Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Other Half of Diabetes

This is my day 2 post for Diabetes Blog Week. You can see the list of other posts on this topic here.

Today's prompt is:

"We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk? (If you are a caregiver to a person with diabetes, write about yourself or your loved one or both!)"

I think this prompt comes at a pretty interesting time, as I said yesterday I am currently in a funk about diabetes. I am taking care of my physical self the best I can, my blood sugars are pretty under control and I am exercising and eating lots of plants. I feel ever so slightly disconnected with it all. I am doing the motions but feeling like I am floating a bit. Normally I read and read and read about diabetes, research, and everything about the disease, but I find myself distancing from it lately. Maybe because my former job laying me off has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I think the best way to deal with being burnt out on care is two fold: remember the motions and do them, and lean on friends and family. If you are reading this blog, and are aware of DBlogWeek, then you know that you have an entire community standing behind you to support and help you through whatever there is.

Yesterday, when I confessed why I haven't been around much, I had so many people reach out to me privately to just chat it reminded me why I am here. If you need help getting through a rough patch of the annoyingly mundane task of staying alive, just reach out.

Leave a message on a blog of someone you admire, they want to hear you.
Send a tweet.
Join a Facebook discussion.

Be proactive for yourself, being able to speak about your experiences is important in dealing with chronic illness.

It's important to recognize that you probably will burn out eventually, and that's ok too. You don't always have to be "on". I am learning that quickly, when I was able to help others through some dark and stormy times in the past, those same people are able to help me now.

This thing is an ebb and flow. We give when we can, and we take when we need to. It's how our community survives and thrives and grows.

Be a part of it. You will be better for it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

DBlog Week: Day 1: Why Are We Here

This week is DBlog week, a week where bloggers use prompts to write about their experiences for whatever reason.

You can check out the prompts here.

Today's topic: Message Monday: "lets kick off the week by talking about why we are here, in the diabetes blog space. What is the most important diabetes awareness message to you? Why is that message important for you, and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing it on your blog?"

It's odd that this was today's topic. As I was opening my laptop to check out what the prompt was, I thought "I don't know why I am doing this." Honestly.

I don't think I have a particularly interesting voice to add to our community, and lately I haven't felt the drive to write like I used to. This is a very, very saturated blog market, as you will find out while browsing blog week posts. There are a lot of really fantastic voices in it, and I respect and read them all the time. 

This is not to say that I don't think that all of our experiences are interesting and needed, I think they are. I just think that taking the time to blog, for me, has been a trying effort. I have no less than 25 posts started and not finished in my queue because I get part way through and I ask myself "why am I doing this?"

Maybe it's because I am in a professional funk, after being part of a national lay-off in February, and not having a job offer yet, I have spent a lot of time wondering what I want to do with my career. The market is so saturated in my area, it is kind of similar to the diabetes blogosphere. 

That's why I haven't been posting as much. I guess I feel like it's a lot of energy, time and emotion poured in to something that just....is there. 

So I don't have an answer for this first prompt. I am still wondering the same thing.

I do, however, believe I will use my voice as a powerful advocacy tool. I have been speaking to members of government and other advocacy specialists on a few various topics, trying to get things moving.

But it's hard.

I am finding it hard to be motivated to do anything other than find gainful, permanent employment right now. I need a job that will give me some security because the employment insurance program I have been granted has been absolutely piddly and can hardly pay for my extremely expensive burden of student loans debt. It's a deep, dark cloud over my life right now and it's hard to be a light for others when that is my reality.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Corn Salad Recipe

Before I even start here, I know that corn isn't low carb, and it probably won't be celebrated as the next best vegetable for people with diabetes. However it has nutrients, it's healthier than many side dishes and gives you much needed colour to your plate.


Recipe as follows:

-1 bag frozen corn (I use peaches and cream)
-1 tsp (or more or less for your taste) of cayenne powder
-1/4 cup of fresh chopped mint (2 tbs of dry) (you can also use cilantro, but cilantro is terrible)
-1 tsp of thyme
-2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
-1 Medium onion chopped
-Salt to taste
-Grapeseed oil (or another high heat oil)
-Lime wedges for garlic

-In a hot pan with a table spoon of grape seed oil, stir fry the chopped onion until translucent (~2 mins)
-Add garlic and stir for 1 min
-If you're using dry herbs, add them after garlic and stir until aromatic
-Add corn, cayenne and salt and stir for 5-7 minutes. You will know it is ready when the corn turns a deep yellow and the onions take on a bit of colour.
-Serve with a wedge of lime for garnish

I make this for potlucks and BBQs often. It's one of our favourite side-dishes. I usually make it super spicy with extra cayenne. 

Here's the approximate nutrition info per serving (~150 grams)

Calories: 127
Carbs: 26g
Fiber: 5g
Fat: 1g
Protein: 3g

Let me know if you try it out!

Monday, April 11, 2016


Dear Diabetes,

Over the past twenty-six years we have become one. Sometimes we struggle to differentiate our intricacies from one another. I, the person, the whole human, will often try very hard to separate my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions and my actions, from you, the chronic illness.

Twenty-six years ago you robbed my parents of the wind in their sails of having a perfectly healthy daughter. Over the course of the past twenty-six years you presented yourself in ways that affected more than blood sugar swings. Your ability to weave yourself around every. single. moment without ever showing your ugly face, is truly admirable for something that to many is simply a word.

Twenty-six years ago, you decided that my challenges in life would be interwoven with a consistent underlying question of "was it the diabetes?" You changed every relationship I ever have had, including the one I had with my very own body.

It's hard, you see, to love a body that, some days, feels utterly broken and non-responsive. As the autoimmune illness rears its ugly head, and throws us around every corner; I feel a sense of epic accomplishment when at the end of the day I can sink in to my bed knowing that I survived again.

I do well, pretending like you aren't there. Some days, if it weren't for my insulin pump, others may never know you are woven through every cell in my body. Some days, I don't even let newcomers in to my life know that you exist. That must rile you, and churn you. Some days though, some days over the past twenty-six years you stepped in to my light and overtook me. You have landed me in the hospital, on the sidelines, and on the couch. I never let you win, you won't ever win, but some days you're stronger than me.

Twenty-six years of scars line my abdomen, legs and arms. Sometimes in the shower I look down and at the very same moment feel a sense of pride that I am winning, and a sense is sadness that your evidence is always there. My speckled finger tips, and pock-marked skin are a constant reminder that despite how wonderful I am at knocking you on your ass, you will always fight back.

Twenty-six years ago you changed how I would proceed in the future. I didn't know it then, but damn...you made me a fighter. I don't think I would be who I am today without having the knowledge that I can never take no for an answer. I became a feisty, fearlessly independent woman at the tender age of 7. I matured quickly, faster than I should have. I learned as a child that in order to succeed in life I needed to first kick your ass in to place, and proceed with fury. For twenty-six years I have been doing just that.

The connections I have made with other friends battling the diabetes demon are incredibly deep. I have woven these friendships in the deepest part of my soul, a part of me you can never touch, no matter how hard you try.

For twenty-six years, you have tried your hardest to win.

You will never win.

I am forever victorious, thanks to you.

Happy twenty-sixth birthday. I am sure you will be around for many more, so sit down and buckle up because I am not done keeping you in your place.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

World Health Day: Diabetes

Today is World Health Day as recognized by the World Health Organization. This year, the organization has decided to focus on the diabetes pandemic happening worldwide. I think that the WHO is recognizing diabetes is a big step, and as the day unfolds, I will be watching keenly for the messaging surrounding the disease.

I think the infographic displayed here is....ok. It's pretty dumbed down, and heavily focuses on the external risk factors that can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, rather than indicating that this disease can be terrible on the patient and their families.

I don't think we will make much of a change in the mindset of treating, researching, and fixing this pandemic if we keep regurgitating the same messages. Didn't someone very smart once say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

I think it's fabulous that the WHO is getting the word out, and helping focus the lens on the severity of the disease spreading over the world. I think the messaging and marketing could be better, the message they're using is a bit tired, and hasn't worked in the past.

There's are the two things that I wish the WHO would focus on:

-The fact that insulin is incredibly difficult to obtain in developing countries. If you are interested in reading more about this, check out the hashtag #Insulin4All on Twitter or visit T1International.com. You can also visit Partners For Diabetes Change, and learn about Spare a Rose.

-The psychosocial burden of chronic illness on a family is far, far more devastating than any of the medications, blood monitoring etc. This is outlined in the DAWN program, which you can read about here, and here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Complications are complicated

There is an ongoing discussion in the diabetes community about complications, and I think our conversation needs to change dramatically.

Last night I popped in to the #dcde chat about complications, and I was utterly shocked at the way the conversation was being steered.

I feel like this blog post may bring on a firestorm, but the conversation was hijacked by a follower of Dr. Bernstein. I will be the first to say that I have nothing against anyone's personal choices in how they manage their diabetes, or in how they choose to eat. I think if you choose to follow Dr. Bernstein's advice, all power to you. However, there is always a line that can be crossed when you are discussing your personal treatment choices. When that line is crossed in a conversation about complications, I want to spit fire.

The discussion section I caught was in regards to neuropathy. I caught a Dr. Bernstein (self proclaimed in her twitter profile) groupie claim that people who follow the low-carb diet have successfully reversed neuropathy. I thought this was 1) outrageous and 2) just another way for people who feel they know better than anyone else can shame people living with complications.

I can not stand the smug air of superiority when people claim that one exact lifestyle choice is a blanket cure for anything, so naturally I questioned someone using twitter as @thediabetesdoc. He claims to be a doctor, so I asked for clarification of this claim. Naturally, no answer was given. I do believe he is a doctor, but I wish that he would come down solid on the clarification of language.

So, being the person I am, I sleuthed a bit on the Internet for actual scientific articles about reversal of neuropathy.

Here is a link to scholarly articles about "reversing" diabetic neuropathy.

There was no article that said that you can totally reverse neuropathy. Everything I found the symptoms are alleviated with tighter control, and sometimes some people choose a low carb lifestyle in combination with their insulin regimen to achieve these goals. However, there's always a caveat, it's never that simple. You can't just put down the carbs and magically have healed nerves. The same way you can't just put down the sugar and reverse your diabetes.

These conversations revolving around complications need to be more delicate. I fear that this mother may feel an epic downfall if her child, who she has put on the Dr. Bernstein diet, maybe one day will have neuropathy despite best efforts. Unfortunately, this disease is a beast. It happens, I wish it wouldn't. I will fight for it to not be that way for anyone. We need to have a broader conversation about this. We need to be able to comfortably open up about our experiences and not fear a member of our very own community tries to one up us with information that is available to everyone.

I can't tolerate it any more.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

5 Tips to Combat the Stress of High Blood Sugar

Recently A Sweet Life Diabetes Magazine invited me to contribute a piece.

Here's what I sent.

Thanks for reading :)

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, the first thing I learned was to inject.  I practiced by poking saline into an orange. Then I learned about complications of high blood sugar. My doctor explained how dangerous excess glucose was to my body. He told me about blindness, amputations, kidney failure, etc. I remember that he tried to use child-friendly language to explain very frightening things, and he told me that if I didn’t care for myself (with the help of my parents), my future would be very dark and difficult.
As years went by, I was a normal kid with diabetes. Sometimes I would sneak candy and chocolate, just for the sake of fitting in with my friends. My high blood sugars were often met with looks of sorrow from my parents, and then there were my own feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. Every time a number that was out of range flashed on my screen, I imagined glimpses of my future with no legs or eyesight.
The older I got, and the more I began to understand how diabetes complications can happen, the less I worried about them. However, sometimes when my blood sugar is high, I still can’t shake those feelings of failure, despair, fear, and anger.  But I work hard to avoid the the stress and shame that sometimes come with managing blood sugar. Here are my top 5 tips to combat the mental stress that can accompany high blood sugars.

1. Recognize that it is only a number

We need to be able to separate our belief that an “in-range” number is an epic achievement, and that a high or low is a failure. The number that shows on your glucose monitor is merely a starting point for your treatment at that moment. The best advice I have ever been given about high blood sugars involved only these four simple words: correct and move on.

2. Get moving

Moving your body will help lower your blood sugar. You can take a simple walk around the block, or engage in an intense weight resistance workout.  Whatever works for you, do it.  When my blood sugar is high I usually short of breath and nauseated. All of these symptoms tend to melt away when I take my dog for a walk.

3. Forgive

Forgive yourself: You may have missed a bolus, forgotten to take your morning long-acting insulin, under counted carbohydrates, forgotten to connect your pump, or were just too burned out to care for days. No matter what the reason behind the number, you need to forgive yourself.
Forgive your family: your family and friends may freak out a bit at high blood sugar. Let them experience their fear. They’re allowed to worry, and freak out. Unfortunately, it is also up to you to kindly remind them that their reactions are not helpful in a time that is difficult.

4. Journal it

This one may be new to you!  I track how I feel when my blood sugar is high, and what may have caused it to be high.  After I have several experiences, I review my notes and try to learn how to recognize my symptoms at an earlier stage, rather than catching them at a level that has caused a general sickly feeling in my body. My high blood sugar journal can be a pain in the butt, and I will be the first to recognize that it’s hard to look back on a log of “failures.” However, let’s revisit #1 right now… Move on.

5. Talk about it

Talk to your friends, the diabetes online community, your social media accounts… shout it out loud that you are feeling glum because your body’s chemistry is off and it sucks. It’s a part of diabetes, and the more people that talk about their experiences with distress when blood sugars are high, the more we can come to terms with the feelings of shame or failure. There’s absolutely no shame in having a high blood glucose reading.