Wednesday, November 23, 2016

International Insight

The more conferences that I attend the more I realize how greatly they have impacted my thinking and perspective.  For example, if I had never been to international conferences, I'd likely have no idea how others around the world deal with their diabetes.  Why is that important to me?  Because, learning about how others deal with their diabetes is incredibly important in building a creditable outlook on 'diabetes' because diabetes while, medically speaking is the same no matter what country you are from, everything else that factors into living with diabetes can be drastically different.

In the most honest of ways I am going to let you know that my heart breaks for those living with diabetes in countries that have little to no access to insulin or their supplies.   This wasn't something I learned form an infomercial asking me to send money, this was something I learned face to face with people who are living this nightmare.  I remember last year at the YLD conference in Vancouver, I was in a room with people who were from some of the poorer countries and listening to their stories were absolutely heartbreaking.  These people were struggling, beyond anything that I could comprehend.  Beyond  the frustration of not getting the correct test strips, beyond the anger of the rising dispensing fee, beyond anything that me, as a Canadian can comprehend.

I always tell this story of a roommate that I had when I was at the conference in Melbourne, Australia and for those that have not heard me talk about or read about it, I will tell it again.   When I arrived to Australia I had a big suitcase full of dresses, shorts, make-up, hair products, you name it, I had it stuffed into my suitcase for my 2.5 week stay in Australia.  Of course I also had diabetes supplies busting out of the seams of both my luggage and carry-on bag. An extra pump, syringes, vials of insulin, canisters of testing strips, extra batteries, back up meters.... it was like a pharmacy threw up in my bags.   

My roommate, from the African region, was telling me with excitement about her new meter. Which, I gladly admit, I get excited about new diabetes meters as well. But, when I asked her what she was using before she let me know something that has forever changed my mind set.  

"I never had a meter before this. We had to walk to the clinic to get our blood sugar checked."

This is why I can't complain. This is why I lose focus in listening to people complain that are from countries that can make it work, somehow, some way.    I am not saying that a person in a first world country does not have problems, that are real, that are vital. I get that there is a HUGE issue with the cost of insulin in countries that should be able to maintain a fair cost of insulin.  But what if you couldn't get insulin at all. What if you couldn't find insulin? What if you had to walk your family every single day to the clinic just to know what her blood sugar was?   

I am sure people will disagree with me, that the struggle is real world-wide. I know that's true.... I mean, I literally asked my mom to put test strips in my stocking because I do not have benefits and that cost is out of pocket for me.  But, with the same breath, I am so thankful to know that if I needed to buy insulin, I can go to Wal-Mart, or Shoppers Drug Mart down the street.  That if I needed test strips, I could do the same, or even call a friend who would gladly be able to share their supply.  It just isn't that way in other countries around the world and it breaks my heart. 

I am grateful. I am thankful and I will never, ever forget the life lessons I have learned from international diabetes conferences. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

That Voice



"How much insulin do you have on board?"

"Well, my blood sugar was high, I took the correction plus some, maybe 4 units left on board?"

"Shouldn't you check?"

"I am tired..."

"Shouldn't you just check? Look at your pump."

"Okay, in a minute..."

"Do it now. Also, shouldn't you check your blood sugar?"

"I do feel sort of low... and I may have a lot of insulin on board.."

"Yes, you may go really low in the night?"

"What if you don't wake up from you low?"

"Do you have any rocket candies left? Did you eat them all?"

"I think I have some in my travel bag in the other room.."

"Shouldn't you go check? What will you eat if you are low and don't have any left?"

"Well, I could maybe have a glass of milk and.."

"That won't be enough."

"Go check your blood sugar..."

"I do feel pretty low..."

"You really should put your meter by your bed and find some rockets."

"I really should..."

This is an example of the inner voice that haunts me when I turn in for the night.  The voice that is like a nagging mom that tries to convince myself I need help, sugar, a glass of water, anything to do with my diabetes, this voice nags me.  I guess I am lucky to have this voice. It acts as a reminder to keep myself in check and not let sleepiness nor laziness take over.  But, there are nights when this voice hardly mutes itself and keeps me worried or on the edge.  Often when I am between sleep and wakefulness and need to take time to wake my body to take action.  This is the conversation between diabetes and its owner.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Chasing Highs & Lows

Chasing highs and lows, if I gave you a list of these numbers can you tell me what the pattern is:  6.2, 12.8, 17.5, 15.2, 3.9, 14.2, 3.5, 10.8. If you guessed no pattern, you're correct.  These 8 numbers are my blood sugars I logged yesterday and yesterday wasn't a 'wacky, is it a full moon day,' these days happen to people with type 1 diabetes... where we just can't seem to catch the lows and highs and keep ourselves, what feels, above water.

With the fluctuations of blood sugars ranging from high to low, I find myself feeling moody, annoyed,  and anxious.   There are days that my blood sugars stay fairly close in range, but then there are days like yesterday where I literally feel like I am on a teeter-totter. It's hard to try and understand what 'sets' off the blood sugars, as you can see I checked eight times yesterday and still couldn't seem to find a blood sugar that wasn't either high or low.  

It's a tough gig trying to manage your diabetes and the rest of your life and still be a civil person. It takes patience and a deep breath sometimes for us to push through the frustration of the neon glowing number on our meter screen.


Friday, November 18, 2016


Sometimes I despise diabetes. When my blood sugar is high, when I can't keep my blood sugar up, when my site rips out and falls onto the floor, when I use my last test strip while I am out and wish I had one more... there are so many reasons to despise the disease that takes up a large chunk of my mental capacity, but in the same breath, I am so thankful for diabetes.

It's such an odd saying and I've said it so many times, I think I forget the significance of why I say it, but last night reconfirmed why I seriously am so thankful.   I have been so lucky to meet amazing friends through diabetes and often times I think of it in a global sense, I have been so lucky to travel the world to be with other people living with diabetes, but in reality, I have my own lifelong diabetes friends that live very close to me... I mean, a couple hours away, but way closer than across the world and I am so thankful that I get to connect with these people.

Last night, my friend Dani was in town and I invited her to check out my Empowerment group that I run weekly with teen girls from my community.  Dani had been to one of these events before, but she was lucky, we had a full house of teens buzzing with excitement. She got to meet the girls that I spend an hour with every week and I was so happy that she got to be apart of the magic of my diabetes support group. Then, she came by my house, we have recently moved, so I was excited to show her my new home.    But, beyond it all, I was so happy to be around someone with diabetes, who gets it, who has been there for me for many years and who happens to wear the exact same pump as I do (purple and proud!)

It's the little conversations between one another that mean the most, the reassuring that feeling of, 'I get it. Don't worry.' I probably could spend hours just dishing out my feelings to her, person to person, and really venting about the frustrations of living with diabetes.  Seeing her pump tubing coming out of her pocket, her pump falling out of her coat jacket, or her going to check her blood sugar because she felt low.... all of these things that take up my day, take up my time, take up my strength, all of these things that she does too.

I am so incredibly thankful because, I have many friends that live with type 1 diabetes who I know I would have never met otherwise.  These people are incredible inside and out and despite us sharing the same disease, we share a friendship that can't quite compare to any other.


Friday, November 11, 2016

DiabetesMine: Innovation Summit

I was lucky enough to have been selected as one of the winners of the DiabetesMine: Innovation Summit contest, in which people/parents of people with diabetes were invited to attend a conference in San Francisco, California among some interesting participants that are actively trying to improve the lives of people living with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.   This conference was unlike any conference I had attended (and I have attended quite a bit!)   I found an instant connection with some of the other winners of the contest and also with the content that was discussed during the conference.

The conference started off with a social hour (the conference was over a two day span, but we were invited to the social hour of the first day, and the conference in its entirety the second day) The social hour gave us an opportunity to meet the other winners of the conference, but also meet some of the corporations, tech people and some other people living with diabetes and participating in the diabetes community.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with some familiar faces for me that I didn't realize would be there, including Paul Madden (former IDF Young Leaders member) and Christina (former IDF Young Leader and head of Diabetes College Network).

The following day, like most conferences was a full packed day, with a lot of information, great input, and emotions.  Here are the things that stood out to me:

1. Kyra Bobinet, M.D: Speaking about engaging in health, happiness and wellness 

I LOVED this presentation. It was totally up my alley of happiness and wellness and I really think I took the most from this presentation. While it wasn't completely about diabetes, and was more general, I felt like every bit of information from this presentation as useful, grounding and inspiring. I really took a lot from this presentation, including working on better focus, mediation and mindfulness.  Kyra had a lot of interesting studies and facts to back up her research and I really was engaged in the theories and ideas.

2.  Prioritizing Quality of Life 

A few of the speakers talked about QOL in their presentations and I felt like it was very eye opening and I almost wish they could do a speakers series for all of our endocrinologists and diabetes teams.  They really highlighted the importance of measuring QOL and what that truly means.   One speaker, Kasey Boehmer, talked about the idea of a 'non compliant' patient, something we may sometimes be told we are!  In reality, she broke down the background of a patient and how it is KEY in working alongside patients.   I took what I learned from these presentations and applied them to my T1 Empowerment group, focusing on root causes of negativity in regards to their diabetes.  I think it is important to grasp the understanding of a person as a WHOLE and not just as their disease.

3. Games and Apps

As many people know I am a HUGE social media lover, and there are certain apps that I use daily, social media related or not. So, it was so interesting to hear from a couple speakers about their initiative in making online games and apps for patients to keep them interested, motivated and plugged in.  For example, Jennifer Shine Dyer, M.D, is creating a Ninja video game specifically for people living with diabetes and Anna McCollister-Slipp (a person living with diabetes) also is working on an app for people with diabetes!

4.  We need support and we need to fight for it 

Anytime I go to a conference it is often a global initiative with people from other countries besides my own, Canada. There is a huge issue in awareness, funding, expenses and support and it is very clear at every conference I go to.   People are emotional, people are tired and people sometimes need to vent those frustrations in order to help brainstorm a better solution.  I do feel lucky to live in the country I live in, I know it is not perfect, and yes, my insulin and test strips are not covered, those are my expenses, but there are so many countries out there that need help, assistance, even just a person to say, 'I know how you feel' or 'I have been there.'    That is the beauty about conferences, we get to connect with one another and really share ours stories and most importantly empower one another.   A mother of a child with diabetes, Brenda Hunter, showed how powerful a voice can be and how that alone can empower change.  She is the co-founder of No Small Voice, which is an initiative to provide transparency with insurance companies in the U.S.A.

Overall, this conference was a success. I truly enjoyed meeting the people I did, and hearing new information that has really sparked my drive to make change in the diabetes community.

Special thanks to Michael Hoskins and Amy Tenderich for making this experience happen.


Disclaimer: DiabetesMine paid for my flight, two nights stay and food during the conference.