Tag Archives: technology

Do you keep diabetes a secret?

Diabetes, as we all know, can’t be seen on a person. But wouldn’t it be cool if people with diabetes suddenly had purple eyes or lighting bolt shapes in their hair? It’d be even better if we developed some sort of superpower. I guess you can say, our superpower is the ability to manage our lives, to supercede any doubt, to live everyday like it’s our last because just about 50 years ago, it might have been. Thanks to modern medicine and technology, we’re able to live with diabetes for 50, 60, 75 plus years without question.

No, you can’t see diabetes. You can see actions though. You can watch someone check their blood sugar, take an insulin shot, swallow a pill, mentally count their carbs, program their pump to deliver a scheduled bolus and even adjust a basal rate. But seeing it, no. You can’t see beta cells being attacked, unless under a microscope and even then– I have no idea if that’s possible.

Unless someone sees my pump, they really don’t know that I have diabetes. We’ve been in that situation before– you know, when people think my pump is a pager or something of the like? I hate to break their heart when I tell them, no, I’m not a doctor.

A few years back, when I initially thought about writing this blog post, I read something that asked the question, “Where do you hide your pump?” I then proceeded to read comments that dissected the question and said things like, “I don’t hide it. I’m not ashamed.” Fair assessment. I never thought about “hiding” my pump either. But was that something I was doing when I strapped a band around my leg to clip the pump so that you couldn’t see I had it on when I wore a dress? Was that what I was doing when I clipped it to my bra so that I looked like Iron Man? Was the fact that I was trying to disguise it or camouflage it under or between something else actually “hiding”?

I then thought about the stories of people who hid the fact that they had diabetes on purpose. They thought they were a liability to their job. They were ashamed for not taking care of themselves (to an extent). They didn’t want to be different from their peers. They didn’t want anyone thinking they were different or were incapable of doing something.

I suppose that it is a choice to “come out.” There is a choice in talking about it all the time, in joining our online communities, in educating other people, even if it’s correcting the term “diabetic” to “people with diabetes.” We’re not defined by our inability to make insulin, but by the ability to supercede it and conquer the world through gifts we’ve been given by science and technology.

I guess I could choose to keep diabetes out of the conversation, but it’s created such a strong person through acceptance. I see so many strong people who discuss, bring to light and fight through issues that we all go through because we don’t make one measly little hormone. It’s such a tiny thing that has such a huge impact, and I’ve said it before.

Diabetes has given me the ability to believe in myself, it’s given me the voice to speak, it’s given me the drive to help. Diabetes has made me develop into the person that I am, although it doesn’t define who I am or will be. It’s helped to make me confident and knowledgeable. It’s tied into the rest of my communal beliefs and has only made me a more well-rounded person with abilities to lead, write, organize and make people understand.

Have I kept diabetes a secret? No. Have I hid my pump for fashion’s sake? Yes. But what you gonna do? I don’t think I’ll ever keep diabetes out of the equation. I don’t think you should either. Be proud. You’ve come this far and you have so much more to go.

 

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Diabetes and Tech: We’re all Geeks.

Continuous Glucose Monitors hurt. Their needles are thicker than anything I’ve seen since I’ve been diagnosed—do you know how many needles that is? Thousands. Blood withdraw, injections, tetanus shots, vaccines, all included. Especially for the size of the object that you’re inserting into your body, the needle for the sensor couldn’t be any thicker.

I stopped using it because of that. It didn’t just hurt—it felt like I was stabbing myself. My poor soft, virgin-to-any-needle thighs endured the worst pain. Bruises, blood and brashness were included every time I changed the sensor. However, according to my doctor there are two types of CGM users in the world: Those that hate it and use it and those who hate it and don’t use it. I fall perfectly into a category—for the first time in my life.

And don’t get me wrong, the 45 degree insertion angle is all kinds of important and I did prop it at such an angle, but it still hurt!

One of the downsides I found to wearing a monitor was the scars. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of them already from insertion sites for my pump, but when I wore the CGM I had to worry about double the amount of scars and where to place both devices. Additionally, the amount of times I saw “Cal Error” come up was disturbing. So I just went back to checking my sugar with finger pricks.

I went back to using my good old-fashioned glucose meter that conveys readings to my pump. It’s not at all new, especially since I live by the motto: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I’ve decided to downgrade just because of the fact that at this point in time, I don’t want to be literally tied down and monitored 24/7.

However, if you’re like me and have instances of hypoglycemia, the CGM can literally be a lifesaver. When you drop below a certain number, your pump or monitoring device will beep, vibrate or somehow call your attention so that you wake up and  treat the low before it’s too late. The CGM is programmed to keep you aware, and the more aware you are, the better it is for your diabetes management.

For those of you like me that don’t necessarily have a tracker of sorts, you can also use MySugr, a diabetes companion used to “tame your diabetes monster.” You put in everything manually, but it makes it fun and keeps you on your toes about the stuff that’s going into your system and the results that it portrays.

See, the thing here is, you can input your numbers (of all forms) and see your results tracked, allowing you to identify what you’re eating and how it’s impacting your body. This answer the question of the “if… then” scenario. You’ll start thinking, “If I eat this, then my blood sugar will be XXX,” allowing you for wiser choices on meals and carbohydrate intake.

There are other things that I use to monitor my activity—like the fitbit that I wear. That’s just one of the many devices that are currently being sold to play the pedometer role in a more high-tech and fancy way. It also shows that you’re “active.”

What’s the downside to wearing one of these? Charging it and forgetting not to put it back on. Additionally, you also have to be good about inputting your caloric intake, water intake and setting your fitbit to sleep mode. I mean, if you need something to make you active, are you really going to be adding in all that information? I know data geeks do it. Do you fall in that category? What ’bout the simple folks, like me? Will power I tell you.

I would like to wish from the app making gods, to create something that not only allows me to track my glucose levels and intakes, but also communicates with my smartphone, updating data so that I can look at it IRT. You know what that means? In Real Time—some marketing terminology I picked up. But instead of sitting there and unplugging in order to download all of my numbers, I could have them as they happen with stats and all! That would be cool. Someone get on that now.

Bottom line, we people with diabetes are all geeks. We love to nerd out to new technologies that can give us more data and tell us more information about our body’s performance. It’s quite literally looking at your body as if you were some kind of machine, or dare I say, cyborg. I actually like calling myself that. Geeky– I told you.

People with diabetes or PWD want to know more. I think it’s a sense that something went wrong within our bodies that we couldn’t control and by having control and understanding everything else, is not only necessary, but it also keeps us sane in a strange way. I mean, my life is run by numbers and sometimes that’s enough– especially when you burn out and become exhausted of always being “on top of it.” However, using technology helps us stay on it even when we don’t necessarily want to.

Additionally, we have the ideas of islet transplants– which create beta cells which create insulin– along with this far fetched notion of stem cells and the more we learn about it, the more we are excited that there may just be a cure of some sort. Trust me, when it comes to the ethics of some of these things, I find myself in a bind. I tend to be selfish and think of only myself when it comes to these things. I don’t know if anyone else thinks along these lines but I’m like, “I can be free!” Kind of like the genie in Aladdin. We can dream, can’t we?

Social media has also played a huge role for us. You’re probably reading this right BECAUSE you follow me on social. You saw this blog post on Twitter, right? Leave a note in the comments, please.

I digress. Social media has allowed for people to find those who are like them in various ways, not just also being a person living with diabetes. This includes people who live in the same city, like the same music, play the same games – all folks who have allowed for friendships to flourish and conferences fun to go to. Together, as a band of do-gooders, we have allowed for people to come to us with questions, comments and “I know EXACTLY how you feel” sentiments. We just want the dialogue to continue so that we know we’re never alone.

And that companionship, my friends, follows us all over the place through our technology, especially our smartphones. We are able to tweet, Facebook, Pin and Instagram from anywhere on the planet (that has Wi-Fi) and stay connected via microblogging and blog and information sharing has never been easier. Wherever my friends are, I can be right there with them, letting them know that, for example, TSA didn’t have to pat me down today at the airport. Those are #smallwins, but #wins in my book nonetheless.

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Filed under Diabetes, Health, technology