Category Archives: Doctors

Predicting the Drop

7752_10102548597861270_169164729_nI walked into Stroger Hospital today for a pump clinic meeting. Interestingly enough, I knew  a few people sitting in the room. The diabetic educator was one. The other was a representative from Medtronic, the company that manufactures my insulin pump and supplies. He taught me how to use my CGMS when I first got it. Then there were two endocrinologists whom I hadn’t met before. All were there for me.

They requested my purple Minimed and downloaded all of my data, enough to build a pretty solid profile of what kind of person with diabetes I am. It was intimidating, to say the least. On a giant screen before me lay all of my data: They knew when I took my pump off, when I ate, when I checked my blood sugar, when I had chaos in my life. They knew more about me than the people I talk to every day. I couldn’t hide anything from them, not that I wanted to.

They saw the chaos that I went through earlier this week, when three cannulas bent on me. It was horrendous. The thing about bent cannulas, which are basically mini catheters that deliver insulin under the skin, is that you don’t know their bent until your blood sugar is running in the 400s and no matter how many units you deliver it doesn’t drop. Then after checking everything twice over, the last resort is to pull out the infusion site to see if there was anything wrong there.

296129_10102548024375540_173358406_nCan you imagine doing that three times in a row? For two days, I felt like the sugar in my blood stream had turned to syrup and I was moving slower than a sloth. It didn’t stop me though. I still worked and when I lost all faith in technology, I decided to resort to shots. I’d never been so happy to use a syringe. Sanctification!

Anyway, I told them that story this morning and they saw it. So, we’re going to disregard that, they all concluded. After asking me to remember what happened earlier this week, what I ate and telling me to dive into technology, they had made subtle changes to my pump settings and told me to continue to track everything.

I had never been through a meeting like that, where I had, not one but four different people looking, examining and figuring out how I manage my diabetes. I had never done this before in my life. It seemed like a lot of work, but nonetheless, that’s what it’s there for– to know how you work and how your body works even better by just testing your blood sugar. Amazing.

Technology had once again piqued my interest. Regardless of the fact that I have this sensor on and that I have the pump on almost 24 hours a day, I had never thought about the wealth of data and collection of knowledge that this small thing was absorbing every minute of the day. It was a sponge and it told me more than my pancreas ever could.

With what they said, I would be able to predict low blood glucose, high blood glucose and in the end curve the spikes in blood sugar that make us feel so terrible. Isn’t that what we all want? To just feel good and feel “normal”?

Overall, the conversation was open and pleasant. I’ll be able to go back in September and hopefully this tracking system won’t be so overwhelming.

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Filed under Diabetes, Doctors, History, Hospitals, Treatments

DENIED Because of a Pre-exisiting Condition

As I was walking in this gloomy weather, I couldn’t help but think about the issues I have to go through because I am a person with diabetes. I mean, among those with diabetes, I feel like we talk about it all the time.

Checking blood sugar.

Counting carbohydrates.

Faulty hardware for pumps.

Blood sugars too high.

Blood sugars too low.

Frustration, anger, sadness, impatience.

Happiness for balance.

But then you realize that there’s more. That every move you make and every physical illness or issue that you may come across gets blamed on diabetes. It’s not like people ask you, “How does that affect your diabetes?” Most of the time, they ask, “Is that because of your diabetes?”

Blood sugar meme1The “outsiders” are not the only ones who think about it. We do, too. I do, all the time. Pain, numbness, headaches, skin discoloration: the first question I ask myself is, “Am I not taking care of myself well enough?” It’s a scary feeling. Especially for me, right now, it’s hard to try and feel as though I’m not falling apart.

Remember Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic?” Yeah. That’s me. I had great insurance coverage and took it all for granted that I could see whatever doctor, whenever I needed to and get supplies every three months. As soon as I remember that I don’t have insurance, I feel like everything hurts, my eyesight is going, my head’s going to fall off and I won’t be able to remember my own name tomorrow.

People like me, we need insurance. We need it to pay for supplies, hardware, strips, trips to the doctor, tests, everything really. However, I currently don’t have health insurance. Due to this little pre-existing condition that has ruled my life, I have been rejected and will be rejected by any major medical insurance carrier.  Trust me, I’ve applied. If you know of any major medical plan that judges you by “Do You Have Any Current Health Issues?” let me know.

Then you have all these other insurance companies that say they will cover you because you become part of a pool of people who also have preexisting conditions. Nope. It’s not major medical and it’s a rip-off. Coverage at the pharmacy, what I need the most for test strips and insulin, was non-existent. I was being charged incredible amounts of money for a three-month supply of anything. They didn’t cover anything. It was quite ridiculous and a waste of money.

When it came to hardware for my pump, I had to pay out-of-pocket and was charged $138 for one month. Before, I didn’t have to pay for it. Oh, you lucky people with a pancreas that works!

I don’t know if it makes me feel any better, but I usually explain why I don’t have health insurance. I tell them I’ve started my own business, that I’m an entrepreneur and that I am trying to make it happen for myself and for those who are involved. It’s hard. When I didn’t have insurance a few years ago, my doctor kept telling me to work at Starbucks. Guess what. I applied and never got a call.

Look, I don’t want to work in a cubicle for someone who calls me “Christine” and underestimates my abilities. I’m not a corporate ladder climber. I want to do things for myself and run the quick game that I play. I never wanted to be limited by this disease– this disorder– and it’s not fair that I am.

I keep asking for a miracle of some sort. The only hope at this point is for 2014 to get here and for people to tell me that having diabetes is not going to hinder my ability to get a major medical plan. I really don’t understand why some people don’t understand my ambition. It’s not more important than my health, but at the same time, it’s at the same level.

With or without health insurance I’m vigilant over my blood sugar, my health and the way I feel. The downside, of course, is the fact that I have to pay for everything out-of-pocket. As much as it sucks and as much as I owe doctors money right now, I have no choice. I’m hoping that regardless of what I decide to do, I will be taken care of and someone is looking over me.

For now, I raise my cafecito cup to all of us that have health battles to endure yet keep going, fighting and following our dreams and desires. You’re not alone and neither am I. Cheers to you for doing what you want and not being limited by this blasted body you’ve been given.

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Filed under Complications, Doctors, Hospitals, Treatments

At 28, I’m Ready To Bring It Back

Hi world at Kikisbetes.com!

It’s been a while since I’ve been here on my very own site with my very own insights and blogs. What a blessing. Yesterday I decided that I was going to revive the blog and it was a long time coming. Well, actually about a week and a half. I went down to Miami for the Hispanicize conference and met a ton of Latinos all doing the same thing; making it happen with their own insight, brands and storytelling.

Pump and I at Hispanicize

If you don’t already know, I’m a founding member of Pícaro Media, a content creation company for the Latino market. We’re pretty cool, if I may say so myself. Anyway, we went down to South Beach and I knew I was going to find one fellow diabetes blogger. As I sat in her panel discussion, I asked a question and was approached by several different people about having diabetes. I realized that since I have become a representative of myself and what I do, I would have to revive this blog. It’s a good thing, too. I have a lot to talk about.

I made it to 28 everyone! I know, plenty of you are saying that that’s so young, but it feels good to be another year older with more wisdom under my belt. Wisdom, friends, insights, experiences, the whole thing feels delectable.

So here come the diabetes stories I have. On my way down to Miami, I was harassed by the TSA again.  Not harassed, since I’m used to it, but instead of putting me through the metal detector, when I refuse the body scanner they automatically have to pat me down. That’s slightly ridiculous if you ask me. It happened going to and coming from and is a pain in the butt. There has to be a standardized way of handling us people with diabetes, I tell you. Because it’s becoming very unfair. Like I said before, I don’t ask for privacy because I want people to see what I go through so they learn and know how discriminatory it is.

Secondly, I was listening to Dr. Oz today as I was getting ready to leave my apartment and I heard him say, “This is what happens to diabetics.” It irked me. To have a “doctor” say that kind of sucked. This little pet peeve about words, I think, makes more sense coming from me as a journalist and a grammar Nazi. However, on the other hand, these words have an impact on the people of whom you are speaking. It’s like calling someone “disabled.” We are not defined by these words. We are merely subject to the limitations these issues have on our lives, but it doesn’t stop us from living. Properly, it is said “People with diabetes,” and “People with a disability.” Done and done.

I think that’s it for now. I just wanted to share a bit so that I can tell people I’m bringing this back to live for my 28th year of life. I feel good about it. It’s moving forward and so am I.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Filed under Diabetes, Doctors, Latinos, Stories

Diabetes Melodies

So the other day, my boyfriend was looking up videos about diabetes and came up with a few good ones. I want to share them here because I’m being lazy and really, I have nothing to write about just yet. I plan on getting my HbA1c tested next Saturday and I’m still writing down everything I’m eating and calculating the appropriate carbohydrates.

Yesterday I woke up with a blood glucose of 491. Pump fail. I should have known something was up when I first put the pump on because it said I had less than I really did. Not mention the night before last my blood sugar wouldn’t come down. It was scary to say the least and I slept a lot while constantly checking my blood sugar, drinking water and taking insulin. I checked my ketone level, of which the strip said I only had a trace so I was ok with that. But man, it was scary. I didn’t know what to do and I wanted to rip the pump out and give myself a shot. I changed the pump and it all worked out, thank God.

Anyway, moving on. My sugar reading for dinner was 75. Slightly low, but I had been getting hungry and didn’t eat much in the morning. Needless to say, I definitely enjoyed my dinner.

So here are the two videos that my boyfriend found that I thought were hilariously awesome and decided I should share with you, my fabulous readers. Let me know what you think, si?

My favorite line: “I’m a Type 1, son!”

This one is more for the Type 2 kats out there but nonetheless, still good information to know. I don’t have a favorite line for this one, but loved exaggerated corniness of it!

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Filed under Complications, Diabetes, Doctors, Health, Stories

Goals for the New Year

I refuse to call it a resolution. Bottom line.

Last night, I had the pleasure to be part of a podcast conversation with Gozamos, an online cultural magazine. I was asked to talk about Diabetes from a personal and cultural perspective. It was exciting and at the same time made me nervous because I had never really openly spoke to an “audience” about my diabetes before. I suppose I write, but that’s different than people seeing me and my face and hearing my voice, get me? I’m used to speaking to people one-on-one about particular questions they may have, but as far as telling people my story, well, that can get a little hard.

Anyway, I’ve agreed to join Gozamos in their diabetes and nutrition efforts by writing a column for them about nutrition and a variety of other aspects to the diabetic lifestyle. I’m very excited and looking forward to getting more awareness out there about a problem that affects such a large segment of the Latino and general population.

So let’s go back to my goal for 2011, that which I refuse to call a resolution. Let’s take a little history lesson in Christina’s life. When I was diagnosed with having diabetes at the age of 7, they performed a test on me called the Hemoglobin A1c test, which is an average of your blood sugars over a three-month span. A normally functioning person has an A1c at about 6 or lower. If you have an A1c over 6.5, it’s a reason to be concerned.

At the age of 7, my HbA1c was a 10. Yeah, exactly. I was definitely diabetic. Ha! (I really just laughed at that.) As I aged, I also became more wise about myself and kept my A1c controlled as best as I knew how. In high school and most of college I kept it at an 8 and when I met my doctor and educator at Northwestern I dropped it to a 7. I was so happy to have it down to an almost normal number! The last one I had done, last year, was a 7.4. A tad bit of fluctuation but nothing terrible. I’m up for another one this month. I know it probably will still be around a 7, which is fine by me. But my goals for this are changing.

I hear about people who have an A1c of a 6 or even better and they’re diabetic. I want that. I want to get mine down to a 6 and have complete control. I want to do it without having to work out like a maniac and without having to eat only grass. I have always known how to count my carbs and watch what I eat and all that, but now with the pump (a very useful tool in creating the perfect “normal” bodily conditions) I can actually get myself down to a 6; maybe even a 5.9!

I’m not going on a diet, I’m furthering my diabetic education.

But be careful when looking at A1cs: They’re tricky. As I talked to Luz, the Tu Cultura editor for Gozamos, after the conversation for the podcast, I explained how the A1c is an average. That’s the key word. The goal for diabetics is to keep your blood sugars at a normal, even level. If your blood sugar is always around 100-110, you’ll have a great average reading. But, for you mathematicians, you can get the same readings if you have a level in the 300 and then have some in the 50s. You can’t do that. First of all, the normal level for any human is to keep blood sugars between 70-120. If you drop (“getting the shakes,” which happens sometimes) to anything below 65, it takes a full 24 hours for your body to recover and come back to a normal state. Your body goes through a lot in that time period. Sometimes I wake up with blood sugars in the 40s in the middle of the night. I eat something and go back to sleep, only waking up extra tired in the morning. My body feels weak and unstable and it isn’t until that same night that I feel remotely normal.

There was a doctor who was also a Type 1 diabetic. She was also a speaker and educator. At a conference she spoke about managing her blood sugars and having a very good A1c reading. That night, she went to bed and didn’t wake up. Unbeknown to anyone around her, her A1c was good because she kept them at a dangerously low level. She passed away because her blood sugar dropped so low that she didn’t feel it.

Thank God, I feel it. When I drop in to the 50s, I feel it. When I drop to even just the 60s I feel weird and at night, my body wakes me up because it knows that something’s wrong. This is because I try to keep my blood sugar in the 90s and 100s which is normal. As soon as it goes above those points, I start feeling different symptoms and everyone is different.

This woman, who kept her blood sugar readings so low, didn’t feel the drastic drop because to her body, it was normal. This is why it’s important to “train” your body and keep it as regulated and moderated as possible; “normal” if you will.

A friend of mine told me that her mother who is a Type 2 diabetic has two eyeglass prescriptions because depending on where her blood sugar is, her vision shifts. This is also as a result of not taking care of herself. She is also having other health problems, of which include her kidneys. All of this could be prevented if she just managed her blood sugar.

There are times like those when I wish I could have a conversation with people, especially when they feel there is nothing they can do or don’t want to do. Living with Diabetes is NOT impossible. I’m living proof as well as so many other thousands of people out there.

In the end, it all sounds easier than it actually is, but I plan on getting that A1c down by doing it the right way. I’m totally excited about it!

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me in one of many forms! Leave a comment, email me at kikisbetes@gmail.com or follow me at @kikisbetes and DM or @ me there!

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Filed under Complications, Culture, Diabetes, Doctors, Health, Latinos, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories

Pump up the insulin!

Beryl Larson and I at the Diabetic Treatment Center

It’s been about a month now since I’ve gotten my purple Minimed and I can’t say I loved it from the start. Like anything, it takes a lot of getting used to and sheesh, the first time I had it on was a nightmare.

I didn’t expect it to be as nerve-wrecking as it was. I’m a patient at Mercy Hospital in Chicago and the diabetic nurse who’s been helping me through this whole process is Beryl Larson. She’s a great woman; patient, understanding and encouraging. Anyway, I got it put in on Nov. 20. Beryl and my doctor, Dr. Uy, told me not to take insulin the night before.

Let’s step back a minute so you can possibly understand what I was going through. If you’re diabetic, you will. So before the pump, I was taking two types of insulin. The first, that I would take in the morning and in the evening before bed, was called Lantus. This insulin is a slow-acting insulin. You take it, most of the time, once and it slows the rate of glucose that your liver produces. Because, yes, your liver produces glucose (or sugar). Now, take another step back and look at it from a “normal” experience.

Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin (which is what I was taking through injection). The hormone allows for your cells to use the food you eat and convert it into energy. When your pancreas makes too much insulin, your liver intervenes and makes glucose, so it balances your body out. Unlike diabetics who have to calculate everything, in “normal” bodies everything is taken care of. The cause behind why sometimes “normal” people feel weak or shaky is due to too much insulin and not enough food or sugar. See? Easy as pie!

Now let’s go back to my insulins. The Lantus is slow-acting and does not peak, which means using it will result in less cases of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and would work throughout the day, up to 26 hours in my body. Humolog, is a fast-acting insulin and started working a half hour after taking it. I would take this when I ate to compensate for all the carbohydrates and food I was eating. I was acting as my own pancreas, which is weird and takes a lot of time and practice.

The Purple Minimed. Should I name it?

Basically, after all of that, I wanted to explain just how often I was on insulin (all the time!) and what it was like not to have it. Since I was used to taking Lantus the night before to help me out while I slept (my blood sugars used to run really high at night for some reason and result in a high blood sugar in the morning) my sugar was running on the high side. I didn’t have any insulin at all running through me.

I showed up at the hospital and I went through the whole process of changing and putting on the pump myself. Then we started it as the doctor had prescribed. Two units every hour, one unit for every 12 carbohydrates that I ate and that was it. Now, instead of taking two insulins, I am now only using one called Apidra. This insulin is another rapid acting insulin like Humolog, except that it works in half the time (15 min) after injection.

After starting up my little purple pump, I went to eat breakfast. I counted out my carbs and gave myself the appropriate dose, which by the way, the pump calculates for you. No more counting out unit to carbohydrate ratios! I then walked around the hospital and I could feel my blood sugar going up. This is when I begin to freak out.

I checked my blood sugar and it had gone up to the 300 range. A half our later it went up to the 400 range. Now, since I was used to just giving myself injections to control this up and down thing, that’s all I wanted to do. When you see yourself hitting those numbers, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Holy hell! Where’s my insulin pen!” The feeling is horrendous. I start getting headaches, my mouth goes try, I have to start peeing every 10 minutes and I get nervous. Mind you, the stress only adds to all of this.

So Beryl calls Dr. Uy. Dr. Uy says to just wait the two and a half hours for the insulin to be fully working. Beryl also reminded me that technically my body was catching up from the lack of insulin those hours before. After about five hours from when we first arrived, my blood sugar dropped to 245. Although it was high, I was never so happy to see a number like that before. “Ok, good,” said Beryl. “It’s dropping.”

From there on, I downloaded an app for my phone that allows me to keep track of carbs, medication, blood sugar readings and basically anything else I want. I’ve been back to see Dr. Uy and she changed my doses from what I started off with, which, I have to say, have worked a lot better.

From midnight to 9 a.m. I’m on a 1.7 unit basal rate.
From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. I’m on a 2.0 unit basal rate.
And from 7 p.m. to midnight, I’m on a 2.1 basal rate.
I’m on a 12:1 carb ratio with a sensitivity of 40. Although I’m not always between 100-110, I may be at 120 or somewhere in the 90s which is exciting to see.

After getting used to it, I feel like I’m now at a new point of taking care of my diabetes and using this new (ok, new to me, old to a lot of other folks) is awesome.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

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Filed under Diabetes, Doctors, Health, Insulin, Stories, Treatments

It’s more than super-sized margaritas and tres leches cake

I was approached by a reader a few weeks ago who told me that she would like for her story to be told. After glancing over her story the first time, it seemed that her story was very interesting and well put. She was a very cautious person when it came to her health because her mother was Type 1 diabetic.

It seemed to me that this woman was bitter at the fact that gangrene had infected her mother’s toe and eventually caused her death. Although this woman blamed it on diabetes, it was also caused because it wasn’t found in time. Her mother didn’t go to the doctor for it; at least, she didn’t mention that in the story.

So since then, this woman has taken excellent care of herself. She had check ups all the time and eventually tested her A1c level, which was that blood test I mentioned before, which gives a broader scope of how well an individual was dealing with their diabetes. Because her doctor was not satisfied with the results (this woman did not mention what they were) she was pinned as being pre-diabetic. This just means that you’re prone to it. So, even after this woman had been taking care of herself her entire life, she was still on the path to possibly having diabetes.

So, after reading this, I thought, what an interesting story. Sure, I’ll post this. Then she revised it saying that the new one may “work better for me.” After reading it, I found that she decided to be a little more savvy about Latinos and diabetes by writing this:

“Hispanics are twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, partially due to cultural associations with foods, beverages, and mealtimes. Despite stats that say Hispanic female heads of households are more conscientious about calories and nutrition than non-Hispanics, the majority are in total disregard, drinking super-sized margaritas, beers, turkey legs or fritanga and topping it off with tres leches. As a result, obesity is rampant in the Hispanic community, and Type 2 diabetes is hitting children like never before.”

Now, mind you, I agree with the parts about diabetes being a silent killer among the Latino community. I agree that obesity is a problem as well, but I don’t agree with her reasoning as to why. In fact, it was stereotypical and uncalled for, something that I told her in an email. I also mentioned that for being a diabetic advocate, her reasoning as to why Latinos were prone to diabetes was not good.

She claims that she lived and own a tapas bar in South America and she works with LULAC and other Latino organizations, but why did she feel this generalized section about Latinos was necessary? In a way, this just shows what kind of people are marketing to diabetics and the Latino community– people that don’t understand us. Just because you lived in South America and owned a tapas bar, doesn’t make you an expert at Latino culture, just as a visitor.

Diabetes is huge among all people of color and across the entire United States. Latinos have reasons besides super-sized margaritas to explain why diabetes is emerging in many members of the community.

Let’s take a step back and look at the reasoning why.

1. Latinos in their home countries are accustomed to eating healthier foods. This means fresh and not full of chemicals, like preservatives and hormones. They go to the market every day and in fact probably ate organically in their Latin American country.

2. When Latinos come to the United States, they eat the same way. They don’t think about nutritional facts, just wants going to connect them to home, to their roots. This is why 1 in 3 people in the Puerto Rican community are now Type 2 diabetic. In Puerto Rico, everything is fried. Here, there are differences in the food they’re frying and the kind of oil they are using. In Mexico, people eat a lot of beans but they’re not re-fried and they don’t come in a can. Here, we have to resort to cans because who has time to cook beans on a weekday? Seriously, if you have cooked beans you know it takes forever and a day. It’s a cultural difference.

3. Another cultural difference is work. Back “home,” wherever that may be, many people do laborious work. They are out in fields, they walk everywhere, they “work out” because it’s a way of life. Here, we sit in offices and stare at computer screens. This is a big reason why Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance results in people of color. Our bodies are not used to working with so much insulin that our body creates due to what we eat, especially because our food and caloric intake was lower and burned off at a higher rate through all the movement and exercise that was being done. Even if you were born here, your body hasn’t evolved past that of your current ancestors (i.e. your grandparents or great-grandparents)

4. Change of lifestyle is hard. When people come to one country from another, that’s hard. Then you tell them to stay away from what they know because it could cause them harm. That’s harder. But it doesn’t excuse people who have been here longer. They have to learn about what’s going on in their bodies and how to stay healthy. Like ALL Americans, Latinos are getting lazy. A trait gained from the NEW, not old, culture.

5. People choose to disregard their diabetes because they think they’re supposed to die of something and it’s not old age and JUST old age. See, in the Latino community, I’m sorry to say it, but many people are morbid. They think about all of the bad things that have happened and what will happen. They also feel invincible at times. To hear that they have diabetes, they think it’s a disease that they’re supposed to die from. They’re not educated properly about how to take care of themselves, just because they don’t know where to go.

There are a lot of cultural reasons as to why Latinos have diabetes and these are only a few. This woman who made generalizations about the entire community, was obviously not educated on these reasons herself. She represents those people out there who don’t know the reason behind different cultures besides their own and decide to blame cultures and races for their own misfortunes.

Although I thought she was on the right track with educating us about herself and her story, I was obviously wrong and do not plan to promote any generalizations or stereotypes about my own culture.

Sincerely,

Your Loyal Latina.

Update: She emailed me back and clarified the fact that she was speaking strictly about San Antonio, noting that in Mexico and South America, they ate very healthily. I would like to hear back from readers as to what your thoughts are.

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Filed under Culture, Diabetes, Doctors, Food, Health, Latinos, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories

The Support That Pulls Through

Ever try to go on a diet but no one in the house understands and continues to buy cookies and candy, not caring that you’re attempting to stick to your salads and lean meats? Living in a household with more people than just yourself can make dieting kind of hard. When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, of whatever type, multiply that need for support times 10.

A lot of times it’s hard to keep having to explain yourself to other people, especially when you’re learning how your own body needs to improve and function properly to stay healthy. Diabetes is a lifestyle change that many people don’t like to go through, especially Latinos. It bothers me sometimes that many Latinos just want to give up because they think they’re supposed to die from it. I’m Latina and I’m here to tell you it’s not TRUE!

I met someone last year who was diagnosed with Type II diabetes; a Latino. He emailed me to ask what he should do. Get to a doctor, I told him, but firstly, you have to stay away from anything with unnatural or processed sugar. No more pop, no more fast food. Stick to natural and healthy. I gave him a few more pointers since he admitted to me that he never exactly lived a healthy lifestyle and he didn’t know where to begin.

A few months later, he walked into the office where I worked. He had lost about 20 pounds and rejected a sugary drink. “I’m trying to stay away from the sugary stuff now,” he said. I was proud of him for actually taking the initiative to improve his health.

When you have a team of support behind you, you work harder to improve your life. Learning about the consequences if you don’t take care of yourself, like heart attacks, strokes, amputations, blindness, sores and death, may also scare you into your lifestyle change. Whichever works, do it. I say, find that support system.

When you buy food at the grocery store, you don’t have to completely stay away from sugar, just find a balance and choose  wisely. Nutritional Facts on the back of the packages is a good place to start! Finding cereal with whole grain, a lot of fiber and little sugar is better than Frosted Flakes. Now, they sell juice with 50 percent less sugar than regular cartons. When looking for bread, find high fiber, whole wheat bread because fiber actual helps maintain your blood sugar levels. Stay away from consistent red meat and make sure to eat chicken and turkey and fish. Get your family away from high sugar intake. It’s bad for your teeth and just doesn’t make your body feel good. Eat more fresh fruits with natural sugar (which is digested faster) and better for your body. Eat green vegetables. If you grill bell peppers, their sweetness comes out and are delicious. And remember, organic should be your way to go.

As a kid, I didn’t have a choice. I found out I was diabetic when my mom had me checking my blood sugar the required three times a day. “Am I going to have to do this for the rest of my life?” I asked as she pricked my finger. Yes, she told me. That’s when I knew.  A few weeks later they put me in the hospital for four days to monitor my insulin treatment, making sure my body wouldn’t reject the hormone and the dosages were correct.

My mother went through a depression I had never seen before. The fact that her first-born had an illness no one knew anything about was hard for her. How was she going to deal with it? Was it her fault?

I’m not going to lie, I was a fat kid. But at the same time, diabetes starts even before anyone can notice it and by the time any effects are seen, 90 percent of the insulin-making cells have been destroyed. So, it was in my body for long before I was diagnosed.

In order to treat it the best way they knew how (they being the doctors), I had to be on a very strict diet. I had two pieces of toast in the morning with a half cup of orange juice. For lunch I had a sandwich and milk. Everything was accounted for because I was on a consistent dose of insulin and I had to eat or else my sugar would drop. I lost a lot of weight and was attempting to control my diabetes. But I forgot to mention the naturalezas that my grandmother was convinced would cure me! I had concoctions that tasted like grass and plants. I swallowed garlic whole and ate some other things that people would give me. I drank holy water, rubbed holy oil all over my body and they prayed, but nada.

Anyway, at that point, it wasn’t just me that needed support, but my mother did, too. One thing I forgot to mention is that my cousin, who lived three blocks away, was also diagnosed six months before I was. So my aunt was in the same boat as my mother, although she didn’t take it so hard. Both my mom and aunt sought out support groups from the hospital my cousin and I went to. We too, were also in support groups for kids. Some kids would come in and still be healing from the repercussions of diabetes and had to carry along their IV bags and were in robes. Like my cousin, many kids and young adults find out they’re diabetic because they get flu-like symptoms due to hyperglycemia (when your blood sugar is way too high). My cousin was vomiting, peeing every five minutes, his breath smelled of candy (because of the sugar), he slept all the time until finally, they didn’t know what else to do besides check him in.  I was lucky enough that I didn’t go through that. They caught it early in me.

Here’s an interesting fact: Back in the day, like 6th Century BC, they tested you for diabetes by seeing if ants were attracted to your urine. Ants are attracted to sugar, therefore, if ants were attracted to the urine, there was sugar in it and hence you had a problem. This technique was used by the ancient Indians who called it the “sweet urine disease.”

So at the support groups we got coloring books and talked about school. “What would you tell someone if they said they didn’t like you because you’re diabetic?” asked the doctor. I answered that assuredly with, “It’s their problem. I can’t get rid of it and if you don’t like me for that reason, that’s not my fault.” Sounds like me, doesn’t it?

My mom and aunt went to parent support groups and learned a lot about what happens within the body. My mom has since become a medical nut. She’s not a nurse or anything but because of taking care of me and my grandmother, she’s seen more than her fair share of doctors.

Then there are people like the rest of my family who have gotten used to me drinking Diet Cokes, not having too much candy or sugar and are always asking if I’m taking care of myself. They support my healthy choices. Since I’m always around them,  they know that me checking myself and taking a shot is normal. That’s normal.

And of course, my boyfriend. He’s learning more and more by being with me. He yells at me when my sugar drops and I don’t have any candy, he makes sure I check myself when I have to and I eat when I have to and he goes with me to see nutritional specialists and my endocrinologist because he wants to learn. He wants to know how he can support me to make this easier.

When faced with diabetes diagnosis, don’t go through it alone. Doctor Enrique Caballero, MD, from the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard, told me that most people with diabetes are healthier than “normal” people. Everyone wants to be a little bit healthier now a days. So grab a partner. If it’s your aunt, cousin, sister, best friend or parent, there will always be someone to get in on the fight with you. One thing they do out at Joslin is acknowledge people who have been living with diabetes for 25, 50 and 75 years. So if you could have a gold star for making it that long, which one would be your goal?

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It’s a No Go.

I woke up early this morning a tad bit nervous, to say the least. I had to do a lot before noon. A phone meeting, going to the bank, a doctor appointment. No, not a doctor, a nutritionist. A dietician if you will. I literally prepared for this appointment. Had my blood sugars listed and ready, had my machine, had my fear. What was this going to bring? Was this lady going to be like my new endocrinologist or would she be nicer?

My mind started to wander about in different places. I ended up canceling the phone meeting, not going to the bank and taking deep breaths to prepare my mind. What was going to come of this meeting?

I got to the hospital on time. It was the fact that I had to wander through the winding maze of the hospital, find where to check in and all that hot jazz that made me late. They were nice about it. Also, I was in the elevator with the dietician.

As I checked in, I believe the receptionist felt I was nervous. Not too sure though. I sat down and sure enough, the dietician came to get me with her student shadow (like those residents I despise) but I actually liked her. When we first got to talking, she explained to me that getting the pump was not going to solve all of my problems. I knew that right off the bat. She asked me questions about meals, diet and what I knew about carb counting, which is just taking the proper amount of insulin for the grams of carbohydrates consumed.

The one situation that I did have a question about was my carb ratio. I asked about this because when I took the right amount of insulin, sometimes it wouldn’t bring my sugar down after a meal. My carb to insulin ration was 1:15 meaning one unit of insulin for every 15 grams of carbohydrates. They told me to change it to 1:12 and see what would happen with that. Keeping track, even if it’s in your head, is very important. I realize that only I will know what’s going on and how it all works, even if it’s just from memory, remember to always ask questions.

After we settled everything and I explained what I did in certain situations, she thought that I was right on track. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and doing it right. Rock on! The fact that I used my problem solving skills to balance myself out also played an important role in her decision to agree on an insulin pump for me.

I wasn’t ready for one before since I had just begun learning about how to take care of myself “manually” if you will. When the diabetic nurse came in she said I was exactly the kind of person that should be on a pump since I was doing everything that it entailed anyway. She said it would save me a lot of poking since I take insulin through injection. The bruises and marks sometimes are ghastly (I just really wanted to use that word).

The pump is a small beeper-sized device that is connected to my side with a catheter which is changed every three days. The insulin goes in and I set it up for the amount I’m supposed to get and when. It also remembers the previous amounts and calculates carb intake as well as anything else I program into it. I’m also supposed to be trying out these classes online to see what it’s all about even before I get my hands on an actual pump. Of course, there’s always the question of insurance, which is scary, but for now, I’ll take a deep breath.

When it came down to it, the nurse explained the Medtronic pump to me, with a basic explanation of how it worked with pictures and an example pump. I didn’t have to be put on the CGM again, which was cool. But the visit only inspired me to do more and continue on with my good habits, finding ways to control my diabetes even more.

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Sometimes Anger Creeps In

There are a lot of things that get to me. You could say that I’m a very emotional person, however you look at me. I have different experiences with diabetes; sometimes I’m fine, other times, I get very angry. In the past blog, I mentioned that my previous doctor loved diabetes. She told me to do what she said and she’d figure out the rest.

At one point, they put this CGM or continuous glucose monitor on me for a week. What it does is checks your blood sugar once every 5 minutes. It keeps all the data and then once the chip is connected to a computer, it shows you graph after graph and all the numbers. They do this to test how well you’re monitoring yourself; if you give yourself the right amount of insulin for the food you’re eating and check your own blood sugar. With the CGM, you can’t see the numbers, it’s just a little thing inserted into your side with a catheter. You don’t go over all of the results until you’re with your doctor the following week. It was a wake up call to say the least.

The monitor looked like this little shell on my side, taped to my hip. I had to record every thing I ate, my insulin in take, the time everything happened. The last day I had it on, I was going to make every effort to keep everything perfect, to show if you will, that I had learned something important. When I stopped for lunch, mind you, I hadn’t eaten anything that morning, my sugar was high. I didn’t expect it to go up at all, since all I had done was taken the train.

I got angry. They couldn’t tell me what had happened, I couldn’t tell me what happened and at the same time, I thought, why the hell do I even try?

The doctor even asked me if I had been scared or stressed between the time I left my house and the time I stopped for lunch. Let’s just say, I didn’t even want to eat after that.
That night, I went home feeling bad. How was I supposed to work with something that was going to do what it wanted anyway? It’s like when a kid does exactly what their parents say yet still doesn’t get that toy they’ve wanted because they didn’t do it the exact way mom said. I don’t even know if that makes any sense.

I ended up telling a friend about it, who clearly didn’t understand, basically making it my fault. Again, it was my fault for not taking care of myself, for doing things wrong and I got angry.
Why did I have to have this disorder? Why did my pancreas have to give out? Why is it that couldn’t be normal like everyone else? I don’t want to have to do this because like everything  else, it’s a lot of work.

But then The fighter in me came out and I said, no one else could fix this beside me. No one could know my body better than me, this body, susceptible to emotion and stress that has a great effect on the blood sugar and vise versa. When my blood sugar drops I get very touchy and emotional. When it goes up, I get sleepy and tired.

The reason why I write about this is because my new doctor wants to do it again. I’ve finally made the decision to get the pump, which is basically an external pancreas which is always attached and gives me a certain amount of insulin at a time throughout the day. This means no more shots. But the thought of having this thing put on me again makes me weary. Hopefully I’ve learned something and this time it won’t be so shocking.

I just have to keep reminding myself that I will continue to work hard for me for my family and for those who love me. I don’t want to lose my limbs, have a heart attack or die a premature death. I want to live as well as everyone else I know. And I will.

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