Saturday, December 31, 2016

Welcoming 2017

So, here we are, the last day of 2016!   It is funny how a year change can make you feel so refreshed. I always related the new year feeling to September - that feeling of change and setting goals for a year ahead.  Now that I am not in school, September begins to feel less 'new year' to me, so I get excited for January to approach.


2016 was good to me.  I travelled to Cuba and California (3x).  I moved into a new home with M, after being in an apartment/student housing for what seemed like forever.   I started a new job that I really enjoy (although I do miss my nanny children very much) and I trained myself to run, and realized that I truly love running.   I do miss our dog Max whom we lost the beginning of 2016, but he lived a wonderful long life that I will always be thankful for.

In 2017 I hope to see more positive changes. We are to welcome our first niece into this world in February (and I cannot be more excited!) and Mom and I are travelling to California (I know, I am obsessed) to run our first 10k Disney Race! I only hope that everyone has an amazing 2017 ahead.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fight For Your Life

Sitting in the waiting room looking over at my brother grinning with excitement, I reflect on the past years of his transition.  The road, which I am sure was much longer for him than for us as his family, was not smooth.   My heart ached for my brother as he struggled to find himself in a world that is filled with so much judgement.  I think to myself, how proud I am of his strength and perseverance, and that I wish others could see that there is so much life to be lived and hope to found. I check my iPhone as we wait patiently for them to call his name into surgery. I see he has wrote a status on Facebook that perfectly sums up what I was thinking . . . [Those sibling brain waves at work]

"If you are unhappy, push through. Good things are to come even if they take years. #living proof." - Jaxson

You see, when you're dealing with internal battles that are sometimes hard to talk about, everything can easily get pushed aside.  I feel as though my brother, who is transgender, had to walk through fire to get to where he is today, and as much as our feet burned while we tried to guide him, it was ultimately up to him to push through. Much like living with diabetes, we are guided by our friends, peers and family, but it is ultimately us that has to make the choice to push through.  

Although Jaxson is my younger sibling I can safely say he has taught me some very valuable lessons about life that I hope to pass along to those that I recognize are struggling. I also hope by writing this very blog post that at least one person can look at Jaxson's perseverance and see that no matter what your situation is, whether you're dealing with gender dysphoria, or struggling with your diabetes, the list is endless and is in no way ranked. What you're dealing with is real and valid, and so worth the fight. 

"I have never honestly felt the happiness and comfortability I have up to this point. Last year I was dragging myself just to be here and now I'm the happiest man alive. Don't give up, good things are yet to come. 👊🏼#fightforyourlife" - Jaxson

I also would like to state that I am a safe person to speak to, I will not shame, I will not judge, I will not tell.  


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Weight Off My Shoulders

"You Don't Know What You Got Until It's Gone," this statement rings true in many situations.  We get used to things, we get used to having food in our fridge, we get used to getting a pay cheque every two weeks and as people with diabetes, we get used to have test strips and insulin in our hands.

When I was in university I had benefits covered under my mom's plan. Any of my medications I needed, any dentist appointments or eye glasses.  I was able to go to the pharmacy at any time and get the medications I needed to survive, whether that be insulin or test strips for testing my blood sugar.  I knew that by the time my diploma was framed and put on my wall, those benefits would be taken away.   That's when I learned the method of stock-piling, getting my supplies ahead of time to make sure I could last as long as possible post-graduation without having to fork over half my pay cheque to survive.

From that stock-pile, I kept a keen eye on who was looking to get rid of supplies they did not need anymore. People switch meters all the time and are left with test strips they no longer need, my eyes were on those supplies.  I collected, and stored and forever thanked the people that were graciously adding to my stash.  I used samples given to doctors, insulin people did not want, I didn't turn down anything.

Almost three years post graduation, certain supplies become dreary.  The drawer that was once stock-piled with test strips has two petty sample canisters rolling around, that are for a meter I haven't taken out of a sealed box.  I unwrap the box, charge the meter and realize I have about 12 strips left before I need to really take action.

Now, I know that at anytime I can find my way to a pharmacy to fork over my hard earned cash to save my own life and sanity, but there is something about having to do that, that irks me.  There is also something about asking for help that also irks me, which puts me in a difficult place.

Knowing I will have test strips by Sunday, but not any day sooner, gives me hope that I can stretch my twelve test strips out for the next week.  My thinking, if I check twice a day, I will be okay.  Of course a few test strips fail due to not enough blood and I am frantically counting how many left I have.  Tonight, four.  M sees me in frustration counting the test strips left in the canister having to just throw one out due to an error.   I can see it in his eyes that he is worried, but doesn't want to push me.

I decide it's time to make a choice.  Fork over $50 + for 50 test strips that will last me two weeks or ask for help.  My pride fighting me with every letter I type to a friend in the diabetes community, I put my ego aside and ask for help. With open arms, within thirty minutes, test strips are at my front door.  I cannot thank this diabetes-family enough for their gift of test strips.

The relief of having over 100 test strips in my possession is beyond what any words can describe. Literally a weight off my shoulders. For years I had a drawer full and never once worried about how I was going to check my blood sugar tomorrow or the next day because the supplies were always there. Having these test strips means that both M and I can sleep peacefully knowing that we can test my blood sugar at anytime.

It's truly heartbreaking that to some in this world, this is not an option. I am humbled by the people that I have met along the journey of having diabetes and try not to take advantage of any given situation.  But, tonight, I am so incredibly thankful for the support this community & this particular family has given me.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Driving Miss Diabetes

Living in Ontario, Canada the weather can be pretty iffy. You could easily leave your house on a nice winter afternoon, only to have to drive home in a nightmare of a snow storm.  We have been hit especially hard this year with a lot of snow, wind and overall awful road conditions.  I am sure, there are many other places around the world that are fighting with weather while driving, whether that is with flooding, snow, or high winds.

While this sounds like a blog post for the weather network, I assure you it very much relates to diabetes.    Driving with diabetes already comes with some pretty big responsibilities.  When you get behind the wheel of your car, you are responsible to obey traffic laws and also, try to make sure you get from point A to point B in the safest manner, no matter who you are.    But, what happens when we add in some obstacles that we are not prepared for, a low blood sugar on the highway? a traffic incident that has you sitting in your car for hours longer than expected? Being prepared in your car is super important!
Pre-Driving Selfie

1. Pack Low Snacks in the Car....Everyone's Car! 

Winter driving can be full of unexpected obstacles.  Traffic can slow down, to an almost stand still, making your one hour commute into two hours.   I highly suggest packing low blood sugar supplies in the car for any emergency situations.  This is also handy for those that drive with people who have diabetes, whether you're their partner or parent.   Being prepared is crucial because if you are stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and have no low supplies what would you do?

2.  Double Check, Triple Check, Quadruple Check! 

Have you ever left the house without some of your key supplies?  *raises hand...*   I am bad for this, but I am trying to get better, with the help of my partner who also tries to remember for me.    Before you leave the house check your diabetes bag to make sure you have some critical diabetes supplies, your meter (and all that goes with it), your pump/injections, a site, a syringe, and of course extra low supplies.  Of course if you're going away for the weekend the list goes on, but if you're just leaving for a few hours, then make sure you have what you need for that moment.   It's important to have these things on you because once again your travel could be delayed and you may require more test strips, injections etc. while waiting.       Better yet, keep some supplies handy in the car, like sites and a syringe.

3. Bring Your Phone/Keep it Charged! 

This is just good advice for everyone, but when you're driving, especially in the winter, you can run into unexpected accidents or awful traffic.  It's always good to be able to update the people that are waiting on you/know you're out.    If you happen to be stranded and need help, having a phone could really save you.    Hopefully you won't be calling for them to bring your low supplies (because you read this and prepared your car ;) ) But regardless, having a charged cell phone is key.

4. Check your Blood Sugar! 

Now I just sound like a Mom, but last one I swear.  Driving with diabetes does not have to be dangerous, you can easily check your blood sugar to give yourself an idea of where you're heading... do you need to eat a few extra M&M's - then do it!  I think a lot of people with type 1 have a good instinct and if your body is telling you something then you need to listen!  Remember that delayed traffic could push into your routine time you usually would be eating etc. which would heighten the risk of going low.

Hopefully this was helpful as many people are driving longer distances this time of year to see friends and family!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Credit

This time of year can be tough for anyone.  The extra expenses of buying gifts, baking supplies, decorations... the visiting with people you hardly see and have to make small talk with as they ask you what you've been doing and when you plan on doing more... and for people who struggle with will power *raises hand* this time of year is like running a obstacle race minus the leaping over fire and army crawling through mud trenches...although, that isn't out of the question.

Living with diabetes I am constantly fighting to keep my blood sugars in balance.  It's like being on a teeter-totter and trying to remain in the middle without either side touching the ground.  The smallest of sugar can have a big effect and as you grow older with diabetes you begin to realize what food items effect you the most.  All carbohydrates aren't created equally.

I can't really remember my stress level for my first Christmas with diabetes, but I know I must have blogged about it somewhere... Ou, here is one, Christmas 2009. But, I do know that 7 Christmases later, I am still struggling the self control/ listen to your gut feeling when trying to navigate the Christmas spread.  With or without diabetes, I know this can be a struggle.  You've worked so hard all year to lose those ten pounds and after five Christmas parties you're back to where you began, or at least it feels that way.

The gyms get busier, people break out their Magic Bullets and Kale goes up in price because they know you're going to be all over that.   It's difficult.   1 week prior to Christmas I have given myself two boundaries, no cheese and no peanut butter.  I am trying to constantly remind myself what I have been working hard for this past year, (I started working on being healthier December 29th 2015).   I also want to try and stay conscience of what my blood sugars are, and remind myself that when my blood sugars are high, no one is happy.    This is something that is proven most difficult as the desserts rest on the table in front of you.    The smallest Christmas cookie can send my blood sugar into a frenzy.

But, if you're a person with diabetes remember to give yourself some credit over the holidays.  On top of trying to manage this disease that shows no boundaries, you also have a long list of things that come with it, carb counting for Grandma's Fruitcake (Or not...) bringing your insulin to each house you visit and remembering to pack extra test strips, the list goes on.  And for those that love someone with diabetes, remember to go easy on them, it isn't always easy to do or remember the things above, and controlling blood sugars around this time of year can be a daunting and stressful tasks.


Monday, December 19, 2016

My 1%

I hate to measure my level of diabetes care on purely my numbers. But, living with diabetes, we can be really hard on ourselves when certain numbers just don't reflect the way we want them to.  On average I check my blood sugar five times a day, sometimes less, sometimes way more, regardless that number that flashes on my screen is a defining moment for that specific time.  That blood sugar represents my last hour-ish of diabetes care. The pulsing high blood sugar that makes you wish you didn't have that glass of eggnog, or that vibrant low blood sugar that makes you wish you had more eggnog.   Regardless, as much as I try to give myself some credit beyond the numbers, it's not that easy.

There is one number that rules them all, that is the a1c.    A test that is done every 3 months to give yourself and your medical team a snapshot of your diabetes care, purely based on numbers, but regardless this number is highly fixated on.  An a1c is pretty powerful, it can grant you permission to try for a baby, it can deny you permission to get your drivers licence and it also can deny you permission to an insulin pump (here in Ontario...)  This number, that can be skewed by an abundance of low blood sugars, and also by the last month of blood sugars weighing heavier.... this number can also have the power to discourage you, encourage you or simply break you down.

My last a1c which was done in July was not great.  I don't cry over my diabetes often but my last a1c brought me to tears, angry tears.   You can read about the experience through this via Raise Us Up.   I was devastated to say the least.  The best way to make it relatable is stepping on the scale to be weighed after 3 months of ups and downs.  The number that reflects isn't always awesome and if we see a gain, we can feel defeated, but when we see a loss, isn't it a great feeling.

This brings me to my latest a1c that I got done this past week.  I must add that I am so happy LifeLabs has an online option of checking your blood work without having to call in.   Although it makes for an interesting google binge as you try to figure out what each thing means that they tested, even though it all came back normal.   There was my a1c with a nice caution sign above it, but guess what? It was a whole 1% lower.  Seriously, 1%. 

I instantly felt relief, that if I could get it 1% lower, I can continue to work hard.  That being said, I tried to remind myself that numbers are a mere reflection, but not the entire picture. I brought myself back to the me that was crying at the end of my bed and remember that that Kayla was just as great as the Kayla I am now, despite the a1c reading. I can continue to fight for that great a1c, but also need to keep myself in check in other ways.  Chasing the perfect numbers sometimes comes with a price, a chunk of your mental health.

So as I push forward and constantly remind myself that each day is a new opportunity to work alongside diabetes and to be OK with the numbers that I produce, good or bad and that while my numbers are important, they are not the whole picture.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Five things NOT to say to a T1D during the holidays

The holidays are fast approaching which means you will be reunited with relatives from all over that barely know much about you, except maybe that you have diabetes, people don't forget that. I decided to create a list of the top things people say to people living with diabetes during the holidays.... I'm sure everyone means well. Don't worry as people living with diabetes, we know the answers to your questions, well I mean we have the politically correct answers and the answers we keep to ourselves.

1. Can You Eat That?

 If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I could eat something during the holidays, I'd be living on an island in the Caribbean, with a large yacht right about now.  I am not sure why people like to pick apart the plate of a person with diabetes, but it's become all too common. So common, that I already know when a person is going to ask me before they even ask me.    I must admit my grandparents are so bad for this.   Every get together my Grandma usually gives me that face like, "you little rebel you, eating a cookie with diabetes..."   

2. What's Your Blood Sugar?

Next time someone asks, I am going to directly ask them their weight, followed by asking them their blood pressure.   Seriously, asking me what my blood sugar is, is a little intrusive... I mean, I usually do not care, because half the time when people ask, they have no idea if it's 'good' or 'bad' (That is usually the next question) But really,  unless I am low or seriously high, you likely do not need to know.

3. Are You Still Taking Insulin?

Nope. I'm cured.    Okay, so I haven't been asked this directly, but I know people have been asked this before.   The thing is is that a lot of people mistake different types of diabetes for others... and to add on that, a lot of people do not know about diabetes regardless of the type. This leads to all kinds of strange questions like if we still have diabetes, if we still take medication for diabetes, if our diabetes will go away, the list goes on.   I'm not asking Uncle Joe if he still takes medication for his cholesterol, so Uncle Joe, don't ask me if I still take medicine for my diabetes. [I don't have an Uncle Joe, but I am going to assume if I did, he would have high cholesterol.]

4. Should You be Drinking Alcohol with Your Diabetes?

Well, diabetes doesn't always make the perfect drinking partner, a person living with diabetes can likely still drink unless told otherwise by a professional (not by a relative or a stranger).    While there are some cautions to take with drinking and living with diabetes, there is just as much caution with other conditions and umm, personalities.   So, if you see someone enjoying a glass of wine, who also happens to have diabetes, I am sure they will be okay.. no need to police them.

5. I am glad you're doing well. You know Bob, he isn't doing very well with his diabetes, so he is running to major complications, but you, you're doing well, so you're okay! 

This one is more of a statement than anything.... this is something that people say A LOT.   They know someone with diabetes that isn't fairing so well.  Often followed by reasons why this person ended up with complications due to lack of care.  This comes with some assumptions that the person you're telling this to is a 'perfect' diabetic and does not need to worry about complications. But, the truth is, is that many people with diabetes struggle and especially around this time of the year. It is likely that the person you're making this statement to has seen high numbers flashing on their meter screens and in turn is now worried they're on the same destruction path as poor Bob... please stop the horror stories, it's Christmas!

There are so many other statements and questions that are asked at this time of the year and SOMETIMES these questions come out of curiosity, and that is OKAY! I am totally fine at giving a diabetes education lesson at a party, but the most important thing is that if you are curious, be sure to carefully think about how to ask the question! I'd assume this translates to any medical condition and other issues that people make blanket statements about... I won't even get started on this one.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Top Five Things NOT to get a T1D

I was thinking back to some of the things I have received during my seven years living with type 1 diabetes and it dawned on me that while I have gotten a lot of items from people in my life that are 'diabetes' related, a lot of the things just didn't get used or create any form of excitement like any other gift would. 'Tis the season that your friends and family are roaming around the malls and big box stores looking for something for you, the person with diabetes.    You know you're bound to get one of these things in your stocking if you don't clarify quickly that just because you have diabetes does not mean the world has to revolve around that fact.  [Looking for a way to get that message across, just share this post] 

1.  Sugar Free Candy/Chocolate 

No, just no.    Here is the thing, while this seems like the perfect little stocking stuffer for that sugar-free person in your life, it actually is a better gift for your enemy.  A majority of these candies or chocolates are laced with fake sugars that well, let's just say, has you running to the bathroom.  

I cannot count how many times I have been given sugar-free candy or chocolate in the past seven years, but I can tell you that I only had to try it once to know that this stuff isn't as charming as we would like it to be.

So, as much as Sugar-Free shouts, 'BUY THIS FOR SOMEONE WITH DIABETES' resist and buy them a real chocolate bar, they have insulin and they will enjoy it a lot more.

2. Diabetic Lotions, Creams and Magical Spells 

If a person with diabetes feels the need to buy special lotion, let them buy it on their own.   Nothing says, "you're special' like receiving lotion that is specifically designed for your medical condition.   I have never used any of these creams, lotions or magical spells before, but I can only assume the ingredients are similar to any other lotion and that the charm is in the marketing.    Take a trip to Bath & Body Works and get them some nice smelling lotion if you feel inclined, it won't do us harm, even if it is candy scented... and I am sure we will love it more than 'diabetics' dry skin relief' lotion.

3. Diabetes Education Related Books 

I wanted to specify that I mean certain diabetes books because a lot of my peers with diabetes have amazing books both children's books and adult books that could make an amazing gift. HOWEVER, one year I actually did get this exact book, "Diabetes for Dummies."  I apologize if the person who gave it to me is reading this. Although, I think it was given as a joke.  However, if you've got this book in your hand in the book store and your humming and hawing over getting it for the person with diabetes in your life (especially if they were just diagnosed) PUT IT DOWN.  

Once again, if the person with diabetes is so inclined to read more about the disease they live with 24/7 they can find it.  Get them an inspiring book, diabetes related or not. Get them a newspaper, anything BUT,  a book telling them how to control their diabetes, how to cure their diabetes or how to eat with their diabetes.

4. Diabetes Magazines 

This follows along the same guidelines as the diabetes education books.  Diabetes magazines do have some good information in them, but my guess is that most people living with diabetes rather read a magazine about their favourite hobbies and not their disease that is currently kicking their butt over the Christmas season.    The point is that magazines about diabetes is once again something the person with diabetes can search for on their own... why not embrace the person with diabetes' talents, interests, love for juicy celebrity gossip, rather than forcing them to read articles about going low.

5.  Diabetes Compression Socks 

Nothing says sexy like gifting a pair of diabetes compression socks (with grippers, I must add!)   This gift basically points out two things, the person has diabetes and needs help with circulation in their legs..... which is a common thing for people with diabetes, but why bother bringing that topic around the Christmas Tree.   Instead, give them some exciting Christmas Socks, something happy and cheerful, and let them take care of the compression socks on their own....


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Alongside My Diabetes

There is something about living with diabetes that almost erases all your memories of not living with diabetes at some point in your life whether you were diagnosed at 12, 15 or 18.   I have lived more years withOUT diabetes (18 years) than with diabetes (7 years), and yet I can barely grasp the concept of eating something without any consequences... Maybe this is some weird coping mechanism, so I don't think back to those care-free days, but regardless, those 'feelings' of life without diabetes are most definitely gone.

This morning as I got up, after a few low blood sugars throughout the night and previous day, I began to think of all the times diabetes has really taken me back.  The number of hours of missed sleep, the number of  sporadic purchases of sugar in stores to bring myself back to normal, the time I spent grumbly picking fights because my blood sugar was so high that my mind and heart were broken.   All of the times diabetes set me back from going for a run, driving, going for a walk.... There are so many times that diabetes has reared its head into my life beyond any of what I think people imagine diabetes does.

Diabetes isn't just about making healthy food choices and getting in physical activity. Diabetes isn't even just about carb counting, insulin injections or blood sugar checks.  Diabetes is a life changing disease that alters almost, if not everything that a person does.  Diabetes is serious.  Diabetes takes time away from things I love, diabetes takes a piece of mental capacity away, diabetes breaks my heart sometimes.   People with diabetes are fighting a battle every single day, every single second and we do not always understand the circumstances nor can predict what will happen.  

I cannot remember the days where my sugar intake did not make a difference to my mood, body, feelings, strength.

I cannot remember the days that I did not have to get up and use the bathroom to fight the sugar that runs amuck of my body.

I cannot remember the days that I did not have to stop, focus my mind, try to stay alert and get glucose in my system as fast as possible.

I do not remember because for the past seven years I have been fighting every single second to be healthy and live my life alongside my diabetes.