Diabetes on the Run!

After a bit of a hiatus, I’ve finally returned to my blog! I’ve been extremely busy balancing work and a microbiology class, and just haven’t been inspired to write about anything in particular- until now!

One of the other things I’ve been doing this summer is training for a 5K. I’ve tried to start running a few times in the past; it was never something I stuck with, for one reason or another, but running was always something I dreamed of being good at.

Well, maybe “good” is an overstatement- just being ABLE to run a few miles will be good enough for me, no matter how slow!

Diabetes was actually not my main concern when I started my program. I figured “I know people with diabetes who run marathons- how hard could it be to manage my blood sugar for 3 miles?” It turned out to be a bit harder than I thought. Up until now, my main strategy for preventing lows during exercise was to cut back on my insulin for whatever came before my exercise, or to eat a snack before going out. I should add that neither of these worked very well for me- cutting my insulin would result in a sharp spike, and a sharp drop once I started exercising, and eating a snack without insulin usually led to cramps.

But I didn’t know what else to do, and so I stuck with my terrible low-prevention strategies for quite a while. Until I got some advice from an experienced runner with diabetes a few months ago, who said to never run with insulin on board. That ONE suggestion has been a lifesaver! If I can wait until at least 2 hours after my last bolus, I don’t drop as quickly once I start running, and experimenting with temporary basal rates has also helped.

Sometimes my levels run a little higher than I’d like, and sometimes I’m a little too low for comfort, but I’m sure I can even them out, with a little more experience. Having to run with a Dexcom, juice box, glucose tabs, and my meter is also pretty annoying, but I’d rather be safe than sorry- “sorry” being, stuck two miles from my house with a low blood sugar and nothing to eat or drink!

Running (and balancing that with other activities like swimming, hiking and yoga) has enabled me to cut back on my daily insulin- I’ve decreased most of my basal rates and ratios, and I’m expecting a drop in my A1C as well. I’ll find out in a few days- fingers crossed!

While I’m not a great runner yet, the positive changes I’ve seen so far in both my endurance and my diabetes management are encouraging me to stick with it. It will be challenging, but I’m ready to take it on, since I’m finished with school for the time being. I’m looking forward to running in the fall, once it gets a bit cooler- of course I picked what must be the hottest summer on record to start training! I also find running to be a nice stress reliever- a quiet time for reflection or to think about nothing at all.

Here’s to longer runs and fewer lows!

We are Fighters

The thing about fighting diabetes battles is that they teach you not to give up.

Living with diabetes is about battles. Some are big and some are small, but none is more or less important than any other. We fight for ourselves- for our lives, our health, for a stubborn high blood sugar to come down- and we never stop.

But many of our battles are about others. We fight for better public understanding of T1D each time we address comments like “did you eat too much sugar when you were younger?” We fight for accommodations, whether at school or work, to ensure our safety. And we fight insurance companies and pharmacies, who don’t always understand the paramount importance of timeliness and accuracy in regards to filling prescriptions and shipping orders.

I’ve had diabetes for so long (15 years in July!) that most days, I don’t fully comprehend the amount of time I spend taking care of myself and proactively ensuring that I receive the supplies I need. But some days- like today- the reality of the energy it takes to manage diabetes washes over me.

I use a Dexcom G4 CGM, and I have for just over a year. Now, I’m the kind of person who reads instruction manuals cover-to-cover, so I’m not sure how I missed the fact that transmitters have a finite battery life, and should be replaced every six months. Guess who hasn’t replaced her transmitter in that year of CGM use? Yours truly.

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Two weeks ago, I received my first “transmitter battery low alert” and, upon finding out that getting a replacement would require documentation from my doctor’s office and insurance approval (why this is necessary for something I already own and just need to replace, I have no idea), I did everything I could to speed up the process. An obscene number of phone calls later (last time I had to get paperwork pushed, the process took nearly 3 months. I don’t have 3 months), my replacement transmitter arrived at my house. And my distributor sent me a G5, despite several phone calls during which I indicated I needed a G4.

I was exhausted. I was livid. But the thing about fighting diabetes battles is that they teach you not to give up. Even if it takes a while, you will always come out on top. So I got back on the phone with my distributor, and, after a little help from my parents (AKA the greatest backup ever)  I’m pleased to report that I will have the correct generation transmitter within 48 hours.

One of the most valuable things diabetes teaches you is how to advocate for yourself- and not give up. The best part about this skill is that it’s applicable to the rest of your life as well. Closed class you want to enroll in? You’ll make it happen. Feel like you’re doing more than your fair share of a group project? You know how to address it. If I’m addressing a diabetes issue (like when a prescription is delayed in being mailed due to an error on the pharmacy’s part), I know that I am in the right- and I carry that confidence over to advocating for myself in non-diabetes situations.

So, the bottom line is- follow up, make phone calls, do whatever is necessary to make sure YOU get what YOU need, don’t assume that everything will be pushed through correctly (unfortunate but true), and DON’T. GIVE. UP! 🙂

 

The Bad-Thoughts Tornado

No one is happy, optimistic or confident 100% of the time. Doubt, anxiety, and negative emotions have a place in our lives- they help us fundamentally grow and change. I think of these kinds of thoughts as breezes: they shake things up a little, and sometimes you have to adjust to get back on track.

But sometimes, these thoughts don’t stop. They keep coming, and they spiral. A gentle breeze turns into a full-on tornado, and it can wipe out so many of the good thoughts you have about yourself very, very quickly.

“I’ll never pass this test” turns into “I’ll fail the class” and then “I’ll never get my dream job and spend the rest of my life bitter about not doing what I wanted to do.”

(That’s a pretty big leap from speculating about the outcome of one test, don’t you think?)

I take myself and the things I do pretty seriously. This serves me well when it comes to succeeding academically and accomplishing goals, but sometimes I think I’m a little too serious for my own good. Which means the tornado thing can escalate pretty easily.

Bad grade on a test? “I’ll never get into nursing school.” A friend gets a date? “I”ll be alone forever.” Misjudged the carb count on a new food? “I CAN LITERALLY NEVER EAT THIS AGAIN.”

Letting the tornado escalate can leave you looking at a barren wasteland where you once saw lots of good, positive things about yourself. But how do you stop the tornado?

Step back and take care of yourself, whether that’s through exercise, a Netflix binge, cuddling your dog, or buying yourself something you really want, even if it’s just coffee from your favorite cafe. Do something that makes you feel positively about yourself. I almost didn’t post this because I didn’t think it was any good (“am I a bad writer? Should I give up my blog?”). Instead of deleting the whole post, I closed my computer and had a mini dance party in my living room (I am a big proponent of this method to stress relief.). The few minutes I took for myself reminded me why I write- it’s therapeutic, and I like putting my thoughts out into the world.

So take some time to figure out what makes you feel happy and relaxed- going for a run, taking a hot shower, a cup of coffee and a movie, or vent sesh with your best friend. Anything you can do to stop the spiral of bad thoughts and make you feel better about your strengths and abilities is worth your time. Trust me.