Do you really need to eat that quickly?

When I was younger, I didn’t know a lot of people with Type 1 diabetes. Sure, there was my classmate in kindergarten, a young boy I taught sailing to when I worked at a summer camp, a good friend’s younger sister, and my mom’s close friend, whom I’ll call “Leanne”. 

Leanne was someone I’d always admired; she was funny, independent, feisty, and yes, a Type 1 diabetic. 

When I got diagnosed some almost 28 years ago, my mom suddenly viewed me as the authority on all things diabetes, at least once she got over calling me several times a day to make sure my blood sugar was okay, my carb counting was on point, and that I wasn’t passed out on the floor of my apartment. Yes, those first few months were pretty entertaining. I’ve written about my parents’ reaction previously 

One day, as I was sitting eating a leisurely lunch with my mom, who’d indulged my vegetarian ways by joining me at a new vegan place that had just opened up, she asked, with perhaps a hint of judgement to her tone, “Why does Leanne eat so fast? I’ve never seen anything like it! When she says she’s low, she inhales her food. Is that really necessary?” 

Hmmmm. How to answer this without throwing that judgement back at my beloved and usually empathetic mother. “Well,” I started cautiously, “When you’re low, you kinda DO want to eat everything in sight. Immediately.” 

“Yes, but surely she doesn’t have to drink her juice in one large, loud gulp, does she? That happened the other day. She said she was low, took a juice box out of her purse, and drank it so quickly.. I was afraid she was going to choke on it!” 

“Actually, yeah, that’s pretty much the way it is, mom. She probably does feel like she has to down that sweet and sugary fluid as quickly as possible.” 

My mom sat quietly, thinking of how she likely hadn’t come off as all that compassionate when Leanne’s sugar had dropped into the danger zone. 

“What does it feel like?” My mom asked. 

I tried to think of how to answer this without freaking out my mom, who I had finally trained to call no more than three times a day. Any graphic description would likely escalate into many more phone calls. Many. Many. Many More. Phone Calls. 

I tested a few answers in my head, before opening my mouth. 

Like you can’t think straight. Like you’re shaky and standing on the edge of a cliff. Like you’re head isn’t attached to your body. Like you’re about to go on stage and there are a million people waiting for you to sing your solo and you can’t remember the words, Like you are trying to remember if you brought any snacks with you, preferably something with chocolate.” 

All of those descriptions would terrify her. 

“You feel like shit,” I said. Keep it simple. 

That conversation came to me last night when I was sitting at our dining room table, inhaling a yoghurt, then a glass of juice, and then an apple, all while my husband looked on from the kitchen, wondering if there was anything else I could eat, so that I could finally get back in bed. 

My Dexcom app on my iPhone yelled at me, and I yelled back. “I know, I know! I’m low. Shut up!” 

So yes, my low blood sugar indeed feels: “Like you can’t think straight. Like you’re shaky and standing on the edge of a cliff. Like your head isn’t attached to your body. Like you’re about to go on stage and there are a million people waiting for you to sing your solo and you can’t remember the words (or you don’t really sing in public.) Like you are trying to remember if you brought any snacks with you, preferably something with chocolate.” 

After the yoghurt, apple, and juice, there was a bite of chocolate. And it was followed by the inevitable rebound. Diabetes isn’t always predictable, except when it is. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 27 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

The Unexpected Yogi

If you had told me a year ago, that I would become “that person”, who had a regular at-home yoga practice, I’d have laughed. And cried a little, because in truth, that’s been a goal of mine for years, and one I never thought I could accomplish.

Sure, I’d been through the various “30 day yoga challenges” that are offered every January 1, free of charge on YouTube or for a nominal fee on some other website. And in the days before the pandemic, I’d gone to “in-person” yoga classes once in a while, usually on a Sunday morning as an alternative to doing some other form of exercise. 

I came to yoga fairly late, trying it in my 20s and thinking, “Nope. That’s not for me”, then arriving at a downtown yoga studio in my 40s, eager to try it again. I laboured through 90 minute Ashtanga classes that were as tough for me as any exercise I’d ever done before; it rivalled a cardio workout or a tough bike ride. 

My view from my mat, most mornings.

And I loved it. Even though I never felt all that yoga-ish in class; I could barely touch my toes and low squats were (and remain) but a dream. Sitting with my butt on my heels, considered a rest pose, was impossible. It wasn’t a matter of age – I’m pretty sure that even five year old me grunted when crouching to reach for a favourite toy. 

I occasionally got distracted as well, looking around at my fellow yoginis, and doing that thing you’re not supposed to do – compare yourself to the person in the front row who would ease into a backbend or handstand that frankly, stopped my “ujjayi” breath in its tracks, as it supposedly travelled from nose to throat.

Yet, Sunday morning classes became a habit, until life got in the way (or the weather got too cold and I could never find a parking spot). One day, I took my yoga mat out of the car and stopped going to class.

Then I discovered on-line yoga, first through a site called Yoga Today that was uploading sessions on line and allowing free downloads of its classes. They were filmed outdoors and beautiful.  And when they started charging a subscription, I eagerly signed up.  I inhaled (in my mind at least) the fragrant dark green spruce trees that surrounded Adi, my favourite instructor, as she moved through her Asanas with ease, in the middle of a field in Wyoming or on a mountain top in Arizona. 

One summer, before heading off to camp, I stocked my computer full of these classes. At summer camp, I made a “yoga-buddy”, and we met at 7 a.m. a few mornings a week to practice in the empty staff lounge, before it was time for breakfast. I thought I was hooked. It was a great way to start the day, and I joked with my yoga partner, who was some 20 years younger, that it helped get me through a busy day teaching video and running around with a camera, soothing the muscle aches and quieting the creaks in my joints. 

I returned home, eager to start my at-home practice. 

And the dream fizzled. I was too tired most mornings to get up and make coffee, let alone roll out the mat and do a yoga class. I also had this mindset that if it wasn’t an hour long, it wasn’t worth doing. Who had time for an hour of yoga, first thing in the morning? So I did nothing.

Then along came Covid-19. 

I no longer visited my office downtown. I moved all of my work necessities into our small den in our apartment. I begged my husband to put away the bike gear and other “stuff” that cluttered the space. All I needed, I said, was a space big enough to roll out my yoga mat. 

Wait. What?  Who? 

In December, I was talking to one of my closest friends, Eileen,. “What if,” one of us surmised, “we did yoga every morning?”  

“Um, go on…” 

I belonged to an on-line studio called and had been doing yoga once or twice a month over the past few years, often with my husband joining me. I felt I was getting my full money’s worth for the $20 charge that showed up on my credit card monthly. 

“So, yeah, what if we both did the same class in the morning and texted each other before and after?” I suggested. 

We thought for a moment. I’m not a morning person, my inner self told me. I’m busy, inner Karen continued. And with my type 1 diabetes, I knew I’d have to eat BEFORE class to avoid an annoying low.  Remember that camp experience? I’d always have a juice box or something before heading to the staff lounge.

And then another thought snuck in, just waiting to be verbalized.. “WHY NOT?” 

And so, for the past FIVE months, Eileen and I have been doing yoga (mostly) four times a week, every morning. We no longer do the same classes at the same time; I love the guy who Eileen thinks talks incessantly; she loves one of the other instructors too much and would do his classes daily, and that’s tough for the part of me that craves variety.

On rare days, I only manage a 20-minute class. But the thing is, we’re doing something I never thought I’d accomplish. For me, it’s not about sculpting my flabby arms or thighs or whittling away my tummy (although I do feel slightly stronger and a little less inflexible). 

It’s about doing something strictly for me that forces me to focus on something that isn’t pandemic-related. Sure, I still do a class with my husband on a weekend.  But that four times a week practice clears my head in ways I haven’t found possible otherwise, in large part simply because I have to concentrate on what the teacher is saying as I move my body through the various poses.. 

These past few months have been so dark at times. Yoga makes me feel like I’ve discovered a bright spot within that darkness. 

I still can’t do a low squat or sit with my butt on my heels. And that’s fine too. 

What I Learned from 2020

Here’s a photo that for me, sums up 2020. 

There’s so much wrong with this picture if I went by my previous “high” standards; in this photo, I’m mismatched, my legs are unshaven (trust me on that…) and I’m wearing socks with sandals. (Apparently, it’s a fashion no-no. Don’t even start on the whole stripes and polka dots sock disaster.)

But I’m working at home, trying to stay focussed, and getting ready to exercise indoors in the hopes of defeating the bout of depression that is lurking just around the corner. 

Yep, this was the year that I stopped giving a crap about the stuff that didn’t matter. 

And there was so much about this year that taught me what did matter. 

So yes, let me chime in and add to the plethora of articles, blogs, facebook articles, instagram posts, etc. that look at the year that was, and in a lot of ways, wasn’t. 

Herewith, what I learned: 

When I first “moved” back home from my cosy office, I’d sometimes keep the tv on for company, letting CNN play in the background as I did work that didn’t require my complete concentration. 

But pretty soon, I realized I’d rather hear episodes of Let’s Make a Deal or Wheel of Fortune, than reports of dire statistics about the spreading virus and other bleak news. 

I wanted to create my own bubble, where good things happened to people who spun a wheel or picked the right door, taking chances that weren’t defined by wearing a mask or washing your hands for three minutes after a visit to the supermarket. 

I’d wonder how I could forget to go outside — something that never happens when you commute to an outside office but was so easy to do when you worked at home. Somedays, I’d venture into the living room after a day at my desk, realize the radio had been on since breakfast, and that my world consisted of my office, the kitchen and the bathroom. 

My highlight of the day was taking the garbage or recycling down to the bins behind our apartment building. 

Exercise had become my best friend and the relationship is still going strong. I’ve written before about my new found love of indoor cycling, and how addictive watching avatars of other riders had become for me. My fitness level has improved and that continues to lift my mood most days. 

Yet I also allow myself to not work out, to take a day off without any guilt. Or to sit in front of my computer for an hour or two and binge on Netflix entrees like “Emily in Paris” in between work assignments. Or to take mental breaks doing crossword puzzles on the New York Times site — and yes, turning “auto check” on so I have at least a chance of finishing. 

I’ve had one haircut in 9 months, and dropped the hair colour routine. This period in our life has become all about austerity. Like so many of us, I’m nervous about the future, and I’ve been working as much as I can, hoping to maintain some stability. 

I don’t need to spend $100 to banish the grey hairs that now pepper my hair. And I’m not about to stain my white sink with hair colour. Who cares! There’s a pandemic going on. I can let those grey strands show on Zoom. 

I’ve also been reaching out to old friends, people whom I haven’t connected with in the past. Apparently, it’s something many of us have been doing; starved for connection, we schedule zoom or FaceTime chats with friends from our past. I confess that this didn’t happen that often prior to 2020; we’d all be too busy for that cup of coffee at a local cafe, or a quick chat on the phone. Or at least that’s what we’d tell ourselves. 

This year, time was on our side, even if the pandemic wasn’t. It’s hard to turn down invites to Zoom, when people know where you are 24/7.  Teaching on-line meant looking at myself for hours a day, and that was weird. I’m the kind of person who often forgets to do a mirror check, even when visiting the washroom. And now, here I was, in close-up, every day. And still, I wanted more. I FaceTime with a best friend in Ottawa on the daily. Because we need connection. And my iMac camera offers a nice soft focus…

This year, too, I started attending virtual conferences. The introvert in me has been thrilled. I’m not a “networker by nature” and even though I teach a class that covers this vital aspect of professional life at a local college, I much prefer to stick to a quiet corner at an industry event and hope that someone will talk to me, eventually. Or I take my husband with me; he’s great at bringing people over for a chat. By contrast, on-line networking events are a breeze. I can show up without having to dress up, I learn a lot, and I’ve even (bravely) sent messages to panelists or other attendees. 

As for having diabetes during a pandemic, I’ve stopped worrying (too much). In the first few weeks, the cautionary words of my doctor friends scared me; “Make sure you take care!” “You have to be extra careful!” “Don’t go out. At all!” 

Of course, I’m still very very very careful. And yeah, I’m also still scared of it. But pretty early on, I realized I also had to “live”, even if it is with the restrictions imposed on ALL of us by this virus. 

And yes, I did jump on the baking train. I have a lovely  “No-Knead Bread” sitting on the counter. And I have three slices of chocolate chip banana bread in a container. There’s a bowl of chia pudding in the fridge…. And three over-ripe bananas, just waiting to be mashed into another creation. 

All of the above also points to the gratitude I feel these days. I am fully aware that I am here. With food. And able to work at home. I don’t take any of that for granted. I know that others are not so fortunate. 

When I started this blog, I imagined sitting in a cafe next to the college where I teach part-time, writing entries on a weekly basis. I’d outlined 40 topics to ponder for the future. And for the first few weeks, I kept to my schedule. And then, as the world slowed down, so did I. I came to a complete stop. I shut down that part of my brain that was creative or at least creative for ME. I continued to edit, direct, do work, but suddenly, writing a blog seemed trite. Selfish. Indulgent. 

And yet, for the artist in me, there was that pressure to create. We finally had so much time, as we waited to see what the future would bring. Wasn’t this the perfect time to: Write that novel! Write that movie! Write that pilot for a tv series! Or even, at the very least, keep going on my blog! 

Well, ten months in, and I’ve barely been able to add an instagram post. How do you write cheery upbeat entries when so much crap is happening around you? And yet, isn’t that the point of writing; to take us out of ourselves and our current situation, if only for a paragraph or two? 

This next year, I’m going to keep writing. I need the space to reflect, to challenge myself, and hopefully, to bring even a tiny glimmer of relatability to others dealing with diabetes as a grown up. 

Here’s to a wonderful 2021! 

Diabetes Connect-the-Dots

The other day, I was looking at my stomach and realized that 27 years of injections and some 10 years of dexcom and insulin pump wear have left a mark on me. Literally. 

My stomach and my upper thighs have become a veritable roadmap of bruises, injection spots, scars, and other ways of plotting out the course of my Type 1 diabetes. 

A few years ago, one of the diabetes supply companies was offering semi-permanent tattoos. The idea was that you would apply the little rust coloured temporary tattoo to the place where your last pump site had been, giving you added ability and incentive to rotate and allow for healing. I bought a pack, thinking maybe this would help me to avoid what seemed to happen way too many times; hitting the same spot again and again, which resulted in a loud “OW” when the canula snapped into place.

It seemed like a great idea and at $4.99, not a huge investment. I ordered, applied the first tattoo and thought, great, now I have not only scars and bumps, but a pretty little star on my stomach as well. 

These days, it’s a bit easier. I tend to use added adhesive stickers to hold my omnipod or dexcom in place, and somehow, I never seem to get the residue from the sticky adhesive off of my skin. 

And so. today, I have the remnants of a large circle on my thigh, days after removal, and after countless showers. I could use an adhesive removing wipe to get rid of this grey ring around the insertion point. My diabetes educator gave me a batch on my last in-person visit some two years ago, and I still have 10 of the 12 packets left. 

The fact is, I kind of like this diabetic connect-the-dots. As an ‘older” diabetic, it’s not like i’m out there sporting a bikini or a crop top. Those were never part of my wardrobe. The shorts I wear for a run or bike ride hit just above the knee, as do any dresses or skirts.

I still get the occasional “OW” when inserting my pod and I brace myself for this every time.

Some days are worse than others, and the “OW” turns into an angry spill of swear words. The occasional bleeder gets an even louder response from me…. 

Yet, I wear the spots and scars proudly, much like the pump and CGM that’s always on my body. This is Diabetes Awareness Month, and I feel like these visual reminders connect me to the larger community of people with diabetes around the world. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 27 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

Happy Diaversary, to me!

It occurred to me today, that if my diabetes was a person, it would be all grown up, out of the house and living on its own. 

However, my diabetes refuses to leave. My diabetes is 27 years old today and still very much clinging onto me for its daily support and existence. 

Yep, it’s my Diaversary and I’ll cry if I want to… but I’m actually feeling good about passing this new milestone; 27 years as a person withType 1 diabetes. 

I’m not the kind of person who goes crazy for anniversaries of any type. I pretty much downplay my birthday, letting regular years and milestones fly under the radar. Yes, I’m buoyed by the lovely messages I get on Facebook and the acknowledgement from close family and friends. But big celebrations with helium filled balloons screaming the year loudly? Not my style.

My Diaversary, though, feels different. I didn’t know people marked the day of diagnosis until about three years ago. I had always acknowledged it on some level, I guess,  remembering that it was mid-July, but after the first few years, I stopped counting. And then I saw someone post about their own Diaversary. I dug out my old calendar and pinpointed the exact day. (A week before my nephew’s birthday! Five days before my brother’s annual canoe trip, which I was supposed to do with him and his boys! Two months after meeting the man who would be my husband!)  

To celebrate that first “official” Diaversary, I bought a pretty purse I’d been coveting from “Myabetic”. The following year, I went on a weekend yoga retreat.  

This year, I spent the morning walking with my husband in a local park. On the trail, I saw this convoluted mass of branches and thought, what a perfect analogy for the way I feel about having diabetes. Substitute me for the branches and you’ll see what I mean: 

How did the branches end up like this? At first glance, it seems hard to sort out: There’s a precarious sense of balance and a mix of old and new. The branches support each other, much like the community I’m starting to find, on-line and in person, of others with Type 1 diabetes. The intertwined branches remind me of the dance my diabetes does with my Omnipod, my Dexcom, my insulin, the carbs I eat, the exercise I do, and everything and anything else that is a part of me. 

There’s beauty here, too: A sense that these toppled pieces of wood seem to be exactly where they’re meant to be.  Acceptance is my theme for this year. Indeed, Happy Diaversary to me. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 27 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

Finding ‘virtual” connections…

So much has changed since the pandemic started. (Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d be writing.) 

The world is different in ways unimaginable. For me, it’s been like riding a roller coaster, with each day bringing different news and views. I’ve tried to write, and I’ve not been able to put any words down, as I think of the huge tidal waves of what I hope will be positive change in the years to come. 

There are days when I’m at home and stuck in my head, thinking too much about the practicalities of the next few months. I worry about colleagues and friends who are all dealing with different challenges. I work in the film industry and our world has come to a definite stop. I make independent documentaries; usually, intimate portraits of people’s lives and issues. My days are filled with anxiety-filled discussions about how to keep crew and cast safe on set as we also confront the bigger question: What should we be filming these days? What stories will we tell? When will we be able to go back to work?

Notice the “we”. Because for me, making films has always been about connection, with the people in our films in front of the camera, and the crew behind the scenes, with whom we create these stories. 

And so I find myself searching for connection. And finding it in the weirdest places. 

Two weekends ago was a “first” for me. I did a group Type1 Diabetes bicycle ride. 

I’d love to say that I headed out of the house, clad in my cycling shorts, sporting a team jersey and shoes, hopped on my bike and joined hundreds of others at the start line. Or that I got caught up in the excitement of the pre-race vibe, listening to snippets of conversation, taking swigs from my water bottle and mentally psyching myself up for the 30km plus ride to come. 

Well, I kinda did that…. I joined a virtual ride on ZWIFT, an app I’ve been using to cycle indoors. So yes, I pysched myself up mentally and physically, drank a few gulps of water, but I did this while staring at my computer screen and listening to my cycling playlist, in the comfort of my living room. 

Especially these days, when I spend most of my time indoors, this sense of community is vital. I’ve written about this before the pandemic started, in previous entries; the need for connection, for people who “get me”, who wear a pump or a Dexcom or some other type of constant glucose monitor (CGM). It’s about the feeling when you see a fellow diabetic and do “the nod” that signifies you get what they’re going through, as much as anyone can get what another diabetic is dealing with. 

So it was that when my ZWIFT app told me that there would be a Type 1 ride that Saturday, I jumped at the opportunity. The app I use classifies riders by their “work output” (something I really don’t understand and am constantly asking my husband to explain to me) and this one seemed to be within my “range”. It was marked “E” for everyone. I figured it was incentive to get on the bike at 10.10 a.m. and see what happened. 

And there I was, lingering with a crowd of other riders, my “digital me” now clad in a TEAM T1D jersey, instead of the usual nondescript one I’d chosen for my avatar. There was a start line and I felt excited and confident. I figured if I needed to stop for a minute and check my blood sugar, this group would understand. 

Not that they would notice, I realized. It’s all virtual. The ride leader, Mark from the T1D community based somewhere in England, was flooding the screen with encouraging words, yet no one would really know that I’d quickly lost the pack and found myself alone on an animated street in London.

My lack of speed meant that I missed out on the sprints and a couple of ride events.I was touched when one rider asked another if they were feeling okay; I guess he’d noticed she’d stopped somewhere on the route.

And then it was over. I was somewhere at the very bottom of the pack,  as I expected. The goal was a staggering 33 kms, of which I’d managed 24 km. I was proud of myself, and felt like I’d done something positive, as a diabetic, as a grown up diabetic (!), as an indoor cyclist, as someone who figured it was kind of cool to be riding with people from all over Canada, the US, France, England, Japan, Brazil, etc.

I wasn’t bold enough to connect on the message board, mostly because I have enough trouble keeping my legs moving while concentrating on the route, so the idea of typing on my phone while riding would surely slow me down. 

There’s opportunity here, in this new virtual world of ours. Introverted me could live at least part of my life this way indefinitely but the fact is, I miss the daily in-person social interactions. If I go to check the mail in our building’s lobby, I’m happy to see a neighbour and chat briefly as we wear our masks. I haven’t driven in weeks. My outings are short trips to the grocery store with my husband (we divide and conquer, he to the pharmacy, me to the market), or walks around the block to get fresh air or an occasional 5 km run. 

I’ve been able to attend classes on-line (hey, if not now, when?) and partake in professional conferences that have been out of reach previously, by price and by location.

Do I want this to be my future world like some kind of extended episode of Black Mirror? Ummm, no thank you. I hope the near future will bring some sense of balance. And connection that takes me out of my living room to a world that isn’t streamed on-line. 

Me, sort of, cycling on the ZWIFT app.

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

On Baking and Other Stuff…

Anyone else find themselves baking more than usual these days? Or in my case, more than ever? 

So far, this past week, I’ve made a giant braided challah bread and a vegan banana chocolate chip loaf. Last week, I dabbled in chocolate chip cookies, using a recipe from my first cookbook, from when I was about 6 years old (The NEW Boys and Girls Cookbook, published in the 1960s). And another challah. 

And yet,  I AM NOT A BAKER! My usual baking exploits have involved buying vegan pre-made cookie dough and spooning it onto a silicone sheet before popping it into the oven. 

Yet now, I find myself drooling at the pictures on instagram and searching for recipes on the web. Today’s effort was inspired by a recipe on @ohsheglows (since I’m not a baker, I rarely have all the ingredients listed, so find myself making lots of substitutions). I have no idea what the carb count for today’s banana bread clocks in at and guesstimated what to bolus for a small sliver. 

When in doubt, I call my friend Sherri with various questions: “Is there a difference between bread machine yeast and regular dry yeast? Can I substitute x for y in a recipe? What do I do if the centre of the banana bread is still gooey, after an hour in the oven? 

(That last question, I googled, because that banana bread did not seem to be baking. In case you’re interested, I put a piece of foil over it, very loosely, and turned down the oven to 330, then baked it for another 20 minutes.)

Baking is like chemistry, apparently. And I did not take chemistry in high school. My science career back then was limited to grade 10 biology. My time in physics was depressing. I started out strong, when the first two weeks talked about light and refraction (I’ve always loved photography, so this was easy to understand!). As the term progressed, I watched my marks plummet with each exam. 

By the time I was ready to head to university, I begged the principal of our school to let me drop math, a course that threatened to destroy my high grade point average and my dreams of going to journalism school. We made a deal. I couldn’t drop it, but if I failed it, he’d remove it from my grade book, as long as I promised to work as hard as possible. 

I tried my best, barely passing.  I kept my promise and so did he. 

I’ve probably mentioned it before — that diabetes has forced me to be good at math. Now, I can look at a nutrition label and mentally subtract fibre from carbohydrates. And yes, I can guesstimate with the best of them, based on what that piece of chocolate chip banana loaf I made looks like compared to the one I’d bought from the store a month ago, with it’s neat pre-calculated nutrition label. 

But what is it with this obsession with baking these days? I’ve seen literally dozens of posts from friends who have hopped on the sour dough bread-making craze. A friend of mine  and I took a sour dough bread-making workshop last year, and we were both so freaked out by the whole “starter” concept that baking that type of bread is not in my future. (I could not get my head around keeping something kind of yucky and fermenting in my fridge for months if not years, to create something new. I know, I know, sour dough bread is delicious, but as a concept this doesn’t work for me). 

The challah came out of necessity. We’re really trying hard to limit our visits to the grocery store; by “us” I mean my husband. He’s been selected as official “tribute” for this duty. And he loves bread. Time to drag the 20 year old bread making machine (a gift from my father-in-law) out of the cupboard, where it’s been quietly living behind the bag of cat food and boxes of granola bars, and a secret stash of Nutella. 

Making challah in the bread machine means the machine does the hard stuff (kneading, rolling, rising) and I only have to braid it and bake it. 

I guess I could also argue that avoiding the grocery store has been the impetus behind home-made chocolate chip cookies and vegan banana bread baking. 

But I think it’s deeper than that. My attention span for other things has been limited. It’s easy to fall into the judgement trap: “you finally have time to write the screenplay/novel/tv series you’ve been developing in your brain for the last 10 years!” “you can clean out your closets!” “you can whatever!”  

Except most of us don’t. We sit here wondering what the next week will bring. We worry about our friends who are on the frontlines of this pandemic, seeing patients, caring for people, dealing with the world outside my window; that stark reality that I am privileged enough not to see or deal with.

Baking offers a quick fix for what an old friend of mine used to refer to as a bad case of the “should haves” as in  I should have baked bread. Oh, wait. I did! 

Here’s my mantra for week 8 of this current reality: I am lucky to have the choice to stay at home. I’m lucky to have at least some of the ingredients to bake stuff. 

And I’m lucky that I have a bicycle in our living room, to balance out all the baking and to clear my mind. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

Staying safe and staying home

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Save Lives. 

That’s the constant loop playing in my head. I’m grateful beyond words that my current freelance job means I can stay home, In fact, my daily routine hasn’t changed that much. In the past few weeks, because of a particularly intense project, I’d been working at home, cramming in as many hours as possible on weekends and evenings. 

The only big difference is that I always knew I had the possibility of human contact (beyond my husband and my cat)… 

We’re all going through something we’ve never experienced, and certainly not on this scale. I feel sometimes like I’m paddling a canoe through rough water, waiting to be swept by a wave and overturned. I view those waves in the same way I see my anxiety. Each morning, I go through the same checklist: Why am I coughing? Is that allergies (as I look over at the cat, that I know both my husband and I are allergic to); why did I just sneeze? Do I have a temperature?

Making meals feels like a contest to see how many times I can wash my hands. Wash the vegetables, wash my hands. Open a package of something pre-made, wash my hands. Touch the refrigerator handle, wash my hands. 

As a self-confessed germaphobe before this all started, I joked that this was a routine I was used to….Except that now, at the end of the day, my hands are red and raw; the rough spots worn like a badge, proving that I know how to wash my hands properly. I sing Broadway melodies in my head. I slather on hand cream before bed, wake up to semi soft hands, only to start the routine again.

For those of us living with diabetes, there’s been some added concerns. When news of COVID-19 came out, I’m sure you, like me, grimaced every time the reports gave the list of those most at risk: the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, and there it was in hard print: people with diabetes. 

I winced. A friend of ours, a doctor, called to check on us, the first weekend when we were all figuring out this new reality. He cautioned me to be extra careful and to take any warnings seriously. I listened intently, thanked him for his concern, then started crying. If I hadn’t been scared before, I was terrified now. 

Other friends called me as well, asking “Aren’t you worried? Will you be okay?” 

My blood sugar went up after each of those conversations; I understood the well-meaning-ness of these family members and friends, and took a deep breath. And a correcting dose of insulin. 

The research I’d read from the different diabetes groups seemed to be saying that as long as my blood sugar was well-controlled and I was healthy otherwise, I was at no greater risk than any of my other friends.  As long as I followed the protocols of physical distancing, of limiting exposure to people, of not going out more than once a week for necessities … in other words, as long as I followed the path that has been set for all of us. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the stress this puts on us, as diabetics, or people with any number of other chronic illnesses. I worry worry worry. My sugars are good now — but what if they’re not, the longer this continues? I breathe a sigh of relief every time my BG stays in range. Remember, too, that I’m the “grown up diabetic”, not “elderly” but certainly “mature”. 

Oddly, in spite of all the stress we’re under these days, my blood sugars have been good. I’ve been exercising regularly, making sure to get outside for fresh air. My husband put my dusty road bicycle on an old trainer and now I ride indoors, almost daily. My yoga mat sits beside my desk, ready to be rolled out when the urge strikes. 

One added concern has been whether we’ll be able to get our vital diabetes supplies delivered during the next few weeks. A week into this new normal, when I went to buy insulin, it was sold out and on back order, noted my pharmacist. I had a vial at home, and one that I’d just opened, but I always like to have one extra, “just in case”. 

The shortage didn’t last, and I was able to get insulin a day later. My insulin pump and CGM supplies also seem to be plentiful, as long as we don’t freak out and start hoarding them. When this all started some five weeks ago, I tried to buy alcohol swabs — I’d let my own supply dwindle, and was lucky enough to find one lonely box at a local drug store. 

As I clutched the box in my hand, I wondered if I should put it back on the shelf, leaving it for another person with diabetes or who lives with a medical device. I started to visualize how many I might actually have at home, picturing the usual places I stash them. If they’re in a purse, they’ve long since dried out. Same with my travel kit, which has been sitting on a shelf in the kitchen for months, considering the last trip we took was in September. And so, I bought the box, and am glad I did. I ran out of swabs a week later. 

What’s been more worrisome has been our friends and family members who are doctors, medical personnel, hospital workers, first responders, who are all on the front-line, as well as one of our nephews, who works at a local grocery store. 

These are the people I keep in my thoughts, and I urge you to do so as well.  If there’s a way to help them out and to thank them — please do whatever you can. 

My wish over the next few weeks, months, or however long this continues, is to try to keep framing it and understanding it as something that I can’t control, but I do have the power to be informed, be careful,  and yes, stay home, stay safe, and save a life; to take comfort in knowing this is something that we are experiencing as a world. 

I can’t imagine going through this without the daily memes and jokes on the internet, and the connectivity of being able to FaceTime or ZOOM family and friends. Being able to stay at home, to have the internet, to be able to make those connections is something I recognize as a privilege — as someone posted on social media recently, “You’re not stuck at home. You’re safe at home.” 

Am I going to have bad days, where I want to sit and cry and worry about what will happen next? Of course! I mean, really, how can any of us avoid this, when the information we receive is changing on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis? 

We stopped watching the news before bedtime, but I confess that when I wake up at 4 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep, I scroll through FaceBook and torture myself with news articles, YouTube videos, and opinion pieces. These are horribly sad and tragic times, that demand our attention and our empathy. 

Can I compartmentalize those moments and move on with gratitude? I hope so.  It’s what I’m trying to do. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

Oops, I forgot I have diabetes (not really)…

According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of chronic is: “continuing or occurring again and again for a long time” 

In our case, as people with Type 1 diabetes, there’s no “let up” here. It’s definitely continuing. 

When was the first time you realized that your diabetes diagnosis was permanent (unless there’s a cure. Please let there be a cure!)?

For me, it was when I was discharged from the hospital some 26 years ago, pen needles and glucometre in hand, and an eternal prescription for insulin.

I’ve written before about that early realization that I had  a “permanent” condition, and that I hadn’t left the hospital cured. 

Most days, I think of diabetes as sitting right beside me, in the car, on the bus, in bed, at home watching tv.  I talk to it, I acknowledge it, sometimes cursing an unanticipated low or high. I plan when I can exercise around it. I pick my wardrobe based on where my Omnipod or Dexcom are located on my body. 

In other words, I can’t ever forget I have it. 

Except that….the other day, I did something I hadn’t done in a long, long time.

I forgot to take my morning bolus, before I ate breakfast. I did everything else that I normally do when I wake up, except for that one really REALLY important thing. 

So an hour later, as I glanced at my iPhone, and noticed that annoying yellow icon with a 15.1 and an upward arrow on my Dexcom (constant glucose monitor), my first thought was “well, that’s weird.” 

Then I checked my Omnipod PDM. I did a blood test. Okay, so it really is that high.  And then I took another glance at my PDM, checking the history.  Yep, let the records show that I had in fact completely forgotten to take my morning bolus.  The high blood sugar made a lot of sense. In fact, too much sense. 

I could rack it up to menopausal mind-lapses, but years ago, while still on needles and several years younger, I mixed up my (fast acting) Humalin R with my (slow acting) Lantus pen. As I got ready to get into bed, I gave myself some 15 units of Human instead of Lantus. 

A brisk, crashing low was inevitable. I was scared. Nervous. Anxious. My husband and I  went to the closest hospital’s ER, knowing that this wasn’t exactly an “emergency” but for me it was overwhelming. 

I knew what I had to do. I just wanted reaffirmation. The triage nurse looked at me, smiled, and said, “Stop at the all night grocery store up the street. I think it’s time for ice cream.” 

Good advice — the blend of fat and sugar would certainly get me back into range, but in these days before the Dexcom, I was terrified of going to sleep. I probably had a bit too much ice cream. And I also knew that I would invariably be waking up to a very very high blood sugar as my body tried to balance it out. 

The pump and Dexcom certainly help me with managing all of this. What really convinced me to move from a tubed pump to the tubeless omnipod was that twice in recent years, I’d forgotten to reconnect after a shower. The last time it happened, I was half way down the street on my way to the office, when I realized that my pump was not sitting in my pants’ pocket but likely on the kitchen counter. Yikes! I turned around very quickly and raced back home to reconnect. 

I’d been distracted, no doubt, thinking about whatever it was that I’d be doing in the day ahead. 

Sometimes, with a chronic illness, life gets in the way. 

And so when I wake up, the first thing I do these days is put my Omnipod PDM on the kitchen counter, so it’s impossible to miss when I’m making our morning coffee.

It’s a strategy that seems to be working. Insulin and coffee go hand in hand for me in the morning.

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

On Doctor’s Visits and Taking Time to Just Sit…

I have a post-endocrinologist ritual. 

No matter what time the appointment is, no matter what else I have planned for the day, and certainly whether or not I need a coffee, I always head to the Starbucks located in the lobby of the hospital after my visit. 

And it has to be “that” Starbucks. Not the one a block away (I go to that other one after my blood test; I have my routines….).

It’s not that I’m a Starbucks regular (I barely go often enough these days to maintain my ‘status’ so that I can earn free stuff). But I started doing this about ten years ago, when the outlet opened at the hospital. I guess I felt I needed a moment to reward myself — for a doctor’s visit? For being diabetic? For something?. I don’t know, but for whatever reason, the prize was a soy latte and a chance to sit down and just “be” for five or ten minutes. 

Last week’s visit was no exception. 

Something else occurred to me as I sat at my doctor’s office. 

For the first time in weeks, I was sitting still, doing nothing. Okay, in truth, I was playing Words with Friends and looking through Facebook and Instagram, but I wasn’t working. I was taking time to sit quietly. 

Eventually, I stopped looking at my phone and just sat. I listened to tidbits of conversation from the people around me and took in the atmosphere of a busy hospital waiting room. 

These past few weeks have been crazy busy. Not that I’m complaining. As a lifetime freelancer, busy is good. I’m always worried about the months that follow and what job will or won’t be on the horizon. 

For now, I’m savouring it. Luckily,  I’ve never been great at sitting around doing very little.

I’m kinda the “go-go-go” type, which is probably a good thing for my chosen career. And probably not too bad for the condition that chose me. I count carbs like a fiend, and watch my numbers on my Dexcom obsessively. It’s something I’ve written about before and will continue to write about. That’s the truth of my life with diabetes. 

A few years ago, a friend suggested I try meditating. “Come on,” he said. “I know what you’re like. You can fit in an hour to go to the gym or out for a run, so don’t tell me you can’t sit still for five or ten minutes to clear your mind.” 

I tried. I really really really tried. I meditated on and off for about a month, thanks to an on-line site and app. And then I went back to the gym. 

I rationalized that running on a treadmill was my “moving meditation”, but the fact is, I need that intensity. I have trouble sitting still, unless I’m working, and then I have trouble taking a break. 

My visit went as expected. I thought about sharing my hbA1c with you all but then i decided, “No. That’s MY number. Not yours.”  I’ll keep that to myself. And I won’t do the joke I usually tell my friends, when they ask how my visit went.  (Spoiler alert: I still have Type 1 diabetes.) 

With the next appointment booked,  I headed down the hall and to the elevator for my much anticipated latte.  I carried my coffee and plunked myself down on one of the couches in the hospital atrium.  I stopped thinking about what I needed to do; I focused on where I was rather than where I needed to be.  

I took an extra ten minutes. For myself. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.)