Friday, February 27, 2015

It Is What it Is

Up & out the door early for Dermatologist appointment
So for anyone that knows me, you know that I have hives pretty much every single day and along with that the occasional swelling of half of my lip, my eyes, one finger...etc. I had hives growing up and my mom would try to figure out what it was by taking away certain foods.  I think we first believed it was anything that was red including spaghetti sauce and then we thought it was bananas. Eventually, I started eating those things again and realized it wasn't the trigger.  I haven't had hives every single day of my life, but they do play a pretty prominent role in my health story.

Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had hives for a full year. Basically all of grade twelve I had hives. They were everywhere except for my face. I can remember sometimes they were so itchy it was almost unbearable. I would have to put lots of cream all over my body to prevent myself from itching and at one point I remember the skin being so raw it was disgusting. I hated it. I wore capris when it was warm because the hives on my legs looked awful.   When it went away, I was then getting symptoms of diabetes (I didn't know they were symptoms of diabetes at the time....) I began losing a lot of weight around September 2008 and eventually in March of 2009 I was diagnosed with diabetes and had about every symptom in the book.   No one knows the immediate need to pee unless you've had super high blood sugars - it's awful.

Anyways, I didn't have hives for a couple years and if so, they weren't super memorable.  I got hives in December 2012 because I found out I was allergic to penicillin.  But that doesn't count.   It wasn't until March of last year that I started to get the hives again - full time. The hives were back and not only were hives back but so was my random swelling, something else that I had back in grade 12.

Now, when I had hives before, I was sent to every specialist you can imagine and they mentioned endless amounts of 'diagnosis' ideas, ranging from Rheumatoid Arthritis to Lupus.  So, this time, about a year ago I knew that once I told a medical doctor about my hives I was going to be given the same run around.  Successfully I can say I was right because it's literally been about a year and I still have hives and I have seen another set of specialists including now a haematologist and a dermatologist. They all have different ideas, send me for blood work and come back to tell me I have hives - literarily they say you have urticaria which is a fancy word for 'you have hives.'

I am O.K with this.  I am okay if I just have chronic hives. It's super annoying but after having to go to the haematologist appointment (that scared the crap out of me!) I will make friends with my urticaria. I am lucky because usually my allergy medicine works and I can sense when I am going to get hives or start to swell - I can feel it before it happens.  I also know what triggers hives for me including working out (sometimes) white wine (super sad about that...) and stress (not always).   Even though it's a super vague diagnosis, and after going to a 7:20 a.m appointment (I know right?) only to be told I have hives and then was given a prescription for Reactin (which I already have...) I am going to today just stop worrying about 'what it is' because it just is what it is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You Pick.

Fifty-two days ago I started a weight loss challenge with M. We decided that before our cruise we were going to lose some weight.  He had to lose fifteen pounds and I had to lose ten.  We both have surpassed our goal and have a week left of the challenge. I see it all the time on social media that people with diabetes have a hard time losing weight. I think the biggest concern is stabilizing your blood sugar to try and avoid the sugar spikes.
For me, I wasn't going to focus too much on diabetes. Obviously I was going to take care of my diabetes and take insulin when needed but I wasn't going to make this weight loss about diabetes.  Why?  For me, thinking about losing weight takes a lot of my focus.  I love food. I love bad food mostly.  So, knowing that I was going to have to cut back on the junk/excessive eating was going to take a lot of brain power.  Like I mentioned in earlier blogs, diabetes also takes a lot of brain power even when you don't realize.   So, to add the pressure of trying to have perfect blood sugars was out of the question for the next two months. I was going to try my best, check my blood sugar at least four times a day, take insulin when I ate and treat lows.  It also helped that I have been eating the same foods for the past two months so carb counting has been pretty easy.

I wasn't going to let diabetes be an excuse for not losing weight. It is easy to blame diabetes. "It can't  lose weight because I have diabetes." Well, it may be a challenge but it isn't impossible. In fifty-two days I have lost eleven pounds. Did I work hard? YES! SO HARD! I worked hard but not once did I give up because of my diabetes.  I believe that any challenge is usually encouraged or discouraged by our own minds.

We have the power to accomplish anything - trust me, I climbed the tallest mountain in Africa with zero experience.  When our mind tells us that we cannot do something, we believe it. Likewise, when our mind tells us that we can, we try our hardest to fulfil that belief.  We can be our own worst enemies or our own best friends in any situation whether that is in weight loss, or diabetes.  You pick. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to Manage Diabetes When You're Trying to Manage Everything Else

I do everything. I don't sit still. I have lists of things I want to do on paper, on my phone and in my head. I am constantly adding things that aren't necessarily needed to be done, but I would like to accomplish anyway. I sign up for everything, I say yes to everyone. I get overwhelmed when I have too much on my plate but I also get upset when I have too little.  Does this sound like you? Or am I alone on this?

All of this doesn't include managing my diabetes.  I do diabetes on top of all of this.  Not only am I thinking what can I create next? I am also having to count carbs, inject insulin and feel the consequences of my blood sugar (because unless you're superwoman and you're sitting at a nice 5.5 mmol/L all day - I know you're feeling something that isn't 'normal') 

Managing diabetes is HARD! It's so hard. It's not just the blood sugar checks and the insulin - it is everything. So many times I have heard, "checking your blood sugar takes seconds - why is it so hard?" WHY!? Because when I see my friends and family members, they're not having to check their blood sugar, they're not having to inject insulin or sit in front of their food guesstimating the carbs of the casserole - while dealing with diabetes come somewhat natural after a certain length of time - I don't think it ever truly is.  We don't naturally want to do it. Just like it takes some 'umph' to go for a 30 minute workout - it takes some 'umph' to take care of diabetes.

But it isn't just about the diabetes remember. It's that we are busy bees. We are not only living the lives of those who don't have an autoimmune disease, we are also living the lives of a person with an autoimmune disease (if that makes sense...)  Diabetics are normal people who live normal lives. We go to to work, we go to the gym, we join clubs, we attend events, we make dinners, we shop, we attend social gatherings, and we go out to parties.  We are totally normal, we look normal, we act normal, and we are in no way limited by our diabetes. But, we have diabetes. So, while we are doing all those 'normal' things we are also thinking about carbs, about how our body feels, about where to put our insulin pump, about the annoying feeling the pump gives us when it's rubbing against our body. We are thinking about how nice it would feel to eat whatever without consequences. We are counting the carbs, we are measuring the insulin, we are pricking our fingers, we are worrying about if we have packed enough supplies. We are counting our money, checking our balance, figuring out insurance, we are buying supplies that are more expensive than our entire wardrobe. We are second guessing if we took our insulin or not. We are debating on telling people we have diabetes. We are tired but we are managing our diabetes. 

I think like my last post it isn't about being the 'best diabetic in the room' it isn't a competition. It is truly about doing the best you can.   We all manage things in different ways. For example, some of us find working out a great stress reliever, while others find having a nap the best way to relieve stress. Just like diabetes, we find a way to manage is that works for our schedule, our lifestyle and our benefit. People like to judge people for how they choose to manage. But, we have to remember that we all have different things on the go. While I am a busy bee, some not so much - so the way a busy bee manages her diabetes could be completely different from someone who has little on the go.  It isn't about being a good diabetic or not, and it isn't about who manages their diabetes better. There are so many factors involved it's insane to think there is a right and wrong way to go about an autoimmune disease.  

Yes, it takes literally seconds to test your blood sugar - but think about everything else that goes on in those seconds. 


Friday, February 20, 2015

You're Doing Your Best (without driving yourself crazy)

It's -17 but feels like -27 with the windchill. While we can all clearly see on our calendars that we are more than half way through February however, it seems that winter is still going on strong and spring seems like it's a distant dream.  I have read a few things about the 'winter blues' that people get when the weather is cold and we get less daylight to enjoy (not that we can really enjoy it because it's FREEZING).  While, I must admit I feel the winter blues, I can imagine it is worse for some more than others.  I still get up every morning and get myself to work and the gym and run my errands.  While, I feel like spring is going to take its sweet time, I have a vacation to look forward to in the near future.

Today I was feeling pretty good about the success I have had with my healthy food choices & workouts.  I have really stuck to it, despite having moments where I wanted to cave, mind you I work with children who have access to candy.   I have been doing really well, keeping track of my food intake in a journal as well.   While it's been hard work and to be honest managing diabetes along side all of this has been difficult. I have been better at working out/eating healthy than keeping up on my diabetes.  I am checking and all that is required but I have made little effort into switching around basals etc. in order to get the most out of my pump - however, all in time everything will come together.  I am doing the best (without driving myself crazy) I can at the moment.

But, I think this is a lot of people's norms. Doing their best without driving themselves crazy.  Diabetes is one of those diseases that can give you OCD (I made that up, but I think it's true) You could literally spend your entire day focused on your diabetes and still not figure out what's wrong with your blood sugar.  It seems like a really easy process. Eat, take insulin, exercise, eat something to maintain blood sugar, blood sugar goes high, take insulin.  But, in reality and every diabetic knows, that a diabetic's Tuesday is never the same as a diabetic's Wednesday.  Everyday is different.

I think at this moment, on this cold (maybe warm depending where you are p.s if so, can I come over?) day, take a moment to tell yourself that you're doing the best you can without driving yourself crazy. You're working hard being a pancreas - a job you never asked for. If you're a caregiver, give yourself a huge hug and know that you're doing the best you can without driving yourself crazy.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Be Grateful

It can be hard to understand why we were given a disease.  I think everyone who has ever suffered for anything begs the question, "WHY ME!" Recently T1Empowerment (a group I started) had a speaker, Karli-Ann come to an event I hosted and she talked about the why me question.  Karli has Cerebral Palsy. I have been thinking about it lately, why was I given type 1 diabetes?  I watched as my sister drank a regular iced tea, thinking to myself why did diabetes choose my body and not hers? Not that I wish diabetes on any of my family members, but one must admit they question why they are the 'chosen ones' from time to time.

The more I thought about this the more my mind started to wonder why I never ask myself, "WHY DO I HAVE A WARM HOUSE TO GO TO EVERY NIGHT!"  and "WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE FOOD IN MY FRIDGE?" We don't ask ourselves these things because it is so easy to take them for granted.  We have a standard of what we expect.  While some people grew up vacationing in adulthood, we just expect we will continue to vacation (like myself) but there are people who didn't grow up going on vacations, so something like a trip to Niagara Falls is considered a vacation - and there is nothing wrong with that. We all expect things in life, we expect that we will have a certain amount of food available, for some people it's a larger number of items than others. We expect that we will have some sort of job, whether that is something minimum wage level or higher.

When the bad things role in like an unexpected health concern or a loss of job we start to blame. We blame 'God' or whoever we believe in or blame.  We wonder how could this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this (insert here).  When in reality, the bump in the road, is merely a bump in the road compared to all the things we have been 'blessed' with.  The problem is it usually something unexpected and unusual. Something that is deemed a pain or obstacle, while we feel as though we don't deserve it - as time goes on we realize the importance the road block was. Maybe it made you stronger, maybe it introduced you to a community that supports you, or maybe it made you realize how lucky you have been to have a roof over your head and food on the table all along.

Whatever the case is, I think that asking why we were diagnosed with diabetes isn't a bad question to ask, we have to then also take the time to focus on why we have been so lucky to have other things in our lives.  We must be grateful.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Self Love

Growing up we are told to love our bodies. We are told that each body is different and that there is nothing wrong with us.  This coming from the people that love us, otherwise we hear a different message from the media like, 'thin is beautiful' 'nothing tastes better than skinny feels...'  But, I want to focus on the goal which is to teach our children to love themselves for all that they are, not just their bodies but their minds and spirits.

I think we all have had moments in our lives or continuous moments where we battled with trying to love ourselves - our whole selves.  I've noticed that people have a hard time picking positives about themselves, but when it comes to negatives it's easy.  I think back to the Mean Girls scene where the girls are listing things they don't like about their bodies - some outrageous like, 'nail beds sucking...' (See the clip for yourself here:  Overall, we are our own worst critic.

When it comes down to loving myself, I try hard to focus on the positives that I bring to the table. I try to evaluate myself in a forgiving light. It can hard because with all social media accounts we tend to compare our lives to the lives shown online - which we know aren't always the 'real lives of real people.' Regardless, self love is important. But when it comes to loving your diagnosis - how does that work? Can we love diabetes without being weird about it? After all isn't diabetes a HUGE part of who we are, if not, can we think of it as something that is a part of us.

What made me think of this was hearing that one of the families I know allows their child to say their diabetes is stupid. Diabetes is stupid. I wholeheartedly agree. Diabetes is a constant annoyance in the lives of children, teens, adults and parents alike.  However, half of me wants to say that while diabetes is stupid, I am going to potentially have diabetes for the rest of my life. It is always going to be there. An insulin pump attached at my hip, vials of insulin stored in my fridge, test strips strewn throughout my house, car and purse and physically scars on my belly, back and fingertips, mood swings from happy to sad and feeling like absolute garbage every now and then.  While I want to hate diabetes, I don't know if it is something I can give myself permission to do.  If I said I hated the way my nose was (giving that I wasn't going to spend the money to fix it) I would be having to everyday look at my nose with hate or disgust.  Looking in the mirror thinking, why was I given this nose? it looks so stupid, instead of saying, "My nose is unique" and it "gives me character" or "it could be worse!"

I guess it's all in the matter of perspective. While deep down inside we curse our curves or our nose.  We think our hair is too thin or our laugh is too obnoxious.  We have to remember that from the beginning we were told to love ourselves - for everything we were.  If diabetes is going to stick around for the long run then I guess I have to love it too.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Action Plan

NYC December 2014
As I get older I have realized how fast time goes. I remember hearing adults say it all the time as a kid, but never really comprehended it.   Now, looking back, I think it is safe to say that twenty-four hours isn't a lot of hours and thirty days goes by fast.   I try really hard not to wish days away. I think it's different to look forward to a date such as the day my vacation begins or the day the weather gets warmer in Ontario. But, overall, I try to appreciate each day that I am given because we truly won't get that day back.

I have found that my 'fit challenge' that I have been participating in has been a great way to love every single day a bit more.  Reason being, is that I always wake up ready for the challenge. I want to do well and I want to succeed.  I love writing in my food journal (I can't believe I have actually been writing in it for forty days, and hope to continue after I get back from my vacation.  I love going to the gym (who am I?!) and I enjoy watching the process of becoming more fit.

The biggest thing I am learning day to day is that we have to pick things in life we love to do.  We can't waste time doing something we dread. Somethings yes, we have to do despite not liking it, i.e paying bills, going to appointments or making beds...(I hate making beds).  But, there are big things in life that some of us do because we think we are supposed to do them or we think it's the right thing to do, when in reality we don't have to push ourselves into any box that we don't feel comfortable being in. For example, a lot of people get married and have kids right away, because they feel that that is the next step, but who says we have to get married? Who says we have to have kids right away or at all? Don't let anyone determine your life path but yourself.

M and I recently made a list of things that we want to do, more specifically places that we want to see.  While we are both climbing up in our late twenties (more so him than me...) we have things that we want to accomplish.  We have goals that we want to meet. I think this is so important for overall happiness. To honestly make the most out of each day and not create a list of things you want to do, but actually do them. M is a good match for me because he has the same mentality as me, when I wanted to go to NYC at Christmas because it was on my 'bucket list' he was down to join me.  Likewise, I am willing to help him get the most our of his days.

Time goes by fast and we have to recognize that the more we spend thinking about what we want to do instead of actually doing it - the less time we have to do it. So, on this day of love, start an action plan, what do you want to do? and when will your start to do it?


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Because I have diabetes....

I rarely worried about diabetes as being something that was going to 'kill me'  I never thought of diabetes as serious.  I don't mean that in an ignorant way. I think it was my way of coping with diabetes.  Thinking of it as something I just have to take care of and everything will be fine. While, yes taking care of your diabetes does result in good health - there are aspects of diabetes that we cannot control, days where our blood sugar sky rockets without warning, or days that a dark cloud seems to hang over our head and we don't manage to our best ability.

When my uncle passed away in the late summer, I looked at my diabetes differently. He also was a type 1 diabetic.  It wasn't diabetes, but he was the one type 1 in my family that I felt I was connected to. Not in a way that we talked about diabetes together (because we didn't) but just knowing that I had someone blood related in my life with type 1, that was travelling and working, and enjoying life gave me something to hold onto.  I had learned that my dad also had a cousin that passed away who was type 1 diabetic.  Realizing both of my blood relatives with type 1 had passed away, I felt this strange sense that I was the lone survivor and that I was next.

It sounds awful, and the thought has been lingering in my head since.  Something that I struggle with on days that I give myself too much time to let my mind wander.  It makes me anxious knowing that diabetes is way more serious than I ever let it be.  That this disease isn't worse nor better than any other disease. This is real life and it isn't easy.

I had an eye appointment a couple weeks ago and all I could think about was if he was going to tell me bad news.  Because I have diabetes he's going to tell me something is wrong with my eyes. Because I have diabetes .... I hate that I even have to think that with every single appointment I go to. Every time I have hives, every time I get stressed, every time I feel sick, every time.

I don't want to cast negative thoughts on myself because of my diagnosis.  I have proven to myself and others that living with diabetes isn't a limitation. But I would be lying if I didn't say there are times when I am terrified that I have diabetes.  I want to live my life the fullest and I have realized the we don't know how 'full' our life is going to be and we can't sit around and wait for the bad to kick in. We have to go one day at a time, and truly do whatever we have been meaning to do. Don't wait. Don't worry and don't let those thoughts take over.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Quote

When asked my favourite quote, I always give this one, "Everything Happens for a Reason." While I know this quote is smothered on mugs and notebooks alike, I truly don't think it's a quote that can be taken lightly or regarded as some quote people quote when they can't think of a quote...quote.

I was diagnosed March 2009, between finishing high-school and starting college... I had just finished a math course that I decided to take (6 years later and I still haven't found a use for it...) regardless, if there ever was a good time to be diagnosed this was the time. I was working as a daycare teacher-assistant, living at home and graduated.

I often think back to myself, age eighteen, clueless as to what I wanted to do with my life. I had a boyfriend that lived about 20 km away whom I always drove to see.  My life was pretty average, I had a couple close friends and some that would come by every now and then.  I was enjoying my new figure (about thirty pounds lighter than three months previous) hindsight 20/20 it was the 'diabetes diet'  Overall, my goal was to be with my boyfriend forever, go to London for school, come back home after a year and ta-da that's life.

Being diagnosed with diabetes changed a lot. Not drastically at first, but looking back almost six years ago, it really changed me.  Of course it's hard to say because it's not like I lived this life before non-diabetic. Maybe age, broken hearts and living independently would have also changed me - well for sure it would have. But I can't imagine a change as drastic as diabetes being anything less than life changing.

It changed the person I was.  I went for careless to careful. I went from still to turbulent.  I went from knowing I had a headache because I have a headache to blaming everything on one thing, diabetes.  While I'd like to say that diabetes changed my life for the better (in some ways, yes, 100%) but in other ways not at all.

The quote comes into play because clearly when something happens it is happening because that is the path your life must take.  I believe that we have control of our paths to some extent. I didn't choose to have diabetes. However, those things that we don't decide, happen because they need to.  The relationships you build and break down happen for a reason. All of this happens for a reason.

Sometimes I ask myself why I was diagnosed with diabetes? Mainly when I see bad things pop up about diabetes, like 'early death' or the mere thought of having any diabetes related complication.  I get angry, like to the point where I can't focus on anything else but the fact I have diabetes.  I begin to get anxious about my future as a diabetic and no good ever comes from that.  However, when I really sit down and think about what has come because of my diagnosis, the connections that I've made, the experiences I have been given - I realize that it happened for a reason.