Friday, March 30, 2012

What's My Motivation?

When people meet me, they often comment about how "cheerful," I am. I take this in and smile back. I do appear more cheerful than I am. I smile a lot. I also laugh a lot. I recognize what makes me cry today may someday be a funny thing to write about.


MG is serious, for me at least. I haven't had diabetes long enough to feel the seriousness of it all, but I do recognize the predicament I am in. Am I always cheerful? Of course not. Cheerful is the public face. The public face does not always reflect my heart.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How NOT To Insert a Dexcom Sensor

A Dexcom 7 sensor insertion requires some finesse. Bill 1 Happy Diabetic and Kerri of Six Until Me do a fantastic job of explaining the process. As you can see from their examples, a Dexcom Sensor insertion is a simple process. Well, it is simple, assuming the person inserting it is not me.

Bill and Kerri have helpfully illustrated exactly what to do. I often suspect my function in life is to serve as a warning to others, so with that in mind let me tell you how Not to insert a Dexcom 7 sensor.

Step 1. Begin With Skin Adhesive. Skin Tac Skin Adhesive comes in small pouches that look like larger versions of alcohol pads. When you pull them out of the pouch they will feel similar to an alcohol pad. This is a devious trick. This stuff makes flypaper seem slicker than Teflon.

Once Skin Tac comes in contact with human skin it becomes stickier than the La Brea Tar Pits. You want to swab this adhesive on your skin where the Dexcom is supposed to get stuck. What you do not want to do is get this adhesive on your hands. Do not, under any circumstances get Skin Tac on your fingers or hands. And exactly how do you swab adhesive on your skin without getting it on your fingers? By using your other two hands, of course. However, if for some odd reason you only have two hands proceed to Step 2.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Real People Sick

I've been real people sick. It started yesterday afternoon with feeling confused and dizzy. Later on I got a fever. I'm not feverish now, but I still don't feel well. Yesterday I couldn't stay awake long enough to watch an episode of Naruto Shippuden.

Yes, I watch Naruto Shippuden.
Yes, I watch it in Japanese with English subtitles.
Yes, as a matter of fact I am a dork!

Yesterday I was so sick I fell asleep in the middle of getting up from the sofa. I managed to get both feet on the floor, but before I could stand, I fell asleep. Today I am feeling a little better, but I'm still really tired. Being real people sick, as opposed to diabetes, MG, or chemotherapy sick is easier on my family. For once they can all relate to what I'm going through. Exhausted, sore throat and stuffy nose, that kind of stuff they understand. Low blood sugar making me agitated is harder to explain. I don't have to explain real people sick. I just have to get well. I'll do that soon. Promise.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dear Pizza

Dear Pizza,

I found you in my freezer last night. I'd forgotten you were there. Hidden behind a bag of broccoli and some frozen cauliflower was you, my old friend. Small and round, with little bits of onion and pepperoni, I knew you would hit the spot. So, I brought you out of the freezer. That was my first mistake.

I read the instructions on how to microwave you -- 2 minutes on high, rotate the plate, 1 minute more. As I pressed the buttons I knew in 3 minutes I was going to enjoy just a little pizza. While you cooked I looked at your carb count and calculated my insulin dose accordingly.

While you spun around in my new microwave I tested my blood sugar. It was 94.  I tested the pen needle to make sure insulin was flowing. A jet of insulin, which smelled almost exactly like Band-aids, shot out of my pen. My next steps were an alcohol swab, a quick shot, and I was all already to enjoy you, my dear lovely pizza. However, removing you from the oven was the last thing that went right.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Diabetes Set to Music

I had one of Those days.

Diabetes kicked me in the pants today. That low happened while I was sleeping. Of course it did.  I woke up covered in sweat and feeling terrible. So, I got up and had breakfast. That's when the fun really started. My Dexcom looks like this today...

I'm feeling beaten down by it all. I feel miserable with my blood sugar going up, down, sideways and hauling me along with it. I feel as out of control as that graph looks. As I was looking at the graph, I realized it reminded me of a conductor's baton. Going up and down in various beats. What if Diabetes had a score. What would it sound like?

Exercise: Just Do It

The weather in Chicago has been unbelievable. Spring came early. In fact, Spring skipped us and now it's summer. It was 84°F (28° C) outside on Saturday. Our normal high temperature is 47° (8° C) so you can just imagine how warm it was. This weather makes me want to get outside. My husband and I enjoy hiking and so does our dog April.

Honey the wonder dog doesn't like hiking because burrs tangle in her fur. So when we go hiking we bring our auxiliary backup dog, April.

Hiking with myasthenia gravis is good because muscles that don't move atrophy. Since my MG is finally in remission I am able to hike again. Well, within reason. I'm not going to ever be well enough to hike the Appalachian Trail. But, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a day outside. Finding the balance between how much exercise is good for me and how much is too much, is a challenge with MG. It's a challenge with diabetes, too. But, I don't let disability or diabetes stop me from doing what I want to do. What I wanted to do on Saturday was visit Starved Rock State Park.

The canyon waterfalls are inspiring.

Getting from the Illinois River up into the bluffs involves climbing stairs. Lots of stairs.

At the bottom of one of the flights of stairs someone carved in the wood, "150 stairs. Just do it."

And I did. All day I went up and down, down and up. My legs still ache. But my soul is full of joy. I didn't let anything get in my way. I am proud of myself.

I discovered I can still hike and enjoy nature's beauty. I just had to do things differently. I had to stop and rest often to give my muscles a chance to reboot. I had to eat and check my blood sugar frequently. But mostly I had to realize that I have more limitations in my mind than in my body. Life is for living and the world is for exploring.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Service Dog 1st. Diabetes Alert!

I've been partnered with Honey the Wonder Dog for nine years.

We have been together from her first on command sit.

To obedience school graduation.

To service dog training. 

Honey and I have been together through some tough challenges. Like me, Honey has had to adapt to my changing medical needs. I've always been impressed by her ability to know what I need, sometimes before I do.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Face to Face Dia-Meetup

This morning I met @betizuka of for coffee. It was, as Bea put it, awesomesauce! It was the first time I talked to someone who knows what it's like to poke a finger and bleed on a strip. I talked about what Type 1 is like. She told me about Type 2. What I realized right away is both types of diabetes are tough to live with. There is no easy type of diabetes.

There we were, two women who met online hanging out over coffee and breakfast sandwiches. She had her hers with a side of diabetes meds. I had insulin as a side dish. Talking about diabetes, husbands, pets, sharing photos and life, I felt happy in a way I haven't felt in a long time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

First Dia-Meetup Planned

This week on #DSMA we talked about meeting other people with diabetes. Some of us have been to conferences or support group meetings. I haven’t. Not just because I haven’t had diabetes for very long, but because I’m an introvert and groups overwhelm me. If given a choice between a party with lots of people, and a quiet evening alone with a book, I’ll always choose the book. My name is Marie and I am an introvert.

Let me state for the record, I am not shy. I am not afraid of people or socially phobic. I prefer people one at a time rather than in a group. I generally spend between 7 and 10 hours a day alone and in silence. Being alone is how I recharge my internal batteries so I can be social later.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dasterdly Dawn Phenomenon

Dawn phenomenon has been the bane of my existence since I was diagnosed with diabetes. Almost every morning I wake up with high blood sugars. It's not a rebound hyperglycemia reaction because I can see the trend on my Dexcom. I'll run in the 90's for hours and then for no apparent reason, my blood sugar goes high. Drives me out of my mind.

On the rare occasions when I wake up with normal blood sugars, they rise before I eat breakfast. In the time it takes for me to get up, get dressed, and let the dogs out, my blood sugar can go straight up. I've seen it happen on my Dexcom. Much swearing followed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good Medicine: Advocating For Ourselves

I read an article in the New York Times about lessons learned from pediatric medicine and how they could be transferred to adult medicine. The article points out that everyone expects children to be afraid and need the comforting presence of a parent. Maybe adults need TLC, too. I’ve been a professional medical patient since 1997. At first I didn’t know how to advocate for myself. Hospitals and clinics are intimidating places. There is an air of authority that makes me feel afraid to ask for what I need. It still isn't easy, but I'm learning how to advocate for myself.

The article talked about blood tests and how they use smaller butterfly needles for children. I’ve always hated getting blood tests. It wasn’t the initial poke that bothered me. It was switching from one vial to the next. The click of the next vial always shoved the needle deeper into my vein. I hated it, but I didn’t know there was an alternative. When I was having pre-surgical testing done before my cancer surgery, the phlebotomist used a butterfly needle instead of the standard set-up. Instead of the pressure with each vial change, I didn’t feel anything. It was a minor change that taught me something valuable.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pausing For Joy

Yesterday the weather was beautiful: partly cloudy with a strong southern wind. Spring is coming to Chicago and we got a taste of it. My husband and his weimaraner went to a local forest preserve for some much needed fresh air.

We were heading back to our car when we heard a flock of sandhill cranes in the distance. If you don't know what they sound like, you can find out here. The distinctive call of migrating cranes is something our whole family looks forward to twice every year. When they fly overhead in November they signal the beginning of winter. Now they remind us spring is coming soon.

Flying together in a V the sandhill cranes called to one another as they circled high over head. I watched smaller flocks join together into larger and larger flocks until they all gathered in a massive spiral. Listening to birds, watching them soar together filled me with quiet joy. I felt connected and peaceful, something I haven't felt in far too long.

I'm glad I took an hour out of my day for a nature break. It reminded me I don't need to travel somewhere far from home to marvel at nature's beauty. A moss covered tree, yellow berries in the woods, a turtle sunning on a rock, all of these things are right outside my door. All of them are reason enough to feel joy.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Doctor's Appointment Today

I have an appointment with my endocrinologist today. Of course I’ll have to bring my meter and Dexcom. The staff will download the information and make a print out. I always dread this. How come I feel like I’m about to go on trial?

Dr. H: I’m looking at your meter test results. They look pretty good, but can you explain this high?

Me: Um, well, you see...

Dr. H: Did you, or did you not, eat nachos that evening?

Me: I do not recall.

Dr. H: Did you make a notation in your log book?

Me: Um...

Dr. H: Did you bring your log book? I would like to take a look at it.

Me: I don’t remember if I brought my log book. I think I forgot it.

Dr. H: You forgot it. A likely story. Perhaps this injection with a needle the width of a baseball bat will refresh your memory.

Me: Nooooo!

Of course that’s not going to happen. My endo has Type 1 diabetes. He's a cgm wearing pumper. He's one of us. A member of Squad D. Dexter the Dexcom was all his idea. In fact, when I read this blog post to him he’s going to laugh. And so am I.

After a long succession of lousy doctors, hearing my endo answer a question with, “When that happens to me I…” always makes me smile. Not only will I be cared for, I’ll be understood. There is no better joy benchmark than caring and laughter.

Oh, and about those nachos…

They were delicious!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Carb Counting Blues

Since I got my Dexcom, christened Dexter by my husband, I’ve learned more about how food affects my blood sugar. I learned oatmeal has to be the worst food ever invented. I ate a bowl and watched my blood sugar shoot straight up and then crash to 62. That roller coaster ride was scarier than Space Mountain. Yes, Space Mountain scared me. Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a wimp.

Sometimes Dexter is like a pocket version of a school hall monitor. It tattles on me in ways my meter doesn’t. Like… eat the wrong thing, know I ate the wrong thing, exercise a whole bunch and skip testing until much later, oh look, my blood sugar is 112. Good me! That kind of funny business doesn’t work with Dexter the Electronic Hall Monitor. It can tell if I ate boneless skinless chicken and broccoli, or if I ate a plate of nachos and sucked down a beer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Challenge of Accepting the Unacceptable

On Sunday my lancing device bit my finger. The pain was intense! I started crying and I’m a tough customer when it comes to pain. My pinky finger felt like I’d just shut it in a door. I was so upset that I held my finger under cold water and forgot to test. So, I had to do it again. Wham! The lancet snapped into my other little finger and it hurt just as badly as last time. What is going on?

At first I blamed myself. Maybe I’m not as tough as I thought. Little kids get their fingers pricked every day and they don’t start crying. Why am I crying? Is my skin getting more sensitive? Once I was done kicking myself, I took a look at my lancing device. The spring loaded mechanism fired the lancet, but the shock absorbing recoil never happened. It slammed full force into my finger. No wonder it hurt. My fingers had bruises on them. However I did remember to test my blood sugar before soothing my sore finger. Right after that, the fog rolled in.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Because of Tuesdays #3

It's Toxic Tuesday once again. Every week I pause to remind myself why I'm taking chemo, and why life is worth living. This week, I'm dealing with Toxic Tuesday because I want to watch YouTube and laugh.

Laughter is healing and so is music. Mixing both together and adding a hound dog? This is good medicine indeed.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chronic Illness Burnout

Before I got my Dexcom I searched the DOC for information. I wanted to know what other people thought about the Dexcom, and how I could best use mine. Of course I found dozens of blogs. Some had tips for success. Others had personal experiences. And some… some pointed out how hard it is to have diabetes for years and years.

I was diagnosed in July of last year. Every aspect of having diabetes is new to me. Everything from how to inject insulin, to counting carbs is brand new. The learning curve is steep. I didn’t even know continuous glucose monitors existed until I started surfing the DOC in December. I knew nothing about pumps, adjusting basal rates, nothing. It’s all new to me. I am aware that I am a young child running around looking at everything. Ooh, what’s that? How does that work?

I am also aware that chronic illness burnout is real. Diabetes isn’t my first chronic illness. MG has been a tough dance partner. I know what it is like to put off a doctor’s appointment because I can’t deal with seeing one more white lab coat. I’ve had enough blood tests. I don’t want any more. Monthly monitoring of my white blood cell count hasn’t happened since August of 2011. I know I need to make an appointment, show up, roll up my sleeve. I know I need to monitor what the chemo is doing. But at the same time, I don’t want to. I’m burned out on the care and feeding of myasthenia gravis. I'll get back on track but sometimes it's hard.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lows are Bad. The DOC is Good

I'm low right now. Stomach is upset, hands are shaking, my heart is beating way too fast. I drank a juice box and ate five glucose tablets. Now I'm waiting to feel better. But, I don't have to wait by myself. The Diabetes Online Community is with me. I tweeted that I was low and seconds later I got encouraging messages on Twitter. The messages help a lot. I couldn't do this on my own. I'm glad I don't have to.

Lows are bad. The DOC is good. Thanks friends.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How many blood glucose test strips a month are enough?

It was one of those nights. I'd just finished my bedtime snack when I looked at my brand new Dexcom and saw ??? instead of a blood sugar reading. Being me, I assessed the situation calmly and  looked up what to do about it on the intern... excuse me, I just lied. Sorry. Let me try that again. I saw the ??? on my Dexcom. Being me, I assessed the situation while freaking out and panicking that I somehow managed to break my brand new Dexcom. It's brand new. I just got it a few days ago. What's happening? Did I break it?

Um, no. When I was drying off after my shower I managed to dislodge the sensor with my towel. Whew. I can fix that. I clicked the gray sensor back into place and restarted my Dexcom. It took a few hours to calibrate. Then I had to enter two finger sticks. It was quarter to four in the morning when the calibration was finished. I was exhausted. So, of course Gremlins came in and decided it would be fun to make my body extra super duper sensitive to insulin. Great.

Low Blood Sugar Is Weird

Low blood sugar is weird. Sure there is the list of common symptoms, but I'm discovering diabetes is anything but that predictable. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I assumed I would never experience a low. It's kind of hard to imagine low blood sugar when your meter reads 287. The idea seemed ridiculous.

Now, not so much.


I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

If you are enrolled with your own major at the University of Catastrophe, please consult your doctor, therapist, attorney, auto mechanic, veterinarian, plumber, dietician, arborist, acupuncturist, manicurist, mother, local dairy council, shoe shine boy, or other equally qualified professional, for advice and assistance.

If you email me your personal information will not be shared without your permission and your email address will not be sold. I hate spam. Even with eggs.

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