive necessary supplies to go with it. Giving someone only one test strip per day does not give him/her the ability to adequately use that meter for diabetes management. 

When my doctor prescribes what I need to manage my diabetes, the insurance company shouldn't be asking what type I am. They only need to know that I have diabetes and this is what I need to manage my disease. Why shouldn't a Type 2 diet and exercise controlled elementary school teacher who can't stop to test while teaching six and seven year old children receive a CGM (continuous glucose monitor)?

Since each person's diabetes management is unique, it really doesn't matter what type the person is when determining what is needed for successful diabetes management. Let's look at the person and the needs, not the type. This is not a one size fits all disease. Not for diet, not for test strips, not for medication. 

To borrow from a made for TV movie, "We're all in this together!"

Thank you to Mike at My Diabetic Heart for designing this No Type image and Lizmari at The Angry Type 2 Diabetic for artistic input.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rant Time!

Many times we try to show the positive side of diabetes. The amazing diabetes community. The joys of low carb eating. The world full of sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns.

Then reality hits. I get doughnuts as a special treat for my second child's birthday to celebrate her last year as a teenager. I really want one. Just one. Oh here's a small one. I'll just eat that. Then a little while later I start having that high glucose feeling. It's hard to explain but others with diabetes know what I mean. I kind of feel hot on the inside. My head feels funny. My body feels funny. My belly feels funny. It's not a feeling that can be put into words. I'm only in the 160s right now (two hours later) but it's somewhat hard to concentrate.

I'm usually pretty conservative with my words. I rarely curse. I even feel uncomfortable with words like stupid and sucks. However I'm cranky and fed up. Diabetes isn't fair! It isn't fair one bit. It downright sucks!

It sucks that I can't have more than one doughnut. Even that one makes my glucose go up.

It sucks that I go to 200 from a simple bowl of cereal.

It sucks that I have to watch what I eat.

It sucks that I can go low from cleaning the house.

It sucks!

I could end here with a change of heart talking about what is good about diabetes. Normally I do when I write these ranting posts. Not this time. This time I'm going to say "It sucks!" and let it sit there. Too often we're told it will be ok and to smile. We need to acknowledge the sucky parts of diabetes!

Sometimes we don't want to smile - and that's ok!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Faces of #MasterLab on Twitter

One of the resources I was introduced to during MasterLab was the database created by Symplur. They have created what they call the Healthcare Hashtag Project. You can search for Twitter hashtags based on tweet chats, conferences, various diseases, etc. What a wealth of information! I can't even begin to explain this resource, but if you head over to their site and play around a bit, I'll bet you'll be amazed like I was (and still am!).

According to Symplur, these were the faces of the MasterLab hashtag on Twitter between July 5 and July 10, 2015.  (Screen shot taken on July 11, 2015.)

Now to put some names (or Twitter usernames) to the faces. The first column are the top ten people mentioned with the hashtag MasterLab while the second column contains the top ten people tweeting about MasterLab, using the hashtag. It was lovingly brought to my attention that I tweet a lot. For those of you not on Twitter, yes, I am @rfamsramblings. You can tell that I am passionate about MasterLab! (Screen shot taken on July 11, 2015.)

Some of these people were attending MasterLab while others were following along from home. Some represent businesses or non-profits, while many are individuals who live with diabetes as part of their daily lives. (I'll admit that I know that there's at least one "bot" in the first screen shot above which automatically retweets sporadic posts.)

Regardless our role in the diabetes community, we share a common goal: access for all until a cure is found!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Diabetes Advocacy Has an Easy Button

Do you want to get involved with diabetes advocacy but just don't have the time?

As a busy mom of five, teacher, and recent masters graduate, I understand this completely!

Please let me introduce you to Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition! This is the diabetes advocacy easy button.

As stated on their site, "Join Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition to easily help keep policy makers’ attention on people with diabetes. Once you've joined, we'll keep track of issues, opportunities, and how to contact officials. We make it easy to for you to advocate while giving you the opportunity to tell your own story."

It doesn't matter what type you are. Type 1? Type 2? LADA? MODY? Diabetes issues affects us all. This site makes finding the issues and who to write to easy. Add a little personalization to the letter and hit send.

As a famous office supply store likes to say, "Well that was easy!"

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Two Faces of Diabetes

My diabetes seems to have two faces, or sides. The side I like to show in public, and the side I like to keep secret.

The public side of my diabetes shows the world that their misconceptions about Type 2 are all wrong. I exercise, I'm a healthy weight, I check my blood sugar on a regular basis, and I watch my carbs. This is the side that I like to present to the world. This is the side that shouts out, "Colas full of sugar didn't give me diabetes, so there!" The side that says that genetics is to blame more than anything else.

However there is the other side of my diabetes. It's the side that wants to get comfy in the recliner and eat a whole bag of chips in one sitting. The side that wants to eat chocolate chip cookies with milk until I have a tummy ache. The side that says "Not today!" to exercise. The side that thinks maybe I did something to "earn" the diagnosis of diabetes. The side that shows that I am human. The side that shows that I am not perfect. The side that wants to curl up in a ball and cry.

Honestly this is very close to how I feel as a mom of five kids. The public side is a very organized mom with five amazing kids. The other side is my cluttered house and lucky if I know what day it is sometimes.

Unfortunately our society only sees the side that I want to hide. The media portrays Type 2 diabetics as older, overweight individuals with unhealthy lifestyles. Where are the young, healthy Type 2s with some bum genes? I know we're out there. I've met many through the DOC and other advocacy work. Where are those who develop Type 2 due to other medical conditions such as PCOS? Why doesn't the media talk about that?

Why doesn't the media show us the side of diabetes that takes the blame off the patient and admits that sometimes things happen no matter what you do? When are we going to realize that correlation does not equal causation?

When are we going to stop shaming people who live day to day with a life threatening chronic illness?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Countdown to #MasterLab

On Monday, July 6th, I will be on a plane to Orlando, Florida for MasterLab. I've posted about my anticipation again this year, but what is MasterLab exactly?

According to Diabetes Hands Foundation:
MasterLab is about building a sense of what is possible in Diabetes Advocacy. If you are called to advocacy MasterLab will connect you with people, resources and skills be be a better advocate. The best way to get a feel for Master Lab are the slides and video archive from the Diabetes Advocates MasterLab from the summer of 2014 at the bottom of this page. It was presented by the Diabetes Hands Foundation in collaboration with Children with Diabetes.
Last year's MasterLab involved a single day. This year, the event covers a day and a half. I love that it has expanded. Personally, I would like to see it grow even more as the interest in advocacy grows. Although an exact schedule isn't available as of yet, here is what we're looking at so far:
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 – 7:30am to 4:30pm
Presentations and panel discussions 
Wednesday, July 8, 2015 – 8:30am to 12:20pm
Focus Groups
(Edited to add: I just got a copy of the agenda. See it here.)

There is an "after hours" adult only networking event on Tuesday night that participants can register to attend as well.

I'm counting down! My flight and room have been reserved as well as registration for MasterLab completed.* Yesterday I scheduled a taxi to and from the airport out here. All that is left is my online check-in for the flight the day before and packing my bags. Oh what to bring! I'll need to make sure I have rooms for souvenirs for the family (and me!).

It's not too late to sign up. Go to the MasterLab registration page to join us. If you would like to try to win a free trip to MasterLab, Medtronic is having a contest. Go here and fill out the form by Sunday, June 28. I hope to see you there!

*Disclaimer: I have been offered a scholarship by the Diabetes Hands Foundation as part of my participation in the Diabetes Advocates program to attend the MasterLab. My travel, conference fees, and hotel are being covered by the scholarship, but the opinions and ideas (as well as excitement and anticipation) I will report on are my own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ph.D. Candidate Needs Type 2 Help

Dianne Palladino, a Ph.D. candidate in Social and Health Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, is seeking people to take part in an online research study for people with type 2 diabetes as part of her dissertation. 

It is completely anonymous, takes about 30 minutes, and those who participate will have the opportunity to enter a drawing for one of four $50 money orders. The survey is open to adults over 18 years old living in the United States who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

If you are willing to help, more information and the link to the survey can be found here:  CMUDIabetes.

Let's take this opportunity to help her and the diabetes community as well. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Denial Hits Every Now and Then

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in March of 2008. This was after having gestational diabetes five times. Five! I know the numbers. I know what they mean. Why then do I still go through stages of denial even after all this time?

Honestly I have no idea. Maybe because I don't look sick. I don't look like someone with a chronic illness.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I did it! #gradschoolmama now #mastersmama

On May 15th, I received a Master of Science in Education with a major in Reading. This was after three years of hard work, lots of tears, and many sleepless nights. I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of myself!

My family has been my biggest cheerleaders during this time. Their understanding, support, and encouragement kept me going when I wanted to give up. They told me that I was capable when I felt like I was going to fail. I honestly didn't know how I was going to make it through this last semester. With their love and gentle shoves to keep going, I not only graduated, but I did so with straight As! Yes, I earned every point of that 4.0 GPA!

The DOC (diabetes online community) has been a constant support during this time as well. I found out that the hashtag #youcandothis is not just relevant to diabetes management, but all parts of my life. When I felt discouraged, I knew that there were others facing obstacles, too. Many were far more challenging. If they could do it, so could I.

What's next? For starters, this summer will be dedicated to my family. I will not be taking classes or tutoring. We will be hanging out, gardening, reading, and just relaxing together. Of course I will be attending MasterLab in July, but they're understanding and supportive of my diabetes advocacy work. In August I will be setting up my classroom for the year, something I'm looking forward to doing (and some of my kids have asked to help).  I have decided that I will wait a year before even considering the idea of taking anymore graduate level classes. I'm not sure what I want to do next, but for now I'm going to enjoy where I am.

My blog has also been neglected, so I plan to start posting again on a more regular basis. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

MasterLab 2015: Save the Date!

Last year I attended MasterLab in Orlando, FL thanks to a scholarship from Diabetes Hands Foundation (see disclaimer below). Well I am excited to share that I will be going to MasterLab again this year (recycled disclaimer, but even more excited this year!). This is an amazing opportunity for anyone affected by diabetes, regardless of type, to get together and talk about advocacy. Caregivers and patient advocates working side by side. It doesn't matter what type since we're all in this together.

If you want to read more about last year's event, click on "MasterLab" at the end of my post under labels. I even have links to other blogs describing their experiences!

July 7 and 8 are the dates for MasterLab 2015.  (Click for more information)

MasterLab 2014
We're all in this together - regardless of type!

Disclaimer: I have been offered a scholarship by the Diabetes Hands Foundation as part of my participation in the Diabetes Advocates program to attend the MasterLab. My travel, conference fees, and hotel are being covered by the scholarship, but the opinions and ideas (as well as excitement and anticipation) I will report on are my own.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Snow Day Workout

(Written two weeks ago, but forgot to publish. I'm still proud of this, so I'm going to publish it! So "today" actually was two weeks ago.)

Today the school district where I work had a snow day due to low wind chill temperatures, but my kids had school (delayed start). On previous days like today, I'd drop off my kids at school then head to a local coffee shop café. This place is family owned and like Cheers but with coffee instead of beer. With great conversation and free Wifi, I typically spend the morning there.

However today I had a better plan.

Instead of going to the restaurant, I went to the YMCA. I walked 3.2 miles! WOOHOO!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolution or Promise?

Wow! It's 2015! It doesn't seem possible! Time seems to fly by so quickly. Yes, I know it's actually January 2nd. See how quickly time flies by?

Many people make resolutions. So many of those resolutions are broken. Hey, it's kind of an unwritten rule that people expect resolutions to be broken. Therefore I am not planning to making any. 

Instead I'm making a promise. A promise to myself, my family, my friends, my coworkers, my students, and anyone else I may deal with during my days. 

My promise is to love. I promise to love those around me: family, friends, coworkers, students, everyone. 

Most of all, I promise to love myself. 

Some days are easier than others. To love myself, I need to take care of myself. Physically and emotionally. I need to forgive myself when I make mistakes. I need to let myself have some down time, but I also need to work hard. 

Here's to a year of love!