Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cheers to the Best Friend Who Has Seen it All!

A good friend knows all your best stories. A best friend has lived them with you! 

Girard Photography


For those of us that find a best friend in life, we know the value of having that special person. As we get older, we grow more and more appreciation for this person as you realize just how much of an important role they've played in your life and continue to play, through not only the good, but also the painful moments.

I am lucky. I am lucky that I found my best friend in my late teens, just a couple years before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, before the really, really bad breakups and before the more positive things in my life, graduating, moving into my own home, getting my puppy and of course now as I embark on the next chapter of my life, marriage!  I am happy because this person has gotten me through all these moments, good and bad, she has been there right beside me. 

For those that have followed my blog since the beginning, you will recognize the name, Michelle.  That is because she literally has embraced every moment of this journey I am on.  She walked the diabetes walks,  she sat in the audience during my speeches, she's carried glucose tabs in her purse and she's fed me while I was on the floor in a really bad low.  She was there when I was first diagnosed and she continues to be supportive in all that I do.  I know, as my maid of honour, she will likely being bolusing, treating and checking in on me on my wedding day. 

For those of us with any kind of illness, we know that it can be hard sometimes to find the time for friends, or to keep up friendships. Showing your appreciation for those that have seen it all, is so incredibly important.

Kayla 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Diabetes & The Dress

My Wedding Dress Shopping Entourage at Sophie's (KW)
I always envisioned where this blog would follow me.  I knew that eventually I would be blogging about diabetes and getting married, but it feels so wild to be here, right now in this moment talking about it all. It's really happening! I'm getting married!

My stress levels have been fairly minimal, the odd thing I will get caught up in, and stress about, but eventually it rolls off my back and I am feeling O.K.  My blood sugars react to stress like glue to paper so, I know that once my stress begins, managing my diabetes becomes even harder.  And, to be honest, sometimes I have neglected to even worry about my blood sugars because I am so caught up in my other things to do. Finding balance has always been hard for me. I have a hard time evenly spacing my attention on diabetes and all else that goes on.

My pump has been on my mind, as I started looking for outfits for various occasions, engagement party, bridal showers etc.  I always think, Where will my pump go?  How will I get access to it when I need it?

For our engagement photos, I simply just sat my pump aside for the photoshoot because I knew that some way, some how that pump was going to make an appearance and I felt like I didn't want anything of this shoot to remind me of my diabetes (not because I don't like that part of me, but because diabetes IS always there, and I felt like this was an opportunity to have a moment to celebrate myself and Mike) PLUS, we may or may not have gotten a bit wet in the lake, so I didn't want to risk breaking my pump.

The ultimate test of wearability with the pump came with trying on WEDDING DRESSES! First of all, I was so excited that I thought my blood sugar was low and had to test before even going into the store. My nerves were all over, jumping with excitement at a moment every girl dreams of doing.  I sat my pump aside as I pulled on the beautiful dresses one by one, not worrying about where my pump would fit into the equation. Just enjoying every moment of wearing something so beautiful.

It wasn't until I said YES TO THE DRESS  that I acknowledged, I will have to make room for the insulin pump as I see fit.   As much as you don't want to have to worry about diabetes in all these amazing life moments, it has to happen, however,  it doesn't have to take away from the experience!


Kayla

Friday, July 14, 2017

That Guilt

I can't be the only one who sometimes feels like it's too hard to focus on one thing without neglecting the others.  It seems to come and go, that motivation to perfect a certain aspect of your life whether that's your tidiness around your home or your blood sugars - it truly is hard to do it all.

Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty - I should be checking more, I should be running more often, I should do be better.  That guilt sits on my mind heavy as I embark each day promising myself, I'll check more, I'll sort through my closet, and I will get that task done today.  Each night thinking about what I set out to do and didn't even come close to accomplishing or even worse, what I didn't even TRY to accomplish.

As a person living with a chronic condition, it can be hard to not feel guilty about your own health 24/7.   With diabetes, I am constantly being put on a scale, by myself each time I check my blood sugar and see a number flashing back at me.  While that number represents a moment in time, for me, it sometimes serves as a reminder that I should have made better food choices, I should have checked sooner than later and a reminder that this stuff is hard.

Kayla

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Maybe You Were Having a Bad Month

"Maybe you were just having a bad month..."


Yesterday I had my endocrinologist appointment and I was looking forward to going because my a1c was the best it had been in forever and I had been wearing a CGM for the past couple months, so I knew that when my pump was uploaded, a beautiful graph was going to be printed.  I continue to work hard at managing my diabetes with the idea in mind of future family planning, my own personal health and just feeling GOOD.

As usual, while waiting in the doctor's office I hear the knock followed by, "Hi my name is _______ and I am a resident."  I am used to the whole spiel and even though I want to just see my own doctor and get out of the office and on with my day, I go through the whole process where they ask you a lot of questions, try to wrap their head around type 1's and our desire to get really into our own health matters - and me ultimately wanting to yell I am the CAPTAIN NOW! 


I wanted to bring up my thyroid test because previous blood work showed it was elevated, but the most recent blood work it was back within range. I was curious to ask my own doctor about it but brought it up so that it was written down in the Resident's notes (that I assume she relays to the doctor).  I also wanted to mention that I sometimes feel anxious but haven't for a couple months and was unsure if it was due to the thyroid or not.  I have never brought up that I was anxious to any doctor, frankly, I was anxious about saying I was anxious. 

Then I hear it straight from the residents mouth,

"Maybe you were just having a bad month..."

With a quick sentence the topic of anxiety was brushed off the table like nothing was said. I was back to where I started, why did I even mention it?

In my head I instantly thought, a bad month? 

If I broke my leg could I credit that to a bad month?

If my blood sugars were constantly high, could I credit that to a bad month?

If I had constant headaches, could I credit that to a bad month?

Are heart attacks, asthma attacks, insomnia, seizures, strokes... all due to bad months?

When will this discussion become serious? When will they listen?


Kayla 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Numbers

Diabetes is about numbers and not always the obvious ones.

It's about the number of juice boxes you wake up to after a night of lows.

The number of minutes it takes away from your day, distracted by numbers of carbs, blood sugars and site changes.

It's about the number of times you've passively said, "I'm Okay" when you feel like screaming inside.

The number of dollars spent on test strips, lancets, and vials of insulin.

It's each number of tears you've cried, pats on the back and the number of times you kept going when you thought you couldn't anymore.

Diabetes is about numbers and not always the obvious ones.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

He Asked, I Answered!

Something I love about this blog is being able to see in words how my life has balanced itself out.  To see those moments when I felt completely defeated, or those moments where I was over the moon with excitement.

I have documented my first week of diagnosis, to my celebrations of diaversaries.  I have detailed my trials and tribulations though College and University and breathed a sense of accomplishment when I completed both my diploma and my degree. I have documented the fears and challenges I faced while training and eventually climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and I have shared my gratitude for those fellow type 1's I have met along the way. I have shared my heartbreak during tough times in my life when relationships ended and family or friends had passed on. I have opened up my life story, one chapter at a time, diabetes related or not.

Today, I add a new chapter by announcing my engagement to my beloved Mike.  He came into my life in 2014 and we decided on forever May 22nd 2017. With this comes so much excitement as planning a wedding and being a bride has been on my mind since I was young.  Mike has been one of my biggest supporters in all of my endeavors, including diabetes.

He has been there through my highs and lows, he has picked up my numerous empty juice boxes, rocket packages and test strips and he knows that while diabetes is not easy on either of us, we both can make it manageable and work along side it along our journey together.

I am ecstatic, and so happy to see this chapter unfold.

Kayla



Friday, May 19, 2017

Blog Week 2017: More Than Diabetes


More Than Diabetes 

Let's wrap up the week by sharing a little more about ourselves, beyond the chronic illness we or our loved ones live with.  Share an interest, hobby, passion, something that is YOU.  If you want to explore how it relates to or helps with diabetes you can.   Or let it be a part of you that is completely separate from diabetes, because there is more to life than just diabetes! 


Stepping back from diabetes, what is my passion?  I love to write, which I am sure isn't a surprise.  I love to create.  Whether that involves writing or not, I am passionate about creating something that doesn't exist, or at least taking something that exists and recreating it in my own way or fashion.  Mike laughs at me because anytime I am about to bake, I have the recipe up on my laptop screen, but I rarely ever follow it. "I am going to just figure it out..." I love to see what I can do on my own without having to rely on anything else.  I think that's how a lot of my ideas evolve even within the diabetes community. I am a go-getter. 

I am also passionate about my dog, which I am sure is also a given.  I have so much love for him and other shihtzu's - seriously.  I grew up with a dog from grade 6 onwards, and when I moved out on my own and finished University, after a really crappy breakup, I decided to get my own.  Cola, has been my absolute life-line and stress reliever. 

I love helping in the community and being apart of something.  I am passionate about helping others and going out there to make sure everything is just perfect. I am incredibly detail oriented so party planning, gift giving, all of that stuff, is totally my thing.  My friends and family know that I am the one to go to when looking to organize an event.  I am a planner and I am passionate about planning, and curating things just so.  My brother laughed at me recently because I said, "in my next life I think I will go to school to be a prop/set designer" he responded with, "look she's even planning her afterlife." 

Diabetes is obviously a huge part of my life and of course when people ask my passion I often respond with 'DIABETES ADVOCACY" But when it comes down to it, I do have many passions, loves and hobbies that I incorporate into my diabetes and how I cope and handle with the card I have been dealt. 

Kayla 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Blog Week 2017: What Brings Me Down

What Brings Me Down 

 May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?


Living with diabetes is hard.  It is harder than I ever thought it would be.   When I was diagnosed I tried to just be as brave as I could. I accepted that this was the new normal.  The odd time I would get stressed out or feel defeated, but before I knew it I was picking myself up again and carrying on as if nothing was wrong.  I did this for a long time, a real long time. Forgetting that part of taking care of myself, was mentally and I was failing hard.

I wanted to be the 'inspirational' helper in the diabetes community and I didn't want to have to rely on anyone else to help me be that person.  I didn't want to tell anyone that I was struggling just as much as they were. I wanted to appear calm and collected.  At my diabetes appointments, each time I'd promise myself, this time you're going to tell them that you're stressed out, that you think you have mild anxiety and that the passing of your uncle, who had type 1 really bothered you and effected the way you saw your own diagnosis. But, each time I left the appointment to scared to say a thing. I would think, "this appointment is going too well, I don't want to kill the mood with my problems." 

I have been an advocate for people to seek help, speak to others, share their feelings, join together and be brave, yet I was doing the opposite for myself. I was leaving everything inside and the pot would soon begin to bubble over at the foot of my bed one night, or at my cousins wedding when I had just one too many tequila shots.  This was my reality that I was keeping so quiet just to save face.

But, I have learned that I am not alone in my struggle. That many people with diabetes or not, are overwhelmed and over worked.  We spend so much time trying to please others and make things aesthetically pleasing that we forget about taking care of ourselves. 

Take insulin, carb count, keep your weight stable or lose a few pounds. Lower your a1c, make sure you get your blood work done. Don't forget to log your blood sugars.  Pack some low supplies, don't drive low. Change your site and your battery too. Leave some juice boxes beside your bed. Change your basals, bolus for dinner....

but also breathe.

Just take time to breathe and to find that person, that something, that thing you want to lean on, talk to, take a break with.  Just don't forget about what is inside that needs attention. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Blog Week 2017: The Blame Game

The Blame Game


Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another.  And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault.  Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgement from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger.  Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had.  Now, the game part.  Let’s turn this around.  If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself?   Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!



I have had both good and bad experiences of blame.  I have left appointments feeling empowered and also left appointments in tears.  When a person living with diabetes goes into an appointment, they know that every little thing they have done in the past two weeks to manage their diabetes is going to be combed through. They know that they will have to give explanations, justifications and reasonings.  For someone who has been doing fairly well with management, this isn't as much of a worry. For those that are struggling - which is a reality for most, this appointment can be very difficult. 

I know exactly the moment that I decided I needed to change my care.  I was feeling the 'blame' and was only a couple years into my diagnosis.  I felt as if I was getting feedback but was not getting support.   I felt threatened that if I did not take care of myself, I was going to lose it all. My privilege of having an insulin pump would disappear and it would be up to me to get my act together.

If I could re create the conversation between health care provider and myself I'd make it something like this:

"We understand that you are living a busy life with school, your social life and diabetes. Please let us know if there is any way we can support your in your diabetes management so that we can help you get to a better place both physically and mentally with your diabetes." 


It is only a couple sentences but those couple sentences would have changed my experience.  The number one thing I hear from people living with diabetes is that they wish their health care provided saw them as a whole person and not just diabetes.  We get busy, we struggle, we feel defeated - but that does not mean that we do not care about our diabetes. We need support. 

Kayla 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Blog Week 2017: The Cost of a Chronic Illness


The Cost of a Chronic Illness - Tuesday 5/16

Insulin and other diabetes medications and supplies can be costly.  Here in the US, insurance status and age (as in Medicare eligibility) can impact both the cost and coverage.  So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care.  Do you have advice to share?  For those outside the US, is cost a concern?  Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care?


This topic is hard to discuss because as a person who lives outside the U.S my situation is much different than say someone living in the United States or a third world country where insulin, medical care and supplies are a much different situation.  When it comes down to it, people living with diabetes need affordable and accessible medication and care. No if, ands or buts!  I have had the opportunity to speak with many people living in all parts of the world that do not have access to insulin, or proper medical care to deal with their diabetes.  I have met people just across the border that are paying 10x the price I pay for my very same insulin vial.  I have met people who have to walk miles to just get their blood sugar tested.

I am grateful for the care and access I get in Canada, but it is not perfect.  I am still out of pocket for my insulin and test strips, because I am self employed.  However, my expense is not enough for me to feel 'ripped off' or 'unlucky.' I am grateful that I can go to any drug store in my city and purchase insulin, and test strips. Do I think they should be covered by the government? Absolutely. Do I think that everyone living with diabetes despite their location should have this right? Absolutely.   

Without fair priced insulin/test strips, people with diabetes may not survive this disease that is otherwise manageable. For anyone thinking that people with diabetes deserve to pay the price of their own lives is ridiculous. You know the phrase, "the cost of an arm & leg?" to someone living with diabetes this could be a reality.  This is not fair. 

I try to avoid politics because that is not where I find my fit in the diabetes community, but following along with blog week, those are my two cents!

Kayla 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Blog Week 2017: Diabetes and The Unexpected

Diabetes and The Unexpected 


Diabetes can sometimes seem to play by a rulebook that makes no sense, tossing out unexpected challenges at random.  What are your best tips for being prepared when the unexpected happens?  Or, take this topic another way and tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your, or your loved one’s, life that you never could have expected? 



Living with diabetes for over eight years now it is amazing to see how habits form and also fade.  Of course when we are first diagnosed we tend to be right on top of things, and we are incredibly prepared for the unexpected because frankly, everything is unexpected at that point.  As we make our way along the path of diabetes,  there still are moments of unexpectedness, and we expect that... if that makes sense.  We know we aren't going to be on the ball 100%, there will be defeat and times where we think, "ugh, I should have known this would happen!" 

I am not always prepared, in fact I say these things a lot:

"I am low and having nothing on me..."


"I forgot my pump..."


and "my site ripped out and I didn't bring an extra one."

Honestly, my tip is to have a friend, whether that is a boyfriend/girlfriend, partner, mother, father, neighbour, whoever, someone that can help remind you of these little things that we sometimes forget to do. Albeit it's annoying sometimes to have someone remind you about these things, we have to appreciate that they're looking out for us, especially if we tell them we need that help. 

This friend can also lend that support when the unexpected happens, they can reassure you, help you, guide you or just be there for you.  This can be via text or in person.   If we forget something, if something happens, it's good to have someone to lean on. 

Kayla 


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Disneyland 10K


In the late summer I started to run. I started to run because I wanted to try something new.  Shortly after realizing that I really did enjoy running, I signed up for a Disneyland 10K run. I had heard about Disney runs before and thought how cool would it be to run in Disneyland, so I added it to my bucket list! Skip forward nine months and here we are, a day after the Disneyland 10K run and already thinking, hmm what Disney run can I sign up for next.

On May 13th at 3:30 a.m we put on our green sparkly tutu's, wings and neon green tank tops and headed into Disneyland with zero idea of what we had signed up for.  I hardly slept, not only because I had to get up so early but I was starting to worry about the run and if I was going to be able to do it (look up the Disney Sweeper Bus). I also was trying to figure out what I should do about my blood sugars.


6 mile mark! 
The run was incredibly exciting. The crowd was excited and dressed up, Lost Boys, Tinker-Bells, Captain Hooks even someone dressed as a giant churro! We were in the second last corral so we watched as the people in front of us dashed through the start line, by the time it got to us, we had a running start and began running through the backside of Disney then throughout both Disney parks, looped back around and finished near the Disney Hotels.

This whole week that we have been on vacation I have been going low, I assume because of a few things, time change, weather, food choices and activity level.  I was running low before bed but knew I'd be up at 3:00 a.m, so I decided to have two Twizzlers without bolusing, hoping that I could prevent a low in the night.

My CGM just after I finished the run!
Of course eating Twizzlers without taking insulin back fired and my blood sugars spiked higher than it had all week. My blood sugars ran high until about half way through my race.  I had set a temp basal at 120% while we waited in the park, then ended up trending low near the end. Once I was alerted my blood sugar was dropping, I suspended my pump to bring it up a bit.  I ate a few rockets along the way just to keep it from going down any further because that was also a huge fear of mine.Thankfully, I finished with a blood sugar of 4.7! I was happy that my blood sugars and cooperated and I was super excited that I had finished the race!


Kayla

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Packing List

Traveling with diabetes can be nerve wracking, but packing is even worse.  Not only do you have to remember to pack your life-saving medications and 'equipment', you also have to make sure you have enough.  Depending on how long you're going away for, the only way I measure up, is by doubling most of my supplies.  So, if I am going for a week, I'd bring 6-10 sensors rather than 3-5.  This will make up for a site that fails, falls off etc.   When it comes to packing with diabetes it is better safe than sorry!


I've compiled a list of all the things I pack when traveling with diabetes:

+ Insulin

+ Insulin Cold Pack (to keep insulin cool) 

+ Test Strips (double, even triple the amount I use)

+ Insulin Pump 

+ Sites (double, even triple the amount)

+ Syringes

+ Meter (and an extra one)

+ Lancet Device and Lancets (and an extra one)

+ Low Supplies

+ Spare Pump (Travel Loaner Pump)

+ Batteries for Pump

+ CGM Sensors/Transmitter 

+ SkinTac, Adhesives, Remover, Tape & Alcohol Swabs


In the past I have gotten things like doctors notes because depending on where you plan to travel, explaining all your equipment and medications may be difficult and easier presented with a formal note. All of these things are obviously incredibly important to remember to bring along with you because you do not want to get stuck having to try and purchase them in the country or place you're travelling to.  You also want to try and think of different situations that may or may not happen, but there is a possibility they could. I hate to think the worst, but it's better to be over prepared with diabetes.


Kayla



Friday, May 5, 2017

All the STUFF!

Living with diabetes requires having a lot of STUFF. It isn't a prescription that sits in the cupboard, but a whole slew of things that hide in your fridge, purse, bed side table and your pockets.  I wanted to cover some of the non-medical things that people with diabetes may/may not use and how those things can be unique and catered to you!

* Quick note I was am not sponsored by any of these products in this post so any products listed are just things that I've found along the way, and may or may not own or use *


1.  Medic Alert Bracelet 


Poppy Medical 
This is one of those things across the board that most people living with chronic illnesses or allergies had/have at some point.  When I was first diagnosed we signed up right away and got that standard silver chain bracelet that on the back said, "Type 1 Diabetes" carved into it.  Now though, there are so many pretty bracelets and necklaces out there!  If you wear a medic alert bracelet, you know it's on you 24/7 and finding one that suits you, and that you actually don't mind wearing is so important!  This is yours, this is your style and your life - what kind of bracelet do you want?





2. Diabetes Bag 


Myabetic 
Test strips, meter, lancet, candies, alcohol swabs, extra site, syringe, insulin vial .... where do you keep all these things you have to carry on you? Most meters come with a plain black case, and honestly, I almost always ditch it and stick to a bag that I don't mind carrying around with me.  I think this is a fun way to make not-so-fun contents seem fun.   You know this bag is going to make public appearances, you know this bag is going to be on you all the time, so go and find a bag that suits you, that you don't mind flaunting!






3. Glucose Tabs 



Dex Tabs
How many times did you end up with a flavour you didn't prefer?  For me, that would be orange... but regardless, this is something you have to attempt to eat while already feeling awful.   Some people with diabetes prefer juice boxes over tabs, or candy over tabs, whatever that may be, this is something you can pick with your taste buds in mind, your willingness to grab that grape juice box, or those skittles is important!  Pick something that works and doesn't leave you gagging.







Kayla

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to Negate Diabetes Comments

Everyone has an opinion. When it comes to living with diabetes I have heard it all. These comments may come with positive intentions? Maybe.  Or they may come at you with disapproval.  We cannot change the things people say. People are going to say whatever they THINK they should say and that is how it is. However, we can change the way we perceive these comments and how we decide to either hold onto them or set them free (and on fire).

Let's begin!

You Do Not Need to Prove Yourself 

Once I was at a diner and was enjoying my breakfast which was french toast with maple syrup (totally my favourite, for anyone that wants to make me breakfast.) I was enjoying this breakfast, I was with someone I knew and their friend and as I am taking a bite, the friend looks at me and says, "I don't think you should be eating that with your diabetes."  I finished my bite with anger and began to go ahead and explain why I could eat that french toast and even after that, it was as if she didn't believe my answer. I was mad. Sometimes it isn't worth an explanation.  

YOU do not need to prove yourself. YOU do not need to spend time talking about your health if YOU do not want to.  Testing your blood sugar, giving yourself insulin, eating your food does not invite conversation about your health if you do not want it to. 

Keep it Light 

"I heard this diet really helps lower blood sugars." 

"I heard there is a doctor in China that can cure diabetes."

We have HEARD about it, trust us. We heard about the cinnamon, the shakes, the doctors, we have heard it all.   People by nature want to connect, they want to bring something to the table and honestly, I get that.  The issue is that for people living with diabetes, diabetes is always at our table.  If the topic comes up (it likely will) try not to be offended, but rather accept their 'advice' and move forward. Keep it super light and don't engage in an argument.   All it takes is one snarky remark back on Facebook to begin a chain reaction of negativity that will haunt you all night long. 




Plan Your Out 

Lastly, I want to circle back to what we hold onto and what we let go.   It is easier said than done to walk away from a conversation and think, I am not going to let any of that bother me.  If you're anything like me, you replay conversations in your head. 

"Why did I say that?" 

"Why didn't I say something?" 

"Why did they say that to me?" 

The truth is, we can't turn that off.  But, we can actively try to find ways to get out of those conversations or turn them around.   I do a lot of stuff in the diabetes community, so a lot of my experiences are based on my diabetes and diabetes in general - something I personally don't mind.  It's more so the repetition of explaining myself that can become overwhelming.   Think of situations you've already been in, and think about what fed that conversation.  Think of ways you could have switched gears....

"speaking of food, have you tried that new pizza place!"

"speaking of spells that cure things, have you read the Harry Potter Books?"

"speaking of the witch doctor in India, have you ever travelled there?" 


Okay, maybe those were awful conversation suggestions, but I trust you will find a way to negate those diabetes comments! 

Kayla








Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Don't Compare on Social Media

Note: Don't compare yourself to others on social media.  

That is way easier to write than to actually put forward.  I know that in general I am always trying to compare my life to others, and by others I mean people on instagram that I have literally not even met.  I want to be as thin as them, I want to have a glowing tan like them and I want to have a house that overlooks my boat floating in the ocean, but guess what?  None of this makes sense.  I can take a perfect picture of my life, but I cannot tell you that my life is perfect.

This goes for diabetes.  There are countless instagram accounts for people living with diabetes.  These people are real people, I know a lot of these people in person and guess what? They take amazing photos, they engage my attention and they're all really great people in person and online.  But, the thing is, we only see what they want to share and when I say we, I am including myself.  My perfect CGM graph is a moment in time, it's not always showing the endless highs that resemble mountain peaks or the wrappers beside my bedside table.

That being said, most people living with diabetes on instagram tend to have a great balance of the highs and lows (I went there..) and that is awesome. It shows those that are struggling that it's okay to struggle and it also reminds us to celebrate our successes, such as straight lines on our CGM graphs or a perfect site change.

What's important to remember is that everyone has their battles, everyone has their faults and flaws and we cannot let social media discourage us. Rather, let us embrace social media and remind us that while we are all facing battles we are also celebrating those moments together.

Kayla

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Making Waves

I remember sitting in the hospital, in their common room which was filled with well-loved toys and the sound of cartoons playing on the small t.v in the corner. I was on the Pediatric floor although I would be turning 19 within a few short months. I had visitors come in and out and doctors and nurses popping in to check up, give insulin and draw blood. No one talked about insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitors, they just went through the process of teaching me how to give insulin and how to check my blood sugars.

I  do recall my Uncle saying to me while I was in this common room, "one day they will have a watch that tells you what your blood sugar is," and I thought that that was such a weird concept. Wearing something that told me what my blood sugar was? But, this technology was very real, and it was already thought of, it was making waves but the wave just hadn't hit the shore yet.

Now, you can wear a watch to tell you what your blood sugar is, and you can have various devices giving you this information with beautifully lit screens and graphs, all becoming so popular and almost a standard of care eight years after my diagnosis.  I have met two newly diagnosed adults who within a month of diagnosis were put on continuous glucose monitors, a tool that will benefit their management so much.  I imagine what it would have been like to have the opportunity to do the same. Would I have understood what was going on better? Would I have been less disappointed in the random highs and lows because I could have seen them coming? I imagine those that were diagnosed say, 20, 30 years prior to my diagnosis and what they think of the new technology.  I imagine it is like my grandparents when they realized we could communicate via internet.

Now the next step is giving this opportunity to all that would love to have it. It would be great to see continuous glucose monitoring become apart of how we treat diabetes and as someone living in Ontario, I would love to see it covered alongside the insulin pump.  This technology has so much potential in making life easier and for those living with diabetes.

Kayla

Monday, May 1, 2017

We Deserve a Safe Space

Almost three years ago I created a support group called T1 Empowerment this group was made for teen girls living with diabetes. The reason I created this group was because I felt the need to give back to the diabetes community.  I was diagnosed in 2009 and was so fortunate to be introduced to people living with diabetes almost immediately, I was put into contact with Connected in Motion - which is an excellent organization for people living with diabetes.

I strongly believe that being connected to others with diabetes is so, so important. Having a space to speak, heal, scream, vent, laugh and cry is so important.  I wanted to create connections among peers living with diabetes, that would last forever. Connections that when people left the group, they still had that support. They had someone to text, snapchat or hang out with. I wanted those bonds to happen naturally, but also catered in a way that would make sense and make sure even those that are too shy to speak out, or reach out, still had a voice.

This is a difficult task because working alongside teen girls living with chronic conditions isn't always easy.  I am almost twenty-seven years old and times have changed a lot, the way we connect and the fast pace of everything around us.  There is peer pressure in schools more than ever to look 25 when you're only 15 and to get as many LIKES as you can on every social media platform. Everything has a filter now and I don't mind filtering through what is acceptable and not, but a filter that fogs what life is actually like and about. Those girls that are dealing with a chronic illness don't always have the time to focus on life as a teenager, nor have the empathetic understanding from their peers to be open and honest when they're struggling.

I can only hope that in communities everywhere, people are reaching out and connecting to one another.  Just a simple "I get it" to bring it all in.  We all deserve that safe space. 

Kayla 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Supporting Advocates

After leaving HealtheVoices last weekend, I am left thinking about all of the people that put in so much work and effort into advocacy and support.  Running a Facebook group, blog, support group, and other diabetes-endeavorers, myself, I know that this work is hard and it's never ending and after spending time with people who put in the time day in and day out, I have come to realize how much passion and motivation comes from truly believing in the power of your own voice.

There are people living with very serious chronic illnesses that involve lots of pain, appointments, ups and downs, yet they still have time to go out there and get things done for their community - to give back and to spread the word and their voice.  I met so many people that are not only strong advocates in their relative communities, but also raising families and holding 9-5 jobs.

I wanted to take the time to say how powerful it is to share each others efforts, work, and voice. To help elevate those that are putting in so much time simply because they believe in the power of their voice and that there is a way to help one another through text, photos and a conversation. I am so honoured to know so many great advocates not only in the diabetes sphere, but beyond.

There is so much power in sharing one another work!  I wanted to highlight a couple people who are doing amazing work in their communities and I hope to share more as I go along!

Anna Norton: https://diabetessisters.org/  (Type 1 Diabetes)

Barby Ingle: http://barbyingle.com/ (Chronic Pain)

Emily Robinson: https://youareinthisworld.com/ (Mental Health)

Jim Snedden:  https://awildandflakyguy.com/ (Psoriasis)


Kayla



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Common Question: Does diabetes run in your family?

Continuing on with the common questions in relation to my diabetes.  I feel as though this question comes from a place where people are trying to figure out the cause of diabetes, so in this common question post, I'll cover that as well!

Common Question: Does diabetes run in your family?


As of right now they do not know what causes type 1 diabetes. While type 2 diabetes can be pinpointed in some instances, type 1 diabetes is still somewhat up in there. I will disclose that I am not a science nor medical person so I will not go into details about that. However, for my case, I do have type 1 diabetes in my family (on my father's side).  I do not know what caused my diagnosis to appear when I was 18 but, I do know that I did not eat too much sugar nor was I overweigh like most media suggests must be the cause of diabetes. 

For me, living with type 1 diabetes comes with this question a lot. People are interested in knowing how does someone that was healthy for eighteen years of their life develop something as serious as type 1 diabetes.  I think it creates that unknown worry of "could that happen to me?" and while no one is exempt from type 1 diabetes, it is important to know the signs and symptoms and if there is a history of any health conditions in your family.

There are people living with type 1 diabetes that have no one in the family living with the condition, so it is important to note that while I did have family members living with type 1, that is not always the case! 

I'll take the time to list the signs and symptoms because I think they're incredibly important to note: 


  • Unusual thirst.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Weight change (gain or loss)
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Frequent or recurring infections.
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal.
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
(Source: diabetes.ca)  


Kayla

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Common Question: Do I have to stop eating sugar now?


This next common question is probably one of the most frequent questions that I get.  If someone happens to catch me indulging in Easter Candy, or a slice of cake at a birthday party, I am bound to get some kind of question, remark and advice from someone who just isn't sure if I was supposed to quit sugar or not. 


Common Question: Do I have to stop eating sugar now?


The most simplest answer is....no.  When I was first diagnosed I didn't even think twice about this because my grandparents had type 2 diabetes and I knew that my grandma also liked to indulge in chocolate... I vividly remember her two favourite hiding spots for junk food, her front closet in her house and under her bed in her R.V.  I didn't doubt that I wouldn't be able to enjoy some sweets but I did realize soon after that I would pay the consequence of eating too many sweets. 

If you have type 1 diabetes you likely have the tools to prepare for eating sweets.  Sometimes it isn't easy trying to give insulin for candy, chocolate or baked goods, but it is possible to still eat sugar as someone living with diabetes. I get a lot of questions or 'advice' about what I can and cannot eat.  There isn't anything I cannot eat (although there are things I do not want to eat!) and life continues after diagnosis, you just have to be more aware and sometimes being aware makes you think twice about your choices! *cue the calories that are now listed in restaurants*

Kayla 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Common Question: Can Diabetes Be Reversed or Cured?

For the next week or so I plan to go over some of the most common asked questions about living with type 1 diabetes.  If you have a common question, please let me know in the comments below and I'd be happy to try and answer or point you in the right direction! Please note that all answers are based on my own experience and opinion and I am in no way a medical professional!

Common Question: Can Diabetes Be Reversed or Cured?


If you live with diabetes of any kind, you likely have been offered some kind of 'cure' or advice on reversing your diabetes.  This may be in the form of a 'book you should read' or a 'spice you should eat' or it could be as out there as visiting some doctor in the hillside of Scotland for a cure.  Regardless what these people are offering, please know that as of right now there is NO CURE for diabetes. There is no Harry Potter Wand Pointing Spell, magic unicorn pixie dust on your oatmeal, or big green vegetable out there to cure your diabetes nor reverse the diagnosis.  

I get so many spam comments (on this very blog) in my inbox, along the side of of my personal Facebook, insisting that there is a cure out there.  I get people in person telling me about their friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who was cured of diabetes. I get people throwing the pyramid scheme shakes towards my way promising of diabetes reversal and all that is great.

Ahh, and what a life it would be to be cured or reversed (or flipped, turned, set on a different life path diabetes free...) but that isn't happening. It isn't happening today, and likely won't happen for awhile.  I combat this 'cure spam' by recognizing that it is false information.  I decide if I want to cast my energy on education or not and I move on.  I know what makes my diabetes better for myself, not cured, but better and I will stick with that. 




Kayla 



Monday, April 24, 2017

#HealtheVoices17

Since being diagnosed with diabetes I have been to A LOT of conferences.   A LOT.  Since the conferences I go to have so much meaning to me, each time I leave a conference, whether it is a day or a week, I am left with simple reminders and a clear focus.   I must admit, this last conference that I went to has got to be on the top of the list of being THE BEST conference I have been to. 


I attended a conference called HealtheVoices in Chicago (for anyone wanting to learn more, check out the #healthevoices17 to see what we got up to!)  What separated this conference from the rest?  I can't quite decide.

Was it learning that others living with different conditions such as HIV, Psoriasis, Mental Health + Chronic Pain have all kinds of amazing and tight communities like the type 1 diabetes community does? 

Was it hearing the stories that literally brought me to tears knowing that we are all facing battles and some how still find a way to give ourselves to one another relentlessly and unselfishly?

Or was it connecting with others that I know I would have never encountered had I not been diagnosed with a chronic condition?

I don't know.

What I do know is that I am leaving this conference with so much empathy, pride and hope that although sometimes we as online advocates have no idea if we have an impact or not, is anyone reading this? We still take time out of our busy lives to tell our stories, their stories and the stories that would otherwise not be told.  We continue to fight despite not feeling great, not feeling present and not feeling strong. We continue on. 







Disclaimer: Janssen paid for my transportation + accommodations. All thoughts + opinions are my own! 

 




Thursday, April 6, 2017

You Have Type 1 Diabetes

Recently someone I know from high school was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It brought back that feeling of when I was first diagnosed in 2009, just after high school.  I have since connected with her trying to give some insight of what I've learned in the past eight years, and bring myself back to that moment when I first heard those words, "you have type 1 diabetes." 

When I was diagnosed I connected with someone else who had diabetes within the first few weeks.  This to me was key, because when you are first diagnosed you have no idea what you're getting into and it is hard to imagine how living with diabetes is at all manageable.  Now, not everyone will get that experience of one-on-one meetings with another type 1 right off the bat, but I do hope that eventually a connection is made in their local community.   Just in case, I have created a short list of things I think are important to note and remember when first being diagnosed with diabetes.

1. Insulin will not make everything perfect, but you will feel a lot better.   I think I was under the impression that as soon as I took my 'medicine' that everything would be good and I would just feeling perfect and go about my normal routine.  Insulin is amazing, obviously, but diabetes is like a puzzle and it requires a lot of figuring out, ratios, timing, brain power and a magic wand.   It can be really disappointing when you first go on insulin and you are still dealing with the stubborn highs of diabetes. I can remember bawling my eyes out thinking I was doing something wrong because I was taking my medicine but nothing was immediately happening.

2. Your story is my story. There is power in sharing your story with others and if you do not know anyone in your community, check with your local hospital or go online! There are so many resources online of people to chat with or blogs to read.   I can remember when I was meeting another type 1 for the first time, and she told me about her symptoms pre diabetes, I felt like she was telling my story and in that I felt comfort. I wasn't struggling alone, and someone knew exactly how I felt.

3. You can cry, but be sure to end with a positive note. I have cried a lot about my diabetes.  When I was first diagnosed I would break down about the unknown future, would my hands become gapping holes after all these pokes? Would I be able to have a baby? Would I live as long as my friends? All of these questions flooded my mind and I would literally break down. I think this is just us being humans, we deal with things differently, and there is nothing wrong with crying. But, be sure to remind yourself of how far you've come, and prove to yourself what you can STILL do!  I often would cry and find myself in a deep dark hole of 'why me!' and as time has gone by, I have realized the answer to, why me?

4. All this structure will eventually become your routine. No one is a perfect diabetic, and if someone claims to be, here is your gold star.  When I was first diagnosed I did everything to the book. I counted individual french fries, I changed my lancet every single time, and I never once left the house without my bag of supplies. All of this, which every doctor, dietician and nurse would praise, eventually adapts to how you decide to live your life with diabetes.  You become an expert of carb counting via eye-balling and you 'joke' about only changing your lancet every few months... Diabetes is 24/7 and you have a million other things going on, at first it seems impossible to fit it all in and to follow the guidelines and rule book, but you'll adapt and find ways that make sense for you.



Kayla

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Functioning Human with a Plastic Pancreas

CGM is such a wonderful invention, I truly believe that my next a1c will be so much better than my last and I honestly believe that over all I am working on being healthy, restoring the feeling of having steady blood sugars and just feeling like I have some sort of grasp.  But, I am both emotionally and physically exhausted and even putting my thoughts together on this cold rainy Thursday is a task.

I was up likely every hour listening to pump alarms, finding a comfortable position to sleep after getting up to treat a low and moving Cola from beside my head to my feet every hour or so.   Poor M, spent a good chunk of time listening to my frustrated grunts as my alarms went off and wrappers unfolded and I feel guilty about disrupting his sleep.  

Between mental breakdowns this morning, chasing a high from a yogurt and bran muffin I ate that I didn't want to eat and sipping my cold coffee between working and trying to grasp energy from upbeat songs on youtube. I am trying. I am trying so hard to be a functioning human with a plastic pancreas.

I want to be healthy. I want to see straight lines and I want to have the best a1c yet, but that comes with a lot of focus, energy and time. It comes with being proactive in a world where we are busy and don't always know when we will eat next or what is for dinner.  It comes with patience that it is going to be okay and it comes with strength that I sometimes just can't muster up.

Kayla


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

High Blues

I wrote earlier about Low Blues  and now here comes the post about the High Blues, which are equally as defeating, if not greater.  You see, for the most part when you're low, or constantly going low the solution is a bit easier, eat more sugar.   Most often eating will bring your blood sugars up in no time (at least for me) the repetition of low after low is what gets super irritating because believe it not, eating yummy snacks constantly for lows isn't as lavish as it sounds.

Now, then there are high blood sugars that charge into us like a raging bull, a freight train or your worst nightmare.  When I get the alert my blood sugar is high and I see two arrows up on my pump screen (CGM) and I lose my mind.  It's like trying to catch a rabid animal (you get the point that highs suck!) Often times as long as I have a sensor on, I can sometimes detour it with a correction bolus, but other times when I am not alarmed (no CGM) it sort of just hits me out of nowhere and then I have to spend all my concentration on trying to bring it down.

Bringing down blood sugars seems easy in theory but for me, I'd say 9 out of 10 times, I have to literally tackle it down and it drives me crazy - literally crazy.   I spend most of my time looking at my CGM screen hoping that I see trending down arrows, or a drop of any kind.  I spend time trying to calculate if I should correct, override my basal, or run laps around the house.   I spend a good chunk of time swearing at my pump, wishing that I didn't have to deal with diabetes and ultimately feeling defeated. 

Alas the high blues, that feeling where you are pretty sure diabetes is running the show and you are left to deal with the after math.  That feeling where you wonder how long this could possibly go? How much time will this take from me? How much brain power do I have left to give to anything else?  It feels like defeat.

For the most part I have been trying so hard to keep between the lines of 3.8 mmol/L and 8 mmol/L. Some days are easier than others and those easy days usually mean that I have kept my carb intake super, super low.  Anytime I even attempt to 'treat' myself to something carby, I pay the ultimate price of being high for what feels like forever.  When you have been within 'range' for days then a high blood sugar hits you, you feel awful.

There are so many times I have felt on the verge of tears, wondering how I am going to keep up with this constant struggle, not knowing why my blood sugars do what they do, and trying to understand what my body wants from me.

Kayla

Sunday, March 19, 2017

THIS CARB RATIO ISN'T COOL ANYMORE!

Yesterday Mike and I went shopping and I happened to witness the fun moment where a thirteen year old girl didn't want her mother picking out her clothes.  As I looked at the clothes on the racks, I couldn't help but listen as the mother-daughter pair stormed around the store. The mother threatening to not buy anything and head home, and the daughter complaining that the mother never let's her pick what she wants to wear.  The mother trying to make things better, holds up a black sweater with a popular logo on it and the girl screams, "THAT BRAND ISN'T COOL ANYMORE!"  I remember those days of my mom not letting me wear certain things, or straight up telling me something did not look good, cue in the days of orange foundation. I so badly wanted to just tell the girl, 'listen, your mom is right...' but the more I watched the mother-daughter duo go in and out of the isles, the daughter walking faster and away from the mother as the mother yelled, Don't walk away from me!'  I began to realize, you know what, my diabetes is just like an angry thirteen year old girl.





My diabetes is usually angry at me.  Even when I remotely try to be nice to it, it somehow finds a way to test my patience.

My diabetes is always complaining about my choices.  Remember the time I gave myself a cookie, ONE COOKIE, and I spent the next two hours regretting something that I treated to myself.  Or, I take myself on a nice walk and what do I get in return?  a low blood sugar that sends me back home.

My diabetes changes its mind, of what it prefers and what it doesn't.    There are times when a bolus of 3 units for a meal is perfectly fine, same meal the next day, and 3 units just doesn't cut it.   THIS CARB RATIO ISN'T COOL ANYMORE! 

Lastly, my diabetes seems to have its own opinions and mind of its own and the more I try to come to terms with how my diabetes works, the more I want to just work with it and not against it... I want to understand it, but I also don't want it to take away from me, whether that's my sanity or ambition to keep going on.  Diabetes isn't actually a teenage girl, it can be a lot of things and honestly, sometimes I feel like that angry teenager rather than the mom.  But, regardless, sometimes as we watch our blood sugars rise & fall we have to find that middle ground where we can try to make things work, we try to compromise, but also take a stand, that we will not just give in.

Kayla


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Low Blues

There are two extreme sides of blood sugars, the highs and the lows.  Anything in between is all good, no sweat... but when you find yourself on either end of the spectrum, you're bound to feel some pretty awful feelings and I am not talking about physical symptoms right now, but mental.

Today, I am going to focus on the mental aspect of low blood sugars because after a ROUGH night of five low blood sugars and a few during the day today, the feelings are raw.  I am about to share a part of diabetes that is often masked with positivity and that 'we can do it' attitude from my end.  But, here it goes. 

 I am mentally and physically exhausted.  Since putting on a sensor, I have changed my diet drastically to keep that daunting line of blood sugar within the two targets.  I have gone fairly low carb in order to make this happen and the results - AMAZING. I have been able to stay within the target lines with ease, except the time I slipped up and had a cookie . . . but to be honest the cookie was out of stress this morning (yes I ate a cookie for Breakfast) and even though it was delicious I paid the ultimate price with a high blood sugar that lasted HOURS.  

Anyways, back to my emotions. After getting hardly any sleep, constantly waking up to a screaming alarm telling me I was low, shoving rockets into my mouth as I was half asleep, wishing diabetes would...leave, today I woke up less than refreshed.. in fact I am pretty sure I felt more refreshed pre bed time, than post.    I had to be out of the house by 9 a.m and after the 'cookie accident' I began to get frustrated with my now high blood sugars.   

 Like seriously body, you wanted sugar all night, 
and then I generously give you a cookie and you betray me like that! 

As I rage bolused and bumped my pump up to 150%, within a couple hours I was trending down and by lunch time I was at my ideal blood sugar. Then it was all down hill from there, low after low, treading water just to keep my blood sugar stable and not plummeting. I am sure it was my fault for stacking insulin, but I was frustrated.  I wanted to punch diabetes right in the face.  I was tired.

By 8:00 p.m I was so low I felt myself becoming less like myself, trending down arrows and a low suspend shouting at me from my pump. I wanted to cry.  Mike watched as a smothered peanut butter on everything (yes, I know PB is low carb, but you can smoother it on carbs and it's delicious)  and I am sure he knew that I was frustrated because I am pretty sure I yelled at him... but regardless, in my mind I felt so completely drained. So over trying to keep myself within those lines. So tired of eating for the sake of feeling normal.   

Diabetes totally drains you.  It can make you literally go crazy, low after low after low, you start to not want to treat it and that's the scariest part.    The catch is that once you start to eat and your blood sugar begins to come back, you start to feel more like yourself...but it's getting to that point that takes the work.  

Kayla 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Diaversary

People may wonder why every year, people with type 1 diabetes choose to celebrate their diagnosis date.   In the 'diabetes world' it is known as a Diaversary.  I learned early on in my diagnosis the importance of celebrating the date, not because we are celebrating that we were given this diagnosis, but rather we are celebrating that we have made it this far.

Today is about giving myself credit for the work I have put in. It is about embracing the technology and mind set that has pushes us through each day that diabetes has rears its head at us.  It's about acknowledging the support systems that have lifted us up when we felt like we couldn't do it anymore and it is about finding the good in the otherwise daunting disease known as type 1 diabetes.

Today, I am thankful for my family and friends that have stood by me and encouraged me to keep pushing. I am thankful for those friends who carry sugar on them, who make sure I am O.K and for those people in my life who have lend a shoulder for me to lean on.  I am also thankful for all the opportunities that diabetes has given me. It has allowed me to find a passion for helping others, writing and travel.  I am forever grateful for the people I have met along the way and continue to meet because of diabetes.

We cannot always predict the future, and at anytime life can change drastically like mine did eight years ago today, but we have the choice to accept it or deny it and that will greatly have an impact on our future.


Friday, March 10, 2017

A Work Of Art



This above is a work of art, painted by my blood sugars.  This right here is me trying my absolute hardest to stay between the green lines (3.9 mmol/L - 7.8 mmol/L) but clearly riding an unfortunate rollercoaster while trying to do so.  This is diabetes. 

Often enough people assume that diabetes management is about taking your medicine, watching your diet and working out. After all that is sort of how we solve a lot of health issues, we take our medicine, do what our doctor prescribes whether that is rest or walking 5 km a day and that's that. Diabetes management is multi-faceted.  We are expected to look, feel, and act like normal human beings all while trying to keep between the green lines.

It's not easy.  I have spent the past 2.5 days really focusing on my graph. Listening to the alarms of highs and lows and trying to act before it gets too wild.   It is absolutely amazing to see what foods send my blood sugars to the moon (Pasta!) and what foods have little to no effect (Apples!) and also to see how regardless of what I do/eat sometimes my blood sugars just do their own thing!  

This illustration is how my body is running, it is the ride that I am aboard (and cannot get off) and it all goes on while I try to balance my life.

Kayla