Friday, August 3, 2018

Four Things That We Depend On

There are many things that we depend on as people with type 1 diabetes. As much as we like to claim independence, there is quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes, that we count on to keep us going:


1. Candy, Sugar, Juice Boxes

Believe it or not, people with diabetes need these things. We need something to bring us up when our blood sugars plummet.  Most people confuse sugar consumption with diabetes in general, and believe
that we have had to give it all up, and if we touch it, our 'diabetes' gets worse. However, many of times, candy as saved my life.


2. Prescriptions

This is something many people depend on. However, if we do not have insulin, the consequences are grave.  There have been a few times I've gone to the pharmacy, only to find out they didn't have insulin in stock, and their nonchalant attitude is enough to send a T1D across the counter in rage. Same goes for a prescription that is not properly cared for.  I once went into a pharmacy only to to 
notice, my insulin sitting on the counter - for who knows how long! 


3. Technology 

It's not just our phones that we count on, but our insulin pumps, blood sugar meters, CGMs and sensors. We count on a ton of technology to keep us healthy and going.  It was absolutely great when it works, but when it fails us, we are left to the grips of a customer service line and a waiting game with the mailman.


4.  Proper Diabetes Education 

We are all smart, but when it comes to learning about diabetes it takes both lived experience and education from our health care providers. The day you're diagnosed begins the day of a lifetime course on how to manage diabetes.  It's always changing but, it is important to make sure we are equipped with proper support from both health care providers and others living with diabetes.



Kayla

Monday, July 30, 2018

Pre-Bolusing

As a reminder, I am not a medical professional - so the topic today is about bolusing and I want to state that, chat with a medical professional before you bring anything I blog about home.

I have been really trying to do well with my diabetes. By doing well, it just means that I have been trying to dedicate more time to managing diabetes and really sit with my numbers and figure out how I can achieve better numbers.  As I already stated, Mike and I would like to try for a family in the next year or so, and to do that, obviously you want to have good numbers and you just generally want to feel good. Once you get a feeling of stability with blood sugars (even if it just for a entire afternoon) you gain a little confidence that you'll be able to manage diabetes, usually that is if you're willing to dedicate 80% of your focus and brain power and 20% to everything else in your life.  It's not balanced, and likely cannot be.

What I have found that has been super helpful is a pre-bolusing.  I am not good at math or science or anything related to those topics, so by some magic, I have just made up my own way of pre-bolusing with timing and (most of the time) been successful with it.   I won't be discussing what that magic is, because I believe each of us need something different, and what works for me, likely isn't going to work for you, mainly because I just make it up as I go.

Pre-bolusing isn't something new.  People with diabetes have figured this out way before I have, and have done it with actual science and math and not luck.  You can find many articles by googling "pre-bolusing" There is no shortage of finding information and reading people's experiences on this topic. I am really just adding another paper to the pile that doesn't give any equations, or really anything that is going to be life-changing. However, for me really thinking about diabetes has been my own life-changer.

Pre-bolusing to me, is consciously thinking about what I am putting into my body, what I am doing with my body and trying to assume what my blood sugars will do with all of that information.  It is most definitely a guessing game for me, and trying to predict the future. However, it has been fairly successful for me - which means I am either in tune with my body, or I am a legit, fortune teller.  We can't be sure.

Kayla

Friday, July 27, 2018

I wish I knew

There is one major thing I wish I knew when I was first diagnosed.  I wish I knew that blood sugars do not always reflect the carbs you ate, the activity you did, the good vibes you put out nor do they equate to how good or bad you are at managing diabetes.

Obviously getting diagnosed with diabetes was a life changing moment, and like any life changing moments, your mind captures those memories like a photo album in your mind.  When I think about my first days of diagnosis, it takes me back to my parent's house,  I see myself sitting on the couch in the family room. Not facing forward, but facing backwards towards my mom who was often in the kitchen, I don't recall the exact conversations but I do find myself in that moment, on that couch, looking at my mother.

While I don't remember exact conversations that took place, I do remember a feeling.  A feeling that I was somehow failing at diabetes.  I never dealt with a disease before. I had headaches, belly aches, even a kidney infection once, but never did I have a disease I had to manage on my own.   I grew up taking Tums to calm my belly and Tylenol to heal my head but, I was now working with a much different monster.

This monster, diabetes, came with medicine, like the other ailments I had growing up, but instead of taking what was prescribed and letting the magic of medicine do its work, I was now in charge of the dosages. Me, eighteen, trying to figure out what I needed to keep my blood sugars in target.  Calculating carbs and correcting for my mistakes. I had this misconception that once I was diagnosed and on insulin, I was going to fix the broken part of me, and move on.

Why isn't this insulin working? was the feeling I had.

Of course it was working, there was nothing wrong with the insulin, it was not too hot, nor cloudy or expired, it was diabetes that wasn't working. It was the misconception that I had been telling myself that I was doing something wrong, I must be. My blood sugars are scattered, staggering high and low, never really running a straight line. I was taking my medicine, I was following directions - I was doing something wrong.

But, I wasn't. I wasn't doing anything wrong. I wasn't being good nor bad.  This wasn't like healing a headache or upset stomach, this wasn't about getting better and moving on. It was a harsh introduction to a disease that doesn't always cooperate. It was an introduction to myself as my own doctor, having to really learn about my body, and listen closely to myself, pay attention to patterns, and most importantly accept the highs and lows as they come.

There wasn't going to be a straight line that lasted forever.  It was going to be a ride. I wish I knew this from day one.

Kayla



Thursday, July 26, 2018

Water

Darien Lake - Pump Clipped On & Ready to Swim!
Alright, so I am sure the people on injections and people who once wore Animas insulin pumps will feel like this blog post is old news; however, since Medtronic made the leap to waterproof pumps back in April 2017 (in Canada) I must say, anything to do with water has made managing diabetes and enjoying water much easier.

Previous to wearing a waterproof pump, going to a waterpark meant throwing my insulin pump in a locker or bag and praying that it wasn't stolen.  It meant being without insulin for a period of time and likely dealing with rising blood sugars long after due to not
getting insulin for an extended period of time.   I almost dreaded going swimming because I knew I wouldn't be getting insulin during that time, or would have to force myself out to hook back up to the pump.

Now that Medtronic has a waterproof pump in Canada (630G)  I can wear my pump into the water without any worries about missing insulin or dealing with a missing (stolen) insulin pump. The first time I wore my pump into the water was when I went to a conference in Toronto and stayed at a hotel with a pool. Since it wasn't quite summer, I hadn't actually tested out the waterproof aspect. I figured I might as well try before we headed to Mexico.   It literally felt like freedom to just walk into the water without worry, just like a normal human being, except with my pancreas clinging onto the bottom of my bathing-suit.
Mexico - Totally wearing my pump!

Fast forward to Mexico, I wore my pump in the swim up bar for hours on end.  I was able to drink, eat, and float around without having to get out of the water to hook back up, or make sure my pump was still in my bag. It was on me the entire time, able to give myself insulin and also give people the time, because no one wears watches in the pool nor brings their phone in.  This was making diabetes and water possible.

Fast forward even more to the past weekend we spent at Darien Lake, I was now going to wear my insulin pump on water ride, lazy rivers, wave pools, the options were endless.  I didn't have to pay a exuberant amount of money to lock up my pancreas, I didn't have to stress about someone taking it, I had no worries about managing my diabetes and water. I was good! I had my pump, I had my sensor, I had everything I needed on me in order to enjoy life in the water.



Kayla




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

#dXDublin: Diabetes Bloggers


A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful country of Ireland.  I joked that my invite came with my marriage to an O'Connell, but really, it came from Abbott Diabetes Care.   I headed to Ireland for the #dXdublin Conference which welcomed thirty influencers from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The weekend kicked off with a tour of the beautiful city of Dublin followed by a welcome reception at the Marker Hotel.  The reception took place on the roof top, which overlooked the harbour - what a beautiful way to kick off a weekend with thirty amazing bloggers, you-tubers and social media gurus. This gave us all an opportunity to share our diabetes stories - all similar, yet unique.  We shared our social media channels, and some of us were so excited to meet the face behind the blogs and pages that we love.

The next day was full of excitement as we knew we would be heading to Google European Headquarters in the morning. We all met in the lobby and walked over to the building for some insight sessions on video blogging, and analytics. All topics that we all were able to take and apply to the work we do as diabetes influencers. Following our morning at Google we headed to a working farm called Airfield Estate.  We enjoyed a fresh healthy lunch there, followed by a walking tour of the grounds and then right into two speakers who shared their experiences with advocacy and social media.

There was plenty of time to get to know the influencers around us and here what the struggles, barriers and triumphs are in each country.  It was important to recognize that while we all live with type 1 diabetes, we are all facing unique obstacles due to the regions in which we are living. While some of us have access to free supplies, others are scrambling to find the supplies.  We all empathically shared our stories and listened to one another - bringing the stories back to our own communities to share.

By the end of Saturday, it was like we all knew one another from the start. Having diabetes was now normal, being surrounded by Libres on arms, pumps on waistbands and a constant buzz of diabetes topics floating across the tables.

We were surprised to learn that Sunday we would be touring the factory in which the Libre is assembled.   Having the opportunity to see the production was absolutely amazing and truly makes you appreciate the amount of care and thought that goes into the product in which you wear.  This was an opportunity of a lifetime as not many people are given the chance to see the factory.

Wrapping up the weekend was hard, living many miles away from one another, we knew the goodbyes would be difficult. But, to no surprise, since we are creatures of the online world, we found one another online, gained new followers, and shared our photos and memories from the weekend.

Ever since trying the Libre, I have constantly given the product credit to my lowered a1c and overall feeling of wellness.  Diabetes is hard, and any tools that take some of the burden off myself, and makes me feel at peace with living with the disease, are welcome.  I've welcomed the Freestyle Libre into my life without hesitation, and I'm happy that Abbott could let me into theirs!




Disclaimer:  Abbott Diabetes Care paid for my transportation, accommodations and meal expenses for this conference. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 







Thursday, July 19, 2018

Got Milk?

After nine years of blogging it has come to blogging about milk, but hey, it does relate to my diabetes!

I have always enjoyed drinking milk. It was a staple in our home growing up, a glass of milk in the morning and with dinner and also anytime I enjoyed something sweet - you bet I was pouring myself a glass of cold milk.   Just before I was diagnosed, before we had any clue what was happening to my body, I would crave milk to the point I would stand with the fridge doors wide open, pouring myself copious amounts of milk. Refilling without shutting the fridge doors, glass by glass until the bag was empty (yes, in Canada we have bags of milk!)  I would drink so much milk in fact, I would get the absolute worst stomach aches, complaining to my mom that I could hear the swishing around of liquids in my belly, groaning that while I felt completely flooded with milk, the thirst was still there (enter diabetes diagnosis.) 

I shutter to think what my blood sugars were climbing to when I was drinking litres upon litres of milk within hours.  I truly think this was one of the first warning signs that made my mom insist I get tested for diabetes because even the greatest of milk drinkers - don't finish two bags of milk in a day - or at least I hope not.  I was drinking milk like I was a growing teenage boy when in reality, I was withering away, so sick with type 1 diabetes and so very thirsty.

After diagnosis, my love for milk continued despite my love-hate relationship.  However, now I was able to see the affects milk had on my blood sugars.  When I was truly paying attention to that pattern - I'd see my blood sugars rise as soon as I took a sip.   Thankfully, as a student at the time, I rarely bought milk and if I did, it was small amounts.    Fast forward to now being in home where Mike and I both drink milk in a glass and with our coffee - we always have bags of milk in the fridge.

Are you bored of my milk story yet? 

Anyways, fast forward to almost ten years after my not-so-healthy relationship with milk.  Knowing now, if I want a glass, I have to pre-bolus.   But, also knowing that milk has been one of the best ways to bring my sugar up and stabilize it.  Lately, I have been very conscious of my blood sugars (thanks to Freestyle Libre & wanting to start a family!) so most of the day I have been riding the line between 6 mmol/L & 4 mmol/L This has caused some lows in the night, where juice just isn't doing its job.  It is almost like the juice becomes water and I am left waking myself up to scramble for more.  One can only drink so many juice boxes in the night - just saying.  I have realized, much like a baby, if I want to stabilize my blood sugars for a good nights rest, milk is the answer!

Kayla


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How I Pack

I recently had someone ask me what I do when I travel with diabetes.  I have been travelling for a long time now with diabetes to the point where I could probably pack my bags in my sleep.   I thought it might be helpful to give a quick overview of what I am packing when I head out on a trip and what I do whenever I am about the embark to somewhere new - well basically to somewhere that doesn't have my over flowing diabetes drawers and local pharmacy near by.

The first thing is carrying my supplies. Diabetes supplies make up about 25% of my checked luggage (if I am taking a plane) and about 50% of my carry-on luggage. Depending on where I am going which translates to - if I think I would be in absolute sh*t if I ran out of diabetes supplies. Basically, that will be the deciding factor on how much I decide to divide up my supplies between carry-on vs. checked.

Diabetes conference is on the low scale, middle of nowhere trip where english is not the first language and no one else will have diabetes in my travel group - you bet I am bringing a good chunk of supplies in my carry-on.

I carry most of my diabetes supplies in one big zippered case that has little compartments. This helps me keep it organized and also helps me check the inventory of the bag. Basically, this bag is always packed and I just refill after trips. I travel quite often so it works out well.

Travel Bag 
When I travel I almost always bring a loaner pump from Medtronic.  The loaner pump is just a pump you loan from Medtronic (that was probably obvious!) and you just return it upon coming back from your trip. It is more of a safety blanket than anything. This is a free program, but don't lose it because then it becomes not-so-free.  Keep it in a safe when you arrive to your location or somewhere you see fit - basically do not keep it on the bed side table.

Insulin, oh insulin.  This was the question I got in regards to travelling with diabetes.  Where do I keep my insulin and how to I keep it cool.  I want to take a hot second to remind you that this is what I do, and whatever you do - make sure you're comfortable with that and maybe ask a health professional if you're not sure/don't trust me.  Personally, when I first started travelling I was freaked out about the idea of having to carry medication that needed to keep cool. It was like having to take care of an egg on vacation with specific rules not to break its shell.  I was nervous that it wouldn't stay cool, it would break, it would get lost, or someone would steal it.

That fear has drifted away, whether for the good, bad or possibly ugly. I have become very relaxed with carrying insulin and honestly each trip is different. Sometimes I keep it in a little bag with an ice pack, sometimes I bring it in a Frio Bag and sometimes I just let it hang out in my backpack for the entire trip (this is what I recently did in Ireland).  The good news about this is that every method has worked fine. I have been perfectly okay using the insulin, and nothing bad has happened - fingers crossed.

When it comes down to it, travelling with diabetes could look different for everyone.  I am sure there are some of us that fear the worst and pack for the apocalypse and then there are others that pack like a teenager packs their lunch.   There isn't a right or wrong, or best or worst. There is what works for the individual traveller.

Kayla