Tag Archives: Diabetes Type I

No Awareness Needed

Can I just say that I didn’t know it was National Diabetes Month?

I mean, I knew it but I thought it was diabetes AWARENESS month. I guess now that diabetes isn’t a rarity, there needs to be more acknowledgement of the illness and not so much awareness building. I once wrote a blog about how it wasn’t a six-degrees of separation as much as it was one degree. It seems like everyone knows someone with diabetes nowadays.

When I was first diagnosed, I remember people giving me apples and fruit on Halloween. That was no fun. I preferred arts and crafts instead. I also had kids thinking that I was contagious, that I was privileged (since I could go to the bathroom any time I needed to) and that I was teacher’s pet. She bought sugar free candies for me that the kids thought were special. Yes, I AM special.

I had other kids try to steal my glucose tablets in school. “Why do you get candy?” “Why do you have a can of Coke in your locker?” “Why do you have sandwich crackers?” At that time, all I knew is that if I ever felt shaky, I would have to eat that stuff. It never happened. At the end of the year, I’d throw out stale crackers and hot cans of Coke. I cannot remember my blood sugar ever dropping when I was in grammar school.

I think back on growing up with diabetes and I laugh. Not because it’s funny, but because the way of thinking about diabetes was so old school, for lack of better terminology. It was very limiting and in fact, may have been easier to manage with all those restrictions. Now that doctors tell you that you’re not limited and you have to count carbs the freedom is cool to have but at the same time makes it more difficult to keep in check, that is unless you restrict your own diet from things you know you shouldn’t be eating.

In the end, you realize what your body is made for– veggies. Lots of them. Food becomes more complicated with freedom. As opposed to “normal bodies” we have to consider what’s being consumed all the time. As a person with diabetes, you realize what exactly is healthy for your body because you see the repercussions of eating crapola or something that you didn’t realize would affect you so negatively.

You know how they say, you are what you eat? It’s more true for people with diabetes. We eat too much sugar and even though we take insulin we slump. It’s terrible. You feel slow, sleepy, fat, cranky and full of regret. You’d think knowing this would stop us from indulging– nope. It happens.

This month, I plan on writing a lot. I want to definitely add to this blog since I haven’t been in quite some time and hopefully get into a groove with it all. Since I’m not bringing “Awareness” to anyone anymore, I’ll just tell you what it’s like to live with this little thing called Type 1. 

Here’s to National Diabetes Month! Happy November!  

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Filed under Diabetes, Stories

#FML: That moment at the airport when you realize you left your insulin in the hotel fridge

Greetings!

Well, this is my week back from my tour of Spain. My family and I went in celebration of my 30th birthday. The big 3-0! Yeah, don’t ask me how I feel about that yet.

We toured the Spanish cities– Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, Barcelona– and experienced the life of the Spanish, our conquistadores. Regardless, our trip during Semana Santa and were extremely pleased with the entire experience. If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve seen my photos over these past few weeks. Take a look.

My return to Granada was awesome. I remembered  everything as if I was there two years ago, not 10. We sat at the same restaurants we sat at, we drank the same beer I did and were able to hike up the mountain sides. My mom actually made it up to the Mirador de San Nicolas! I was extremely proud of her.

I didn’t want to leave, but alas, after three nights there, we were off to Barcelona to end our trip after another three nights there. We were flying up to Barcelona and had to leave extremely early in the morning. My sister and I packed our things together the night before, took showers, and were set to go. We woke up at 6am, had breakfast at 7am and were out the door and in the cab to the airport by 8.

Everything thus far was going smoothly and we were having a great time.

[If you’re Catholic, you’ll understand the transition.]

It wasn’t until we were in line to check our bags that I realized I had forgotten my three bottles of insulin in the hotel fridge. CRAP! And as I got that knowing look from my mother, and heard my dad ask how I could forget something so important, my stomach dropped. “I can buy it,” I told my mom. “When we get to Barcelona, I can go to the pharmacy.”

wpid-imag1727_1.jpgIt didn’t matter how many times I told myself it was going to be fine, I still felt so guilty. How did I forget it? Was it just a slip of the fact from my memory? Was everything else just too important for me to remember to take the insulin?

Regardless, as soon as I got through security, I told the TSA agent that I had forgotten my insulin at the hotel and if there was any way to call and see what we could arrange to get it back. The Guardia Civil, or the cops, took my mom and I back to the office where they called the hotel for us. We told them what happened and they asked if I could get a later flight or if I could wait to have the insulin by Tuesday.

The officer was reassuring, however, once we got off the phone and told them we would call them back to make arrangements. “She can go to the pharmacy and buy the insulin, that’s not a problem. If they need a prescription, you can go to the ER at the hospital and they’ll write it out for you,” he explained.

I still couldn’t get the thought out of my head; how could I be so stupid? We left and upon arriving in Barcelona, I went to the pharmacy where I could purchase rapid acting insulin pens for $54. When I got back to the hotel, my mother was relieved as were the hotel staff who heard about this accident.

I was saved. I kind of had to McGyver it still. I had a bit of insulin left in my pump (more than 24 hours worth). So what I did was slowed down the basal, which I had to do anyway after all the walking we were doing. I had woken up twice already from blood glucose in the 40s. Any time I would eat anything, I would inject it with the pens I bought.

My mother arranged to have the forgotten bottles sent to us in Barcelona. There were three, so I wasn’t going to leave them behind as wasted medication. And, if you don’t already know, this all worked out.

Waking up on Wednesday, I got a text from my mom saying that they just delivered the insulin and that they had it. Within two hours, I was low on insulin and everything was perfectly timed.

As much as I’d love to fly out the door without thinking about it, this reminded me that I had to– even on vacation. This isn’t the first time I forget something important, but the first time forgetting on an important trip and so much of it, was a first.

After having all the insulin, I wrote a note to myself to remember the insulin in the fridge, and also on my phone as did my sister. We were covered. What suggestions do you have? Has this ever happened to you?

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Filed under Diabetes, Family, Health, Insulin, Travel

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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Filed under Complications, Culture, Food, Health

Research Study: How Does Diabetes Affect Sleep?

Hi again and happy New Year!

It’s 2015…already. This year brings a lot of different things, like turning 30 and rethinking my life plan.

However, this is not what this blog post is about. I’m actually glad I’m getting something out in January, to tell you the truth. I’ve been busy– working, curating art, eating cleanly, working out, managing diabetes– you know the drill.

No, this blog post is about something that I went through in November of last year, the same week as World Diabetes Day. A friend told me about a research study that was happening at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The study was to observe people with Type 1 diabetes and the relationship of diabetes to sleep and cardiovascular disease.

How intense! But being the person with diabetes that I am, and a health enthusiast, you know I wanted to know more. That’s when I called Sarah. She’s a nursing student studying to get her PhD. This was part of her dissertation.

The way I understood this, when she told me, was that cardiovascular disease and diabetes are linked. If you have diabetes, either type, you have a higher risk for heart disease. This is something we know, because they tell us– over and over again. On the flip side, if you don’t sleep well you are also at risk for heart disease and diabetes. among other things.

Got that? OK.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve had hypoglycemic episodes in the middle of the night causing you to get up, cursing the extra exercise you did or the fact that you didn’t eat enough. We’ve all been there. I’ve also had to get up repeatedly in the middle of the night to pee because of hyperglycemia. Again, disturbed sleep patterns.

Could this be an added reason as to why we are more at risk for heart disease? Because, face it, sometimes sleep is ridiculously uncontrollable like a bad day in Diabetes-land.

The aggregation of information from my body lasted three days. I went in to UIC, met Sarah, who was really cool, and chatted with her about diabetes and her studies while I filled out forms about my sleeping behavior. I think I’m a pretty good sleeper, you know?

She put me on a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) to track my blood sugars for a couple of days and then I had to spend the night at the sleep center while they monitored everything from my blood sugar to my urine to, of course, my sleep.

IMAG0666Surprisingly, my room looked like a little hotel, with an individual bathroom and a television. But of course, next to the bed sat the sleep monitors that tracked everything my brain was doing while I snored away.

The stay wasn’t bad. While I was being hooked up for monitoring, I talked to Sarah and the other sleep nurse (who was also named Sarah) about travels, books and experiences with hair during sleep studies. The glue they use to stick to your scalp is extra sticky, so there was a way the nurse lined it up making it easier to remove in the shower.

The multicolored wires were strapped and stuck to different parts of my body that included my legs, neck and head, along with a breathing monitor up my nose.

Additionally, there was another larger remote control looking thing that laid by my side instead of a teddy bear. It kept me company; I can’t complain.

IMAG0667Sarah left me while I laid in the dark, couldn’t see anything since I had taken my glasses off and (not lying) kind of wanted to sleep so that I could wake up and get it over with. I went through exercises with the nurse over the intercom and the only thing I could think about was, ‘What happens if I have to pee?’ They assured me however, that all I would have to do was yelp.

So there I was, laying in the dark, calming myself to go to sleep and I started thinking about this blog post and how what I was doing was important for the future of medicine. Along the process, Sarah took tubes of blood out of me at least three times. One of those tubes would go to research for the future of diabetes– in case they found anything unique or abnormal — but would only be tied to age, race and sex.

If those of us who have diabetes under control participate in these studies, sleep or otherwise, we could help the future of endocrinology. Think about it: we’ve had it for enough time that we’re use to it already. What if these studies lead to a cure in the not-too-far-distant future?

The next morning, I went off to do my daily routine, and said good-bye and thanked Sarah. And yes, there was compensation for the time and sleep over.

I left feeling like I did something for the future of diabetes. Whether or not that’s true, I’ll probably never know. But knowing that I was helping Sarah was satisfying enough. By the way, I commend Sarah for her efforts in learning about diabetes. She went through the steps that we went through to learn and put herself in our positions. She tried checking her blood sugar daily (with expired strips no less), she wore a CGM and she even drew her own blood! When she told me that, I was appalled.

There was no pity from her. If anything, she wanted to learn and help. And after the countless times I’ve heard, “I would never be able to do that,” here’s someone with so much interest and no need that she actually tried it and survived.

How about that?

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I Get The Shakes

When I was working on a story for Cafe magazine about Type II diabetes. Just so everyone knows, Type II and Type I are different. In Type I, the pancreas no longer secretes insulin. In Type II, the cells inside the body are resistant to insulin that is secreted by the pancreas. The consequences and effects are the same for both, though, although the causes are not.

Moving on. I interviewed this man who was going blind because he didn’t take care of himself. The build up of sugar in the system doesn’t have to just affect the feet and heart like you hear a lot about, it can affect anything. He stopped taking his medication after a while for multiple reasons. 1. He had a pact with God and if he was supposed to have this disease, and he was supposed to die from it, so be it. This is a very Latino way of thinking, by the way. 2. He didn’t trust the doctors because they continued to mix and switch up the pills he was taking. He thought they were going to kill him. 3. He felt like he had everything under control.

So, when you have high blood sugar, your body gets used to it and learns to function as is. As a Type I or Type II diabetic, the number one symptom is abnormally high blood sugar. Normally, someone’s blood sugar should be between 70-120. As a diabetic who isn’t taking care of  themselves, this can shoot up to 500 and some people have been recorded at 900. That’s dangerously high. Imagine someone functioning normally at 300. When that person takes their medication, it brings it down to a normal number. When this happens in the body, it’s a lot of stress and it makes the body shake, sweat and feel faint.

This man would take his medication, come down to a semi-normal level, “get the shakes” and eat a candy bar. See, the way one doctor put it, it’s scary and any non-diabetic would never understand how scary it is to have your blood sugar drop. It’s also easier to die from low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) than it is to die from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Here’s something else for you to chew on: When your blood sugar drops and you “get the shakes,” it takes your body 24 hours to normalize. When someone’s blood sugar drops, they “go low,” then if they do what he does, the blood sugar “shoots up.” Can you imagine how your body feels after something like that, being thrown around? Your blood sugars on a graph would look like a peaked mountain.

Because of the shakes, he stopped taking his meds. Let’s throw some numbers out there. If he was at 400, then came down to 150 with the medicine, he gets the shakes and eats a candy bar shooting him back up to possibly even 500 where his body “feels” normal.  What would he have to do to actually normalize the blood sugar? Deal with the shakes and shivers.

I sat there with him and asked him a few questions. Do you check your blood sugar? Sometimes. If anything, this is the main way of controlling diabetes. The answer should be all the time. Do you go to the doctor? Sometimes. He couldn’t find anyone who “knew what they were doing.” Do you take your medicine? Sometimes. He would forget, not take it and it would just keep going like that. As I left his house, I hoped that he had learned something from what I told him. He told me that I should keep on with what I’m doing because it seems like I know how to take care of myself. I assured him that I would.

I still get the shakes sometimes. This could be caused by taking too much insulin (one unit can be too much), doing too much exercise (but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t) or not eating enough (which doesn’t normally happen anymore). My body recognizes my low blood sugars as much as it recognizes the high ones. With low blood sugars I sweat, shake and sometimes feel faint. With high blood sugars, I pee a lot, get bad headaches and feel tired. If I ever feel any of these symptoms, the first thing I do is check my blood sugar. At night, if my blood sugar drops, I can’t sleep. I wake up and as soon as I start moving, I get a cold sweat and start dripping. It’s crazy. But as soon as I feel that, I run to check myself and drink milk or juice.

Another thing diabetics don’t realize is that it doesn’t take much to get your blood sugar back up. You don’t need a candy bar. You need juice, milk or a piece of bread with peanut butter. As soon as something is placed in the mouth, you’re good. My grandmother felt terrible one day after a nap. When we checked her blood sugar, it was 49, which is drastic. My aunts didn’t freak out because I was there. I gave her juice and had her drink it before moving. As she walked from one chair to another, she said, I still feel it. My aunts wanted to give her more. She didn’t need anymore because it was going to take at least 10-15 minutes for the juice and sugar to hit the blood stream. After a few minutes, she felt fine. “Thank God you were here. You’re the expert,” said one of my aunts. Not because I want to be, I said, but because I have to be.

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Filed under Diabetes, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories