If Diabetes Were A Cinnamon Cure

 

I’m a big fan of Katy’s wit and attitude in Bigfoot Child Have Diabetes, so I wanted to stay true to her suggestion for today’s food-related theme for DBlog Week.  Alas, I am embarrassed to say that I am on the “grad school diet,” a fad that I do not endorse for full health benefits.  It amounts to guzzling coffee at all hours of the day, eating handfuls of peanuts in the car while driving to and from work/school, and scarfing down frozen dinners at 10:00 pm.  Ahh!!

Therefore, I’m playing the Diabetes Personified wild card today, but I’ll keep it food-related! 

One more disclaimer: As a former college English major, I must admit that my take on this exercise does not 100% meet the definition of personification.  Cinnamon “cures” are not people, but they do affect people’s attitudes.  So, please play along with the diabetes-cinnamon analogy here.  Mostly, I just really freakin’ wanted to write this!

If diabetes were to take the form of a cinnamon “cure” concoction that actually worked in a non-spammer world, would I pour it in my coffee and watch the Dexcom CGM line even out with each sip?

Would it fade that scar on my right lower back?  The one where the needle didn’t quite stick in all the way- so the nurse had to fiddle around with it until she could secure it with medical tape?  When she quietly asked if she was hurting me as I fidgeted under her grasp, would I still mutter “It only hurts a little bit” through clenched teeth?  Would my doctor still look on and pretend to believe me, mostly for the sake of my stubborn pride?

Would all of the needles and sleepless nights get swept away in a sea of cinnamon?

Would we inhale it like Afrezza, or tell Uncle Brad to “Pass the cinnamon, please” at Thanksgiving dinner?

Would we keep calm and bolus on?  Or would we keep calm and cinnamon?

If diabetes were a cinnamon cure, would insurance still want Prior Approval?  Would we be limited to one dab of cinnamon per month instead of the five that we might require to live healthy lives?  Would paperwork swallow us whole?

Would some people not have access to cinnamon?  Would we advocate long and hard for them?

What would the spammers say when the cinnamon cure suddenly worked for diabetes as advertised, its years of falsehood erased by a magic wand in the sky?  Would the spammers tap the Staples “That was easy!” button in unison?  Would they move on to the next groups- the cancer and the cystic fibrosis heroes?  Would they diminish the battles that these human beings face each day by promoting a “cure” so ludicrous that society rationalizes its way out of the burden of easing their pain?

“It’s your fault. You didn’t eat the cinnamon.”  And just like that the moral compass gets readjusted!

Would Wilford Brimley still say diabeetus?  Would he order a very light, extra cinnamon coffee at the drive-thru before breaking out in a dance?  Because of course he still has two functioning legs. He didn’t lose them like your grandma’s best friend’s tabby cat’s brother’s cousin did because he “failed” to “control” an autoimmune disease that doesn’t like to follow orders.  He was cured by cinnamon.  You heard it here first!

Would the #doc become the #coc- the Cinnamon Online Community?  Would we have weekly #CSMA chats?  Cinnamon Social Media Advocacy, it’s what all the cured kids are doing!

What happens to a cinnamon cure deferred?  Does its powdery dust make an audible “poof” as it dissipates?

#IWishPeopleKnewThatCinnamon is silly, mon! (Said in best Jamaican accent)

Cinnamon pleases the taste buds, not the islet cells.  If diabetes were as simple as a cinnamon cure, we wouldn’t enjoy all of the hidden blessings that we have grown to love through the complexity of managing this disease as best we can. It’s just not the same having a Kerri / Cinnamon, a Cinnamon Unconference, a @CinnamonCherise, a #dayofcinnamon Symplur hash tag, or a Cinnamon Hands Foundation- to name a few.  The real life diabetes versions of these people, organizations, and events bring far more goodness to the world than cinnamon ever will. Perhaps our virtual paths would not have crossed if silly cinnamon cures actually worked.  #Coc just doesn’t have the same ring to it as #doc, unless your mind is in the gutter!

Occasionally I sprinkle cinnamon in my coffee mug.  Then I check myself in the mirror.  It doesn’t hurt anymore, but the scar is still there on my back, a reminder of a disease that cannot be remedied by simple measures like cinnamon, a visible testament to the care I receive from others despite the pain, part of what gives us perspective and gratitude for the good days.

The needles are still required.  There will be more tears, more laughter, and more perspective gained along the way.  A sprinkle of cinnamon cannot make up for the other ingredients which have shaped our lives.  Wacky cinnamon cure theories do not do justice to the crosses we have carried.

There are no Nutrition Facts on the packaging that is life with diabetes along for the ride- not the other way around.  When we come together as a community, things are sweet enough to enjoy this #doc life for what it is without the artificial flavoring of ridiculous cure remedies.

For now, I’ll take one large coffee.  Very light, no sugar.  Hold the cinnamon, please.

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#NoFilter Coffee?

In my enthusiasm for the start of DBlog Week yesterday, I did not give a proper shout out to Karen Graffeo until the Comments section of my post.  I’d like to rectify that here.  This is my first DBlog Week, and I am absolutely loving the discovery of blogs that I did not know about beforehand, as well as hearing from my usual favorites.  How cool is this community?  Seriously.  It’s bursting with goodness this week.  I am sure that organizing DBlog Week involves tons of hard work on Karen’s part.  Not only that, but every time I go to comment on a post, I see that she has already left her words of wisdom behind!  What a great example of giving back to this powerful community.  Thank you, Karen!

Here’s my take on today’s theme, “Keep It To Yourself”:

Those of you who read my blog or follow me on Twitter already know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and I speak with #nofilter in the heat of the moment.  There are some things that I have been rather coy about, though.

When I first began blogging in September 2014, I vowed to be transparent, and I still uphold that promise.  Sometimes it makes me feel like I need to share everything, though.  Realistically, I can be honest and helpful in the diabetic online community without jeopardizing the privacy of those who have not necessarily signed up to be featured on a diabetes blog.

When I was in high school, I used to hide behind bathroom stall doors when taking insulin injections.  My classmates did not know that I was diabetic until the end of my freshman year. I built up my “diabetes coming out party” so much in my head that I turned it into a much bigger deal than it was in reality. Once I was cool with diabetes, everybody else was, too. For the sake of living my life with more ease and with more safeguards in place in case of an emergency, I eventually disclosed that I was diabetic. A weight was immediately lifted. No more hiding syringes in my coat pocket. No more making excuses about why I had to sit out for a few minutes at soccer practice while my blood sugar came up from a low. The rest is history. Now ya’ll can’t shut me up about diabetes, right?

We all come to terms with diabetes in our own unique ways. Some people may always choose to be private about diabetes. Others might spread the diabetes Gospel loud and proud. We are all individuals, and just because I am outspoken about my life with diabetes does not mean that it is the right path for someone else to follow.

  • I have a type one diabetic relative who I have alluded to at times.  For the sake of my relative’s privacy, I do not mention personally-identifiable details online.  While my relative is not necessarily shy about diabetes, I also do not feel that it is my place to tell my relative’s story. It is not my own story to tell. If/when my relative ever wants to get involved in the #doc, I will always support that choice. But ultimately that choice is up to my relative, not me.
  • I also hint at my employment duties at times, not necessarily because I have some big, fancy, secretive job, but more because in a selfish way the #doc for me represents a little cocoon in which I go to seek comfort and strength. If I mingle my professional life with the #doc, it loses that element of “everybody gets it here” that I have grown to love. This is not to say that diabetes and professional lives do not mix. Heck, there are plenty of #doc success stories to show that one’s passion can become a great job. This is just where I am here and now, and right now I need the unconditional support that I find in the #doc. No strings attached.
  • I have never named my personal doctors and nurses on my blog. They did not sign on the dotted line to become the heroes that I describe in my writing, so I do not give their identities away. They may be humble about what they do, for example. I try to respect those boundaries. This is not to say that I would not disclose that information in the right moments. If someone lived in my geographic area and thought that my personal doctor could help him/her, by all means I would ask my doctor’s permission to pass along contact information. The point is similar to what I noted above with my diabetic relative: I try my best to respect that perhaps others do not want the spotlight on them.
  • My tweets have also been vague regarding the topics of mental health and sexual/physical assault, also out of respect for friends near and dear to me who are some of the strongest people in the world. Just know that I support their advocacy causes wholeheartedly. Society is starting to turn the corner on stigma in these situations, but we still have a heck of a long way to go.

With the final point in mind, I invite you to foster a Coffee Convo with someone who may need it.

It is okay to have #nofilter. But sometimes we do not need to yell things from the rooftops to get the job done. We can respect others’ privacy and still show the world that we care. I kindly ask you and your coffee cup to do so.

The Real Patient Portals

For privacy purposes of those discussed here, some of the details of this blog post have been altered/omitted. The heart of the story remains the same.

 

To avoid the throbbing headache that is commuting from Providence to Boston during morning traffic, I stayed over in Massachusetts prior to my Joslin appointments this week.

I hoped to catch the end of the Providence-Villanova game at the hotel bar, but the thrashing PC was receiving was so embarrassing that the bartender instead flipped between The Voice and the Bruins. I asked a patron if the seat next to her at the crowded bar was available, and she nodded. The restaurant was busy and it seemed like it would be a while before my dinner was delivered, so I took a big gulp of my classy Bud Light and vowed to make friends while I waited.

“Are you here for business?” I asked the professionally-dressed woman.

“Actually, my child is being treated at Children’s Hospital.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. But your child is in phenomenal hands.”

“Yes, we have been here for a long time, but soon we will travel home with a stronger, healthier child. We have been very blessed.”

And so we talked for almost an hour. We discussed her home many miles away from here, admired the nurses who followed their professional callings to ease the suffering of their patients, educated one another on our respective areas of patient or caregiver knowledge, and, to be quite honest, took solace in finding a bar buddy who understood the stress and anxiety of Boston medical appointments. Sure, I seek out care in Boston because it is the best, and this lady does, too. But that doesn’t make it any less gut-wrenching every time the appointment days arrive.

We eventually wished each other well and parted ways. I want to give SuperMom an anonymous shout out here, though, because of the example of strength that she provided that evening. I have so much respect for the parents of any child who faces illness- whether that be type one diabetes or something else. Being the patient for most of my life, I have mainly been preoccupied with my own suffering- something I know that I can and will handle.

Watching others suffer, though, makes me nauseous, anxious, and somewhat frozen in “What do I do?!!” mode. SuperMoms and SuperDads don’t have the option of “What do I do?!!” mode. They activate “Do” mode because their child is hurting and they want the pain to stop. They remain calm when the world is shaken up around them. Yes, they have days of sadness and tears, but they try their best to provide their children with the greatest lives possible, to comfort them on the rough days, and to keep on going.

So, to SuperMom at the bar, cheers to health and happiness for you and your family.

The next morning, I hastily checked out of the hotel and made my way to Joslin Diabetes Center, where I had one thing on my mind: very light, no sugar coffee, and even better if you can hook me up to an IV drip of it.

I generally enjoy my Joslin experience because it is one of the only places on earth where I feel completely safe from a diabetes standpoint. If I go low or high, there are plenty of people who know how to help. But this time, I was nervous and emotional, as it was my last appointment with Current Endo before her departure; additionally, these days are quite frankly long and exhausting no matter what the outcome is.

I fumbled my way to the coffee stand through a haze of anxiety.

“What’s ah matter, my darling?” the coffee stand employee cooed, her brow furrowed.

“Oh, nothing. I just need some coffee to wake up,” I said, shrugging it off.

“I asked how your morning was and you didn’t reply,” she sounded off, much to my surprise and admiration. (I like a person who tells it like it is!)

“My apologies. I must not have heard you.” My level of distractedness due to nerves was obvious now.

Without skipping a beat, she looked me straight in the eye and stated, “You will be okay. You are so strong.”

This kind woman had never met me before. She had no prior knowledge as to whether I was in the hospital district of Boston as a patient, a caregiver, a sales rep, an employee, or so on. But she knew, without hesitation, that I was hurting simply from the look in my eyes. She seemed to recognize that I was the patient, and that I was trying to keep it all together. Her confidence that I could do this was the gentle nudge I needed to go check in at Joslin, ready to take on the day and whatever it would bring.

Blinking back tears, I thanked her for her reassurance and sauntered off with coffee warming my hands and coffee shop lady’s words warming my soul.

After my appointments, I needed more coffee before racing back to work. I stopped at the same coffee kiosk, and the same employee was still there. I filled my cup and went to pay.

“You were right. Everything was okay. I wanted to thank you for what you said earlier. You made me feel better.”

“God will take care of everything,” she replied.

“Yes. And there should be more people in the world like you. Your joy is contagious.”

And we both fought back tears, nodded our heads in agreement, and vowed to pray for one another.

Bars and coffee shops are the real patient portals. These are the watering holes for the warriors- the patients and the caregivers- to assemble and collect their emotions. Here, the pep talks happen. The fears and aspirations are relayed. The hugs are handed out a little more freely. The tears are dried if necessary. God is there, as these women proved to me this week.

Lucky for me, I’m always thirsty. Something tells me I’ll be back soon.

To SuperMom and SuperCoffeeShopEmployee, this blog post goes out to you. You are both inspirations. Thank you…

Very Light, with Sugar?!

It’s been a while, but it happened again.  And it possibly occurred twice this week.  No, I didn’t eat cheese and crackers for dinner; that happened thrice, not twice.  I kid you not- there was sugar in my coffee on two possible occasions.

The first incident was Thursday evening on my way to grad class after work.  My routine did not stray from the norm: leave work with five minutes to spare, race to class by pretending that I drive a Ferrari instead of a very dinged up Nissan, and stop at the drive-thru for coffee before screeching into campus.  I honestly think the cream was bad; I drink this coffee twice a week for class nights and it never tastes like this.  But it was… sweet.  And alas, so was my blood glucose that evening.  I hovered at 220 mg/dL, not ideal considering that class is three hours long and I prefer to go into it without the furrowed brow look of an anxious diabetic.

I sipped the coffee cautiously.  Caffeine is the grad student version of crack cocaine.  Sure, consuming boatloads of coffee each day probably isn’t the healthiest option ever, but neither is snoring in an eight-person class.  I need that caffeine, if simply for the placebo effect of feeling that I am awake and ready to participate in the discussion.

With each sip my taste buds perked up a bit.  Maybe the coffee shop girl misunderstood me and put in a flavor shot instead of the one shot of cream I requested?  But what if it’s just that the cream is a little sour (not a big deal if it keeps me awake for class) and I end up bolusing for carbs that in reality do not exist in the coffee?  What if I have to leave class early?  It’s such a small class; I can’t just slip out unnoticed.  My mind was set on “rapid-fire mode,” shooting off a million and one scenarios of diabetic “what ifs.”

In the classroom I compromised with myself.  That last sip was sweet, Ally.  It’s really not worth the problems for a little caffeine.  Buy a Diet Pepsi at the break and get on with your night.  In a stubborn preschooler sort of way, I was annoyed.  I WANT THE DAMN COFFEE!!!  But my mind’s internal lecture won by rationality in that moment.  Deep breath, moving on…

***

I wish so badly that mainstream society could spend a few moments inside of our minds when they are like that.  Each person has his or her own personal problems.  I have diabetes, but I am blessed to have a secure job that pays the bills each month.  Some people may not be so lucky in that regard.  I do not mean to downplay others’ struggles here.  But I do intend to showcase just how much of a mental battle diabetes poses.  Such a simple gesture- sipping on a coffee that perhaps has a spoonful of sugar in it, or perhaps not?- is a diabetic guessing game that can have dire consequences.  The average human being consumes coffee loaded with sugar quite frequently without any further thought than to enjoy the savory flavor.  As diabetics, our options are limited: Take too much insulin, and hypoglycemia appears.  Take too little insulin, and your blood sugar skyrockets, leaving you with a gigantic headache while grappling with a graduate level psychology course that is already a lot of material to digest without any added wrenches thrown into the mix.

I opted for the easiest way out: do not take any more insulin and throw out the coffee.  Figuratively, I do this quite often in life.  It is easier to turn down the sugary shot of alcohol when friends buy a round of drinks for the table than it is to chase high blood sugars all evening.  I am not much of a risk-taker when it comes to calculating insulin doses; I would rather stick to what works, or mostly works.  That is just my way, and who is to say if it is right or wrong?  Chances are it is neither.

***

On Saturday, I ordered my usual small iced coffee, took a large swig, and immediately spit it back through the straw.  Sugar!!!  This time it was definitive.  You would have thought that I swallowed rat poison by my reaction.  I waved frantically at the drive up window until a bored high school aged employee asked what was wrong.  I restated my order and he begrudgingly went off to make a new coffee.  Take two, mission accomplished.

***

I can’t wait for the day when we are cured and we do not have to be intimidated by an accidental addition of sugar in our coffee.  Until then, I will continue my emphatic “very light, no sugar” order at the local coffee shops.  I also pledge to stop and think from time to time of how lucky I am to be able to take a deep breath and to refill my lungs, organs of mine that work well, with fresh air.  Those with cystic fibrosis or lung cancer may not know that feeling anymore.  If any non-diabetics stumble upon this post and read this, I hope that tomorrow when they drink their coffee they take a moment to remember what a blessing it is to enjoy food and drink each day without a second thought.  Life is not always easy, for any of us, for various reasons.  Let’s try to be a bit more understanding of each other.  Walk a mile in one another’s shoes- rather, enjoy a very light, no sugar coffee on me…