Saturday, September 28, 2013

Talking about diabetes; combating misinformation

First off, let me say something about myself: I am an introvert, 100%. It should be noted that I am not a misanthrope. I prefer to spend time not talking to people, but I don't generally hate humanity. That being said, there are some things that just get me to talk to people: my pets, anthropology, band, and, apparently, diabetes. If anyone has anything to ask me about my diabetes, I'm more than willing to share (except that time I was walking around Savannah with a BG of 45. I didn't want to talk about it then).

Diabetes used to be number one on my topics to never discuss. Diabetes was just another thing that made me that girl. I was the girl who was too honest for her own good, bad at speaking to others, freakishly tall (seriously, I was 5'5" in the 5th grade), and I just didn't like to even think about diabetes. Everybody had so many questions, and it was something I was living with 24/7/365.

These days I'm happy to talk about diabetes all the time. There is so much misinformation out there. Normal people who are untouched by type 1 sometimes have no clue what's going on. Many people don't realize the differences between type 1 and type 2. While it's really frustrating, it's hard to blame them. If I didn't have diabetes, I probably wouldn't know much about it. Sometimes I swear I'm going to punch the next person who tells me that eating XYZ will cure my diabetes, but the truth is they most likely read it as a headline of a trashy magazine at the checkout stand. They're just trying to help.

Maybe my diabetes is making me soft. I used to get mad at misinformed people, and then I started talking to them instead of brushing them off. I would much rather give people the truth than have them telling more T1's that a raw vegan diet will cure them.

With the awesome online community, it is so easy to isolate ourselves into this neat little pocket where everyone knows about diabetes. But the sad truth is that a lot of people don't know about diabetes, or what they do know they learned on TV. I've taken it upon myself to talk openly about my diabetes whenever I get the chance. I'm not obnoxious about it, needing to turn every conversation to diabetes, but people know if they have any questions about diabetes, I will talk to them.

I guess the main takeaway for this is: It took me years and years, but I'm now happy to talk about diabetes. I feel like it's better for everyone if I decide to educate people who don't know any better, rather than get angry and walk away. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Are you drunk?"

Last weekend I was hanging out with my friends, watching football on TV and just hanging out. Yes, there was alcohol around. There were snacks. I hadn't been drinking, and I knew my blood sugar was dipping. I could feel it. But for some reason I sometimes downplay my symptoms when I'm hanging out with a group, even though they all know I'm diabetic (yeah, I don't know why, either). I thought I was just getting low, right on the edge, not a big deal.

Apparently I was acting off. I've never really thought low blood sugar made me appear drunk. I knew it made me feel sluggish and weak, but I didn't know how drunk it makes me look. One of my friends came up and asked me how much I'd been drinking. Nothing, well, nothing other than Diet Coke. She then politely suggested I might want to do a blood test because I was acting really strange for someone who hadn't had any alcohol. I knew I was dipping a little low, so I did a blood test. 43 mg/dl. Oops. Then I sat down, had a regular Coke, and ate some snacks.

All in all, I was fine. The moral of this story: sometimes it's really important to have friends who know your low blood sugar signals as well as or better than you do.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This is why I pump

I see the question of whether or not to use an insulin pump come up a lot on various Internet forums, and I want to make my statement loud and clear: I love my pump. His name is Henry, and I would not give him up for anything (except a functioning pancreas).

Unfortunately, it wasn't love at first sight. I fought the idea of a pump for two years before my mother convinced me to try it for 6 months. If I didn't like it after 6 months, I didn't have to keep it and I could go back to shots. I really didn't want to give up the freedom of movement and be attached to that thing all the time. Reluctantly, I agreed and we contacted MiniMed to get a pump. We ordered blue (purple was not a choice yet). I went to a training class for three days before I was allowed to use it. Although I was only 13 at the time, I was the oldest kid in the room by at least five years. I felt like I had really gotten onto the pump wagon late. A few weeks, lots of hypos, and a few adjustments, and I was ready to go. Needless to say, this was just another case where my mother was right and I was wrong.

See, back in the day (2002) when I was on shots, I had to keep a strict schedule for my diet and insulin. This meant eating the same amount of carbs at the same time each day. That meant getting up at 6:30, even on a Saturday. I was not the favorite friend to have sleep over. The very first time I spent the night away from my house, my mom came to get me at 9 the next morning and my blood sugar was 43 and the friend's parents were out of the house. Getting an insulin pump meant I didn't have to keep such a tight schedule of my dining times. Hallelujah, sleeping in!

I love the flexibility in dosing with a pump. I don't have to pull out a needle every time I go high or want food. I just push a few buttons. My pump can dose in small fractions of a unit. Try that with a syringe or pen! It's much more discreet in social situations. My personal favorite: it does math for me. Not that I'm bad at math, but having dinner shouldn't include algebra. My meter is linked into the pump, so my BG readings are sent straight to the pump when I test. I tell the pump how many carbs I plan on eating, and the pump uses the carbs, BG number, and how much insulin is still in my system to calculate how much insulin to give me. It greatly minimizes the number of ways I can screw up my dosing.

With a pump, you have no long-acting insulin. Instead, you have a basal rate of insulin given as so many units/hour. If something goes wrong with your site or pump, things can escalate pretty quickly. It's important to keep an eye on things for that reason.

Being attached to the thing? Not so bad. I just keep it on a clip or wear something with pockets. In a pinch I will stick it in my bra.

A lot of people are concerned about exercising with a pump. I have done a whole host of things with my pump and I have been fine. Cheerleading, running, marching band, physical therapy... I've done all of those without taking my pump off. The only things I've removed it for are swimming and tumbling (for obvious reasons). During things like band camp where I knew I would be sweating my butt off all day in the sun for a week, I turned my basal insulin rate down to prevent going low. Of course it took some trial and error to get it right, but I got there eventually.

Sexy times? Yeah, it's not a big deal unless you make it a big deal. I'll let you work out the logistics on your own. I'll just mention that your partner should probably know where your site is so they don't accidentally rip it out. It kills the mood.

No, the inset doesn't hurt much. Well, it doesn't really hurt more than a regular syringe, in my opinion. You can't feel it under your skin unless something is wrong or you hit a weird spot. For me, at least, that is rare.

Yes, an insulin pump is going to be an outward manifestation of diabetes. You know what? Most people have absolutely no idea what it is. I've gotten cell phone, pager, and even a mic pack for going on TV (there were TV cameras around, to be fair).

After I got over my initial misgivings about trying the pump, I loved it. I still love it. I understand that pumps aren't for everyone, and if someone is doing well on syringes/pens, they can keep on rocking. Henry and I are together for life, though. So far I've had three Henrys.