Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just Talk.

To me, being an "advocate" for diabetes all comes down to one basic principle: being willing to just talk. It can be answering questions posed to you specifically, dispelling diabetes myths, telling your own story via blogging or forum participation, writing on the Facebook wall of a U.S. Senator... there are a lot of ways to be heard.

I've had several opportunities lately to do just that: talk. Now that I'm blogging, I notice that the people I see in my day-to-day life are more willing than they may have been in the past to fact-check with me something they heard about diabetes, or tell me that someone they know also has it, or ask me questions about my own care.

And I think that's pretty awesome.

For example, when I told one of Aaron's co-workers (who I had just met) about my upcoming diabetes-themed party and the milestone it was marking, I got a big grin and a high five. Turns out diabetes (I didn't ask which type) runs in his family, and they all get tested once a year. He seemed to totally get why I wanted to celebrate.

Then, at my diaversary party, a friend asked about my pump. We see each other pretty often but haven't had a lot of chances for in-depth discussion - our meetings usually center around football or other Reasons To Be Partying.

"So... your pump. Is that something you had to have surgery for, oooor...."

I realized that, for as much as I've mentioned diabetes around her, I've never gone into some of the important basics. Which made me feel a little bit dumb for not telling her all of this earlier - but there's no time like the present, so I went into how the pump works, where it goes, how often it gets changed out, etc.

Once a month, my employer brings in a massage therapist to do 15-minute chair massages. (And let me tell you, it's reeeeally hard to go back to work when you're post-massage and feeling halfway asleep. But I do.) She knows about my pump and CGM; I told her about my trip to DC for JDRF's Government Day. She's pretty hip to the diabetes vernacular, too. And when I saw her a few weeks back, the first thing she did was squeal, "Oh! I have something for you!", and pull out a piece of paper with a name, phone number and website on it. "I've got another client who has a daughter with type 1, and they're doing some sort of group thing? Anyway, I totally thought of you and told her about you - I hope that was okay? - and she wanted me to give you her information."

"Hope that was okay"? Heck yeah it is!

The most recent chance I had to "just talk" was with my cousin's wife, at an Easter get-together. We were standing in my parents' yard watching all of the kids play, and true to her direct nature (which I love), she just came right out and asked.

"So, no one ever talks about this, and I don't know what the answer is, so I'm just going to ask you. With your diabetes, are you able to have kids? I mean - is it safe? Because I have no idea."

(This is the part where I should note that, as one of the youngest in my generation on both sides of the family, I'm the only one left - besides my brother - who doesn't have children.)

The funny thing about this inquiry is that, perhaps asked a few years earlier, I might have been bothered by it. I wouldn't exactly have known how to answer. It would have caused me considerable stress to come with a decent answer - because, really, I wouldn't have known that answer myself.

That megaphone looks suspiciously
like a coffee mug and sleeve. Just sayin'.
Thanks to the community I've found here online, and the blogs and books I've read, I felt very prepared to answer that question with a resounding "Yep! People with type 1 have healthy babies all the time. It just takes some extra work."

This is part of why this community means so much to me - it gives me the confidence and information I need to be able to "just talk". Reading and hearing the stories of others - even from afar - gives me validation and purpose. When I talk about diabetes, I feel like I've got a team of warriors right there beside me. The words of others shape my own, in that my voice wavers less and uses bigger words.

I hope that this community does the same for you - and that the next time an opportunity presents itself, you'll be willing - and confident - to just talk.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CGM Bloopers.

Life with diabetes isn't always a smooth ride. Sometimes it's a whirly-twirly rollercoaster and I'm just trying not to ralph on the kid sitting in front of me.

While I can achieve pretty decent in-rangey numbers most of the time, I certainly have my share of "Oh, crap" moments. Times where I SWAGed unsuccessfully. Times where I forgot to use a combo bolus in place of the regular kind. Times where it was Tuesday. (In other words, times where I have no freaking idea what happened.)

I love sharing the successes I have, like this guy:

It's No-Hitter-ish!
But, let's be realistic - it's not always like that. Instead, a lot of it is like this.

The CGM Blooper Reel.

One of these spikes is not like the other...
Doesn't look like a constant blood sugar to me, Jim.
Oh, there's my coffee.

I was just as confused.

At least I was consistent?

I can't help but think that this looks like a camel.

Correcting one problem with another.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Twenty Five Years With Diabetes.

Saturday* was my silver anniversary with this roommate of mine -
And you'd better believe I celebrated: with family, friends, cupcakes and wine**.

A quarter century of blood draws, finger sticks and shots;
Six of those wearing gear, just like the robots.

We've done a lot together; diabetes and I...
And I feel quite old knowing this many years have gone by.

Childhood summers filled with art classes, bike rides and softball.
We went to all-day music festivals as teenagers - unrefrigerated insulin? Bad call.

Double-digit A1C's. Hours of blood testing, we did without.
And because of that, we had an eyebrow piercing that totally grew out. 

International travel. Half marathons. In front of politicians we've sat.
Diabetes and I; we've done all of that.

I used to want to hide it. Diabetes existed in stealth.
And now? It's weird - I'm telling the whole world about my health.

But the weirdest thing, about sharing so much here?
Is that it actually doesn't feel that weird. It isn't always something to fear.

Because the greatest gift diabetes has given me (when thinking of it positively)
Is the friends I have in all of you - this wonderful diabetes community.

Thanks to you guys - for all you've done.
You've shown me that parts of life with diabetes can be kind of FUN.

So this is it - the big two five.
Celebrating resilience, a bit of luck, and being healthy and alive.

Why yes, that is a giant clipboard with a winner's bracket I drew.
And yes, we played You Don't Know Jack (really wanted to call it
The You Don't Know Jacket, but Aaron voted "Um, no."). And yes, we
then played Rock Band until 3:00 in the morning. And yes, I may have
totally dominated drums and singing-ish. Is there
another way to celebrate a 25th diaversary?
Thanks so much to my friend Natalie for making the
awesomely good cupcakes - with my favorite color, even!

*The overwhelming amount of well wishes and congratulations on Facebook and Twitter this weekend was much appreciated! You guys helped make the milestone even sweeter. (Pun totally intended.)

**Wine, and its consumption, not pictured. Because there are some things The Internet just doesn't need to know.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Free Coffee, Twenty Five, and e-Pharmony.

I'm feeling a bit list-y today, so here we go.
  • Last night, I decided (after seeing another one of their commercials) that we need a version of e-Harmony for patients to be matched up with doctors. We could call it... e-Pharmony? You'd be matched up on dimensions of healthcare compatibility, like "bedside manner", "actually listens to me", "will reward progress with high fives and exploding fist bumps", and "takes my insurance/Medicaid/I can afford you".
  • This weekend, my diabetes turns 25. (Does that mean the cost of my health insurance will go down? No? Darn.) I'm planning to celebrate that at least a couple of times this weekend - more on that next week.
  • And in honor of that milestone, I got a hold of my hospital records at diagnosis. More on that later, too.
  • One of the JDRF volunteers I met at JDRF Government Day has written a guest post over at the Diabetes Social Media Advocacy site, and is looking for input on how JDRF can help adults with type 1 - would you have some time to go over and check it out, and leave a comment with your thoughts? (She's totally a rockstar!)
  • And finally - in celebration of Earth Day, head over to Starbucks with your own mug and get yourself some free coffee. I'll be there - maybe more than once. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tooth Sweaters and Empathy.

Yesterday, my friend George put something up on Twitter that caught my attention.

George Simmons
Hate this disease.

And he shared this photo:

And it just broke my heart.

A graph like that represents the cruelest form of math. You just can't eliminate x and y from the quadratic equation of diabetes every time. There will inevitably be times where you "do everything right", and your blood glucose will still refuse to get off of that trampoline.

Those three words, and that picture, really got to me. There I was, sitting at work in my Business Lady Attire and trying to be professional, and I could feel tears starting to form. (Decidedly not professional.)

It's hard to explain to someone outside of our diabetes community why I'd react that way. (Other than the whole, "Hi, I'm Kim, and I will cry at everything - including but not limited to Visa commercials, the kind acts of strangers, Pixar movies, and stubbing my toe on the foot of the bed" thing.) I mean, it was a tweet. And a picture. Posted by someone I've actually never met in person. Yet.

I get that.

But here's the thing - people with diabetes deal with a lot of the same stuff, really. And we don't need to have met face-to-face, or know each other's life stories, to be able to relate in a real, raw, emotional and deep way.

Seeing that graph got to me, because I know - exactly - what that's like. Because I've walked that zig-zaggy line, too. I know how it makes your body feel like it's been thrown around - and it has, in a way. I know the headache. I know the impossible thirst that leaves you feeling like you're wearing tooth sweaters.

Not what tooth sweaters actually look like.

I know how it drains all of your energy and patience. How helpless it leaves you feeling; how hopeless. How every attempt to "correct" seems futile, because apparently diabetes is just going to do whatever it darn well pleases anyway.

At those times, it seems like diabetes has you on a marionette string, and all you can do is try to figure out which way that puppet master will decide to pull you next.

And because I know the totality of how much that sucks, I tend to feel a bit protective. It makes me want to make diabetes pay for causing my friends to feel that way. It makes me want to run diabetes down and beat the crap out of it.

No one deserves to feel like that - or to feel that way about feeling like that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Type 1 Talk: Relaunched and Loaded.

Remember Type 1 Talk? The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation created this project last fall to organize local meet-ups on World Diabetes Day. Type 1 Talk is an events tool on Facebook that allows users to create or search for local type 1 related events, aiming to get those of us online to connect with others in our community offline.

Type 1 Talk has been relaunched, and can now be used to post events on any day of the year! For someone like myself, who doesn't know many other PWDs locally, this could be a great way to reach out and find people to connect with (in person!) on a regular basis.

And along with this relaunch comes a pretty cool incentive to utilize it - like, right now.

You could win a trip to JDRF Government Day 2012.

Wait, that announcement didn't do it justice...


Here's the details on how to get entered in the drawing, straight from the email I got last night from JDRF Advocacy:

To help celebrate the re-launch of the new and improved Type 1 Talk, we're offering up a trip to Government Day.  Anyone who posts and holds an event in April or May will be entered into a random drawing for a trip to Government Day in 2012 (typically scheduled for early March.)  To be eligible for the prize, you must post photos of your April/May event on our Type 1 Talk fan page and complete the post-event host survey.  All photos and surveys must be submitted before the drawing takes place on June 7th. 
So, let's recap: you'll get to meet and hang out with other PWDs in your area, have your event searchable by any PWD who is Facebook-savvy (hi, free promotion!), AND get entered to win a free trip to Washington D.C. to meet with your members of Congress and take part in Government Day next year?

What more could a diabetes advocate ask for?

* * * * *

Disclosure: JDRF did not ask me to write about Type 1 Talk - but I did, because that's how I roll. The email I received with the information on the relaunch (and prize) was a result of being signed up as a JDRF Advocate - you can join in here!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh, Right. I'm Supposed To Feel That.

I was engulfed in a work project this morning; sorting and organizing.

Then I heard a muffled BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! from my purse. I know that alarm - that's a you're-low-and-haven't-been-paying-attention-to-me yell from Jim.

Except I wasn't feeling anything resembling that eating a horse, on a rollercoaster, while drunk experience. Hmm.

I pulled out my meter, instead of the CGM, to do some fact-checking first.

Well, I'll be darned!
 As soon as I saw the 58 mg/dL flash on the screen, the low symptoms rode in. On a speeding train. At 80 miles per hour.

Why do my symptoms sometimes show up only after I see the proof on the meter or CGM screen? Is it that my body suddenly feels a need to ask permission to feel like crap? Is the panic of seeing such a low number a tipping point of some sort?

Will I ever know the answer to these sorts of diabetes mysteries? 

Probably not.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Little Things.

Life has so many wonderful pocket-sized joys.

And for those things, I'm thankful.

I'm thankful that, despite a couple of lows, diabetes didn't rank very highly on my importance list this past weekend. Delicious food, wine, and dancing be damned - I enjoyed myself. And, in most ways, diabetes obliged.

I'm thankful for the sunshine and warm winds of spring. And even for the sunburn and tangled hair that sometimes accompanies my enjoyment of those things.

For the strength and endurance of muscles; for the lung power and range of motion that my mostly-healthy body possesses to allow me to enjoy that sunlight and hard-earned sweat. I know these things aren't a given in life for everyone, and I intend to start enjoying them more often and fully than I do now. Both because I can, and because I should.

Because I don't want to ever be the little old lady who realizes all-too-late that she should have done such-and-such while she still had the youth and ability for it.

For hand-made ice cream, made by the hands of someone else, I am ever so grateful.

I'm thankful for the good people who make up my circle of friends and family, and for the time we've been given to enjoy each other's humor, wit, and quirks.

For my husband, with the sparkly blue eyes, who truly loves me just as I am; who will chuckle at my faults in lieu of snickering at them; who will do whatever it takes to make me laugh (but never has to try that hard); who will always "love me more", because his wingspan will always be slightly longer than mine when I try to represent, with outstretched arms, just how much I love him.

I'm thankful for my mind, and the way in which it processes the world. While I may fear the arrival of kidney failure or vision loss one day, what terrifies me most is the loss of that gift - of what makes me myself - one day.

I'm thankful for that one defiant daffodil that grows in front of our house. We didn't plant him there; he invited himself. His presence makes me smile.

For the easily-earned affection of a friend's dog; for the soul-healing act of scratching a dog behind his ears and being rewarded with his aloof grin.

And always, but especially now, I'm thankful for my grandmother (who turns 95 years old this week) and her wise words - "People have asked me, 'What's my secret for living 95 years?', and I have to tell them - I don't really have a secret! But if I had to tell you how, it would come down to two things: That with everything you do, there must be love; and that you can't worry about tomorrow. When it's today; think about today. Worry about tomorrow when it's tomorrow - because you never know whether tomorrow will come."

So here I am, thinking about those little things. Which really aren't that "little" at all.

Friday, April 15, 2011

D-Feast Friday: Raisin Nut Banana Bread.

This is the only kind of bread I've ever tried to make, and it has turned out totally awesome each time.

Except for the times it has sunk in the middle. But I blame that on the silicone bread pan I use.

Anyway - this isn't low carb or anything, but it's yummy and that's why I'm sharing it.

Happy Friday!


2 cups of Raisin Nut Bran cereal (Yes, I realize the irony here.)
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 medium ripe bananas, smooshed (Or "mashed", if you want to get all proper.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg

And Here's What You Do With Them:

This is what bread looks like.
Not this bread - but, you know, in general.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 9 x 5 x 3" loaf pan.

Stir together cereal and milk in large bowl; let stand five minutes or until cereal is soft. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour that mess into the pan.

Bake about 50 minutes, or until stabbing it leaves no evidence on the offending toothpick. Cool for 5 minutes; then loosen sides of loaf from pan. Flip that sucker upside down on a wire cooling rack, slide the bread out, then prop it back up the way it should be, and leave it alone for a while before slicing.

Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months. (That's the official version - I can tell you that it lasts much longer than a couple days on the counter.)

Nutritional Information, per 1/24 of loaf:  105 calories, 18g carb, 1g fiber, 2g protein, 3g fat, 10mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Promise Book.

My quest for coffee this morning (beyond the Free Office-made variety, which just wasn't cutting it) led me to a local coffee house. Normally I default to Starbucks, but in an effort to Be A Responsible Consumer and whatnot, I decided I'd go somewhere else.

A couple of co-workers and I strolled down the street from work, to a walk-up coffee place. (Hut? Stand? Cove? I'm not sure.) This place has been around for a couple of years, and is so close to work for me that I can see their sign from my building - so I'm not sure why they aren't top of mind for me when I think "OMG CAFFEINE NOW".

Anyway, as I was standing there waiting for my skinny Vanilla Latte, I noticed a handmade sign taped to the window: "We accept cash, checks, and promises."


Promises? Really? Huh.

And just as I was thinking, "how does that even work?", my co-worker tried to hand the Coffee Dude her debit card. Coffee Dude is one of those ultra laid-back, hair in a messy ponytail, wearing-corduroy-pants-even-when-it's-eighty-degrees, perma-grin guys.

"Oh, I'm sorry, we can't take cards. But hang on! Let me get the Promise Book."

The whaaaa?

Coffee Dude had a well-worn notebook in hand, ready to take down my co-worker's name. "It's cool. You can just bring money later, whenever you can, okay?" My business degree and experience with How The Real World Works didn't allow me to feel comfortable with that arrangement, so I ponied up a few bucks and covered her coffee for her.

"Are you sure? Because it's really okay. You don't have to...", he said.

"Yep, I'm sure. Besides - I know where she works, right?", and shook my fist, comically.

I also told him he needs to get a tip jar going at the window. Baristas can't subsist on promises alone.

As we walked back, I kept thinking about the concept behind that Promise Book. I've decided that, in lieu of a cure for diabetes, I'd like a Diabetes Promise Book.

For the times when I know I need a workout, but don't have time - maybe diabetes could just play nice until I get around to it.

For the times I'm stuck at work, while my failure to plan ahead has left me with no test strips, pump cartridge replacement supplies, or a pump at all. (Hey, that's only happened twice.)

For the times I didn't get the carb to everything else ratio quite right.

For the times I sleep right through my CGM low or high alarms. (Hey, that happens all the time, actually.)

For the times I want to be on the ball, peppy and energetic - but that glycemic swingset inside of me won't be having any of that, thankyouverymuch.

For the times I don't realize until too late that I'm out of glucose tabs, and have to stumble somewhere to buy something to treat with.

And for the times that diabetes seems just a little bit bigger than me and my ability to conquer it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Diabetes Is Like MC Hammer.

Can't touch this! Na na na na... na na... na na!

2 Legit! 2 Legit 2 Quit!

Aside from not going for a walk since last Thursday (though I can tell you that the four hours of yardwork Aaron and I did on Saturday TOTALLY COUNTED as a workout - I'm still sore!), I can't come up with a reason why I'm running on the higher side of things the past couple of days. (Or maybe that's the only reason I need?) I'm thankful that I'm not seeing a lot of big swings up and down, but I'd rather see those straight lines 50 - 100 points lower than they are, you know?

Even correction doses from my Humalog pen weren't budging these numbers.

Not even a new pump site this morning.

Not even alternate site injections!

I shake my fist at you, Diabetes. You're kind of being a jerk.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Second Letter to Reader's Digest: You Don't Get It.

[Read part one here:]

To the Editor(s) of Reader's Digest:

Last week, I was disappointed to learn about your upcoming issue of "Reversing Diabetes", and wrote you an open letter and an email letting you know why. In fact, you'll find several posts to the same tune around the internet now - which I linked for you in my post last week.

But now, I've transitioned from "disappointed" to "angry".

Kelly Kunik of Diabetesaliciousness (and a super-star of our diabetes online community) got a hold of Karen Reynolds, the "Publicity Curator" at your publication last week. And after their exchange (which everyone needs to go read), someone from your company left this comment on her blog post in response to the concerns she expressed:
Anonymous said...

We know that you are concerned with the title of our publication Reverse Diabetes. This term, however, is widely used throughout the healthcare and health-journalism communities, not solely by Reader's Digest. Please be assured that we are committed to the same cause: to help the millions of Americans struggling with the disease. We, of course, respect your right to differ with our approach, but we know with complete certainty that we have helped hundreds of thousands of people improve their condition by using our magazines, books, and digital content. We respect your opinion, and wish you the greatest success in your work on behalf of all people with diabetes. – Reader’s Digest

April 8, 2011 4:09 PM

You completely missed the point, "Anonymous".

We are concerned (to use your phrasing) because you're a reputable, established publication who should know better.

We are concerned because reputable, established publications such as yours should be fact-checking information with qualified medical professionals, not using terms because they can be found in "other healthcare and health-journalism communities". (And by "qualified medical professionals", I mean the type of doctors and researchers that deal with diabetes on an intricate and extensive basis - endocrinologists, for example.)

You're better than that. At least, you should be.

Frequent use and acceptance of a phrase doesn't constitute factual information. You know that, right? I mean, people used to think the Earth was flat at one point, too.

We are concerned because, like so many of those other "healthcare and health-journalism communities", you're using the most attention-grabbing phrasing you can muster to sell magazines. We know; this is a common practice. Magazines have to stand out among the clutter to grab attention, and make a profit somehow.

The problem, though, is that you're addressing a chronic illness here. This isn't "lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks!"; this isn't "The Five Foods You Aren't Eating But Should Be"; and it's definitely not "Shocking Confessions From Your Favorite Movie Stars!". You aren't a tabloid, Reader's Digest. (Right?) You're shaping the perceptions that people have of diabetes. The general public will see the cover title and headlines - maybe they'll even flip through a few pages. Some will read it cover-to-cover, sure.

And one of the conclusions they'll take away from it is that diabetes is somehow our fault. That, gosh, if we had only eaten more vegetables, or not had so much candy as a child, or exercised more, we wouldn't have "done this to ourselves". And why aren't we just following all of these "easy steps" outlined in your magazine - we could have cured ourselves by now! (/end sarcasm)

Diabetes, as a disease, isn't "reversible". The symptoms of type 2 can be improved; the progression of the disease may be slowed or halted, but not the disease itself. Because, Reader's Digest, if diabetes could be corrected so easily by the tips you're sharing, why would organizations like the Diabetes Research Institute, the American Diabetes Association, and the Joslin Diabetes Center still be around, researching prevention and a cure?

You are profiting off of the commonly-held but completely-false assertion that diabetes, in any form, can be reversed. And we - the ones who live with the disease - are the ones who will pay the price for it; in prejudice, in stereotypes, and in lost research dollars.

Shame on you, Reader's Digest.

We are concerned because the picture being painted by these Reader's Digest "Reverse Diabetes" publications simply isn't the truth - but, sadly, you seem to already know that since your email to Kelly had this in it: "With Reverse Diabetes, we offer empowering, motivating, medically-substantiated ways for people to halt the progression of their condition and lead healthier lives. This includes lowering and stabilizing blood sugar levels, reducing heart-disease risk and increasing their overall sense of vitality."

You realize that your publications may help people "to halt the progression of their condition" - yet that's not what you are calling your magazines. You aren't calling them "Teaching Your Diabetes What's What With Healthy Choices!", or "Live A Better, Healthier Life With Diabetes!". You are calling them "Reverse Diabetes", which isn't the same thing at all.

And that claim you make - that you "know with complete certainty that we have helped hundreds of thousands of people improve their condition by using our magazines, books, and digital content"? You actually don't know that, unless you have access to the medical records of those hundreds of thousands of people. You only know that you've sold that many copies.

Your lack of comprehension of the problem, the insensitivity of your "anonymous" blog comment, and your inability to openly respond to the diabetes online community who contacted you (you'd do well to take a page from MTV on this one): they all lead us to one, sad conclusion.

You just don't get it.

* * * * *

If you'd like to email the editors of Reader's Digest with your thoughts on their "Reverse Diabetes" series of publications, you may reach them at

Friday, April 8, 2011

What I'm Reading.

It's been a fun week full of unicorn tweeting and diabetes advocating - which, strangely, are totally related to each other. I've also enjoyed reading some fabulous blog posts from my fellow DOCers, and I want to share a few of my favorites with you.

Happy Friday!
  • Kerri (not this Kerri), who is a PWoDBWSTL (Person Without Diabetes But We Still Love Her), wrote a very touching post on what she says she's learning from the diabetes online community. Seriously, I wanted to reach through the computer screen and tackle-hug her after reading this.
  • Kerri (not this Kerri) did a vlog with Sprinkles, the Diabetes Advocacy Unicorn, about "being your own advocate". You need to watch this, especially if you aren't quite sure why the DOC is obsessed (enamored?) with unicorns.
  • Over at Our Diabetic Life, Meri recounts some of her experiences at the Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum. I love the way Meri writes - she made me feel like I was right there with her. I am also fond of her use of the phrase, "Seriously, I wanted to wrap him up in a gum wrapper and put him in my purse."
  • Jeff Mather talked about why he's "crazy" enough to do a triathlon. I'm more on the "badass enough" side of that argument.
  • Scott Strange's very heartfelt post about JDRF Government Day illustrates why JDRF and the DOC can do accomplish greater things together than apart - because, at the core, we all just want better lives for people with diabetes, in whatever form that comes.
  • Aside from loving the clever wordplay in the title, this post from Martin over at Diabetically Speaking was a great look at the power connection has, and what it means to both write and read about life with diabetes. Diabetes is best played as a team sport, right?
  • Barb at Diabetes Advocacy recalls a conversation with her son (who has type 1), in which he assures her that he can convince the people at Kleenex to do "cool" diabetes awareness ads. I'm on board with that idea!
  • And finally, you need to read this post from Kelly at Diabetesaliciousness. Her wit, bravery, and brutal honesty help to tell her story in a beautiful way.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Power of Encouragement.

I had an appointment yesterday with D, my Fabulous P.A. (For those who don't know - she's who I see in lieu of an endocrinologist. It's a long story, that you can read about here.) She's the one who has high-fived me over A1C scores, helped me get a Dexcom, has been totally supportive of my blogging and DOC involvement, and has probably been the most emotionally supportive doctor I've ever had. She's totally worth the 45-minute waits. I'd also like to mention that her opening line to me at this appointment was, "So are you still 'texting your pancreas'?", said with a big grin. (I think she was asking if I'm still blogging? It was kinda cute, in any event.)

It was a by-week for A1C testing, but we did test my thyroid and other blood-dwelling numbers. "How's your pep? Are you feeling energetic? Because your thyroid looks perfect!", she told me. "All of these numbers look beautiful! Your blood pressure is back down, too. (118/80!) Let's take a look at your Dexcom print-outs."

Things looked pretty good there, pattern-wise. I'm running higher in the evenings, and I know I need to make some adjustments there to curb that.

"Are you still planning to do the half-marathon again this year?", asked D.

"Yep! I got a late start on my "training", but I'm getting out and walking lately. I've already logged 6 miles this week, and I plan to go out again a couple more times."

"That's so awesome! What a great role model you are. And you had your trip to DC, right? How did that go?"

(Editor's note: can you see why I love her, yet?)

I told her a shortened version of what went down, and how valuable and FUN that experience was. And then she asked me, "So what other questions do you have for me?"

"Well - I'm not really happy with my weight. I mean, I don't think my portion sizes are that out of whack, and I get a moderate amount of exercise... sometimes. It just feels like whatever I do, it never 'sticks'. And no matter how much I try, the weight doesn't come off as quickly as I think it should, you know?"

"That's something we could work on - although, you're still wanting to be pregnant soon, right?"


"So, here's my view on that: while yes, it will benefit you to lose some weight, I don't think that should be our priority for the near future. (I love that she said "our", by the way.) Weight is something we can definitely work on, but right now I want you to keep eating healthy and focusing on getting your mind and body ready for pregnancy. Losing weight would be good, but when you become pregnant, your way of eating and exercising is going to change up - so I don't think that's something we want to focus on right now."

Or something like that. I don't recall exactly how she phrased it.

"All of your bloodwork looks great, so the weight isn't something we NEED to focus on, for the short term. But keep training for that half-marathon, and I want to hear all about it in June!"

We also discussed, for probably 20 minutes, her upcoming wedding (less than 2 weeks!), and how weird it will be for her to have a day off while she's healthy. I assured her that it will be a vacation well-deserved. And she told me that every time she hears about wedding pictures, she thinks of me.

I love that I have a doctor I can chit-chat with; that acknowledges the power of PWDs connecting with each other; that takes the time to know me as a person, as well as a person with diabetes.

Appointments with her don't have the leading-up-to-it anxiety that I used to feel. Time with her feels comfortable, and I know that even when I struggle, she gets that diabetes is hard work, and that I'm doing the best I can. She's there to jump in when I need it, and back off when I don't. She cheers me on, and cheers me up when I'm being hard on myself.

In short? She rocks. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Orange You Glad I'm Here?

Making my presence known at the office today - Jim is jumping and wailing (and jiving?), and my choice in low-treating is filling the office air with citrusy goodness.

You're welcome, co-workers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Letter To Reader's Digest.

[Read part two here:]

Dear Editor(s) of Reader's Digest magazine,

Your publication has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

A Reader's Digest could always be found in the pocket of the driver's door in my mom's car. She'd read while she waited for my brother or I to burst out of the doors at school, when a piano lesson or soccer practice went longer than planned, or during any other stolen moments of the day. She found encouragement, humor, and relatable experiences in the stories you've told.

As I was growing up, my mom would dog-ear the pages with the stories she wanted me to read. Lessons she'd want me to learn. Chuckles she'd want me to have. Now as an adult, RD still provides those things for me.

Your magazine was a trusted source of information during my childhood and beyond (I'm a current subscriber), and I know that many of your loyal readers must feel the same way.

That's why I'm writing you now. Because, dear Reader's Digest, you've gotten something completely wrong. And that trust has been broken.

Sidenote: aren't these people a little bit old for piggy-back rides?

You see, diabetes is a part of my life too. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child in 1986, back when glucose meters were bigger than Kanye West's ego and the coolest way to carry your insulin and syringes around was in a fanny pack. I've spent the last 25 years of my life living with an illness that is very recognizable, yet so frequently misunderstood.

People don't always understand that yes, I can eat that; yes, it hurts every time; and no, the type of diabetes I have can't be controlled alone by diet, exercise, cinnamon, willpower, prayer, or a lucky penny thrown into a well. Many people don't even know that there's more than one type of diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease, which means that right now, there's no "reversing" it. Keeping my blood sugars "stable", as you phrased it, does not reverse what my immune system is doing to the insulin-producing cells in my pancreas. Increased exercise and different food choices won't "cure" me.

People don't always understand that just because living with diabetes doesn't look difficult, doesn't mean that it's easy to manage. It's far, far from easy. And it's not going away until we find a cure for it - a real, biological cure.

So here's where you come in, Reader's Digest. Because from all appearances, you've really messed up.

There is no cure for diabetes. Let me say that again: there is no cure for diabetes. Not for type 1; not for type 2; not for any type. (Your failure to specify what type of diabetes you are addressing is also troubling. One can assume you mean the more commonly occurring type 2, which makes up about 90% of the diabetes population, but how will the general public know that?) While the symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be "reversed", the disease itself doesn't go away. Tightened glycemic control may ward off complications, but the insulin resistance that defines type 2 remains. For life. There's no reversing that, currently.

There is an entire community (online and off) of people whose lives have been touched by diabetes. We spend a great deal of our time and passion living in spite of, and advocating for, diabetes. Living with it is hard enough - now imagine having to do that AND live with all of the misconceptions that get thrown around.

Sadly, Reader's Digest, you've thrown another one into the pile. And you've riled us up, a bit.

For all of your loyal readers - the ones that regard RD as a trusted source of information - I have to say, you've let them down. Diabetes, in any form, is not reversible. Manageable? Absolutely. Controllable? Mostly. But "reversible"? No.

People trust you to bring them credible information. People will take what you print to be the truth; to be indisputable facts, because they're "in print". People will make assumptions about me, and about every person living with diabetes, based on what they learn from publications such as yours.

Words are important. I wish you had picked better ones.

Kim Vlasnik
A person living with type 1 diabetes since 1986
And rocking it, I might add

P.S. I'll be keeping a running tally at the bottom of this post of responses you should be reading about this, Reader's Digest. Keep checking back - I'll continue to update this list.

* * * * *

For anyone who wants to write Reader's Digest directly regarding this upcoming diabetes issue, here is their contact information (taken from page 8 of the May issue):

Letters to the Editor:
                                React, Reader's Digest
                                PO Box 6100 
                                Harlan, Iowa  51593-1600
                                "Include your full name, address, email, and daytime 
                                phone number."

I have emailed them a shortened version of what I said here, and also included a link to this post.

* * * * *

Posts in the DOC (diabetes online community) you should read about this issue:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Taking It Glitterally.

There are certain phrases in the world o' diabetes that make me feel... something. Amused, annoyed, bewildered. We encounter these phrases from people who mean well, but aren't very educated about what diabetes is (or that there's more than one type), much less what living with it is like. And some of them just make me giggle.

 "It's an extreme form of diabetes."

What does that even mean?

Because when I think of "extreme diabetes", my mind automatically goes here:

Also, here:

"My {insert name of friend, relative, person 
they barely know here} had diabetes too, and they {insert name of complication, or death, here}.

Telling us that you know someone else with diabetes? That's totally cool. What's not cool is telling us all of the bad things that could (or might never) happen to us. It's unfortunate that your friend/relative/cat/long-lost cousin had complications from diabetes, but everyone's journey with it is different. And even if it won't be - hearing all about it doesn't benefit anyone.

"Diabetic Socks"

This is one of my favorites - because, really how can socks have diabetes?

What phrases do you hear about diabetes that don't make sense (if you try to take 
them glitterally - er, literally)?

* * * * *

Thanks to Abby and Brian for providing some inspiration for today's post. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011


One of the great things about the DOC is that while we all have an individual story to tell and unique challenges to face, we can tackle things together. We can offer each other supportive words and actions; we relate to each others' struggles; we celebrate each others' successes.

At least, that's how it usually goes. However, sometimes all of that supporting and relating can become... overwhelming. Sometimes the sum of other people's diabetes issues weigh on you like an 800 lb. elephant. And sometimes it becomes difficult to celebrate what others have accomplished when you, yourself, are failing to reach your own goals.

I'm a pretty positive and upbeat person overall. I tend to have enough joy in life that there's plenty to share with others who need it. But, for whatever reason, that wasn't the case for me yesterday.

That's why I didn't post anything here. (My five-month streak of 'posting something every Monday through Friday' ended, and I'm okay with that. Everyone needs a breather.) I felt like I was wading in an ocean of my friends' and my own issues, and the air in my inflatable raft was quickly leaking.

Let me say, also: it's not you. It's so not you. It's me.

Posts about food issues reminded me of my own food issues. (Diabetes in general messes with the way you view food - as do years of "that doesn't fit into your exchange diet" - then add in my own body insecurities, and BAM.) Posts about exercise had me thinking about my own struggles with motivation and consistency. While I am so proud of the accomplishments of others, what I read reminded me of just how far I am from where I want to be. So far, in fact, that the khasm between here and there seems too big to even start trying most of the time. This also got me thinking about that half-marathon I'm supposed to be doing a month from now - and how I haven't trained for it. At all. Seriously. Yikes.

Those things, and some others, began to pile upon themselves in my mind. I'm not sure why I got so down - there wasn't anything really big and bad that happened. There was no real trigger, except that maybe all of the things I had pushed to the back of my mind were now sprinting towards the front. And they were bringing some new friends.

I stayed off of social media for the rest of the day (for the most part). I popped in my earbuds at work, and frankly, wallowed a bit in some appropriate music.

What helped to turn that ship (inflatable raft?) around for me was getting home and talking to Aaron. Even though he, too, didn't have a stellar day, he's a pro at cheering me up. He gave me one of those lift-you-off-the-ground hugs that I love, and we talked it out. We both have some changes we'd like to make to how we spend our time, and we agreed on how to work towards those things.

By the end of our conversation, he had me chuckling.

"See", I said, "this is why we make a good team. You're really good at making me laugh."

"Yep, we do. And I'm lucky that you think my bad jokes are funny."

"TEAMWORK!", I shouted, and went for a high five. A high five that Aaron purposely missed (his hand went wide right), in another attempt to make me giggle.

Mission accomplished.

(We also went out to dinner and saw the movie Paul - totally funny, in an R-rated sort of way.)