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.) 

The “joy” of running

I am not a natural athlete. I grew up with a sense that I ‘couldn’t’ rather than that ‘I could’, a sentiment that was cultivated in grade school (when I discovered I couldn’t do a somersault) and continued through high school (when I was asked to leave the synchronized swimming team, after my months of 6 a.m. practices had failed to impress the coach).  I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was around 14, a fact I am neither proud of nor embarrassed by. 

Then, in the my 30s, I discovered that I actually COULD do an aerobics class; that I COULD attend a spinning class; that I COULD walk very quickly on a treadmill, scaling high hills with ease.

COULD running be the next step in my athletic development? One day, on the treadmill, many years ago, I decided to see what would happen if I turned the speed up. Hmmm. The result?  My feet moved easily into a jog. I survived.  And I seemed to derive some sense of enjoyment from this…

These days, nothing beats a run when I’m feeling stressed, antsy, or just want a break. I love my bike trainer, but running is different. And once I realized that 3 or 4 kilometres done slowly is still 3 or 4 kilometres that I wouldn’t have done if I’d stayed at my desk or on the couch, I also understood that while I’m a slow runner, I AM a runner. 

It’s not always easy to get off the couch, of course. Or to step away from the desk. When I start to rationalize all the reasons why continuing to work will be good (“You’re on a roll! Keep going!”, my inner dialogue torments me. Same if we’re on a Netflix binge. “You’re on a roll! Keep going!”)

Then I start looking at the other reasons why today isn’t the best day for a run.

  • My blood sugar is on the low side. I’ll have to eat an apple or have another snack to get to a good level before heading to the gym. (Valid. But what’s so bad about having an apple or a snack?)
  • I walked yesterday. For half an hour. Don’t I need recovery? (Um, I walked. From the car to the office and back again.)
  • It’s cold outside. (I’m running inside!)

Finally, after much debate, I eat the apple, turn down the basal delivery on my pump, check my dexcom again, put on my running gear, grab my coat, and head to the gym.

Somedays, it’s not my best day on the treadmill. And on other days, it is.

But either way, I leave with a small sense of accomplishment.

I can’t wait to get back to running outside, once the good weather returns. 

(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.) 



Wearing my heart – I mean, pod – on my sleeve

But you don’t look diabetic…. 

I’ve had this conversation countless times before…. What does someone with diabetes look like?????? We look like you, and you, and you, and them, and everybody else. 

But there are some telltale signs, especially if you wear any form of diabetic technology.

The fact is, don’t we just love spotting others with similar tech? I was at a spinning class a couple of months ago, and was thrilled to see a woman on the bike in front of me, scanning her Libre mid-class, a packet of glucose tablets at the ready. 

Once, at a local Starbucks, I wanted to go up and introduce myself to the fellow tapping away on his pump as he prepared to enjoy his latte and muffin. 

I held back — or rather my husband held me back — but I did offer a nod and smile as he walked past me on his way to the exit; me, excited to have seen another diabetic in action and him wondering why that woman was gawking at him so intently. 

When I was on the Animas pump, with its long tubing, I used to tuck it in my jeans’ pocket. Some of my jeans still have that outline, much the way a wallet would imprint itself on the material. All of my pants or dresses with pockets had small holes cut into the pockets, so that I could snake the tubing under my clothes and have easy access to the pump.  Sometimes, stuff falls out of the pants with those cut pockets. 

Back then, I’d tuck my pump into my bra. Hugging, for me, was awkward, as I wondered what people thought of as they felt a huge solid block in my chest area. “Wow, Karen really works out,” is what I thought went through their minds, But it was probably more a quick “hmmm” or  in fact, they didn’t register the wad of hard plastic as anything in particular. 

I teach at a local college, and often wear my omnipod on my upper arm. In my two years of having the pod, only once did a student ask me about it. It was poking out from under my short sleeved shirt and as I walked by her desk, I heard a loud “What’s that????” 

I stopped and explained. No big deal. 

When I wear tighter fitting pants, I know there’s a chunk on my thigh that’s either my pod or my dexcom. I want to ask, “Does that thing sticking out of my body make my leg look diabetic?” 

A couple of weeks ago, I went to our local community centre gym, with my omnipod popped proudly on the back of my leg, a pretty sticker holding it firmly in place. I ventured out into the work out area — and there was no one there 

I was disappointed. I wanted to show off my pod! I wanted someone to ask me “What’s that?????” 

I spent my time on the treadmill and headed home, sad that I’d missed an opportunity to tell someone about the wonders of diabetic technology as their eyes glazed over. 

The fact is, very rarely does anyone ask. I’ve heard people in the diabetic community answer that it’s their “tracker”, their “battery” or some other fun answer, but I’m so rarely asked, I don’t have any smart retorts. 

We’re so used to technology these days that I don’t think a lot of people register anything when they see my dexcom or pod. 

Somedays, I think it’s only me that feels different.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! 

It’s a brand new year — a BRAND NEW DECADE — and I still have diabetes!! 


And I’m fine with that. After 26 years, diabetes has become so much a part of my identify, I can’t imagine NOT having it. 

Several years ago, a friend of mine asked me this: 

“If you could get rid of your diabetes or your fish allergy, what would you choose?” 

I pondered for a second, and said, “My fish allergy of course”. I have a potential anaphylactic reaction to eating fish, and so my restaurant experiences can be terrifying.  Invitations to “The Seafood House” — uh, no thank you. 

Once, we visited friends for dessert, and we had to leave after ten minutes. They’d grilled salmon and the smell alone was causing me to choke up, either from anxiety or an actual reaction.  And I know others in our social circle have neglected to include us when they’re having a “fish fest”. 

But back to that question from my friend. “Really? You wouldn’t want to get rid of your diabetes?” 

“Of course,” I answered. “But here’s the thing. I can’t always control when and where I come into contact with fish. The person sitting at the lunch table next to me, might have brought a tuna fish sandwich. And, wherever I eat (unless it’s in the vegetarian places I favour), I’m always worried about cross contamination.” 

I continued, “But my diabetes? That I can control.” 

Or at least I thought I could. Once I’d switched over to a constant glucose monitor, I realized how often I was in fact out of range. Once I’d moved over to the pump, I knew how often I could correct those variances. 

Now, I have SO MUCH INFORMATION that, as I’ve noted before and will continue to note again (I’m sure), I am so very aware of how my comment about controlling my diabetes was very naive on my part. 

My response these days is to curse the technology: 

“What the heck?  I just went from 7.6 to 9.8 in the past ten minutes, post breakfast? It’s the exact same thing I eat every day!” 

“I’m DROPPING???? A double arrow???? Now??????? In the middle of ____________?????” (insert extremely inconvenient situation). 

But that’s life with diabetes. It’s not always perfect, it’s sometimes frustrating if not downright infuriating, and even with my cool dressed-up accessories, it’s not always pretty. 

It’s also so much a part of me that I can’t let it go. 

I remember when I left the hospital many years ago, after my week-long stay when I was first diagnosed. Once I learned how to test my blood sugar and inject insulin, I was on my way. 

The toughest part was coming home and knowing that I hadn’t left my illness in my hospital room. Aren’t we supposed to be cured when we are discharged? Well, no. Not with a chronic condition, and that was the hardest part for me to accept.  That this was permanent. My new reality. 

We’re heading towards the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Insulin. Something that happened literally in my own backyard. My dad went to the same high school as Charles Best albeit many decades after him (Harbord Collegiate). I drive by it almost daily.

My doctor’s office is located a block away from a permanent display heralding the discovery of insulin. I’m a mere two hour drive from Sir Banting’s home in London, Ontario. 

New research is happening daily. The other day, walking back from my doctor’s office, there were several posters highlighting future research dreams: “Eliminate Insulin Injections” obviously caught my eye.

I’m counting down the months until my brand of pump becomes “close looped” allowing my pump and Dexcom to be my very own artificial pancreas. 

 Will this decade bring a cure? I hope so. 

But until then, I’ll keep my diabetes, thank you. I don’t have a choice, but I can choose to be as positive as possible.  (And somedays, that feels kind of impossible. Hello, Human!)

(A fish allergy cure would also be very much appreciated in the coming years.) 

(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.) 

“But you’re a good diabetic”

You know that feeling when you wake up in the morning and can still taste the mango (or other fruit) juice that you guzzled as you attempted to recover from a very low blood sugar that struck at 4.17 a.m., a truly inconvenient time to be fumbling around for glucose tablets and test strips. 

I was in the middle of a dream when I heard that annoying yet potentially life-saving  “beep beep” aka the urgent low blood sugar alarm on my iPhone.  “Huh?” My husband mumbled, then sat up, ready to spring into action. 

I leaned over to the shelf on our headboard and took a glance at my phone. “Oh.” 

(That’s the extent of my conversation at these moments; I’m still pretty much asleep). 

“Oh?” My dear husband asks. 

“Oh. That’s not good. It’s 2.6 and falling,” I mutter, glancing over at my iPhone which is now displaying a very red orb where my usually “normal” blood sugar should be. 

And the weird thing is, I don’t feel like it’s that low. My husband goes into the kitchen to get me a glass of mango juice. I stumble into the kitchen to test my blood. “Hmmm. It’s actually 3.6,” I note, knowing that that’s not much better. But it’s somehow comforting. 

Juice taken and I lay awake for the next half hour, hoping to see an upward arrow on my Dexcom app. I’m rewarded with an 8.3. Well, that wasn’t too bad, I think. 

At least it wasn’t one of those blood sugars that failed to respond to juice, glucose tablets, a square of chocolate, an apple, dried mango, mini granola bars, and anything else I can get my hands on when I’m caught in the downward spiral of a plummeting ow blood sugar. 

 Hours later, I meet a close friend for coffee. “I’m tired,” I confess. “I woke up at 4 a.m. to a low blood sugar.” 

“Why?” She asks.

“Um, who knows. That’s the thing about diabetes. It’s unpredictable,” I answer. 

“But I thought you were a good diabetic. That shouldn’t happen, right?” 

Huh?  Judge much? 

And that’s the thing, I know my friend isn’t judging. She honestly doesn’t understand why low blood sugars happen. Or why high blood sugars happen. Or why sometimes, I’m a little irritated by this whole diabetes thing. 

At 4.17 a.m., a lot irritated. 

I consider going into a long explanation about how blood sugars can be affected by so many things, and how I don’t really understand why it can be perfect many nights in a row, and then send me crashing and guzzling juice in the middle of the night. 

And I can’t explain why the term “good diabetic” makes me cringe. I am good at many things: playing along with Jeopardy; easy crossword puzzles; vegetarian cooking; and my daily work life. 

But am I good at diabetes? I spent too many years judging my self-worth based on my blood sugar levels throughout the day and my Ha1c.

These days, that’s a question that doesn’t warrant an answer.

(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.) 

Stress, blood sugars and eye exams

Sometimes I wonder: Just how much does stress affect my blood sugar? I know there are a LOT of factors that can contribute to a rise or a fall, but this past Monday was a classic example of blood sugar madness at its best.  

I woke up with a respectable 5.8. YAY! That’s four days in a row that I was under 6 first thing in the morning. I had recently adjusted my basal levels because according to my Dexcom, I was experiencing night time highs. 

Wow, i’m good! I thought, patting myself on my back and congratulating myself for figuring out this whole diabetes thing. It’s only been 26 years but …. 


After getting dressed, I headed into the kitchen for breakfast. Glanced at my Dexcom app on my iPhone. What the heck? I muttered. An 8.8??????   It’s been five minutes…

Well, I guess that kind of made sense given what was happening this morning…

It was time for my semi-annual eye doctor’s appointment, and if you’re like me (or I think probably most people with diabetes), that’s one of the most stressful days on my calendar. 

I’ve had a series of weird eye things, including two retinal bleeds a few years ago, that apparently weren’t related to diabetes but to my aging eyeballs and a lifetime of short-sightedness. I have two cataracts, that are threatening to “bloom/blossom” maybe soon, probably not. I’ve had these now for about 8 years and every time I go to the opthalmologist, I assume he’s going to tell me that surgery is imminent. Or worse. 

By the time I get off the bus and arrive at the hospital, I have an alert on my iPhone telling me that my blood sugar is 15 and rising. Hmmm. I do a correction bolus. 

On Instagram last week, I posted a picture of my usual breakfast: two rice cakes, peanut butter and almond butter, fresh berries, half a banana, an almond milk latte. It’s the exact same thing, almost every day. I even travel with those rice cakes and packages of peanut butter when possible.  It’s 40g of carbs. 

And yet, as I noted, this breakfast (or maybe diabetes itself) should come with a warning that “results may vary”, because depending on the day, my mood, my mood, how I slept, the traffic driving in, or just about anything, my blood sugars mid-morning aren’t always the same.

Now, I know that probably part of the issue is that I can see my blood sugar every minute, every second of the day. In the old days, before I wore a CGM, I’d test my blood sugar when I woke up, do my bolus for breakfast, and move on. 

There’d be a test before lunch, a test mid-afternoon if I was working out or felt I needed to test, and then a test before dinner and before bedtime. Five — maybe six — maybe seven tests a day. But there were often several hour-long gaps between readings. 

In the old days, I wouldn’t actually know that my blood sugar was rising on the way to my doctor’s appointment, or during a particularly stressful day at work. 

But I also wouldn’t know that my blood sugar was plummeting while exercising or in the middle of the night, or…

So, do I miss those pre-CGM days? Not really. I think my CGM is the one diabetes “technology” that I couldn’t live without even if lately, I find I’m not actually looking at my CGM app every minute of the day. I sometimes (what???) forget to look at it for several hours. I consider this progress, and a sense that I’m trusting the technology to actually alarm me if needed.

But I do love knowing my blood sugar at a glance. I also know that some days, seeing the upward arrow and that level depicted as a golden orb, makes me more stressful. Ten minutes later, with drops in my eyes waiting for the exam, I squint at my iPhone and see a 16.2.

I force myself not to “rage bolus” (giving myself unit after unit until I see a downward arrow. Not a great idea, I remind myself. It never ends well since it’s followed by a plunging low. But let’s save that topic for another day, shall we?) 

As for the eye doctor appointment? I read the numbers on the chart. I peered into the nifty high-tech machine as air was spritzed into my eyeballs, to test the pressure. I stared at the bright light of the exam “wand” as it pierced my vision. I tried not to blink, as instructed. 

“So?” I asked, quietly. Nervously. 

“Your cataracts are mild; they’re not ready to go yet. Other than that, you’re all good.” 


“Yes, really. See you in six months.” 

I walked the short jaunt back to my office. My blood sugar, when I arrived at my desk, was right back in range. 

(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.) 

Finding Community

 In the last two weeks, I’ve been to two Type 1 diabetes events. This is more than I’ve been to since I was first diagnosed 26 years ago. There’s a part of me that avoided these kinds of things, calling up the old Groucho Marx quote that “I wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would have me as a member.” 

But the fact is, I am a member of this community, even if I didn’t have to pledge or pay to get in or do anything more than find out that I had a (as of yet) incurable illness that is with me every day of my life. 

The first event was two weeks ago when I attended an event put on by Diabetes Canada. It was great; a chance to hear about the latest developments in diabetes technology, find out about other organizations like the Type 1 Diabetes Think Tank and Connected In Motion, and try those low carb plant-based noodles I’d been curious about. 

Most important for me, it was an opportunity to sit in a room full of people who either had Type 1 diabetes or were affected by it. There were parents and siblings, but the majority of people there were people like me.

The food at lunch had the carb count listed and throughout the sessions you could hear the various beeps and tones of glucometres, pumps and CGMs. At one point, wanting to verify my blood sugar, I took my glucometre out of my purse and tested openly, as the fellow behind me took an injection with his insulin pen. At the table where I was sitting, the woman next to me and I exchanged diagnosis stories (she had, like me,  also been diagnosed later in life) and I commiserated with a young man curious about my CGM.

“So this is what it feels like to be a part of the Type 1 community,” I thought.  It felt good.

Yesterday, I went to the Unboxing Type 1 conference, which was about using social media and other platforms to talk about Type 1 diabetes, finding support and community. It was a cool event, held in a very trendy downtown loft space. We heard honest talk about mental health, body image, acceptance, and support. There was a photo booth that would allow you to boomerang your picture back to your email, and we were encouraged to hash tag as the day played out. 

Here I was, no doubt quite a lot older than all of the people in the room, but that didn’t matter. The majority of us were people with Type 1 diabetes, eager to join an on-line community and meet IRL (in real life; who knew there was now an acronym for that???)  We talked about reaching our own audiences while staying honest, real and relatable (YES!). We were advised to remember to disconnect from our social media accounts. We learned that the opposite of FOMO is JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out). 

And once again, I couldn’t have been happier to be there. I shared a table with two wonderful women in their mid-30s who were both diagnosed as kids. The age gap disappeared once we started talking about pump sites, highs and lows, daily management, and the other stuff that we could share, knowing that we all “got it”.  I have no other Type 1 people of any age in my immediate circle. I love how supportive my husband and my friends are, but they’re understanding is based on me telling them how I feel and their perceptions of how I seem to be handling things. 

As I soaked in all the information that was being lobbed at me, hearing a YouTube star talk about how her videos show her site changes and daily life with diabetes,  I remembered I had been at two previous diabetes events, way back in my early years with this illness.  And both had been nothing like this. 

The first was a diabetes education seminar I was sent to by my endocrinologist, some three months after diagnosis. It was for adults, and most were Type 2s. I was likely the youngest in a room full of older people (which is the opposite of how I felt at the Unboxing Type 1 event; I see the irony now!). I so clearly didn’t want to be here: I  was as comfortable as I could be with having to inject myself with four needles a day and had an okay understanding of insulin to carb ratios. The afternoon session demonstrated how to visualize portion control to correctly calculate those carbohydrates. A mound of mashed potatoes that looks like the size of your clenched fist (and in this case, my fist was very. tightly. clenched) was about half a cup. (And that was actually a useful visualization.)  Someone asked about salt and potato chips. There were other challenges discussed.  We talked about potential complications. I was three months in and I really didn’t want to hear this. 

I got bored (anxious)  and left.  That Groucho Marx quote played in my head, over and over and over. This was definitely not a club I wanted to join.

A month later, also in that first year, I went to a diabetes meet-up that I’d discovered, advertised at our local supermarket. I was still in the “honeymoon period”, on relatively small doses of insulin at that time, and extremely insulin-sensitive. We went around the table, and for some reason, that first ice-breaker exercise was to say how many units of insulin we took every day. 

The man beside me shared, So did the others. It was my turn, and whatever amount I revealed, was much lower than that of the other people there. The man beside me shook his head. “You’re not diabetic!” He yelled. “You’re a diabetic poser!” 

I hung my head in shame, then thought, “Wait a minute…. Why would anyone ‘pose’ as a diabetic.” 

I thanked the organizer and left. 

Flash forward to yesterday. One take-away from the Unboxing Type 1 event was the idea that everyone’s diabetes is their own diabetes, yet we all share that one commonality — a faulty pancreas. 

Yesterday’s icebreaker exercise was different. “Introduce yourself to the person next to you, and tell them something about yourself, and it doesn’t have to be diabetes-related.” That made a lot of sense to me.