Category Archives: Personal

How to Feel When A Product Actually Works

I’m getting married in less than a year. If there’s anything that comes along with the happiness and dread you feel planning a wedding, the pressure to look impeccable is also a burden to bear. “Aren’t you supposed to be on a diet for this wedding?” we’d see, commented on pictures of food on Facebook.

But when aren’t we pressured to look our best and be at our best, meanwhile hypocritically telling women to embrace their curves. Which is it?

On top of that, we live in a complexion focused society. It’s a nicer way of saying “racist,” I guess, but a way to drive home my point.

So, naturally, I’ve begun focusing on my appearance more and more as time goes by. I’m looking at my weight, watching what I’m eating, looking at the length of my hair, the whiteness of my teeth and the pores on my skin. On top of that, looking at my vitiligo.

I wish I could plan where the color was going to disappear from next, but I can’t. I wish I could at the very least, design my spots so that applying makeup wouldn’t be as complicated as it can be.

Before my sister went with my parents to Mexico, and before our engagement shoot, she took me to Sephora at JC Penny here at Ford City Mall. Though 7 years younger, she knows more about makeup than I do. She wanted to take me to get some new foundation, eyeliner and anything else I may need for the shoot. I sat down to try on foundations with my sister giving her opinions. I saw the makeup on my face, but didn’t see a difference between the brands. I wasn’t used to looking at that type of thing. Instead when I looked in the mirror, I looked at how the foundation looked on my spots. How much correction did it give me where I didn’t look out of place anymore. Was it going to color me in or make me all one color? Was this breathable makeup, or paint?

I had accepted the vitiligo some time ago, already. I’ve learned to laugh at myself as necessary, make it a point to talk about it instead of ignore it and understood that no matter how much makeup I may pile on my face, I wasn’t going to fully cover or erase my spots. And I was fine with that. Sure, I hated that I couldn’t tan and be darker anymore during the summer and that if I forgot sunscreen even for 30 minutes outside, something was going to burn. But it’s purely cosmetic.

About a month ago, I was on a group page on Facebook and came across a post from a young woman claiming that she was working with this great company that has figured out how to reverse vitiligo. I clicked on the link. I saw testimonials. That was the first thing I saw. A mother talking about how it helped her little girl; a young woman who developed it later in her life claiming this had helped her and a man talking about how he’s seen the effects of it. No complaints, obviously. The claim that it was all natural caught my eye as well.

I started to think about it. Should I reach out to this girl? Would I be able to talk to her and ask questions? I shared it with my mom and sister. “Do you know if it really works?” I didn’t know what to tell them other than I had seen the same testimonials they had. “What’s in it?” my mother asked. I didn’t know that either. I thought about it a little more. What’s the hurt in asking and trying? This is no more a part of me than was my full color 5 years ago.

I got in touch with the young woman and she was super excited to speak with me. We messaged back and forth and I told her I was a diabetes blogger and that I had written about both conditions in the past. I showed her posts where I spoke up about my vitiligo and where I had been an advocate for diabetes. She definitely wanted to get me on the phone.

I called her. She sounded young, first thing I noticed. We exchanged stories. She was also from Chicago, now living in LA. She said that everything she saw was so great. Yeah, I kind of know that. She liked it so much she shared it with the owner of the company and he wanted to talk to me, too.

A millionaire Latino with an accent, he explained how he got the best of the best together to try to find a “cure” of some sort for vitiligo. His primary priority is for children, so that they’re not teased or looked at differently, helping them young so that they can, I suppose, grow up “normally.”

You have to fix it from the inside out, they said, because it’s an autoimmune condition. The funny thing to me is that the owner mistakenly asks me if using insulin means you have “worsened” diabetes. No, I said. And I had to explain that whether or not you take insulin doesn’t mean your diabetes is worse. I was surprised that he wouldn’t have known that. He didn’t claim to be one of the doctors, I thought. Just the guy that orchestrated this whole thing.

Ok, I said, I’m interested in using this product. What’s in it? “There’s nothing in it that you can’t buy at the local GNC or Vitamin Shoppe,” he said. “It’s just the way that the ingredients are put together,” he concludes. Sure, I said.

I warned him of my cynicism. “Growing up with a condition that strangers think they have a cure to is the breeding ground for cynicism. I’m skeptical of a lot, too.” I figured I’d reinforce my feelings on the subject.

They were going to let me try it. “All we want is your testimony,” they said. That sounded fair. If anything, I could really write truthfully on the matter since this is something affecting my body. I suppose it’s also important to note that I didn’t talk to my doctor before taking this. They tell you that you should. But who does? When I received the bottles in the mail, I read the ingredients. When I understood, and could read every vitamin in the bottle, I stopped worrying about it and started taking the instructed tablespoon every morning before eating breakfast. One table spoon. That’s it.

I took pictures of all my spots so that I could later compare and see a change, see the difference that I had seen on the testimonials. If it helped those people, it could help me, too, right? I wasn’t buying into Jack’s magic beans because I believed the pictures. At least, I think I wanted to believe them. Taking this concoction of vitamins was like buying a lottery ticket for the Mega Millions. You know what I mean—for a minute you believe you have the ticket to making your dreams come true. That this time, you actually believe you have a winning ticket. If not the major jackpot, then enough to buy you a new house and save up for future inheritance. As you drive yourself home, you feel safe and secure, almost excited, because tonight you may actually find yourself having a heart attack from the shocking truth that you could be a multi-millionaire. That’s how I felt taking this vitamin shots (in liquid format).

Every day, I thought to myself, they told me it usually affects your face first. I didn’t see any changes on my face. I kept taking it. Every day, I took this pink, gooey liquid that smelled like cat food and looked like Italian salad dressing.

I haven’t taken any more pictures since the first time because I didn’t see a difference.

About two weeks ago, before leaving for Michigan for a weekend trip, I had come out of the shower and was going to brush my teeth. I wrapped the towel around my chest as I looked at myself in the foggy mirror. On my chest, directly under my chin I have a series of little white spots. I noticed that in two, little brown freckles were filling them in. My natural color was filling in on them and as I started to look at some others on my arms and shoulders, I noticed little freckles in a couple of them. There weren’t many freckles, at least not enough to touch or look filled in.

I showed my fiancé and my sister who both saw it and said, “Wow, it actually worked?” There’s a part of me that’s super excited to keep drinking this GoodbyeVitiligo, while there’s still some skepticism there. I don’t want to put my eggs all in one basket because I’ve never had this opportunity before. This is the first time something that people said would work, worked. It’s a small example so far, but for right now, I feel like one of those people in the testimonials.

I also want to be clear, that I decided to try this because 1. I could read every vitamin and had taken some of them already. 2. It wasn’t a lot to ask in exchange to try it. 3. If it didn’t work, I knew I would be OK.

I went in without any expectations. So, the fact that I see this little improvement is something astonishing for me. I would like to have my skin color back for the pure safety of it (I hate getting burned and I don’t always remember sunscreen) and quite honestly, I would appreciate going back to the way I looked. I know I’m not an ugly person regardless of my color and how much of it my face and body has. However, I would want it all back if I could have it.

I’m going to keep taking it. I want to see if this continues to work. If it does, I’d consider myself a very lucky woman. Not only would I gain my color back, but I would have strengthened my immune system in order to beat this condition. That, to me, is miraculous.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Diabetes, Health, Personal, Stories, Treatments

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

Why going to the endo is like math class

D E B U T S I N G L ERemember when you used to take tests or quizzes in math class and the teacher would tell you that “you have to show your work or else you’ll only receive half the credit”? First of all, I should be allowed to do math in my head, even though I get it, they wanted to cut the cheating out. Secondly, I hated getting the answer right but the “steps in getting to the answer” wrong. Isn’t there more than one way?

Yesterday, I had a visit with my endocrinologist who I hadn’t seen in a year. This was due to being laid off my job a year ago and finding health insurance again. Going to see a world-renowned endo is pricey! Along with getting to see all my doctors again (yay!), I get my supplies, insulin and everything else I need to get my a1c back down (it was a 7.9). It’s not terrible, but I was doing much better this time last year. I actually thought it was going to be higher!

With that said, I took the time to tell my doctor about the issues I’ve been faced with and really, nothing has changed since the last time I was there– besides the fact that I wasn’t checking myself enough due to a shortage of supply. I feel like most of the time, it doesn’t matter if you have diabetes or not, doctor’s advice is usually the same: Do more exercise, lose more weight, you’re doing fine, at least you’re alive. We’ve all heard it.

This time though, I was scolded about not wearing my CGMS, which I admit slipped to the wayside, again due to shortage of supply. But, not to fear! I’m back on it.

As I was sitting there with the doc, reviewing the printout of history from my pump, what I call my diary because, well, they know EVERYTHING just from looking at a few numbers on paper… and graphs, and charts, and totals, I saw the scatter of numbers throughout the pages. Most notably were the days where I checked only once or not at all.

**[If you know anything about diabetes and this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of this situation, you know how important it is to check yourself. I’ve written about it here. The doctor refers to not checking as the “dangerous road.”]**

This is when the guilt sets in. There are days when you wake up and you just don’t want to deal, so, putting your health at risk, you don’t. It’s not to say that it is the right thing to do, but it happens. For those who don’t have diabetes, let me just say, it gets exhausting. Always thinking about what you’re eating, the amount of sugar, carbs, counting, shots, boluses, double checking how you feel, checking blood sugar, making sure you’re on top of your life! Numbers– all numbers, all the time. So even though it sounded like a good idea to skip on checking out where you were and how you were doing in terms of blood sugar levels, it’s not in the long run and you look like a bad student at the doctor’s office.

At this point, I’m too old to shout out, “But my a1c was a 7.9! That’s still pretty good!” But that’s how I felt. It was a sigh of relief, it was a way to loosen the hook I’d always be on with my diabetes. But you know what? I didn’t show my work.

When the doctor downloads all the information that my purple insulin pump stores in its computer system, he sees what’s going on like when I drop and when I’m too high and all that jazz– my personal life and what my insides are doing. The graphs and charts are only possible with data, but if I’m not checking myself or wearing my CGMS there is no data. The data here is the long division work I did in my head and didn’t show on paper. The a1c result is the answer that I got kinda right. The only reason it isn’t in the “correct” spectrum is because I didn’t show my work, thus slipping up in the end.

Because I didn’t do the work, my doctor couldn’t tell me how to fix it. As much as this is about pricking your finger and sampling some blood, NOT doing actual facts and figures in your head, you’d think it’d be easier, right? Well, besides my need to ration supplies, it’s easy to forget to check. I’m running to work, I’m busy at work, I’m running home, I’m running around, living life, doing things and then, “Oh, shit! I have to check myself!” Does that not happen to you? It happens to me all the time, which is why the CGMS is good for me. It’s stuck there and that’s it. It tells me when to check and I’m good. For the most part. Technology has been known to fail.

So based off of what he knew for sure, he changed my basal rate, changed my carb ratio and sent me on my way for blood tests.

Usually, when I leave the doctor’s office, I’m known to dwell too long on the whole ordeal. I cry most of the time as a release of energy, anxiety and stress that living with diabetes brings about. I’m reminded of everything I have to do to not die a slow and miserable death, and at the same time, I swear that I’m going to change. The difference this time was that I had company and I had to explain things. He told me that I wasn’t perfect, that I’m human and that he was going to support my habits that I intended to build on. I didn’t cry but instead I accepted the fact that I do what I can and sometimes, things don’t just go the way you want them to.

Life is a tumultuous rollercoaster on its own. Sprinkling in some much needed care adds a little anxiety, but more, it adds the motivation needed to feel better and more in control. In the end, I’ve realized that in order to take control of my diabetes, I’m going to have to do the work and hopefully the more corrections I make on my process, the better my results will be.

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Filed under Diabetes, Doctors, Hospitals, Personal, Stories

Does diabetes really disable me?

Through work, we are voluntarily asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding disabilities– making sure they hit quotas, I suppose, on supporting the people with disabilities in this world. I voluntarily answered the questionnaire, like usual, not afraid of any question that should come up, especially because I don’t think of myself as having a disability.

As I reviewed the questions, I saw it on the list: Diabetes. All of a sudden, a trigger went off in my head and I almost closed the questionnaire because I didn’t want to admit that I had a disability. Would anyone?

In the end, I didn’t close it and I ended up finishing it, however there was a feeling of anger and resentment that went through me. I thought, I’m never going to be like everyone else. I’ve come to this realization many times in my life– it wasn’t something new to me or to anyone. In fact, I’ve written about how diabetes made me different multiple times and I wasn’t ashamed of it.

But now, work knew. The people who employed me and those above them now all knew that I had diabetes. Again, this is not something that I’m ashamed about, however it is something that I’m weary of especially because to those who don’t know me, I’m another person with diabetes– enter all of the stereotypes that screw with the mindset of those who are ignorant to the disease.

Was it really a disability? A few hours later that night, I told one of my best friends about the questionnaire. “You don’t have a disability!” he said to me, so confidently. I smiled because I was grateful to him and to all of my friends who feel the same way.

It’s not a disability simply because I don’t treat it like one. I technically have not been disabled from doing anything in my life. Besides wanting to maybe be in the peace corp or a fighter pilot (because I mean, who doesn’t want to do something like that in their life?), I’ve done everything that I’ve ever wanted to do. Sure, a vital organ in my body doesn’t really work the way it should and I’m part cyborg because of the pump that I wear on my hip, but in no way was that a disability.

I take care of myself as best as I can. Sometimes that does slip from me because of my busy lifestyle and all the different things I get myself into. At times, I don’t check myself as frequently as I should, but I always keep my pump on. That’s one thing that I can’t not do; I can’t not take insulin. It’s not like taking aspirin or a pill of some sort. It’s not a medication that I’m taking to help me live. It’s a hormone that I NEED to live.

The kicker here, is that diabetes can become a disability. If I let it slip enough, I can go blind, lose a limb, lose my life. This is why I continue to go to the doctor so that I can stay on top of my issues and making sure that I can prevent any harm that may come my way.

It’s important to track and important to know what’s going on in my body, since it’s not something that I can take advantage of and not think about. I was told to go back to the continuous glucose monitoring system to help better control myself and I have. There are dietary restrictions that I’m putting on myself just out of mere knowledge and understanding that certain foods don’t cooperate with me. I have to do these extra things so that diabetes NEVER becomes a disability.

There may be sacrifices, but I don’t see them that way. I see them as ways to live a better and longer life. If not eating rice and bananas means I get to stay here and enjoy life for a few more years– then so be it. Here I’ll stay.

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Filed under Complications, Diabetes, Health, Personal

Shameless About My Spots

This past year has brought a lot on me. Life doesn’t get any easier as you get older, you just get better at it. In the past few years, I’ve decided to take my health into my own hands and do the best I can with my body and what I put into it as well as how I treat it.

Most recently, I’ve decided not to be ashamed of my vitiligo. I decided to tell people that I had it and face the fact that no, it’s not a makeup malfunction– it’s a skin discoloration disease that again, I cannot control. Seems to be the story of my life.

It’s one thing to get sick due to some cause of your own and a completely different thing when you realize that you did nothing wrong to deserve what comes at you. And that the fact that you are “sick” is because your body decided to turn on you and kill its own cells. Lovely isn’t it?

I have become more comfortable in my own skin– like, really. There are days, like today, I go out without makeup because I didn’t feel like I needed it. It’s not to say that people don’t stare at me, because they do. Or I see them trying to look me straight in the eye instead of at my “spots” because they feel like somehow it’ll be offensive or because they’re uncomfortable. Mostly, they don’t look because it makes them uncomfortable and surprisingly I’m OK with that because it’s not my insecurities, it’s theirs.

I wonder what people would say if they really spoke their mind. You know, like those people who say, I could never give myself shots or check my blood sugar all the time– I don’t know how you do it. Well, you do it because you have to. I wonder how many people would say to me, “I don’t know what I’d do if I suddenly lost pigment in my skin and had to face the world as someone with two different colors on my skin.”

I wonder how many people would actually be ashamed. I mean, we knew that Michael Jackson was, since he sped up the whiteness and bleached his skin to level himself out– color wise. Apparently, Sammy Sosa has the same issue. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to be all white– translucent, mainly. I look at my brown skin and I love it because I always have. I always loved being tan and dark during the summer. Now, I look and still see my tan skin, but also see my spots– on my knuckles, on my feet, on my face, dots on my shoulders– and it doesn’t scare me. I don’t mind it anymore because that’s just what my body decided to do.

If anything, I’ve realized that there is a reason for everything. I shouldn’t fight it, especially because in the end, it’ll all turn out all right. One color or two, my soul is still complete and even more accepting and well-rounded than before. .

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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

From ‘What Do I Do?’ to ‘How Do I Handle?’

Don’t know if you’ve ever had to deal with the initial pity party. You know, when you say, “I have diabetes,” and then the person says, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” When they proceed to ask the details that go as deep as “How long have you had it?” and you say, “Oh for about 21 years now,” they suddenly change their mind about you.

Look, I’ve been around it all my life, have had to deal with shots and not being able to eat certain things. I’ve had high blood sugars and low blood sugars, have cried because of low blood sugar, have drank like a camel because of high blood sugar and I’m just fine. I don’t need your pity party or the fact that you’re sorry for me.

I got a question, though, one time about coping. How did I cope? I don’t know if I ever fully felt a burden enough to cope. I just did because that’s what I was told and then learned how to do. There was a certain age where I learned more and was educated about my diabetes but along with that I feel that I’m still trying to figure out how to handle this thing I have. This issue that I live with.

I’ve been using the pump for about three years, and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve had more problems with it. Whether it’s bent cannulas or dead spots on my own body that no longer absorb insulin, there are problems and with that, figuring out how to manage, cope and grow with it. To say the least, it’s a pain in the ass.

But there’s nothing like getting blamed for the mishaps. A bent cannula and all of a sudden you get asked, why didn’t you know? Maybe YOU did something wrong. How much good is that thing if you don’t even know if it’s working?

Trust me! Don’t you think I listen to those thoughts in my head every day and I’m trying to figure out the same thing plus trying to figure out how to get myself to feel like a normal person?!

There are times when it’s a burden and there are times when everything is OK and sometimes it feels like it will be a never-ending roller coaster of a life that you just have to ride sometimes. It’s a pain in the major butt, to tell you the truth.

Someone else asked if I used humor in my blogs. I don’t know if I use humor, per say, but I know that blogging gets me feeling like I’m thinking things out and it keeps me sane. Do I laugh, sure. But I also feel like the truth is harsh and ugly. I try not to think about how I feel but rather, I feel my logic take over and what I know about my body to help me fix whatever problem I have. People run to doctors too often whereas I feel that the doctors have taught me things in order to take care of myself. I’ve paid attention.

Having diabetes is an ever-changing and growing process and I learn every time my body goes through a tumultuous episode. It happens to all of us.

But when we’re literally knocked down, you must have the mental power to bring yourself back up and keep going. You really have no other choice.

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Untired Inspiration: Educational Creativity

Whether I’m watching the work of other talented Latinas or talking about work with talented Latinos, I feel like I’m always inspired. It doesn’t cease. My mind is always going, always working, always thinking about what to do to make the world a better place, how I can help make the community better, how I can be of service to those who think they don’t need my help.

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Mural in Pilsen, across the street from Dvorak Park | Pablo Serrano

I have the pleasure of living and interacting with some of the most talented people in Chicago that many might know but few get to encounter the way I encounter them on a weekly basis. I am a privileged artist among artists because of the people I speak to. Sometimes I might not get the work done that I need to get done. I might have to work on something, take a phone call and be aware of my time management, but I am also learning so much more than I can from keeping to myself and talking to my computer.

I find that building community and interacting with people who I find fascinating  who can teach me a thing or two about the place in which I live helps me to be healthier and fulfills my life with the wisdom to see just how I can be a positive impact and light for others. This is what makes me find more passion for what I do and how I work.

The two artists that I had the pleasure of speaking with today, along with the artists that I know within the community are very much that— community oriented. In addition, they teach and carry that inherent wisdom with them as they converse and exchange thoughts with people like me, who may not work the same way they do, but am creative (or so I’d like to think) anyway.

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Naco posting wheat paste | Pilsen

It’s hard to walk away from the conversations and the deep-rooted philosophies  feeling uninspired. It made me want to do something more. It made me want to do what I do better.

In the midst of that conversation, I had a call about a project that my company is working on. A diabetes initiative that talks to the community about being Type 2 diabetes from a culturally relevant standpoint. Nuances and bilingualism included. My phone call had strong validation for what we’re trying to do; the education we’re trying to bring to people who feel that diabetes is a death sentence or that there is nothing preventative that one can do about the dreadful disorder.

It might not have fallen inline with the visual art of these two extremely talented individuals  but it is a creative venture. Knowing that there is someone, a head of a foundation, a person with diabetes himself and who is offering his help in distribution and collaborative services, who is behind what we are trying to get going is inspiring in itself.

This call, coupled with local, community-based perspectives made my day, to say the least. I was validated on various fronts, moving different ideas forward and coming up with ways to initiate furthering the community’s reach above and beyond the city of Chicago; whether it’s through health initiatives, teaching people about culture or both.

Social, insightful and stimulating: if this isn’t good for me, I don’t know what is.

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And the point of working out is… Bad dreams!

So everyone knows that working out is good for you. That’s no secret. But when you’re living with diabetes and on medication for it, working out is a problem. My doctor used to laugh and would say something like, “Yeah, you work out to lose weight, then your blood sugar goes down and you have to eat.” There’s basically no winning in the game.

Like everything else, there is a solution to the problem, not that I’ve found it yet. Working out is like a double-edged sword. You either have to do it consistently so that your insulin intake reflects it (if you’re on the pump) or you have to turn the darn thing off when you’re stretching, moving and grooving. I don’t work out at the same time every day, so the bolus schedule that I’m on is hard to come by. I can change it every day, but I’m too lazy to do that. Usually my work outs last for about 45 minutes, so I just take it off, do my thing and put it back on. That’s not an issue.

But my question is, how are you supposed to deal with monitoring yourself when you’re not awake?! My problems have always come at night. Either my blood sugar sky rockets when I sleep or it drops dramatically. Take for example, yesterday. Yesterday I came home from work and decided to work out. Midway through, my sugar had dropped to 75 so I took a swig of regular soda and kept going. At the end after the cool down, it had dropped again to 67. That’s when I ate. I hadn’t had dinner so this was my chance to eat without feeling too guilty about it.

As I showered, cleaned and watched a little more television while Tweeting away, I was super-duper thirsty. I went to check myself and I was up at 247. “That’s why!” I thought to myself. My pump suggested about three units of insulin which I manually lowered because I knew that I might drop, and that was that.

As I drifted off to dream land, I had a peculiar dream. I was on the phone with a man who was having a heart attack. At the same time I was in a hospital, trembling and I thought to myself, “Am I feeling what this man is feeling?” I started to shake harder, which is when I opened my eyes. I was wide awake at 3:15 in the morning. As I got up, I was disoriented. I went to check my blood sugar. 37. I had dropped to 37. It was incredible. And there I went, turning on the TV, grabbing my box of Cap’n Crunch and watching a rerun of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, or whatever it’s called. If you look at my twitter account, you’ll see my comments at about 3:30.

There’s nothing worse that going back to bed after an episode like that. I checked myself again and I was already at 75. I was on my way up. In the morning I was at 209 with a dry mouth and headache. I got my insulin and went about my day. Let me tell you, my body has not caught up yet. Last meter check, I was at 120. With that Cap’n Crunch love affair, I can tell you that I might have eaten everything I burned off with my work out. How terrible is that?

If your blood sugar has never dropped, you wouldn’t understand. The feeling of passing out and not being able to get up when you live alone is horrendous! When I was struggling to get the tiny strip out of the bottle to check my blood sugar, I was sweating, shaking and kept thinking, what if I pass out? Who’s going to help me?

If your blood sugar is too low, that’s it. You die quicker from having a low blood sugar than a high one. Hypoglycemia, when your blood sugar drops below 60, can lead to seizure, coma and even death if not treated. Dying from high blood sugar takes a little more than 24 hours. You can now understand the fear of hypoglycemia to an extent.

There are different ways to solve this problem, obviously eating is one of them. It’s just the control that gets most people. You panic, feel like you’re starving and just want to get rid of that ugly feeling so you EAT! When I was younger, that was my chance to get at those Oreos.

But if, God forbid, you ever see someone pass out from hypoglycemia, what you’re supposed to do is rub either sugar or icing on the inside of the person’s cheek. It’s the quickest way to the blood stream. If there is a glucagon injection near by, you can also administer that.

Glucagon injections do not inject sugar into your system. Glucagon itself is a group of 29 amino acids that trigger your liver to release glucose so that your system is always at a balance. When people pass out, the injection, which is concentrated glucagon, tells your liver to release all its stored up glucose so that your body jolts itself back to normality. Crazy isn’t it? All these things you have to learn!

But there’s always a balance, right? Like eating a snack before bed, which I didn’t do because my sugar was already high. I didn’t want to be that high, so I took insulin for it. I guess this just goes to show that no matter how much you THINK you have this monster of diabetes in check, sometimes you don’t. Your body is still a body, doing things on its own. We’re not machines and we don’t work like clock work sometimes. That’s the reality of it.

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Reality Check: How long is forever?

Today I decided to take a day off. I’m always doing something, always going somewhere, but today, I wanted to spend time at home, clean and go grocery shopping. It’s the simple things in life sometimes that make the rest worthwhile, right? It could also be that I needed a mental health day because yesterday I was so distracted and all over the place.

I walked into the fiscal department at work yesterday only to see Tish Parker in her corner. Tish and I met at our new employee orientation and since then she makes the effort to occasionally stop by my closet of an office to say hi, I return the gesture. I found out that she, too, is a writer although of the fictitious genre. When I walked in, she said hi, always greeting me with a beautiful smile and called me over. She pointed to my pump and asked what it was. Apparently her sister-in-law is also diabetic and uses a pump but she didn’t put two and two together until I explained it to her. She thought it was an MP3 player of some sort and I said, well, at least you didn’t think it was a throwback and call it a pager.

I started explaining how the pump is used and how it works to a point when she asked, “So it’s forever?” And when she said that, I didn’t know how to take it and said, “Well, I change it every three days, but yes, I’m most likely going to have to use it forever.” Which put my mind into a whirlwind. Forever.

Or until there’s a cure, but at this point, I feel that I will not live to see one. The fact of the matter is, I will be connected to this contraption for the rest of my life, something I didn’t fully wrap my head around until she said it. I knew I would have to take shots forever, that was easy to come by, yet thinking about it now, the pump does feel temporary although it isn’t. It’s forever.

It took me back to the day that I found out I was actually diabetic. My mom called me over to check my blood sugar, which at the time, I didn’t understand. I knew I had to do it because the doctors said so, but the significance behind it, I didn’t quite comprehend yet. We were about to have dinner when my mom pricked my pointer finger to squeeze out some blood. “Mom,” I said looking up at her, “am I going to have to do this for the rest of my life?” I think the question broke her heart.

What did that mean? FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. As a grew up, I looked into what the rest of my life was going to be like. It went something like this: Over time you will lose your eyesight, be at risk for cardiac problems, get amputations and die. Fun, huh? Well, everyone dies, right? I already knew that part. But dying prematurely is what gets everyone. As a diabetic, five years is already cut off my life span. So if I was going to live until 100, I’d die at 95. That’s cool. I’ll take it.

The issue is that throughout my younger years, no one told me straight out what being diabetic meant. No one explained the repercussions, the decisions I’d have to make, the consequences. It was just, “If you don’t stop…” or “If you don’t cut back…” Doctors didn’t try to make living with the disorder easier, they were just trying to make me stop living.

Now it’s, “If you don’t control…” or “If you don’t lower your A1c…” The same tactics that are used today were used with me back then, as a child. Awful. They scared me into being healthy, they didn’t teach me how it all worked. They were passing down the stresses of having a diabetic child to my parents who thought they had done something wrong. They didn’t try to expand on my forever, they scared me into thinking about forever and living a terrible, terrible life of pain agony and losing my legs. It was also the 90s. I’d like to think times have changed.

But yes, to my dismay, I’m going to be connected to this little purple machine for the rest of my life. At this point, I can only think of having something smaller but never not having anything at all. I see it as a benefit. We’ve transitioned from a pump that you had to carry around in a backpack to a little thing that looks like a pager. Brilliant. Let’s see where life leads us next. What does your FOREVER look like?

 

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