Welcome to GrownUpDiabetes

A funny thing happened at my last blood test. 

As I sat in the chair, forearm tied tightly, in anticipation of the needle that would take not one but two vials of blood from my waiting veins in search of a great A1C and a healthy cholesterol level, I quipped to the technician: “Yeah, I have crappy veins. After 25 years of this, I think they shrink away and hide the minute they sense a needle coming.” 

He smiled at me. “Hmm, 25 years, huh? Yeah, I didn’t think you looked like a Type 2….” 

And then he realized his gaffe, smiled weakly and returned to the work at hand. 

But I knew what he meant. I didn’t fit the stereotype of the Type 2. Not that that’s a fair appraisal either. Hey, Type 2s! I’m sure you’re tired of the judgement and shaming that comes with that diagnosis. That’s a whole other topic and believe me when I say it bothers me as well. 

However, now that I’m over 50, most people, when I mention that I have diabetes, assume it’s Type 2 because of my age. Which I think is really weird. And disturbing. Because isn’t the goal for all of us Type 1s to grow up and be an OLDER TYPE 1?  

Welcome to my very first post of “grownupdiabetes.com”. 

Full disclosure: I’m not a doctor. Nor am I a nurse or a diabetes educator, although I’ve met my fair share in the last few years And my diagnosis of Type 1 came later than most, in my 30s.

Back then, my only knowledge of diabetes was limited to a handful of people:

The girl in my kindergarten class who had “sugar”, a term that was never explained. 

My close friend’s little sister, whom we’d gone on a hiking trip with the summer before, and whom I marvelled at as she took what seemed to me to be needle after needle throughout the day. I remember thinking, “I could never do that.”  When her blood sugar plummeted as we got higher up the Appalachian Trail, and she guzzled a can of coke and swallowed a handful of smarties, I thought “Well, maybe that I could do…” 

And then there was my mom’s dad and my dad’s mom, who both had Type 2 diabetes. 

I was a mystery, at least to me, but not to the medical community. Getting diagnosed late in life isn’t that unusual apparently. Shortly after my diagnosis, a friend in his 50s was also diagnosed. 

What I do remember is reading in the newspaper, about a month before my diagnosis about the results of the DCCT — a clinical trial that was to span ten years and was cut short because the results were so promising. This was the study that showed that taking four needles a day — long acting insulin at night and fast acting insulin with each meal — would do much to prevent complications down the road. 

I remember reading the article and then stuck on a hospital bed in the emergency room, thinking how, um, lucky (?) I was when being told that my regimen would mean I’d take not two needles a day but four needles a day. Lucky, lucky me…. 

But back to why I decided to start this blog/instagram/and whatever else it turns into. 

What I discovered when I started this journey, back before vlogs and youtube channels and other social media were around to guide me, was that there wasn’t a lot out there in terms of support for the older Type 1. 

Of course, nowadays, if you’re a young person with diabetes or the parent of a child with diabetes, there is a ton of info available on the web.

 And I get it. Children and parents of children need a TON of support. Getting a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis is daunting. Overwhelming. And at times, terrifying. If I was scared in my 30s, I can’t imagine the fear that comes with the diagnosis when you’re a toddler, or a child, or a teen. And my heart breaks for the parents, who suddenly find themselves cast in the role of nurse manager. 

These days, I take most of my advice from teenagers and millennials who vlog on a daily basis. 

 I’ve learned a ton from these young writers who tell me where to hide my pump when heading out on the town or how and where to insert my dexcom. 

But what about those of us who have been living with diabetes for not years but decades? 

I’m hoping I’ll offer the middle-aged person with Type 1 diabetes both humour and honesty. 

Welcome to grownupdiabetes.com

Talking about fitness

I did a thing – a podcast where I talked about fitness. 

This may not seem that impressive if you don’t know me and my history. And if you follow me on Instagram, I seem to mainly post about my runs/walks/cycles. You’d think I was really into exercise! Trust me – it’s a new-ish thing…

I dropped gym the minute it was allowed in high school.

I didn’t play sports in school. I learned to ride a bike late — apparently flying downhill from our driveway into a passing station wagon when I was nine years old. When I was in primary school, our “gym” was the cafeteria, which meant that during any indoor sports activities, there was always the risk of running into a table. 

In Grade 10, I decided to join the synchronized swimming team. I practiced several mornings a week, getting to school at the horrific hour of 7 a.m. to spend an hour in the pool. 

When it came time for the team to enter its first competitions, I was politely told (along with my friend Julie, another non-athlete) that our skills were most needed on the sidelines. We were encouraged to come out to support the team, but we would never be entering the water again. 

My after school activities were drama classes and flute lessons, it was years before I laced up my running shoes again. 

As an adult living on my own after graduating from university, I discovered I was a short subway ride from the local community centre, and its Jane Fonda-style workout classes. I was in my late 20s, working as a freelance writer, and so most weekdays, I hurried down the stairs to the subway, entered the gym and found a spot near the back where I could hide while doing jumping jacks and squats, and doing basic choreography to Donna Summer blasting on the PA system.

Somehow, fitness became a part of my life; I joined other gyms, went to spinning classes, tried pilates, discovered yoga, rode my bike, attempted Zumba, and ran/walked on the treadmill.

Then the pandemic happened. I’d embraced indoor workouts before, doing yoga from a website as I’ve mentioned here on this blog. One winter, we rented a treadmill, but the cost and the room it took in our apartment didn’t make sense on an annual basis. 

Just before lockdown, my husband popped my bike on an indoor trainer — it was the most basic of models, but I was hooked. 

Flash forward to today, and I’m a virtual cyclist at least two or three times a week, and a couple of nights a week I close my home office door for some privacy so I can do an awkward (for me) dance class on AppleTV, not ready to share just how truly clumsy I am, as I trip over my feet in an attempt to keep up with three very talented dancers on-screen. 

I roll out my yoga mat every few days, and head out for walks whenever I can. I lift weights following along with on-line trainers. 

My focus has changed; whereas before it was about losing weight, it’s now about my brain, getting up out of my chair and changing my perspective. In fact, since I started working out almost daily, I haven’t lost any real weight.  I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve gained more confidence in myself and more calm and peace. 

Sure, there’s a bit more planning involved with type 1 diabetes —  it’s been a constant learning curve figuring out how to deal with basal rates and pre-exercise food and boluses. And sometimes I screw up; I’ll be in the middle of a ride and suddenly crashing and reaching for the glucose tablet beside my laptop screen. (Let’s be honest, I often forget to put the glucose tablets nearby and instead, stumble into the kitchen looking for a quick fast-acting snack.) 

It’s worth it. Yesterday, we drove to a local snow-covered golf course and went snowshoeing. I am not a winter person! But trying something new, getting outside, managing the trek without my blood sugar crashing, it all felt like a victory. Even if today, I can barely walk and my muscles are aching in places I forgot existed.

Is that what sports feels like? 

To hear me talk more about my fitness journey, visit: https://www.findingyourbliss.com/radio/2023-01-07-karen-shopsowitz-victoria-lorient-faibish/

(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 and Shana Tova

Happy Diaversary? 

I never used to mark this milestone. I barely remembered the date, except that it was in July and a bit before one of my nephew’s birthdays. I remember that part because I asked the doctor to let me out of the hospital for the evening, so I could celebrate with the rest of the family. 

Then I started seeing various bloggers talking about their diaversary, and I thought, Why not? I opened my iCal on my computer and started clicking the arrow back, back and back a bit more to 1993, and yep, there it was: July 19, the day my life changed. 

There were definitely some high points. I met my husband two months before my diagnosis. We were a great match! On our first date, I marveled that he carried a water bottle with him all the time, just like me. As an undiagnosed diabetic, I was constantly thirsty, and would down bottle after bottle. I didn’t know my husband-to-be carried his bottle with him because he was a healthy 30 something year old man, who liked to drink water. 

I was also finally skinny. I’d just returned from a film shoot in Poland, and had lost a lot of weight. The first time I met my step-mother-in-law, she exclaimed, in her thick New York accent, “Will you look at the figure on that girl!” I still remember what I was wearing – a tight fitted denim dress with snaps from the scoop neck to the hem; it would never do up today. 

That year had been the best – and the worst. Yes, I met my husband. I traveled to Europe to make a film, and spent a week alone wandering around Paris. I lost a ton of weight and felt confident, finally. (I’ve written before about my struggles with my weight and will no doubt write about this again.) 

But, in the months that would follow my initiation into the world of diabetes, my dad would have the first of two heart attacks, another event that would be life changing. 

I remember that September, a couple of months into my life with diabetes. It was the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur. It’s a major fast day but considering my new “condition” and that my dad was recovering from a heart attack a few weeks earlier, neither of us was spending the day not eating. 

We had a great tradition prior to this: Every year, after a morning spent in synagogue, my father and I would go for a walk together, sometimes for hours at a time, to ward off the boredom of a day spent without tv or eating (our family’s way of observing the holiday). That year, neither of us were allowed to fast, so we sat drinking coffee and sharing a muffin at a downtown coffee shop, located on the ground floor of my parents’ apartment building. 

You’d think we’d be excited about getting a free pass for food on this holiest of days, but both of us felt awful; being able to eat when the rest of the family was fasting wasn’t nearly the thrill we’d expected. We talked about life, diagnoses, changes, his hopes for me, and the future. As the sun set, we headed to my cousin’s for another annual event – the breaking of the fast with a meal of bagels, cream cheese, cakes, and more. The guilt was ours alone; medical conditions take precedence over ritual in Judaism. 

Seven months later, my dad would pass away due to a massive heart attack that April. I was grateful to have my soon-to-be husband with me for support; we moved in together the week after my dad passed away. 

I hoped that I could put my diabetes on hold through that period and focus instead on grief and supporting my mother. But diabetes doesn’t work that way.  I remember having to balance deep sadness with the regimen of testing and taking my insulin. 

Twenty-nine years have given me a lot of time to reflect on how this “condition” has had an impact on my life. I’ve dealt with glucometers, needles, pens, pumps with cables (Animas) and without (still on my Omnipods), and of course, the freedom of a constant glucose monitor (Dexcom). I have a drawer in the kitchen that’s filled with old metres, lancets, penlet needles, urine dipsticks, patterned tapes, syringes, alcohol swabs, and test strips (both used and unused).  

Lately, I’ve been more aware of my diabetes than usual or at least my frustration with it. The days of “look at the figure on that girl” have been replaced with “have you gained a bit of weight?” 

The combination of menopause and covid (in March), have sent my sugars out of whack.  I knew what I was experiencing was more than a cold or allergies when my blood sugar started climbing. Weeks later, I’m finally back to a sort of normal, in terms of my BG, but I’m taking more insulin than I did before covid.  I’m also learning to not freak out when I see a high BS although I do still lose it when I see a low… which is a good thing. I need to eat. 

I still fantasize about a diabetes holiday, knowing that isn’t a realistic option. I’m in awe that after all these years, I don’t always “get it right”, be it carb counting or adjusting my basal levels. 

I’m used to the marks on my skin after so many years. I don’t bother to scrub off the adhesive left behind when I take off my pod or my Dexcom. I feel like those marks are all part of my story. 

I’m here. And the technology is evolving. And my husband still wakes up and brings me juice when my Dexcom screams at me in the middle of the night with a low blood sugar notification. 

Who knows what the next 29 years will bring. 

TECHNOLOGY FREE – for a few minutes…

A funny thing happened on the way home from my bone density scan. 

I know — I should have realized that bone density scans are not a great match with Dexcoms and OmniPods. But for some reason, it wasn’t until late last night that I thought, “Um, am I supposed to keep those on? Will the machine hurt them? Will they blow up?” (Remember, this was late last night, a time when my brain was drifting rapidly into the dark side. )

So as I ambled into the testing room, I asked the technician, who took a look at the placement of each of my devices — stomach for the DexcomG6 and upper thigh for the OmniPod, and said, “Take them off.” 

I pulled back the tapes on each and stuffed them into my purse. Did the test, then started towards a bathroom to put on the OmniPod that I always have in my testing pouch. At least I’d have one device back on, and I’d deal with the Dexcom when I got back home. 

And then I thought — wait. What’s the worse that could happen if I actually walked home WITHOUT ANY DEVICE on me? 

Now, I realize, this was probably not the best move I’ve made diabetic-ally peaking  in the past 28 years. Sidebar: diabetically auto corrects to diabolically. Just saying. 

But I had caught a glimpse of my blood sugar before I’d pulled the Dexcom off (5.5) and knew that I’d be walking home for a half hour at least and had my OmniPod stayed on, I would have adjusted my basal levels, etc. etc. etc. I exited the hospital, pulled down my mask quickly, and devoured a small granola bar. I’d walk home, free of tech: What’s the worst that could happen? 

Even though my devices are pretty much hidden, under a sweater, on my leg, out of sight, I felt surprisingly free.  It’s not that I hide my devices — in the summer, they are out there for the world to see, thanks to short sleeved shirts, shorts and skirts. I embrace my devices, and love to put stickers around them that are designed for my inner 8 year old. 

And yet, when I’m wearing my Dexcom or my OmniPod, I feel this weird sensation, as if everyone else can see my diabetes. 

Yes, diabetes is for the most part, an invisible “disease” — and I hate that word disease. Is “condition” or “chronic illness”  better? I don’t know – that’s a conversation for another day.   

But walking home along a busy downtown street, i felt like shouting to anyone who would listen that I am “device free”…. I didn’t shout at strangers, for obvious reasons. 

This was a big thing for me. I sometimes think of taking a “pump break”, but decide not to, because the fact is, I love the convenience of the pump. I don’t miss five-a-day injections, which is where I was at, by the time I decided  to move to the pump. 

So today, I embraced that technology break. I took a deep breath and savoured these few moments of feeling completely un-diabetic. 

Then I snapped back to reality. What if I got low? Would I feel it? Was I pushing my luck?  Which is why i’m definitely not encouraging this behaviour in others. 

Thirty-minutes later, I got home, opened my diabetes drawer, pulled out a new dexcom sensor and OmniPod, and within five minutes, I was back to the usual me. The one who depends on technology; the person who loves the technology. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 28 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.)

Chocolates for Christmas?

“My mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You  never know what you’re gonna get.” -Forrest Gump

“Quick question,” my friend F. texts. “Do you think it’s okay to give a person with diabetes chocolates for Christmas?” 

Hmmm, I thought, and for a moment, I wished that F. and I exchanged Christmas gifts.  I would LOVE to receive chocolate as a gift. Especially dark chocolate.

Surprisingly, F’s text felt like a loaded question with a complicated answer. F. knows her friend has diabetes. If she gives her chocolates, is she ignoring the large chocolate marshmallow Santa in the room? Is F. saying, “Yes, I know these probably aren’t something you’re supposed to eat, but I thought you might enjoy them anyway.” 

Oh wait. That sounded judgemental and even more problematic. F. texted, “I mean she wouldn’t eat them all at once, would she?” 

I texted back a smiley face. “Oh, so should you put a disclaimer. Eat only one chocolate a day for best blood sugar results?” 

Here’s what drives me nuts. When people assume they can take care of my health and diabetes by offering me options that might be their perception of what’s best for me. 

Example? Giving me a piece of cake made with fake sugar. “It’s diabetic friendly,” a friend once told me, when offering me such a concoction. 

It also tastes terrible. And is still loaded with carbohydrates. If the recipe called for 3/4 a cup of sugar, that’s 3/4 a cup of sugar spread over some 12 slices of cake. In other words, it’s not a lot of sugar. And I can figure out how to bolus for the cake — and enjoy it because it tastes great. 

Or when you’re out with well-meaning relatives (pre-pandemic times), who, when it comes to dessert, gently nudge you towards the fresh fruit bowl, in lieu of the yummy looking raspberry tart that you’ve been craving. 

“Isn’t that great, Karen?” they say. “That fruit bowl sounds delicious!” And probably about 40 grams of carbohydrates, about the same — or more — than the tiny raspberry tart. 

I remember at one of the first meals shared with my well meaning French mother-in-law. She cooked her famous Clatfouti, a delicious desert that mixes an amazing crust with custard and fresh fruit. She beamed when she presented it.  “I hope you enjoy it,” she said. “And I substituted saccharine for the sugar, so you’d be able to eat it, dear.” 

I smiled graciously and looked at my husband, hoping he’d eat my share as well, while I played with the dessert on my plate. 

I guess you’ve guessed that I stay away from any sugar substitutes. I’ve tossed the Splenda. When I bake, I usually just cut the sugar required in the recipe by half, especially because I’m often adding delicious dark chocolate chips. And I’m not a fan of super sweet treats.

I’m not suggesting we people with diabetes start consuming sweets with abandon, but I am suggesting that it’s something we need to decide for ourselves. 

It’s back to the whole “Can you eat that” discussion that so many of us deal with on a regular basis. Maybe a bit less now, only because we’re not seeing friends and socializing… 

F. texted. “I think candles or soap is a better bet,” she wrote. “Or better yet, I’ll get a gift card.” 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and all the best for 2022!

(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.)

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 glo.com 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.)