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Dealing with the D police

Yesterday, I went to an adolescent support group for people with type 1 diabetes that my diabetes social worker recommended that I joined. One of the topics that came up was basically how your family could literally be making you sick. You are probably wondering what I mean by that. All I am saying is sometimes your family can realllly stress you out. Research has even shown a link between elevated levels of stress and illness as well as an increase in high blood sugars. Someone in the group even noted how their A1C has gone up due to being stressed out of home.

Society seems to paint a picture of people with diabetes as being lazy and of has caused it ourselves. It also seems that everyone either knows a diabetes horror story or had an old sick family member with couldn’t use sugar (which seems to make them an expert). What many don’t realize is that the way diabetes is treated today is totally different from 15, 10 or even 5 years ago. We can eat from the same pot as the rest of the family (not just protein and vegetables) once we count our carbs and bolus for the meal. We don’t have to run a 5K daily in order to keep our sugars controlled (even though exercising is important for everyone).

I personally don’t think that our family members are deliberately trying to make us sick or stress us out but misinformation can be a very frustrating thing. We all know what a hassle the diabetes police can be especially when you feel trapped and pressured by the people who should understand you (even if no one else does) and you feel like there is no hope or way of escape. At times it seems that nothing you do is right and every area of your life seems to be under a microscope.

On the other hand, having someone there to remind you to take your insulin or simply ask, “How are you doing?” could be beneficial. Many times we get so distracted by daily events happening in our lives that a missed test or dose can and often will happen. This then begs the question, where do you draw the line? How do you gain more independence? Is there a way re-educate your loved ones without them taking offense or should you just keep it all bottled in until you are finally old enough to live on your own and away from the dreaded “diabetes police”?  Will they ever see you as more than just a “diabetic” but as a young person capable of managing a very serious but very manageable disease on your own, who at times may make a few mistakes (as everyone does from time to time) but shouldn’t be criticized for those mistakes, instead applauded for the good job that they are doing and be trusted to know how to take care of themselves?

My last question is this: Is there a time to give your parents or other family members “the talk”?

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Ten reasons I am glad that I have diabetes

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Happy World Diabetes Day! As a tribute to today I decided to talk about the plus side to living with diabetes. I have compiled the following list of ten positives to living with diabetes:

1 – Responsibility – Being diagnosed at age 11 meant that I had to learn about consequences that my actions
made from an early age. For example, if I ate something sweet and did not take my isulin, my blood sugar would go up and I would get sick.

2 -To be adaptable – There are days when i would do exactly the same thing and get totally different results. On days like these you learn how to WAG (Wild Ass Guess) it until you can SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) it. **Side note – WAGging it simply means you take a guess and hope all goes well while with a SWAG you have some calculations to help your guess such as carb-counting or a correction bolus guide)

3 – Strength – I learned I was stronger that I thought. I saw a t-shirt for T1 Diabetes that read “you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” and I totally agree. I was terrified of sticking myself, I didn’t mind others doing it but I refused to do it myself until my doctor at the time looked at me and said, “Steph, you’re mom isn’t going to be there all of the time and I can’t let you go home until you can.” It took about a week and some swollen oranges (I had to practice by injecting water into the orange lol) but I did it and have no problem doing it now.

4 – Health – There were some years that my diabetes made me frail and weak but I know when I am older that I will be ten times healthier than many of my friends. Even though there is nothing that I can’t eat, there are times that I choose not to. I know that diabetes puts me at a greater risk of developing other conditions and I do my best to avoid them by eating right and exercising.

5 – A New Language - I speak Diabetic! How many people do you know that include words like Endocrinologist, pancreas, Ketoacidosis, bolus or Dawn Phenomenon in their vocabulary? Not to mention that certain words and phrases (like number, swag and bs) have an entirely different meaning for a person with diabetes than it does for someone without.  When my mom asks me how I am doing I am more likely refer to my blood sugar readings than my actual day. We also have our own “diabetic” words like glucoaster and diaversary.

6 – Determination – There are those days when nothing seeems to go right, when diabetes just seems to get in the way and seems way to hard to deal with. Many diabetics go through what is termed as “Diabetes Burnout” from one time to another but most of us realise that giving up really isn’t an option and we keep on pushing on even through very difficult situations.

7 – Team Player - Behind every controlled diabetic is a support team of doctors, nurses, family and friends. When you are diagnosed, you become a part of a team that helps you to manage your diabetes. The only way to get the most from your team is through your willingness to become a part of it. You learn that the only way to really be able to manage is by working together, asking questions and sharing information.

8 – Management – Time plays an important role in the management of diabetes. We learn to keep a schedule of what time to test, inject, eat, exercise as well as fit in all of the other non-diabetes related stuff that we do everyday.

9 – Travel - There are so many places that I have had the oppurtunity to visit and experience because I had diabetes. Whether it be a trip to a diabetes camp in another country or a diabetes conference, I have the ability to that I have been there.

10 – Friends – I have met so many new friends and become much closer to my old ones because of my diabetes. I have a ton of local and on-line friends with diabetes now (many of whom I would have never met if not for diabetes) and my ‘normal’ friends and I have become much closer. They got my back lol. Yes, I did lose a few who didn’t want to understand but there is nothing like an illness to show you who your true friends are.

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Introducing Mindy

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Mindy

Well my supplies from Barbados ran out and after a few days of trying endlessly to find my brand of test strips, I decided to buy a new meter. Say hello to Mindy (so named because of all the stuff she reminds me like whether the reading was pre or post meal and also to take my post meal tests)  She also has some style – no black meter case here, even the lancets are multi-colored (though I personally perfer my old lancing pen which I still use) The only thing I have to get used to is the readings being in mg/dl.

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Mindy's stylish purple case

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Home

“And to those of you returning, welcome home!” were the words announced by the captain on my flight here to the US. It is a strange concept for me thinking of America as home since I have lived most of my life in Barbados. Everything is different here (you even drive on the wrong side of the road lol) but it is also filled with so much possibility. I have been here since late September and have been experiencing a bit of a culture shock ever since. Moving somewhere new is scary, challenging and exciting all at the same time and having diabetes just makes it more so.

There are a few things I have come to love about having diabetes in the US such as the variety of glucose friendly products that are availiable. Who knew there were so many flavors of diet soda, drink mixes and even fruit juice? In Barbados, we are stuck with diet sprite, pepsi or coke for sodas and unsweeten orange or apple juice. I also had sugarfree candy and cookies for holloween (but I don’t recommend sugarfree chocolate). Some of the menus here actually have nutritional information on them and if they don’t I can google the exact item and find out how many carbs I am eating. I also like the pharmacies here and the fact that I can buy my medication over the counter.

Now that brings me to the one thing I miss about Barbados – free healthcare. All of my supplies are at least twice the cost here than they were back there. I heard it is easier once you have insurance. However, my diabetes treatment options have never been so unlimited before. There is so much choice, from what kind of short or long acting insulin, to insulin pumps, patches, pens and ports, you even have the choice of what length needle you want.

There are other non-diabetes related stuff that I enjoy having like being able to track the bus on my phone, amusements parks, watching american football (go gators) and shopping at mall. Even though there are some pros and cons, I am glad to be able to call here home (I still miss Barbados especially the beaches lol).

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My New Anthem

Well, Our Crop Over Carnival ended a couple of weeks ago and this was one of this year’s songs and it brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. So I am sharing it with you. To all of my diabetic friends out there – Show ya sweetness

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August 20, 2012 · 12:02 am

I Owe You An Apology

When I started this blog I wanted to be original and unique. I wanted to show the world Diabetes from my point of view but I got lost in other blogs and I no longer knew what I wanted the voice of my blog to be. I wasn’t sure how interesting my story was to others but then I realized that I the only one who can tell my story the way I would want it to be told.

My blog is going to be the honest musings of a sometimes crazy, a little sarcastic type 1 diabetic from America who lives in Barbados and has to deal with the daily battles high and low blood sugars, deciding between watching a movie or walking on the beach and avoiding a hurricane or two (I mean that both literally and figuratively lol).

I know I have probably lost all of my readers by not blogging often but to those of you that are still left, this is my apology and yes, I promise to blog more often.

 

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Driving Over My Fear

Photo by Ben McLeod

Have you ever been afraid of something that to others and maybe even yourself seemed completely irrational but you are afraid of it anyway? It is something you avoid doing even though it may be present in your day to day activities. You see others doing it and nothing happens to them but you fear the unknown or maybe it was an unforgettable experience that kind of rubbed you the wrong way.

I was afraid of learning how to drive. I had a really bad experience and I allowed someone’s opinion to get the better of me. It was about two years ago and I was eager to learn how to drive. I had a light goods permit (which is just a fancy way of saying stick shift or manual) but my instructor was teaching me on an automatic. After a couple lessons, I asked, “When will I start on manual?” His response was one of shock saying that I should stick to automatic because manual was hard. On my first lesson on manual (in his old rusty truck that was leaking oil), he parked the van in the middle of a steep hill, we switched seats and after hastily going over the instructions once, he told me to move off.

Move off I did, except the van was going in the opposite direction! I pulled up the handbrake and was pressing gas but no matter how I pressed the gas the van keep rolling down the hill. Panic struck when an SUV then turned into the gap that my out of control vehicle was rolling down. The instructor waited until the van nearly hit before he stopped our vehicle. The lesson was over and so was my eagerness to learn how to drive.

I took me two years to get back behind the wheel through the urging of a friend of my mom’s who believed I should I be driving. I really didn’t realize how strong a fear it was until I was asked to start my mom’s van. There we were in a huge, flat car-park and I broke into tears. I told myself I could not do it, that manual was too hard but eventually, with some coaxing, I started the engine. Fifteen minutes later, I was driving around in circles, changing gears but more importantly I was conquering my fear.

I have realized that sometimes we make things out to be harder than they are. It can be in any area of your life, your health, job, relationships, etc, etc but the only way to conquer a fear is to go right through it. Do whatever it is you are afraid of. It might not work out but on the hand, there is a good chance that it will but you would never know unless you try.

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Type 1 On The Streets

There is a saying that my grandmother loves to quote, “There’s always someone out there in a worse situation than you” and she is absolutely right. I met a man a couple of weeks ago in A&E (Accident and Emergency, not the TV show). This man was very polite, well-spoken and was also a Type 1. However unlike most of us, he was homeless.

I found this so incredible and could not even begin to fathom what it would be like to live on the streets with this condition, so I asked him a few questions. He was in his late sixties and was diagnosed as child. He made a few wrong decisions in life and lost contact with his family and eventually his house. He sleeps anywhere he can find shelter from the elements and sometimes shop owners would allow him to sleep in their shed but he has to get up before they come to open their store. He collects his medical supplies from the hospital since it is free because it is on the drug service and a welfare check each month.

He explained that he spends half of his check paying someone to store any extra insulin he has and to wash his clothes while the supplies that he currently uses, he keeps with him in a plastic bag and in order to keep his insulin cold he has to beg for ice.

He stills has the challenges that many of us face such as low blood sugar and said sometimes it can be hard for him to get help during an emergency. He told me that one time he started to feel bad and when he tested his blood sugar was 2.3 mmol/L. He asked a guy for a ride to the store in order to buy sometime sweet but the person’s response was that they don’t allow vagrants into their car. Thankfully a good Samaritan came along and he was able to get the much needed soda.

Amidst all of struggles, he doesn’t complain and is thankful for the full life he has lived. So the next time we are having a bad day we should remember – There’s always someone a little worse off than you are. I hope we all remember to be thankful for the good fortune we have.

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Some Catching Up

Sorry I have been away for so long. I guess I was going through a period of diabetes burn-out. I wanted to be perfect and I was hard on myself when I was not. The harder I was on myself, the worst my control got so I had to take a step back and re-focus. Yes I want to be in control but I had to realize that I am only human. There will be good days and bad days, ups and downs, highs and lows. That’s life. Now that I relaxed a bit, my numbers have come down.

I also had a really busy summer so far. I got a new puppy named midnight for my birthday and I went to the accident and emergency twice last month. Don’t start panicking… I was not the one in need of treatment, instead I was the worried family member because my mom hurt her ankle and had to get a cast. As one doctor put it – I was on the other side and very proud of it (my record continues…5 months and counting lol).

However, that is not what I wanted to share. I have big news! I am going to the states at the end of the month and I am so excited. How long will I stay? Well, that’s undetermined right now but I hope to make the best of it. I guess in a weird way I could say that I am going home but being raised in Barbados doesn’t make my trip feel that way. The scariest part of moving for any period of time is adjusting (ie packing, saying goodbye to friends and having to find a new Dr. WonderfulEndo).

Unfortunately all of this change means that I probably won’t be blogging quite as often but I will try to keep you updated as often as I can. Hope everyone is doing well and I will try to catch up on reading other great d-blogs.

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What They Should Know – DBlog Week Day 5

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Prompt: Today let’s borrow a topic from a #dsma chat held last September.  The tweet asked “What is one thing you would tell someone that doesn’t have diabetes about living with diabetes?”.  Let’s do a little advocating and post what we wish people knew about diabetes.  Have more than one thing you wish people knew?  Go ahead and tell us everything.

Oh my… where do I begin? I guess the first I would like people to know is that there’s no such thing as a “bad” type of diabetes. They are just different. Whenever I meet someone new and they find out that I have to take injections, the first thing they usually assume is that it must be bad because their grandmother only has to take pills. Type 1 diabetics have to take insulin because our pancreas no longer makes it.

Then there is the belief that you must have eaten a ton of sweets as a kid. We did nothing wrong. Our immune system decided to attack our pancreas and the beta cells not longer function. It wasn’t caused by having a sweet tooth.

Oh… and the horror stories or magic cures that you heard about. We really don’t need to know that your aunt lost her leg, turned blind and is on dialysis three times a week. Dealing with diabetes is tough enough as it is without having to think of dreadful complications. We know the risks. We have heard them time and time again and as far as these ‘cures’ are concerned there is not enough research or proof to prove that any of them actually work. So let us stick with what we know will – insulin, healthy eating and exercise.

Last thing I would like to say would be to show any diabetic (Type 1, 2, LADA, etc) you’re support. No matter which type they have because we all go through challenges. It is a 24/7 365 days a year (366 on leap years) job. We have our ups and downs and many ‘normal’ tasks require premeditation on our part even when it seems like we do it so easily.

There is probably much more I could talk about but I will leave it at these for now. It’s my birthday today so I am off to go and celebrate. I hope everyone is having a great day and happy Dblog week!

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