Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Talking.

It's my first podcast!

Chris, of Just Talking and A Consequence of Hypoglycemia fame, was kind enough to ask me to be a guest on his awesome podcast, and it's up right now for you to listen to!

We talked about the JDRF Government Day conference, our love of DOC lurkers, and my enthusiasm for Corgis (which can be marked by my sudden and frequent use of "dude"). I also illustrate why I am not, nor ever will be, employed by the Nebraska Department of Tourism, we explain that hashtag you've been seeing on Twitter (#rootage), and we discuss Blünt Lancet's glitter fog machine. It also becomes readily apparent that I am a giant dork. (This wasn't really a surprise for anyone, I hope...)

Oh, and zombie vampires? We cover those, too.

Check out episode 76 of Just Talking here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I seem to have a habit of running into things.

Despite years of dance classes as a child, I've evolved into a sometimes-clutz. There are times I find myself misjudging how close I am to the wall as I'm rounding a corner - and the wall wins that fight every time. I've also been known to trip up the stairs, catch my shoe on a part of the sidewalk I didn't notice, and the ice at the bottom of drinks often likes to attack my face as I'm taking that last sip.

Audrey Hepburn, I certainly am not.

Enter diabetes into the equation, and it can get to be an expensive (and painful) character trait. Many of us find that insulin pump tubing, when not securely tucked away, likes to hook onto whatever's handy: doorknobs, a stranger's arm, etc. The doorknob thing has happened to me more times that I'd like to admit.

More recently, I'm finding that my dia-clutzy self extends not only to my insulin pump, but now to my Dexcom sensors too. I'm wearing one on the outside of my thigh for the first time (and it's been almost scary accurate - was matching up to finger sticks only a few hours after I put it in, too, instead of the normal 12 - 24 hour wait). The thing about that particular location, though, is that it seems to be at the perfect height for banging into crap. For the last week, every time I walk past the foot of the bed...


Or past one of the dining room chairs...


Or brush up against the arm of my office chair at work as I'm sitting down...


I haven't accidentally ripped it off yet (YET!), but I'm thinking it's just a matter of time. Or maybe I just need to try a different part of my leg?

Anyone else's robot parts like to dance with their surroundings like this?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Inadvertent Advantages of Having Diabetes.

You always know what time it is.

You either become really good at, or really confused by, math.

You develop super powers, like Dia-Spidey Sense.

Otherwise alarming phrases become slightly more amusing to use.

You say "annoying infusion sites", I say...

Feeling like a tough chick/dude in the Flu Shot line.

Free massages at the airport.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cost.

Something Jeffrey Brewer said at JDRF Government Day has been rolling around in my head.

It was something small; one point among many in his speech. My memory won't allow me to quote him verbatim, but I think I can get fairly close.
"Living with diabetes is much tougher now, in some ways, than it ever has been. In the years before modern insulins and glucose testing, you took one, maybe two shots a day, and that was it. Now you have blood tests and insulin pumps and CGM data serving as constant reminders of the disease. It's something you're always thinking about. Something you can't escape from analyzing." - Kim, channeling Mr. Brewer
He made sure to qualify that point by saying that technology is certainly a good thing - many of us are in far better health than we'd be if this were, say, 1962. The tools we have now enable us to be healthier than any past generations of diabetics ever had a chance at. We can be grateful, so grateful, for that.

But the other side of that is its cost. The mental cost.

A CGM doesn't let you forget. It buzzes; it beeps. It needs a calibration. It tells you you're dropping. It reminds you you're still above 200.

It's always there, chirping at you: "Hey, you still have diabetes!"

All of the correction boluses, the precise insulin measurements, the tailoring of basal rates, the tightened glycemic goals, the post-prandial levels, the aim for those pretty A1C numbers... they help and hurt, all at once.

Mr. Brewer emphasized that one of JDRF's goals is to lessen that mental cost for those of us with diabetes. He, too, would like to see the day where people with diabetes don't have that relentless reminder at all hours of every day. Where we can, using the technology available now and into the future, go back to not really thinking about it. Where we can take all of the time and energy we've put into our diabetes care, and focus that into another worthy cause.

This is the kind of thing that helped me decide that JDRF's new CEO "totally gets it".

And it gives me hope.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Planning A Party.

In about a month, I'll be marking my silver anniversary with type 1 diabetes.

Thing is, I've never "celebrated" a diaversary (diabetes annivesary) before, so I'm not sure what I want to do, or how. Last weekend I told the room of JDRF volunteers at Government Day, in my introduction, that I plan to celebrate with cupcakes - and I totally will. (I've been looking into ordering Crumbs - because, dammit, I still haven't had one of those infamous cupcakes of theirs!) But past that - I have no plans.

My diaversary coincides with Easter weekend, which makes it a little hard to organize a party. Or... maybe that means there's a built-in party involving Peeps, jelly beans, and Cadbury creme eggs?

I'm hoping it also means that my pancreas will rise from the dead, but I'm not sure that falls within the Easter Bunny's scope of abilities.

So in case it doesn't, I need some help in the form of ideas from you guys on how to mark the occassion. If you've celebrated a diaversary before, what did you do? Who did you celebrate with? Were there unicorns involved? Just me? Okay.

Please leave a comment and help me with some ideas!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DOC in DC: Part Four.

Some reflections to wrap up the bigger ideas left in the "DOC in DC" series:

  • In what was possibly the first group #sweatbetes session ever, I got to see Scott Johnson do turkish get-ups in person. (And I totally chickened out when he asked if I wanted to try doing one. He's a total rockstar!) I also found out that, apparently, I don't have to bolus for post-workout ice cream at midnight - never went above 150 and woke up at 123 the following morning! It was a diabetes miracle!
  • Hearing JDRF's new CEO, Jeffrey Brewer, talk during Sunday night's dinner and again the next morning with our blogger group was pretty cool. Like most everyone else, I was previously only familiar with the infamous diaTribe interview he had done, but it's hard to get a sense of a person from words alone. (P.S. I did ask him, in our blogger meeting, if we could get him to do a webcast. It sounded like a possibility - I'm keeping my fingers crossed!) I can tell you that after Government Day weekend, I'm totally a fan of the guy. As I tweeted during that Sunday night dinner: "He totally gets it." He understands the need to engage the online community, to include type 1's diagnosed as adults, and the value of those of us who grew from "juvenile diabetics" into "adults with type 1". He also had the guts to admit he "could have worded some things differently" when talking about the expansion of JDRF's mission to not only work towards a cure, but treatments to live better with the disease right now. Admitting fault isn't an easy thing to do for anyone - and that earned him some major points in my book.
  • Switching gears - I had cheese pretzel hotdogs from Auntie Anne's in the Washington Reagan Airport for the first time - OMG. So bad, but sooo good. (Okay, maybe these aren't all "bigger ideas"...)
  • The JDRF Grassroots staff in D.C. is awesome. (That includes the interns! You ladies rock!) They were all so enthusiastic, so helpful, and put together a fantastic event. We have some great people working hard for our cause there.
  • Monday night's cupcake dinner. I can't even tell you how awesome it was to meet Dayle, Chris, Sarah, Miriam, Kevin, Lindsey, and to hang out with everyone there - I mean, just look at how happy we all look in this picture! :) My CGM graph even resembled a cupcake that night:
  • Sunday was the Blogger/DOC Roundtable session, and my only regret is that we didn't have more time! I felt like we could have gone on for the rest of the afternoon, with as much as all of us wanted to share, and all of the questions that came in. To everyone who watched/participated/cared, thank you so much. I think all of us there, representing the DOC, felt so proud and honored to be able to share what this community has done for us, and what it can do for others.
  • How is this for ironic: a weekend all about diabetes advocacy included many of our DOC group having really bad highs or really bad lows?
  • And finally, Cherise and I found these at the airport on our way out of town. We took it as a sign of good things to come. :)
Not quite as fancy as Sprinkles, but he's still pretty cute.

*You can find my other posts about JDRF Government Day herehere, here and here, and a bit of a "master list" of blogs (not just mine) who have discussed the event here. As I've mentioned before, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has not asked me to write about their Government Day experiences, and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

DOC in DC, Part Three: Planes, Trains and Shuttle Buses.

Airports are an unending source of stories - and so is the Metro.

* * * * *

Hadn't had any of this yet.
That may have been part of
the problem.
We already know the tale of The Girl Who Doesn't Like Airport Security. She also happens to also be The Girl Who Especially Doesn't Like Airport Security At 5:30 In The Morning, and yet all of this was in play at the time of our story.

Making it to the airport in plenty of time, The Girl checked her suitcase and headed upstairs to the tiny airport's TSA screening areas: one to the left, one on the right. Because the one to her left was completely deserted, she headed to the right, following all of the other people. She did the whole hurry-up-and-take-shoes-off-OH-GOD-OH-GOD-I'M-NOT-GOING-FAST-ENOUGH dance, got all of her things situated into four bins, and started sliding them down the conveyor belt.

When she reached the TSA agent, she handed him her boarding pass. He eyed it for a few seconds, grimaced, then spoke.

"Ma'am, this line is for the United gates. You have to go to the other side for the Delta gates."

She looked behind her at the tumbleweeds blowing by the other security checkpoint, and came back at him with an incredulous expression. "Over there? Um... there's no one over there. That line is closed. That's why I came over here. Aren't the gates connected once you get past security?"

"Nope, they're not. Don't worry; someone will be over there soon."


Embarrassed and shoeless, The Girl hastily slipped her shoes back on, gathered her things awkwardly into her arms, and waddled over to the other side of the airport.

Suddenly, she was thankful it was 5:30 in the morning, and not in the afternoon. (Less witnesses!)

After several minutes of waiting for the checkpoint to be fully staffed, she made it up to the front of the line. As she's done so many times before, she disconnected her insulin pump and shoved it into the ziplock bag with her glucose meter and vacation loaner pump, and handed the bag to the TSA agent.

"Hi! This bag has diabetes equipment in it that cannot go through x-ray, so I'd like for them to be hand-checked, please."

This should be an easy request, she hoped.

"Aaah, what's in here? Is this an insulin pump?" The Agent looked through the bag and shuffled its contents.


The Agent gave her a suspicious look. "You know this is just a metal detector, right? It's not an x-ray."

"That's fine - I'd still like to have them hand-checked."

The Agent started to dig his heels, albeit politely. "You know, we get hundreds of insulin pumps through here, and people always just go through the detector with them."

This back-and-forth went on for another minute or so. The Girl knew how to dig her heels, too, and wasn't willing to take a chance at sacrificing thousands of dollars of equipment.

"Actually", The Girl said, "I know that may be the case for some models, but the one I have has a lot of metal in it. The manufacturer has specifically told me to have it hand-checked when I go through airports." (The Girl might have been going off of year-old information at this point, but she honestly just wanted to go the safe route.)

A few more polite disagreements were exchanged, until they reached a standstill. The Agent finally said, "You know, I'll go ahead and hand-check these this time, but in the future, this might be an issue for someone. (Editor's comment: because that whole conversation we just had doesn't qualify as "an issue"??) When you're telling me that this is a life-sustaining medical device that you have to wear, but then you're taking it off - that raises some red flags, you know?"

Oh, I'll raise a red flag for you.

The Girl fought the urge to roll her eyes, and smiled instead. "I understand. Though I've been through several other airports a lot larger than this one, and never had this issue before, I understand your concern. I appreciate you hand-checking it for me."

After that ordeal was through, The Girl gathered and repacked her things, headed to her gate, and took a seat. After a few minutes, a group followed suit and sat in the row behind her. The Girl caught eyes with one of the ladies, and the lady immediately piped up, "What was his deal?? You have diabetes, right?"

The Girl and the lady had a nice chat about how ridiculous that was, and how neither of them had ever seen a PWD hassled like that in an airport about an insulin pump. The lady relayed that her husband has type 2, and asked about The Girl's insulin pump. The Girl couldn't help but gush a little bit that she was headed to D.C. that morning to do some diabetes advocating. 

She wouldn't let a TSA agent ruin this trip, or begrudge him for causing this spontaneous diabetes conversation between strangers. The Girl was rather enjoying this particular side effect of the situation.

* * * * *

The Girl's flight out of D.C. was a much different experience. 

Joined by her buddies Cherise and Allison, and her rockin' Blunt Lancet bandmate Kelly Rawsugar, The Girl stood in line for security again. They noticed that this airport had not only a metal detector, but one of the full-body scanners, and got excited. The four friends mused, Wouldn't it be cool if we ALL got patdowns? We could all write about it! We could even use a hashtag about it - #patdownsolidarity!

Sadly, this was not their fate. Kelly and Allison were waved through to the metal detector (and passed with flying colors), while Cherise's OmniPod caught the attention of the TSA Agent. While Cherise was sent to meet the full-body scanner, The Girl told the agent about how she can't go through the scanner with her robot parts (by this time, the agent looked a little bewildered by having four people in a row with insulin pumps). She asked for a patdown instead, and the agent called out, "FEMALE CHECK NEEDED!"

The Girl could see her friends on the other side of the checkpoint, grinning from ear to ear about what was about to go down. They yelled, "We'll grab your stuff!!!", and The Girl couldn't help but laugh to herself a bit over how cute that was.

And so, the patdown happened - no "private screening" for this girl! The agent was very nice about the whole thing; telling The Girl exactly what she was going to do and how (using the backs of her hands). After a couple of minutes, it was through. The agent wrapped up the screening by asking The Girl to touch her insulin pump with both hands, then stick them out for the agent to swab and check. That was it! All done! The Girl was surprised at how...  tolerable that was. She even said to the agent, when turning to leave, "Thank you for making that as unweird as possible. Really, that wasn't so bad!"

* * * * *

The car had grown empty, but the two women hadn't noticed. Their excited chatter filled the space until one started looking around. This scenery wasn't familiar, and she started to panic.

"Wait... wait.", the one with the long hair said. "Did we pass over an industrial area last time?"

The one with the curly hair jumped up and looked through the window to the train tracks and warehouses below. "Oh no... I think we talked right through our stop."


Already running late because of the previous shuttle bus, the two friends leapt up to look at a map. They were lucky to be misplaced by three stops, and not lost.

Lost, however, was their opportunity to make their first Congressional appointments of the day. :(
* * * * *

And those are my travel stories from JDRF Government Day weekend. Are you still awake? Okay, good. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

DOC in DC: Part Two.

What made JDRF's Government Day event so memorable?

Dude, where do I even start with this?

I want to start with the end - our meetings with our state's Senators and Representatives. But before I get to those, I should tell you about some of the informational sessions we had with JDRF staff and researchers.

The JDRF Government Relations (GR) staff in D.C. did a great job of giving us the information we needed to be able to talk to our members of Congress. We heard from not only the GR staff, but also from Dr. Richard Insel, M.D. (Chief Scientific Officer at JDRF) and Dr. Judith E. Fradkin, M.D. (Director, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Disease for the NIKKD at the National Institutes of Health [NIH]) about where we are in terms of research on prevention, treatment, and a cure for diabetes.

We found out interesting tidbits, like how the U.S. Department of Defense funded $20M for research into continuous glucose monitors - because the stress of war elevates the blood glucose levels of soldiers, and when your blood glucose levels rise, you don't heal as quickly.

We talked about the AP being important not just for the benefits of living healthier now with diabetes, but also because a healthy body (with tightened glycemic variations) will be more accepting of a biological cure. I hadn't thought of it in that way before - but it makes sense.

It was also brought up that the AP can benefit not only those with type 1, but those with type 2 as well. We all struggle with hyperglycemia, and the AP would help mitigate that for us all.

And then, we heard about why the Artificial Pancreas (AP) is stalling in its progress with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Much of what was presented was familiar to me, as I do tune in to those webcasts when I can, but they made a good point: not only will the artificial pancreas be the first of its kind in terms of that particular technology, its also a device AND a drug. Getting either one of those approved takes time, but both? It's a double-whammy of a paradigm shift.

That lag - that hesitation of the FDA to approve the AP for out-patient, real world trials - is why we were in our suits and big JDRF stickers, talking to Congress. (Seriously, loved those stickers. You could see them across the Hill, and wave frantically to your fellow JDRFers. "Heeeey! Someone I know, kinda!") A letter was sent out to all Senators and Representatives the week before we were there, urging them to co-sign a letter to the Commissioner of the FDA. This letter to the FDA asks them to "quickly and seriously consider draft guidance (effectively a research framework) submitted by JDRF and other leading clinical experts, and to keep the process moving so that these new technologies can be further tested and made available in the near future".

(We're to the point of needing to move from in-hospital clinical trials - which were very successful - to out-patient clinical trials. And we need the FDA's approval to be able to make that transition.)

The rotunda in the Longworth
 (House) office building.
Each meeting we had was a little bit different. Brian (who was the other volunteer there from the Cornhusker state, and thankfully knew his way around D.C. much better than I did) and I met with two of Nebraska's Representatives and a staff member for the third, and a staff member for one of our Senators. (Brian met with the other Senator on his own - more on that story later.) Everyone we met with was very cordial, and open to hearing what we were there to talk about. Some offices even had a JDRF photo frame out - though, maybe they knew we were coming. One Congressman in particular was so interested in the technology we were bringing up that he started asking me questions about it!

That's one thing I had forgotten in my nervousness - that listening to constituents is their job. It's easy to feel intimidated and get yourself freaked out about talking to someone in that position. You fear that you'll get there and forget your name, or what you wanted to say. You feel like you're just one small voice in a big ocean of problems and concerns that this person listens to. You wonder if your one, small voice can ever be heard above all that.

The truth is that once I got there and shook their hand, the nerves melted away, for the most part. The Politician is just another human being; The Office becomes just another room. (As the saying goes, they put their pants on one leg at at time, too.) You have their attention, and you have an army of supporters behind you (whether that be the other advocates in attendance that weekend, or the overwhelmingly wonderful number of you who followed the #JDRFGovDay tweets and lent us your encouragement and support). The hardest step is getting yourself to go do it, and now that you're there, you just talk.

And talk, I did. I talked about how living with diabetes for a quarter century doesn't make me an expert at living with it - that no amount of time can guarantee that knowledge. I talked about the costs of time and emotion that diabetes charges me. I talked about how today's technology is great, but it's not good enough. I talked about how an artificial pancreas could change my life - and wondered (out loud) what the heck I'd do with my free time, if I wasn't worrying about diabetes so much. (Pretty sure I actually used the term "diabetes brain" in one meeting - I hope they knew what I meant.) And I acknowledged that while a device automatically deciding on and controlling insulin delivery could be dangerous, living with diabetes is dangerous. And we can't afford to keep waiting.

That's what being an advocate is: speaking up when it's needed, not just when it's convenient. Having the audacity to put our voices out into the world, and to tell our own stories.

It's what we do here in the diabetes online community, and I hope it can also be what we bring out into the off-line world. Interested in signing up as a JDRF advocate? You can find more information here.

Disclosure: As always, these opinions are my own. JDRF has not asked me to blog about the Government Day event, nor have they asked me to promote their advocacy program. (Though I do volunteer on my local chapter's GR committee - so it's this thing I'm trying out.) As someone who was so proud to represent our community and cause during those four days (and always!), I'd be remiss not to recount what I learned, and how I interpreted the event. 

Friday, March 18, 2011


Hi, friends - I'll get back to recounting JDRF Government Day on Monday, but for now, I need to get this out.

It's time.

My name is Kim Vlasnik, and I write this blog.

*whew* That wasn't so bad. I have a last name! And there it is! And good luck pronouncing it correctly!

About a month ago, I wrote this post. Until recently, I have been pretty protective of who I am "in the real world" - and because of that, I've never used my full name anywhere on this site. I've frankly been a little bit scared to do so. (And don't call me Frankly?) But...

I've recently come to the decision that that's something I want to change.

This has been something I've been thinking about for a while, and now seems like a good time to make that edit to my blog (and online interactions). Why the change of heart? I've got a few reasons.

For one: there isn't much point anymore. Googling my name brings up a lot of diabetes stuff - which I'm starting to think of as a good thing. I'm friends with several DOC people on Facebook, so I'm "out" there, too. And with the addition of all the JDRF Government Day coverage, my name is all over the diabetes interwebz now. (I did realize that going in - and was waiting to decide until after I got back on how I wanted to proceed.)

Secondly, and more importantly, there's the whole "future employer" issue. (You might have heard me mention that among my points in the Blogger Roundtable video from JDRF Government Day. Even as I was saying that I don't use my last name on my blog, I thought "...but that doesn't make much sense, because I'm sitting here in front of you right now with my full name on the projector screen.") While I can be happy staying where I currently am job-wise for a while, it's not the sort of thing I will be making a career out of. The work I currently do will run its course, and unless I get hired to another department, I'll be looking elsewhere in a few years. What I'd like to do - what I'd really love - is to communicate about diabetes for a living. (I think that's the endgame dream for many who blog about life with diabetes, isn't it?) I don't know exactly what that means yet, or even what all of the possibilities are with that kind of goal, but I do know that I don't want to build a career doing something I'm not passionate about., At some point I need to take that leap. I realize there is risk associated with that plan, but it's one I want to take some day in the future. And people don't build work experience under a first name only (unless you're Cher).

And lastly - it just feels like a natural progression. I write about personal things here; it's a little weird that most of you wouldn't have recognized my name if you saw it. (Right?) I want to be as open and honest here as I can be, and to that end, here I am.

Here's hoping this doesn't come back to bite me in the butt.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

DOC in DC: Part One.

Let me first say that I have no idea how many "parts" this series will have. I will probably have to Tarantino things a bit, going back and forth in time. (I just imagined myself on a hoverboard - hmm. Maybe have to break out Paintbrush again soon.)

Like many of my fellow DC/DOCer's, my head is filled, perhaps beyond capacity, of thoughts and stories about this past weekend. I'm still processing what happened, downloading and compiling photos, and trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I actually met some of my state's Congressmen. (And that I also got to meet some of the d-bloggers I look up to most - and yes, they are just as awesome in person as they appear to be online! I miss you all already!)

Before I get into the stories, I wanted to make sure to say a big THANK YOU to JDRF Advocacy for putting together such an impactful weekend, and for letting me be a part of it. Honestly, before I got there I wasn't quite sure how I got invited - I sometimes feel like I'm just little ol' me (and how on earth did I end up being associated with such a fabulous group of DOCers and JDRF volunteers?) As the weekend went on, my confidence grew, and I started to see that it doesn't take someone being a "big deal" to get things done - what it takes is heart, a voice, and some courage to put those things out there into the world. We all can find those things within ourselves. We all can be advocates for ourselves, and the greater diabetes community. We all can make a difference.

Over the next several days I want to fill you all in on the sessions we had, what I learned from researchers and JDRF leaders, and what meeting a Congressman or their staff is like (I had zero experience on this going in - so if I can do it, anyone can do it!). I also want to tell you about Cherise and I getting lost/misplaced on the D.C. Metro, an episode of group #sweatbetes with Turkish Steve, and how amazing Georgetown Cupcakes are.

In the meantime, I'm sharing a few of the pictures I love from the weekend. I'll have to explain their context later. :)

I know it probably wasn't planned that way,
but my first thought when I saw this at
the end of the buffet line was,
"JDRF knows the DOC well".

Kelly K. and Sprinkles The Unicorn!

Yep, I got a side-hug from Gary Hall, Jr. (So cool to
see him there, advocating right along side the rest of us!)

Look very closely - #dsma and #dprom got a mention
on the JDRF slides!! (How awesome is that?)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Post: Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful.

The fabulous Caroline Sheehan, who apparently is an aspiring novelist (judging by the length of the following post... wink!), is taking the blogging reigns over for me today. Her posts always make me giggle, and this one is no exception. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us, Caroline!


We love our Diet Coke.
Kim and I have both been training for half marathons this season-- mine in one week, hers in two months. We've both been thwarted recently by a sinus infection (her) and a sprained ankle (me), so who knows how much of those 13.1 miles we're actually going to RUN...but we've been running, training, and otherwise working out, that's for sure.

I've been frolicking around my hometown of Brooklyn with Team in Training, the running and fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We go on group long runs every Saturday morning. I've loved the experience-- the chance to bond with the others, the way the group gets me through pain and boredom, the sense of rhythm and accomplishment it gives to my weekend-- but others question my sanity. “Caroline, you're getting up at 7:30 on a Saturday?” they ask, bug-eyed. “To run eight miles?!” Usually, I grin and nod my head. Except for one Saturday in January, when I woke up at 7:30 AM to run eight miles...and saw that it was eleven degrees outside.
You have to question any runner's sanity when their mileage is almost the same as the temperature outside.
But what could I do? If people can live through chemo and radiation for leukemia, I can live through a sub-freezing long run. So I ate my Clif Bar, set my temp basal to 50%, gritted my teeth, and proceeded to dress in two layers of everything. EVERYTHING. Two shirts, two sets of pants, two pairs of socks, plus gaiter, plus hat, plus sweatshirt....
I don't have two pairs of gloves, though. So in a moment of desperation (damn neuropathy-induced numbness!), I put on my only gloves and then pulled a pair of pink socks over my hands.
I waved hello to everyone with my sock-puppet hands, which got me a lot of strange looks and snickers, and we began to run. Our route began in Prospect Park, then traveled north over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan. We were to run over to the West Side Highway, and then keep going as experience and previous mileage dictated. I planned on ending at 52nd Street, or somewhere around 8 miles.
I got caught up in chatting with everyone, getting up to speed on people's weekend plans, and complaining about the bitter cold. Before I knew it, my clump of teammates and I had run about four miles and we were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. We thinned out along the bridge, and I savored the sharp sunshine and the total lack of tourists. My eyes watered in the cold as I crested the bridge and descended over to Manhattan. I felt great. I felt alive.
Upon setting foot on Manhattan, I found a bench and declared, “Gel break!” My buddy Kenny started to munch on some Shot Blok gummies as I pulled out my meter from my chest pocket. I yanked off a sock and a glove, tested, and blinked at the number that popped up on the screen: ….41.
“What the HELL?” I squawked. Kenny paused, Shot Blok halfway to his mouth, and looked at me. “Is it a good number or bad number?” he asked.
Well, duh Kenny.
“It's really low,” I said. “And I feel totally fine.” More of our friends were trotting up to us. I started to panic a little. What was going on? I usually can feel my lows-- even if it's nothing more than a hunch that something is wrong-- and a reading under 50 with zero symptoms freaked me out. 
At that moment, our friend Larry arrived at the bench. “Oh my gosh,” he declared. “It’s so cold my icicles are experiencing nipple chafing.”
DING! went the lightbulb over my head. Is my meter inaccurate because it's so cold outside? I shoved it in between my thighs, then reconsidered and stuck it in my armpit. Larry gave me a look.
Everyone was chatting, while I carefully swallowed my Gu gel and tried to send rays of warm sunshine to my OneTouch by mind power alone. After a few minutes, I pulled it out and tested again. 36. So much for armpits and sunshine.
“You ready to go?” Kenny asked. Everyone else had finished and was gazing expectantly at me.
“ guys go ahead,” I told him. “I'm gonna walk for a bit.”
“By yourself?” Larry asked.
“I mean, I feel fine,” I replied. “But it says that I'm low. So....I'll walk?” I met his look of concern with a smile and said, “It's okay. You guys go ahead, I don't want to spoil your run.”
Apparently, I was not convincing. “YOU guys go ahead,” Larry announced to the small group assembled around my bench. “Caroline and I are going to hang back.”
They ran off. Larry and I began to walk. “Erm. Thanks for staying behind with me,” I said. “I'm sorry to be imposing on you or anything.”
“Well,” he said, “here’s what I thought when I saw you. There's sitting on a bench....and there's sitting on a bench looking like you're waiting for the vultures to come down and eat your flesh.”
“That's kind of you.”
“Thanks, I try.”
Larry is twice my age, totally bald, frequently cantankerous, and one of the funniest people I know. He managed to distract me from the deep uneasiness I felt about my meter’s questionable accuracy, and my total hypo unawareness if it was indeed correct. His head was swathed in a TNT hat, with another neon scarf tied to cover his face. As we walked by a community college with a banner perkily proclaiming “BE A CHANGEMAKER!,” Larry muttered, “Yeah, be a changemaker....look at me.  With this thing wrapped around my face, I look like a terrorist changemaker.”
“If you're a terrorist,” I said, waving my bubblegum sock-ed hands, “then I look like a homeless changemaker. Hey, you think they have public restrooms? I need to wash my hands and test again.”
He squinted towards the entrance. “I see security guards.” We looked at each other. Larry understood what to do. He grabbed my elbow. I arranged my face in my best expression of bordering-on-death. We burst in and he immediately shouted, “Hello, my friend is diabetic and absolutely needs to test her blood, can we use your bathroom? We promise we're not criminals.” The security guards blinked and pointed.
“I'm glad I've got you as an excuse,” Larry whispered as we headed to the restrooms. “I really have to pee.”
Larry did relieve his bladder, as I removed my layers once more and checked my BG. 165. Huh. I took a deep breath and accepted that I would never know what it had been in the first place. “Let's run,” I announced to Larry when we met up again outside.
So we did. We made our way along the West Side Highway, admiring the view of the Hudson and enjoying the temperature, a now balmy eighteen degrees. Larry and I chattered about bum knees, dental work, and the NYC Pride Parade. As he was trying to convince me to walk in the parade as part of Team Flaming 4 Christ, I heard a familiar beep. Not just any beep...the dreaded Fur Elise.
Animas Ping users, like me, now forever have terrible associations with Beethoven because of this stupid pump alarm. I unearthed my pump from underneath four layers of fleece and squinted at it in the sunlight. NO DELIVERY. (Beedle beedle beep!) REPLACE BATTERY.
The expletive I yelled immediately froze into an icicle and hung in the air.
“What now?” Larry asked, in mock exasperation.
I cringed. “My pump battery died.”
“Didn't your last battery die when you were working out with us?” Larry said, with a little more true exasperation.
“Well....yes,” I responded. It wasn't the last battery, but he was right: this was not the first battery failure Larry had witnessed. When my pump's juice ran out during a TNT group workout last time, both Larry and the coach had suggested bringing a back-up, just in case.
“In my defense,” I squeaked, “I just changed it! It only warned me of low battery once! YESTERDAY!”
Larry pulled down his terrorist face mask to glare extra hard at me.
“So, um,” I said lamely, “that's why I don't have an extra with me.”
“Right,” Larry said, yanking his scarf back up and turning to survey the landscape. “Here's what we're gonna do. We are going to find a convenience store. Maybe along 8th Avenue. We are going to buy you TWO batteries. And you are going to keep the other one with you ALL THE FREAKING TIME so that this doesn't happen again. And then we'll keep running. Okay? Great. Let's go.” He didn't wait for my response before taking off.
“I just can't believe that BOTH my meter and pump have caused problems for me today,” I called after him.
Surprisingly, we didn't have to cross over to a more populated block to find a convenience store. We spotted a Qwikmart gas station. In the middle of Manhattan. The doorbell tinkled as we stepped inside to find a stocky man with an enormous mustache behind the counter, yammering away in what sounded like Farsi on his cell phone.
Larry pulled down his scarf. “Take the socks off your hands,” he instructed. “We don’t want him to think we’re homeless terrorists, remember?”
The guy threw his phone on the counter, looked at Larry, looked at me, and then smiled underneath his mustache. “Hi,” I said, “do you have double A batteries?”
“Of course,” he said, reaching underneath the counter and sliding over a 2-pack of Energizers with Japanese labels and a demonic Energizer bunny. “Two dollar.”
I extracted a ten dollar bill from between my second and third layers of sweatshirts. “Sorry…it’s a little sweaty.”
“We’ve been running,” Larry explained. 
“In this cold?” the gas station guy asked, aghast, while handing me my change.
“We’re crazy,” Larry offered. “And now her insulin pump broke.”
“Can I borrow a quarter?” I asked. “I just need to unscrew this cap.”
He gave me a penny. I think he was worried that I would steal his quarter.
“It’s warmed up a little since this morning, though,” said Larry as I fumbled to unscrew the cap with my numb fingers.
Mr. Mustache asked, “How long you run?”
“We’ve probably done…oh, six miles so far?” I said. “We have another two miles to go.”
“Ah, long time,” he said. “Would you like a massage?”
……..A massage?!?!
“No,” I finally choked out. “But I would like you to throw away this old battery for me.”
He did. I didn’t even bother to pull the socks back on my hands as I grabbed Larry by the coat sleeve, called over my shoulder, “Thanks! BYE,” and hightailed it out of there, bell still tinkling.
“He wasn’t speaking Farsi to me, was he?” I hissed as soon as the door closed. “Did he really ask to give me a massage?”
Larry just looked at me, the gears clearly churning in his head. “I have no idea why he did that,” he said. “Let’s run.”
“Do batteries get wonky in extreme cold?” I asked, as we made our way to the West Side Highway once more.
“Maybe…maybe people do too?”
“So THAT explains why you’re so weird!” Larry shouted.
Perhaps that also explains why we got lost under the highway, ran eighteen blocks farther than intended, and when, stiff and exhausted, we hailed a crosstown taxi, the cabbie started driving before Larry was fully in the car and nearly ran over his left foot.
Lesson learned: keep your diabetes technology under wraps or inside during the chilliest days of winter. Or better yet, train for half marathons in Tahiti.


Caroline, the thought of you running around New York City with pink socks on your hands has me chuckling. I love your determination. Thanks again for the post!

You can find more of Caroline's writing at ACT1 Diabetes, and she can be found on Twitter at @carobanano.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Post: I Always Overpack.

Today, I'm bringing you a post from one of the DOC's newer bloggers, Jess of Me and D. I met Jess first through, and have gotten to know her better through Twitter, Facebook, and a real-life meetup recently! I absolutely love her positive attitude and sense of humor, and I'm happy to share her words with you here!


Ok, first of all, I want to thank Kim for the opportunity to guest post on her blog! When I first got involved in the DOC, this blog was one of the first I read.  And Kim helped to encourage me to start my own, so you can blame her!
I’d like to share a story with you about some less than stellar D decisions I made my freshman year of college.  Remember, I was 19 and stupid.
So, it’s a Friday afternoon, and a bunch of us are headed to a friend’s apartment for some movies and general fun.  It’s winter.  I’m in a state that gets a lot of snow.  And said friend’s apartment is 45 minutes away from my dorm (can you see where this is headed?).
The evening was great!  Don’t remember all we did, but I know we played some intense Apples to Apples (best game ever!).  As the evening wore on, it began snowing.  Really hard.  Before we knew it, we had a full-fledged blizzard on our hands.  We weren’t going to be making it back to campus that night.
During our festivities, we’d had A LOT of food.  Guess who only had 5 units left in her pump?  And guess who didn’t bring any--again, ANY--extra supplies?  No insulin, no reservoirs, no syringes.  Nothing.
My friends were (and still are) absolutely fantastic!  But I was completely freaking out.  And trying to keep them from seeing how badly I was freaking out.  And I really did NOT want to have to call 911 and go to the ER just because I was a freaking idiot.
So what did I do?  Call my mother balling!  Sorry mom.  She had the wherewithall to get me to call the endo on call back home.  He called in some Lantus and Humalog/Novolog (can’t remember which) to the pharmacy a few blocks away from my friends’ apartment.
Now, there was the matter of getting to the pharmacy.  In a blizzard.  Buried in ice and snow.  Thanks be to God my friend had these two neighbor guys.  These guys had some kind of ginormous, 4-wheel-drive monstrosity.  These wonderful guys drove me very, very slowly to the pharmacy and back.  Thank you, guys, wherever you are now.
Whew!  Crisis averted!  Now all I had to worry about was sleeping on the floor and brushing my teeth with my finger.  At least I could relax and watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s (best movie ever) relatively stress-free!
So guess who now will never be caught unawares without extra supplies?  You should see how much I pack for an overnight trip...


Jess, you should see how much I packed for this four-day trip...  I feel your luggage pain!

Me and D is where Jess can be found blogging, and you can follow her on Twitter at @jessofmeandd!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Post: Gamesmanship.

While I'm in Washington, D.C. attending JDRF's Government Day event, I'll be sharing some great posts with you by some fabulous members of the DOC. Today's guest post comes from my friend Bob Pedersen. I always enjoy his witty, insightful writing, and I'm so happy to be able share this blog post with you. Take it away, Bob!


I'm a big fan of the variety of computer games often called "hidden object / adventure" games. Typically, this type of game presents you with some sort of goal (such as finding the princess before the evil tyrant gets her), and has you move through a series of small puzzles that stymie your progress (such as the lock on the castle door that's missing some pieces). Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to pick up objects that will be useful later, such as a piece to the aforementioned lock or a tool such as a crowbar: these will be added to your "inventory" of items you can use later. You'll also come across a cluttered scenes, such as a storage room, and be given a list of specific items you need to find. When you've found all the items, one or two of them will be added your inventory.  Free tip: in this kind of game, NEVER, EVER bypass an opportunity to click on a key. 

When you come across something you need to do, like fix the lock with the missing pieces, it may be that what you need is already in your inventory. Or, it may be that you'll find those pieces later on, and need to remember that the lock on the door had an empty slot the shape of the gizmo you just found.  The games are very specific about what you need to do to complete each puzzle: you may have a crowbar in your inventory, but that won't open the door if the puzzle is to find the missing lock pieces.  In the best-designed games, you may carry an object around for quite a while before having the opportunity to use it. 

(If you're not familiar with these games, and are suspecting from my description that there's more than a little absurdity to them, you're absolutely right. But you're playing for the game, not for the plot.) 

Back in our "real lives", most of us have some kind of barrier that blocks our progress toward some objective, but which we're not quite sure how to address. Sometimes, like the locked door and the crowbar, the answer seems quite obvious but just doesn't work. For example, I struggled with eating a healthy breakfast for a long time - much too often, I was stopping on the way into work for a high-fat breakfast sandwich or a high-carb serving of hashed browns. The OBVIOUS solution was to suck it up and be happy with my bran cereal, but that breakfast was so undesirable that I just wouldn't do it most days. The ACTUAL solution has been to provide myself with something both fast and tasty so that I don't start out my day feeling deprived: tomorrow (as of when I wrote this), breakfast will be a smoked salmon and cream cheese "Egg Beater" mini-frittata I made over the weekend.     

In the games, you're sometimes surprised by just how something from your inventory proves useful. In a game I played over the weekend, I carried some matches around for a couple of hours, assuming that I'd be lighting a candle to explore a dark room at some point. (Matches are another good thing to ALWAYS click on. And knives.) In fact, they were used to burn away some briars blocking a path.  Similarly, sometimes we're able to make progress in real life via unexpected means. I started blogging just because I had a few ideas that I wanted to share with friends in the Diabetes Online Community. As it's turned out, however, blogging has proved to be a tremendous tool for self-discovery and self-acceptance, an important outlet for creativity I'd nearly forgotten about, and even a way to help folks struggling with their own lives to feel connected. Who'd a thunk it?    

In general, it's a good game strategy to regularly review your inventory to see if you might be missing a way to use something you've already got.  Similarly, taking stock of our resources may provide insight as to how something - or someone - we have available to us may help us move forward. After years of frustration over how often I hit the vending machines at work mid-afternoon, a quick exchange of emails with a nutritionist I know pointed a way to a healthier way to meet a genuine bodily need. 

While I occasionally get frustrated in a game (how AM I supposed to get into that stupid castle?), I don't get frustrated with myself, I simply move around other areas of the game until I get a chance to pick up something I hadn't noticed before. Similarly, if a barrier in our life seems unmovable, it may be less productive to keep trying and failing than it would be to find something else to work on. It just might be that progress in that other area will unexpectedly help you address your main challenge. 

No, I'm not saying that life is like a hidden object game. Real life doesn't provide helpful little sparkles around things you need to be paying attention to, and there's not usually a step-by-step walkthough available to help us solve puzzles we find unusually tough. But I am finding that it helps me to view a challenge more as a puzzle than as yet another way I screw up. Because, you know, puzzles are often solvable, and games can often be won.     

(If you should be interested, I posted a list of a few of my favorite games here. You'll find them available at online stores such as


Thanks so much, Bob! I think you're onto something with the "helpful little sparkles around things we need to be paying attention to". I would pay good money for that.  :)

You can find Bob blogging at Diabetes Daily, and on Twitter as @rpederse.