5

Very Light, No Sugar recently celebrated its fifth blogoversary.  I am forever grateful for the people in 109 countries(!!!) around the globe who have visited here.

A lot has changed since I ventured out into the healthcare advocacy realm 5 years ago.  Having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) just before my third birthday, advocating has always been in my blood, literally and figuratively.  I still believe that #weneedacure.  And I still believe that all people with diabetes, or any other health condition, deserve dignity through accessible, affordable, high-quality care.

I marked my fifth blog anniversary by waking up in a stupor, thanks to skunked, expired insulin contributing to high ketones.  “I’m so over all of this,” I lamented through a series of tweet-and-deletes.  The irony was not lost on me.  Diabetes waxes and wanes and manifests over a spectrum.  At the heart of it all is a human being simply wanting to improve quality of life (QoL), to be in the green on those numbers charts, in the “doing well” category.

If I am being totally honest, although I look back and cringe at some of the early, corny blog posts, I am jealous of that former author, that version of me.  She had so much innocent hope in the future, in the good capabilities of healthcare.  Perhaps time in the trenches has jaded me over time.  I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in healthcare advocacy.   I still believe in the good.  But I have removed my privilege blinders to be more realistic about the various barriers to care.

Personally, I have survived a lot that I never anticipated, and I did so very publicly.  Sometimes I wish I could crawl back under my rock, and do the whole survival thing quietly and humbly.  But there is another part of me that is committed to keeping it real, to voicing the raw truths even when it is painful to do so.

There are so many good eggs in diabetes-land, many of whom I have enjoyed collaborating with or sharing a coffee / beer in person at various events.  Others are Twitter friends, known by their creative @ handles.

The longer I am a piece of this diabetes online community fabric, though, the more I notice the glaring discrepancies between the Haves and the Have Nots.  I acknowledge my own great privilege due to graduate education and job, while still recognizing that diabetes is pretty damn difficult no matter what.  I cannot fully understand the plight of those with less than me, nor do I purport that I represent all of them.  But, I do have legitimate concerns for our future.

How can we help The Whole in diabetes if we do not lift up all voices?  We celebrate amazing tech innovation for some, while others die painfully of ketoacidosis, their breathing labored, because insulin is not readily available through no fault of their own.  I look at all of this and wonder where I fit.  Have I assumed the role I was supposed to play?  Have my interests moved on to mental health?  Do my interests need to be separate and distinct? (Heck no).

In the words of my favorite poet, Andrea Gibson, “It hurts to become.”  I have done a lot of becoming over these past 5 years.  And, as a community, we all have become, too.  We have more to do.  More voices to hear.  More time to listen.  More lives to save.

I do not know where the next 5 years will lead.  Lately, I have been focusing on the here and now.

Thank you for letting me be here, with you, riding the wave while it lasts.

Much love, always.

Ally

 

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Four

Very Light, No Sugar celebrates its fourth blogoversary today.  I am typing this while sipping on a blueberry coffee with cream, of course.  Some things never change…

Healthcare is keen on data, and I am humbled to note that VLNS has been read in 104 countries and counting since my first post in 2014.  We surpassed the 100 countries mark this year, a feat that I never could have predicted those 4 years ago when I was sick on the couch with a defective insulin pump, simply setting out to blog in search of answers, advocacy, and support.

While my personal healthcare and advocacy journey has been marked with the typical waxing and waning, highs and lows analogous to life with type 1 diabetes, overall I am happy that this space exists.  Where we go in the future is to be determined, but VLNS will forever be a part of my heart.  And I am grateful for those of you who have loaned VLNS some space in your hearts as well.

I have admittedly been quieter on social media lately, and particularly, on this website.  Perhaps my semi-silence is my own subconscious form of protest, the loudest way to express that I will never be okay with the clanging tambourine of the status quo in diabetes land.  The older I get, the clearer it is to me that we have our work cut out for us.  Perhaps I am the rogue #doc voice still figuring it all out, and I would be remiss to pretend to be anything else as a blogger.

Simply being alive, ~27.5 years after a T1D diagnosis, with health insurance and access to insulin, puts me in a very different position than most of the people living with diabetes worldwide.  I pledge to continue to advocate for all of us.  Sometimes that means taking a step back in order to stand up, to challenge the way things are and to remember the human faces behind why we need drastic change.  Sometimes that means recognizing that my own voice doesn’t have to be the loudest in this moment; in fact, it is easier to hear the community vibe when I turn my own volume down and listen.

There are pillars of truth that have not changed in my 4 years here:

We need a cure.

We need inclusive community that is not scared of entertaining various viewpoints, that can agree to disagree, that lifts up rather than puts down.  We need each other.

We need megaphones, and at times, we may need space.

We need a free, unbiased press and a healthcare industry that values humanity above all else; we need healthcare players who recognize that sometimes the will of The Whole may differ from the corporate office views.

We need affordable, accessible insulin.

We need blogs and tweets and advocacy actions.  Look around.  It’s working.  I’m proud to call many of you my friends and fellow advocates.

 

Thank you for allowing Very Light, No Sugar to be part of the #doc fabric for the past 4 years.  The diabetes landscape may change, for better or for worse, but our roots will always be strong.

Cheers,

Ally

 

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3!

Very Light, No Sugar is celebrating its third blogoversary!

Thanks to those from all over the world (99 countries!) who have read my website over the past 3 years. How humbling to see that our words are able to reach so far, and that we remain unified in our mission to kick diabetes to the curb.

This year provided different avenues of healthcare advocacy for VLNS.

Reese joined our ranks!

The Coffee Dates interview series was a big hit, and our strong resolve to make insulin accessible and affordable was a highlight topic.

I am grateful to have traveled to Indy to participate in Lilly’s insulin access workshop at their corporate headquarters in April.  (Yes, I still intend to blog on this; yes, I’ve drafted the blog many times, in my head and on paper; yes, I have disclosures: Lilly covered my travel, lodging, and meals.)  More to follow, but briefly: It meant a lot to me to see the makers of and the history behind insulin firsthand, and to be able to advocate at that level for a better diabetes world.

Also new this year, VLNS has dabbled in No Rules (free verse) Poetry.  Poetry is fluid; it is not always autobiographical; it allows us to explore beyond the usual confines of writing. I am super excited for my tickets to see Neil Hilborn during his upcoming, mostly-sold-out U.S. tour!  Mental health and poetry- these are a few of my fav-o-rite things right now, and no one does them better than Neil.

On that note, I believe strongly that sometimes our best advocacy is to simply be honest- even brutally so. Do I have regrets about blogging? Frankly, yes.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have been so corny when first starting out in the DOC. (“We are diabetes warriors, waging a cliche battle, we will overcome, ahhh!”).

A hard lesson in reality this year is that sometimes, no matter how tough your armor, diabetes and other stuff still hurt like hell and feel like losing more than winning. Occasionally, I wish I could crawl back under my little rock and regain my privacy and my life pre-blog. Or that there was a non-live-tweeting-your-emotional-rollercoaster space where one could simply shout at the wall.

There are a lot of asks in advocacy, and it is hard to say no. But advocacy needs a better balance- taking our time (and having our time respected) when experiencing too much at once.

No matter what, I will always be appreciative of this website and its following. And I hope year #4 is productive and meaningful for all of us.

Cheers!

-Ally

 

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One Step Back, Many Steps In

It has been almost one month since I took a step back from blogging.  I can’t quite say the same for live-tweeting my stream of consciousness, but I did my best to avoid reading feverishly about diabetes technology as promised.

My tiny blogosphere roar does not make the world go ’round.  But, for me- and hopefully for the people who read my blog on occasion- Very Light, No Sugar will always be my own little piece of the larger diabetes puzzle.  Blogging is how I shed light on the thoughts that have bounced around in my head for over 24 years of living with type one diabetes.  Reading others’ blogs has been empowering and unifying; many of those same thoughts bounce around in other heads, too.  Putting my feelings on (virtual) paper makes them real- a part of our shared experience of diabetes.  Changing up the blog post pace allowed me to reexamine why I chose to blog in the first place.

By taking a step back, I was able to let others step in.  Before the mini-hiatus, I probably did not realize just how much I needed those little moments with big meanings because I was caught in an overwhelmed, overtired haze.

Emailing back and forth with various #doc buddies who offered unconditional support and understanding, paying more attention to the humorous side of diabetes via the Twitter and Facebook jokesters, and spending a few days on Cape Cod with my family allowed me to hit the figurative “reset” button.  And let me tell you, the “reset” button is more refreshing than pounding the “snooze” alarm three times each morning.

It’s good to be back, even if only at “training wheels” pace for the time-being.

Happy One Month Anniversary!

Wow- it’s really been one month since Very Light, No Sugar got dropped off by the stork and fell into the internet world?! First of all, I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who reads my blog. While I am probably not a blogging superstar by any means, I am happy to report that SOMEONE OUT THERE READS THIS! That, in and of itself, has helped me immensely to not feel so alone with diabetes.

The same concern from the very first day of kindergarten- “Will anyone like me?”– translates over into adult life, too. So, to those who do like me, thank you. It is a pleasure to get to know you through our shared connection of diabetes, and through the general connection of our roles as human beings supporting one another. It has been quite therapeutic to have someone to talk to here, to hone my writing skills that my talented English teacher, Ms. O’Neill, spent countless hours instilling in me during high school, and to connect with all of you. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs, your tweets, your Facebook posts, and the like.

On the bad days, you are the motivation to keep on truckin’. On the good days, I am happy that we all celebrate our moments of victory together. I have learned so much from you- more than any medical book could have ever taught me. You helped to troubleshoot my pump issues, analyzed proper sick day protocol, and so much more. Your wealth of knowledge of one of the most complicated diseases out there never ceases to astound me. You know diabetes because you live diabetes. You cannot put a price tag, or even a graduate degree, on such intimate understanding of a chronic illness. I wish that we did not have to comprehend exactly what the other person means when it comes to diabetes, that we did not have our own diabetes vocabulary, that this would be cured overnight for us, and that none of us had to suffer difficult times. But if we have to go through it, I am so happy to be doing so with some of the best people around.

My one regret is that I did not start this process sooner. I suppose I had to build up the confidence to give it a go, and I am so happy that I did. It helps that those in the diabetic online community (#doc) were so welcoming in letting me be a part of their diabetes social media advocacy (#dsma) efforts by expressing what being diabetic means to me. I promise to pay it forward to other “newbies” in the future whenever possible. I want to specifically express gratitude to Craig @HumnPincushion and Jere @integraljere for rooting for me in the very beginning. Sometimes all it takes is knowing that you have a little support out there, and it gives you room to grow. You both exemplified this for me, and I have learned a lot from your kindness.

Cheers to you all, and keep doing what you do in terms of our ongoing diabetes discussion. It means something to someone out there, especially on the sick days.

Thank you for coming into my heart. You’re officially stuck there, just saying.

 

Love,

Ally