Category Archives: Out Of the Box

Sunny, Happy Days.

The weather in my part of the world got into the 70s last week. In February, when the average high reaches around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit. Seven years ago around this time, we were under almost four feet of snow. This year, daffodils are blooming a month early, and tulips are beginning to push to the surface.
tulips_sjs
Despite this being evidence of global warming, I was actually glad to see sunshine and warm temperatures last week. I used the respite from winter to clean up the yard a little, play with the dog, and take on a couple of outside tasks around the house. Why?

Because that’s what you do when you have the opportunity. Days like these don’t come along often. I knew that if I just sat inside somewhere (though I did go to work), I would regret not taking advantage of the gift I was given. And when the weather turned cold again, as it did this week, the return of winter would feel twice as bad.

That’s true with my diabetes too. When I have a good diabetes day, everything is a little easier. Only a little sometimes, but easier. And happier. When that happens, I want to enjoy what I can, while I can enjoy it, without worrying about the bad diabetes day (like yesterday) that might show up at any time.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but if I haven’t, here’s a little backstory: When I was younger, say, 18 or so, even though diabetes wasn’t a part of my life yet, I had a lot of the same attitude. Enjoy the good times, don’t stress over the bad times and what might happen.

Then I spent my 30s and part of my 40s working like a dog, while also living with diabetes. I didn’t take a lot of time off. I was afraid to spend a cent. Even in the good times, I was afraid of what might happen if I didn’t worry about everything all the time. When I did try to let go a bit, I felt like I was going to be punished for not keeping a properly pessimistic viewpoint. I didn’t smile or laugh for a long time.

Without realizing it, I started eating poorly, I drank too much, and I seemed to get sick easily. My A1cs were horrible, and I didn’t know what to do to lower them. I wasn’t sure if I was depressed, but I knew I was really unhappy. I don’t want to suggest I was a hot mess; a lot of people have it a lot worse than I did. I think I had this view of how life should be for me, and what I was living wasn’t it. When you stare at that right in the face, it can really affect you. Too many expectations. Not enough self love.

Eventually, I was able to climb out of the doldrums I was in, and you know what? I found that one of my outlooks from when I was 18 was still true today. I can’t let the parade pass me by. I need to live, not necessarily in the moment all the time, but in the good moments all the time.

The bad times will come. And they will go. That’s what over a half century of living has taught me. But so do the good times.

I spoke a lot during those dark days of wanting to get my enthusiasm back. Even though I’m not the same person I was then, I wanted to find the joy I felt in my younger years.

When today features sunshine and warmth, I need to revel in it before today becomes yesterday. I suggest you do the same. Why? Because you totally deserve the joy. Not at someone else’s expense, like some of those people in Washington. You deserve a little fun and irreverence and unbridled happiness. A day in the sun. Feel the warmth.

8 Things about my diabetes.

This blog is a place for me to write about diabetes, but it’s also a place for me to write about my diabetes. So today, I’m telling you eight things you might not know about what’s going on in my life, diabetes-wise:
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1. Diabetes By The Numbers is not going away. As seems to happen with all things audio in my life, technology has let me down. I had been recording my podcast interviews through my ten year old laptop, and frankly, it’s just running out of juice. It was having trouble recording my interviews without garbling up important parts of what people were saying. If I’m going to do this podcasting thing, I want to have as good a sound as I can get. So I’ve invested in a new laptop (prices have really come down– this has more computing power for about a thousand bucks less than a decade ago). So look for new episodes of Diabetes By The Numbers soon. I don’t know about you, but I miss it.
 
 
2. I’m finally seeing doctors again. After writing about letting my appointments with various doctors slide for a while, I made a couple of phone calls. I have an appointment with my endocrinologist this afternoon, which, actually, I’m looking forward to. It’s been about 4 1/2 months since my last visit, and we have lots to discuss. I’ll let you know if there are any great nuggets that come out of this appointment. There usually are.

I’m also seeing a new ophthalmologist in a few weeks. Fingers crossed that this one is a little more detailed than the last one. Plus, I need a new prescription.
 
 
3. I’m training for a 5K run. This is my local neighborhood run, that takes place about five minutes away from my house. I had run this race every year for about ten years until I had knee surgery last June. This is my comeback run, my first athletic event in two years. I’ve lost weight in the past year, but I’m still not in great shape, so I don’t expect to do well. I don’t care. Simply put, this event is very important to me, and I will participate, even if I have to crawl my way to the finish line.

Then it’s back to the bike for a while.
 
 
4. I will be in Orlando in July. Actually, I should say I hope to be in Orlando in July, provided I can get the okay from my job to take off that week. I plan to be onsite during the Friends for Life conference, but I’m not necessarily going as an attendee. The plan is to go to MasterLab (sponsored by Diabetes Hands Foundation, which is letting me attend for free) on July 6, and then I’ll be working in the exhibit hall on the 6th, 7th, and 8th. If you’re going to be there, please come by and see me… there’s something I want you to do, and it will help all of us living with and affected by diabetes. I mean it.
 
 
5. It won’t be long before September is here. And September means… the Diabetes UnConference Atlantic City, September 9-11! In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the weekend of the Miss America pageant, which is held there each year, and while those festivities are occurring, scores of adults living with diabetes and the people who love us will be getting together for the only peer-to-peer conference of its kind. We’ll be talking about all the psychosocial aspects of living with diabetes 24/7/365. There will also be fun get-togethers, new friends made, lots of acceptance and support, and probably some hugs too when the UnConference makes its way to the U.S. east coast for the first time. Check out the super team of facilitators. I’ll bet you can recognize one or two.

More to come as deadlines near. I don’t want you to miss out on anything! To find out more, CLICK HERE. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I will be one of the facilitators in Atlantic City this September, and I can’t wait.
 
 
6. I will be hosting DSMA next week. I’ve been keeping to about a once-per-month schedule moderating the fastest hour of the week, the DSMA Twitter Chat, which happens every Wednesday at 9:00 p.m.(US). The other moderators are (of course) Cherise Shockley, Kelly Kunik, and Chelcie Rice. The DSMA chat is great fun, and it’s a great way to meet others from the diabetes community, all while answering prompts from the moderator. It’s been a great honor to help lead the community discussion on both important and fun topics, and that honor continues next week.

If you’d like to participate, it’s easy. First: get a Twitter account. Second: follow the @DiabetesSocMed Twitter handle and/or the #DSMA hashtag to participate. Come and join the conversation!
 
 
7. Still going on the Animas Vibe pump. I’ve been on the Vibe for about six months now, with a short break in April (I ran out of supplies– I’ll get that worked out with my endo today). Overall, the pump has been durable and delivers insulin like nobody’s business, but there are definitely things I don’t like about it. No use complaining anymore… I’m stuck with this one for another 3 1/2 years. Boo on the local trainer who was going to get together with me to show me some of the more intricate features of the pump. I got sick just before we were scheduled to meet, so I had to cancel. After that, repeated phone messages have been met with only silence. Maybe I can hit up the people working at the Animas booth in Florida for a quick tips and tricks session.
 
 
8. My diabetes circle is getting bigger. I work in a building with about 500 or 600 other people. Lawyers, admin assistants, architects, financial wizards. Just a couple of years ago I didn’t know anyone there who was living with diabetes. As far as I knew (though I knew it wasn’t true), I was the only one. Well, now I know three, two Type 2s, and a Type 1 who is wearing the same insulin pump that I wear. He got his first. It’s a double edged sword, really… I’m happy to know there are a few others around who get it, but I’m not happy that they have to live with this stupid condition too.
 
 
Okay… so that’s what’s happening in my world lately. What’s new with you?
 

Welcome to March.

So, how’s your life these days?

I thought I would ask because we’re entering March. Typically, people who make New Year’s resolutions tend to drop most of their big yearly ambitions by the end of January. Even more do so by the end of February, even if there is an extra day in there. I’ve noticed it at the gym. Like clockwork, the number of people going to my gym reduces by about half between the start of the year and the first of March.

QuePasaBut here’s the thing, and you probably know where I’m going with this already: Diabetes doesn’t take a break. It doesn’t care if I’ve put in a lot of effort on it through the first two months of this year. Diabetes demands a full time, consistent approach to glucose management, and oh baby, is it needy.

Still, sometimes you think, ”Hey, I really don’t want to do this right now, I’m kinda burned out”. Diabetes doesn’t care about that. Diabetes won’t cut you any slack. Often, like a stubborn pest, if you try to ignore your diabetes, it will demand your attention even more.

I’m full of good news today, right?

Look, I realize I’ve written a bit lately about how we have to give ourselves a break now and then, and try not to be so damned perfect every moment of every day. But I also recognize that ignoring my diabetes entirely is not an option either.

My question to you is, how do you do that? How do you balance the two?

One of the things that people don’t realize, I think, is that even when you’re right on with your D-management, you can still burn out. Often, you can feel your resolve slipping the most when you’ve been at your most diligent for a while. Other times, no doubt it’s because we’ve worked so hard to achieve good numbers and we still deal with crazy highs or stupid lows. So how do we solve that?

I don’t know if I have a good answer to that last question. But I sure wish I did.

Burnout seems to me to be one of those last bastions of life with diabetes where we can never quite explain how it sets in, or why it happens, or its incredible impact, to people not living with diabetes themselves. We don’t seem to have any super therapies to deal with it effectively. And I know there’s nothing out there designed to prevent diabetes burnout.

Yet the stakes are enormously high.

We all know what the stakes are, so I won’t repeat them here. But as you can tell, I have a lot of questions. Burnout is dangerous, it leads to unintended and sometimes dire consequences, and there is not a one-size-fits-all means of effectively dealing with it that I know of. Of course, consequences could happen even if we never suffer from diabetes burnout.

These kinds of things are going on in my head right now. I don’t know why.

But I know that I’m better not alone, even if burnout is taking over the day. I know that others living with diabetes understand and have been there themselves. That’s something I know I can lean on, and it means the world to me.

If you’re dealing with diabetes burnout, or diabetes is just taking too much of your soul these days, don’t be afraid to reach out and seek that person who understands. Every single one of us has been where you are. And even if we don’t have a foolproof plan that will work for you every time, we can offer absolutely no judgement while you work your way through this. And we’ll be right there to prop you up and support you in the process. You count. You matter. Just as much as anyone else.
Never ever give up.
 

What does baseball have to do with diabetes?

I watched a lot of baseball over the weekend. Oh, I know there’s a lot of college and NFL football out there, and that’s okay, but I watch as much October baseball as I can. That’s partly due to the fact that the best of the best are playing against each other right now in the playoffs, coupled with the knowledge that we are now officially less than a month away from no more baseball for about six months.

I’ve watched a lot of baseball over the years. I mean, a lot. I’ve been watching baseball on television since the 1960s. I’ve been to hundreds of major league games in person, in (if I have this correct) Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago (Wrigley Field and the old Comiskey Park), Washington, New York (just the old Yankee Stadium), San Diego, and of course, Baltimore. I’ve been to, I think, 13 or 14 Opening Day games in Cincinnati, and a couple more in Baltimore. I even made Opening Day in both cities a few years ago.

And it’s not just the major leagues. The Great Spousal Unit can tell you that if we see a little league team playing in a park somewhere, I’ll want to stop the car and watch a few innings. And we’ve done that.

Now… what does all this have to do with diabetes?

Well, I get a lot of enjoyment from watching baseball. Always have, always will. A lot of the baseball I’ve seen in my time has been since my Type 1 diagnosis 24-plus years ago.

Joe Carter’s World Series winning homer in 1992… all those great Atlanta Braves teams in the 90s and 00s… the Florida Marlins’ improbable championship in 1997, and again in 2003… Madison Bumgarner almost single-handedly giving the Giants their third championship in five years last year.

What do I want to see? More baseball! It’s one of the many things in my life that doesn’t give me any value except great memories. Priceless memories. Like my father taking me to see the Reds against the Cardinals in 1971, when I was nine years old. Joe Torre (the National League MVP that year) hit two solo home runs, and Johnny Bench, the Reds catcher, picked off a runner at first base. I remember almost 40 years later, taking my father and father-in-law to see the Twins and the Dodgers in a spring training game in Fort Meyers. My dad caught a foul ball. I still have it. Don’t tell him… he might want it back.

The truth is, I have a hundred stories like that. I have a hundred memories like that. And I want a hundred more.

I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of those moments in my life thanks to insulin, my care team, and my family and friends. If I’m going to enjoy even more, it’s going to be because I learn, adapt to new techniques and ideas, and take advantage of the latest in technology and drugs.

I think what I’m trying to say is this: When you’re burned out, when you just don’t want to do that BG check, when you just want to unplug and walk away from diabetes, well, I get it. I feel the same way sometimes. Often, when I feel like that, I try to think of one really fantastic thing that I would miss if I couldn’t be around to enjoy it. The One Thing might change from time to time, but I try to get that focus on what’s important and permanent (memories), and off of what’s temporary and annoying (burnout).

Find your One Thing. I’m not saying it will make things so wonderful you’ll never ever get burned out again. But sometimes, remembering the good stuff helps bring us back and refocuses us so we can not only live to fight another day with diabetes… we can live to enjoy another day of piling up the best memories we can, against the worst thing that might ever happen to us.

What’s your one thing?
 

8 Things: Summer Edition.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an 8 things list. Today, here is a list of things that are part of my world this summer:
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1. Insulin worries. Every summer, it seems that every high number comes with a “Did my insulin get skunked in the heat?” question. Remember that insulin is best when stored and used at under 80 degrees. Anything above that and you’re playing with fire. Or potentially compromised insulin, which no one wants, especially in the heat.

2. Low BG/sweating worries. This is the flip side of the high number questioning. Since it can be so warm where I live (Maryland– nearly at sea level)… how can I say this? If I’m sweating, which can be often, the questions are: Am I low? Or am I just sweating? These questions are of particular concern when I’m operating potentially dangerous machinery, like when I’m driving or mowing the lawn.

3. Eating… better. How about something a little nicer? As in, fresh fruits and vegetables. So good, and so good for us. If I’m ever in danger of overdoing it on veggies, it’s at this time of year. Nothing wrong with that.

4. More exercise(?) It’s been a good summer in Baltimore weather-wise. Oh sure, we’ve had our share of stifling heat, muggy days with lots of humidity. But we’ve also had an occasional cool spell, where the high dips into the low 80s with less humidity. Those days are golden in the summer, and though (because of my knee) I haven’t been able to do bike rides or go for runs outside, I have been able to do a few extra walks here and there. Right now, those are golden too.

5. More controversy. Thanks to the CrossFit issue, People With Diabetes had more to feel stigma over, more to respond to, and yes, more ways to examine how we react to controversial statements about diabetes by ignorant individuals. I’m very glad that the Diabetes Online Community was quick to react to the shameful postings of CrossFit and their CEO. I just wish that some of those reactions were more inclusive of all People With Diabetes, instead of just saying “Sugar didn’t cause my type of diabetes”. Also…

6. Second hand news, second hand blues. Friends for Life… MasterLab… ADA Scientific Sessions…. and now the AADE convention this week. I haven’t been able to get to any of them this year. So all the news I’m getting from these events is second hand. Good thing the people that are giving me the updates from these gatherings are pretty good at reporting in the first place, or I might be totally in the dark.

7. Travel….? Travel? Really? See #4 above. Are you kidding? Travel? Good thing I was going places early in the year, because I’m not going anywhere right now. Mostly, it has to do with work. I’m needed right now, this year more than most years, so that’s put a crimp in the travel plans for a while. We did get away to Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago, but really, a day and a half extra doesn’t exactly a vacation make. I’m headed back to New Jersey next week, for training for my job. This year is a lot about what is needed, and not a lot about what is wanted.

8. One visit with the endocrinologist. My next appointment with the endo is in another couple of weeks, and I’ll be interested to find out how surgery and my lack of movement has affected my hemoglobin A1c. My last number was at an even 7.0, and I had been significantly under that for a while. Our goal was to bring it up from where it was, so 7.0 is not so bad. But I certainly don’t want to be any higher. To me, that would feel like a huge fail.
 
 
So there you have it. Eight ways that diabetes has factored into my life this summer. I hope your summer has been grand. How has diabetes fit into your life this year?
 

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