Category Archives: Culture

Stop Assuming You Know How I Feel

Not 24 hours ago did I read a blog post that kind of blew my mind. It wasn’t in the sense that I was exposed to something new and life-changing, but it connected the dots and made sense of a lot of commonalities that have society-changing results.

Heather Gabel, who I have yet to meet in person, writes in “The Things They Don’t Want to See” about people with disabilities and the assumptions made about them. Analogized through staring, the assumptions result as insults and are biased to those making them. I won’t butcher it anymore. If you want, read it.

This quote summed the whole thing up perfectly:

MY EXISTENCE IS NOT LIMITED TO THE IMAGINING OF WHAT IT MUST BE, BUT IT IS IMPACTED BY THE KNOWLEDGE THAT WHAT I DO TO SURVIVE CONSISTS OF THE THINGS THEY DON’T WANT TO SEE.

C’mon… how many times have you heard, “I don’t know how you can take shots every day. I wouldn’t be able to do it.” The typical response to this, if you’re anything like me is something like, “Trust me. You’d do anything in order to stay alive.”

I started thinking about situations like this– comments, questions, assumptions– where I was pigeon-holed. I mean, on top of the assumptions about being Latina, I also get assumptions from both sides about my diabetes. One is invisible, until I make them aware, whether it’s through answering their question about my insulin pump being a pager or in telling a story. The other is visible because of my features, tan skin and dark hair but also my last name and the languages I speak.

About four years ago, I developed vitiligo. It’s not necessarily tied to diabetes, but the fact that I have one autoimmune disease, I’m susceptible to more. While others have thyroid issues and celiac disease, I lose pigmentation of my skin. I’m saying this because it’s true: It’s not a big deal. Compared to diabetes and thyroid issues and all those other lovely autoimmune issues, vitiligo has no harmful effects besides horrendous sun burn. No pigmentation = no protection = very sensitive skin. I’m basically turning white. There have been super stars and super models with it, but who am I?

People don’t mind staring at me. Some ask if there is something wrong. Other’s ask if it’s temporary. Others just stare. Good thing I’m loud and present. I don’t mind answering questions because that person had the courage to ask about something that s/he assumes I’m sensitive about. I’m not.

A colleague of mine only addressed my vitiligo after I told him that I wasn’t born this way– which many also assume. “Can I ask you a question? That is, if you don’t mind me asking,” he said one day. I told him I didn’t care. This isn’t as bad as diabetes can get. I just don’t have color and my color, or lack thereof, shouldn’t be what makes people treat me differently. Isn’t that racism of some sort? Xenophobic?

No one will ever understand what it feels like to be the person who has assumptions made on the daily because she is Latina, has diabetes, is a woman and has vitiligo. Lucky for the rest of the world, you’ll never have to really guess how I feel. My face, tonality and diction speak for me. People make assumptions about me every day and in the end, I really don’t care because I know who I am. However, this still has to change.

I agree with Heather when she takes it down to the minute details. Encouraging your children to feel comfortable and telling them that people are different in so many different ways can one day help both sides. Don’t assume that we’re all sensitive, bitter or afraid, because we aren’t. We’re normal.

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Filed under Culture, Diabetes, Health, Personal, Stories

Is That A Pager? And other random things that make me go… hmmm….

It happens at least once a week, more when I’m around people and have to pull out the pump from my pocket. “Is that a pager?” Now, after being asked for like the 500th time, I have some alternate answers to that question.

“Yes, yes it is. Problem?”

“I’m a doctor.”

“It’s actually a morphine dispenser. Want some?”

I can go on and on as to what I tell them and what they ask me. Sometimes they ask if it’s an iPod or something. Yes, it has internal surround sound. Beat that.

There are other things that we people with diabetes use that typically other people want to use just so that they know what’s going on in their bodies, like a CGMS. “Really?” I thought as I read a comment on my Instagrammed CGMS photo from the gym. “I need one of those for my workouts!” it read.

Here I am, not wanting to use the damn thing because of pain and comfort issues, and this guy wants to use it because he’s a workout freak. Can’t they make something like that for the general public? Make it more painful while you’re at it.

The fact that we live in a data driven society makes me weak with an overwhelming nausea. Fitbits, pedometers, heart monitors, work out apps, calorie counters, spread sheets, all that good stuff that people look at and collect is just too much. The first time the doctor took my pump and downloaded all the information it had stored, I was going to throw up. It was like he was reading my diary.

He knew when I took it off, when I didn’t check, could assume why I didn’t check and why I did (and he was right), could tell me when I ate, how I slept and even knew my deepest, darkest secret! (Just kidding on that one, but they can also see when you take it off during “intimate times.”)

They gave me the print outs of all the information that they downloaded off the tiny purple MiniMed and I was overwhelmed, confused and wanted to faint. Did I really have to know about all the numbers and trends and graphs and data points in order to know I felt good? Did I have to know all of that so that I could check my blood sugar and make a smart decision on how much insulin I was going to take? Normal people don’t even know their blood sugar levels on an hourly basis, yet we were getting it every five minutes. Oh, how jealous must those data nerds be right now?!

I find it interesting that diabetes is such an epidemic that everyone is willing to test you on and question (“You know, I heard that if you…”) yet those same people who are ready to judge really have no idea what we go through or what life is like. When you talk about the pain, the discomfort, the repercussions of the sickness, most people say, “I’d never be able to do that.” Yes you would, modie fodie, because you want to live, breathe, dance, survive. When your life is on the line, you’ll do as much as you can to keep it.

After feeling humiliated and naked after they checked out my data points, I decided that I’d have to be really good and not try to mask things. When you have diabetes, your numbers tell it all. It’s like that idea that you can’t hide what you eat because it shows on your body. I can’t hide what I’m doing to myself because it shows on the CGMs. Caught! Red handed!

Sometimes it’s not about the management of the actual disease as much as it’s about the conditioning to keep things on track. It becomes clock work after a while. I wake up in the morning and grab my machine on my way to the bathroom to wash up. I test and brush my teeth, then go along my merry way. That’s my morning, before I make a smoothie, work out and clean something.

Once you do something for 20 days straight, it becomes a habit. How about if you do it for 20 years straight? I think I’ve skipped checking a few days out of those years, quite honestly.

Now I want to know– if you have diabetes, what situations or things have you found yourself in that make you go “Hmmm…”? Tell me! I want to know! 

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When Your Child Is Diagnosed With Diabetes…

Two of the most important people in any child’s life are parents. No one is going to dispute me on this, I hope. We can also add any parental figures to this as well.

They are your initial caretakers, guides, protectors, allies, sponsors—they are your world and you are theirs. They pick you up when you fall, they tell you that everything is going to be OK and they know that you’ll make it past your first bike crash, burn and flu.

Until something happens that can’t be reversed. This is more than a cold that will pass or a fever that will break. This is something that will forever change the way their child will look at the world and the way that they will consider their child’s needs. This will mean excellent health insurance and health care. This will mean a number of checkups and monitoring of daily activities, proper meals and emergency kits, always hoping for the best of days yet knowing that every day is different.

It will mean daily shots, finger pricks, carb counting, understanding what the child is going through and what’s more is the challenge when the child is too young to speak and cannot relay how he or she is feeling. Keeping track, finding patterns, relaying information to not only the doctors but also trying to explain what’s going on to the child, while worrying about everything else that comes with a family is trying and exhausting.

This is what happens when your child is diagnosed with diabetes. The world changes. Not only does the diagnosed child have to learn to manage the disease, so do the parents of that child. The meaning of “it takes a village to raise a child” becomes real and suddenly the life of the child is literally in their parents’ hands.

I was diagnosed at seven years old with Type 1 diabetes. I followed directions from my parents, found it funny when I would start to shake from hypoglycemia and made lowering my blood sugar a game to play every day. I could talk and could tell my mother how I felt. I also know that my mother was very sad at the time. I didn’t understand why, only because I didn’t understand what having diabetes really meant.

As I got older, my mother helped me to understand different aspects to my body and what happened to my pancreas but she could only guess due to the fact that it wasn’t happening in her body but in mine. At the age of 18, she told me to start going to the doctor by myself. From watching the way she talked and trusted in doctors of all kinds, I learned to do the same and ask questions about the tests and numbers they were constantly doing.

Sometimes I find myself thinking about myself and my future children—will they develop diabetes, too? Along with that, will they be born with it and diagnosed at months old as opposed to the way I was diagnosed? What would I do if that was the case?

I can’t imagine what my mother was going through. I don’t understand the feeling of having something “go wrong” in your child that you have to figure out and learn about and then manage. However, I have given both of my parents the props to do what they did and the help to guide me in the right direction. I give all parents a big congratulation for getting through any type of disease with their child.

I don’t know how I would be or what I would be doing without the help I received from my parents. They’re the ones who laid it all out for me and understood that I wasn’t going to let this get in my way and that all they needed was to be there to support me through it all.

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The Top 5 Diabetic Myths

NO! That will NOT cure your Type 2 diabetes!

Sorry, just letting out my frustration with someone who sent me a message regarding “essential oils” that will “cure” diabetes. I. Wish.

In my timememe-32, I’ve heard a variety of different things from people who are dia-ignorant. That’s right; they’re ignorant about anything pertaining to diabetes. What’s more, what I found is that we people with Type 1 diabetes get discriminated against when we tell people we have diabetes.

“You’re so young!” “You’re not fat.” “You seem healthy.”

Yeah, well, I am young, I’m not fat and I AM healthy! And I have diabetes! Any more judgments you’d like to throw my way?

I don’t say that out loud. In fact, I just laugh at it. But trust me, I’ve wanted to say those things.

I’ve decided to choose a few myths from the top ones I’ve heard from different experiences and people. Let me know what others you know about. I like to be aware.

1. Why those essential oils, weird teas or any Mexican concoction will not “cure” diabetes.

Look. Any way you look at it, nothing will “cure” diabetes. Once you have it, you’ll always have it. You can make it better and even put it into remission, like cancer. However, once it’s developed in your system, it will always be there.

There are things that will make it better like, diet, exercise, particular medications prescribed by your doctor and making conscious decisions about what you’re putting into your body.

And for the love of Pete, don’t STOP taking your medications if you see something is working really well for you, unless you discuss it with your physician.

In the Latino world, we like to do things naturally– me included. I hate thinking that I’m going to have to take cholesterol pills or anything of the sort, so I try not to get to that point by deciding what I’m putting into my body. BUT I still have to take my insulin. I know a lot of people who think they can be cured by teas or other liquid concoctions.

“She drank that and she doesn’t take her medication anymore.” Why? Because she chose to stop? See, that’s not right and can cause more harm than good. Monitoring, eating good foods and talking to your doctor are the ways to put that bad boy down.

2. You eat a lot of sugar, you get diabetes. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The actual CAUSE for diabetes is unknown. However, research has found that it diabetes-here-i-come_o_1552291is hereditary and runs in the blood line. Diabetes develops over time at the cellular level. You eating a ton of candy will not develop diabetes because if you’re healthy and “normal” your body will create the insulin necessary to break down the glucose that you consume.

If you’re eating unhealthy food over time for a long time, there is a possibility of developing diabetes but there is no set of rules stating “If you do this… then you will develop diabetes.” And for people with Type 1 diabetes, this is completely thrown out the window.

Nothing that a person with Type 1 did CAUSED diabetes. In our bodies, our immune system attacked beta-making insulin cells, so we can no longer produce the hormone. That’s it. Because of our insulin therapy, however, we should still watch what we eat, but not be limited because– well, we’re injecting the hormone that your body has.

3. Diabetes is a death sentence. Might as well put me on dialysis now. 

WRONG. If that were the case… oh woe is me! If you’re diagnosed at an older age with diabetes, it might feel like a death sentence because it comes with a lifestyle change if you want to live healthily. Knowing that you can save yourself from infections, kidney failure, heart disease, amputations, erectile dysfunction, would you want to do that instead of sit there and wait for complications?

Diabetes is managed by your lifestyle choices. It takes determination and will power and change. For many people who are stuck in their ways, that’s the hardest part. Throwing out the bad stuff, eating the good and going for walks or bike rides can be enjoyable and you’ll feel better.

This is why I call Type 2 diabetes a disorder. It’s because something just went awry in your body, but you can help to fix it. It takes education. Plus, if you are a father, mother, daughter, son, sister or brother, there are people who care for you and love you. If you don’t take your health seriously for yourself and your desire to make things better, then do it for your family. It’s hard– yes– but it’s doable.

4. Insulin is bad for you and makes your life worse. 

Ha. I’d be dead if this were the case. Insulin is NOT bad for you. It is necessary for you to live. Believe it or not, everyone CREATES insulin. The reason why people like me inject it or are on a pump is because we no longer create it or we don’t make enough of it. That’s it.

If you have Type 2 diabetes and are put on insulin, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s helping your body break down foods and function properly. Oral medications might not have been enough, which is a very probable reality.

5. You did this to yourself. You should be ashamed of your lifestyle. 

Say people all the time. Shame on them. Never will anyone know the pains of having diabetes unless they have it. Just because your body couldn’t “hang” doesn’t mean it’s your fault. Could you have been healthier? Sure. However now is the time to take the bull by the horns and change your life. Turn it upside down. You only have ONE life, so live it to the fullest.

Control diabetes so that it doesn’t control you. If you stop focusing on what you shouldn’t eat any long and focus on what you can and how good it makes you feel, this won’t be as hard as you think it is.

The journey is long but you can do it.

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Gobble.Gobble. The 5 Things I’m Most Grateful For This Year.

I could have said 10. I feel like 5 was just the right amount though.

Every year I write a blog about diabetes and Thanksgiving, or so it seems. I feel like we all do. We talk about diet and eating, bolusing and carbohydrate counting. I’ve written about the things that Diabetes has given me years ago but I’ve never written about the things I’m grateful for because I have diabetes.

So here we go.

1. I’m grateful that people want to know my story. 

In the past few years, including this year, I’ve had people ask me for an interview because of my advocacy and activism online. I’ve been featured in Sanofi’s Discuss Diabetes blog and most recently, I’ve been on La Bloga as a featured interview. I find it extremely interesting that because of my blogs like this or tweets that I put out there for the world to see, I’m contacted. On one hand, I want to tell stories that aren’t normally told (in my case, the Diabetes-Latina-Female version of things) but I also don’t want to be the only one and at times am sad that it seems that I am.

2. I’m grateful that I have a great job with health benefits.

When the world spends $245 billion on diabetes, you have to wonder if there’s anyone helping the world out. At times, I battle this only because when I didn’t have health insurance, I was getting by. However, now that everyone MUST have health insurance, I’m glad I’m getting it through my job and not having to pay for it on my own. There is something sacred about this whole health insurance thing. We are grateful to have it, yet it’s the epitome of capitalism-at-work. We still put so much into having insurance that at times I wonder if the pay out is what I get out of it. I still have to pay when I go see the doctor because well, since it’s up to the hospital, they over extend their value. I went to a specialist recently and hey, I have insurance, I pay a $40 co-pay to see you and she quite literally walked in, spoke for about 15 seconds and left her interns or residents to do the rest. No asking how I am or how I’m feeling– she just told me her recommendation and that was it.

I still have to pay out of pocket for things like pump supplies, insulin, strips– I have to pay over $100 for both of those together. Why? If you have insurance, your prices go up. If you don’t, they’re cheaper. How much sense does that make? Regardless, I’m grateful that if anything should happen, I’m covered. Hopefully.

1496676_10104335075356050_7380396918683718610_n3. I’m grateful for all the people who have supported me through pictures, questions, chats and talks. 

World Diabetes Day 14 was the best. I was all in blue and got my friends and family members to wear blue, too and send me a picture in support and awareness for Diabetes. I was so humbled to see people actually do this for me and those they love. It’s not just about helping to cure those who are ill but it’s about helping to educate those who need the education.

All of my friends and family pictured here, knows what it means to me to have their support. They’ve been with me in the hard times, have read my blogs, supported me in my efforts, asked me questions and pushed me to be the best advocate I can be. They make my work within this space, my awareness-building worth it.

To these incredible people, I say THANK YOU!

4. I’m grateful that I live in a world class city. 

Chicago is known for so many things, including its hospitals, doctors, research and resources. This ties in to having insurance– because of insurance, I’m able to take advantage of all of these things in order to take care of myself and to make sure I’m in good health. Chicago has my heart as my birthplace, my city, my representation of what home is. I don’t ever want to leave, but it’s also because I don’t have to. I hear from other people about the challenges they face in finding doctors, where here in Chicago, I’ve seen one who’s world-renowned, and the other who is one of the best in the region. Researchers, studies, the forefront of medicine and what can be possible– it’s all right here. I’m lucky to have it.

5. I’m grateful for my parents. 

Whether they were afraid to let me go to college or move out of the house, they never stopped me from doing anything. My parents, as a team, taught me how to take care of myself and trusted me to take care of myself when it came time. My mother never sat on me about my A1c after I was 18 years old. Instead I told her about my visits to the doctor and how I planned to make it all better by myself. My dad would charge me with sports and exercise, being my coach in order to get my blood sugar down as I was growing up. Now I tell him about the technology and the numbers and how I see things changing and improving in my health. They have always been my support, have been there to hear me vent, have made it possible for me to take care of myself and definitely set me on the right path. I’m always grateful for my parents, but in this sense, I couldn’t have asked for a better team to handle this life changing disease.

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…But You’re Different…

“But see… you actually take care of yourself…”

I’m different. I said that in my last blog. I know I am because I have something that not a lot of people have. Even less among Latinos. See, I’ve got a rare type of diabetes. I know I’ve mentioned this to a lot of different people. I have not just Type 1, but I have Type 1b that has been shown to be developed due to an environmental cause, like a virus. It is not autoimmune.

1150243_595264203866092_1089546014_nAmong Latinos, among Mexican-Americans, diabetes affects 18 percent of the population. It’s a pretty high number and that was back in 2010. I’m waiting for new numbers to come out since I’ve been reporting on the same ones from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s time to update those digits because I know diabetes is affecting a lot more that 25 million Americans; I can feel it.

So within my community where Type 2 diabetes is most talked about (so much that many don’t realize there are different types) as just “diabetes” there is a certain misunderstanding of what I’ve got going on. It’s hard for people to understand what I go through and why I go through it since I’m not old or overweight and I look like I’m in pretty good shape.

When I tell my story, they look at me as if they’re proud of me and say, “That’s so good of you! You keep doing good and keep yourself healthy.” I get that from a lot of people with Type 2. I end up telling them that I’m fine; I know how to take care of myself. It’s them that I’M worried about.

The downside to having Type 1 is that anything can go wrong at any time. It’s actually pretty dumb. I mean, you can be doing just fine, numbers fine and everything and still have traces of protein in your urine. That’s bad, by the way. Protein should not leave your body. Ever. Or have bleeding behind your eye. That’s the worst, especially when you hear, “That’s because of your diabetes. At least it’s not affecting your vision.” I get chills just thinking about it.

There are still issues that I have to face and I usually face them alone. Why? Because people see me and I look fine and healthy and cool. “You’re different. You actually take care of yourself.” Yeah, that’s true, but it’s still something that I have to be weary of.

Look, I’m not saying that anyone should take pity on me, because I don’t want it. What I’m saying is that having diabetes is just as serious whether it’s Type 1, Type 2, LADA, Gestational or anything else. I need and want people to know about my diabetes just in case. It sucks to think about it that way, but it’s true.

Also, when I’m talking to people about it, I want them to listen and to learn about what is affecting me and my body and what I think about because usually, I’m telling people I care about an I hope they care about me enough to listen. It can also help people that they know, not just me.

The truth of the matter is, is that if you have it well controlled, people don’t think it’s a big deal. And then, as I mentioned in a previous blog, should something go wrong, you’re to blame for it because you must have done something wrong.

Maybe I’m just complaining here, but disorders like diabetes should be acknowledged and almost respected. I don’t want people to pity me and I want them to understand just how much effort it takes to make my body “GO.” Is that selfish of me? It might be.

It also comes from issues that I’ve had in the past. Once, I had sharp pains in my abdomen. The doctors said it was another serious disease that only affects men between the ages of 35-45. I was 23. The doctor said he was 95 percent sure he was right. My mom screamed second opinion.

The day that I committed myself into the local hospital in Urbana, I had to beg a neighbor to take me. “I have a meeting with my professor that I can’t miss,” she told me. I stood in front of her in pain. “Can you just drop me off? You don’t even have to come in with me. Just drop me off,” I begged her. The last thing I wanted to do was take a taxi to the hospital and I was in so much pain.

Later I ended up getting my gallbladder taken out and that was the end of that. No other disease. No more problems. Weird? Yep.

The last time, I was severely dehydrated. It took will power to get myself to a point of being OK after my insulin wasn’t getting to me due to a bent cannula. I was throwing up and was too weak to go anywhere. I asked a few people if they could come and just be with me, in case I didn’t stop throwing up and had to go to the hospital. No one accepted my charming invitation.

“But you’re fine,” I was told. That’s not the point! Doesn’t anyone get it?

Maybe it’s these experiences that have jaded me into thinking that I deserve some kind of attention. Maybe it’s these experiences that have got me thinking that I’m superwoman. Maybe it’s these experiences that have me believing that I can do anything, alone, and not be limited by my disorder, the fact that I’m a woman or even, even my body.

When you take care of yourself, even others see you as a champ; invincible. Is that good? Is that bad? It doesn’t make me have diabetes any less. It just means that the complications are kept at bay. I may be different in multiple ways, but I have and will always have diabetes. Just because of that, I’m one of 25 million others in the United States.

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Filed under Complications, Diabetes, Health, Hospitals, Latinos, Personal, Stories

‘Diabetic’ and what it means to me

According to Webster’s Dictionary:

di·a·bet·ic– adjective \ˌdī-ə-ˈbe-tik\

: affected with diabetes

: caused by diabetes

: suitable for people with diabetes

IMAG2827_1_1And because of this, I have a bone to pick. See, diabetic is an adjective as stated above, however when people say that I’m a “diabetic” it goes a lot deeper and almost feels offensive. Does that make sense? The feeling offensive part, I mean.

For a lot of people, they look at diabetes as a handicap, a disability, something that makes you abnormal. Sure, my pancreas is broken, like Kelly Kunik said on her Facebook status recently, but it doesn’t mean I am. When you say that I’m “diabetic” you’re telling me that that’s all I am.

“You’re a diabetic. You can’t have that.”

Correction: I’m a person with diabetes and I can have whatever I want. Is it good for me? Probably not. But “normal” people shouldn’t be eating it either, regardless of a working pancreas.

Along with that, I cannot stand the last definition “suitable for people with diabetes.” Listen, Webster, there are a lot of things that are suitable for me and of which I am suitable for. Don’t go limiting what I can have and what I can’t. This goes a long way in our daily lives as people who live with diabetes. There’s diabetic cookbooks (really? You mean HEALTHY cookbooks?) and diabetic candy (just say sugar-free because hey, it’s better for your teeth) and diabetic socks ( I mean, anyone can wear those right? What if my mom, who’s not a person with diabetes, thinks they’re warm. Can she not wear them?). I can go on and on and on about this. Don’t go limiting my way of life because you want to market and make money off of me.

The only time I’ve ever found “diabetic” suitable is when someone talks about a “diabetic educator.” I mean, you can also say that we have “diabetic conversations” via #DSMA on Wednesdays. What else? Diabetic comas, diabetic anxiety, diabetic dilemmas, diabetic problems. I mean, the list goes on and on because I use it as an ADJECTIVE not a NOUN people! I’m a Diabetic Grammar Nazi! (I actually like that one.)

Quite honestly, about 15 years ago when my doctors told me I was not normal was the day I said I was. Listen, I have abnormally high BLOOD SUGAR. I, on the other hand, am not abnormal. See the difference?

I would rather be abnormal anyway and all diabetes aside, I still am in other ways. In addition to all of this, I’m a rebel for dismissing anything at the store with “Diabetic” in the title. Why? Because I wasn’t going to limit myself to something that said it was for me. It’s not for me. I know what’s good for me and I can manage to eat things out of a regular “Mexican Cookbook” or “30 Easy Recipe” cookbook. Are you going to tell me to eat less salt? Substitute fake Splenda and Equal for regular granulated sugar? Use Greek yogurt instead of vegetable oil (which is amazing in cakes, by the way)? I’m already five steps ahead of you.

My favorite is when you go to the stores and hear someone say, “This looks good!” Then the other person responds, “It says diet. It’s for diabetics not for you.” Listen, señora, you might want to take the diet one anyway. The biggest difference might be less carbohydrates, less sugar and better for your body– but you know, since you’re normal, have the regular kind instead.

Look, people with diabetes (PWDs) live like everyone should live. We eat in moderation (many of us), we limit our sugar intake (ok, sometimes) and we exercise to get the blood sugars down so we can eat more delicious foods. If you need help in making better nutritional decisions for yourself, see a nutritionist and if you have diabetes, see a diabetic educator so you can learn how to count your carbs.

For the rest of us, leave us alone. You just WISH you had the same will power and discipline we do. If that’s abnormal, so be it.

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Filed under Culture, Diabetes, Food, Health, Stories

Awareness: Whether or not you have it, do something and live the advocacy

Amigos queridos! It’s been another while since I’ve written, but you know, at least I’m still here to tell you about my journeys and adventures as a person living a crazy, hectic life.

IMG_20131104_194128We’re already in November; can you believe it? The year is almost over and we’re about to give thanks and eat like there’s no tomorrow. But along with prostate health awareness with Movember and other awareness activities, we cannot forget about Diabetes Awareness Month.

The community is going wild! And by that, the members of the DOC (diabetes online community) are going nuts with the color blue, exercising and doing the Big Blue Test, that makes you get up and get active, along with a daily challenge created by Six Until Me.

Additionally, I’m starting up #WhereThePumpAreYou again. If you forgot about it, click on that link above to find out why it started and how you can contribute to the energies being put forth in order to build awareness. Let’s help everyone see that there is something you can DO in order to improve your diabetes and health overall.

diabetes-month-photo-a-dayThe people with diabetes understand what we go through each day and our loved ones also understand and feel our pain because of what they see us go through whether we have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

You, the allies, as I like to call you, you are of the most important in this effort to raise diabetes awareness. It is ok to wear blue on Friday for #BlueFridays, tagging it #BlueForDiabetes like the rest of us do. It’s cool to do the Big Blue Test with us because you should be active on a daily basis, even if you’re not checking your blood sugar. Show your support and keep yourself healthy while you’re at it.

Those without diabetes have to understand that we are a community of people who need constant support and motivation and encouragement. When you are there for us, we are more likely than not able to get through a rough day of high blood sugars. Understand that our disorder affects everything we do and as much as you would like to believe that there’s a mathematical calculation to making it all work, there isn’t.

Those with diabetes have to get over the fear that lies within our minds; that someone is going to blame you for your illness. It doesn’t exist because it’s not true. Get over it. We are the #DOC and #DSMA and we are here to give you all the support you need; rejoice in your accomplishments, empathize with your battles but here because we will tell you to never give up. Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, you can ALWAYS make it better. You just have to remember that we’re here for one life and it’s up to you whether you are going to make it a good one or a hard one.

You have to know, living with diabetes or not, that there is always an option to be and feel better. You can excel for more and decide what your blood sugars are going to look like just with a little exercise. Take a walk, dance, do some jumping jacks. Whatever type of physical activity you do, it will help you feel better.

Along with a better diet and above all, positive thinking, you have to be able to pick yourself up when no one else understands (because we’ve all been there) and say, “I can do this.” Ultimately, you’re the only one you can depend on and you have to believe in yourself to do what you need to do. One life, kids. Remember that.

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Gaining perspective to live my advocacy

I put my pump back on a while ago. Although it felt good to be disconnected, I realized that the luxury of it all was constant insulin being pumped through my body. A delicious feeling.

Since my last post, which was way too long ago, by the way, I’ve started a full-time job and I have insurance! It feels so good to say that. Months without insurance felt as though it was 10 years.

Today I called Medtronic to reorder supplies and it was easy peasy. I didn’t have to worry about paying out-of-pocket, I just had to give the information on my pretty little insurance card. I learned a lot, without it. I learned what it was like to have to worry where the money was going to come from to pay for my supplies. I know what it’s like to be down to one infusion set and worried how, if I didn’t have syringes, I was going to get the insulin into my body.

It’s a scary thought, but it was there. Almost as bad as when my pump stopped working. At least when that happened, I did have insurance and was able to get  a replacement within a few days.

You’re going to find this weird, but I liked not having insurance because it put me in an uncomfortable situation. I had to figure things out. I had to worry. All my life I never worried about things like this, but in order to understand my community and what the highest rate of uninsured people are going through. Yep, that’s right. The Latino community has the highest rate of uninsured individuals.

What do they do? I asked myself every time I went to the county hospital. I was fortunate to be educated at an early age, have the resources in order to take care of myself and learn the betterment of my health. But what about those who don’t have everything I did?

I knew what to ask when I went to the hospital. I knew how to “manage up” instead of be dictated to about my health and what was good for me. I knew exactly what I had to say and sometimes, how to say it, in order for the folks helping me to understand just what I knew and how I knew it.

The one thing that I can’t stress enough is education on all counts. I mean, if you are someone with diabetes, educate yourself. If you’re someone who knows someone with diabetes, educate yourself. If you love someone with diabetes, educate yourself.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that there are times when people with diabetes want to give up, we get tired. To constantly think like your pancreas, think about every activity that you do ever day, it’s exhausting along with other daily responsibilities that we have. It’s an effort and what makes it easier is having people who understand what you’re going through.

This is why online communities are so important to many of us. We can find people who go through the same experiences without asking so many questions and bitch and moan as much as we want because, they get it.

If you don’t have diabetes but loves someone who does, the most useful you can be is being an understanding ear. You can understand what it is that we’re going through just by asking questions and doing a bit of research. The support that comes with knowledge is beyond lecturing people with diabetes about what to eat.

I appreciate someone who can help me out by listening and wanting to know. Having diabetes is a part of me, a secret, sacred, special part of me that very few know about. I mean, very few without diabetes know. My DOC, or diabetes online community, knows me well. But that special spot is open to very few.

I want to talk about it. I want people to know me. That’s why I answer questions and I talk about the issues that we go through as people with diabetes, as a Latino community that is not educated properly about their health with diabetes, and I’m not ashamed of who I am or the disorder that I have. I welcome questions. I live my advocacy.

Ask away. I’m prepared to answer.

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My Tangent: The Chaos That Is Diabetes

2013-06-22 11.50.29I haven’t been here in a while, I know. I’ve been too busy writing in other blogs and editorial mediums for this little blog of mine. But alas! I am here and I’m ready to tell a couple of stories about diabetes and my travels to Mexico, lindo y querido.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back from Mexico City and Guerrero, two places that I hold very dear to my heart. I’ve written about my travels and how I felt from a cultural standpoint, but I didn’t really discuss the health issues that I saw and that have emerged since I’ve gotten back.

In recent news, a study emerged from the UN stating that over 32 percent of Mexicans are obese and 70 percent are overweight. I can’t say that I didn’t see this. I did. Very much. Because of this weight problem, almost the same that we see here in the United States, we see a sharp increase in Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. The two go hand in hand.

Articles talking about this issue have stated over and over again that it’s due to malnutrition that Mexicans are overweight. Though this may be true in smaller towns and rural areas, where people eat the cheapest option (mostly chips, candy and pop), in Mexico City it’s not so much malnutrition as a sedentary lifestyle where people are sitting more behind desks than they are harvesting their crops in the field.

Experts and journalists can claim a lot of different issues, but the truth is, when you visit Mexico it’s hard to tell the difference between Mexican communities on this side of the border and actual neighborhoods in Mexico City. There are Burger Kings, Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFCs down there now. And since people look to American “restaurants” as a luxury, they start eating it. Granted, the food down there is healthier than what you find up here. Even the fast food.

Though, we have to think about the violence and turbulence in the country as a whole and how that may even be preventing people from being healthy. It must be taken into consideration, especially when the issue of malnutrition and poverty is at hand.

My Tía Irene making quesadillas.

My Tía Irene making quesadillas.

When I was down there for the week, I ate four times a day until I was ready to pop. Each time I ate, I took the exact amount of insulin and four hours later, my blood sugar dropped as it should and it was time to eat again. Oh, the freshness! My tía would go into town in the morning to buy food for breakfast. It was a daily trip to take to make fresh food that would go bad in two days. Can you imagine that?

The difference between here and there is that their naturally grown food is coming from seed that’s not necessarily genetically manufactured and not grown in bulk. Since growing natural food here is a business, how do you know there is any nutrition left in the lettuce, spinach and corn that we’re eating? If Mexicans stuck to natural foods, they would be a lot healthier. Me, I can live on fruit!

The other issue is corn. Maize is the livelihood of Mexicans. You can make anything with corn and it’s almost in every dish. It’s heavy and has carbs and a lot of the time the food made with corn is fried. What do you get? Larger waistlines and bad teeth.

It’s all about balance and what Mexican people are not learning is that balance. There were few people running around the park when I was out there. I would also bet money that violence has a lot to do with the reason why people are staying inside. Farmers are no longer needing to work because they are out of jobs. Why? NAFTA. OK, that’s an easy scapegoat, but in reality, farmers are out of jobs because countries like the United States are selling their corn much cheaper than the cost of living in Mexico. We grow in bulk, have everything manufactured and have capitalized on capitalization.

I sat there and thought about the chain of issues that are caused and how in the end, leads to fatter people and a growing epidemic in a country that doesn’t need it. There are many other political thoughts that go through my head when thinking about these issues, but nonetheless, I need to keep a focus.

El Naranjo, Gro., Mexico from a rooftop.

El Naranjo, Gro., Mexico from a rooftop.

A good family friend that we stayed with who is in her 70s was telling me about how she was diagnosed with Type 2 about 15 years ago, maybe more. She explained how she had to go to classes to learn about management and nutrition. Because she was scared to lose limbs and die, she took steady care of herself and didn’t need to be on any medication. Then she found out her daughter was moving out of the house without being married (obviously, a big NO NO) and her emotional distress elevated her blood sugar levels to the point that she had to return to medication.

She’s convinced her diabetes is stress and emotion related. Whatever it is, she’s doing well now. She goes to the doctor and manages herself with oral medication. The fear put her in her place in terms of education and treating herself well. She’s now at a point where she knows her body and knows what she can’t eat and what she can’t. Everything in moderation.

Her daughter was recently diagnosed with Type 2 as well and is at the same point she was: afraid. I said, I’ve been living with it for over 20 years and I’m fine. You just have to know your body. She also told me that her doctor said not to be afraid of insulin. I said, nope! Don’t be! I’ve been on it since I was diagnosed and I can still see! The myth there is that if you start on insulin, you’ll go blind. Every Type 1 knows that’s a lie.

I talked about this last night on DSMA en Vivo in Spanish with Mila Ferrer, my co-host. Listen to it if you speak Spanish. Other than that, I’m done with my rant and I’ll see you all next time I get inspired!

 

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