Sunday, March 31, 2013

Annoying Things

The insulin pump is something that I tend to have a love/hate relationship with. As much as I love being able to push buttons to give myself insulin as well as change rates as I work out, there are a few things about insulin pumps that drive me absolutely nuts sometimes.  However, the reasons aren't enough to get me switching back to pens, but I think that it's important to note that there isn't perfection in any type of method.

Annoying things:

1. You have to wear it constantly. It's OK if you have pockets, but when you are pocket-less or don't want to w
ear it in your pocket - you are faced with having to find a place for it.  On a connected, interesting point when I was speaking a few weekends ago at a camp, a parent asked me why a person would want to hide it?   I answered with the fact that I wasn't trying to hide my diabetes when I didn't want to put it in my pocket; rather, I was more hiding the insulin pump in order to make an outfit look better.  I will gladly tell people I have diabetes, take insulin in front of people and prick my finger, but when dressing with diabetes, sometimes I wish I didn't have to accommodate for an insulin pump.

2. It is needy.   Obviously it's not a real pancreas. So, unlike your friend's pancreas, yours is beeping, vibrating and warning you.  Its batteries are running out and it's letting you know it doesn't have any more insulin. So, you are always being reminded that you have something extra to take care of.

3.  It is a clinger: I will never understand how the pump can be so attracted to door handles and cracks of couches, it seems that the pump finds its way to cling to whatever is around leaving you stuck.  It still amazes me how stretchy the tubing actually is and how strong a site can be.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Never Give Up

The other day I was working at the college during the open house and as the day was winding down, I took on the job of handing out the left over cupcakes that were from the session at 11:30.  An older man walked up and down the halls holding books and pamphlets he must have picked up along the way - he wasn't with anyone but he stopped to chat to a few people that were still manning their booths.

After he had walked past my booth for the third time he stopped to look at what was on the table I stood in front of.  "Ah, Fanshawe College," he said. "I came here a long time ago..." He smiled at me as he picked up a few of the papers on the desk. I then asked if he wanted a cupcake.

"I've got diabetes..I actually just found out..." he said.

Now, it isn't uncommon for me to find this similarity between me and older people, so I wasn't overly shocked but I decided to talk to him a little bit about it.

"I was going to go visit Europe, but during my physical they found out that I was diabetic..."

I responded with, "I am diabetic to actually, type one..."

and he responded with, "You must have the kind that is worse than mine..."

He then walked around the table to talk closer with me, and he told me about how he was so excited to go on his trip, but once he found out he had diabetes he was scared to go.  I told him about where I had traveled and how just two months after being diagnosed I boarded a cruise ship and sailed the Caribbean. He smiled at me, but then his face turned back into something less excited.

"I was really depressed you know..."

I wasn't sure what to say except for the automatic 'oh no..' that came out of my mouth.  He told me how he was depressed because he didn't know how to manage it...but he is thankful for only having to take pills. He told me how he began to feel better when his doctor told him that he didn't have to give up everything...adding that he just recently bought a marble cake from the grocery store.

I was happy for him that he had found happiness and peace with his diagnosis, unfortunately he also told me that his best friend had committed suicide due to also being diagnosed with diabetes.  He added that his friend had it all, a corvette, a big house and lots of money but when he was diagnosed he gave up.  He wiped a few tears from his eyes and smiled at me and told me to not give up and that it was a pleasure meeting me.

I have met handfuls of diabetics each one with a message and lesson to give - but this lesson although brief is something I will never forget.


Monday, March 18, 2013

The Body

Today in one of my classes we touched on the idea of 'The Body' and how much trouble we as humans give ourselves about the very vessel we travel in.  This topic in class was more to do with a poem we were reading by T.S Elliot that dealt with a man who was revealing his frustration with aging. However, my professor added on how true it is that we seem to put a lot of emphasis on our own bodies. We get angry when our body betrays us or when we betray our body. I instantly had a few ideas running through my head and I jotted them down in my notebook alongside my scribble of notes on "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

I thought about how a lot of the time we see our bodies as a measure of how happy we are about ourselves.  It seems that a lot of self-esteem and bullying issues are all based around how we feel about our body. We aren't happy with our skin, our nose, our stomach or our teeth.  We focus on what others think about our bodies, we stress about not fitting into clothes designed by someone who does not even know us. We cry because we cannot be like the people we see on Pinterest or Instagram.

I cannot at this point relate to the hesitation and discomfort with aging in regards to my body like J. Alfred Prufrock because I am simply only twenty-two. However, I can associate with the feelings of picking apart my own body with the idea of not being perfect - sometimes forgetting that perfect is what you are  when you feel happy - perfect isn't someone else.  I really took this lecture to heart despite it being literarily five minutes of the two hour lecture. Reason being, I began thinking WHY AREN'T WE O.K WITH OUR BODIES? AND HOW CAN I CHANGE THAT?

I have been known to be a confident and positive person and for the most part I am HAPPY about myself. However, since I was young I struggled with my personal view of my own body and after it went incredibly wonky just before my diagnosis and following afterwards - I can safely say that there are times that I totally disagree with my bodies motives!

However, since working out and eating a lot healthier I have noticed changes within my body and myself. So badly, I wish that acceptance of our body was a overnight solution - when in reality I know it is a process that takes forever. Literarily forever because that moment you doubt your body or feel unhappy with it you're back to square one on building yourself up again. So it's about taking that time every morning or night to reflect on what positive traits you have in connection to your body - if you're going to tug on your stomach fat instead feel how strong your muscles have grown. If you're going to pick at pimples on your chin, bat your eye lashes to admire your own blue, green, brown or hazel eyes.

It's unrealistic to measure ourselves to the strangers we see in magazines, it's even unrealistic to measure ourselves to our own relatives because we are all different in every single way. If you want change you can do it, even if it's a struggle and a half to get there. If you want to be happy focus on the happiness within your life not the happiness reflected in someone else's.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Four years ago today I headed to the doctor's office to find out that I was just diagnosed with type one diabetes. Four years later I had a perfectly normal day.

This morning I thought about it for a second, I don't distinctly remember what it was like not to be diabetic. Although I lived almost nineteen years of my life diabetes-free I can't really recall that feeling of never having to carb count or take insulin.  When people ask me how I felt about my first diagnosis I honestly can say that it was the best thing to happen to me. I say this because pre-diabetes I was living my life on auto-pilot - I really didn't have too many ambitions or goals and felt like I wasn't unique.

Diabetes gave me a sense of identity and trust me, I wish that it wasn't diabetes that gave me this message because it a life lesson that will be with me until there is a cure. However, when thinking of my life previous I will take the needles and finger pricks because the life I live now makes me happy and that is what matters.

I am very grateful for the friendships that I have gained in the past four years.  It's amazing the people you meet and when I think that these people existed pre-diabetes and were doing amazing things - I wish I was diagnosed sooner! I love the inspirational environment that surrounds me now and I am forever thankful for opportunities and experiences I have been given.

Tonight I will celebrate with those that mean the most to me (and will be thinking about those that couldn't attend that mean the most to me!)  I will think about how far I have come along, how much life has changed in a positive direction and think of how lucky I am for the discovery of insulin - had it not been discovered I wouldn't be writing this here today likely.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Diabetic's Best Friend

A dog is a man's best friend...but it also can be a diabetic's best friend. Most of us are familiar with a CGMs or a Dexcom that can monitor our blood sugar and can alert highs and lows throughout the day; however, that isn't the only way to be informed about a high or low. I chatted with Michelle about her daughter, Sarah's experience with a D.A.D [Diabetic Alert Dog] and I was fascinated to find out all the amazing things such a cute four legged creature could do to help those living with diabetes!
Picture of Sarah & Scout 

Sarah (13) was diagnosed when she was ten years in California. After being diagnosed Sarah's mother was shocked at how well Sarah took her diagnosis being only ten years old. In September of that year Sarah went on an insulin pump and following that she began working with Guide Dogs for the blind to get a feel for what medical dogs were all about. "We started working on getting her a Diabetes Alert Dog about two years ago by volunteering for Guide Dogs for the Blind to help Sarah get used to working with labs and learning to control/train them"noted Michelle. 

After raising the necessary funds as well as going through the rigorous training for a D.A.D, Sarah was ready to take on diabetes with a little help from a smart Lab named Scout.  Although fortunate to receive such a wonderful gift and assistant, Michelle admits that sometimes it can be a struggle, "It’s definitely a lot of work. Managing even a very well trained dog takes patience and practice. Dogs require a lot of attention, exercise, and the training is ongoing." However, Sarah showed her mom just how willing she was by staying on top of the training, feeding, walking and rewarding Scout without too much difficulty. Keep in mind, she is only thirteen years old! 

Michelle really gave me the impression that Sarah is a warm-hearted and happy teenager who has been content with her diabetes from the beginning without letting it bring her down. I was curious to know more about the relationship between Scout and Sarah - exactly how it worked! So here is the amazing part that will make you praise any D.A.D! 

Scout is trained to recognize the smell of low and high blood sugar. If you're anything like me you just wondered if we give off a smell when were are high and low that people can smell.. still curious about this.  Anyways, Scout is trained to smell the ranges and when she is high or low he will tug at a object called a bringsel (stuffed tube) to alert her. She then rewards Scout with a squeaky toy. (Totally, 
thinking of Pavlov's Dog right now, for all my Psychology lovers!)

Amazing isn't it!  My last question to Michelle was one to go beyond being amazed by the animal, but rather how it feels as a parent to have an extra set of eyes and a good smelling nose keeping an eye on her daughter.  Michelle said that although it was Sarah's idea to apply for a dog, she feels that it gives their family as well as Sarah a sense of security to catch the highs and lows.  

If you want to follow Sarah's journey with Scout visit their Facebook page: A Diabetes Service Dog for Sarah


Monday, March 11, 2013

Proud of My Number

This afternoon I got the greatest call.  It was actually in response from a message I had left regarding my latest a1c at the endocrinologist's office. So, the moment of truth was revealed on the phone when the receptionist told me that my a1c was 6.7! First of all, I was not expecting an a1c in the sixes at all, so that was exciting in itself...and second of all, my previous a1c three months ago was 8.0 - to show you just how drastic of a change it truly was.

In case you aren't sure what an a1c is, it is basically a blood test done that is a snapshot of average blood sugars for the previous three months. If you want to know more detailed information about an a1c test you can check out this website: Diabetes Health 

For most, and for me...this blood test is a dreaded thing. It's like stepping on the weight scale to reveal your weight. Sometimes stepping on the scale with excitement knowing that you've been eating right and exercising, but sometimes stepping on the scale with the regret of knowing you've indulged a few too many times and haven't lifted a weight in the past three months.

When I was first diagnosed my a1c was 13 which is really dangerous. However, the three months prior to my diagnosis, I obviously had no idea I was diabetic therefore was not taking insulin nor monitoring my blood sugars.  After that I recall it being something like 6.4 then it leaped into the 7's and three months ago was my highest ever at 8.0.  

Some have asked me what my secret is and as much as I want to say something miraculous it really isn't.  First of all, I have been working out every single day for at least an hour. I have also been eating a healthier diet including way more vegetables and fruit than I have ever before included into my diet.  Thirdly, which will have an effect on my a1c is that I have encountered a few more lows along the way which can usually impact your blood sugars.

Although having lows is not good - it is part of the process of changing your lifestyle. It's really hard to predict what specific workouts are going to do to your blood sugar. At this point it has been all about trial and error with different basal rates, snack schedules etc. I think I am beginning to master it for the majority of my work outs - but if you know diabetes well, you know that it is always waiting to throw you a curve ball at any unexpected point.

Trust me, I never thought I was going to see a six so fast. I thought that the people that were maintaining fives and sixes had found some secret herb or cure - when in reality they must have been seriously working really hard to maintain such a great number.  I am proud of my number and I let the receptionist know that she made my day when she gave me the results!

So here is to maintaining that 6.7 and to encouraging others that it is possible!


Friday, March 8, 2013


You can google diabetes and find out what the symptoms of low or high blood sugar is. It will say something like low blood sugar symptoms include racing heart, hunger, shaking or trembling and high blood sugar will have symptoms such as frequent hunger, thirst or urination, or sleepiness. However, as diabetics we usually have our own tell tale signs of lows or high, but what happens when those signs appear and nothing is wrong?

I know for myself, I can get pretty paranoid when my meter is not around. Even though I may not check while I am outside the house for a couple hours, if I feel like I don't even have the option to check I begin to panic.  The reason is, is because despite the internets ability to list off the symptoms, sometimes we don't feel these things coming on or we feel them  but they are false alarms.  Have you ever forgot your phone but still felt the vibration of it? or at least thought you did. That's kind of like lows and highs.

I have found that since being diagnosed I tend to blame diabetes for my source of headaches, stomach aches, hunger, anger, stress and the list goes on.  It's a go-to excuse and frankly when you test and realize your blood sugars are fine and you can't blame diabetes it can be a little disconcerting because then you have to think of another reason why you are feeling so bad.

I have noticed that upon working out, sometimes my legs begin to shake aggressively. Of course, that is the muscles screaming back at me; however, it reminds my brain of a low blood sugar. I instantly start to get a little paranoid and have to check my blood sugar.  It's funny because normally a person would just attribute trembling to the workout; however when you have diabetes, everything becomes diabetes related.

On other accounts, I have dipped into low blood sugar without noticing at all. Once again showing that the signs of lows and highs can mask themselves into normal life.  I can be having a normal conversation, only to find out that I have been 3 [54]  the entire time.  It's things like this that can make a diabetic instantly feel undermined by diabetes.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

How We Can Change The World

Okay, the world is a big place and as small as the internet can make it - there are still people you aren't going to personally be able to reach, however in saying that, each person we touch will likely take that feeling and pass it on.  It's a cycle that only needs two people to start. 

My positivity occurred after my diagnosis. Of course I had those moments of 'why me?' sitting there wondering why people who did me wrong weren't the ones being diagnosed.  I still have those days don't get me wrong, but they are few and far between.  Instead, I try to see every part of my life as something that has happened for a reason.  Ah, super cliche. However, if I believe that then I will not be disappointed when something happens that appears to not be in my favour.

When you are feeling good about yourself, and about your situations in life you tend to give off that glow which can tremendously effect others. For instance, I know someone who lives with Cerebral Palsy, and there is no doubt in my mind that she goes through daily challenges while also balancing University and her social life - however, every time I see her around campus she has this glow about her. A positive, happiness beams off of her and in turn makes me want to smile.

It doesn't matter if you cannot directly relate to someone - what matters is that you take your positivity and pass it on to others no matter what they're going through.  It's amazing to think how leaving nice comments or smiling at a friend can do for a person's self esteem and day.  We have so much power to change the way people think and feel and work towards a happier community.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Weight Loss

So, it's not impossible to lose weight with type one diabetes because I did it.  I had an endocrinologist appointment this afternoon and after the nurse weighed me she smiled and said, 'You've lost a lot of weight!' out of excitement I asked how much - already sort of knowing how much but wanting to hear it out loud 'Ten Pounds!' This sort of set the mood for the rest of the appointment as I beamed with accomplishment ready to take on this appointment that wasn't bad at all.

Honestly, there is nothing magical happening with my weight loss. Maybe it would come off faster if I didn't have diabetes - I don't know. However, I am working my butt off - I have been attending the gym every single day and eating healthy. I am excited to continue this path way and ultimately climb the mountain!

I know that weight loss and type one diabetes is a difficult thing. Not impossible, but difficult.  We are constantly feeling like we are chasing lows. Having to eat something after a really good workout can make you feel defeated by diabetes. I have been using trial and error to really narrow down what my body is doing - of course as anyone with diabetes knows this can be extremely hard to do because wonky numbers always seem to find their way into the logbook.

It's all about keeping a happy mind and bringing that to the gym and afterwards.  Not getting frustrated with your diabetes makes a big difference - accepting highs and lows and knowing that you are giving everything a pseudo pancreas can give.  You are doing an awesome job.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Keep Calm

I pictured my life as a know when they say, 'you've put too much on your plate' that same feeling when you can't imagine taking another bite, but you're being force fed the rest.  Well that was how I saw my life last night as I counted the number of things that needed to be done.  As I felt my chest tighten up, shortness of breath take over - I started to worry about how I was going to get things done.
I didn't know what was happening never feeling so overwhelmed before. Vince told me to check my blood sugar and it was fine - diabetes was just not getting involved in all of this. After going for a quick (because it was freezing outside) walk and Vince put some feel-good music on.  I started to calm myself down.  We laughed as he held my hands and said, ' Kayla, all you need to do is climb a mountain, write a book and graduate...' 

Thankfully my diabetes isn't causing me much grief these days. My lifestyle switch to eating healthy and going to the gym or for a walk every day is really putting my diabetes at ease - of course there are still those odd numbers; however, I know that I am giving it my all.  I know that I can achieve it all, and I can get it all done.

I just need to keep calm in the process of it all.