March 31, 2008

288 Times a Day!

In order to manage blood sugar, diabetics test their blood by pricking their finger (or arm or hand) and putting a drop into a blood tester (glucometer). I do this about 8 times a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how I'm feeling and when I remember. This method does a pretty good job at helping me maintain good control.

Then came along the Continuous Glucose Monitor. It's a device that stays under your skin, like an insulin pump, and continuously tests your blood sugar throughout the day. 288 times a day, even while you're sleeping! Genius! I was so excited a few years ago when I first heard of it.

Medtronic Minimed, the company that made my insulin pump, was selling it. But my excitment was shattered upon discovering that no insurance company was covering it. How could that be? A device that would save lives and prevent devestating complications - why wouldn't they cover it? And so my life went on, testing 8 times a day.

Having completely put the Continuous Glucose Monitor out of my mind, I was shocked to discover the other day that Medtronic Minimed has officially sold its 1 millionth continuous glucose sensor. I figured 1 million probably meant that insurance companies were maybe changing their minds.

I called up Medtronic today and they say that my insurance, United Healthcare, is covering it! Now, if you're not diabetic, then you won't understand when I say how STOKED I am!!!

Next steps, to call United Healthcare to see if my healthcare package covers it. Imagine how healthy I'd be and how many years I could add to my life if I could test 288 times a day, instead of 8.

March 30, 2008

It's Raining Babies

I'm competely serious. Everyone around me is having a baby. Well, maybe not everyone, but it sure feels like it. Two friends are about to pop. Another friend popped earlier this week. Another popped a few weeks ago. Two more have just announced their pregnancies. And one friend recently told me that she went off the pill.

I guess I'm at that age (shhh, it's 28) when weddings start slowing down and the baby race begins. It's not really a race. But it feels like it when everyone keeps asking everyone else, "when are you guys going to start trying?"

Being diabetic, it's just not that easy. You have to prepare your body. Your blood sugar has to be amazing for 6 months before your doctor will tell you, "Ok, you can get started." That means testing, testing, testing, all the time.

I've been talking to my doctors about pregnancy for 4 years now. Even though my blood sugar is really good, it can always be better. Poor control can put you at a higher risk for miscarriages, birth defects, and having very large babies (over 10 pounds - which is why most diabetics have C-Sections).

One day, hopefully not too far in the future, I'll be a mother. But I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure my baby has the same chances as any of my fertile friends' babies do.

March 29, 2008

A Hard Day's Night

1:11am Friday morning. I opened my eyes and was suddenly wide awake. I'd just had an extremely vivid nightmare. I have vivid dreams often, and they usually happen in conjuction with one of three things: overheating, having to pee, or low blood sugar.

When I woke, I figured option 1 and 2 were the culprits, but decided to check my blood sugar anyway. I always check it if I wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes, it will go low and cause wake me up, but I won't feel the effects (the first is usually shakiness) until I get up and start moving.

54 - that's low. I made my way to the kitchen to forage some food. By the time I got there I was shaking, my heart was beating very hard, and I had difficulty focusing my attention on anything. This scared me because my husband was away on business and I was home alone.

The only task at hand was to eat. When I'm low, I get this uncontrollable urge to shovel food into my mouth until I feel better, which takes about 15 minutes. So you can imagine how much someone can eat in the space of 15 minutes. Having self control is difficult because it feels like my thought process has slowed down and my survival instincts have kicked in.

The "correct" way to fix low blood sugar is to eat about 15 grams of carbs - something slow acting, like crackers or a glass of milk, and perhaps a bit of juice. Then wait 15 minutes. If you don't feel better, do it again. These instructions were obviously made up by someone who had zero experience having low blood sugar. It's pretty tough to just sit there feeling like crap for 15 minutes in the middle of the night when you know that eating a bowl of ice cream or a candy bar will make you feel better in 5.

I usually try to be good, but this time I did something in between what my brain wanted me to do and what the books tell me to do. I went back to bed. Woke up 2 hours later with high blood sugar. Guess I ate too much. When my alarm went off, it was still high, and I was feeling exhausted. When my blood sugar jumps around from low to high, it leaves me feeling like I've got a hangover. Super fun.

This experience threw off my whole day. Going to the gym went out the window, my numbers were messed up all day, I didn't feel well, and by dinner I was ready for bed. There's no good reason why my blood sugar went low. But my whole day was ruined because of it. Unfortunately this story happens about once every other week. But you do what you can, and do your best for it not to happen tomorrow.

March 27, 2008

One More Thing to Remember

When I opened the fridge this morning to take out my insulin, I was surprised to find that the little vial was almost empty! There was just enough to refill my pump. I immediately called my pharmacy to reorder, and while I was at it, I ordered more test strips too.

Remembering to order my diabetic supplies every month is hard. I wish I could order an entire year supply, but the health insurance companies will only allow a one month supply at a time. Apparently they think I'm going to sell it on eBay or something. If I need it to live, why would I sell it.

Once, when traveling to Europe, I stressed out for weeks while my doctor, pharmacist, and insurance company (HealthNet at the time) went back and forth to get me approved for an extra vial of insulin for the trip. One measly vial. They made me feel like a criminal for taking a vacation.

This problem leaves the back of my mind in a constant state of panic. What if there's an emergency, a disaster, another Katrina, or another September 11th? And what if it happens where I live? Not only will I not have any back up insulin, but I'm sure it will be a complete nightmare to get it.

Luckily, Medtronic Minimed, my insulin pump company, gets it. They've got me set up on an automatic shipment of 4 months of supplies at a time. What's really awesome is that the 4-month supply they send usually lasts me almost 5 months. So over the past 3 years, I've stocked away a nice emergency kit. Leaving me with one less thing to remember. I love Medtronic Minimed.

March 26, 2008

Educating the Public

Happy Belated Diabetes Alert Day! If "huh?" is your reaction to this, don't worry because it was my reaction this morning when I heard about it for the first time. It happened yesterday and apparently was the 20th year that the American Diabetes Association has celebrated it.

I most likely hadn't heard of it because the focus of Diabetes Alert Day is to educate the public on Type 2 diabetes and encourage people to get tested for the disease. And as I have Type 1 diabetes, it makes sense that I wasn't aware of it.

Type 1 and 2 are very different and very similar at the same time. Type 1 makes up about 10% of the diabetic population, while Type 2 makes up the rest. As a Type 1-er, I no longer make insulin at all, forcing me to inject the stuff. Type 2s may not make enough insulin or their bodies might be resistant to it. Sometimes they have to inject insulin, but I think that most are able to take pills or regulate it with diet. Type 2 is often the result of being overweight or eating poorly, and is the type that's been all over the news recently.

While both types of diabetics have to deal with similar daily struggles and ultimately deal with the prospects of the same horrible complications (heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy and many others), my experience has been that we're handled very differently by the medical community. As a result of what I've been taught, I tend to zone out when Type 2 comes up. So I probably zoned out when I first heard about Diabetes Alert Day.

I completely agree with bringing national attention to the epidemic that is Type 2. It's a major problem that is, in my opinion, the result of processed snacks, cheap fast food, desk jobs, long commutes, video games, little to no P.E. in schools, and a failure to properly teach children about nutrition. But what about Type 1? I've found that the public automatically groups me with Type 2s because it's the only diabetes they know about. I've always eaten well, I'm not overweight, and I'm otherwise very healthy. My pancreas simply stopped producing insulin. It would be nice if the public were educated on Type 1 too.

So, American Diabetes Association, when's Type 1 Diabetes Awareness Day?

March 25, 2008

An almost perfect day

Yesterday was pretty uneventful. I got up, went to work, ate breakfast, went home for lunch, back to work, home again, ate dinner, did laundry, had a snack, watched a movie, went to bed. Super exciting, right? Nothing interesting happened whatsoever. But in my opinion, it was practically perfect. Here's why.

Blood Sugar Results for Yesterday:
7:13am - 126
8:32am - 96
9:52am - 119
1:31am - 106
3:36pm - 97
7:13pm - 69
10:30pm - 176

Perfect up until that last test, darn it! It's amazing how getting good blood sugar results can put you in a great mood. I was really happy all day, for no other reason than this, as far as I can tell. I'm not letting that last test get me down though. Today is already off to a great start with 98, 100, and 108.

It really is the little things in life that make it enjoyable. And these little numbers sure do make a big difference in mine.

March 24, 2008

A Shaky Easter

Easter was a fairly relaxing day for me yesterday. My husband and I woke up and decided to go hit some golf balls.

For years my husband has been trying to get me out on the green with him. He's a major golfaholic, although he doesn't play nearly as much as he'd like to. I finally resigned to give it a try a few months ago and we headed out to the driving range where he taught me how to hold a club and swing. To my surprise, I actually had fun and even hit a few.

So yesterday morning I was up to give it another try. I think it was the gorgeous weather that was calling me and I just couldn't wait to get outside. We stopped by a produce stand on the way to the driving range to buy two apples for breakfast. null
My hubby insisted on buying four, which I thought was silly but didn't say anything.
After hitting balls for an hour (somewhat unsuccessfully on my part) we packed up and hungrily drove back into town to get some lunch. In the car I started feeling shaky, so I checked my blood sugar. 57! How did it get so low? I'm one of those people who tends to think of golf as a non-sport. So I wasn't really thinking of it as serious physical activity that would make me go low. Then I realized that I had been constantly swinging a club over and over for an hour. How could I not have planned for this?

I was about to freak out when my husband said, just eat one of the extra apples. He was a genius. He had planned for my low blood sugar, while I hadn't even thought about it. I quickly ate about half of it and thought, no worries, we'll be at the restaurant soon for lunch.

We pulled up to the restaurant we had planned to have lunch at only to find that it was closed for Easter! We kept driving; he had a back up restaurant in mind. Restaurant after restaurant was closed for Easter. Now I was really starting to worry. We finally found one, quickly ordered and ate.

I like to think that I'm on top of it and plan for every instance of possible low blood sugar. I can't image what could have happened had he not insisted on buying four apples. It's nice to know that I've got someone watching my back.

March 23, 2008

Sweet Temptation

Candy. Sweet candy. The devil in disguise. Candy carries with it all the innocence of our youth. It conjures treasured memories of Halloweens past eating candy corn until you could burst, finding goodies left by the Easter bunny in plastic grass-filled baskets, ice cream cake at birthday parties and bringing cupcakes to school, and the privilege of dessert upon finishing your peas.

As someone who developed Type 1 diabetes when I was 18, my youth was filled with these types of experiences. In the early years after my diagnosis, I thought I was lucky to have been able to fully participate in those events without having to think twice about what I was putting into my mouth. After close to eleven years, I'm beginning to think differently. I now wonder what life would be like had I not had a childhood love affair with the stuff - had I not developed a sweet tooth. Would it be easier to turn it down? To eliminate it from my diet?

Growing up, my parents did a fantastic job of filling our fridge with healthy foods. Our sweet snacks consisted of miniature boxes of raisins and perhaps a low-sugar granola bar. Dessert was usually fruit cocktail, which I now know to be marinated in corn syrup and sugar, but still, they had the right idea with fruit. The only time cereals like Lucky Charms or Coco Puffs and snacks like chips came into my reach was when I was at a friend's house.

Yet, when I suddenly had diabetes and sugar was out of the question, I simultaneously began to crave the damn stuff. As it became necessary for me to always have some of it with me at all times in case of low blood sugar, it was now even more accessible than it was before I was diabetic. Having never thought about sugar twice, I felt like I turned into an addict. It's not exactly a drug addiction. But knowing that certain foods are taboo leads you think about them. Frequently.

Today, as I turned the aisle to get in line to rent a movie, I spotted the candy section. Actually, I smelled it before I saw it, as I usually do. (I can smell marshmallows in the next aisle over at the grocery store.) Whoever designed the layout of the video store knew exactly what they were doing. I joined the line of craving-laden folks who were being forced to look at the delicious spread, and watched as each person in front of me eventually gave in and grabbed a brightly colored box.

I found a box of Red Vines staring at me. I picked them up. Then a box of Junior Mints was staring at me. I picked that up and put back the Red Vines. I came to my senses the moment the kid at the register said, "Next." looking right at me. Thoughts of blindness, leg amputation, and not being able to have children flashed through my mind. I put the Junior Mints back, paid for the movie, and walked out the door feeling good about myself.

I know this is just one moment of strength, but each time I can overcome the addiction, the better chances I have of overcoming it next time. Diabetics live with constant temptation. Seemingly harmless temptation to those who don't understand. But perhaps if we start to share the possible horrible futures us diabetics risk each time we give in to a sugar craving, they just might stop pressuring us to "just have a bite."

March 21, 2008

Sshhh, it's a secret...

Welcome to the secret world of diabetes! Well, I guess it's not exactly a secret world these days, considering that there are an estimated 20.8 million diabetics in the U.S. (according to the American Diabetes Association). Everywhere you look, diabetes is in your face - in the news, on TV, the Internet, and unfortunately, family and friends. The important thing is to realize that #1 - you're not alone, and #2 - living with diabetes is totally doable. You just have to live it one day at a time...or should I say one test strip at a time?

Now that we've set the record straight that there's no such thing as the "secret world of diabetes", I'd like to start over.

Welcome to the secret world of MY diabetes! I know, I know, how interesting can one person be. And maybe I'm not. But I do know that diabetes affects every aspect of my life every moment of every day. Sometimes it's a positive thing, sometimes negative, or annoying, funny, frustrating, challenging, motivating, time-consuming, depressing, nerve racking, exciting, painful, stressful...the list goes on. I'm sure that if you have diabetes too, or if you know someone well who does, then you know exactly what I mean. My personal world is constantly changing when it comes to how diabetes fits into my life, and it sometimes throws me curve-balls.

There's ups and downs, but all in all, diabetes is just diabetes. Something you control as best as you can so you can keep on truckin'. I try to take the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with it with a grain of salt. I'm not trying to make it sound less serious than it really is. I'm aware that diabetes is one of the top killers in the U.S. and I really don't need to be reminded. But I can choose how to feel about it and what I want to do with it. I choose to not let it hold me back.

So this blog is going to be my outlet to share what being diabetic means to me, how it's affecting my life and thoughts, and the fun I have despite it. Cheers!