Typical Diabetes Freak-Out

I’m not normally one to lament on the fact that I have diabetes. I don’t usually get depressed or feel sorry for myself that I have to be my own pancreas. I don’t ask questions like “why me?” unless I’m thinking about it in a very scientific way, like literally why me (since no one seems to know). Was it environmental, genetic?

I’m not in denial or even angry about my disease. Do I have occasional moments where I feel angry? Of course. Do I have moments where I wish I could enjoy a margarita or a piece of pizza without worrying about my blood sugar? Definitely. Do I wish that I didn’t have to lug around meters, glucose, and other paraphernalia whenever I want to make a simple trip to the grocery store? Always. But I think those are all normal things to wish and feel.

My diabetes freak-outs usually come in quick anxious bursts, as do most of my freak-outs over anything. And let me clarify that when I say freak-out, I’m not literally freaking out. Usually no one knows I’m having a mental freak-out because that’s what it is: mental. These little bouts of anxiety literally can hit me at any time in any situation and usually pass in a minute or two. Some might say I’m experiencing a mini panic attack. I get kind of sweaty, my heart rate increases and I can only think about whatever is making me anxious.

This morning, it hit me in my car. I was on my way to work, about 10 minutes from the office when I started thinking about my upcoming trip to Florida and how much insulin I would need to pack. Then I started thinking about how great my blood sugar has been since I started working out in the morning. That led me down a path where I started thinking about what I would do if my numbers all of a sudden got really high and what that would mean. If you don’t know, I’m LADA. I was diagnosed in September 2011 and have only needed one injection of Lantus in the morning for my numbers to be within range, meaning I don’t need to inject before meals. My doctor has made it clear of course that that could change any day. When that day comes, I will have to inject at least four times a day. Thinking about all of that led to the diabetes freak-out.

Lately, I’ve been having issues with my injection site. I inject in my stomach, as I have since I first started injections. One day last week, I injected and not only did it hurt like a bitch, but when I pulled the needle out it bled and left a hard lump. The hard lump has happened before, but the nasty bruise that followed had not. I began injecting on the other side of my stomach until that bruise went away, but there is still pain, slight bruising and bleeding at my injection sites. I know that this is normal and I haven’t had an issue in the past few days, but realizing that I will have to inject four more times a day than I already am made me feel really anxious. Where am I going to inject? What if every part of my stomach becomes bruised? Can I deal with the sting of injections multiple times a day?

It’s a bit overwhelming to think about your whole life and to realize that the daily routine of injections and testing won’t ever go away. Luckily, the anxiety of worrying about the “real estate” on my body went away relatively quickly and I was back to jamming out to the latest pop song on the radio. Until the next bout of anxiety hits…

Do you deal with diabetes anxiety or health anxiety in general? What do you do to calm yourself down?

When You Care More Than They Do…

I’ve been debating writing this post for a while now. Actually about three months to be exact. It’s been a heavy topic on my mind for the whole time.

This post is all about diabetes, advocacy, education, health and what the hell happens when you care about someone you barely know because they are literally killing themselves.

I’ll start out and say that I’m angry and frustrated. If you read any of my other posts, you’ll already know that me being angry isn’t a common occurrence. I try my hardest to embrace the feelings of anger when they come (which, c’mon, they always do) and then let them go. But in this particular situation, I find myself feeling frustrated and angry all the time. I get irritated when I see the person involved. But I also feel sad and scared. I feel a whole mess of things, and I think, if you were in my situation, you would too.

I met Mandy (*name has been changed) about three months ago at work. In a new employee’s first week, I give several meetings on social media and online representation, so it was in Mandy’s meeting where I divulged my love for Twitter and all three of my accounts. I told her that I keep my most personal account separate from my more professional ones because I tweet a lot about diabetes and am very much an advocate for the education about diabetes (thanks, #DSMA and #DOC!). It was at that point that I told her I had Type 1 diabetes and she said she had Type 1 too.

So, what happens when one Type 1 meets another Type 1? Well, with me, I got excited! I also started asking her about her diagnosis, insulin, etc. After the blank look she gave me, I quickly shut up. She then corrected herself and said she thinks she has Type 2, but she wasn’t really sure.

Huh?

Mandy had absolutely no clue. None whatsoever.

Mandy has Type 2 diabetes. I met her in November of 2012 and she had been diagnosed in March of 2012 and given Metformin to help control her blood sugar. She has (to this day in January of 2013) never owned a blood glucose meter, seen a real endocrinologist, taken her Metformin when she is supposed to, and attempted to eat a better diet. She has however experienced worsening eye sight, extreme fatigue, lots of bathroom breaks and a trip to the ER after she passed out and almost went into DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis= HIGH  blood sugar).

I talked to Mandy pretty soon after she started working in my office about diabetes and what was happening inside of her body because she really had no clue. I explained what happens to the body when blood sugar stays elevated for too long, what happens when it goes too low. I explained the fundamental differences between Type 1 and Type 2. I also explained ways she could manage her diabetes, including better nutrition and exercise. I told her she definitely had to go to the doctor and get a blood glucose meter and emphasized that when I tested her blood sugar two hours after a lunch of Ramen noodles and her blood sugar was pushing 300.

I explained as much as I could about diabetes (of course, there was a lot that I intentionally skipped so as not to overwhelm her) and sent her a bunch of information and resources. The same information and resources that I found when I had been misdiagnosed as Type 2. I explained the DOC in case she wanted to reach out. I sent her a few great blogs that talk specifically about Type 2. I did everything for her that I wish someone had done for me.

She nodded her head and thanked me after we were done talking. I felt good. I felt like I was able to help someone.

That good feeling lasted about two weeks. Mandy said she would make an appointment to get a meter. She hadn’t yet. I also had noticed her diet hadn’t changed and carbs, carbs, carbs seemed to be the theme of the day, every day. I didn’t say anything because I (and every other diabetic) hate the food police. I hate being told from some know-it-all that I shouldn’t be eating a donut or a piece of chocolate. I have Type 1, so that makes things a bit different, but I would never ever want a fellow Type 2 deprived of a delicious and sugary treat every once in a while. I totally believe that moderation in diet is the key for everyone, diabetic or not!

Mandy and I talked here and there and it became increasingly clear that she wasn’t taking her diabetes seriously. I tried expressing just how serious it is and really had hoped my impression had been made.

Fast forward through the holidays. We are finally back at work after the New Year. It was the Friday after New Year’s and I overheard Mandy and her manager talking in the kitchen about the hospital. It had just dawned on me that Mandy hadn’t been at work the day before, so I casually (yes, I’m nosy!) walked into the kitchen. Mandy’s manager saw me and told me I had to talk to Mandy…

Mandy wasn’t at work the day before because she had been in the ER. After a morning where her boyfriend had a hard time waking her up, her eyesight turned completely fuzzy and she passed out as she got out of the car, she landed in the ER where the doctor quite literally asked her if she was trying to kill herself.

As an aside, the thought of going into DKA is terrifying. It’s something I think about a lot and it’s why I’m so vigilant with my health. To have someone with diabetes that I personally know almost enter into DKA is surreal and really grounding at the same time.

Anyway, Mandy and I went into a conference room to chat about what happened. I told her that what happened is really serious and could be avoided. I didn’t want to lay into her too much because it sounded as though the ER doctor and her boyfriend had already done that. What I did do was bring up the emotional side of diabetes. I asked her why she wasn’t taking car of herself. What was preventing her from taking her medicine and making mindful eating decisions?

“I think I’m in denial,” she said.

Denial, I’m thinking. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. Shock, denial, anger, sadness, confusions, frustration. These are all very common and typical reactions to getting life-changing news such as having diabetes. I get that. I’ve also read enough blogs and personal accounts to know that everyone gets the other D word. I told Mandy as much. I did my best to let her know that was a normal feeling.

“It’s time to leave da Nile in Egypt,” I said, trying to lighten the mood with a corny joke. In all seriousness though, I emphasized that there comes a point where you have to get past the denial. Sometimes people can transition into things easily. I was one of those people who got my diagnosis with shock but immediately jumped into a plan of action. I’m not sure I can say I was ever in denial, although I have my bouts with it every now and then. Denial, for me, was never an option. I felt so terrible and unhealthy that I wasn’t going to deny something was wrong with me. I also am a Google fanatic. My friend Liz and I (name twins!) often have conversations about our unhealthy obsession with using Google to find information about anything and everything, from subjects like English literature to current ailments. So, it was in my nature to Google around the internet until I had a bunch of information about diabetes and what I could do to live a healthy life.

Mandy isn’t like me. I have to keep reminding myself of that. Mandy is Mandy and Mandy is going to do what Mandy wants to do, even if it’s the wrong thing to do. And who am I to judge it’s the wrong thing to do? Granted, I’m sure a lot of people think her denial and lack of motivation to do anything about diabetes is the wrong thing to do, but who are we to judge? (See my problem!)

We ended the conversation talking about resources to help with coping. I suggested she talk to a Certified Diabetes Educator and maybe even a psychologist. I stressed the importance of her getting over the denial in order for her to start on the road to a healthier life. We talked about what would happen if she continued down the path she was on. That path would include insulin injections, complications or even death.

I hoped her trip to the ER would snap her out of denial and wake her up to what a life with uncontrolled diabetes can cause. I thought she would take that as a sign to do research for herself and change her lifestyle for the better.

I understand lifestyle change is hard. But I don’t understand at the same time. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I immediately cut out all carbs. I’m serious. My diet became vegetable and protein rich. I stayed away from carbs. I ate cheeseburgers without buns, avoided pasta, gave up pizza. I did all of that (at least until I got my blood sugar under control). I’m not saying that’s the right path for Mandy, but I don’t think drinking a regular Coke is a way to control diabetes either.

A regular Coke, people! This happened about a week after Mandy’s trip to the ER and our conversation. I saw it at lunch and was flabbergasted. I mean, I haven’t had a regular Coke since about 2008 and would only ever drink it now if I was super low (my treatment of a low is usually glucose tabs or something desserty, like a cookie). Even then, just a little bit of that 24oz bottle would be enough to bring a low back to normal. I was stunned that she would drink the whole bottle.

I spent my lunch break walking around like I usually do and kept going back and forth on whether I wanted to talk to Mandy about this or not. Food police, like I’ve said, is not something I’m interested in doing.

But I was so worried about her that I decided to talk to her. This conversation was similar to the last one I had with her. I told her what the Coke was doing to her body right then and there. I told her she has got to start reading labels and looking at carb counts. Things like Coke and apple juice have more carbs in one bottle than a lot of people with diabetes eat in one day. Spending a lot of time reading labels is something she would become used to.

Again, the issue of denial came up in our conversation. She doesn’t want to change her lifestyle. She loves food. I told her that I got it. I understood. I’m a self proclaimed foodie too. But, I said, things HAVE to change for her health. She HAS to do this for her health. If she wanted to have a healthy pregnancy (which she mentioned) she would have to get her blood sugar under control. If she didn’t want to take insulin, she had to get her blood sugar under control. I again mentioned resources and information.

Sensing a pattern yet? Getting frustrated by the same conversations? I was.

I wasn’t only frustrated by the time we had this conversation. I was annoyed.

When I think about Mandy and her diabetes I want to scream. I literally want to pound my fists into a wall and scream. I want to yell at her. I want to do something that will wake her the fuck up. No more denial. Let’s get real here!! It is time to get real!

I know this post is long, and I’m hoping it makes some sense, and I want to thank you for bearing with me. Maybe if I had written this out as it was happening, I wouldn’t be at the point I’m at now. That point is feeling a bit desperate for Mandy. I’m feeling desperate and worried.

The day after the “Coke incident” I saw Mandy drinking apple juice. I bit my tongue. I tried to forget about it.

I keep telling myself (and my mom does too) that people have to want to help themselves. Change only comes about if a person wants that change to come about. I know this. I know that I can have fifty more conversations with Mandy. I can show her pictures of amputations. I can show her statistics. I can give her information about support. I can encourage her to eat better and point her in the direction of great healthy food blogs. I can do a variety of things, but it won’t matter because Mandy has to want this for herself. Many won’t change because I want her to change or her boyfriend wants her to change. Mandy’s health is solely Mandy’s and she can do what she wants with it (which, she is). But I still feel like I have to do something.

I feel a responsibility to do something. Is that normal? I barely know her. I think it’s because I’ve met so many people through social media that are a part of the DOC. It’s that bond that immediately happens through diabetes that makes me feel compelled to help, I think. But would you?

Mandy was out yesterday going to the doctor. I briefly talked to her today about what happened. Her primary care doctor told her she thinks she needs to go on insulin and got her a quick appointment with an endocrinologist who said the same thing. I asked her if either of them gave her a blood glucose meter. She said no and this is where things smell fishy. Why wouldn’t either of these doctors give this poor girl a meter? Why didn’t Mandy ask? She knows how important this is. Mandy went on to tell me she wanted to get a second opinion about going on insulin.

I laughed. Or maybe it was a scoff. I’m not quite sure.

A second opinion? Really? Mandy, dear, you don’t have time for a second opinion. Your blood sugar is out of control. You need to do something! You’re killing yourself. You need to do something to help yourself and right now it might mean taking insulin (I told her this would happen if she didn’t get it down). She’s scared of needles. Scared of insulin. I understand that, but what choice has she left herself with? What other option is there? No second opinion needed. Also, who are these doctors and why didn’t they start her on insulin when she was at the doctor’s office? Some of her story seems a bit fishy, but I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that she did actually go to the doctors and not just tell the office she did (everyone at work is worried about her now).

Readers, DOC, non-diabetic friends… what would you do? Would you give up on Mandy? Would you feel as frustrated as I do? Is there anything I can do to help her out of denial and on a healthier track in managing her Type 2 diabetes?

I feel an obligation to help. I feel even more of an obligation because I keep failing at helping her. I also don’t know how to go about helping anymore. In the past, when I’ve worked as a teacher, I knew my role and I knew what I could do to help my students succeed. I’m not Mandy’s teacher. I’m not her doctor or her CDE, so what’s my role? I can’t just watch someone with diabetes do this to themselves.

So, I’m asking again. What would you do when you care more about someone’s health than they do? And thank you. Thank you for reading this and for being there for me when I need you. I promise, in return, to always be there for you.

NHBPM- Day 29

“Write about unexpected blessings of your health condition”

Guys, guess what?! This is my last post for National Health Blog Post Month and I’m only one month late in finishing!

Oh, well. It’s been a fun two months of posting but I’m kind of ready to be done and start doing some more random ramblings. I’ve been jotting down blog post ideas throughout the month for when I finished NHBPM, so stay tuned for those.

Anyway, onto the prompt.

I’ve written about my views concerning my diagnosis and how I’m actually grateful for it. That’s right, I said it.

But Liz, wouldn’t you rather be normal. Don’t you want a functioning pancreas? Do you like having a dysfunctional thyroid (my answer to this one will ALWAYS be no- good with the bad)? Don’t you wish you could eat a handful of popcorn, Cheerios, crackers and chocolate chips without worrying about your blood sugar? Do you like getting an astronomically high number after eating a breakfast that contained only 15 grams of carbs? Do you really like gaining weight for no apparent reason while simultaneously feeling lethargic?

Ok, I know absolutely none of that sounds like a blessing and if I’m being honest, it isn’t. It downright sucks if I’m putting it bluntly. But getting diagnosed with a chronic disease is a life-changer. With that life-changer came new perspective and new goals.

Life could be much worse. Also, life could be better. I used to spend a lot of time stressing out about the little things. My diagnosis has given me clarity, peace and a little bit of zen. I quickly realized that the things I was stressing about just weren’t that important. Sure I still stress about things, but I don’t let that stress overpower me and that’s the important thing.

I’ve learned to breathe. Yes, I know we, as humans, breathe automatically and without thinking about it but if you’ve never actually sat and focused on your breathing, then stop reading and do it. Simply closing your eyes and mind to everything but your breathing for 10 deep, slow breaths will help you de-stress and feel instantly better about life and whatever it presents.

You only get one body in this life. Mine happens to have a crappy pancreas and thyroid. That woke me up and made realize that I should take better care of my body. “My body is a temple.” I now take exercise and healthy eating seriously. I work out about five days a week in the gym, take daily walks during my lunch break and try to eat as little refined flour and sugar as possible. Of course, I do indulge and eat too many cookies or too much chocolate. Maybe I really didn’t have to go back and seconds (or thirds) of the crap dip. But life is also about enjoyment. You have to remember that.

Speaking of bodies…. I, like most of American women, have days where I absolutely hate my body. I have days where my body is alright, days where I feel a bit better about it and days where it might be ok to let someone see me naked. I’m working on body love. I’m not a size 2 or even a size 4. I don’t weigh that magical 120 and my measurements look more like a tiered cake than an hourglass. But I’m strong. My endurance is pretty good. I can rock the hell out of kickboxing, dance my ass off in Zumba and yell at Jillian Michaels while Shredding. I can keep pace on the treadmill and drip sweat on the elliptical. I can join the big boys in the weight room. I can do all of those things, and I do do all of those things. I might have a jiggly butt or a few rolls when I sit down, but those things don’t define me. They don’t make or break how attractive I am. This type of thinking didn’t happen overnight. It came throughout the past year and combined with all my other ways of thinking, I think I’m doing pretty good.

Diabetes is a life sentence, that’s true. But it’s what you do with that life sentence that determines happiness. I read all about diabetes burnout and people who didn’t check their blood sugar and swag bolused every meal and I’m right there with them. I can understand wanting to feel normal. Wanting to live a life without constantly thinking about diabetes, food, exercise, health, consequences. I was lucky because I accepted my disease right away for what it is and realized that from that point forward, I needed to live a healthier lifestyle. I needed to live a lifestyle that would help me, not hurt me. But acceptance is hard. I’ve found, though, that those people who finally accept their body and their disease for what it is realize that it actually can be a blessing and not a curse.

 

NHBPM- Day 24

“If I had unlimited funds”

This is a post for dreamers. Which I am. I frequently like to day dream about various scenarios.

I blame it on all the reading I’ve done since I learned how to read almost 21 years ago (yes, I was reading at the age of three).

I do so much reading that my Secret Santa gifter at work gave me two novels and I LITERALLY squealed with joy. I’m pretty sure no one else I work with would have been as happy to receive books as their gift. I’m a bookworm. I own it.

Anyway, if I had unlimited funds I would be reeeaallllyyyy stress-free. In a previous NHBPM post, I talked about the importance of mental health and de-stressing. I’ll be honest and say that money is a huge stressor for me (and probably most people). I don’t make a ton of money a year, I live alone, I like to eat well (and that means spending a bit more money on quality) and I have the added cost of my medicine.

In case you weren’t aware, insulin is expensive!

So is Synthroid. $30 a month, which might not seem like a lot until you realize you feel like you are constantly in the pharmacy handing over your credit card to pay for medicine.

Luckily I have insurance. Without insurance, I’d have to pay even more for my Synthroid, hundreds more for my insulin and thousands for test strips (which come out to roughly $1 a strip… I test about 5-8 times a day, so that’s $8 a day).

I will ALWAYS have to have a job with insurance coverage. Goodbye freelance dreams.

I will always have to worry about money in a way that a lot of people don’t understand. Sure, I rely on money like everyone else does for my basic needs. But my basic needs extend even further, and that costs a lot.

So, with unlimited funds, I wouldn’t necessarily do anything different. I would still work. I might buy more clothes and live in a fancier place (why not?!) More importantly, I wouldn’t have to stress about my health. I wouldn’t have to constantly worry about paying for all of my medicine. I wouldn’t have to employ my defense mechanism (joking) every time I go into the pharmacy and fork over money in exchange for medicine for two diseases I wish I didn’t have.

“Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.”

NHBPM-Day 21

The prompt for NHBPM, Day 21- “Write about mental health”

Guys, I’m going to come right out and say it. Mental health is huge! It’s so important for a person’s overall well-being. Unfortunately, mental health isn’t emphasized in the United States.

That’s evidenced by the recent tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Would that have happened if Adam Lanza had received help sooner in life? Would that have happened if his mental health had been taken care of from an earlier age?

The tragedy would have been avoided if Lanza had received help. Mentally well people do not do what Lanza did.

When you live life with a health condition, whether it’s Celiacs like my best friend, MVP like my Mom, or Type 1 diabetes like myself, mental health and well-being is just as important in maintaining as is keeping the body healthy.

One of the things I like about holistic approaches  (in conjunction with Western medicine and science) is that they focus on mental health. The state of your mind is extremely important.

My previous roommate, Kelly (she is training to become a shaman) and I had many discussions about holistic medicine, mental health and overall well-being. She really enlightened me about a lot of things that I should have taken as common sense. One of the biggest things she urged me to do when I was first diagnosed with diabetes was to de-stress. Stress makes everything 10 times worse and deteriorates both your mental and physical health.

It’s for that reason that I started doing yoga and meditation. I started working out. I started to de-stress. For anyone that knew me growing up, they’ll tell you that I was a stress ball. I would cry before tests from the sheer stress of taking them. I would stay awake the night before something big and constantly run through all the different (and worst) scenarios of what could happen. I would obsess over little things and things that I had no control over.

I’m happy to say that I’m not like that anymore. Sure, I still stress about things but I’ve learned to manage my stress much better. It doesn’t cripple me anymore or leave me lying away for hours and hours. It doesn’t consume me in the way it used to.

I made a conscious decision to maintain my mental health in the same way I made the conscious decision to maintain my physical health. I’ve learned over the past year that the two are intertwined. If you’re feeding yourself nutrient rich foods and exercising, you’re not only improving your physical health but also your mental health because you feel better about yourself (there’s also proven brain chemistry that happens when you treat your body well).

I think this post may be a bit jumbled, but if you take one thing away from it, it’s that your body is a temple. All parts of it must be fed and maintained. A happy mind is a happy body (I think I made that  up, but you get what I’m trying to say).

 

NHBPM- Day 20

Day 20’s NHBPM post: “Write about alternative treatments/regimens/ medicine. What do you support? What is crazy?”

Considering I’ve just decided to throw away all of my non-organic and non-natural lotions (starting only with my face and body lotions and body washes for now) and will from now on be using all natural products and homemade products, I’m all for alternative treatments, regimens and medicine. I will also be writing a follow up post on this about my new routine… once I finish my NHBPM posts (almost done, I promise!).

Here’s what I’ve done outside of the realm of taking my insulin and Synthroid (because those are a must, as is any type of “Western” medicine when diagnosed with something like diabetes) for Type 1 diabetes and hypothyroidism.

-Cinnamon supplements for blood sugar maintenance (I did this when I was wrongly diagnosed as a Type 2 since it’s said to help. I still occasionally take the supplements)

-Reike sessions. Reike is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. I’ve had a few sessions and they are truly an amazing experience each time.

-Egg cleansing. (yes, you heard correctly) Originating from Mesoamerica, shamans have been using eggs to heal the body for many years.

-Healing stones. Along with my reiki sessions, I’ve done some work with healing stones.

-Yoga. Some might not consider this an alternative treatment, but it does come from the Eastern hemisphere. I do yoga to be fit, like a lot of people, but also do healing yoga practices as part of my medical regimen.

-Vitamins, minerals and supplements. I change these up every few months depending on how I’m feeling but always stick with a multi and fish oil. Currently in my rotation along with those two is Biotin and a B Complex. I did have Green Tea as well, but just ran out. So now I drink it.

I haven’t done things like acupuncture or eating spiders to heal myself, but I wouldn’t turn my head away from those things either if they were thought to help. I would actually like to try acupuncture one day, when I get the funds to do so.

Honestly, nothing is really too crazy to me when it comes to health regimens. Everyone should do what works for them, and if having an egg rubbed over my body while smoke billows around my face makes me feel better, by God I’m going to do it!

One thing I do know is that the Western hemisphere relies heavily on prescribing medicine. You have constant headaches? Here’s a prescription for that. Feel bloated? There’s a pill for that. A lot of times, we have pills shoved into our face to help us when in actuality, we can use more natural remedies to help our ailments, and in return we are helping our bodies.

So, with all that said, I say do what works for you! Sometimes we get cursed with having a chronic disease and it’s up to us to take care of ourselves in any way we see fit. A lot of the things I do for my health regimen also help my mental health, and that’s half the battle.

NHBPM- Day 19

“Write about: Life and Death”

To let everyone (all 10 of you) know what’s going on with my blog, I’m participating in NHBPM at my own pace since it’s already December. I have a draft of all the writing prompts and am trying to work through them when I can. Day 19 asks bloggers to write about life and death. Since this blog carnival is all about health, I know that we should write about life and death as far as our health is concerned, and I will. But first I want to share what I just found out after coming back from a great Friday lunch break with my co-worker where we chatted about silly boys, diets and weekend plans over a glass of wine and healthy entrees (living our life). I found out about death.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut had a mass shooting this morning. Right before I went to lunch. While I was planning my lunch, children, 18 as of now, were being shot and killed. I hate to put it so bluntly because my stomach is in knots and I feel nauseous thinking about the terror that school experienced, but that’s what happened. Parents sent their kids off to school in what I can only imagine as high spirits with Christmas looming around the corner. Fridays were always my favorite day of the week while in school (still are as a working adult) and I’m sure laughter was in abundance at Sandy Hook.

I don’t know all the details. They haven’t been released to the public because they are still being gathered. As of now 27 are dead, 18 of those 27 are children. 18 children won’t experience Christmas this year. 18 children’s stockings will go un-stuffed and 18 children’s families will spend their holidays in mourning. But that’s not the extent of the damage. 27 families will spend their holiday thinking about the death of their loved one. Many more families will be affected by the shooting and thoughts about life and death will inevitably come up.

I experienced the panic that comes from knowing someone inside of a school that has a gunman. My brother started his senior year of high school this past August with a mentally ill child shooting up the cafeteria. The panic I experienced was unreal. I had never felt so scared in my life, especially when I didn’t know the details and didn’t know if my brother was one of the kids who had been shot. He wasn’t, luckily, but my thoughts lingered on how he could have been. My grief lay with the children who had been shot and the shooter himself.

To think so little of your life and the life around you that death is the only solution.

Life and death as it relates to me and my diabetes is something I think about as a very real idea. My diabetes has caused me to lead life in a different way. I try to appreciate the little things. I stop and take time to watch the sun rise and set. I find beauty in the small things around me that I never noticed before. I don’t know if it’s because subconsciously, I know I could die. I worry about death but don’t fear it, if that makes sense. I worry that I will have a low at night and I won’t ever wake up from it. I worry about diabetes complications. I worry about cancer. I worry about my health on a constant basis because that’s what happens when you have a chronic disease. You worry. All the time.

It’s knowing that I could die from something diabetes related either now or in the future that has helped me really live my life. I’m a much more laid-back person than I was and really try and do the things that are best for me.

My relationship with death is intertwined with my relationship to life. In a way, for me, the two go hand in hand.
It took me 23 years to come to terms with that relationship in my life. I wish those children had been awarded the same.

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome”

NHBPM- Day 18

“I want to change THIS about healthcare…”

Wow, there’s SO much I want to change about the U.S. healthcare system. First, I’d like to say thanks to President Obama. Without Obamacare, I would have been, for lack of a better term, royally fucked. My diabetes and hypothyroidism diagnosis came when I was moved out of my parent’s house, four months graduated from college and working in a small consulting company that didn’t offer health insurance. Obamacare allowed me to stay on my parent’s health insurance plan. Thank goodness too. Do you know how much insulin costs without insurance? What about Synthroid? What about the thousands of test strips and lancets?

It ain’t cheap.

I’m not going to complain about the cost of my medication. It’s expensive. Insurance is expensive and I’m thankful I’m covered. Without getting into the real flaws I find in our healthcare system that don’t directly relate to me, I’ll talk about my experiences with healthcare in the U.S. that I find frustrating.

The FDA. There are some great diabetes technologies out there that just aren’t available in the U.S. because they are not FDA approved. There’s a stall somewhere in the paperwork, while they pass drugs like Viagra and male enhancement shit. These technologies include a meter that I found while reading a DOC blog. I wanted it but quickly found out this PWD lived in Canada where the meter was readily available, as was the insurance that covered the test strips. The FDA makes life hard when you live with a chronic disease. It’s almost like they don’t want you to have the tools that could make life easier. I constantly curse their name.

Speaking of insurance. Have you ever had to call your insurance company to talk about coverage? I’m sure every person with a chronic disease or health issue knows exactly what I’m talking about. The wait times are astronomical, and when you finally talk to someone, they don’t have an answer for you so you get passed around like a hot potato trying to figure out whether your insurance will cover the very thing you need to keep you alive.

And let’s talk about coverage for a minute. Why is it that insurance companies are so damn slow to get on board with covering new technologies? I want a new glucometer. It’s the Telcare system. It’s pretty, it lights up, it tracks numbers and patterns, it’s much more technologically advanced than my OneTouch Mini (no offense to my minis!). Does my insurance cover it? No. Of course.

My complaints aren’t new. They are the echoes of every person who relies on medicine to live. Our healthcare system needs a huge reform.

Or at least shorter wait times.

NHBPM- Day 15

Skipping a lot of prompts here….

Day 15 prompt asks why healthcare companies or healthcare professionals should use social media.

Well, this is an easy one. Everyone uses social media. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. Even my grandpa is on Facebook.

As someone who works in social media, I will always definitely support the use of social media. Not only is it a great tool to stay in touch with people and build your online presence, it’s a great way to learn. It’s apparent with communities like the Diabetes Online Community that groups of people with similarities are coming together to communicate, share information and support each other.

How great would it be if our healthcare companies, doctors, nurses, diabetes educator, etc. was on social media participating in vital conversations as well? Obviously, with confidentiality policies, information about your health wouldn’t be disclosed through social media. But maybe you have a question about a wacky day of blood sugars but don’t want to go through the hassle of calling your doctor, leaving a voicemail and waiting to hear back. Send her a tweet, message him on twitter. Social media can be done practically anywhere, even the bathroom, so your doctor will be able to respond when he/she sees the message/tweet. Checking Twitter and Facebook literally takes 2 seconds and with smartphones, a notification will pop up if someone is trying to get in touch with you.

I also think it’s important for healthcare companies and professionals to know what’s going on in the community of their patients. Of course, I’m mostly referring to endocrinologists and diabetes specialized companies because I’ve got diabetes. But this applies to any specialized doctor.

Just my two cents. What do you think?

World Diabetes Day 2012

Can I just say that I love the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). World Diabetes Day is on November 14th every year, which is also the day Frederick Banting, one of the discoverers of insulin, was born. It’s a day that is globally recognized to bring awareness and education to the general public about diabetes. To see a community unite the way the diabetes community did yesterday is truly inspiring and incredible.

Last year, I was newly diagnosed when World Diabetes Day rolled around, and to be honest, I can’t remember what I did on that day. This year is completely different. I’ve thrown myself into advocacy and awareness over the past year, blogging, tweeting and talking to everyone. For WDD, there was a 16 hour global Twitter chat with new topics every hour. I participated as much as I possibly could, but was at work so had to jump back and forth.

My major take-away: the DOC is full of inspiring, amazing people and the sense of community is overwhelming. I’m lucky to be a part of that community, even if we would all rather not have the thing that has brought us together.

In addition to the Twitter chat, I also participated in the Diabetes Postcard Exchange. I made two postcards and sent them out (one to Connecticut and one to West Virginia) with some positive words and pretty blue circles.

I also got my whole region (my office and our sister office) to dress in blue for World Diabetes Day. My office has been amazing at dressing in blue for Blue Fridays, but getting both offices involved in the awareness effort on November 14th was an absolutely great feeling. My friends outside of work tell me I work with some great people because they aren’t really supporting diabetes, they are supporting me. I say that they’re wrong because if someone is supporting me, they are supporting diabetes. Like I tell people, diabetes and I go hand in hand. Anyway, it was impressive seeing everyone dressed in blue. What was more impressive was the fact that we were all able to get together for a picture and it took less than five minutes.

Of course, I took a self picture of my blue:

I dressed head to toe in various shades and circles of blue. Definitely my favorite “blue” outfit so far.

My parents also dressed in blue to support me. Of course, they live an hour and a half away and they didn’t snap any pictures, but I love their support as well. It means a lot, especially after our extremely intense, emotionally laced family conversation this past weekend about diabetes (hi Mom and Dad- love you guys!).

Hope everyone had a wonderful World Diabetes Day! I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of Diabetes Awareness Month… and Thanksgiving. This is absolutely the best month of the year!

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”