The Dunkin’ Donuts Vignette

“I’ll take a small hot coffee, very light, no sugar,” my father said to the bored high school aged employee.

“And a lemon donut, too,” he almost whispered, hoping my four-year-old, newly-diagnosed-with-type-one-diabetes self would not notice the snack he was sneaking home.

“You want a plain donut?” he squatted down to ask.

With wide eyes, I scanned the row of baked goods in front of us.  Jelly, strawberry frosted, sprinkles- all of the things that even my young mind comprehended as off-limits.

“I want a chocolate one,” I said.  No harm in trying.

“No chocolate.  You can have a plain donut, okay?” Dad offered in a tone that feigned the appeal of a donut whose very name was inherently boring.

“I don’t care,” I replied calmly, the first of many times this phrase would be uttered mostly to convince myself that diabetes did not hurt me, but also to protect those who loved me from seeing that it did.

“Ha!  You can have a plain one!” laughed a stocky truck driver in line behind us.

Dad hadn’t heard him.  I buried my face into his leg while he paid for our order.

My lip quivered on the car ride home.

“What’s wrong?” Dad asked.

“A man in there teased me about the plain donut!” I screeched.

“What?!!  Who does he think he is?  You just remember- your Dad is the strongest man in the world.  Nobody will ever mess with you!” my father advised.

I chose to believe Dad over the late-1980s version of what we now call a “diabully.”

And the plain donut wasn’t that bad, either.

IMG_0941-0

Your Grandma’s Diabetes Vignette

“My grandmother died of diabetes,” my ‘boyfriend,’ Jake, mentioned offhandedly as we climbed rocks in the woods behind his home.

We were in fifth grade, and the act of dating consisted of parentally-supervised playdates a few times each month and the added privilege of swapping prince and princess Disney-themed Valentine’s Day cards in February.

“No she didn’t,” I retorted.

“Yes she did.  She got really sick.  I don’t think she had to take shots like you.  But the doctors said she died of diabetes.”

“People don’t die from diabetes.  It must have been something else,” I replied, shaking my head as if to dispel the prospect.

The thought had never really crossed my mind before.  I knew low blood sugar left me pale and shaking on the floor.  But did people actually die from this stuff?  I pushed the notion to the anxiety cupboard of my mind, a place from which I often plucked a topic to pester my mother about on the car rides home from school.

“Do people die of diabetes, Mom?”

“I don’t think that’s something you have to worry about,” was along the lines of her response- a well-played verse which straddled the line of truth just enough to shield me from the painful reality of the answer.

I packed the concept of death via diabetes back into the anxiety cupboard of my mind and closed the door tightly.  Why had he said it if it wasn’t true, though? 

Today I realize that Jake simply wanted his grandmother’s story to be heard, especially by someone who understood firsthand the turmoil of the disease that took his grandma away from Christmas mornings with her grandchildren far too soon.

If I ever walked into a bar now and happened to find Jake swigging from a frosty mug, I’d tap him on the shoulder and tell him that his grandma’s diabetes is different from my diabetes, which is different from your diabetes, which is different from Ryan Reed’s diabetes.

Then I would buy him a beer, apologize for his loss, and sit down and listen to his story.

One Year Later: Thank You

One year ago, on September 6, 2014, I was a shadow of the person who I am today. I was gaunt, hungry, and insulin-deprived, the result of months of insulin pump product defects and subsequent health problems due to medication delivery malfunctions. Alone and desperate for answers, I decided to start a diabetes blog from my tiny apartment in Rhode Island. Very Light, No Sugar was created, and technical insulin pump support, as well as general diabetes support, was sought. I thought that I was looking for biomedical engineering answers, but it turns out that I was really looking for something more powerful: empathy and understanding. The diabetic online community (#doc) rose to the occasion.

I distinctly remember, years earlier, sitting at my desk overlooking a soccer field during my junior year of college. I Googled “diabetes blog,” and clicked on sixuntilme.com. Wow, can she write!, I thought, as I nodded my head along with the words that I read and laughed at Kerri’s signature humor. At the time, blogging seemed like something really cool for other people to do, but not for me. I was too busy pretending that diabetes-related anxieties were not affecting my life negatively. What do I really have to say, anyway?

Reflecting on the past year, right now I want to speak to those who think similarly to how I did in college. Trust me here; you do have something to say and something to write. Go for it. The #doc is generally supportive and uplifting, and each member offers a unique perspective peppered with the common bond of diabetes, whether as those with T1D, T2D, LADA, MODY, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD), or as friends/family/caregivers. We all “get it.” Your perspective is part of the larger fabric of diabetes which connects us all. Isn’t that voice worth sharing, then?

When I started Very Light, No Sugar, I was the epitome of the dorky new kid on the playground. I tweeted and retweeted and never stopped virtually talking. Even today, live-tweeting my emotions could land me on TLC’s My Strange Addiction. [Insert “thumbs up” emoji].

Back in September of 2014, some criticisms labeled the #doc as too “exclusive.” I had only been in the #doc for a few days or so, but my first impressions of its friendliness meter were positive. So, I threw myself into a Twitter conversation amongst many “#doc pioneers” (i.e. the “big names with big hearts” whom we all love- no need to name-drop here) regarding how to make everyone feel welcome.

Much to their credit, the #doc pioneers did not bite at a newbie who had very little perspective to offer at the time.  To be honest, I did not really belong in that conversation. But they entertained my rookie thoughts, which went something like, “THE #DOC IS GREAT. EVERYONE IS COOL. BE FRIENDS WITH ME!!!” (I’m blushing as I write this). My point here is that when you start a blog, you cannot possibly be as nerdy as I was, and the #doc embraced me. Sooo, again- go for it!

My largest piece of blogging advice would be to foster genuine connections, which begins with being your authentic self. If others take the time to comment on your blog or to tweet at you, write back! Understandably, there are some #doc superstars who get inundated with messages; it is unfair to expect that they can respond to every single one. But for me as a “humble beginner” blogger, I had a lot of time on my hands. So I took an extra few minutes to engage with my audience, and I now consider many of those who I interacted with to be my friends. Also, dive into weekly chats like #DSMA and #DCDE for helpful advice and comradery.

Find your balance. Share as much or as little as you choose, but know that if you open your heart to the #doc, they give great big bear hugs of support. I will forever be indebted to Laddie and Cherise for sharing my Broken Record blog post about my insulin pump issues. The response was more than I ever could have garnered on my own, and it helped me to make the difficult decision to try insulin injections again. (In particular, Caroline’s reassurance that it would be okay sticks out in my mind; thank you.)

While I still have room for improvement in my diabetes management, I can say that I have grown into an emotionally-stronger person through this experience.  I have also learned that each person’s diabetes management choice is a very personal one; do what works for you.  We have plenty of options, and nothing has to be permanent.

Although we are unique individuals, we make up a larger whole- a powerful, inspirational, worldwide community.  At the time of publication of this post, my blog has been viewed in 58 countries, from here in the United States to Madagascar to Afghanistan, and many more globetrotting locations. That fact, in and of itself, has made me a better person. I am no longer desperate and alone. People from all over the world understand and support the same fight against diabetes.  All I can say is, “Wow!”  Although I wish that this disease did not touch so many of us on an international level, it is humbling to know that we are all in this together.

Thank you for hearing me out on the good days and the bad days, and thank you for allowing me to do the same with you. Thank you to those who email or message regularly with me (you know who you are); I cherish the wisdom, strength, and support found in our virtual Pen Pal notes. Thank you to those in the Boston area who came together for our inaugural #BetesOnTap meet-up, which offered social support for diabetics and filled a void in my heart that I had not quite acknowledged before.

I write often about electronic forms of communication, but- with her permission obtained beforehand- I want to note that my first old-fashioned mail came from Hope Duncan in New Zealand (NZ). I admire Hope so much for the wonderful example she sets for youth with diabetes. She is also one of the most talented artists out there, and I encourage you to check out her creations on social media.

Hope’s gift still sits atop my fireplace mantle, a spot reserved for cherished items. Her card explained the gift’s background, stating, “Well, it’s a marae, a little piece of NZ for you in the States. 🙂 The native people in NZ are called Māori and their meeting places are called marae (said like ma-rye)… I hope you can fit it all together. I taped the pieces where they should go, so hopefully that helps.”

Hope marae pic

The marae model (pictured above, along with Hope’s card) represents the #doc to me: a meeting place that feels like home, where all of the puzzle pieces fit together as part of the larger story of community.

One year later, I still want a cure for diabetes to help our community, our marae. I still hope and dream and pray for it every day.

One year later, I am motivated to achieve better health and to try new approaches if needed. Through the #doc, I have a safety net of support to catch me if I fall or to cheer with me when I succeed.  Likewise, I hope that in my own way, I have given the same support back to some of you.

One year later, I look forward to fostering new friendships and learning more in the online world of healthcare interactions, particularly with Stanford Medicine X (#MedX) coming up shortly.

One year later, I still drink very light, no sugar coffee, and one year later, I still lift my coffee mug to all of you.

Thank you, #doc- for everything. Thank you for who you are and for what you do, for advocating long and hard, for listening, for talking, and for caring. You inspire me every day, and I feel so blessed to consider you my friends and diabetes family. Cheers to many more years together!

Love always,

Ally

The Balancing Act

IMG_0283

This blog post appears as part of Diabetes Daily’s Diabetes Social Media Burnout Day.

Much like diabetes is a balancing act between the highs, the lows, and everything in-between, so, too, is social media advocacy.

I find myself pulled between extremes: excited when having a great day, frustrated when things go awry. How much should one vocalize these feelings? It is no secret that I wear my emotions on my sleeve, especially on Twitter. But I always hope to lift others up by being transparent with my diabetes experience, rather than to tear down anyone’s mood by being too-transparent in a Negative Nancy moment. Again, life is a balancing act.

On the one hand, I am so proud and thankful to be a part of the diabetic online community (#doc). I want to scream it from the rafters so that my non-#doc world knows how great it is. But on the other hand, I love my #doc cocoon just the way it is: bursting at the seams with people who “get it,” devoid of judgment from those who do not “get it.”

The #doc may have differing opinions on various topics (Should we inhale insulin, or inject it, or pump it, or pray harder for a cure?!!!), but at the end of the day, we all understand without needing to say much. We know how tiring it can be when the CGM line continues to drop down no matter how many juice boxes are guzzled. The non-#doc sphere requires some introductory, explanatory information in these, and similar, circumstances.

For example, there is a large difference in screaming, “I’m high!” to my diabetic relative, versus yelling the same phrase at a baseball game and receiving some weird looks in response. I can Instagram a picture of an empty Juicy Juice box on my nightstand, and the #doc immediately understands. Whereas I may need to explain to my non-diabetic friends why overnight hypoglycemic episodes can be dangerous. Most of the time, I enjoy educating others about diabetes. But especially during times of burnout, I simply want to get on with my day and push diabetes aside.

There is a weird juxtaposition of advocating outside of #doc territory.  I often want society to respect diabetes for the jerk that it is, so I may post a picture of a CGM graph showing 55 mg/dL with a slanted down arrow.  As in, “Wow, I survived that sh*t!  Heck, yes!”  The media does not always portray just how strong we are.  We deal with life-threatening lows and highs, and we start over the next day.  Some of us have not been so lucky, and we mourn their losses and raise awareness for their stories.

Yet these measures of advocacy often draw out the questions that make my skin crawl.  “Is your diabetes still bad?”  You’re missing the point.  Diabetes is an enormous Swear Word, a complex beast that we do our best to tame.  If I’m talking about diabetes often (I am), it is because I want you to hear my story and to respect it.  The non-#doc Wilford Brimley anecdotes provided in response often add to the feelings of burnout.  Social media is overwhelming sometimes, and I can be my own worst enemy when in a cranky high blood sugar-induced mood.

Diabetes isn’t Burger King, and we can’t always have it our way. I cannot simultaneously expect the non-#doc world to understand more about my personal life with diabetes if I do not let them peek inside my #doc cocoon sometimes. They know Ally already, but do they know that I take my coffee very light, no sugar? Some do, and some do not. In order for me to be a better advocate, I do not have to tell every detail to everyone. But I may choose to explain that I am grumpy due to high blood sugar or why I believe so wholeheartedly in finding a cure for diabetes. Achieving that balance of what to share and when to back away from over-sharing can be a difficult tightrope to walk in the heat of one’s emotions.

Generally, I find the #doc to be a very supportive environment, willing to listen to each person’s shared, yet unique, experience with diabetes. If I ever feel stressed out about blogging, then it is simply not the right time to be blogging. It is a purposeful hobby which I enjoy greatly, and I never want it to feel forced.

As for “diabullies,” or internet trolls, or cinnamon-cure-enthusiasts, I have been tangled up in a few instances where no matter what I said, the hole seemed to get dug deeper with them. My intentions here will always be good, and I believe that we should all be able to respectfully agree to disagree if we choose to do so. If a person hiding behind a keyboard is especially cruel, I try to remember that said person is hurting. Bullies target others to distract from their own pain. It does not make it right, but we are all human and we all make mistakes. We should hope that internet bullies one day find the type of love and support that we have within the #doc.

So there you have it: the diabetes blogosphere balancing act. Am I high? Am I low? Am I happy? Am I sad? Should I advocate harder? Should I let others into the #doc cocoon? Is that a friend? Is that a bully? Do we all experience our own versions of diabetes, whether as T1D, T2D, LADA, MODY, CFRD, caregiver, friend, family member? Aren’t we all in this together? And aren’t we all in it for the right reasons?

I believe that we are indeed here for the right reasons, and we share our stories as they unfold.  If you need to take a #doc break because you are genuinely burnt out, then by all means, go on hiatus in the spirit of maintaining authenticity. That, in and of itself, can be a valuable aspect of your own diabetes story. 

“Uh-huh.”

When I adopt my future child (see here), the phrase “uh-huh” will probably be worthy of a “Swear Jar” donation according to Ally’s Little Book of Rules.  (All proceeds will go directly to diabetes research- let’s chill out, please!)

“Uh-huh” offends me not because of what it says, but because of what it does not say.  It is an empty phrase which does not even pretend to hide its indifference.

I will be the first to admit that I tend to get overly excited about nerdy diabetes-related things.  I follow diabetes stocks and press releases on my cell phone, enthusiastically peruse the blogosphere, keep up with DiaTribe and DiabetesMine articles, and look for every opportunity to discuss the information I devour.  I have pledged to my doctors on many occasions that I will take a break from healthcare information overload, but it proves to be a difficult task when fighting for your health every day.  Diabetes and healthcare are interests which are inextricably intertwined with my very existence.  They are not the totality of who I am as a person, but they are passions of mine with very stubborn “off” switches.

However, diabetes and healthcare are not everyone else’s passions.  So when I am rambling on and on at happy hour about the latest blood glucose meter technology or that one time I ate the entire carton of ice cream during a nighttime hypoglycemic episode, I need to take a step back and realize that others may not be quite as into this stuff as I am.  Fair enough.  If I could be cured of diabetes tomorrow, I would jump at the chance.  Although I suspect that my interests in diabetes and healthcare may not subside once I am cured, I would not mind finding a new, less serious interest to take up some of my time.  Badminton, anyone?

“Uh-huh” is suitable if I am boring you at the bar with a story that you do not really care about.  “Uh-huh” is not acceptable if I am talking about something deeply emotional that affects my health.  Dexcom software upgrades are one thing, but my personal health triumphs and tribulations are quite another.  If I am describing a diabetes incident that spooked me or a frustrating few days of persistently high blood sugars, I am opening up to you because I want you to hear me.  I trust you.  I want you to value what I am saying as important, to empathize, to not pretend that you know the answers but to simply be there for me nonetheless. 

When you say “uh-huh” on the other end of the phone and change the channel on the television running in the background, what I hear is not “uh-huh.”  Instead, the message conveyed is, “I am sick of this same old story.  Diabetes sucks.  I get it.”  You know what?  It does suck.  And it may continue to suck.  It’s diabetes, and it’s a selfish jerkface.  Sure, I have experienced a rough year of diabetes transitions (insulin pumping to MDI to every emotion felt along the way), but I do not get to “uh-huh” away this disease.  I sure as heck hope that it is not especially difficult every day until there is a cure, but sometimes there are long stretches of time where diabetes is a royal pain in the a$$, whether or not we are talking about Lantus burn at backside injection sites.

We are all human, though, and I caught myself “uh-huh-ing” a friend last week.  My coworkers and I are working from home a majority of the time now, a nice perk for those of us who require multiple cups of coffee before we are properly-functioning each morning.  The downside to working at home is that we do not have one another within walking distance if we need help.  Recently, my friend (let’s call him Jason) called my cell to seek advice on a difficult case.  My blood sugar was a bit rocky in that moment, and I felt the familiar brain fog that accompanies those overtired, rollercoaster health days.

“I’m thinking if we use this regulation, I should be denying this issue,” he said.

“Yeah, but I just emailed you the updated guidance.  We can grant benefits only if that particular symptom is present, which it is here,” I replied, as we went back and forth with medical evidence and legal stipulations to try to make the right decision.

The more we interpreted the guidance on the case, the more I found myself nodding and saying, “right, right, uh-huh” as I clicked through online documents, only half-paying attention to what Jason was trying to tell me at this point.

Frankly, I had made up my mind about what we should do on the case five minutes earlier, and I wanted him to be on the same page.  Eventually, our viewpoints fell somewhere in the middle and we were able to move forward.

The moral of the story is that everybody “uh-huhs” now and then.  At times, I am guilty of what I am critiquing here, too.  So what are we going to do to fix this?

Society often incorrectly relates empathy to having actual experience in the particular situation occurring.  For example, a cancer patient can empathize with another cancer patient, but a person untouched by illness cannot offer any valuable input.  I do not personally believe this.  First off, every person’s cancer or diabetes or death of a parent or any other difficult cross to bear has its own nuances.  We are all different people from different backgrounds with different struggles.  But the common denominator is that we are all human beings.  Because of this, we all know how to empathize.  It does not mean that we have to experience carbon copies of one another’s pain.  Rather, we simply have to offer up messages of support.

Instead of saying “uh-huh” when I describe an aggravating diabetes day, say something like, “I’m sorry.  That sounds so tiring.  Let me know if you need to chat later.”  Please listen.  If I wanted to talk to an empty space, I’d jump rope to the beat of a diabetes jingle or throw a tennis ball against the wall while collecting my thoughts.  But instead, I have chosen to tell you, someone who is so important to me and my diabetes fight.

Acknowledge my pain, but do not feel like you have to magically erase it for me.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Nowhere in that verse do I hear the phrase “uh-huh.”

I pledge to support you in the same ways that I want to be supported- devoid of “uh-huhs” but generous in understanding.  If I do not know what to say, I will attempt to think twice before muttering an empty rationalization.  “At least it’s not XYZ” belittles the struggle.  Instead, I’ll speak the truth next time: “ABC is very difficult.  Please know that I’m here for you.”  We cannot suddenly cure illness overnight, but we can make a more concerted effort to see each other through tough times.

From now on, let’s walk together, instead of “uh-huh-ing” each other.  Promise? 

Adoption

Since I was very young, I’ve always said that I wanted to adopt a child.  Over the years, decisiveness has not exactly been my greatest strength, though.  Should I wear the grey dress, or the multicolored one?, Which school should I attend?, and other life choices have waged epic pros and cons list battles within my mind.  Yet adoption is a topic I have never really wavered on.  I want to do it- when the timing is right.

At this moment in time, it is not right.  I need to finish grad school and make major strides in improving my own health, for starters.  I also just need some time to enjoy what remains of my twenties.  Perhaps (probably?) I will continue with school after I finish my Master’s degree?  Realistically, adoption is many years away.

That does not stop me from occasionally Googling “adoption” and perusing the regulations and the steps of the adoption process, as well as the stories of families made whole by the addition of the adopted child.  I want to make sure that I keep that adoption dream alive somehow, that I one day can give back to another human being in a way that is beyond anything I have ever done before.  And, I imagine, that human being will in turn teach me a thing or two (okay, tons of cool things) along the way.

Years ago I attended an outpatient program focused on fine-tuning diabetes management skills.  The participants spent a week bonding with one another and working through our respective diabetes challenges.  This was prior to my #doc involvement, and it was the first time I felt the void inside me filled with what I had longed for all along: connection with others who understood.

While at dinner one evening, I mentioned my guilt about my mood swings associated with wacky blood sugars.  Was it fair to my family and friends?  Would it be fair to my future children?  I went on to talk about other anxieties.  What if one day my vision were to suffer as a complication of diabetes?

Judy*, one of the program participants and a proud mother, looked me directly in the eye and said, “Honey, you need to have children.  You won’t have time to worry so much about yourself then!”

She meant it both in jest and in seriousness, and that is why I respected her so much.  Judy had a certain aura about her- wise, outgoing, and elegant all in one.  When she spoke, you paid attention.

Many years removed from that moment, I still know that Judy is right.  In order to truly find myself, I have to become selfless.  When the day finally comes to adopt, only then will I fully understand Judy’s advice.

In the meantime, I think it is okay to maintain certain dreams, even if they seem far away.  I daydream about the diabetes cure party often.  I wonder about future graduate programs or job prospects.  There is no harm in dreaming big.

Adoption is definitely at the forefront of my mind because of diabetes.  Additionally, I have a wonderful cousin who was adopted and is such a blessing to have in our family.  Realistically, I am not sure that my diabetes management will ever be consistently safe enough for me to have a healthy pregnancy for myself and my child.  It is not impossible, though.  Perhaps in time things will change.  It does not have to be something permanently erased off my chalkboard of life plans.

I try not to dwell on it, but I admit that not dwelling on it is an easy way out considering I am far away from starting a family for various professional and academic reasons.  There’s that whole marrying a soulmate thing, too.  But I still think that adoption will be a route that I pursue, whether or not I also get married and have biological children at some point.

I do want to highlight that without diabetes, the blessing of adoption may not be something that I would be considering as a serious future endeavor.  If not for diabetes and my cousin’s great example, both myself and my future adopted child could potentially miss out on a wonderful opportunity to be a family together.  When the time comes to adopt, we may not choose each other if diabetes had not chosen me many years ago.

We say it often: Diabetes gives us perspective.  I see that here, especially.  Some of these topics are quite emotional for us.  I must admit that it feels a bit odd to write a blog post about something that I have not yet done; rather this blog is about something that I plan to do many years from now.  But putting it down on paper makes the concept more real.  Maintaining hopes and dreams despite diabetes being a big jerkface is one of our best assets in showing diabetes who the real boss is.  Whatever your future goals may be and however far away they may seem, keep that faith alive somehow.  Often God will surprise you with the right answer or opportunity when you least expect it.

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

Drink your coffee and take this survey, please!

***Update: The survey is now closed. 

Thank you so much to everyone who participated and/or helped to spread the word!

Those 18 or older with diabetes of any type: Please consider participating in research for my current grad course by taking this 5-10 minute survey here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/verylightnosugarsurvey

Thank you!!

Dorm Life

dorm pic

This weekend was my college reunion, aka we got to stay over in the dorms and pretend that we were back in school with all of our closest friends right down the hallway whenever we got bored!  This is like the adult version of Disney Land to us!  #GoFriars

We enjoyed every minute of catching up, singing our favorite songs from college, imbibing at the bar on campus, and not thinking much about real life stressors like work or diabetes for a few short days.  We truly needed this, judging by the smiles of joy on all of the alums’ faces for the entire weekend.

I have been fighting a fever / sore throat / mild ketones thing all week, and was losing my voice before I even stepped on campus.  The responsible diabetic part of me felt a bit guilty that I was going to be staying up late dancing instead of dwelling at home in bed piled under blankets and sweating out the fever.  But I decided that this weekend only comes around once every five years, so I better live in the moment unless there was a serious health problem going on, which thankfully was not the case.  I did take some time out during the day on Saturday and Sunday to rest, but the evenings were reserved for my friends.  The relief that this weekend provided in terms of being with my fellow alums and enjoying a mini-hiatus from grad school homework, et al., was so appreciated.

You didn’t win this weekend, Diabetes Guilt Monster!  Channeling our favorite movie, Mean Girls, YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!!!

Wicked Witch of the East?

“Woah!  Is that normal?!!” my friend and coworker, Jack, exclaimed as we sat on the bench at lunchtime.

“You mean these Incredible Hulk feet?  Yeahhh, not so much,” I replied.

Filed away in some teeny weeny “Future Useful Information” cabinet in my brain, I recalled how months earlier my doctors described that I may notice some swelling in my feet as I transitioned from the insulin pump back to multiple daily injections after a decade of pumping.

In layman’s terms regarding “Swelling Feet 101”- because I have a very basic understanding of this very complicated medical scenario- we would expect to see some swelling, particularly of the feet, due to my body readjusting to normal-ish blood sugar values.

While experiencing the high frequency of my insulin pump problems in the fall/winter, my body was more or less in a prolonged ketonic state.  With almost every site change, ketones built up, and it took hours to recover.  On especially rough days, I sometimes experienced multiple site failures, pushing the recuperation process even farther behind.  Once the problem was rectified, it was time for another site change, and often this process began all over again.  Not fun.

When ketones pop up, your body burns fat for fuel, and you dehydrate and do not absorb food properly.  Hence, the overall zombie apocalypse feeling that ketones carry.  During this time period, I was gaunt, hungry, and tired.  My body became accustomed to this unhealthy status quo of spilling ketones, flushing them out, and starting all over again once a new problem arose.

Shots mostly erased this high ketones song and dance. Insulin was regularly getting into my body via injections, so the ketones did not have a chance to compound like they had in the past. Although I felt infinitely better without ketones, my blood sugars were far from stellar for the first few months back on shots. There was a lot of back and forth figuring out proper basal rates, insulin to carb ratios, and correction factors. And, in diabetes’ signature fashion, it usually changed its mind once we seemed to iron out some details.

I am still not the poster child of superb blood sugars or a brag-worthy A1C, but my numbers are beginning to stabilize. Interestingly, I am seeing improved blood sugars with a significantly-reduced basal regimen. In the past, the basal was too high, prompting big crashes and consequential reactionary blood sugar spikes. In other words, the diabetes rollercoaster had a lot of peaks and valleys.

So, recently when my feet looked like the Wicked Witch of the East’s heels poking out from under the house that crushed her, it was actually a positive thing. Luckily I had a doctor’s appointment the following day, which confirmed that this was the swelling we had initially expected. It had not appeared when first back on shots because my blood sugars had remained erratic, despite the lack of ketones. Now, my body is getting more of the fuel that it needs and the insulin to cover that fuel, so as it rehydrates, there may be some temporary swelling.

As with anything diabetes-related, it’s never really simple, is it? Thankfully, in this situation, the unpleasantness is only brief and will not cause any permanent problems.  The only other issue is that I am having muscle spasms in my feet and legs quite frequently.  I have experienced muscle cramps since childhood.  Although this is nothing new to me, I could do without the intensified “Charlie Horse” occurrences.  The doctors believe this number will decline as the swelling in my feet lessens over time.

Finally, my high heels game is taking a hit here.  But who doesn’t want to wear sandals or Sperry’s in this awesome weather, anyway?  Bring it on!  #ItMakesSenseIfYouHaveDiabetes

Greater Love Has No One Than This

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.           John 15:13

Every day that we wake up as free individuals is because a Veteran/Service Member sacrificed for that freedom.  Some make the ultimate sacrifice.  Please pray for and reflect on them during Memorial Day, and every day.