Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

A conversation that I recently had:
Pharmacist:  You are on only two medications! That’s amazing!! 
Me: Actually, it’s three. 
Pharmacist:  ????  Two.  
Me:  Don’t forget the Insulin. 
Pharmacist:   Oh, right!!! But you are like a rock star diabetic! Nobody is on just two meds! 

Now, it did feel good to be called a rock star diabetic. Because nobody has ever EVER called me that. 

Credit: Valerei

This conversation came 26 years - almost 10,000 days - after my diagnosis, and it did make me feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside. But I would bet there are lots of PWD - People With Diabetes - who are not on other meds, like children for example. But I’m not going to argue that point. 

Because what strikes me is this:

Has insulin become so ubiquitous in our culture, that it is no longer seen as a medication with its own challenges? 

Is this why people shrug diabetes off? Is it why people tend to think that all you need to do is eat well, take your insulin, take your meds, and all will be well? 

Does it take a diagnosis of diabetes, and living with diabetes for a while to understand that insulin is not a cure? That even with the modern advances of better insulins and technology, that there are still many challenges for those who inject or pump it everyday?

Insulin is not a cure, and it is not easy to manage. But I do my best to manage it. Every day. 

And that makes me a Rock Star. And if you are a Person With Diabetes, that makes you a Rock Star too. 

So when you're not feeling much like a Rock Star, and it will happen from time to time, remember that it's a matter of perspective.

When it rains, look for rainbows
When it's dark, look for stars
                                                                          Esther Comau

Sunday, August 24, 2014

That thing you're doing*

*The full title of this post is actually "That thing you're doing right now, and don't even know it", but for Twittery reasons, I have shortened it. :)

An advocate cares. 
An advocate wants to affect change. 
An advocate wants to engage, influence, and chart new paths in churning chaos. 

Advocates are all that, and none if that. It's like saying all ALS supporters want to have buckets of ice water thrown on their heads. There are as many types of advocates as there are people. 

I call myself an advocate, because I speak what's on my mind, usually about diabetes but not always, albeit I often edit it just to keep it in the realm of being family friendly ;)

~Mahatma Gandhi~
But far from the advocacy 'stars' (bless them!), I am a small tiny star just trying to make a tiny difference. I choose to share my thoughts about diabetes in a blog, on Twitter, and with my co-workers if they ask me about it. 

When I see others struggling with diabetes, or with any other challenges online, I break out of the mindset that "they will work it out" or "Somebody Else will help them", and I will offer suggestions, or if nothing else, give them a little virtual pat on the shoulder if I don't have an answer. 

I am sometimes inspired to write letters to organizations, but not often, because I usually end up feeling my efforts seemingly go unnoticed. I do when I think it's important though, and I do harbour a little hope that somebody out there is sharing that email with others, exclaiming, "See this??! Isn't this brilliant??!"

All this being said, I'd also venture to say that you are an advocate too, because you are reading this blog post. You probably have read some other, much more inspiring posts and commentary than this. You have come down a different path to get here, whether it was looking for insight, looking for clarity, or just a little curious. 

Whatever it is, whatever brought you here, and however you get to where you are going, you will take away a new fresh perspective all your very own. And one day, you may find yourself sharing your own take on things with others - your partner, your extended family, or your best friend, over a cold lemonade and a package of Oreos. And maybe your sharing with them can expand their world just a little bit too as they go on their own life journey.

And that makes you an advocate too.

It doesn't take much. Just as Mahatma Gandhi said, be the change you wish to see in the world.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hacking Life with Diabetes

So many people are just so clever, and have so many great ideas. Check out right here for some wonderful ideas.

I won't try to compete, and I encourage you to check them out. But I do have one hack to share. 

You know all those lancets hanging out in the bottom of your diabetes supplies? You get 10 of them with every new meter... that's like 10 years worth (well, in my world it is anyway). 

So what to do with all those extra lancets? Whenever you get a sliver, it makes an awesome sterile sliver removal tool when you don't have tweezers hanging around. 

You're welcome. :)

This is my submission for Diabetes Life Hacks - #DBlogWeek Day 5. I submit we should give more respect to the lowly lancet. It can be seriously useful. Nothing worse than a sliver... except maybe a paper cut, but I've got nothing for that.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rising from the Ashes

Closely related to yesterday's post about dealing with emotional crises related to dealing with diabetes, either real or imagined, today I am examining what helps me get through the day. Not just any day, but a hard diabetes day. But there's a little more I can share.

Diabetes is hard, and sometimes it is frustrating and stupid. One is supposed to look for patterns and trends in the midst of chaos. One way I deal is by trolling the social media feeds - a world filled with pretty Pinterest quotes and Twitter cranky cat memes. It works for me because it gives me hope for a reset and it's a moment to forget. I reset. I can start over again.

But sometimes it helps to put it in my own words. What better way to do it is a Mirror Mantra. Check out Mike Lawson's wonderful initiative - it's a great way to remind ourselves of stuff we should remember). But here I've decided to share my own.

Tomorrow is another day :)
It's like a new day rising out of the ashes of the old. Rather dramatic, but I think it works well. For certainly diabetes inspires a certain kind of flair worthy of such drama  :)

This is my submission for Mantras and More - #DBlogWeek Day 4. And seriously, I believe that without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Smile like it doesn't matter

For those who struggle with any kind of chronic condition, it is probably safe to say that they have struggled with the emotional side of dealing with it.

For the most part, I carry on like everyone else. Diabetes is a fact of my life, and I just deal with it. But sometimes things do get me down. It happens to many people at one time or another, and because diabetes is such an in-your-face, frustrating and annoying condition (or disease if you rather), it is often front and centre of the issues. I can tell you at a high level what gets to me about this. Here, let me list it out for you:
  1. Helplessness
  2. Dependence
And luckily (for me), a couple of things seem to work:
  1. Smile like it doesn't matter
  2. Distraction

I can deal with a lot of other crap pretty much head on. I get frustrated, I rant, rave, and sometimes even throw a hissy fit about things. And then I either do something about it, or move on. Often both. 

But when something leads me to feeling like there's absolutely nothing I can do about something, complicated by a feeling of dependence, then that brings me to a dark place. It is a flat place, where laughing and even being civil can be a challenge. 

What are these things that can lead to this all-pervasive feeling? It can be any number of things, but it is often headed up by bureaucratic nonsense that one can do nothing about it, but ride things out. 

I admit that sometimes this feeling may or may not even be of my own making. For all I know it could live solely in my mind. But when I'm in that helpless place - there's nothing to do but to ride it out. My husband hears a lot about it, but I'm the type of person that let's things fester,  and it often plays out in less than-nice ways. But he is amazingly supportive nonetheless, and that's just what I need when I get in those dark places. 

Then as time goes on, things either become normal or a new normal starts to become more comfortable, and I start to see the brighter side of things. Often it is just the realization that things are not so bad, and that I'm surrounded by supportive family and friends, who help me to heal, even if they don't realize that they are helping. I think sometimes, if I just start acting like things are normal - that I am normal - starting with my family and friends, that I will one day be just that. 

But for me, I look at it if you start smiling, you actually start to feel happy. That, and a little distraction, like that of getting through life, going to work, remodelling the kitchen, painting the family room and playing chase the kibble with the cats. That helps too. 

I'm not suggesting that what works for me, might work for others. I understand that a lot of people struggle with very serious depression, and need to seek out help from their doctors and other support networks. 

But this is me. And maybe it could work for you too. 

Yeah, all that, and then I eat ice cream. Because I can, and ice cream makes me feel happy. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

High Low

High, low 
Medium, slow
Jolly old peppers

More, less 
Some more finesse?
Never knowing, always a guess

Up, down
All around
Roller coasters, playgrounds, numbers abound

This is my submission for Poetry Tuesday - #DBlogWeek Day 2. I can't say that I was a poet, and didn't know it. I mean to show no disrespect to the bonafide poets out there. 

It's All About Communities

I've spent a lot of time recently reflecting on what things matter to me. If one were to read this blog, one might think that diabetes means a lot to me, and true enough, it does. I think that as we read the many amazing blogs written by amazing people, many of which can be accessed through the #DBlogWeek hashtag on Twitter (or join in the blogging fun yourself), one can easily get this impression. 

Recently there has been a loss in our lives, and this sad event has led me to reflect on what really matters. For me, first and foremost, it's family (and yes, I include my fur family as well). It's about friends. And it's about community.

This post is about community. And there are many kinds of community, but it all comes down to taking care. 

Our neighbourhood community is a place where people come together to raise their children, a comfortable place to come home to after a long day's work. After watching some bored kids last summer, I built a Little Free Library which now sits at the edge of our yard. To this point, it took a community of believers - business people in our area - who helped make this happen in the first place. Because I reached out, they donated the box, some books, and effort, because I do not have building skills!

But now I've seen neighbours visit from blocks around, to 'borrow' books. I've met many new people, and the LFL has become a conversation starter of sorts. People visit and might drop off a book or two (or an entire Danielle Steel collection!) for others to enjoy. I've seen little kids come by, bookbags in hand, with a mom or a dad. Older kids excitedly show their other friends. In only a few months, this little box is now a touchstone in our neighbourhood, where kids and adults come together to discover (and rediscover) the love of reading. 

If you have found this blog post, you are likely already familiar with the Diabetes Online Community (otherwise known as the DOC), and it is important to me because when I have questions, want to vent, or need support, the DOC has been there for me.

It is a virtual place - a social media phenomenon, but not in any one place. On Twitter you can find it by searching hashtags like #DOC or #dsma, but there are many more (just ask if you want to know more). There are diabetes community websites (like TuDiabetes or Glu), and blogs like DiabetesMine sharing experiences and information. It is made up of many people from different backgrounds, divergent interests and many countries come together to ask questions, support each other, share information, raise awareness, advocate, laugh at some things, and offer a kind shoulder to those who are hurting.  

We should be aware though, that our communities need care. As much as they are a way to come together and a uniting force, they can be divided. 

Just last week, I had come home to my Little Free Library to find that somebody had launched a rock through its little window. Instead of being disheartened by the disrespect (well, I was for just a moment), I cleaned up, took the opportunity to re-organize the books. I also discovered what one can do with a large Ziploc bag and some packing tape to repair it to it's almost former glory. It's back in business, and when I get to the hardware store again, I will be able to retire its Ziploc. 

When we deal with people - as with the DOC - as much as social media encourages talking, we also need to remember to take a moment, step back, and just listen. Over the past year, I've made the mistake of not listening, and have lost a friend. We need to keep our minds open to other viewpoints, an eye out for those struggling, and especially for those who may be feeling lost or abandoned. Sometimes it is a lone voice - a single tweet. We should remember to reach out with a kind word.

Also we need to remember that as a group, we are quite a force to be reckoned with. Our collective voices have power, and we've certainly been noticed in certain circles. We can harness this force for the good, and I hope we continue to do so. But we cannot forget the smaller voices out there. 

One day, long ago, I was that small voice, and now I'm part of a community that is larger than me. I'm proud to be part of it, but it always need to be looked after.

Just like that Little Free Library on our front lawn.

The Little Free Library opens for business!

This is my submission for Change the World - #DBlogWeek Day 1. Although I don't expect to change the world, but if I can just reach out to a person or two along the way, I will have succeeded. 

Leaving Pawprints Behind

Dear Rocky,

You were a good cat. You were one of the inspirations for this blog. You had a big personality, and a bigger heart, even if you didn't always show it.

May you find the things that made you happy, like:

  • Lots of things to push off the table onto the floor like plastic fruit, diabetes supplies and satellite radios
  • Drinking water from Mom's water glass
  • Daily treats of chicken or salmon 'juice'
  • Someone to pick you up to 'show' you where your food is on the dresser
  • Finding bare toes to nibble (see 'chomp') on
  • Rubber bands to chew
  • Twist ties to chase
  • That toy on a spring and stand that you liked to drag upstairs
  • Kibble treats skittering across the basement floor to chase
  • Ankles to rub against (but just barely touching, because actually touching is uncomfortable you know!)
  • Finally, here's hoping you can come and go wherever you want - whether it be the other side of the door (why is it you always seemed to be on the wrong side of a closed door?), or go outside to roam as you wish

Things are sure quiet around here. We miss you and your little bunny puff of a tail, your big voice, your bigger personality, and all that made you special.

Your pawprints have left an indelible mark on our hearts.  

May you Rest in Peace
March 1, 2003 - May 7, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Life is a Highway

Life is a Highway… What a great driving song!

It is also a great metaphor for living life – and driving – with diabetes.
Despite the temptation, and except when we are driving on the autobahn, most of us try to stick to the speed limit, more or less – and some of us are better at it (or luckier) than others.

When you have Type 1 diabetes, one must take care not to ‘drive low’, by observing personal blood sugar limits. Just as any driver will put on a favourite driving song when hitting the road and putting the pedal to the metal. In doing so, risk factors are assessed – personal safety, risk to others, and if making poor choices, one ultimately can face fines, or worse.

It’s the same with blood sugars. There’s no room for error, because errors can end up with dire consequences – for yourself and for others.

For me, I won’t get behind the wheel if my blood sugar is below 5.0 mmol/90 mg. An additional rule that I observe – if I’m in that mid-5.0 area (100 mg-ish), and my CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) is showing a down arrow (telling me “Warning! Falling blood sugars”) when I am heading out the door, I won’t get behind the wheel then either. I’ll sit down, load up with carbs and/or sugar, and wait it out.

Work will have to wait.
Grocery shopping will go on hold.
Life is absolutely suspended until I’m in a drive-safe range.

Once I get behind the wheel, the checking doesn’t stop. In fact this is when I become more alert – to the way I am feeling, and also to be in tune to what my CGM is telling me. Although it is set to alert me at 4.4 mmol/80 mg, when it does alert me, it means that I’ll pull over without delay, and will sit there, scarfing down glucose, until my BG rises above that magical 5.0/90 mark, with an up arrow. I don’t ask questions.
There's no load, I can't hold
Road so rough this I know
I'll be there when the light comes in
Tell 'em we're survivors
From "Life is a Highway" by Tom Cochrane
So driving with Type 1 diabetes. No excuses. No “I’m almost there”. And that's that.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Diabetesopoly: The Living With Diabetes Game

February 3rd was Diabetes Art Day, and yes, Mom, I'm still late with my assignments. Some things never change. 

Much like the ubiquitous board game, living with diabetes is a strategic effort between the body, the mind and many external factors. As much as this piece shows many aspects to be considered by people living with diabetes, it also gives an insight into the complexity of living with it.

Larry and I collaborated on this board. Larry has been living with Type 2 for about 8 years and I've been living with Type 1 for 25 years. Needless to say, we've been around the board a few times.

Imagined by: Larry & Jamie
Medium: Digital (using Excel 2007)
Monopoly Copyright: Public Domain

I admit, our submission went beyond the norm, but what the heck. I think Larry and I have expressed ourselves quite nicely via this traditional office software turned alternative art form - a digital media and a simple game board. And believe it or not, Excel and lots of imagination were the only mediums used for this project. Ok, I admit, the cupcake image was 'borrowed'.

In our household, we express ourselves in two ways - words and music. Of course it can be argued that music is an art form, but does not work well in this format. As for words, by default, are somewhat off limits for the nature of this project.

This creation has been posted at this year's Diabetes Art Day 2014 Gallery. I urge you to wander over there at some point soon. It's definitely a worthwhile trip.

Now, for the uninitiated who might be wondering what Diabetes Art Day is all about, it is best summed up by Lee Ann Thill:
Diabetes Art Day is a web-based initiative for the Diabetes Online Community to “tell a story” about life with diabetes though creative visual expression. It’s a way for us to tell our stories so we can connect and share with each other and with our loved ones. It’s a way to generate diabetes awareness outside of the DOC by sharing artwork on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and community websites. Diabetes Art Day is for people young and old with any type of diabetes and their families, so children, spouses, parents, siblings, or anyone who is affected by diabetes can participate. For this one day, you’re encouraged to break out of your linguistic comfort zone, bust out some art materials, and make a piece of artwork – painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, an installation piece, a mixed media something or other, or whatever you can imagine. Whether you have lots of experience making art or none at all, Diabetes Art Day is for you to show the world what it’s like to live with diabetes in that “a picture is worth 1000 words” kind of way. 
So there you have it. Our Diabetes Art Day submission for 2014. We'd love to hear what you have to say about our alternative art expression.