A Valentine to my Pancreas

Inspired by the Twitter Chat Thursday hosted by @SweeterCherise @DiabetesSocMed and all those who creatively and collaboratively (pan)created. Thank you, you un/romantic insulin addicts of the #DOC and #DSMA. I “heart” you all (and your wonky pancreases).

Pancreas, I love you more than my wisdom teeth. They are long gone, but you still serve some purposes.

I love you to the Islets of Langerhans and back. (Apparently very small islands and easily obliterated.)

Pancreas, I will pick you over Anthony Hopkins and his love of livers any day.

Pancreas, you and I go together like port and stilton … bloody (red), and bitter sweet, producing unpredictable outcomes, always needing a unit or two to set me straight, and always reminding me of the finer things in life (other than you).

Pancreas, I love you less than, every other functioning organ in my body and way less than my awesome insulin pump. Thank you @Animas

Pancreas, I hope you know that I think you’re really dead weight (except for those digestive enzymes you still kick out … thanks for those.)

Pancreas, just thinking about you makes me feel like a sucker for my own immune system and thankful for Drs. Banting and Best … go Canada!

Pancreas,when we hang out together, I wonder what my pump would be telling me.

Pancreas, I think FOR you at least 500 times a day. If it wasn’t for your amazing inabilities & my dull lancet.

Pancreas, I am lucky to have a molecular biology experiment like you. Your personal scientist forever, Meagan

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Three Sweet Girls

Who would have thunk I’d find a d-community by moving to China? Thank you Elizabeth from T1International for connecting me with Mary, the China representative of the International Diabetes Foundation Young Leaders Association … or something like that. Mary was in Guangzhou for some meetings so we met up for dinner, and I brought along a friend and colleague from work, who also is an insulin junkie. Mary hooked me up to the Chinese DOC, through WeChat, and it has been, er, interesting, mostly due to some wacky machine based translations of the chat dialogues. See below. But what comes through loud and clear, is that PWD need and want community, no matter where they live.

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(Sweet) blood sisters – Eva, Mary and Meagan

I’ll confess I was a bit giddy to be meeting up, and I did my very best to be nonchalant, and not to be a diabetes geek in my questions to Mary. I was most fascinated to learn from Mary about her experiences and understanding of how Type 1 diabetes is viewed and treated in China. Big differences between urban and rural areas and also, lots of mistaking Type 1 for Type 2, since there are not many Type 1’s around. (We are a select, unique group, if I do say so myself.) She told me that hospital guidelines for diagnosing and treating people with Type 1 diabetes were only written and distributed through the country a couple of years ago. That really floored me, because my experience of China is that biomedical research is roaring here. (Although, thinking back on my experience of rabies shots after being chomped by a cat while I tried to transport it for a friend from Canada to China painted a different picture. But I digress. Another post for another day.)

Tomorrow I’m headed out to a get together with other PWD in Guangzhou with my work-mate as a result of meeting Mary last week. I think we might be playing some sort of team sport, that seems to be a variation on boci. Hopefully my lack of Chinese language skills won’t put my team at a serious disadvantage. (Unless the game requires me to say “turn right”, “turn left”, “go straight”, “stop here” or “how much does this cost?) Here’s to cross-cultural d-adventures!

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My Favorite Things – #DBlogWeek – May 18, 2014


Thanks to Karen Graffeo of http://www.bittersweetdiabetes.com/ for organizing the DOC to blog en mass.
Prompt: As we wrap up another Diabetes Blog Week, let’s share a few of our favorite things from the week. This can be anything from a #DBlogWeek post you loved, a fantastic new-to-you blog you found, a picture someone included in a post that spoke to you, or comment left on your blog that made you smile. Anything you liked is worth sharing!

Find a place where nobody will look at you funny and call on your inner Julie Andrews to sing out loud. (With apologies Oscar Hammerstein.)

Mantras for sharing and hacks to be tried
Stories of struggle get #dlove far and wide
Inbox and WordPress bring musical dings
These are a few of my favorite things

Humour that runs through the posts and the blogging
Helping us all to keep balance while slogging
A sense of togetherness this #DBlogWeek brings
These are a few of my favorite things

Connections are made that I never will sever
@KarenBittrSweet please host this forever
Laughter and empathy, truths loudly it rings
These are a few of my favorite things

When my pump jams
When I go low
When I’m feeling sad
I simply reach out to the D-community
And then I don’t feel so bad

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Saturday Snapshots – #DBlogWeek – May 17, 2014


Thanks to Karen Graffeo of http://www.bittersweetdiabetes.com/ for organizing the DOC to blog en mass.

Prompt: Back for another year, let’s show everyone what life with diabetes looks like!  With a nod to the Diabetes 365 project, let’s grab our cameras again and share some more d-related pictures.  Post as many or as few as you’d like.  Feel free to blog your thoughts on or explanations of your pictures, or leave out the written words and let the pictures speak for themselves.

I’m a firm believer that I can and will do anything I want and diabetes will just have to come along for the adventures. Please don’t get the false impression that I’m at all athletic. (I can fake it half-decently.) Living in Japan and China over the past 12 years on my own has provided some of the best adventures both in my work and my travels. And I just have to make decisions so that diabetes doesn’t hold me back.

End of the Angkor Wat half marathon ... all gadgets still attached.

End of the Angkor Wat half marathon … all gadgets still attached.

Priming at 4700 m. Tibetian adventures.

Priming at 4700 m. Tibetan adventures.

Post SCUBA blood sugar ... sweet (not)!

Post SCUBA blood sugar … sweet (not)!

Diabetes Life Hacks – #DBlogWeek – May 16, 2014


Thanks to Karen Graffeo of http://www.bittersweetdiabetes.com/ for organizing the DOC to blog en mass.

Yesterday’s (was a freaky Friday) prompt: Share the (non-medical) tips and tricks that help you in the day-to-day management of diabetes.  Tell us everything from clothing modifications, serving size/carb counting tricks to the tried and true Dexcom-in-a-glass trick or the “secret” to turning on a Medtronic pump’s backlight when not on the home-screen (scroll to the bottom of this post). Please remember to give non-medical advice only!

So many good d-hacks out there on so many spectacular blogs. I’m going to be reading for a while. But before I get too much past the end of the post date, I’ll throw a couple of my own in.

  • When moisture gets into a Medtronic pump and you get the blasted “Button Error” message, signalling the pump is kaput, try the “bag of rice” trick. I’ve resurrected my pump a couple of times by taking out the reservoir and battery and putting it in a bag of rice in a zip lock bag or Tupperware for a couple of days (or once a couple of weeks).
  • A “Button Error” was also eliminated once by parking my pump under the direct blast of an air conditioner for a couple of days – dry air dried it out.
  • The Enlite sensors come with a really good adhesive tape, which doesn’t come off when you sweat. My Medtronic infusion set sticky bit, is not so great at staying stuck when I exercise. So, I figured out the hole in the middle of the Enlite sensor tape is big enough to go over the insulin infusion site tape and connector knob. All stays stuck. And the sensors come with lots of extra adhesives.
  • Not really a hack, but I really think my Frio Insulin Cooling Bag is fantastic. I cart around a spare bottle of insulin “just in case”, I live in a hot place and I travel to even hotter places. Through the wonders of evaporation, the Frio keeps my ‘slin cool(ish). At least it doesn’t bake and it doesn’t require me to find a fridge or freezer. (Just remember you can’t put it in a “water proof” bag or container, as the water in it can’t evaporate, then. I feel a science lesson coming on.)

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Mantras and More – #DBlogWeek – May 15, 2014

Prompt: Yesterday we opened up about how diabetes can bring us down. Today let’s share what gets us through a hard day.  Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day.  Is there something positive you tell yourself?  Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through?  Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost?  Maybe we’ve done that and we can help others do it too? Thanks to Karen Graffeo http://www.bittersweetdiabetes.com for organizing all of us!

What to do when you’re feeling blue?
What to try when your sugar is high?
Where do you go when your sugar is low?
And what can I say when its all in one day?

(What, it’s not poetry Thursday and I can’t impersonate Dr. Seuss?)

As a science/mathy type, I wish all variables that affect my blood sugar could be distilled into a few (thousand) algorithims, and somehow used to make my pump and CGM a whole lot “smarter”, so I don’t have to try to compute them, let alone identify them. So, what’s a girl to do when the blood sugar regulation demons win the upper hand? And what about when I knowingly make certain decisions which end up with predictable negative consequences?

I’ve (tried to) follow the old mantra – Worry about the things you can control and not about those that you can’t. I would add on that when you make a decision about the things you can control, figure out the pros and cons, and then just do it, embrace your decision and make the most of it. And don’t second guess yourself.

Infusion set gets blocked due to blood and sugar spikes – can’t control that so just change the set and move forward – no need to invest any emotions.

Blood sugar spikes after enjoying an extra dessert at at buffet lunch – OK, I can control that situation in a couple of ways. Next time, don’t eat the extra dessert, or go and enjoy the dessert, but make time and find a place for an added bolus or just enjoy the dessert but don’t make time for extra insulin and know that my sugar will go up (probably dramatically). So, now I need to decide what my priorities are.

Making conscious decisions about the things I can control, lessons the feelings of guilt and helplessness afterwards. If you predict the result, even if it is “bad”, you’ve predicted it and you control it. The “result” doesn’t control you. Letting go of things I can’t control, is just frankly freeing. “Oh, the only thing they are serving at this buffet is chocolate covered marshmallows?” I can’t control that. I can make a decision to forgo or enjoy it, and predict the consequences but see it just as neutral information. Results are “just information”, passing no judgement. The judgement that comes from well-meaning people who want to, well, er, pass judgement is so not helpful. Ignore it.

And when a day is particularly stressful, there is always a solid standby strategy. Beer, the darker the better. (However, I must confess that Asahi is, in fact, my favorite lager.)

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What Brings Me Down – #DBlogWeek – May 14, 2014


Thank you Karen Gaffeo www.bittersweetdiabetes.com for coordinating #DBlogWeek Check out the awesome posts by spectacular PWD, blogging their way through the week by visiting Karen’s site.

The prompt for today: May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?

Gosh, this one is so wide and deep. So deep and dark that it seems better just to not go there! Can’t I just write another funny poem? But I’ll put my wimpy side aside and try. What brings me down? Feeling like a failure (even when I know I’m not.) I remember cringing, (and still do) when my HCP tries with such earnest determination to find patterns in the chaos of my CGM lines. After watching her furrow her brows for a while, I try to explain that there is no algorithm lurking behind those Jackson Pollock inspired graphs. It’s easy … I’m not doing what I should be doing, and I’m not even doing the “wrong” things in any kind of pattern that could be identified. Carb count accurately? Exercise regularly? Use the bolus wizard? Calibrate four times a day? All logical things and fairly straight forward for my rational brain, yet for some reason I don’t follow through. Guess-and-wing-it is my mantra. I feel like a failure.

And then I got it from my endo. “You are one of my worst patients ever.” as I topped the 10% mark on the HbA1c. Failure. (He really is a good guy, and I chalk this comment up to a diabetes-inspired demon getting the best of him.)

This was two years ago. And this feeling sucked. To top it off, not only did I feel like a failure, I was pretty convinced that nobody else understood or even could understand. Isolation.

Failure + Isolation = Not good for your mental health

And then I found the Diabetes Online Community. Cue the bright lights and organ music. Through a year of lurking online and reading the few books out there that seemed “real” about diabetes burnout, I’m feeling like my feet are more under me. I’ve dipped my toes into the deep pool of #dlove in the #DOC and feel an instant connection. These people get it! Isolation, be gone. And by trotting myself off to the doctor for a monthly HbA1c, I’m seeing the feedback on my efforts (or lack thereof) more frequently. HbA1c’s are headed down, and I’m proud to say I’m in the 7-8% range.

Ah, but what to do when you sense the pendulum swing in the opposite direction? When you realize the pie chart of your brain is way too d devoted? When you start to think you might qualify as a professional diabetic, your fingers hurt from constant testing, and you go back to measuring the milk in your coffee? All in pursuit of the elusive HbA1c, lower than the last? Not good either (or at least from the mental health perspective.)

I’m in search of equilibrium. The Goldilocks state. The “sweet spot”. Aren’t we all?

Jackson Pollock [1912-1956], Mural, 1943

Jackson Pollock [1912-1956], Mural, 1943