10 Things to do When Life with Diabetes Becomes Too Much

stress

We know that diabetes is stressful and can be overwhelming at times. The day in and day out grind of carb counting, injecting insulin, and checking on blood sugar levels can wear a person down. That is why it is so important to look after your mental health as well as your physical health. Here are a few things that myself and others have done over the years.

Cry, scream or yell in the shower

cry

Whether you are the person living with diabetes or you are helping someone you love, there are those days when you have had it. You want to kick and scream. You just don’t want to “diabetes” anymore.

Guess what? That is okay! In fact, it is pretty darn healthy! It isn’t healthy to keep those feelings and frustrations bottled up, however.

When you are completely overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel…do it! Find a private spot, like the shower, and just let out all of that pent up emotion. Allow yourself to cry. Go ahead and scream at the universe. Yell at diabetes itself. Simply vent and then…let go. I promise you that while it won’t fix everything, you will feel a little better.

Go for a walk

walk

We all know that we are supposed to exercise. Did you also know that it really can be good for your mental health?

Take some time to join a gym, sign up for a yoga class or just take the dog for a walk. Do something to get moving and get out of your head for a bit. Shake off the cobwebs as you stretch or lift. Allow all of that stress to hit the pavement as you go for a walk. Taking in some fresh air and taking some time for you will help you to improve your overall health.

Go out on a date

date

Go out for a lunch date with a friend. Meet your significant other for a lovely meal. Take one of your children out for a playdate that involves just the two of you. Simply get out and put diabetes on the backburner.

If you are living with diabetes, you will sadly still have to bring it along but, for just an hour, make it sit at another table. Don’t complain about it. Don’t worry about it. Just focus on the person you are with and leave the rest behind for 20 minutes, an hour, whatever you can spare. Recharge yourself with someone you care about.

Grab a glass of wine

At the end of the day, allow yourself to unwind with a glass of wine, a shot of rum or simply a great cup of tea. If you enjoy essential oils, make sure you have your favourite blend diffusing. Light a candle. Just breathe and relax. Let your mind go blank for a bit and simply unwind. It is okay. You need it. You deserve it.

Enjoy a book

Take a few minutes to unwind with a good book. Put on a Netflix show. Turn on your favourite music and let it flow through you. Dance a little if you like or allow the music to put you to sleep! Do something that requires minimal thought and maximum relaxation.

Live life 4 hours at a time

4 hours

This is advice that truly kept me sane through toddlerhood, preteen years and the teens. Live life 4 hours at a time.

When living with diabetes, there can be highs and lows that appear out of nowhere. There can be highs and lows that show up because you got a bit of air in your tubing, you injected into a different site, or you counted the carbs in a meal wrong. There are more reasons for highs and lows than the average person can imagine. Obsessing over them can drive you completely insane.

My advice is simply to deal with them in short blocks. Rapid-acting insulin has a life of 4 hours (on average). Take your day and break it up into those four-hour sections. When you get up and check your blood sugar, that is the start of your first four hours. If that reading is perfect, do a happy dance and get some breakfast. Savor the victory over the diabetes gods.

If you find that you are running a bit high or low, you treat with food or insulin and move forward. By lunch time, you will either have everything under control or you won’t but that is a four hour time period that is behind you. It is something to look at later and see what you could have done differently. It is not something to dwell on. You have another 4 hours to deal with.

In those next four hours, you can celebrate in range readings. You can ponder out of range numbers but know that there will be another four hours for you to look at and you will get through.

Give diabetes away for the day

share

Seriously, give diabetes away for the day. Have someone else think about the blood checks and carb counting. Take the day off.

If you are a parent of a child with diabetes, have your partner or a family member do your child’s care for the day. Remember that they will do things differently. That is okay. As long as your child is okay and you can rest, it will be okay.

If you have diabetes yourself, ask your partner, good friend or even parent to deal with everything for a day. Okay, maybe you won’t be able to handle an entire day but let them scan your sensor. Have them push the buttons on your pump. Let someone else do your site change. Give your brain a break for an hour, an afternoon, a full day if you can!

Join a support group

No matter what, there is nothing like talking to people who get it. If you are on Facebook, join one of the many online groups that are there. Most are private or secret so that what you say in the group will stay there.

If you are a Twitter person, look for the hashtag #DOC or #DSMA and join in diabetes chats. It is a great way to share and meet other people who live the same life as you.

Some people prefer to meet in real life. Check with your diabetes clinic for support groups or diabetes-related events in your area. There are many conferences and camps for both adults and youth that are worth checking out.

Journal

It can be very therapeutic to simply write out your feelings. Start a journal online or in your favourite notebook. Write about your victories and your frustrations. Get your feelings down on paper so that you can better handle them in your daily life.

Seek help

Finally, if you are still finding diabetes too much to handle, please look to finding the help of a professional. There are mentor programs for teens. You can connect with diabetes educators in other areas who will help you tackle getting blood sugars in a more manageable range. You can also connect with therapists who will assist you in person or via remote networks. Some of them like Virtue Bajurny and Joe Solowiejczyk are not only therapists but live with type 1 diabetes themselves.

No matter what you decide to do. Remember that you never have to do it alone. If you are struggling, please reach out to someone or contact us. We will try to help you to find someone in your area who may be able to help.

Because sometimes you have to laugh at life with diabetes

laugh at life with diabetes

Life with diabetes is stressful but often we can find humour in the most
interesting places! Here a few things that have made us all chuckle over
the years.

Who can forget this video….

Where is the strangest place you have ever found a test strip?

We all know that test strips are actually alive. They move on their own. They can be found in the most unique locations. Here are some of the interesting
places that we have heard of.  These ones made us laugh…a lot! Please feel free to share with us some of the strange places your test strips have ever been found.

test strip in coffee

Thanks to Michael for sharing!!

“Somehow, a One Touch Ultra strip ended up in my coffee cup at work this morning. No idea how it got there, but probably involved a morning blood test of 211 that caused
me to cuss and toss my case across my desk. There must have been flailing test strips at hand, also. So, in the spirit, my Blood Meter decided to pose nearby the swimming test strip.”

Teresa I. found one in her daughter’s thick, curly hair after her daughter brushed it with a brush that was next to Teresa’s bed. The strip stayed in there through a full day of school!

Someone else found on that had been used as a bookmark in a school novel!

Test strips have also been found…

  • In the yard
  • Frozen in the ice
  • In a salad
  • In the washer and the dryer
  • Fishing tackle box
  • The teacher’s sweater pocket
  • On the back of the toilet tank
  • In a make up kit that was cleaned out on a weekly basis. How do they find their way to these places??
  • In a clean pair of underwear!

and of course…

test strip on the stove

On the stove!

Strange infusion set locations!

Not to be outdone, we have also found infusion set sites in some very odd places. We have found them in the tub, by the garbage, in the car and even the bottom of my Swifter vac! Always something new.

Fun Diabetes Diddies

Here are some great diabetes poems and tunes that make us laugh and appreciate the creative people in the diabetes community!

Oh A1c song
Oh A1c

by Alissa

Oh A1c, Oh A1c, I raise my voice to heaven
Oh A1c, Oh A1c, in hopes it’s less than seven
The past three months we’ve had a slump
Despite corrections from the pump
Oh A1c, Oh A1c, just please don’t be eleven

Oh A1c, Oh A1c, we’ve tried to stay in range
Oh A1c, Oh A1c, so it seems very strange
That when I download from her Flash
I see the spikes and then the crash
Oh A1c, Oh A1c, you shall this Mom derange

Oh A1c, Oh A1c, I wake with such a fright
Oh A1c, Oh A1c, to my alarm’s delight
But one day when the Cure has come
I’ll beat that clock until it’s dumb
Oh A1c, Oh A1c, and sleep a silent night

Count the carbs song
Count the Carbs

by Alissa

Count the carbs with cups and scales
Fa la la la la la la la la
Guesstimate when all else fails
Fa la la la la la la la la
Hands and fists are quite a treasure
Fa la la la la la la la la
When without a one cup measure
Fa la la la la la la la la

Factored carbs are even greater
Fa la la la la la la la la
But require a calculator
Fa la la la la la la la la
Units you must designate
Fa la la la la la la la la
Don’t forget to tare the plate!
Fa la la la la la la la la

Candy canes are roughly twenty
Fa la la la la la la la la
You will have to fudge a-plenty
Fa la la la la la la la la
Guess them now and fix it after
Fa la la la la la la la la
Just correct and meet with laughter
Fa la la la la la la la la

I have a little meter
Meter (Dreidel)

By Barbie Paulsen

I have a little meter
I use it through the day,
When finger’s done with bleeding
Then dreidel I can play

Chorus:
Oh, meter, meter, meter
I use it every day
And when I’m done with testing
I throw used strips away (Hah!)

I have a little meter,
It counts down really fast
And keeps a steady record
Of when I tested last

–Chorus–

I have a little meter
I take it everywhere
But when I need to use it
Sometimes it isn’t there

no more lows song
No More Lows!

by Alissa

(to the tune of “Let It Snow!”)

Oh the numbers at night are frightful
And the meter now seems spiteful
I’m exhausted and I think it knows
No more lows! No more lows! No more lows!

All this sugar shoving has me praying
That those teeth are not decaying
How much longer is this going to go?
No more lows! No more lows! No more lows!

For a while things worked out right
Numbers were steady till dawn
But now it seems every night
I’m thinking about Glucagon!

Now I’m thinking it would be nifty
If we could see one-fifty
‘Cause the glucose tabs are running low
No more lows! No more lows! No more lows!

rufus the bear
Rufus the Type 1 Brown Bear

by Alissa and Samantha

Rufus the Type 1 Brown Bear
Had to always prick his toes
And if you checked his sugar
You might come to find he’s low

All of the other brown bears
Thought that Rufus had Type 2
So when they had some candy,
They would tell him, “Not for you!”

Then one day a CDE
Helped him to explain,
“I take insulin, you see,
Sugar is just fine for me!”

Then all the brown bears nodded
As they came and shook his hand
“Rufus we’re really sorry,
Now we finally understand!”

Test Strips

by Alissa

(to the tune of “Latkes”)

Test strips, test strips, I see test strips
Not a little, but a lot of test strips
Test strips, test strips, I see test strips
Not a little, but a lot! Of test strips

Test strips are so useful when they show me my bg
But they turn up later, reproducing magically!

Test strips, test strips, I see test strips
Not a little, but a lot of test strips
Test strips, test strips, I see test strips
Not a little but a LOT!!

Fit with Diabetes eBook Review

Fit with Diabetes Recently I was given the privilege of being asked to review Christel Oerum’s new fitness book.  I was both honoured and excited.  My son has been big into fitness since he was in his early teens.  The idea of learning a few tips from this fitness guru that I could share with him led me to open up the book soon after it landed in my inbox!

In keeping with the book‘s fitness theme, I read this book while on my treadmill.  It made me feel slightly better when I saw images of the toned and amazing Christel staring back at me.  I am nowhere near her fitness level but at least I was trying and her book tells you how to do just that…try…and succeed!

Christel offers amazing tips, tricks, and recipes that make you drool!  She shows you how to set achievable smart goals that lead you to your ultimate goal.  Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

From the very beginning, Christel offers great advice like looking at why you are excited about your goal.  She reminds you not to focus on what you don’t like. Don’t focus on being out of shape or carrying around that extra weight but rather how great you are going to feel instead!

Fit with Diabetes also offers valuable, usable tips for people no matter what their fitness level who may be struggling to manage their diabetes care. 

As I said, my son has been big into fitness for years.  There is a huge collection of dumbbells in his room.  He heads over to the gym whenever he can.  I was, therefore, taking a lot of notes when Christel discussed weight training and how different exercises impact blood glucose levels differently. My son had told me something similar.

He saw different bg levels after leg day versus when he had an ab day for example.  Christel tells you how to use this information to your advantage!

One of the things that amazed me the most and made me go “Of course!” was the idea of using the dawn phenomenon to your advantage.  She gives you an effective way to deal with morning spikes through exercise.  You really want to check this out!

As I said,  Fit with Diabetes can easily be your personal trainer if you are not in the position to invest in one just yet.  Christel shows you real examples of how people on pumps and injections are managing their diabetes care while exercising.  She shows you exercises that you can do at home or at a gym and how to put them together into your own personal fitness routine.

I was equally impressed by Christel’s no-nonsense approach to diet and exercise in general.  She never gives you a “diet” to stick to.  She offers suggestions on what a healthy meal should contain.  In Fit with Diabetes, Christel provides formulas and apps for you to use to create the menu plan that fits you! I am the world’s pickiest eater but after looking at some of Christel’s prepared meals, I was drooling!

Finally, Christel reminds us of the reality of weight loss.  Many of us, myself included, get hung up on the numbers. We want our scale to say this weight or that.  Christel promotes a healthy body weight and a positive self-image.  Muscle weighs more than fat.  You may be getting toned and building beautiful muscle without seeing the scale heading the way you expect…and that is okay!

I loved this book. It was easy to read.  The concepts are easy to follow.  I was however starkly reminded how different it is for me to jump on my treadmill with my perfectly functioning pancreas than it is for my son to do the same with his flaked out pancreas.

This book gave me a renewed respect for everyone who is living with diabetes and working to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  It isn’t easy but Christel shows you that it is attainable with a little guidance and dedication!

To purchase your own copy of Christel Oerum’s Fit with Diabetes, you can go to her website at https://diabetesstrong.com/fit-with-diabetes/

Christel is a Los Angeles based blogger, certified personal trainer, and diabetes advocate. She has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and at an early stage decided that it wasn’t going to slow her down. Her motto is “There is Nothing You Can’t do With Diabetes”. She writes about how to be Fit With Diabetes on DiabetesStrong.com. She also coaches people with diabetes from across the globe, online and in person, and supports them in meeting their health and fitness goals.
Christel holds an MBA in Finance & Strategy and an ISSA Personal Trainer certification with specialization in Fitness and Diabetes (Level 3 certified from the Diabetes Motion Academy). You can find her on Facebook  @DiabetesStrong and Instagram @DiabetesStrong_IG /

You can learn about more diabetes-related books here

It’s okay to cry…or scream..or just take time for you

diabetes is hardDiabetes is hard.  Whether you live with the disease or you are the parent of a child with diabetes, diabetes is hard! I know, I said it twice because it is true. It can be exhausting and overwhelming. There is never truly a time when you can relax and say “whatever will be will be.”

There are times when you want to relax. You want to throw in the towel.  There are times when you want to simply say “ENOUGH!!!” and hide under the covers for a the day.  I am here to tell you to do it! Seriously, take a minute or an hour or a day and just throw in the towel so that you can pick it up again with more strength than you had before.

It’s in your best interest and the interest of those you love to take time for you.  Take time to just let it all go.  Here are five easy ways to reset yourself so you can continue on your journey with diabetes.

1. Hide out in the shower.

The shower is an amazing place.  You can lock the door.  The water pouring over your body can be calming and soothing.  It washes away your tears gently and without judgement.  The sound of the running water also drowns out your anguish.

When things seem bad…When you are tired and just want a break… take 5 minutes and hang out in the shower.  Cry or vent.  No one needs to know. No one needs to see.  You can simply let out all of that pent up anxiety  and allow it to flow down the drain.

After you are finished crying and yelling, you can dry off and get on with your day!

2. Go for a walk.

Ideally, go for a walk by yourself but if you can’t take the kids and just go!  Power walk at first until you have spent all of that stress and tension out of your body.  Let all of your frustrations be released in your strides. Slowly let everything go until you can slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Breathe and just let it be.

Your heart will thank-you and so will your psyche.

3. Pass the buck.

Whether you have diabetes or you are the caregiver, let someone else deal with things for an hour or a day.  Let them do the testing and the injecting. Give the meter or CGM receiver to a trusted companion or family member for a bit.  Allow them to deal with things in their own way.  Allow yourself to forget just for a bit.

It can be hard at first.  Diabetes is so all consuming but it can happen.  Don’t be concerned if the other person is  doing things differently than you would.  Let go.  As long as no one’s life is in danger…let it go.

I have done this for my son before.  There would be a day when I would do all of the testing, bolusing and carb counting. He would simply hand me a finger or his pump.  Diabetes was not something that he was going to actively concern himself with managing for that time period. He loved the break.

4. Enjoy a date night.

If you are a parent of a child with diabetes, this is super important.  Make time for you and your partner.  If you are single, then make time for you and your close friends.  Take time once a week or at least once a month, to focus on relationships.  Leave diabetes in the hands of someone you can trust.  Do not spend all of your time looking at your phone or texting home.  Focus on enjoying yourself and recharging your batteries.

5. Meet up with other D-peeps.

This one may seem a bit strange.  If you are overwhelmed by diabetes, why or why would I suggest that you hang out with other people who are just as stressed as you? Because they get it!

Seriously, meeting another person who lives with diabetes can be so liberating.  They truly do understand carb counting and pump problems.  They  are the ones who understand the A1c report card and so many other aspects of your life.

Go to conferences, events, or socials.  Talk to that co-worker who also has diabetes or that Facebook friend you met in a group.  Share with each other.  You won’t just talk about diabetes but they will understand that diabetes factors into so many other aspects of your life.

These are just a few things that can help to relieve some of the stress of living with diabetes.  There are many other things that you can do.  If you reach the point of feeling completely overwhelmed, please consider talking to your doctor or a therapist.  Diabetes is hard.  You need supports.  Make sure you find them and use them for the sake of you and all of those who care about you.

Diabetes is hard! Some days you’re the windshield…some days you’re the bug

This post was originally written in 2009.  My son now manages his own diabetes care .  He wakes for his lows.  He treats his highs but one thing remains the same–diabetes is hard no matter who is responsible for care for the daily tasks. 

Diabetes is hard

“Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug.” Today I am definitely feeling like the bug!

It was after midnight and of course I was dying to get to sleep. I had set my alarm for early the next morning.  It would be my son’s last day of school.

I found a meter and a strip. I grabbed a lancet, waded through all of the junk that the boys had left on the stairs rather than putting away and was off to test my son’s blood sugar level. I hope it would be the last check for a few hours. One check and I could sleep!

We had been out for pizza earlier that day to celebrate good grades so I was certain that my youngest son would still be high. He had been  16 mmol (288) earlier in the evening  so you know I was certain that I was  going to be able to rest.

Wrong! Diabetes doesn’t work that way.

I took the meter. I lanced his finger  and created a pool of  blood. The strip refused to suck. What the???? Okay, I cleaned the finger. I got more blood. I tried again. The glucometer just barely accepted the blood. I waited for the reading…E5. It was an error reading!! There hadn’t been enough blood to get a blood sugar reading. Oh the lovely four letter words that were on the tip of my tongue as I headed back downstairs to get new equipment.

I found a new meter. I was certain that this one had to be better than the last. A new test strip was in my hand. The same lancing device was being used. Back up the stairs I went.  This time I grumbled and picked up items as I went.

Once again, I lanced my son’s finger. Again, I got a large amount of blood. The strip sucked the blood  this time! I walked towards the stairs not even considering having to correct a high blood glucose reading. That was a good thing because he didn’t need insulin.  He was 3.2 (57). He was low!

I uttered a few more choice words as I shuffled off to get some juice. I filled a glass, found a straw and trudged up the stairs for a third time in less than five minutes.

My son wasn’t keen on drinking. I continued to cajole him until he finally began to  sip. Thankfully he drank it all except the last few drops. Those were sucked up into the straw and somehow flew all over his pillow.  I was not happy.  There was now strawberry juice all over a cream pillow case.  I cleaned it off as best as I could and  waited.

Fifteen minutes can become a lifetime when you are dying for sleep. These are the moments when you just think to yourself…diabetes is hard.  Why us?

Eventually it was time to retest.  He was  5.5 (99) and I was finally off to bed for two hours before it would be time to test again.

Diabetes is hard.  Diabetes care is a challenge.  Some days things seem okay…and other days you feel like you are a bug squished against a windshield.

 

 

Fiasp Insulin. The New Kid on the Block

Fiasp Insulin the new kid on the blockIt has been a long time since the diabetes world has seen a new rapid-acting insulin brought to market.  The last one that I can remember was  Apidra released back in 2004.  It is not surprising then that the release of Fiasp by NovoNordisk is creating a lot of buzz.

Not to be left out, my son recently began using this insulin. Since Fiasp insulin is the new kid on the block, I thought I would give everyone a brief rundown on the highs and lows associated with it.

What is Fiasp?

Fiasp insulin was released by NovoNordisk onto the Canadian market in March of 2017.  Many of us scrambled to get a prescription because it promised better blood glucose levels without pre-bolusing for meals! According to the press release, you can dose up to two minutes before a meal and up to 20 minutes after starting a meal without compromising overall glycemic control or safety!*

How is it different?

A Medscape article states that  Fiasp is absorbed twice as fast as its counterparts. It does this with the help of  two excipients–Vitamin B3 is responsible for the increase in the speed of absorption and Amino Acid (L-Arginine)  has been added for extra stability.**

But what do Fiasp users think?

All of this science is great but most people are wondering how well it works in real life settings.  From what I have seen, the bulk of users really like it.  I could only find one person out of about a dozen users who had returned to their old insulin aspart.

When I asked my son for his review I was told “I still have highs. I still have lows BUT if I have a heavy carb  loaded meal, Fiasp kicks butt and I don’t have the same crazy swings that I always did before.” For a 19-year-old who can definitely binge on carbs, this is huge.

Other users seem to have had similar results.

Some people with diabetes found that the insulin peaks were no longer as pronounced.  They had some difficulty battling highs with Fiasp however while others found it perfect for corrections. In fact, some people are purchasing Fiasp just for corrections.

Other users explained that faster insulin action allowed them to more quickly respond to rising blood glucose levels.  This, in turn, meant resulted in much tighter control.  The quick action has also left one user to caution about the timing of any pre-bolus.

Most seemed to agree that Fiasp insulin resulted in fewer food spikes and more stable blood glucose levels but as I said not everyone loves it.  For some users, their traditional rapid-acting insulin seemed to work better.

Final thoughts…

All in all, most people with diabetes who are trying the new kid on the block seem to be happy with it.  It offers another insulin choice for those who struggled with post-meal spikes or don’t pre-bolus meals.

It must also be noted however that while Fiasp is not currently approved for use in insulin pumps in Canada, both those on insulin pumps and MDI are using this insulin aspart.

I was also happy to see that the price of Fiasp insulin was par with NovoRapid. This meant that there was no need to worry about an increased cost for out of pocket insulin expenses.  My understanding is that Fiasp insulin is not yet on many (or any) provincial formularies.  This most likely will mean that if you decide to use the insulin and are currently using a publicly funded program, you may have to either pay for this insulin out of pocket or speak to your doctor about having special authorization added to your benefits to ensure full coverage.

Please remember to check with your diabetes team before starting any new insulin regimen. 

You can read about all of the types of insulin available in Canada here.

I don’t have diabetes but diabetes can still bring me down.

Diabetes is exhausting.  The emotional toll of test, calculate, bolus is incredible. I am lucky.  I don’t have diabetes, but diabetes can still bring me down.  Because I don’t have diabetes, when it does tend to be too much I can step away,  put it on the back burner and regroup before I dive  in again. I wish everyone with diabetes had it that easy.

For years I was my son’s external pancreas.  It was exhausting.  I never slept more than four hours at a time.  If I woke up during the night, I tested his blood glucose levels.  We had no CGMs.  We just had me. It was my job to make sure that he was in range.  I was the one to calculate carbs, adjust insulin ratios and log blood glucose readings.

My son tested and learned alongside of me but I carried the bulk of the burden…until he turned 16.  At 16, he decided that he could handle it all.  He carried the entire burden for the next three years unless he was visiting me.  When he was with me, I took over as much as he wanted.

Taking over wasn’t the same as doing it 24/7.  That being said, being an external pancreas also wasn’t the same as being the one to experience the highs, lows and pokes with needles multiple times per day.  Not being able to “fix it” or take it away could (can) bring me down as much as the pressure of daily diabetes care.

I  still wish that I could take the pain away. I wish that my son would know a different life.  There isn’t a day that I don’t ache for the families and other people living with diabetes knowing that they can never stop testing or injecting.  Their very lives depended on it.

As I  brush away those feelings, a new sadness often creeps in and diabetes can bring me down again.  The new sadness often comes from   my advocacy efforts.

Ever since my son’s diagnosis, I have worked very hard in various advocacy arenas.  I have worked with grassroots groups, individuals and large organizations to see changes for children and adults living with type 1 diabetes.  This means that I also am exposed to the worst in the diabetes world.  People come to me when they are struggling and don’t know where else to turn.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being that shoulder. I love being able to give back to them in the same way that others were there for me.  The problem for me arises when we can’t see a perfect resolution.  I ache when someone comes to me with a situation that I know there is just no current solution for. I want to fix it desperately but when I can’t?  Diabetes can bring me down.

At some points that sadness because I can’t fix it has been overwhelming.  Those are the times that I have had to step back a bit. I have had to reduce the time I spent on issues and allow myself to step back from the advocacy arena.  During these times, I remind myself that there are many others out there who can handle it just as well and I regroup.

I will admit, sometimes diabetes has brought me down so far that I wondered if I would come back.  Had my advocacy usefulness past? Was I too cynical? I can’t really answer that but I can say that I recharge and am pulled back into the ring by families and individuals who continue to reach out looking to me for help.

I don’t have diabetes.  Diabetes can still bring me down but it never keeps me down.  Each day I wake ready to work a little harder.  Each day I will share what has worked for us and hope to inspire and assist others living with diabetes.  I will continue to work with individuals and groups to create better care for people with diabetes regardless of education or income level.  Diabetes can bring me down but it will not win. My battle won’t end until a cure is found.

Live Four Hours at a Time

Its Diabetes Blog week once again!!  A fun time when diabetes bloggers across the internet share their takes on various topics.   Today we look at the challenges of diabetes and how to be prepared.  For me, there is only way way to survive the unrelenting challenges of life with diabetes–that is to live life with diabetes four hours at a time.

live lie with diabetes four hours at a timeDiabetes is overwhelming. Imagine if you will waking up one day and being told “You have diabetes.  You must inject yourself (or your loved one) with some insulin.  That amount may vary but we will start you at this dose.  If you give too much insulin make sure you get some food into you quickly or you will die.  If you don’t inject yourself with enough insulin you will feel horrible, pass out and potentially die.  There is a tool to help you though.  Here is a glucometer.  Lance your finger, place the blood on that strip and then take extra or reduced insulin based on the number that you see. Have a nice day! Come back and see me in three months.”

Does that sound a little overwhelming? It is. It is terrifying! You are now holding something in your hand that has the power to sustain or take away life.

Just in case that wasn’t terrifying enough, they didn’t really go into all of the things that will change how much insulin you need.  If you are sick, you may need more insulin–except for sometimes when you need less.  Did you go jogging last night? Well, that might mean you need a bit less insulin.  Oh, you went for pizza–Heaven help you because  your readings are going to be everywhere.  You may need a bit less insulin right now but in five hours you will need a lot more.  Is the moon full? You insulin needs may change.  Are you menstruating? You may have to change your insulin.  Did your doctor just put you on a steroid? That is going to impact how much insulin you need as well.

Are you starting to get the picture? If you are injecting for a child, add in growth hormones, childhood illnesses, anxiety, stress and a myriad of other things that you don’t think about until you are handed that bottle of insulin and told to go home.

When my son was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to leave the hospital.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t get it right. And guess what? I didn’t. There were a lot of mistakes along the way. Sadly,  I am not a perfect pancreas.  Playing one in real life is a huge challenge but I learned one thing…Live life with diabetes four hours at a time.

Seriously, if you break your day down into four hour sections, your anxiety and stress load can decrease slightly.  Four hours is approximately how long most rapid acting insulins last for.  When you dose for breakfast at 8am, by noon, that insulin is usually gone and you are onto other issues.

I know, but the fat from breakfast can spill over and create havoc at lunch.  The flu bug that is brewing is still there four hours later but that’s okay.  Stop. Breathe. Just look at those four hours.  The four hours that passed are to be examined and maybe changes will be made for tomorrow.  The four hours coming are the next battle ground. Living life with diabetes four hours at a time allows you to breathe just a little.

Take a look at where you are.  What is that reading? What are you going to do? Have you figured out what you are planning on eating? Okay, now dose.  Now live.  Now breathe.  At the end of that four hours look back for just a minute.

How did you do during the past four hours? Were the readings in range? High five!! Do a victory dance.  You were an awesome pancreas!! Was the reading out of range? No problem.  Add insulin.  Add food.  Take a moment to think about what else could have been influencing the reading.  Take a breath and start the next four hours.

Doesn’t that feel better? Diabetes is a challenge.  People living with diabetes are asked to mimic an organ.  That task is monumental.  You cannot eat an elephant in one bite and you can’t take on diabetes all at once. The easiest solution that I have found is to live life with diabetes four hours at a time.

Remember to celebrate your victories.  Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes….learn from them.  One foot in front of the other. One bite at a time.

The Mental Part of Diabetes…Day 2 of Dblog Week

730x1207[5]The mental part of diabetes is huge.  It is  the  part that the average person  really doesn’t understand. It’s the part that scares me the most.

Everything that a person with diabetes does requires thought. Every action requires planning.  Getting up involves testing blood glucose levels to see if you can pee or if you need to have insulin or food before your first trip to the washroom.

Eating food requires a math lesson–how many carbohydrates are in whatever you/your loved one plans to eat.  Now, how much of that is fiber? Okay, how much fat or protein is in the meal? What is the anticipated activity level for the next four hours? What was the blood glucose reading before sitting down to this meal? When was the last time that insulin was taken? Is there still some insulin floating around in the body that has to be taken into account? What time of day is it? How much insulin to you normally use at this time of day to cover a pre-established amount of carbohydrates? Is there any illness or stress that is impacting blood glucose levels at the moment? After all of these questions have been answered, the totals added, subtracted, and divided, an insulin dose may be given…and you pray you go this one right.

This procedure is repeated every time a person with diabetes wants to eat anything that has any nutritious value…every time.

Going for a long walk or working out is just as an intense of a process.  A person with diabetes must make sure that they have their supplies handy.  Do they have enough glucose if they feel themselves dropping? Have they taken just enough insulin to avoid a high but not enough to cause a low when physical? Have the changed their insulin delivery for the next ____ amount of time to deal with the post-exercise drop and the adrenaline during the event? Do they have enough test strips?

That brings us to simply walking out the door.  People tease me about my purse. It’s a suitcase.  Even though my son with diabetes no longer lives with me, I still tend to carry a massive purse. Once upon a time it had to carry glucose tablets, juice boxes, crackers, test strips, needles, alcohol swabs, hand sanitizer, and medical tape to name just a few items. No matter where my son goes, he has to bring his insulin pump, meter, test strips and glucose. His pockets are never empty.

Imagine the burden of having to remember all of this “stuff”.  Imagine the burden of having to remember to test, to bolus or inject every time you want to eat or nibble at something.  Imagine the stress of having to worry how a meal will impact your blood glucose levels. Imagine having to worry about how that exercise will impact your body while you sleep. Imagine having to worry about going low while you drive.  Imagine having to worry about how that beer will impact your readings later on this evening.  Imagine simply being afraid to go to sleep because you might not wake up.

Everything around diabetes requires thought.  I worry about the toll that that can have on those living with diabetes like my son.

As a parent of a person with diabetes, how do I survive? It has its own challenges.  When my son was small and for all of the years that he lived at home with me, I survived four hours at a time.  I realized that I could only control four hours–the amount of time that his fast acting insulin was supposed to be working. If my son was in range from  7-11am, I would be happy.  I would put the potential  high at 2pm out of my mind. For that moment, I would bask in the glory of getting it right for 4 hours.

Later, I would move on to the next time slot.  Four hours is a relatively small period of time but in the world of diabetes, it can be forever and celebrating getting it right is a wonderful thing.

My son doesn’t live with me at the moment.  That has changed my role dramatically.  At first I was stressed out completely.  He doesn’t look after himself the same way that I do.  Would he test at night? Would he stay up or set an alarm to re-test? How would he handle it when he needed to make changes? How would he manage going to appointments? How would he handle stress? How would he manage alcohol or girls? I was too far away to monitor and he quickly pushed me further to the fringes.

As I was pushed away, I learned that this was his disease.  He had to find his way. I was there when he had a question. I was there to encourage. I am still there to remind him of what he does know.  I am there to watch him learn from a distance.  It is hard. It is also very freeing and that leads to a lot of guilt.  I can now turn off diabetes in a way. I don’t think about it 24/7 but he can’t and I can’t change that.

I worry about him.  He has been dealing with diabetes for his entire life.  He has no memory of life  before needles and testing.  He is quiet. He doesn’t discuss diabetes with people. I fear he will burnout. When he is with me, I help with some of his care. I allow him to choose how much help he wants.

So how do you handle the mental side of diabetes? First, four hours at a time.  Don’t overwhelm yourself with the entire day, just look at the next four hours.

Second, ask for help.  Whether you are the primary caregiver or the person with diabetes, ask for help, accept help.  You need a break. Life with diabetes is not natural. It is stressful and crazy.  Take a break by handing the reins over to someone else if only for a task or two.  They won’t mind and you will be able to breathe.

 

Baking with Barb

lower carbohydrate bakingI love to cook. I enjoy baking and creating new meals for my family. I love to follow food boards on Pinterest and to scan through recipes.

Since type 1 diabetes moved into our house and I have gotten a bit older, I find myself altering recipes on a regular basis.  It is now important that foods be lower in carbohydrates if possible.  With a history of heart disease in my family and my own heart issues, it is also important for foods to contain more fibre and less fat.  This has meant that many family favorite recipes have been changed over the years. I am certain that my grandmother would roll over in her grave if she knew what I had done to some of her amazing recipes but we are able to enjoy the wonderful tastes while being a bit more healthy.

Use Splenda when possible

I have found that some recipes allow me to completely substitute Splenda for sugar.  Others require the “real thing” but I can often use a lesser amount. Recently I recently tried the Splenda brown sugar blend.  It worked well in some cookies.

Increase fibre and reduce fat

I have added flax and whole wheat flour to pizza dough. I have learned to substitute some or all of the margarine or oil in a recipe with applesauce. Sometimes the recipes work and sometimes…well Grandma did know what she was talking about.

Get creative

The other day, I took my creativity to a new level and came up with a new cookie that will be a Christmas staple.  We were eating chocolate chip cookies with colored chips.  I had a stroke of genius–Candy Cane cookies! If you have done this already or have a similar recipe, please don’t tell me. Allow me the illusion of thinking that I came up with this first.

I took out a cookie recipe that my boys and their friends have loved for years and began my tweaking. I put the creation in the oven and loved the taste that came out. The resulting cookies were approximately 10g of carbohydrates per cookie and really yummy if you like a peppermint holiday treat. (Sorry I haven’t figured out the carb factor yet because I ate too many of the cookies before I remembered to weigh them).  If you are interested, here is what happens when you go “baking with Barb”!

lower carbohydrate cookies
  • Cream together 3/4c margarine, 1/2c Spenda blended brown sugar, and 1/2c Splenda
  • Beat in 1 egg and 1 egg white/egg beater, and 2 tsp of vanilla
  • Combine 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking soda, and 1 tsp of salt
  • Gradually blend.
  • Mix in 1/2c of crushed candy canes (approximately 20 miniature candy canes)
  • Drop by a teaspoon onto lightly greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake in oven preheated to 350F for 15-17 minutes.

Yield approximately 28 cookies
The recipe is approximately 284.75 g of carbohydrates in total