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 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.)





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

Thank you Karen Gaffeo 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


Poetry Tuesday – #DBlogWeek – May 13, 2014

Thanks to Karen Graffeo of for organizing the DOC to blog en mass. Today’s post topic is dedicated to sharing our “poetic” licenses. I read my poem to a friend, and when completed, we both laughed and agreed I should keep my day job.

I lived for 7 years in Japan, before moving to China. Sashimi is so delicious and so easy on the blood sugar. This poem is dedicated to my favourite kind.

Otoro, melt in your mouth fatty belly tuna with a bite of wasabi. I savour it before drowning it with draft.
Otoro, my fatty belly with a sharp bite of the infusion set. The smell of alcohol fades and I wash it all down with a half unit to prime.
Kaiseki dishes mark the culinary map of my meal. Gummy tape residue marks the medical map of my belly.
Otoro, no carbs and all bliss.
Otoro, my fatty belly.

Melt in your mouth tuna belly aka otoro
Melt in your mouth fatty belly tuna aka Otoro
No otoro on the Medtronic model!

No Otoro on the Medtronic model!

Change the World – #DBlog Week – May 12, 2014

The prompt: Let’s kick off Diabetes Blog Week by talking about the diabetes causes and issues that really get us fired up. Are you passionate about 504 plans and school safety? Do diabetes misconceptions irk you? Do you fight for CGM coverage for Medicare patients, SDP funding, or test strip accuracy? Do you work hard at creating diabetes connections and bringing support? Whether or not you “formally” advocate for any cause, share the issues that are important to you.

Getting fired up abMymentorout diabetes related advocacy or causes seems fraught with awkwardness. “Hi, yes, I’m a person with diabetes and I’d like you to listen to my uber-brilliant perspective on issues x, y and z. And while you’re at it, could you make a fat donation to d research?”

Who stands to benefit from shouting my d-cause from the top of the mountain? Me. I just can’t get over the idea that advocacy seems ultimately self-serving. (Certainly when it comes to fundraising for research.)  But I do understand that fundraising and getting governments to invest in d-related research benefits millions of very lovely people who deserve to live a high quality life (and maybe even d-free one day)!

Want me to campaign for human rights? You got it. Need me to advocate for those with disabilities? I’m there. (And it’s probably worth noting that I don’t see Type 1 as a disability. A pain in the ass? For sure, but a disability, no.) Can I help you organize and run a community event, building inter generational connections? I’m all over it.  Food security? Who wouldn’t advocate for that?

But what will I spend my energy on, when it comes to diabetes?

I’m a teacher by training, and I am passionate about helping kids have those light bulb moments coupled with a massive grin. I love the energy and laughter of a vibrant learning environment and watching kids grow academically, physically, socially and emotionally. I want kids to know that the sky is the limit.

I am totally stoked about the fact that two kids are coming into our Grade 6 class next year who are Type 1’s with pumps. I want to be a role model. I want to have them believe that the sky’s the limit when they think about their future. The sky’s the limit whether they are “tethered expats” just like me, hooked to an insulin pump, or they are untethered kids. They probably already have parents who fill their buckets with this message, but I consider it my responsibility to be a “real” role model, somebody who can show them that the international adventure road as a PWD is bumpy and challenging, but possible and there are lots of ways to keep you headed in the direction you choose.

As I think about “giving back” you won’t find me knocking door-to-door or working a table at the mall, handing out pamphlets. But I need to find out more ways to connect with kids. Doing what I love to do and am trained to do in an active learning environment, all with a d-twist. Maybe that’s my diabetes advocacy passion … doing right by kids with diabetes.



The pie chart of my brain

I must remind myself to appreciate that non-diabetics who can recognize an insulin pump for what it is are still rare. I met a teacher last week who told me he had had a couple of students on insulin pumps in the past. “Yea!” I said to myself as I did the victory dance in my mind. Someone who might “get it”. And then his next comment squashed those hopes. “So Pie Chart copythat must mean you never really need to think about your diabetes, right?”

I gently explained that, if anything, having a pump makes me think about all things D-related even more than when I was an insulin-pen-popping person. Is my blood sugar high? Am I crashing? How many carbs in that so I can easily bolus? Will my QuickSet stay stuck through this round of exercise? How much insulin-on-board am I toting around? At 10.0 mmol/L before bed should I give a small bolus or go for a walk? Why do my CGM graphs look like a Jackson Pollack painting? How will my next A1c be and who else will care? How good is “good enough” for us non-professional diabetics. (I am a professional, just not a professional diabetic!)

If only my pump did the worrying for me so I could truly forget the many variables of diabetes that need some dedicated juggling … I’d pay big time for that! In additional to worrying about all things D related, I’d also like this “smart pump” to remind me to send birthday cards, and make me a lovely cafe latte to kick start my day. Bring on that closed loop system, baby!

Being closely connected to the world of Middle School, I think I have a pretty good idea of the pie charts of the thoughts in the brains of many of the kids. But what does mine look like? How much of the pie is devoted to diabetes? How much does my pump let me “forget” about it.




I’m fine


How often do you ask for help because of your diabetes? Yesterday at work, I had a hypo that just wouldn’t quit. I ate the equivalent of the weight of a tram/rhino in jelly beans. It worked eventually, but for a long time I was hovering around the 3.0mmol/l mark, anxiously checking every 10 minutes to see if there was any increase in my BGL, while at the same time waiting for the inevitable spike (yep – came two hours later in the form of a lovely 26.5mmol/l. #DuckingFiabetes).

So, did I call out to anyone and ask for their help? Did I request someone come and sit with me for a bit – at least for the part where I was seriously wondering if standing was a good idea? Nope. Instead, I fought through, guzzling glucose, sitting in meetings, smiling my way through. Anytime I saw someone and…

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