Handling Diabetes and Holiday Eating

dealing with diabetes and the holidays

We are heading into the holiday season!  Soon we will be facing holiday parties and family dinners filled with memories and so much food! Diabetes and holiday eating can trigger a great deal of anxiety and stress.  As a parent of a child with diabetes, food and excitement can create the ugliest roller-coaster of blood glucose readings. 

So how do you make the holidays a memorable time without experiencing the nightmares of highs and lows? You can let your child eat, play, be merry and deal with the messy blood glucose levels or you can try some of these options for dealing with diabetes and holiday eating.

1. Have a plan

I have always been a firm believer in allowing my son to be a child first and a child with diabetes second.  This can sometimes be easier said than done as we watch and panic. Pushing down the panic and moving forward with wag carb (wild @s$ guess) counts help to make things much more enjoyable for my son.

2. Bring some of your own food with known carb counts

Integrated Diabetes’ November 2014 blog offers a lot of great advice on how to wade through the many holiday dishes that will cross your path.  One great tip is to bring some of your own food. By having a few of your own dishes at events, you will already know the carb count and know how it impacts blood glucose levels.

3. Know the carb counts for a few standard food stuffs

Remember a few of the standards that will be served–15g CHO for a half cup of potatoes, 25g CHO tends to cover a lot of cookies, 20g for a small apple, and so on.  We often have the same food again and again so try to relax a bit.  Think back to some of carb counts you have used before and see if they will fit any of the food choices that you are looking at.

4. Check, check and check again!

Monitor blood glucose levels a lot. If you make an error on your carb guesses, checking regularly will catch those rises or drops ideally before they become too stressful.

5. Use your insulin pump features

If you are using an insulin pump, make sure that you use pump features such as combination boluses and extended boluses to help manage high fat-meals and grazing.

6. Enjoy the occasion!

Finally, remember to enjoy the occasion! Food is lovely…and tasty, but this is a time to make memories and cherish the time spent with good friends and family.  Remember to make that your focus and make diabetes take a backseat as much as you can.

Are you thinking about trying an insulin pump but don’t know where to start? We can help.

Too Sweet…Book Review

too sweet book review

The ask to read and review the book “Too Sweet” came from someone that I had never heard of before. It was self-published with a title that made me nervous. Too Sweet? Was this going to be a book to toss in the “maybe one day if I am so bored that its read book or the encyclopedia” pile? I really wasn’t sure until I opened the first few pages.

I was instantly greeted with light and humorous prose. After a wonderful welcome to a disorder that “is part of your life forever”, I was reminded that a laughter and a positive attitude are key to making life with diabetes more manageable. I was instantly sucked in. I eagerly looked forward to seeing what the rest of the book had in store for me.

As a parent of a child with diabetes, I cannot read a book about diabetes and “know” what the person with diabetes really feels.  I can know the pain and broad range of emotions that a parent goes through. This isn’t my disease, however, and I am always interested in tips for parents or what other parents have experienced. 

I laughed out loud reading Too Sweet

Too Sweet is written by Laura Kronen. She was not diagnosed with type 1 diabetes until she was in university.  Laura states her parents had a much more difficult time accepting the diagnosis than she did. They felt guilty and she felt it was okay to play on this guilt now and then.

I literally laughed out loud when I read that Laura felt that her diabetes was her parents’ fault. They supplied her with faulty DNA! She felt that making them feel guilty now and then keeps things “balanced and gives her added attention when she feels particularly needy”.

This blunt, funny dialog  continues throughout the book. Whether she is discussing how finger pricks have destroyed her finger prints and makes her perfect criminal if her book sales fail or the aggravation that comes with the dreaded wasted test strip, you read and learn with a smile on your face.

We get a good idea of what life with diabetes is like

Laura gives those of us who don’t live with diabetes a good idea of how lows feel. She gives them great names like the surprise low, the cranky low, the full but still have to eat low and many more. Too Sweet also offers some very real advice on everything from insulin pumps (which are not for everyone and she will tell you why) to the glycemic index to alcohol consumption.  This book offers us a glib reminder of how insanely costly dealing with type 1 diabetes can be in a section called  “I need more supplies. Do I have enough money in my checking account to cover them today?”

Too Sweet also provides some great advice on how to handle the emotional side of diabetes. From getting rid of negative friends to learning from your mistakes, Laura makes you laugh as well as makes you think.

Too Sweet surpassed my expectations

I opened this book not expecting much so it didn’t take a lot to exceed my expectations but it did and then some.  As I read each page, I was drawn in deeper and deeper. I appreciated the author’s attitude and ability to make me laugh. In reviewing Too Sweet I found that if you want to learn a bit more about living with diabetes and you want a relatively light way to do it, definitely grab this book and giving it a read today.

Fourteen years of living with type 1 diabetes

child with diabetes

14 years ago today my world turned upside down. It was not a fork in the road. It was not a minor blip on the radar of life. A bomb exploded and it forever changed the landscape of my life. It was the day diabetes entered our life.

14 years ago this morning, I was looking at a sick little boy in my arms and was waiting to be able to take him in to see our doctor.  I was ignorant of what was to come.

And just like that, he is a young man who happens to have diabetes

14 years later, my son is a young man making his own decisions and stretching his wings…who just happens to live with Type 1 diabetes.  I am stumbling to come to terms with my new role of no longer being a hands-on mom and often find myself looking back to see what I have done in hopes of figuring out where I will go next.

There have been a lot of changes in diabetes technology

insulin pumps after 14 years of type 1 diabetes

14 years of type 1 diabetes have brought many changes.  Insulin pumps are more readily available and continuous glucose monitors are no longer things found in hospitals that are blinded for 7 days.  They are real tools that families and individuals are using in real-time to help fine tune their care.

14 years later and still living strong with diabetes

14 years ago, type 1 diabetes threatened to take the life of my son.  Today he is strong, vibrant and learning how to handle his disease.  Diabetes does not control him. It’s just his “thing” to live with.

We have not always seen smooth sailing. We have had our moments.  He has driven me crazy at times–failing to test or change infusion sets. He still can drive me nuts. I have yelled at him because of my own failings and frustrations.  We are not perfect but we are living. As the commercial says, we are living with diabetes. It stops him from little.

Type 1 diabetes has brought us life long friends

friendships after 14 years of type 1diabetes

Type 1 diabetes has brought me the most incredible friendships.  I have friends throughout the world who have reached out at various times in my life to help me up or shove me forward. I hope I have done the same for them.

14 years seems like such a long time and yet I can see us back in that ICU just like it was yesterday.  Some things you never forget…my son has but I haven’t.

Thank you

On days like today,  I look back and say thank you! Thank you to the doctors and specialists that kept him alive and have taught us through the years.  Thank you to the Higher Power that has been with us through it all. Thank you to the friends and family who have joined us on this journey. Thank you for 14 years of good health and improved technology!

Diabetes sucks but life after diabetes…well it’s still life and that is pretty amazing!

Balancing Diabetes…A Book Review

balancing diabetes

A number of months ago, I was honored when the folks at Spry Publishing contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing an advanced copy of Kerri Sparling’s new book, Balancing Diabetes. I have enjoyed Kerri’s blog but I honestly wondered about a book that suggested that you could find some balance in a life with diabetes.  What pat formula would she suggest?

Any fears or concerns that I had were quickly pushed aside as I began to devour this book. As with any book that I read and am going to review, I bookmark passages and pages with little notes of why this sentence or paragraph moved me.  In looking back at Kerri’s book, I literally have over 50 different sections marked off for mention! This has to be a great book…and it is.

Balancing Diabetes also gives you a look at being a parent of a child with diabetes.

As a mother of a child with diabetes, I was also worried that I would be reading this book from the outside. Kerri is a person with diabetes and this book would be all about her right? Wrong.

By page 9 Kerri’s mother shares her feelings and I could hear myself in her words “…I didn’t know what we were getting into. I just thought, Okay let’s go deal with this, whatever this is.”  Kerri’s mom goes on to say that she handled what she was given but did not want any more.  She would learn in stages because to get everything at once would be overwhelming. I felt the same way when my son was diagnosed.  I was on overload and autopilot for months. Slowly I would add knowledge and information when I could handle it…this was how we, as parents, found balance with diabetes.

This book brought out many emotions.  Reading about the burden of being shown and repeatedly told about your own mortality at such a young age made me wonder how my son feels? Is he still an immortal teen or does he have Kerri’s “heightened awareness of how vulnerable” her health was? Either way, does he also know, that I share Kerri’s mother’s feelings? When Kerri told her that she didn’t care if she was high and her mother responded, “For now, I’ll care enough for both of us.”  Yes, I cried reading this.

There is a balance of humor and serious conversations.

But like the title, this book has balance.  While there are many very serious conversations, humor creates a fabulous balance and brings a different kind of tears…the ones you get from laughing! Kerri’s wonderful sense of humor shines through in this book. 

The topic of sex is never an easy one, but Kerri takes you past the embarrassment and makes you laugh at her candor.  She shares the story of her first serious low with her husband. It took place after they had made love and her husband lays claim to responsibility for it happening!

Besides the amazing humor and the walk through Kerri’s life, she brings in the experiences of many other people who live with diabetes to provide some fabulous tips for living a full life with diabetes.  They take us through diagnosis, the trials of teens, life as a young adult, dating, marriage and even pregnancy.  

Kerri talks about the sense of helplessness that diabetes can create at times–for the person with diabetes, their partner, and even for the parents.  Sean Oser provides insight on dealing with blood sugar readings, “There are no good or bad blood sugars; every result is just a number, and it tells us what to do next.” This is a motto that I have tried to instill in my own son for years.

Balancing Diabetes looks at pump starts, travel and advocacy.  Each topic is looked at both from Kerri’s perspective as well as that of  many other people in the diabetes community.

Balancing Diabetes portrays real life.

The most poignant section in the book for me, was when I saw a person state that they do NOT believe that you can find a balance when living with diabetes.  What? But the title of the book says that you will.  How could this happen? How could someone state that balance cannot be achieved? Well, that is the beauty of this book! It does not show one size fits all, pat answers. This book shows you real life. It shows real pain and real accomplishments. It emphasizes that diabetes really is a “your diabetes may vary” kind of disease.  How wonderful!

This book is a fabulous balance of perspectives and stories.  It does not tell you one way to “do it right and achieve balance”, it shows you a variety of approaches to a variety of topics and what works for different people. 

The best thing is that it also tells you that you never fail. If you have been really bad about taking responsibility for your diabetes care, cut yourself some slack and make a change now.  It’s not too late. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes-related complications, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not your fault.  Brush yourself off and move forward. You have got this handled. You are amazing!

Balancing Diabetes is a wonderfully written book filled with a balance of real life events that show that we are not alone–whether we live with diabetes, are parents of a child with diabetes, or just love a person with diabetes. Now hurry up and order your copy because I noticed that Amazon Canada was almost out already!

Looking for other great diabetes reads? Check out our diabetes books section!

But the Debris Remains

As I noted before, my youngest son has chosen to finish high school in his hometown which is quite far from where I live.  Despite him being gone, diabetes waste continues to surface in the most likely and unlikely of places!
There were of course numerous test strips in the washer and dryer but that means that he was testing right?
D waste2 (6)
D waste2 (3)
There were strips behind the computer desk and hidden in various places on the floor.
d waste (1)d waste (2)
 There were also caps to insulin vials

d waste (4)

and used infusion sets 

D waste2 (7)


There were strips at the cabin.
D waste2 (5)D waste2 (4)

but my biggest surprise was when I opened a tote that was filled with photos and old frames and found a vial of insulin!

D waste2 (8)
My son may not be living with me full-time any more, but Diabetes is still making its presence known!

Bull’s Eye!

For days since my son has been home we have been working to get his bg levels straightened out.  We have been testing and questioning. Was the ice cream we had bolused correctly? Does he need a site change? That is a new site. Is it bad? What about that steak dinner we ate at 7pm? Is that causing a problem? How intense was that workout? Did he over compensate for activity? The list of question and possibilities were endless.  A concrete answer was much more elusive.

We decided to change his basal pattern. Imagine my surprise when I saw that he was using a “school” basal pattern.  What the heck? Did he accidentally switch when he was making changes over the phone last week? He was sure he didn’t.  I was at a loss but quickly made the change back to our “weekend” aka “vacation” basal pattern.  As I moved through the days of the week, I realized what had happened…weeks ago, when school was ending, we changed his rate over to all “weekend” BUT he had one day of school to do.  It was a Thursday and we left that day as a “school” day because it was! Unfortunately we forgot to change it over and all Thursdays since had been the wrong basals.

All was fixed. The basals were all as they should be.  I made a few small adjustments and life should be perfect!


What to do? We waited to see if the changes would take effect.

They didn’t.

We changed the site again.

We were out of ideas and my son was running way to high for my liking.  He felt okay but was getting tired of my telling him to test for ketones. It was time to break down and do an early site change.

The new site was put in.  A correction bolus was given. We continued on with our evening. We didn’t have to wait long to see results.  By the end of the movie we were watching, his readings were dropping back into range.  I tested 3 hours later…he was 6(108)!!! Wow! That was awesome. We hadn’t seen a six in a few days! I worried that we may have over fixed things. Would he drop? Two hours later I tested again.  He was 7.1(129).  This was amazing!!!  In range!  Perfect readings! Happy, happy dance!!!!

Could this really last? You betcha!!! When I got up a few hours later he was 6.7(121).  It was  a night of pure perfection! We had conquered diabetes for one night. His basal pattern was bang on! We had hit a bull’s eye!! Tomorrow may be different but I will take the victory while I can!

Barb and son 1 Diabetes 0
True Color Image True Color Image

Another Night, Another Battle with the DMonster

3:15am.  I looked at the clock and began to do the math. How long was it since my son went to bed? What would his bg level have been? Do I really need to test yet or was it too soon? My bed was comfy.  It took me forever to fall asleep.  Did I need to get up or should I sleep another hour?

I figured that he had probably tested around 1am but something still made me drag my tired butt out of bed. I made sure to not be fully awake. No major movements to disturb the still sleeping parts of my body.  All would be fine. My mind would be appeased and I could go back to bed…or so I would have liked but the meter said differently.

He was 4.3 (77).  Not ideal for sleeping in my world.  I quickly woke the rest of my body and my brain began to fire on a few more cylinders.  It was time to find some glucose! I went to the fridge and for some reason it was filled with diet Pepsi, diet lemonade, and zero calorie flavored water.  Nothing with any decent amount of carbs in it! Okay no panic I had glucose somewhere. Eventually I found a bottle of liquid glucose.  I got my son up enough to drink and sat on the couch to wait.

I checked out the world of Twitter. I caught up on the latest happenings in the world of Facebook and read a few pages of my book.  Soon it was time to check him again.  Success…well sort of. He was now 4.6 (83).  It was still far from ideals but he was on his way up.  I scoured his room and found a bottle of glucose tablets. He would not be happy in the morning. He says that they leave a crappy taste in his mouth when he gets up but a glucose hangover it would be.  I fed him three tablets while he slept and returned to my own bed.

I wish I could say that I instantly fell asleep but I didn’t.  By 5:30 I was still staring at  the clock.  Thankfully its Saturday so I could sleep in a little bit but by 6 I checked one more time just to make sure all was still okay. He was a lovely 7(126) so I was happy to doze for a few more hours.

Diabetes may have kicked my sleep pattern to the curb for one night but we are ready to fight another day…and make a few changes to summer basal patterns!

fight the d monster

Sleep Guilt

Do you ever feel guilty for sleeping? The other night, I was in bed and really wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. I am a night-time tester and have been since diagnosis. I know some people do not believe in a need to test at night and that is their choice.  For me, night testing is not a choice but a job that I must do to keep my son safe, healthy and alive each night.
I know how important this is to me.  I know that there are nights that I have woken up at unexplained times to find him low and dropping.  I know that I have checked at other times and found him high or with site problems that I was able to stop before they turned into ketone issues.
I am very conscious of how “lucky” I am to be able to test my son at night. I know that there are parents who have lost their children to diabetes that would gladly take my place for a few nights.
I should be used to interrupted sleep. I have not slept through the night since the before the birth of my first son.  He was a terrible sleeper who never slept through the night until he was six years old! Waking, walking, testing, and going back to sleep to do it all over again a few hours later should be habit and simple.
Despite all of that, I often feel guilty when I wake up and don’t want to get up.  When I have those moments of decision–when was the last time he was tested? What was his reading? What are the odds of there being a problem right now? Do I need to test yet or can I doze off for another hour?
Sometimes those questions simply make sense.  It may have been three hours since I went to bed but I know that my night owl teen has only been asleep for an hour and he normally does remember to test before he goes to bed.  He also knows to tell me if there is a problem before he goes to sleep. It may therefore be safe to sleep a little while longer. Sometimes, those questions are purely selfish. My bed is warm.  My body is in a pleasant state of relaxation and I really don’t want to disturb it. It’s at that point that I feel guilty.
Getting up is my job. It is not one that I would have chosen but its the role that I have been given and it is very important.  My son will sleep through almost anything except the worst of highs.  Some days I wish it was different but as I have said before, everyone has something to deal with.  This is our “something” and honestly, the alternative is not worth a thought. So I live with the guilt of sometimes not wanting to get up.  I push past it and do my job–the job of a parent of a children with diabetes.  fight the d monster

Better the Devil I know

Day 5 and today’s prompt..Just like in the movie, today we’re doing a swap. If you could switch chronic diseases, which one would you choose to deal with instead of diabetes? And while we’re considering other chronic conditions, do you think your participation in the DOC has affected how you treat friends and acquaintances with other medical conditions?
This may seem weird, but I would not trade for any other chronic disease.  Each one has its challenges and struggles.  I think of people I know with asthma–they have to carry inhalers at all times and never know when an attack could strike.  They do not always occur during the day.  If an attack happened at night, would someone be there to help?
There is epilepsy.  My aunt and uncle both live with this disease.  My uncle has been seizure free for enough years now to be able to drive and live a “normal” life but the fear of never knowing when one could hit? The embarrassment they sometimes feel afterwards? No thank you.
There is celiac.  That would be easy right? Wrong.  I have considered trying a gluten free diet and then I looked at all of the “stuff” that you have to stay away from.  Its bad enough reading carb counts, watching fat and dealing with fiber and protein but looking for hidden ingredients in food? Add to that the high cost of those foods without gluten  No, I think diabetes will do. Granted with celiacs, you don’t have to carry around “stuff” but you have to be on your toes with every ingredient in every piece of food you think about eating.
Diabetes sucks. I hate dealing with it. I would love a cure but as they say “better the devil you know”! Has this devil given me a new respect for other chronic diseases? Absolutely! Before life with diabetes, I know I took things for granted.  Now when I sit down to a meal with someone and we don’t have to count the carbs or deal with bg levels, I almost feel like something is wrong! Its not normal to do that–not to test or calculate!
I better understand parents who struggle for school supports for their children.  I “get” adults who need time off work for health related issues. I hurt for those who have to struggle to get medications and medical devices paid for by insurance or public health care systems. I value my health in a new light. I appreciate each day in a way that I did not before diabetes.  We are all (usually) happy to be alive but knowing how fickle diabetes can be, brings that happiness and gratitude to a new level.
Do I attribute this empathy with the DOC? Honestly, probably not.  It comes from life experience–watching my son nearly die.  The diabetes online community has brought people into my life who have situations that have made me work harder as an advocate.  It has brought stories that keep me aware of how deadly this disease is.  Most importantly, it has brought me friends and people who also have learned greater empathy and strength because of this beast. Florida Vacation July 2007 110

The Secret to My D-Success

Today’s blog week prompt asks us to talk about the greatest accomplishment you have made in terms of dealing with diabetes–something that I did that made our life better.  My first thought was learning how to dose for food.  That may sound pretty basic but for some reason, it took a lot for me to get this to sink in.
My son was two years old when he was diagnosed.  At that time, he was on a strict meal plan.  I would inject him with two types of insulin and then pray he would eat.  Most of the time he wouldn’t. He would eat and then vomit. He would chew the food and hold it in his cheek without swallowing. He would pass out from lows.  I would cry.  He would cry.  Our life was filled with stress because he was too young to know that he had to eat to cover the insulin in his system and I was too shell shocked to digest the advice I had been given from our diabetes team on how to dose for meals.
In my mind, he had to have insulin to keep him healthy.  He had to have both types of insulin. This was the medicine that would keep him alive. I had learned carb counting. I understood carb to insulin ratios but again, insulin=life and I could not alter that way of thinking. Until I joined the world of the internet.
The best thing I ever did for my son’s diabetes care was dialing up that connection, searching for parents of children with diabetes, joining an email list, and asking what to do about my son going low and refusing to eat. From those few simple steps, our lives changed forever!
One of the first people who told me to dose for what he ate and inject AFTER he ate onlyIF he did eat remains a dear friend today. For whatever reason, when she sent me those words everything clicked when it hadn’t before.  Our lives changed.  If my son didn’t eat, I didn’t inject his rapid acting insulin and our day went on without tears or vomiting!
I now had support. I now had a group of people who understood and had been where I was living.  I had access to information on the latest technological advances.  I had access to the advice of hundreds of endos just by sitting in front of my computer screen and reading.  I had new friends that would comfort me after a rough day and kick me in the butt when I needed to get over things.
I now had a family that would be there for me through bittersweet moments like the first time my son tested himself.  They would encourage me in my advocacy efforts.  This new family would offer support and encouragement as my marriage fell apart.  They would be there to share the pride when my oldest son graduated.
The most outstanding thing I ever did for my son’s diabetes care was joining the Children with Diabetes parents mailing list.  Through the guidance and support of many amazing and now dear friends who have become family, I am able to ensure my son has the best diabetes care.  I know of the latest breakthroughs in technology and management.  I have been able to change federal policy and impact how things are done in a large number of areas.  Thanks to finding that one group of incredible people, I have become knowledgeable and strong.  My son has been able to be healthy and lead a rich life with the entire world in front of him.