A few years ago, Norm (my six-year-old brown and black tabby) developed severe allergies that resulted in excessive biting and licking of his skin. We put him on a series of steroid treatments to relieve the itch and help the wounds heal until his allergy shots have a chance to kick in (which could take 12-18 months).
The only downside to so much steroid exposure? It increases his risk of developing diabetes. When I learned this vital information, I looked down at Norm and said, “Sorry, bud. We can only have one diabetic in this family.”
Fortunately, Norm has not developed diabetes. But that doesn’t mean the rest of my family has been so lucky. In the nine years I’ve had Type 1, I’ve watched friends and family endure the trials that come with gestational diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
Last night my grandma asked me if diabetes affects eyesight. Absolutely. Long-term high blood sugar levels can lead to cataracts, retinopathy and glaucoma. This is why it’s essential I visit an eye doctor every year (regardless of my actual eyesight problems). Additionally, when I experience severe low blood sugar, I sometimes get blurry vision (or in the case of a seizure black out completely).
I started wearing glasses when I was 15 and realized I couldn’t read the board from the back of the classroom. But when I was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 22, my vision took on a life of its own. For one week, I had perfect vision. But for the sake of not repeating myself, I wrote about the whole experience back in 2013 on this blog. Read about it here. Continue reading →
Halloween is a surreal holiday. It’s my favorite holiday, but it is also a reminder of how much life with an incurable chronic condition affects my perception of positive childhood memories. I’m lucky that I could grow up with trick or treating without Type 1 diabetes, but I am also cursed in that I will never relish in the same devilish appetite now that I have a disease that negates sugar.
So, it seems appropriate on this almost All Hallow’s Eve and in preparation for November — National Diabetes Awareness Month – that I should write about what it’s truly like to live a day in the life of someone with Type 1 diabetes. A few weeks ago, I took an ordinary Monday (well, as ordinary as a Monday can be) and tracked every time I thought about my diabetes – every time I checked my blood sugar, every time I calculated carbohydrates for a meal, every time I felt something was “off,” and every time I administered insulin to keep my body alive.
Even I was amazed at how much managing diabetes has become a part of my everyday life. With advancements in technology, I’m able to do more, and I’m able to have more variety in the foods I eat. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it any less. That doesn’t mean I can take a break from being there for my body.
So, here’s one example of one day (because no day is the same) with Type 1 diabetes (there are no days off). It’s a long one, so bear with (just keep in mind that this is really how much I think about diabetes on a daily basis – believe me, it sucks). Continue reading →
I stretch my legs and sprint down the paved path along the four-lane highway in Silver Spring, Maryland. The sun sets behind me, and the bugs eat at my exposed calves, but I relish this 70-degree temperature. After 5 miles of gravel pathways, wooden bridges, and cracked sidewalks, I only have one more uphill battle of this last mile to conquer.
And then my speed starts to wane. I can’t seem to muster the strength to push myself harder even on this decline. Something feels off. My muscles are tired and weak, and my heart rate is accelerated past the point of normal. I stop at the next intersection, and as the stoplight turns red, I look down at the phone strapped to my right bicep.
Today is my seven-year anniversary with Type 1 diabetes. I’m not sure what to say. It’s definitely been a learning experience, and I’m thankful I live in an age of technology where it’s easier to manage this disease but let’s be honest that doesn’t make it easy.
And maybe my diabetes (because I just love to give it its own persona) knew my anniversary was coming up and wanted to send me a big fat reminder of its existence by pushing the limits of my insulin sensitivity and resistance. A lot of highs and lows this past week.
Last night was no exception. Got home from a date with a friend, and my blood sugar was 77 with 0.9 units of active insulin in my system. So I drank some juice and ate some protein to keep it stable throughout the night. But then by the time I went to bed it was 167 and climbing so I gave myself a dose of insulin. And then my CGM woke me up at 4 a.m. because it was 48 and dropping. So I drank some juice. Then I ate some gelato. And then I just said f*ck it and poured myself some granola cereal and almond milk.
But by 4:30 a.m. it was 118 and climbing again. So I calculated how many of those carbs I really needed to keep my blood sugar stable and then gave myself an extended bolus rate over the next hour. By the time I checked it again at 11 a.m. it was 106 and stable.
Happy anniversary to me!
Oh and just for fun here’s a list of the most-read diabetes-related posts on this blog. Continue reading →
I’ve decided to take a break from my other writing projects to write this blog post. Because even though I may take a break from my blog, my diabetes does not take a break from my life. And upon learning some unexpected news recently, it seemed appropriate to mention it here.
So I’m not back to regular blogging but I may pop in every now and then.
Another Year in Cookietown
I’ve spent the past week and a half in Cookietown (aka my parents’ house during the holidays). And my blood sugar levels have never been so amazing. I even reached a no-hitter a couple of times (keeping my blood sugar levels within the lines for an entire day). That means no extreme highs (above 200) and no extreme lows (below 70).
So how did I manage this? Well I’d like to think it’s because I’ve gotten better at managing this disease in the six and half years since I was diagnosed. But the real truth is completely based on biology.
The other day I was replacing my insulin pump reservoir. This requires a series of steps that I will reiterate for those who have never had to replace their insulin pump supply (as a side note, manufacturers, physicians, and researchers alike recommend switching this supply every three days although I sometimes stretch mine to four).
Replacing my Insulin Pump Reservoir
The first thing one needs is an alcohol swab, reservoir, infusion set, a blue cylinder-shaped device to inject the infusion set underneath the skin, and of course the insulin and pump. So after wiping the spot on my stomach with alcohol and then the top of the insulin vial, I use the reservoir to fill the plastic insulin container with insulin from the vial (it’s important to make sure you remove all air bubbles from the plastic container). And then of course my cat knocks the vial from my desk (it’s small enough this is harmless).
I then twist the reservoir into the end of the infusion set. I rewind the insulin pump so that it knows there is zero insulin inside and can essentially start to recount my usage (I tell it I use 100 units per new supply). I place the new reservoir into the insulin pump and then fill the 23-inch thin plastic tubing of the infusion set so that I know insulin will safely travel through the cannula from the pump to underneath my skin (this usually requires 6-9 units of insulin per fill). Continue reading →
I throw the covers off and stumble out of bed. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and look at my phone for the time. I check my CGM for my blood sugar level. I put on some pants and clip my insulin pump to the waist line.
You told me six years ago that we were going for a ride. I didn’t know then that the ride would never end. And for those six years, I’ve been searching for a way to get back home, but after all that I’ve experienced and all that I’ve seen, can I really go back?
Today marks my six-year anniversary with Type 1 diabetes. Six years ago at this time I was waiting in the exam room of Xavier University’s health center for results on a severe skin rash. But the results of that skin rash, among other symptoms and an out-of-control blood sugar reading, pointed to Type 1 diabetes. I was admitted to the hospital a few hours later and so began my journey with this autoimmune disease.
My anniversary coincidentally follows #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes Day (April 22, 2015). I felt a sense of solidarity with the diabetes online community as I read through the various hashtag tweets. And I feel like my small contribution to the day evinces how I truly feel about the disease and others’ perception of it.
This past week has been one of the most stressful weeks for my physical and mental health probably since I completed grad school a few years ago. It didn’t help that it was preceded by hormonal blues and a delayed website launch. Among other things, my work life overpowered the rest of my life, making my ability to sustain personal goals nearly impossible.
And maybe it’s my own fault for putting too much on my plate personally? But I did this so that I would have a life outside of work and so that I could be happy. But my inability to have that personal life because of work obligations made me extremely unhappy and not the most joyous person to be around.
What was worse is that when I left the office on Friday, that stress left with me. I couldn’t get it out of my head and my dreams, and my roommate could tell you that when I was hounding the vacuum cleaner on Saturday, cussing up a storm because I couldn’t unlock the filter mechanism, my irritability and frustration had reached a devastating point.
I ended up breaking part of the vacuum when I slammed it against the kitchen counter. This didn’t surprise me. This is why I had a stress ball that I used to throw against my dorm room in college when I felt particularly overwhelmed. But not since I had broken up with my ex more than six months ago did I feel this overwhelming feeling of frustration and anxiousness that no amount of cleaning or running could alleviate. Continue reading →
Basal and Bolus are my lifeline, but they’ve recently hit puberty, and their hormones and emotions are all over the place. This does not make life easier for me, and no matter what I do, they don’t listen. I guess I should respect their independence, but sometimes I miss the obedient rates that never questioned me.
I try to be the healthiest person I can be, but there are days when the diabetes takes over. It’s not necessarily a result of anything wrong I’ve done in managing it, but whether it’s stress or hormones, sometimes my blood sugar levels have a mind of their own.
In a State of Flux
Yesterday was one of those days. Since I went off birth control six months ago, I’ve struggled to balance my basal and bolus rates (basal is the long-lasting insulin I take continuously throughout the day; bolus is the fast-acting insulin I take before meals). My insulin sensitivity is constantly fluctuating. Continue reading →