A New Love

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Guys! I have discovered something new and amazing. Okay, it’s not new at all, but an old treat that’s suddenly come back into my life!  

JELLY BELLYs. I was never a huge lover of regular jelly beans, but of course multi flavoured Jelly Belly’s are a different kind of story. And ever since HP and Bernie Botts Every Flavoured Beans I’ve been a fan from afar. But this weekend, I picked up a pack of Sport Beans at my local outdoor store for my emergency sugar supply. I was forced to break into them and damnit were they tasty. Suddenly, my eyes were opened to all the pros of the jelly bean. Lightweight, delicious, a new flavour every time. No more juice boxes weighing me down! At work I discovered my on set craft services snack table also has a massive jar, and I have since replenished my supply. Muahahaha.
At approximately 1 gram of carb per regular sized bean (not the larger Sport Beans), it’s a tasty treat for those nasty lows. Plus, and even better, is that you never know what flavour you’re going to get. Just now I had a delightful taste of popcorn and then coconut followed by a few peachy types for a total of about 8 grams of carbs, just enough to bring my heading downward sugar levels back to a stable arrow across.  
Maybe I’m late to the party and you all already have discovered the wonder of the Jelly Belly for treating lows, but if you haven’t you’ve gotta give it a try!! 

The Upwards Arrow

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Today was a rough start to my work day on set. The upwards arrow game was on point…and not in a good way.

The morning started simple enough, a pod change was in effect and I moved my pod to my arm. I don’t often wear it on my arm because it attracts a lot of questions and attention, never mind a terrible tan line. But it was supposed to rain and I figured I’d have a jacket on for most of the day and knew we were shooting indoors for the rest of the week. Of course, as I pulled into our mountainous shooting location an hour from civilization, the sun was shining and the temperature was rising. Oops. Strike one. 

Next up was breakfast, healthy enough, some toast and eggs and avocado. This amounts to about 28-32 grams of carbs, depending on the bread (which I always estimate on set unless I’m lucky enough to get a look at the bag). I took more than enough insulin to cover those grams, knowing that sometimes my arm site requires a tiny bit more insulin than when my pod is on my stomach due to my raging tricep. It was around this time that I remembered that a few days before, I had left a brand new vial of Novorapid in my vehicle–on a rainy day. That rainy day turned to a hot sunny one, turning my car into sauna and we all know insulin doesn’t enjoy sauna time. I believe it was in there for about an hour or two, soaking up the heat. When I found it, it may have been warm to the touch….which may have made it a little less effective. I had no other option since I am far from home, so I chilled it and went back to business as usual. Lets call this Strike two.

Back to today. It’s short while later and I pull out my Dexcom CGM, aka my best buddy and saviour who goes everywhere with me and my invisible friend, Diabetes. It had that damn arrow showing straight up and a reading of 13mmol. I think back, this doesn’t make sense according to grams of carbs and insulin ratio. Hmm, perhaps the insulin was rendered a little less effective. A slight feeling of dread comes in realizing I’m nearly 2 hours from home and without a spare vial, but I shake it off. I watch over the next half hour, as Dex continues to move upwards and I remind myself that getting worried about it only makes it worse. It goes up and up and I pump a little more insulin–hoping it’s just the arm and it has not gone bad, until it finally seems to level off. Having experienced an uncontrollable high on set before, I actually went to first aid and the first assistant director and informed them of the situation, and since I’m in the middle of nowhere I let them know that if it remains uncontrollable I’ll need to be leaving as my sun laden vial of insulin is the only one I’ve got with me.   

Luckily it hit its peak around 15mmol and stayed steady and an hour or so later began to drop and drop with that beautiful downward dotted curve. Strike three was averted luckily. Alas, it’s now 25 degrees Celsius and my pod is a glaring white device on my arm, attracting attention and questions. Now begins my job to inform and make my invisible disease a little less invisible.  

The Passing of Time; or the way back to blogging

Quite some time has passed since I’ve been on here and most things in my life have changed for the better. Well…except diabetes. My old friend is still here, still trucking, still kicking. It’s all consuming. I’ve stopped writing for some time, because for a while there life was a mess, diabetes was a mess and I was ignoring it like no other. As everything imploded and fell in around me, the last thing I was thinking of was writing a blog post. A.K.A. being open and vulnerable and kind to myself? Pfftt, no way! A missed week turned into a missed two weeks; then all the sudden it was a month and then two months and my robotic pancreas was beeping and clicking along but my keyboard wasn’t. Suddenly I’m getting domain renewals and agreeing to another year because I wanted to keep up with my short lived blog, but just didn’t seem to have the drive in me to do it. The drive, or the energy or whatever it was.  

Well, officially now, after taking oh god- what is it, a year and half break from my brand new blog- I’m back! And I’m going to write, and share and give my insight and opinion and tell stories about diabetes. 

Let’s just be frank about it (because that is what I do best) diabetes was, has and is still sucking the big one. Sometimes it’s like it’s not there, and I’m sailing on a cloud of perfect numbers without a care in the world. But other days all I hear are the constant beeps and vibrations of my insulin pump and CGM, even though I am eating properly, carefully and doing everything I should be and yet…I’m still being awoken in 45 minute increments all night with a high or a low. The burn out is real. And it’s physically and mentally exhausting.  

Sometimes I feel like the days pass with the beeping of my pump. I’m wearing the Omnipod which I still love (as much as one can love a plastic pokey mechanism permanently stuck in their body), and every 72 hours it lets me know it’s time is up. As I’ve gotten older and busier and life began to move a lot faster, I literally feel like I’m changing my pod every day. When it gives me its 12 hour heads up expiry beep I usually find myself balking at the fact that three days passed in the blink of an eye. It’s a gentle (or sometimes screeching) reminder that time is speeding past at super speed. Summer’s barely begun and I’m already attempting to find the best spots for my pod and CGM. It’s that time of year and I’m looking for the best out of view body realty as I find myself crawling into my diabetes black hole, discussing only when necessary and doing my best to avoid questions. 

I’ve decided to find my way back to my favourite blogs and online community to help combat the burn out. Reading about the joys and struggles of living with this invisible disease helps keep me grounded in it and remember that I’m not alone in this and there are plenty of others out there who are going thru the same emotions every day. It’s a great reminder to be open and vulnerable and share, and because I learn something new every time I read one of my favourite blogs, perhaps someone else will learn something new reading mine. Or maybe they’ll have a laugh and move on. The point is, it’s time for me to get it out and let it out and if I’ve got an audience who will give input and share back, then great! So, I whole heartedly welcome myself back to the DOC with open arms and I hope that you’ll do the same! 

Throwback Thursday

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My first #throwbackthursday!  Throwin’ it way back to nearly three years ago, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  The above photo is the last picture taken of me before I realized something was really wrong.

I remember that day as clear as anything. It was the week before the Thanksgiving long weeekend and  I was supposed to be a “Dead Camp Counsellor” on The Haunting Hour, a locally shot kids TV show.  That particular day I remember having to get up extremely early to head to set, and sit for quite a while in makeup and hair while they decided the best look for me.  I was exhausted and I had no patience for it, and usually it’s my favourite part of the process.  I was also extremely thirsty, to the point of chugging water in between takes and having to run back to my chair to get more.  It was an excrutiating thirst, I remember describing it as if I was walking through the desert and had no water for days; meanwhile I had just chugged back a litre.  It was definitely due to the fact that my blood sugar was so astronomically high because craft services had an abundance of candy out for the kids, which I was happily munching on.   Little did I know that those penny candies would be the last I ever willingly ate!

That night I headed home and typed some of the symptoms I was having into Google.  Extreme thirst, weight loss, blurry vision–low and behold Diabetes came up and I scoffed.  I didn’t have diabetes.   I was just thirsty because I always drank a lot of water, and I was losing weight because I finally got my act together at the gym!  A few more webpage searches revealed more symptoms I could identify with, and yet I continued to scoff and brush it off.  You don’t get diabetes when you’re 25.  I was a perfectly healthy and happy young adult!  Sure, I napped every day for a few hours, and was slimming down, but that was a gift from all my years of hard work, right?!

I made the mistake of telling my parents that I had all these symptoms and they (obviously) became concerned.  I joked to a manager at my restaurant job that I ‘probably’ had diabetes and she didn’t laugh, but suggested I head to the doctor asap.  I went about my business as per usual, drinking water, peeing, sleeping, eyes blurring–ignoring that something was wrong with my body.  I had been to the eye doctor a few weeks before when I suddenly went outside and couldn’t see the trees or stop sign on my street and he also brushed it off saying extreme prescription changes can happen (he is no longer my eye doctor).  This made me worry less, because if he didn’t think it was weird, then maybe it wasn’t!  I remember driving to go for a hike, squinting the entire way.  When I made it to the forest and looked up, all I saw was a blur of green.  But it wasn’t until I started losing around 3lbs a day and all of  my ribs were exposed that I became really concerned and decided to do something about it.

My regular doctor was on mat leave, and the replacement told me I had a UTI.  I insisted on still getting blood work done and he sighed and signed off on blood tests.  The following morning I went for fasting blood work, and that night he called me and straight up said, “You have diabetes,” and instantly my life changed.  I was once worry and stress free, and after that night I would no longer sleep the same, imagining maple syrup running through my veins.   The next day I was back at the doctors office, where luckily that old doctor with zero beside manner wasn’t in, and was placed with a very kind and concerned young doctor.  My best friend was along for the ride, and that day I had blood taken multiple times.  The doctor thought I had Type 2 diabetes due to my age, even though I was quite thin and told her I ate extremely well.  She also stressed how lucky I was to have recognized something was wrong, as it would save me from a stay in the hospital.  She squeezed me in with an endo friend of hers who could see me before everything shut down for the long weekend, and that night I ate my “last meal” as a “non diabetic”.  It was nachos with my mom and best friend.  Looking back, it probably wasn’t the smartest food choice, but at that point I knew my life as I knew it was about to change and couldn’t care less!

The next morning I was up at the hospital super early and was taught the ins and outs of diabetes.  Again, everyone stressed that I was lucky to have caught it early, and my Endo even said that had I waited another few weeks I would have been admitted.  More blood was taken and I was told I most likely had Type 1 Diabetes.  I was almost hoping for the original diagnosis of Type 2, knowing I could cure it.  I had a kind nurse who took the initiative and pricked my finger for me and didn’t react when my fasting sugar was 22mmol/L.  She taught me how to administer my first shots of insulin and read the blood metre.   I met with a nutritionist who taught me the basics about carbs and how much I should be eating at each meal and in a day.  My new Endocrinologist was kind although frazzled, and put me on my first insulins, NPH and Novolog.  At the time I didn’t know any different, but now I’m always thinking why the heck did she put me on the oldest insulin there is?  Instantly I was forced to eat every few hours and a specific amount of carbs, and it was not easy to adjust to.  The first week was a struggle to do everything correctly, I feared the needles in my stomach and pricking my finger was something I did not look forward to.  I did however, start to feel different.   Less lethargic and definitely less thirsty.  I had my first ‘low’ blood sugar moments, and they were terrifying.  Funny thing is, my blood sugar probably wasn’t even low!   I slowly started to get into the swing of things and within a month, I had the basics down.  I started to feel healthy again and didn’t need a three hour nap mid day, something I had been used to doing for months.  I was in and out of the Diabetes Centre over the next few months learning and taking classes about carb counting.   My diagnosis included some of the darkest days of my life but I was lucky to have had a lot of support from my family and friends and slowly adjusted to this new normal, making a lot of mistakes and suddenly spending a lot of money on supplies along the way.

I still wish I didn’t have diabetes as it scares me every day, and even though I try not to let it bring me down, it does.  But it is has definitely changed me as a person, for the better (and a bit for the worse to0!).  I’m aware of my body and I listen to it every day.  I feel like I’m learning something new everyday, what works for me and what doesn’t, and I’m sure I will continue to for the rest of my days.

October 5 will be my 3rd Diabetes-versary, and I plan on celebrating with a large piece of sugar free cake!

The Fear

Does anyone out there have the fear?  The fear that they will no longer feel a Hypo episode coming on and be unable to take care of themselves and end up in an ambulance on the way to the ER?  I have that fear and it seems to get worse every day.

For a really long time I was able to feel any low coming, with quite a bit of warning too!  I definitely took it for granted, and now that it’s gone–it’s scary!  The other day I had a hypo episode that saw me at a 2.8mmol/L (50mg/dL) which I couldn’t even feel until I saw the number on my glucose meter and it registered in my brain.  At that moment I pretty much said ‘Holy S***’, and the fear really set in.  Luckily, I am still fairly functional while that low, but definitely wouldn’t be for long.  The worst part of it was that I was at work, and other than a few people who knew offhand that I was a diabetic, no one in my immediate vicinity was aware that I had diabetes or that I was going to be in trouble really quick unless I immediately  stopped what I was doing and found some juice/coke/candy.  At that moment, while my body was screaming in panic, I outwardly tried to play it cool and it wasn’t the right choice.  By the time I strolled (screaming inside) over to the craft services table (I was working on a film set), I’m sure my blood sugar had dropped even more and it took a few juice boxes to help my brain get back to functioning normally.   I used to wear a medical ID bracelet.  Maybe I should start again.  Either way, this fear of no longer being able to feel a low blood sugar has got me really wanting one tiny special expensive device…

The Dexcom G4 CGM!   It’s in Canada now (yay!), and it’s expensive (boo) and none of it is covered by the government or benefits (ugh).    I had the opportunity to do a trial and I managed to squeeze 12 days out of the sensor. When I met with the rep and saw the massive plunger/insertion device I started to backtrack thinking that it wasn’t something I needed, because anything that looks that terrifying must hurt right?!  But after the first day when things were a little sketchy, it became my new best friend!  We went everywhere together and it beeped and chirped and even screamed at me.   It was so so nice to just pull the receiver out and see generally where my blood sugar was at.  It woke me up at night a few times and helped me to realize that I was regularly dive bombing around 2am and didn’t even know it. I took it hiking and it warned me that I didn’t lower my basal rate low enough and prevented me from crashing in the middle of the woods. It had those double arrows up and down and it filled me with such glee as it warned me of impending doom!  Ah, my short lived love affair with the CGM.  I tested like crazy still of course, but over the course of the 12 days I gradually calmed down with the finger pricks and started to rely more on the CGM for giving me an idea of where I was headed.  On the 12th day of CGM Christmas, it died and I was devastated.  I was so lost without it and I had to go back to the caveman method.  So, that being said, I am hoping to have one in the next few weeks.  It’ll be a nice ‘present’ to myself in celebration of my upcoming diaversary!  I mean I would prefer a nice new pair of boots or something, but I guesssss I’ll settle for this amazing life saving medical device.

CGM thoughts? Stories?  Let’s hear em!

 

Should You/Shouldn’t You

In my opinion, there are a multitude of reasons of why you should and why you shouldn’t publicly announce your diabetes. I know that if something were to go very wrong and I couldn’t take care of it myself, having people around me who know that I’m a diabetic will save my life. However, I’ve met a few different kinds of people who make explaining the disease a little more trying…

1.The “OMG my Great Uncle twice removed had diabetes and he died so young and he didn’t have any legs anymore and also no eyes and no kidneys! Can you believe it? So sad that diabetes claims lives like that. Wait, you still have legs, you must be sooo good at it!” – person.

Yes. Yes it is sad that diabetes claims lives like that. However, I bet you know nothing about what actually went down with the great uncle twice removed who had diabetes. Did he take insulin? Monitor his blood? Who knows, and probably neither do you! Nothing is more irritating than when someone lays out all of the complications that occur with diabetes, as if I didn’t already know them and didn’t think about it all the time!

2. The Judger
“Should you be eating that?” says the person who just found out I have diabetes.

Yes, should you? This conversation always starts with good intentions and then leads down the road of judgement. We can eat whatever we want, thanks to Banting. Yes, we should be making healthier choices, but guess what?! So should you!!! Everyone has good and bad days, and I don’t see you putting that timbit down either. Sometimes I eat so clean and healthy a rabbit would be shocked. Other times, I indulge in something sweet and bolus accordingly. So please, leave your judgement at home and away from the lunch line.

3. The Healer
This person makes me smile. This person knows all of the natural remedies that will cure diabetes. We’ve all met the healer and it is always entertaining. Okra, cayenne, extreme exercise, throwing salt over a shoulder, drinking special water…etc. Always makes me smile.

Sometimes when people ask about the funny bump on my arm, I answer honestly and explain that it’s an insulin pump used to manage my diabetes. Sometimes this opens up a very lovely conversation and sometimesI walk away with a smile on my face, instead of shaking my head and smirking.

Go Go Go STOP!

I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a go go go and get ‘er done mood, I want to keep going until whatever needs to be done is done!  Be it cleaning, hiking, vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher, chasing the cat, recording voice work–whatever it is, I like to finish what I started in the most efficient way possible.

Sometimes the excitement of chasing the cat or vacuuming overrides the feeling that my blood sugar is dropping and dropping fast.  I’m lucky in the sense that I can feel myself go hypo, although I am slightly less aware than I was two years ago. It’s not unusual to see a blood sugar reading of 3 mmols and then realize that my blood is too low.  However, for some reason when I am in the middle of something and I feel myself start to drop, I tend to test the limits and see if I can get it all done before I collapse in a heap on the carpet (sorry Mom).

We all know lows come at the most annoying time, and honestly sometimes I’ve got something more important to do.   For example, can someone explain to me why it is that when I feel a low coming on, I still continue to point sharp objects at my face to get my makeup done before walking across the apartment and into the kitchen for a juice box?  It actually makes no sense, but I just keep repeating to myself, “just five more minutes…you can make it five more minutes…”.  I guess I do this in a bid to feel like diabetes doesn’t rule my life and to feel like I’m in charge of when and where I need sugar.  HA.

In a dream world I would say:

‘Oh, hello diabetes!  Are you in need of something?’

‘Ya SUGAR!’

‘Okay, just one moment dear, let me finish putting on my mascara.’

‘I don’t think so lady, I need it now!’

‘Oh, pssht, don’t be a drama queen. Just give me five more minutes and without the hands shaking please!’

‘…finnnne.’

And then I would finish up and calmly walk to the kitchen, locate a juice box and peacefully drink.  Too bad it doesn’t work or look like that.  Instead it’s– ‘just five more minutes, five more minutes’, finish slapping makeup on face, start to sweat/swear/shake, put makeup away, trip over cat on rush to kitchen, search for one remaining juice box hidden behind boxes of delicious food I shouldn’t eat, fuss with the straw/break the straw, jab hole in foil and guzzle down the life saving juice.

So really…the moment I miss my eyelashes, I should just put down the mascara and get the juice before injuring the sweet cat, right?  Ah, #diabeticlifelessons.

 

 

 

The Workout

It took me about two and a half years to get used to exercising with diabetes.  I always found it so ironic to be working out like crazy at the gym, and then have to stop (or in my case nearly fall off of the stairclimber) and chug back a few juice boxes.  I mean come on, I’m supposed to burning calories while working out, not consuming more!

photoI got my hands on an Omnipod about a year ago and it totally has changed my way of exercise and more importantly–my life!  Shout out to the makers of Omnipod, that little adhesive guy makes my life a whole hellavua lot easier!   One of the best things about it (and any pump on the market) is to set a temporary basal rate. Ah ha, yes, that fancy setting that I barely looked at for the first 6 months.   For some reason I just couldn’t get my head around it, I mean, I knew what it was for, but just rarely used it!  Well, after stepping off of a treadmill and falling into a wall one too many times, I realized that it is there to save my ass.  It has still caused me some issues but I use it all the time now, even if I am just going for an evening walk.  In my opinion, there is nothing worse than having a really bad low blood sugar in the middle of exercising, when you’ve forgotten your pump, your wallet, and your back up sugars at home (because you were just going for a quick walk around the block…).

Nowadays, I set that temp basal for anything and everything.  Depending on when I last ate, I generally will lower it about 15 minutes prior to exercising, depending on the level of difficulty.  If I’m going hiking, I’ll try to lower it up to 30-45minutes before so I can avoid losing my mind in the forest, dissolving into tears and crying on a rock while ingesting any sugar I can get my hands on (true story).   After the hike as the temp basal is wearing off I need to give myself a little bolus dose.  If I forget to do that, it seems like all that emergency sugar was just sitting dormant in my system, waiting to strike and will inevitably send me sky high.  However, if I’m lucky enough to complete a workout or hike without needing any extra sugar, then my BG stays nice and low for the rest of the day, and I seem to require less insulin for food.  Which then leaves me playing the ol’ insulin bolus guessing game.  Confusing right?!

Setting a temp basal is still fussy though, and the level I need to set it at is constantly changing.  Even with such a handy tool on my pump, I still go too high or too low.  Nothing is ever the same! And that is extremely frustrating.   However, no one ever said this disease would be a walk in the park.   And if they did–I missed that day at Diabetes School.

 

What do you do when you exercise?  Do you go high or low?

Sherlock and the Mystery of the Banana

Ah, the banana.  The damned banana.  Everyone knows the carb counts for a banana.  Correction, diabetics know the extreme varying carb counts for a banana! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good banana. But what I don’t love is the proverbial shit storm that follows after I eat said banana.

Nutrition websites everywhere agree that one small 4.5oz banana weighs in at 16.1 grams of carbs, while an extra large comes in at 30 grams.  In lieu of getting out my kitchen scale while I am rushing out the door for work, I, like many, eyeball the size of my delicious fruity meal.  This is where things tend to get fun.

I swear, no matter whether I weighed the banana or not, it will always and inevitably send my blood sugars for a loop.  It turns out that even giving myself half of the required bolus for a banana is too much and will send me crashing into a bottomless pit of hypos for the next few hours.

I finally decided to turn to someone for the answer– google.    Apparently ripe bananas have a higher glycemic index!  In under ripe bananas, starch constitutes 80-90% of the carb content, and as it ripens, it changes into sugar. And I only eat them if they have just turned yellow because who looks brown spotty bananas…!?

Well, I guess that explains the mystery of this high carb food that causes some of the worst hypos I get.  If only I had looked it up when I was diagnosed a few years ago…duh.  Diabetic life lessons!

A Brief Introduction

About a month ago I made the decision to start an online diabetes blog.  The point of which was to connect with others out there in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) who live with Type 1 Diabetes on a daily basis.    After reading and rereading my favourite diabetes blogs, I finally made the choice to start my own!

And then I did nothing.  And nothing.  And went about my daily life, reading my favourite blogs, laughing, thinking how I dealt with that too, wondering if my experiences with diabetes would help anyone getting through a rough time or realize they’re not alone.  Then I remembered how much fun I had with the last travel blog I created, and realized that talking about diabetes was probably more important than sharing a cute photo of a monkey (to some anyway!).

I’ll do my best to update regularly and I’ll try not to be boring.  I’d love to become more active in the online community, so whether you have this disease or are just reading out of curiosity, I’d love some feedback or a link.

Lets get this started!