At the end of Diabetes Blog Week, I was motivated. I was fired up. I felt as though I’d taken that week to really gain ownership of this blog now that it’s no longer being graded. I felt as though I finally made it mine. I was ready to do the wildcard post just to get an extra day out of it because I enjoyed the experience so much.
Then, this happened. You can read more about it here, here, here, here, and here. The obituary is here.
I hadn’t seen Colin much since we graduated, but I have nothing but fond memories of him from high school. He was one of the first people I met on my first day freshman year and from that day on, every time a class called for us to sit in alphabetical order, he was over my shoulder. Always ready with a joke or a smile and exceedingly patient when it came to dealing with my Rapunzel-like hair that invaded his personal space on more than one occasion. He was the guy you never had to awkwardly ask to sign your yearbook - he came right up to you and asked if he could sign it. We had some great times doing things with the drama department. We were homeroom representatives on the Student Council senior year. I vividly remember a presentation he did in our freshman honors English class about the WWII F6F Hellcat during which he proudly brought in a model that he had built. It had working parts, too, and his love and passion for the subject was evident. I also remember senior year, when he was playing an inept cop in a friend’s movie, he used his own car… which had a prominently displayed radar detector. None of them had noticed it until I pointed it out and at that point, all we could do was laugh.
A few days prior to this tragedy, I was messing around on facebook and came across his page. I remember wondering to myself if he and his girlfriend were ever going to get engaged as they’d been together for 10 years. Now they’ll never get that chance.
Losing the first person from my graduating class in such an unexpected and tragic way shook me. One minute he was here, and the next minute he was gone. Throughout my life, even before my diagnosis, I’ve had a long string of health problems and I’ve always felt closer to death than many of my peers. It’s never gotten in the way of living my life, but it’s always been there.
This tragedy just reminds all of us that we never know when it will be our time. We need to treasure every moment and make sure that everyone we love and appreciate knows it. We need to not get worked up over the small stuff. A life of hate and anger is nothing but a life wasted. If there’s one thing I learned from Colin it’s that there’s no room in life for not reaching our full potential and there’s no room for anger and sadness when there’s so much to live for.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
It’s the last day of Diabetes Blog Week. I have to say how amazing it’s been to be a part of it. It’s been an honor to be included with all of the established and respected d-bloggers with a blog that started as a class project. It’s been so wonderful to see what everyone’s had to say. I feel as though every day taught me something new about my friends who are such an important part of my life and this experience has brought all of us closer together. I sincerely hope that this, at the very least, becomes an annual thing.
Now, time for the topic at hand.
Today is devoted to the dream I think all diabetics, no matter how jaded and bitter we are, have deep inside of us: to live a life without diabetes.
I know that many of the amazing DOCers (Diabetes Online Community Members) have had diabetes since they were very young and most likely can’t remember a life without it.
I was diagnosed at 25. I remember every minute of life without this disease.
I remember not having to carry around a purse that doubles as a pharmacy.
I remember being able to workout without having to stop and gulp down some juice.
I remember being able to walk around campus without feeling like I was going to pass out once I got to class.
I remember not having to be afraid that my brain would cramp every time I took an exam.
I remember being able to drive without the fear of having a bad low behind the wheel and getting in an accident.
I remember not feeling the need to find the first aid station or nearest hospital anywhere and everywhere I go.
I remember being able to eat and indulge when I wanted to without worrying about how I’d feel afterwards.
I remember being able to type without getting blood on the keyboard from my most recent bg (blood glucose) test.
I remember being able to play my guitars without the metal stinging my fingertips and ripping open the scabs from bg tests.
I remember being able to wear a bikini without the fear that people will notice the needle marks and bruises that have become a part of my life.
I remember being able to make plans at a moment’s notice without thinking twice.
I remember never having to show up late or cancel plans altogether because I was trying to get my bg under control.
I remember what it was like to have an off day and not get the “oh poor baby” look.
I remember when the only reason why people were scrutinizing what I ate was because they couldn’t believe I was able to eat so much.
I remember when the question ‘how are you?’ wasn’t accompanied with a look of intense fear.
So what would I do other than be sure to take part in K2’s beach party?
I’d workout in a bikini while eating cupcakes before going to a concert, eating breakfast at 2 am, and playing my guitar for hours.
...and I’d rub it in the face of all of the people who gave up on me.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
For Day 5 of Diabetes Blog Week, it’s time to get moving.
It’s no secret. I workout. A lot.
And I love doing it.
I started hitting the gym long before I was diagnosed. It was mainly for rehabilitation of injuries to both knees that I’d sustained back when I was a ballerina. If I was stressed, anxious, angry, or depressed on the way into the gym, I felt like a whole new woman on the way out of it. I was accustomed to being at the gym every day for at least an hour, but usually closer to 3. Cardio, weight training, spin, yoga, kickboxing and personal training were all normal things for me. For a while I was actually teaching classes of my own.
Then out of nowhere I started getting sick after I’d workout. I had no clue what was going on. This is what alerted me that I needed to get to the doctor. Working out always made me feel better, and at that point, it was making me feel worse. I was afraid to really workout for months.
During that time, I met my trainer and she started working with me. I knew that once a week for an hour I would be getting a workout in. Not only that, but she came to my house so if I did get sick, I wouldn’t have to drive anywhere. I could just take it easy for the rest of the afternoon and wait for my body to bounce back.
2 months after I met her, I received my diagnosis. For about 6 months or so, I only worked out for an hour a week with her because I was still afraid to do it on my own.
Then I realized how depressed I was. I know that that’s normal following a serious diagnosis, but I knew that if I could get myself back to the gym, I’d feel better mentally. I gradually started getting back to it. Some days it felt like I was back to normal and other days my bg couldn’t sustain me for more than 20 minutes.
Now I’m back to working out 7 days a week for about an hour. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. It just depends on what my body is saying. Or yelling as the case may be.
There are some rules that I live by. As I’ve mentioned before, my bg (blood glucose) has to at least be in the 90’s before I go. I eat at least an hour before I workout and eat within the hour after I’m done. I also make sure to have some protein bars with me and a bottle of Gatorade in case I need a quick rescue.
Before I was back to a faithful gym schedule, my bloodwork was suffering. High cholesterol runs in my family and it was showing up in me. I have no doubt that my latest results came mainly from how faithful I am to the gym.
And if you're like me and have an instant word association with the post title, this is for you:
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Day 4 of Diabetes Blog Week is devoted to the age old question that I’m sure ancient Egyptian diabetics drew hieroglyphics about and diabetic cavemen pummeled each other over – to carb or not to carb?
I come from a big Italian family.
When we celebrate – be it a birthday, graduation, holiday, or just a Wednesday night – we eat.
When someone’s mourning, we bring food.
As a family, we pow-wow around the kitchen or dining room table.
Let’s face it, carbs are comforting. I’ve never had a bad day and thought to myself ‘I can’t wait to get home and have some grilled chicken!’ More like ‘I can’t wait to get home and eat my weight in ravioli!!’
Needless to say, I’m not anti-carb. However, I know how crappy I feel if my bg (blood glucose) gets too high and there’s certainly some foods that I don’t deem worth the possibility of feeling gross after.
As a rule, I try to consume less carbs than protein at any given time or at least balance the two unless I’m treating a bg that’s too low (and of course, when I’m low, I have plenty of carb filled favorites that I turn to). I’ve found that eating this way is just nicer to my body and my bg.
For me, carbs are a food group for a reason. Our bodies cannot run without glucose. I just choose to go for healthier carbs. There's plenty of ways to make healthier versions of carb filled favorites. Some may say that it just doesn't taste the same, I say if it doesn't wonkify my bg, I'm all for it. Don’t get me wrong, if I want some ice cream, I’m going for it, but as much as I can, I keep my true carb-fests limited to celebrations.
Speaking of celebrations, graduation definitely calls for a carb-filled fantasy menu!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
For Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week, I’m supposed to write about my biggest supporters.
Thinking about this topic made me really sad. I can’t help but think back to when I first started getting sick. I can’t help but think back to the time when all I could see was the people sickness had taken from my life. Before I was even diagnosed, someone I've loved since I was 18 told me I wasn’t the same girl anymore because I was sick and had limitations. It became my goal to try to prove that I was still the girl he'd fallen for. Friends gradually got sick of hearing me say I didn’t feel well enough to do x, y, and z but would love to take part in one of the three and stopped calling. People were getting frustrated with me and giving up without realizing that, as frustrated as they were, no one was as frustrated as I was. My body was betraying me. I had no control over it or my mind. The harder I tried to get a handle on things the worse things became. I had no idea what was causing it or why it was happening.
There's nothing quite like a diagnosis to help point out the people who truly want to be there and support you, and the people who only want to be around when things are carefree and simple.
Immediately after my diagnosis, I went to the internet. I found a social network for diabetics and got involved for a few months but then I shied away. If the people who were in my life were giving up, how could I expect anyone who’d never met me to care? A year later, thanks in large part to diving back into the community and to Twitter I know how wrong I was. The DOC (Diabetes Online Community) is a constant source of support and inspiration for me. I can’t possibly list all of you, but you know who you are. You make each day a little easier just by letting me know that no matter where I am on this journey, I will never be traveling it alone. I tweet about a bad bg (blood glucose) and within minutes someone’s checking in. I tweet about a great doctor’s visit and someone shares in the celebration. Whenever Glee is on, we're all present and accounted for having an all out party. It’s amazing to me that people I’ve never met (although I’d LOVE to someday) can “get me” the way that all of you do.
Of course, I have my offline support, too. My parents, my trainer, and my amazing doctor who never gave up on trying to get to the bottom of what was wrong are all sources of support for me.Today though it’s all about the DOC. You guys make each day a little happier and each rough patch a little easier. You’ve helped me in more ways than I could ever say and I appreciate every single one of you for it.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
For day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week, it's time to talk about how I handle my bg lows.
When I was first diagnosed, the lows scared me more than anything else. It led to me becoming hyperaware of every little thing and I’d catch my body doing something wonky before I could really hit a bad low. As soon as I’d feel myself randomly getting dizzy or inappropriately cold, I’d test and act accordingly. I’d usually be able to catch myself before dipping much below 60. I always had a juice box in my purse and that seemed to do the trick. I’ve always carried glucose tabs, too, but I’ve never actually used them.
Fast forward 2 years, and I still have a juice box and glucose tabs in my purse. However, now that I’m used to having a lower bg it takes more of a drastic low in order for me to notice.
The lows no longer just involve feeling cold and getting dizzy. Now I get disoriented, confused, sweaty, shaky, and sometimes have a full on panic attack. I also get clumsy. I fall down, bang my head on and/or trip over random pieces of furniture, and collapse in the shower. Cute, right?
If I’m having one of those panicked moments in which blood is flowing everywhere but to my stomach where it needs to be in order for me to keep any food down, I suck on orange slices until I get my sugar up a little bit and can actually eat/drink something.
With the exception of a panicked low, I usually feel absolutely ravenous when my bg is low. I want to eat anything and everything, even things that I normally wouldn’t even find appealing. Being that almost all of the lows I’ve had recently have happened at school, I’ve resorted to some creative measures and experimentation to get my sugar back up. 4 twizzlers. Half of a snickers or a milky way. 2 caramel rice cakes. A handful of whole wheat cheese crackers (healthy cheeze-its! yay!).
When a low happens at home, I try to make healthier choices. An apple with some almond butter is always good. So are the Cliff bars that I have on hand to bring with me to the gym. I also have a stash of hard candy in my nightstand just in case I need sugar faster than I can get myself to the kitchen in the middle of the night.
But, if I’m really in trouble, I’m grabbing 2 spoons and diving head first into the fluff and peanut butter.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Today, the first day of Diabetes Blog Week, falls right in between finishing my last project of the semester and beginning to study for my last final. Last night, somewhere between studying delirium and the point at which I finally passed out, I told Crystal and Mike on Twitter that the only typical thing in a day in the life with diabetes is expecting the unexpected.
Then my brain, so exhausted by the stroke of genius, made a whirring noise and shut down for the night.
It’s true. When I take a step back and look at what I do on a daily basis, I find myself always trying to be prepared for any unexpected change (a.k.a. high or low) that may happen. I do this with the knowledge that what has been working for me for a while can stop working at any moment. With the knowledge that as much as I *think* I know what my body needs, and as much as I *think* I’m prepared for anything that can happen, what will actually happen is usually something I never saw coming.
For me, a typical day is all about being aware of my body and noticing when it’s giving me signals. It’s all about trying to stay on top of things all the while knowing that what I’m trying to stay on top of is constantly changing. There will be days when everything “goes wrong” and I get knocked right on my butt, but there will also be days where everything goes as well as I could hope for.
Over the past 2 years, this desire to stay on top of things has helped me learn some patterns that I use to decide what I need to do throughout my day:
- I’ve learned that if my bg (blood glucose) isn’t at least in the 90’s before I go to the gym, it’s not going to end well.
- I’ve also learned that, even if my bg is at least in the 90’s, sometimes it still won’t end well.
- I’ve learned that, on test days, I need my bg to be a little higher in order to think.
- I’ve also learned that, due to the stress of test days, I can have a low that I never saw coming.
- I’ve learned that always having a good source of protein and a good source of carbs with me at all times makes me (and everyone around me) feel a little better about this whole diabetes thing.
- I’ve also learned that when I’m really low, I’ll grab the snickers before the glucose tabs.
- I’ve learned that, testing has become so automatic that I don’t really think about it that much anymore and had to look at my meter in order to know that, as of 4pm, I’ve tested 10 times today. No wonder I go through test strips so quickly.
- So today specifically I’ve learned that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to look into getting a CGM.
- Above all else I’ve learned that diabetes doesn’t rule my life. It’s a huge part of it, and sometimes it demands my undivided attention, but so much of my diabetes care has become a reflex that it’s never the star of the show.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Friday, May 9, 2008.
I wish I could say that I remember every second of that day, but most of it is a blur. I had just finished taking my finals and I had been sick for months. Around 9:45 am my phone rang. It was my endocrinologist’s office. Due to the time of day, I figured that they’d just received a faxed copy of the hours worth of blood work I’d had done on top of all the other tests that my Endo had ordered. The exchange went something like this:
“We have all of your results and the doctor would like you to come in.”
“Ok, I’m done with finals so my schedule is pretty flexible.”
“Good. How soon can you get here?”
The only thing that let me know I wasn’t dying was that my endo wanted me to go to her office and not directly to the hospital. In retrospect, that wasn’t really a safe bet since her office is across the street from a hospital. I let my parents know that I was going. Mom said she’d leave work to meet me there, but I felt like this was a trip I had to make on my own. I know that sitting at work that morning must have been hell on my parents, but they let me do this my way.
My endo came in the room, sat down next to me, and gave me the news. We finally had a diagnosis - I was diabetic. She went on to explain what I’d have to do to take care of myself from that point on but I wasn’t really paying much attention. All I was thinking was “Mother’s Day is Sunday.” I considered not saying a word about it until after the holiday was over. I didn’t want to ruin mom’s day. I also knew that mom would know what my doctor said without me having to say a word. I went to my parents’ office after the appointment and gave them the news. They listened. They looked scared and yet relieved to finally have some sort of an answer as to why I’d been so sick. They only had one question for me: “how can we help?”
But this isn’t just about what happened that day or the days since then. This is about there never being a moment in my life when my mom hasn’t been there (daddy, too, but he’ll get his own post in due time). She’s held me when I cried even when it was over something undeserving of my tears. She let me make my own mistakes even if they lasted a little too long. She’s stayed up with me while I was studying just in case I wanted a snack or a hug. She calls just to check in on me and see how I’m doing especially when she knows I’m stressed out. She very gently asks how I’m feeling without harping on it or making me feel like I'm a sick person. The day I had to go to the hospital to have a barium test and follow it up with an echocardiogram and treadmill stress test? She went with me. The day I had to have a glucose tolerance test? She kept me company. The day I had the 4 hours of bloodwork done? She was with me. She even took me shopping beforehand.
Of course, our relationship is far more than her always being there for my medical issues. We have our traditions. Most of which involve us laughing like fools the whole time. Prior to my college career getting so insane, we had season tickets for the local theater and saw some amazing shows together. If I have concert tickets, odds are, mom’s coming with me. We go Christmas shopping at 11 o’clock at night and end up giddy and hyper. We also tend to end up at whatever doughnut shop is open when we’re done. We have fun doing absolutely nothing. She really and truly is my best friend.
Today, I couldn’t go to my parents’ house to celebrate so they came to my place instead. Within a few minutes of being here, mom was dusting. On her day. Because that’s just the kind of mom she is. We ended up ordering pizza for dinner. If there’s anything worthy of blowing my carb counts out of the water for, it’s a day celebrating the strongest and most amazing woman I know. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that every day I’m getting more and more like her and honestly, there’s no one else I’d rather be.
I love you momma. Happy Mother's Day! xoxo
Saturday, May 8, 2010
It’s rough for college students everywhere. Study your material. Do your projects and papers. Try to maintain your good grades (or resuscitate your bad ones). Hope you don’t get sick from the stressful week combined with the lack of sleep and dehydration breaking down your immune system and making you more susceptible to infection.
For me? Well, I’m already immunocompromised. Touch a door handle? Hand sanitizer. Sitting at a new desk? Sanitizing wipes. Drinking a protein shake out of a can? Swab it with alcohol first and use a wrapped straw. Sharing food with someone? Don’t let them put their hand in the bag. Coughing and sneezing classmate? Don’t sit near them. And that’s just bacterially and virally. What I’m really worried about is the one that goes minute by minute. The one that always creeps up on me at the worst possible times and I have no choice but to push through it, treat accordingly, and hope it gets better. Am I panicked because I’m stressed out? Or is my bg (blood glucose) too low? Maybe the stress is causing the low bg? Am I crying because I’m crumbling under the stress? Or is my bg too low? Is this headache because I’ve been staring at a computer screen all day? Or is my bg too high? Is my bg, whether too high or too low, the reason I’m having such a problem concentrating and focusing? Or have I finally just run myself into the ground? Did I just get sick at the gym because I pushed it too hard? Or did my bg drop because I’ve been sitting at a desk all day and my system was shocked by the exercise?
This semester more than any other my professors seem to have forgotten what it’s like on the other side of the podium. I’ve had papers and projects assigned at the last minute (a.k.a. the last week of class) that weren’t part of the syllabus that I have to get done on top of studying for and taking my finals. Maybe it’s because I’m an older student and I know that finals week doesn’t *have* to be this way. Maybe it’s because it’s my final finals week (at least for now) and at the end of this I’ll be getting my third degree. Or maybe it’s because this is the first semester I’ve had an overly full course load since my diagnosis and I’m physically and mentally exhausted, but it feels as though this particular battle is going to get the best of me.
It’s funny to look back at my original “final finals” week. I defended my honors project thesis, wrote 3 papers, took a lab final and 3 class finals, and got everything done in time to fly out to my brother’s law school graduation and surprise him. I did it all while finishing up my internship in which I was a substance abuse counselor for those who were court-ordered to it. Back then, the stomach problems I was having (and still have) were a big deal but now they get filed under “the least of my problems” and are largely ignored aside from taking a pill every day. When I started this chapter of my education, it was only supposed to last 2 years. I was just going to take the pre-requisites for medical school so I could take the MCAT and apply. I was accepted to the Postbac Premed Program at Harvard but was too sick due to what was then a “mystery illness” to go. Then 2 years of pre-requisite classes became 3 years. I stayed close to home and received my diabetes diagnosis 2 months before my MCAT test date. Then 3 years of pre-requisite classes became another degree program to give myself some time to get a handle on my health before starting medical school. And now? Well, I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m choosing not to head to medical school because I’m diabetic, but I will say that my diabetes has helped me realize that I don’t have to be a doctor to help people. There are so many other ways. Who knows? A year from now I may be posting to say that I’m applying to medical school but for now, I just need to survive this week in one piece.