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. 

Throw Back Thursdays and remembering my first weeks living with Type 1 Diabetes

For yesterday’s #TBT on Instagram, I decided to post a picture taken two months ago,  when I had to change my Omnipod in public at a Shake Shack, at the LA airport. (Deep fried portobello mushroom, anyone??? ) As we sat there savouring our pre-flight meal, I realized that it was better to change my pod now — rather than in the middle of a red-eye flight back home. What if there was turbulence? What if I dropped my insulin vial?   You can read more at @grownupdiabetes.

This got me thinking about my very first week of living with Type 1 diabetes. I’d spent about a week in the hospital, of which three of those days were in the emergency department. That first day in the ER was terrifying, especially when I found out the man two gurneys over had come in with a blood sugar of well over 70 (mmol) and was almost comatose. (Please note, this is a memory from over 25 years ago, so details are sketchy, but what I also recall, as I lay there figuring out my future, was that my husband-to-be and brother were talking to that patient’s wife about steak. Yep, steak. The couple were from Argentina, known for its beef, and I guess discussing the best cuts of meat was better than them considering my fate. Not to mention, I am a vegetarian, which made their chat all the more disturbing.)

During that first week, so much was drilled into me about how I would be the one to manage my diabetes. The nurses arrived like clockwork at every meal to give me my insulin shots and before bedtime. I was told that until I could inject insulin into my own belly, I wouldn’t be able to leave the hospital. I was given an orange on which to practice my injections. This confused me. My skin was nothing like that of an orange, but I guess it was better than playing  ‘x marks the spot’ on my stomach. I persisted, eventually realizing that  the force needed to pierce a peel was hopefully not what I’d need to inject myself. 

I was also told of the importance of a bed-time snack when I was given my night-time insulin (Lantus). That first night in my own cubicle in the ER, the nurse came in, and injected me with my overnight dose. And then she left. 

Wait, I thought. Where are those delicious pre-packaged graham crackers I had the night before? I’d seen a stack of shortbread cookies at the nursing station. Wouldn’t one of those be the perfect treat to ensure my blood sugar didn’t crash overnight?

I debated what to do next. Maybe there was a new protocol, and I didn’t really need a snack. Maybe I was cured.

I got up carefully, slipped on the slippers my parents had dropped off that morning, and shuffled to the nursing station.

Please note: This is an extremely busy ER department, and I’m sure delivering graham crackers aren’t number one on the list of things for these nurses to do while saving people’s lives. But this was day three of my new existence. I was positive that graham crackers were what would save me through the night.

“I am pretty sure those are mine,” I said, noticing the tray on a shelf behind where the nurse was sitting.  A sticker on the crackers had my name on them. She was busy reading a chart. “Oh, yes, was just about to come back to you, but got caught up …” she said, and started to get up. 

“No worries,” I noted. I reached out and snatched the crackers, and shuffled back to my room. I broke open the pack and munched away. I was safe for another night. 

Now, years later, do I really think things would have gone south without three graham crackers? Probably not. But that first week, and the months that followed, I was consumed with paranoia. 

Eventually, I mastered the injections, and left the hospital with a prescription for a pack of insulin pens as well as a couple of vials of insulin.

My family doctor who had diagnosed me, wanted me to come in and visit on a daily basis now that I was out of the hospital, to show her my blood sugar levels. This would have been sustainable if her office was in my apartment building, but it was a half hour drive away and after the second day, I told her that I loved her concern, but this was definitely not sustainable.  And, would only add to my worries and fears. 

My parents also called every morning, to see what my blood sugar was. Again, not sustainable. 

Half way into week two, my friend Debbie insisted that I join her for lunch at a restaurant a mere three blocks from my apartment. “What could possibly go wrong?” she asked. “You can run home if you have any issues.”

I figured it was time to test drive diabetes in the real world, so I loaded up my purse with my insulin pen, my glucometre, my test strips, my lancing device, several rolls of glucose tablets, an apple, my logbook to record my sugars. Oh, and I also had an ice pack.

I was convinced that insulin had to be kept cold at all times (and maybe it did in those days? This was Humulin R.) These days, only my unopened vials live in the butter compartment of our fridge. And when travelling, I use a frio pack. But more on that in a later post.

With a purse that was bulging at the seams, I walked to the restaurant, met my friend, sat down and surveyed the menu.

Panic set in: Where are the carb counts? I thought. My mind raced. I hadn’t yet memorized the carb value of every food that I might ever want to eat. 

Calculating my usual lunch at home was easy. Apple, slice of bread, piece of cheese. The bread had the grams of carbohydrates listed on the package. I’d learned that most average sized apples were 14 – 15 grams of carbs. The cheese? Not a carb.

At the restaurant, I’d settled on a large salad and a dinner roll. I headed downstairs to the restaurant bathroom, to test my blood and to take my shot. (It took me awhile to get used to testing and injecting my insulin in public.  And oh, how I hated setting up my glucometre kit on a wet bathroom counter, or worse, on my lap in the bathroom stall). 

We chatted through lunch, me talking about my diabetes which was now all consuming, and Debbie talking about anything else that could distract me. Lunch over, and I headed back to my apartment, waiting about an hour to see if I’d correctly calculated my bolus. I’d survived an outing! I could do this, I thought, seeing a good blood sugar reading. The insulin was safely back in the butter shelf in the fridge. Now what to have for dinner, and snack? Such decisions. But I’d conquered another day.

These days, I’m beyond freaking out if I don’t know the carb count of a menu item. I guesstimate — and if I’m wrong, I do a correction later when my blood sugar soars. My opened vial of Humalog is in my purse, at the ready if needed. And, in sharp contrast to those first few weeks of hiding “my condition”, I’m doing pump set changes in very public spaces.

And I’m very publicly sharing my thoughts about living with Type 1 diabetes.

I do, however, have some limits. As I sift through my instagram feed, I’m impressed and inspired by all those photos of people showing their pod, pump canula, or dexcom placements, on their arms, their bellies, their legs, their backs, etc.

I’m not quite ready to show you my dexcom and its esteemed place on my belly. Not because I don’t embrace my diabetes; I’m just not quite ready to embrace my middle-aged stomach.

But who knows? Time will tell…

What I love about having Type One Diabetes

No, you didn’t read that wrong. There are actually things I really like about having Type1 Diabetes. 

Here goes, not in any specific ranking order: 

  1. I always have snacks on me. And that makes me quite popular when I’m working. I am a documentary film-maker by profession, and the crew always knows that I’ll have granola bars, candies, dried and fresh fruit, and other treats on me. They love that. 
  1. I have a more than compelling reason to go to the gym and take care of myself. Let’s face it, a lot of times we feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. Sometimes, when I’ve been really busy and am aching to go run outside or head to the gym for even half an hour, I get into a “I can’t do that. I need to do this. Or I need to do that” frame of mind. But I have Type 1 Diabetes, and while exercise isn’t going to cure me, it will make me feel better about myself, and help me manage my stress levels (and my blood sugar). So yeah, I’m going to the gym. See you later. (Okay, I’m working on this…. I’m not always the best at that whole self-care thing.) 
  1. I’ve gotten much better at math. I’m an artist, not a science person. I excelled in high school in anything that didn’t involve numbers. Yet here I am, counting carbs and (prior to my pump) calculating my insulin to carb ratios, my correction boluses and net carbs per meal like a pro. Take that, Grade 12 math teacher!!! 
  1. I get to wear cool stickers. There are so many stickers out there to keep your dexcom or Omnipod in place! Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t there an odd delight in being a grown-up and getting to buy stickers that have funny emojis on them, or tropical flowers, or pretty mini donut drawings, or puppies and unicorns and then stick them over your Dexcom or pump and rationalize that a) you’re keeping your pump secure and b) it makes you smile and your husband smile, and your friends laugh, so why not do it? 
  1. I always know if I’m getting sick. If my blood sugar is rising, I’m probably getting sick. But not always. Who are we kidding? Diabetes is unpredictable!! 
  1. I’m always early at the airport. AND (bonus) I get to skip the x-ray machine at the airport and get a pat-down instead, because of all that great wearable technology like the Dexcom CGM and Omnipod. Okay, I don’t really like that part…..
  1. Sometimes I need to eat chocolate or have a cookie. Um, I don’t really like this part either.. It means i’m low. And if I’m full from dinner and still crashing, the last thing I feel like is a glass of juice, or a fruit, or a sweet, or anything. 
  1. My spinning instructor knows more about me than I really want them to. That’s because I always feel the need to explain why I have my phone with me (so I can see my blood sugar on the Dexcom App), why they may see me kicking back glucose tablets mid-class, and why I may get up and leave in the middle of class.  Um, I actually don’t love this part. I’m touched when we’re cranking our way up an imaginary hill, and they give me a shout out, not because my form is perfect but more of a “hey, K, you doing okay over there?”  Yes. This is nice. But I like to spin under the radar. 
  1. I am adept at technology. Yes, it’s true. Bluetooth connections? Ha! I can do that. Downloading info from my pump or Dexcom? I do it ALL THE TIME. Calculate my upcoming HbA1C based on supplied data, with a standard deviation of .2? I understand that (see note about to my Grade 12 math teacher).  Obsessed with charts and graphs? YES! And do I love that? Um, not so much. 
  1. A doctor friend of mine  when I was first diagnosed, put it this way: “Everyone gets something. Now you know what you’ve got.” But what if you can get through life without getting anything? Not possible, he answered.  So yes, I have diabetes. Does it define me? Only when I think about it, which is always. Does it bother me? Sometimes! Does it stop me? No.