Ask Allison: Diabetes + High School = $%[email protected]

I’m back with another edition of my Ask Allison series! Have a question for this diabetes journalist and nearly 20 year veteran PWD? Because if I don’t have the answer, I know someone who does!

HighSchoolMusical

There’s no singing and dancing
when it comes to diabetes + high school!

Brea writes: Any advice for getting through high school with diabetes? Specifically on dating and guys? Also, how not to let my blood sugars affect my tests and quizzes and grades? Thanks :)

Coincidentally, this weekend is my 10th high school reunion. While I’m not exactly a fresh out of high school graduate, I still remember how complicated diabetes can make the growing pains of high school.

So let’s break this down and start with the easy stuff: guys. What? I didn’t date in high school, so it’s easy for me! Just kidding. Dating and diabetes is hard at any age. Actually, dating is hard at any age, let alone with diabetes. As I wrote in my two year wedding anniversary post a couple of weeks ago, I think it’s very important to keep a few things in mind. First, you will find someone who loves you for you — all of you, including diabetes — and that if someone isn’t interested, it’s their loss. It is not your responsibility to convince someone of anything. Guys are inherently immature compared to girls, and so they’re more likely to get stuck believing stupid misconceptions.

That being said, there are also a ton of awesome guys out there who won’t bat an eye at diabetes because, hey, a girl likes them! That alone is pretty powerful stuff, no matter how old you are. You didn’t specifically mention if a particular guy was doing or saying something to you about your diabetes, but if they are, I’m a huge believer in being upfront and honest about your diabetes. Don’t overdramatize it, but don’t downplay it either. It’s important, but it’s not the whole Brea package either. Find someone who understands this. You want someone who appreciates you, while also knowing that appreciating you means accepting and taking care of your diabetes properly. Don’t waste your time with jerks.

I know you’ll roll your eyes at this but, seriously, you’re in high school! You have the rest of your life to worry about boys! Go do your homework!

And on that note… Diabetes definitely can impact your academic performance. If you attend a public high school, do you have a Section 504 plan or IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place? That can help protect you if you have a high or low blood sugar that makes it difficult to take a test with everyone else. Work with your parents and your school’s administration to get it set up. If you need extra help, the American Diabetes Association is a pro that this kind of stuff. They have all sorts of resources on the subject.

When you get to college, make sure to talk to the Student Services department. They can often help make certain accommodations for students with disabilities, and diabetes definitely counts as a diabetes. Certain accommodations may include extra time to finish an exam, changing the date of an exam, or allowing food and/or drink into the classroom.

I met with my Student Services department when I first started college at the University of Oregon. They drafted up a letter based on what I felt my needs were, and then gave me a copy that I could send to my professors at the start of every term. It was very useful because there were a couple of times where I had a low blood sugar right at the beginning of an exam and I needed extra time to finish.

Edit: Sara at Moments of Wonderful coincidentally posted her own personal story of accommodations in college. Very good and important read!

Getting through high school is sadly a lot like getting through life with diabetes. You’ll deal with people who don’t understand or will say stupid things. You’ll have diabetes emergencies that get in the way of what you want to do. And you’ll have to juggle all the commitments with diabetes along with your “real life.” But you’ll hopefully discover that there is a huge support system out there ready to help. That your parents, your friends and your teachers all want you to be healthy, happy and successful. That they probably feel badly that you have diabetes, and they just aren’t sure what to do. That they want to hear from you about what you need.

The Diabetes Online Community is also here to help support you, so if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

The Proof Is In The Lab Report

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I had a hold up on getting my Omnipod because my amazingly awesome (/sarcasm) insurance company wanted me to prove that I don’t make any insulin by taking a C-peptide test. Because clearly I’ve just been making this up for the past 19 years.

I suppose I shouldn’t be that mean to my insurance company. I mean, after all, at least I have health insurance. Oh what the hell. A little meanness is probably warranted. I mean, really? A C-peptide test?!

The silver lining, if you can call it that, is that I was four years overdue in getting my lab work done (I know, I know!) and so this was the perfect motivator to get five vials of blood drained out of me (because clearly maintaining my kidney and liver function wasn’t cutting it).

About a week later, I received an email from my endo (!) detailing the results of the tests. Kidney and liver function were great. (I knew it!) LDL was a little high, and my Vitamin D and thyroid levels were a little low. After doing some research, I found out that high LDL can actually be caused from low thyroid levels, so it all makes perfect sense. I’ve also had some issues with my recent round of weight loss, and I think my thyroid and Vitamin D levels are likely playing a significant role in that. I’ve already started a heavy dose of Vitamin D, and should be starting synthroid soon.

The one thing my endo didn’t mention was my C-peptide levels. C-peptide is a protein that is a by-product of producing insulin. No C-peptide, no insulin. Since she didn’t say anything like, “OMG, Allison, your C-peptide levels are astronomical! You’re cured!!” I figured that they were negative and that I was, indeed, still a non-insulin producing human. I contacted Insulet, and they went ahead and got the results, and have sent them off to Cigna for approval.

Omnipod forthcoming.

Late last week, I finally got the lab report sent to my home so I could take a look firsthand at how my levels shook out. As predicted, I make negligible insulin.

But just in case you need proof that I haven’t been making all of this up:

labreport

As Seen In: Diabetic Living!

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A few months ago, the editor-in-chief of Diabetic Living, Martha Miller Johnson, contacted me about seeing my diabetes greeting cards in USA Today. She wanted to feature them in an upcoming issue of Diabetic Living! Well, the issue is finally here and I couldn’t be happier with it. I think the picture they took with my cards is perfect (how cute is that pen holder?!). The quote they chose is perfect for the purpose behind the cards: I really do believe each of us deserves acknowledgement for the hard work we do!

One thing I purposefully did with the Congratulations on the A1C card was that I made no mention of a number. Not “Congrats on the 6%” or “Congrats on the baby range!” or even “Congrats on lowering the A1C.” Your A1C could be the exact same as last time, and I still think that’s deserving of recognition.

Now, you might be thinking, “Well I’m the one who has diabetes, so why would I buy these?” First of all, buy the magazine and show your significant other or parent with the words, “Isn’t this a great idea? Hint hint!” And second, buy these for your friends! I have had many orders this year from people who are buying the cards for a friend they know with diabetes who has been working diligently on their diabetes.

Lastly, we also have a line of cards for weight loss. Although it incorporates the Blue Circle in the design, the weight loss cards do not have to be for someone with diabetes and is losing weight. There is no mention of diabetes anywhere on the card. Since weight loss is a big part of type 2 diabetes, the diabetes community’s Blue Circle is incorporated in the card.

I know I always appreciate positive feedback and reinforcement, which psychologists say is more helpful than guilt or shaming. I’m a bit biased, but I do think these cards can do a world of good for someone’s self-esteem and motivation. It’s always nice for hard work to be recognized.

In addition, and this isn’t mentioned in the article, but we also have Thank You cards for Walks and Rides to Cure Diabetes. They are completely free of any named organization (in fact, they are blank on the inside) so they can be used for any event that you’ve raised money. If you have an upcoming Walk or Ride, I hope you will check them out.

You can view the whole line of cards at my Etsy store! And thank you in advance for your support!

A Large Pack of Hamsters

424993_10151631108402074_1322901834_nOn Monday, I was scrolling through my spam box to make sure I didn’t lose anyone’s comment during D-Blog Check day. I didn’t, thankfully, but I did spot this absolutely amazing spam comment that I just had to share. It’s not often that I get a spam comment that is hilariously ridiculous yet full of truth. But occasionally it does happen. When I saw this comment, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it with all of you. The imagery is priceless.

The comment was in response to Desperately Seeking Diabetics:

“I can’t wait for the book to come out. I struggle with insurance claim issues on a regular basis. A little help would be appreciated.

First, I have discovered that neither myself or my doctor is in charge of my health. Who is in charge? So far, it seems there is an infinitely large pack of hamsters who live in my blackberry and they change their names often and deny responsibility when they say no. No this, no that, it is not my fault, you must deal with it alone. It all becomes too predictable when insurance adjusters have the final say.

Well, enough of that. I truly want to brighten my day and pick up a few new tips and tricks. Any suggestions?”

I don’t think I could have chosen a better description for insurance companies than “a large pack of hamster” who “change their names often and deny responsibility when they say no.” It’s rather brilliant and real for being a totally fake comment.

DSMA July Carnival: Testing, Testing

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It doesn’t take a genius to know test strip accuracy is important.

This month’s DSMA Blog Carnival is all about test strip accuracy and why it is important to me. The issue of test strip accuracy has recently made a resurgence in the DOC (not that it ever really went away), most notably in the form of Strip Safely, a grassroots advocacy group dedicated to pushing the FDA to require more stringent accuracy parameters for test strips.

To be honest, the fact we’re even having this discussion is kind of disgusting. It boggles the mind (which oddly gives me the mental image of those bobblehead dolls, but I digress…). The FDA, bless their hearts, have gone above and beyond the call of duty in keeping the Medtronic Minimed Veo out of the hands of American citizens because they think it might cause some issues with blood sugars, DKA and whathaveyou. They are afraid that if you have your insulin suspended for two hours and you’re not really low, you’ll have problems. The reason why you might not be low when the Medtronic CGM tells you it’s low is because of accuracy issues. So they know accuracy issues are a problem, but they don’t seem terribly interested in enforcing anything to make the situation better.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: accuracy doesn’t just affect people who use CGMs. Accuracy affects everyone. It affects how much insulin you take. When the FDA says that being 20% off is okay, what they’re saying is that there is no difference between a 160 mg/dl and a 128 mg/dl or a 192 mg/dl. What they’re saying is there is no difference between a 300 mg/dl and a 240 mg/dl or a 360 mg/dl. Oh yes there is! In fact, there is an even greater chance of blood sugar issues, DKA and whathaveyou with test strip inaccuracy than you would have with the Veo.

This is not new news to anyone. We were talking about test strip accuracy at the very first Roche Diabetes Social Media Summit in… God, I don’t even know when it was, it was so long ago… ::looks it up::… 2009! For five years (and likely longer than that), we have been advocating for better test strips because it is guaranteed to make our lives with diabetes easier to manage. It won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it might make a few things better.

They say it costs too much money for test strips to be more accurate. We’d have to pay more than the boatload of money we already shell out. Do you know what costs more than test strips?

Kidney dialysis.

Congestive heart failure.

Death. Death definitely costs more than test strips.

Why is test strip accuracy so important to me and my fellow brothers-and-sisters in diabetes? Because there are a multitude of experiences that we would like to have, and kidney dialysis, congestive heart failure and death are not on the list.

Little Ole Me (and You)

Chris Snider has declared today to be D-Blog Check Day which encourages everyone who reads D-blogs to comment and let the blogger know who is reading. This is awesome because for every person who comments on a blog, there are probably 50 or 100 who do not. Sometimes it can be a little sad because obviously we want to get to know you too!

We spend a lot of time talking about diabetes in the DOC, but that’s not all that we are as people. Even though that’s our common link in this community, we are more than diabetes. I thought it would be fun to share a few fun facts about myself that are non-diabetes related. In the comments, I would love for you to share a fun fact about yourself, just so we can all get to know each other a little better.

  1. I was born and raised just outside Portland, Oregon.
  2. I’m a night owl.
  3. I’m a popcorn addict.
  4. I collect shot glasses. I have more than 60!
  5. I used to live in NYC. If you’re going to visit, here are 3 things I recommend to do, eat and see:
  • visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (bring comfy walking shoes!) and go to the rooftop garden for a great view of Central Park and midtown Manhattan
  • eat at Matilda, my favorite East Village restaurant (I’ve brought a number of DOC bloggers there, so you’re in good company!)
  • visit the High Line park for a wonderful view of Manhattan and the Hudson River (start at the 23rd St. entrance and walk south, and exit at 14th st, where you can walk to dinner in the West Village, one of the most popular neighborhoods in the entire city

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So, tell me a little bit about yourself.

An Update on School & My Future as a CDE

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Maria, me, Liz, Alecia, Tracy, Andy, Scott, Carl and John

Last night, I attended a meet-up at the New York City chapter of JDRF. They launched this meet-up for adults with type 1 diabetes who live in the tri-state area last fall. As always, I had a super amazing time. I met a few new people and caught up with some old friends. Only the best people have diabetes. You didn’t know that? Yep. It’s like a rule or something.

Anyway, several people said to me, “So, how’s school going?”

So here’s how school’s going:

Spring semester was awful. Hey, you wanted to know. I took three classes: Statistics, Anatomy & Physiology 2 and Microbiology. Statistics was a class I barely skated by with a B, mostly owing to the fact that I didn’t try very hard. We were allowed note cards for all of our exams, which should have guaranteed me an A like my Algebra class in the fall, but I accidentally skipped an online component of one of my tests and then completely misread the directions for a Stats project, which lowered my score. Whoops.

Anatomy & Physiology 2 was extraordinarily hard, which I wasn’t expecting since I did well in the Fall. I felt that I put a lot of effort into studying for A&P 2, but it just wasn’t gelling with me for some reason. That reason, I believe, is Microbiology.

I hate Microbiology. It has two things I don’t like: icky creepy-crawlies that you can’t even see coupled with laboratory work involving dozens of test tubes, Bunsen burners and the aseptic technique which I always forgot to do. I was a ball of stress for three hours every Thursday for sixteen weeks. We had to memorize about a billion Latin names for microorganisms that will kill you in various ways. And we had to identify an “unknown organism” by performing the aforementioned chemical tests using test tubes, Bunsen burners and the aseptic technique and lucky me (!) my “unknown organism” did not conform to any known organism. I performed most tests more than once, and it just didn’t fit. Trust me, I tried. I even asked three people who majored in biochemistry and they didn’t know.

Needless to say, I didn’t do so hot in A&P2 or Microbiology, scoring a C and a C+ respectively.

On top of all that, I was rejected from both nursing schools I applied to. Whee!

Okay, technically, I was only rejected from one (NYU), but because I didn’t get a B or better in my classes, I was automatically kicked off the waiting list at Concordia College.

Knowing that I needed to re-take classes, I started off my summer with A&P2. Five hours, four days a week. So much fun. In the end, I left with a respectable B+.

But while all of that was going on, I started to debate whether or not the nursing path was really what I was meant to do. Not getting into nursing school really threw a curveball for me, because up until that point, I was very methodical in how I was approaching this next phase of my life. I had quickly dismissed becoming a Registered Dietitian because I felt that it would take too long to accomplish that degree (twice as long), and I wasn’t sure if talking about food all day was something I wanted to do. Once I learned I wasn’t getting into nursing school, I started to reconsider my options.

As it turns out, I’m actually developing a real interest and passion for healthy eating and fitness, as demonstrated over at my other blog, With Faith & Grace. My husband and I participated in the Whole30 challenge in January and we’re both pursuing our interest in running (although he’s lightyears ahead as far as actual skill is concerned). I’ve been doing a lot of reading in nutrition and fitness, and it seems like an area that fits perfectly with diabetes education for both type 1s and type 2s.

I know, I’m a genius for figuring that one out.

In fact, the interest in being an RD first appeared while at an ADA Expo earlier this year. I was attending a cooking workshop with a celebrity chef (it was not Paula) and a black woman from Brooklyn stood up to ask where she could get all these fancy organic foods this chef was using. His food was great, but this woman and a lot of the audience rely on bodegas (basically a large convenience store) and small grocery stores. When he suggested that they simply “petition for better food,” I knew that what these people really needed was someone to teach them how to eat healthy with what they had to work with. Not some pipe dream food that they didn’t have access to.

After I was rejected from nursing school, Hannah commented on a blog post asking if I’d looked into being an RD. I decided I really needed to investigate this option, rather than just brushing it off because it seemed “too long.”

As it turns out, all the classes I’ve taken so far are pre-reqs for dietetics as well. Huzzah! The bummer is that I actually need more pre-reqs for dietetics than for nursing. This summer, I’ll be tackling Biochemistry as an online, self-paced class through UC Berkeley’s Extension School. This fall, I’ll be back at my local community college to take Principles of Organic Chemistry, Intro to Nutrition, and one of two Food Service classes that are required for the RD exam.

I’m also preparing to take the GRE at the end of August, which is required for the two Master’s programs I’m interested in. The first Master’s program is at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, which I think would be perfect since it’s part of the same University system as my diabetes clinic. I met with the prospective student adviser a few weeks ago, and she told me that a student who graduated from their program several years ago was hired as an RD at my clinic!

The other school that I’m contemplating is NYU. Unfortunately, because I applied for NYU’s Nursing School, I have to wait a full year before I can apply for their dietetics program. I could start Columbia in January, but I would have to wait to start NYU (if I got in, of course) until September.

The last option is a Bachelor’s program at a college in Queens. It’s pretty expensive to get there (tolls here are a nightmare – $15 everyday!), but tuition itself is cheap because it’s a public school. It’s also a Bachelor’s which would work as far as the end goal, but I personally think I’d rather get a Master’s at this point. Several people I’ve talked to agree, but it’s debatable what’s really the best. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

So that’s basically how school’s going. Kind of a long meandering process to find the right angle for me, but I know in the end that my eye is on the prize. I’ll do what I need to do to get there.

Except mess around with the invisible creepy-crawlies.