Leaving On A Jet Plane To… The ADA Scientific Sessions!

leaving-on-a-jet-planeI’m very excited to share that I’m heading to the ADA Scientific Sessions in San Francisco next month!

I attended two ADA Scientific Sessions while working for DiabetesMine, but last year I skipped out because I wanted to attended the AADE conference instead. Since I wasn’t on staff with a publication, I had to pay out of pocket. AADE was not only fit my career of choice, it was also being held three hours from me in Philadelphia. This year, AADE is being held in Orlando in August on my birthday, and having gone to three AADE conferences in a row, it didn’t really seem like the sessions were going to be anything new.

While investigating the ADA Scientific Sessions, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are going to be some psychosocial sessions in addition to the research updates. It remains to be seen whether those sessions will actually be worth anything, but the speakers listed are ones that I know and respect, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s presented. I might not be actively pursuing a career as a diabetes educator anymore, but I’m still deeply invested in helping people with diabetes.

Plus, who doesn’t love San Francisco?!

It will also give me a chance to visit Erica, one of my best friends and the designer of the Blue Cupcake cards. We’re going to be launching the newest line of Blue Cupcake cards at the ADA Scientific Sessions. I think you guys are really going to like them. They were inspired by my DSMA Live appearance, so I’m really excited to show them off! I’ll have complimentary cards on hand at the conference, so if you’re there, let me know!

Since ADA requires a certain number of pageviews to attend as press, I had to find someone to essentially sponsor my trip. AADE does not have this requirement, and essentially any blogger can attend as press as long as you write about it within a couple of months after the conference. Because The Blood Sugar Whisperer doesn’t have the minimum pageviews, I’ll be writing a recap about the conference for Insulin Nation. I’ll post a link when it’s published!

 

What I Need To Hear

e57a701bb1dd22e37ac502b9e5ab3c0bI wrote in early April how I managed diabetes while exercising because for awhile I’ve felt like I pretty much understood how I should do it. I have been running for about a year and a half, and even though things aren’t always perfect, I felt comfortable that I knew what I was doing. But because diabetes likes to keep you on your toes, all of that changed a few weeks ago.

Suddenly everything I thought I knew about running with diabetes went out the window. No matter what I did, I either went low less than two miles into the run, or I would finish over 350 mg/dl feeling awful.

On Friday afternoon, I had a particularly bad run. I had spent the morning talking with my CDE, and she gave me some suggestions for what to do. I tried to follow them, but I either didn’t do it quite right or it was just “one of those runs.” Once again, I went low in the middle. I was angry. I already struggle with running because of my weight, and diabetes just added another obstacle. I felt like I was fighting two battles, and both enemies were working together to defeat me.

Out of frustration, I tweeted, “Being a fat T1D training for a half marathon might be the actual worst. I’m not quitting on principle, but I’ve never been more frustrated.”

As expected, I got a lot of responses.

Most of the comments I received were people telling me not to give up. Telling me to keep going and that I could do it. There were people who gave me suggestions and tips about how to manage my diabetes while running. Or they asked me questions about what I was or wasn’t doing. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with anything that anyone said to me.

But it just wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

It’s something that I’ve noticed in myself over the years.  Years ago, someone in a support group told me that I too quickly tried to fix people’s problems when they were venting in the group, rather than just listen. I defended myself, saying that it was my nature to provide suggestions and feedback based on what I was hearing. It’s just who I am.

But now being on the flip-side, I can see how sometimes receiving suggestions isn’t what a person needs. How the now ubiquitous mantra “You can do this!” is sometimes not the best answer. Not that it’s not true — we can do this — but sometimes that’s besides the point. I think the first thing that those of us frustrated and burned out with diabetes is validation.

A few years ago, I saw a therapist. I had resisted for a long time because I didn’t really believe that this therapist could help me. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling, but I eventually went. I shared with her what was going on, even though I had no idea what she could do to solve the problem. And she responded not with some Pinterest-worthy quote about how everything happens for a reason or keep on keepin’ on. She said that it sound like what I was going through was really horrible. She validated what I was feeling as being normal and okay. I don’t think anything had made me feel better than hearing that it was okay to be upset.

It’s not that advice or cheer-leading is always bad. But I think we have to look a little more carefully at what the person might actually want. In my particular message, I didn’t ask a question. I didn’t say, “I’m struggling with going low during my runs. What should I do?” I didn’t even hint that I might want to abandon my plan to train for a half-marathon. Messages about not giving up and that I could figure it out made me feel like I wasn’t being listened to. I didn’t say anything about quitting my plan or feeling like I couldn’t do it. I was just tired of all the work it took in order to do this.

Of course, I’m continually having to try to bite my tongue because I am the worst offender at this. A couple days after my own experience, I saw a Facebook post from a woman who decided to go back to shots after having difficulties with her pump. Immediately I wrote — and later regretted — that I hated being on shots being of the inflexibility of it. Several other women also wrote that they had tried shots and didn’t like it, although there were a few people who said that they had good experiences on shots. It didn’t occur to me until later that this girl might think that I was devaluing her decision, telling her that she was wrong, and that I want her to conform to my life with diabetes. Perhaps all she really wanted was for someone to say, “I hope it works out for you!”

It’s not that people aren’t incredibly well-intentioned. But sometimes I wonder if we’re really listening to what people are saying. In my case, I was frustrated that I even needed to work at this whole running and diabetes thing. Running is hard enough as it is! I was struggling, upset and angry, and the support I received was in the form of more questions to answer and more things to try. I was exhausted.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t share our experiences or suggestions. Before we jump in with our two cents about what people could try, we first need to acknowledge and validate their feelings.

“Yes, you’re right. It really does suck.”

 

Diabetes Blog Week: When Life Hands You Lemons…

Today’s prompt: Yesterday we opened up about how diabetes can bring us down. Today let’s share what gets us through a hard day.  Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day.  Is there something positive you tell yourself?  Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through?  Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost?  Maybe we’ve done that and we can help others do it too? (Thanks to Meri of Our Diabetic Life for suggesting this topic.)

~*~

glass-lemonade-3For those who knew me when, you may remember that my first blog was called Lemonade Life. I had it from July 2005 until January 2012, which is when I decided to close it and take an extended blog break.

The name was borne out of the phrase “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” and that has essentially been my primary guiding mantra in life. I consider diabetes to be a rather large lemon, but I do believe there are ways to bring positivity out of it.

Whether that’s getting involved in advocacy to make a difference, getting more fit and active, or becoming close friends with someone in the diabetes community, I think that diabetes can indirectly bring some happiness. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t love diabetes. But I do love that I have had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to be part of two big advocacy events (JDRF’s Children’s Congress and JDRF’s Government Day). I love that I’ve met some amazing women who have become some of my best friends. I love that I already had a huge network of wonderful and kind people when I moved to Minnesota and knew no one besides my husband’s family.

Remembering some of the good things that life with diabetes has brought me doesn’t necessarily make having diabetes okay (I would still really, really like to get rid of it) and I still get frustrated in the moments with the diabetes ups and downs. But I don’t let that be my overarching attitude about my life with diabetes. Diabetes sucks, but my life with diabetes? It’s pretty awesome.

And I think it is incredibly empowering to take something that is supposed to ruin your life (like a chronic illness) and make something good out of it.

 

 

Diabetes Blog Week: Once More, With Feeling

Today’s prompt: May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks go out to Scott of Strangely Diabetic for coordinating this topic.)

~*~

TherapyRecently I’ve been interviewed for two different publications about diabetes burnout. The first was Ginger Vieira’s book, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, which comes out at the end of this month, and the other is an article for Diabetes Forecast which comes out in August. So apparently I am now an authority on diabetes burnout.

Except not really. I’m not really an expert on burnout or depression or mental health except for when it comes to my own experiences with it.

But that’s about to change.

I thought today’s post would be the perfect opportunity to make a little announcement. It’s something that I have been mulling over for the past few weeks and finally came to a firm conclusion about just a couple weeks ago. I have decided that I no longer want to be a Registered Dietitian.

Instead, I’m applying to the Masters in Counseling and Psychology program at St. Mary’s University in Minnesota. My new goal is to work as a therapist for people dealing with health problems, including diabetes, but also cancer, infertility, and other chronic diseases. I still haven’t been accepted to the school yet. I just finished my application, but with this topic and with it being Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to make the announcement now.

When I moved to Minnesota in January, I quickly realized that most of the work I had done thus far wasn’t going to transfer to the University of Minnesota. They had new requirements that I wasn’t prepared for. I decided that not only was the coursework going to be more intense than I had anticipated, it was also going to lead me down a road that I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I had once been. While I enjoy food and like learning new things about nutrition, the truth is that I don’t really want to teach people about nutrition. It’s something that I enjoy on a personal level, but isn’t something I want to make my career out of.

I had analyzed the requirements for being a Certified Diabetes Educator over and over again. Nothing seemed like it was really going to fit. The only thing that seemed interesting to me at this point was being a psychologist, but a licensed psychologist is a doctorate program. Was that something I wanted to commit to? I reached out to some trusted advisers to get their thoughts on what I could do. In the end I decided that my new course of action was to work in the underserved mental health area of diabetes. I decided that I didn’t want to just work with people with diabetes. We are not the only ones who deal with depression and burnout because of our health. This is rampant amongst all who deal with health problems.

Will I still become a CDE? Perhaps. It’s certainly possible, but at this point I’m at peace with the possibility that it might not happen. I’m also interested in being a health coach, working on behavior change by helping people identify action items and stay motivated. Coaching will also allow me to work with people who live out of state. Counseling is a licensed profession, so you can only work with clients in your home state. Coaching isn’t licensed, and so I will be able to work with clients around the country (and the world!). Of course, I’m still a ways out from figuring out my exact services, but this is what I think I’ll do in the future.

Diabetes burnout and mental health issues is something that is talked about fairly often in the diabetes community, but things seem to stop short of actually finding answers. The DOC is certainly a wonderful place to come for emotional support, but having worked with a therapist myself, there is really something to be said for working one-on-one with someone who can help dig and explore with you. Of course, finding a therapist who understands and has experience with chronic health problems are in short supply, just like diabetes educators are in short supply. Hopefully I can do at least one, if not both!

Diabetes Blog Week: Show ‘Em What You’ve Got

13849112974_b64422ab60_oIt’s the 5th annual D-Blog Week! Before we get started, I also wanted to acknowledge another special anniversary: it’s the 1 year blogiversary of The Blood Sugar Whisperer! I launched TBSW last year so that I could have a space to participate in D-Blog Week without boring the readers of my other blog with all this talk about diabetes. Since then it’s been a great platform to continue sharing my thoughts and experiences about life with diabetes. It’s always nice to have a place to call your own.

Now on with the show!

Today’s prompt: Let’s kick off Diabetes Blog Week by talking about the diabetes causes and issues that really get us fired up. Are you passionate about 504 plans and school safety? Do diabetes misconceptions irk you? Do you fight for CGM coverage for Medicare patients, SDP funding, or test strip accuracy? Do you work hard at creating diabetes connections and bringing support? Whether or not you “formally” advocate for any cause, share the issues that are important to you. (Thanks go out to Kim of Texting my Pancreas for inspiring this topic)

~*~

stamp1Have you heard the old adage “True wisdom is knowing how what you don’t know”?

The longer I have had diabetes, the more I realize how much I don’t know about diabetes and I think that’s the basis for my diabetes cause: education. It’s not just diabetes misconceptions that drive my mission of educating people about diabetes. It’s the conversations I have at support groups, the observations I make on Facebook and Twitter, the personal posts that I read on blogs. All of these things have made me aware that even though we collectively have about eleventy billion years of experience with diabetes, individually we all still have so much to learn about how our own bodies work.

The cause I champion the most is education. It’s why I want to be a diabetes educator and it’s why I write about diabetes. I started writing about diabetes when I was 16 years old, so October will mark my 13 year “writeaversary.” I started writing about diabetes because there were things that I wanted to know and didn’t understand, and I believed that other people wanted to know about these things as well. I started off writing mostly about diabetes research, because it was the area of diabetes I knew the least but was the most interested in. What progress was being made? What were they doing? How was it going to change my life? I started writing about islet cell transplants and xenotransplantations, even recording a phone interview with Dr. James Shapiro on a tape recorder I borrowed from my high school.

It grew from there. I started educating teens about pumps, dealing with diabetes burnout, and staying active. It wasn’t that I was the expert, but I started meeting the experts and  asking them questions (sometimes many, many questions — you should have seen Dr. Tamborlane try to explain insulin action to me using a paper napkin!).

While I, of course, love knowing more about my own disease, I also love sharing the knowledge with other people. Sometimes I’m surprised when I meet someone who hasn’t heard about this-or-that technology or medication, but I know that we have such limited time with our medical team and most of us don’t have the luxury of spending hours and hours researching diabetes.

Ignorance is an issue in the diabetes community. Not willful ignorance, but opportunity ignorance. We have a shortage of endocrinologists. We have a shortage of diabetes educators. We have a shortage of mental health experts. So many people with diabetes do not have access to the quality education, to the medication, and to the devices and the data that make life with diabetes more manageable. And in some cases people do have access to new medication or medical devices, but they don’t even know to ask for it. People don’t know what they don’t know.

We do not have a shortage of people with diabetes. I believe that it is our duty as people with diabetes (or caregivers) to help teach others about diabetes whenever possible. Many of us are fortunate to have access to excellent medical care, the finances to travel to conferences, or opportunities to visit diabetes companies. And for a few lucky ones, learning about diabetes is our job. The knowledge we gain should not just be for our benefit. It should be for the benefit of everyone.

There are so many ways we can inform and inspire people to live healthy, happy lives and it doesn’t involve going back to school to become a medical professional. From social networks like TuDiabetes and DiabetesDaily, to in-person support groups, to Facebook groups or Twitter chats, to writing your own personal blog.

We might not be certified, licensed or credentialed, but we know a thing or two.

Plugged In, Booted Up

Feature NNN - Dexcom dT53This is one of those posts I’ve dreaded writing, because it’s so convoluted and I’m not entirely sure what point or lesson I could possibly impart other than the ubiquitous “Don’t do what I did.”

To start, I’m back on the Dexcom CGM.

When we last left our hero (me), my Dexcom transmitter had spontaneously combusted during a sensor change (that’s what I’m claiming since there’s no rhyme or reason to what happened) on Christmas Day and I was going to purchase a transmitter using Dexcom’s one-time Get Out of Jail Free card.

Then I found out that because my husband was leaving his job, we no longer had access to our FSA money and so I needed to wait. I never mentioned this on the blog, and then of course the longer I waited the sillier it seemed to write about it until I was back on the Dexcom.

In March, I called Dexcom to get the process rolling and to find out what the cost would be with insurance. But as it turns out, I never heard from anyone! It wasn’t until I read the blog post on DiabetesMine about issues with Dexcom that I thought perhaps I should follow up. It had been almost a month and my warranty was now more than over. I called them and of course they hadn’t done anything, but I later learned this is protocol. They can’t actually do anything with my insurance until the warranty runs out or the insurance company will just deny the request.

Fabulous.

After about a week, it was finally time to call CareCentrix (because we’re on Cigna) to find out what damage would be. The total amount to replace the receiver (which has a one year warranty) and the transmitter (which I had lost) would be nearly $1300.

!!!

It was like 10 percent of that last year! What happened?!

Well apparently it all came down to the insurance plan that my husband and I chose back in February when Erik started his job. None of the options were really that great and since I wasn’t working, we decided to go with the plan that had the lowest premiums. With our last plan, the premiums were covered by his company, so we could afford to have better insurance. Not this time. Now our deductible and out-of-pocket expenses were through the roof. I, understandably, was pissed off.

I made about eighteen calls in thirty minutes trying to figure out if there was some kind of work around to this. I really needed to get back on the CGM. I’m training for a half marathon and as it is I don’t feel comfortable going longer than 3 or 4 miles without a CGM. I managed to get the itemized costs for the receiver and transmitter from Carecentrix. The receiver would be roughly $550 and the transmitter was roughly $750. Obviously the thing I need more would be more expensive. I called a nice lady at Dexcom and she told me that unless the receiver wasn’t working anymore, it wasn’t likely that I needed to replace it. It’s really the transmitter that dies because the batteries only last for so long (six months at the minimum, sometimes longer).

I explained to her that initially I was contemplating doing the $199 one-time deal, but since I never heard back from Dexcom about the insurance costs, I wasn’t able to make a decision in time. That $199 deal is only valid inside of the warranty. However, she contacted her supervisors to see if I could get my warranty extended (it had only been a week) and still get a transmitter for $199.

And it worked!

So now I’m sittin’ pretty with my Dexcom transmitter.

Of course, this is only going to work once. You’re only allowed to buy a transmitter for $199 one time, so this won’t work every time I need a transmitter. My hope is that the transmitter will last until early next year, giving us time to re-evaluate our insurance plan during open enrollment to see if there are any changes we can make. My Insulet order was also very high this past quarter. My insulin costs seem decently reasonable (ahahahahaha…), and I haven’t had to purchase any test strips yet because of the Abbott recall.

In any event, I’m all plugged in and booted up with my Dexcom and very, very happy about that. With my increase exercise regime with the half marathon coming up in a couple of months, my blood sugars are becoming more and more unpredictable as I try to readjust my insulin needs. Having the extra help from the Dexom will be a lifesaver!

Best Betes Blogs of April 2014!

It’s May! And that means it’s time for another edition of the Best Betes Blogs! I really enjoyed reading all of the blogs that were nominated. The DOC is filled with so many amazing people and I’m glad to be a part of it.

 

bbblogo-finalBest Use of Humor

Ninjabetic TV: Diabetes Court – George at Ninjabetic

Best Vlog

Omnipod Pod Change Live – Katie at Diabetic Advocate

Best Recipe

Bacon Wrapped Ghee and Garlic Chicken – Lindsay at Living Like Linds

Best Use of Photography

M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E – Laddie at Test Guess and Go

Best Advocacy

I’m Looking At You – Stephen at Happy Medium

Best Reference to a D-Celebrity

Dear Usher and the Diabetes Community – Christel at The Perfect D

Best Story of a D Meet-up

Copies – Alexis at I Run On Insulin

Best non-D Related Post

Humanity Strong – I Have The Sugars

Best Post by a Type 1

What Excites Me – Scott at Rolling in the D

Best Post by a Type 2

Keeping Patient Dignity – Lizmari at The Angry Type 2 Diabetic

Best Post by a Type Awesome

The Ugly Underneath – Joanne at Death of a Pancreas

Best Post from a LADA/Type 1.5

No nominations. :(

Best story of a D-mistake

No nominations here either… which tells me that everyone had perfect diabetes management in April. Good job, everyone! ;)

Best Motivational Post

He Needed This – Alexis at Justice’s Misbehaving Pancreas

Best Diabetes Art

The Fall in Drawings – Meri at Our Diabetic Life

Best Comments
Stephen S

 

Thanks to all our nominees and nominators!
Laddie
Alicia
Rachel
Sara
Stephen S
Stacey
Karen
Nerdy April
Kim
Kate
Brea
Heather (Insulin Resilience)
Heather (Unexpected Blues)
Tim
Alecia