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Posted by on Aug 28, 2017 in Fashion, Lifestyle, Pump Therapy, Technology

With Omnipod, I’m Free as a Bird!

With Omnipod, I’m Free as a Bird!

tubeless insulin pumpLook, I can pirouette around the bedroom naked!  I can jump in the pool without a care. I don’t have to buy clothes with pockets.  I don’t have to juggle and hold something between my teeth or under my chin when I use the toilet!

So what am I talking about? My Omnipod insulin pump WITH NO TUBING!

If you are new to pumping, coming from multiple daily injections (MDI), then you might not appreciate my exhilaration, or that of my friends who’ve just switched to Omnipod.  But … if you’ve been using the “traditional” insulin pump, then you KNOW.  No matter where you go, you are tethered by tubing that can get twisted and knotted and caught on doorknobs.

Now, don’t get me wrong … I’m always grateful for the technology that allows me to use an insulin pump. Allowing me freedom from multiple shots, eating to cover the long-acting insulin and watching the clock to stay up and take my nighttime shot.  This is all great stuff!

But … NO TUBING?!  What a quantum leap into freedom and a touch of carefree!

When I shower, I don’t have to disconnect and stop my insulin delivery, remember to reconnect and then try to figure out how much insulin I missed (depending on how long and luxuriating my shower time was). Same goes for swimming…no worries. I just swim and stay connected.  No concerns, no calculating, no missed insulin, no time constraints on my playtime!

And can we talk about sleeping?!  With tubing, you either hide your pump awkwardly in a pajama pocket or safety-pinned to your underwear in a baby sock.  OR … the pump roams around the bed, as you toss and turn, getting all wrapped up in tubing.  And what happens when you make that middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom? Don’t forget to grab your pump or it goes flying to the end of its tubing length, with the possibility of pulling out the infusion set (which you must then change in the darkness and sleepiness).

But with a pod, no problem!  It’s just happily riding along on your tummy, arm, leg, hip, or wherever you’ve decided to wear it.

Don’t just take it just from me.  From a 45-year T1 veteran, “I’m pleasantly surprised by how flat the Pod is and that it really doesn’t stick out under my clothes.  Honestly I’m still trying to figure out all the places I can stick these things … and NO TUBING!”

Omnipod … not a worry, not a hassle … FREEDOM!

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Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Diabetes Management, Tips and Tricks

Six Ways to Lower Stress with Diabetes

Six Ways to Lower Stress with Diabetes

Work, family, school, traffic, finances, and relationships are common sources of stress for many of us. Add diabetes management and you may feel totally overwhelmed.

It’s really important to learn and practice wellness coping techniques to stay on a healthy track.  Often stress can lead to overeating, undereating, drinking excessive alcohol or being less active, which, for some with type 1 diabetes can lead to high blood glucose levels and illness.

When I feel the stress levels start to climb (or even before then) just to continue to feel well and positive, I open my healthy coping toolbox. Here are six tools I use to stay healthy and keep stress at bay.

My Support Network. These are my family and friends, the ones I can turn to when I need emotional support, to just talk or listen without judgment. Sometimes it is helpful to have friends who also have diabetes, who understand what it’s like to live with diabetes, every day, 24/7.

Incidentally, I found some interesting research on this topic. The Framingham Heart Study followed participants over the course of 20 years and found that a person’s level of happiness was related to the happiness of their social networks. If a person had a happy friend who lived within a mile, they themselves were 25% more likely to be happy. In addition, it found that a person’s happiness can be related to the happiness of someone separated by up to three degrees (a friend of a friend of a friend).

Alternatively, low levels of social interaction were found to have a negative impact on life span. Nearly equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic and twice as harmful as being obese.

Our body’s chemicals play a role in our social connections. The hormone, oxytocin, influences social behavior by increasing relationship bonds and trust.

Get Moving. When we are active, our brains release chemicals called endorphins that actually make us feel better.  For me, even something as simple as a little walk outside in the fresh air is sometimes just enough to turn a negative feeling into a positive feeling. And activities such as yoga and meditation also provide mental health benefits.

Eat Healthy. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” It’s true! More and more studies are finding that a nutritious diet, low in sugar and simple carbohydrates is not only good for the body, it’s great for the brain and mental health.  Collectively, these results have given rise to a concept called “nutritional (or food) psychiatry.”

A large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health. According to the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, “a healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.”

Drink Water. Our brains depend on proper hydration to function optimally. Brain cells require a delicate balance between water and various elements to operate, and when we lose too much water, that balance is disrupted; our brain cells lose efficiency.

According to an article in Psychology Today, years of research have found that when we’re parched, we have more difficulty keeping focused. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory. The ability to perform mental arithmetic, like calculating whether or not you’ll be late for work if you hit snooze for another 15 minutes, is compromised when our fluids are low.

So indeed, water makes our minds feel good. More of the “feel good” hormones (that also come from exercise) are able to fire through the brain to improve overall mood. Because mood has a direct impact on how productive we can be throughout the day, people with elevated moods often experience higher levels of productivity in contrast to those with lower moods. It sort of ties into how people suffering from major depression often experience a lack of motivation to do anything commonly seen as enjoyable.

Think Positively. When I feel stressed out, I try to think about and celebrate any successes I’ve had recently in managing my diabetes, even tiny ones like just testing my blood sugar. I focus my thoughts on people who bring a smile to my face, and activities and events that I enjoy that make me feel happy and alive.  Just remembering good times is often enough to get me through more challenging times.

Give Myself a Pat on the Back (or a Hug). I do so much every day to manage my life and my health. I try to be good to myself and to give myself a lot of credit.  I don’t beat myself up if I fall short of achieving perfect control because maybe I am expecting too much of myself. Maybe I’m trying to control things that are truly beyond my control.  I do my best. I review what worked and what didn’t, then let it go and do something that I love!

Living with diabetes, we all have our good days and bad days.  And it’s normal to feel upset or angry about the bad days.  Sometimes, when I try the tools above and the stress still feels overwhelming, I know I can always seek out help from my endocrinologist, diabetes educator, or friends for help coping, getting back to being joyful and enjoying life.

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Posted by on Oct 14, 2016 in Advocacy, Community

Part Two: Advocacy and the Bigger Picture

Part Two: Advocacy and the Bigger Picture

ADVOCATE:  n. [ad-vuh-kit, -keyt]: a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.

Advocacy is the big buzzword in the medical world today.  You might be urged to advocate with Congress about insurance coverage, diabetes research funding and workplace issues.  You are told to advocate for yourself with your doctors, your diabetes educator and your teachers and coworkers.

It can all seem a bit overwhelming.  Where do you start?  What’s most important to you?

I got my first taste of advocacy in the 1970’s when, as a teenager, I went to lobby on Capitol Hill with JDF (before it was renamed JDRF).  We visited congressmen to ask for funding for diabetes research and tell our stories.  I also “published” the JDF Nassau/Suffolk county newsletter (this is WAY before personal computers and publishing software – the old fashioned way of typing an article on a typewriter and then cutting and pasting it onto pages!) … just to spread the word about events and news in the diabetes world.

So where do you start?

Nowadays, I’ve gotten involved with the diabetes online community (DOC), which is a very vocal group of T1D’s who write, blog, podcast, write letters and lobby in and for the diabetes community.  Some of the more active and effective sites include:

  • DPAC: (diabetespac.org) – The Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, co-founded and run by Bennet Dunlap and T1D Christel Marchand Aprigliano, as an alliance of people with diabetes, caregivers, patient advocates, health professionals, disease organizations and companies working collaboratively to promote and support public policy initiatives to improve the health of people with diabetes.  DPAC “seeks to ensure the safety and quality of medications, devices, and services; and access to care for all Americans with diabetes.”  It’s a powerful group and certainly worth a poke around their website.
  • diaTribe: (http://diatribe.org/) – a patient-focused online publication, part of The  diaTribe Foundations, whose mission is to improve the lives of people with diabetes.  “diaTribe seeks to empower our readers with useful, actionable information that gives them hope for a better future, and helps them live happier and healthier lives. Our tag line is ‘Making Sense of Diabetes (http://diatribe.org/about-diatribe).’” Regarding advocacy, they offer a column called “Moving the Needle”, which covers advocacy happenings around the world.
  • Diabetes Hands Foundation (diabeteshandsfoundation.org ) – a non-profit organization which offers Diabdhf-logoetes Advocates (diabetesadvocates.org), whose mission is to connect people touched by diabetes for positive changes, so that nobody living with diabetes ever feels alone.  They offer a weekly advocacy newsletter, collaboration in advocacy initiatives (such as Spare a Rose, Save a Child – SpareARose.org), scholarships to attend diabetes conferences, micro-grants to support diabetes advocacy projects, inspiring advocate stories and much more.
  • DiabetesMinediabetesmine-logo (www.healthline.com/diabetesmine) is, as they say, a “gold mine of straight talk and encouragement.” In the advocacy world, Amy Tenderich and Mike Hoskins report on FDA talks with the diabetes community, the cost of insulin, access to insulin worldwide and much, much more.

AND THEN … there is advocacy that has NOTHING to do with diabetes.  You could choose to be involved in causes that touch your heart or your family or your pets or the environment. Dig around the web for groups that advocate in the area of your passion … or start your own crusade.

I had the opportunity, as a scholarship winner to the DHF MasterLab Advocacy 2016, to hear Scott Johnson and host of  Diabetes Social Media Advocacy Live DSMA open the meeting with a talk about embracing
your inner advodsma-live-logocate.” He says we all have a “fire inside us … and that life with diabetes is a huge puzzle with missing
pieces.  By exploring and challenging our ‘puzzle view’, we can truly make a difference.”So, as he says, “When you feel something click into place, or you notice a tug of curiosity, or a surge of frustration… pay attention! That is your fire talking to you, and it’s hungry.  Just take it all in, then follow your fire and feed your fire.”  Maybe it’s just a path for you to become aware.  Maybe it’s a call to action to share with others. Just maybe it’s a call to take some action.  Be sure to listen to it and follow it, wherever it takes you.Let us know where it leads you!

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Posted by on Sep 30, 2016 in Advocacy, Community

Part One: Be Your Own and Best Advocate

Part One: Be Your Own and Best Advocate

ADVOCATE:  n. [ad-vuh-kit, -keyt]: a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.

Advocacy is the big buzzword in the medical world today.  You are urged to advocate with Congress about insurance coverage, diabetes research funding and workplace issues.  You are told to advocate for yourself with your doctors, your diabetes educator and your teachers and coworkers.

Sounds like just one more task to add to the pile of things you must do to live with diabetes.  No, thank you, I already have enough to do, between testing and bolusing and counting carbs and exercising and changing Pods and changing sensors.  Phewwwww … enough already!  Right?!

Well, no, not really.  It’s really not all that hard … and it’s really important.  After all, who’s more important to your own life than you?  It is survival.

Let’s break it down into what you can do and what will make your life better.person-with-pen

MOST IMPORTANT: Advocate for yourself!  How, you may ask?

When you go to see any of your healthcare professionals, be prepared:

  • Before your appointment
    • Write down any questions or health problems you need to discuss
    • List what you expect to come away with, after the appointment
  • Bring a list of your medications and a pad of paper/pen (or notepad on your smartphone)
  • Check if you need updated prescriptions for medications or Pods
  • Make sure you know how to reach your provider if you have further questions person-with-phone

That’s it … simple!  You are prepared and organized, which helps you get your needs met and helps your healthcare professional understand your needs as well.

You can also advocate for yourself within your family and friends.

  • First, think about your life with diabetes and what you might want from your family members, friends, co-workers, by way of emotional support and actual actions and under what circumstances.
    • Do you want them to listen to you when you are frustrated or scared?
    • Do you want them to just say, “Awwww, yeah, that’s tough. I feel you.”?
    • Or do you want them to help you solve some struggle you are having?
  • Then, and this is a big next step, you need to educate them on what you need from them.
    • If you just want a sensitive and caring ear, tell them that sometimes you might just need to vent. Then ask them if they would listen and show compassion without having to actually do or fix anything.
    • If you want them to be alert for certain problems (low blood sugars, high blood sugars or simply unusual behavior or unattended alerts), you will need to educate them.
    • If you might need their help in placing a new Pod, you will also need to show them and train them.

How to educate your advocates:

  • First ask if they’d be willing to help you from time to time. people-in-classroom
  • If they say yes, teach them what they need to understand about your needs and what actions you need them to take.
  • Role-play with them so that they feel comfortable with what you are asking them to do.
  • Give them the tools to make them successful:
    • Fast sugar/glucose tabs
    • Glucagon (and teach them how to use it and practice)
    • A list of phone numbers for them to call
    • How to stop, fill and start a new Pod
  • Check in again with them about how comfortable they feel about helping you. Ask them if they have any questions.
  • Review and practice from time to time. You do this all the time, each and every day. But it continues to be new to them, until they need to step in for you.

Just a short story about my early life with diabetes.  I was diagnosed at age 11, in the 5th grade.  There were no blood glucose meters, only urine testing (pretty useless for low blood sugars).  When I would experience a low blood sugar, I was coached to tell my teacher, who then told my best friend, Tina, to walk me to the nurse’s office, where I was given orange juice.

I thought that worked pretty well and also allowed Tina to get out of the classroom for a short bit.  Many years later, Tina shared with me that she used to be terrified.  She didn’t understand what was going to happen and how sick I was … and worried that it was all her responsibility.  That’s a large burden on an 11 year old without proper education and appreciation.  Yes, I’ve thanked her and apologized for causing her concern.  All that could have been made easier with a better explanation and giving her freedom of choice to help.

Coming soon:  Part Two: Advocacy and the Bigger Picture

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