Sunday, May 18, 2014

D-Blog Week Day 7: My Favourite Things

As we wrap up another Diabetes Blog Week, let’s share a few of our favorite things from the week. This can be anything from a #DBlogWeek post you loved, a fantastic new-to-you blog you found, a picture someone included in a post that spoke to you, or comment left on your blog that made you smile. Anything you liked is worth sharing!

I'm still travelling and singing around the Maritimes, so I haven't been able to read so many days' worth of amazing posts. I decided to concentrate on some of my favourites from one particular day, my favourite prompt where I did manage to read every single post. I love poetry, wordplay and rhyme, and I was pretty excited to see what people came up with for the poetry topic. I'm especially excited because I created a new English course for my college which runs for the first time in the fall, and that means I get to really teach a section on poetry to undergrads for the first time! Though unfortunately I won't get to use any D-Poetry, I think these are all worth your time.

I love this week every year, and I want to thank everyone who wrote, who read my blog, and especially the kind people who have commented. You all warmed my heart. Thank you.

The first category is near and dear to my heart: parodies.

I love William Carlos Williams parodies so much. It's unhealthy. I'm going to teach that poem and use it to show how poetry is a living art form that we still constantly respond to. Here's another fun one for my collection of "This Is Just To Say" parodies, by Naomi at T1International. I always wondered why he ate those plums (was it spite? Assertion of power?) but a low makes total sense.

10 Things I Hate About You is a guilty pleasure, but one of my favourite movies of all time. It just hit that snarky Shakespearean sweet spot when I was in high school. Here's a parody of Kat's final poem that just works so well with diabetes, by Jessica over at Chasing Lows.

Scott at Rolling In The D did a Spongebob parody that I thought would make a nice companion to my "Under the D" Little Mermaid undersea parody, and My Lazy Pancreas also went Disney with her takeoff of a piece from Frozen.

The second category is limericks and humour.

I thought Laddie's post from the perspective of her dog Abby was just cute and funny, until it hit me with the image of diabetes being that big black dog that never leaves your side ("the black dog" also being a famous euphemism for depression). Loved it.

Pancreassassin's limericks just got better and better. I loved the unconventional rhyme about the insurance company, and the thought of a low causing someone to almost trip over their dog made me laugh, probably because it's true.

"My uncle's feet fell off/To everyone's surprise" and the "Can you eat that?" refrain wins this poem by Mike at Every Day Ups and Downs a spot on the list.

The third category is imagery and lines that took my breath away.

I love Christel at The Perfect D's comparison of an insulin needle to the needle on a record player. It's beautiful.

The use of the sestina form at Coffee and Insulin was really well done and unusual.

The last line of this poem at A Sweet Grace is just unexpected and brilliant, and the rhythm that the writer creates is so compelling.

Thanks to everyone for your hard work every day, and for an amazing D-Blog Week, especially Karen for putting it all together and tirelessly commenting on everything. Keep writing, keep talking, and I'll see you at #dsma!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

D-Blog Week Day 6: Saturday Snapshots

I wish I could send you pictures from Halifax, which is where I must be by now. But, since I'm travelling and posting is probably an impossibility, you get a shot from my apartment on Thursday.

Today's prompt:

Back for another year, let’s show everyone what life with diabetes looks like!  With a nod to the Diabetes 365 project, let’s grab our cameras again and share some more d-related pictures.  Post as many or as few as you’d like.  Feel free to blog your thoughts on or explanations of your pictures, or leave out the written words and let the pictures speak for themselves.

I call this: "The Agony and the Ecstasy." Or, "Insulin and Glucose." Or, "The Circle of Life."

It's like Ebony and Ivory, only they don't really work together in perfect harmony. Rather, they chase each other's tails around and around, like a yin-yang comprised of angry, excited puppies.

I've been having a LOT of trouble with lows lately. Those six bottles have all been emptied in the last few months, and they're not all I've used to treat. They come in four flavours (grape is obviously a favourite) and from four different companies, from two different countries and more than one state, as I've picked them up as I've gone along, to try something cheaper or new. Is it any wonder I've struggled with my weight loss goals? That's a ton of sugar, and none of it I wanted to eat!

The humalog is balanced on top of it to show the precarious balance between the two substances. They're not mixing together, though. They're separate. My pancreas and liver, were they working harmoniously, would instantly (or nearly) balance them, but for me, it's one, then the other, then one, then the other, in a ceaseless cycle.

The humalog also shows how blessed I am to live in a country where I can have so much healthcare provided to me, and how lucky I currently have to have (temporary) insurance for supplies. Much as I grumble about how temporary and capricious my insurance situation is, when I do have it contract by contract, I can go out and get a huge supply of insulin and nobody questions me.

One box is ripped open to show that this is current and a work in progress. It's ripped open messily, because, well, that's me, and ain't nobody got time for this shit.

Now I can probably get rid of these bottles, unless I want a permanent art installation.

Friday, May 16, 2014

D-Blog Week Day 5: Diabetes Life-Hacks

On the fifth day of D-Blog Week, Ms. Karen gave to me...

Five hacks of D!
Four portion shortcuts
Three clothing mods
Two carb counting tricks
With the warning that YDMV!

Share the (non-medical) tips and tricks that help you in the day-to-day management of diabetes.  Tell us everything from clothing modifications, serving size/carb counting tricks to the tried and true Dexcom-in-a-glass trick or the “secret” to turning on a Medtronic pump’s backlight when not on the home-screen (scroll to the bottom of this post). Please remember to give non-medical advice only! (Thank you Rachel of Probably Rachel and Kelley of Below Seven for this topic suggestion.)

On the “Diabetes Lifehacks” front, it occurs to me that either I have very few official lifehacks, or few that will apply to more people than me. Diabetes is such an individualized illness, which is ironic when you realize that the world even tries to lump the two types together (not even dealing with variants like LADA and MODY), let alone recognizes that YDMV (your diabetes may vary). So, most of the things that I do are either general (decreasing basal 50% an hour before a workout), or specific (I crash overnight most of the time, so if I’m under 8 or 9 I don’t correct, and if I’m anywhere between 4-7, I can essentially “eat for free” right before bed. (This is the opposite of a weight loss hack, unfortunately)

A few things that might be helpful:

  1.  Empty pill bottles or glucose tab tubes are great as improvised sharps containers on trips. They even fit infusion sets! This comes to mind, as I’m actually travelling across the country as you read this. My choir (The Amadeus Choir) is on tour in the Halifax area, and is the keynote choir for Podium, the national choir conference. I have never been to the Maritimes, so I look forward to scattering my sharps across the country!
  2. If you find the plunger on your pump cartridge is annoying to use or you don’t want to carry one, and you use insulin cartridges, you can use the cap of the needle to push down on the base of the insulin cartridge. I find that it gives a more controlled flow into the cartridge, and I’m far less likely to suddenly over-pull and leak insulin everywhere as the bottom comes out of the pump cartridge.
  3. Reuse and refill the small glucose tab tubes from the big bottles; it's cost-effective. Watch out for putting a different brand in without testing sizes first, and don't force it. I had tabs get permanently stuck, which is not good when you're desperate.
  4. For me, the thigh thing never works for pump clipping. underwear is the way to go when you're wearing a dress. Never wear a dress the day you fly, if you want to get out of security in a timely fashion with your dignity intact. (I flew on Thursday so it's on my mind).

Less, or possibly more, seriously, here are some other hacks that have helped me live my life:
  1. If you're contemplating quitting entirely, don't. (But you can ease up for a bit, as long as you maintain a baseline to come back to.)
  2. If you're frustrated, take a breath and count ten carbs.
  3. If you're about to tell someone off, consider telling them "on" instead, with positive information.
Least interesting/adequate life hacks ever? Perhaps. I’m not sure if I’ve discovered any magic. But there are probably things that I do as a matter of course that other people would consider “hacks” and vice versa. I just haven’t thought of what they are yet.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

D-Blog Week Day 4: Mantras and More (Telling Stories)

Today's D-Blog Week topic is Mantras and More.

Yesterday we opened up about how diabetes can bring us down. Today let’s share what gets us through a hard day.  Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day.  Is there something positive you tell yourself?  Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through?  Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost?  Maybe we've done that and we can help others do it too? (Thanks to Meri of Our Diabetic Life for suggesting this topic.)

Telling Stories

There once was a girl whose pancreas didn’t work. One day, it just up and quit. The girl didn’t know what she had done. Was it something she said? Did her pancreas win the lottery and move out? Was it collecting unemployment?

The girl felt alone and affronted, and slightly unloved. To lose one’s socks may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose one’s pancreas looks like carelessness. Her life changed. Her world changed. Her frustrations mounted. The world was an ever-shifting morass of peril and uncertainty. When she saw a really terrible blood sugar result, or when medication made her nauseous, sometimes she just wanted to quit.

Sometimes, a voice in the back of her head disagreed with her defeatist attitude. It said:

Each drop of blood is a drop in the ocean
Each high and low is a wave in the sea
Each day you live represents forward motion
Each day you make it the best it can be.

The girl didn’t think much about this, as thinking in rhyme was not an unusual occurrence for her. She grew up, and her diabetes took it badly, and she took it on the chin.  She thought this disease was useless. She went off to school, leaving her big Canadian city for a small American Ivy college town, and diabetes came with her; or, rather, it came before her. It got in her way. It got in the way of being normal. Feeling sexy. Losing weight. What was the use of learning so much at one of the best schools in the world if she couldn’t even fix herself? Her care, not great to begin with, slipped further. She was at an institute of higher learning, and she used that idea to divorce herself from her body. She took solace in her mind, but her mind wasn’t content.

So the little voice grew a bit more insistent. It said:

Each disappointment’s a pledge to be kinder
Each piece of knowledge a root in the ground
Each bad result is a solemn reminder
Each thing that’s lost creates something that’s found.

The girl got her cap and gown and moved to New York City. She studied theatre, and communication, and the human experience, but still had no idea how to communicate with her own body. For the first time, she started seeing examples of people who did, but she assumed it was because they were naturally better than she was. Her life was always busy. When you keep busy, you have a constant in an inconsistent and chaotic world. The girl got some of her first indications of what life might be like without a safety net, and in some ways she remembered how lucky she’d been, and she grew up a little more. When she worked on a play, and a character felt loss, she knew what that meant. When she worked on a play, and a character felt longing, she knew how that felt. When she worked on a play, and a character felt a lack of control, she was right there with them.

The girl had spent a lot of time looking inwards – twisting inwards – but that’s grad school for you. She had nowhere left to go but out. Doing this, she saw that she’d gained empathy and understanding, and something that would come from her own voice. But she was scared to do anything about it. There was no way to take control.

The little voice wasn’t scared. It was excited. As the girl packed up to return to her hometown with a second cap and gown, it urged her forward. It helped that other voices had begun to join in, voices the girl had never heard in person, but had read for hours. Together, the voices said:

Each person’s sigh is wind pushing a boulder
Each person’s words are a forge in the deep
Each person’s link is a hand on your shoulder
Each day you wake is a promise you keep.

The girl realized that, as much as it seemed that she had little to no control over her body, in some ways she had more control than anyone she knew. She was the president of her blood sugar, since the previous one had resigned. Unfortunately, her endocrine system was not inclined towards democracy. But, as the Lorax left carved in a circle of stones, “Unless.” “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” She found that, for the first time, she cared. She would not be a circle of stones. For the first time, when she spoke, the voice issued from her own mouth. She told herself:

Each test you face is a chance to do better
Each thing you miss is a sign that you’ve grown
Each chance you take means you’ve written a letter
Each page of text makes your story your own.

Sometimes I tell myself this story late at night, when the world shifts and the failures and small mercies of the day coalesce.  I wonder how much of it is true, and what details I’ve filled in to suit the demands of my own narrative. Anyone who has diabetes, though, knows that truth is relative. Anyone who has diabetes knows that getting through the day is the first step to finding the truth of yourself.

Each drop of blood is a drop in the ocean
Each high and low is a wave in the sea
Each day you live represents forward motion
Each day you make it the best it can be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

DBlog Week Day #3: What Brings Me Down

We're on the third day of Karen's stellar DBlog Week, and today we're asked: May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks go out to Scott of Strangely Diabetic for coordinating this topic.)

The title of this prompt has had ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" stuck in my head for days. I don't want to talk about that, though. I want to tell you a story about the most recent day that brought me down.

On Monday, I went to see my endocrinologist. If you’ve read past posts, you’ll know that we’ve been seeing each other for a decade, and that our relationship has had its ups and downs, but has vastly improved since I moved back to Toronto in 2010, found the DOC, got an insulin pump, and got my diabetes groove back (though is it considered getting it back if I’d never really had it to begin with?)

It’s been a strange feeling, going from absolutely dreading an endo visit to going in pumped (pardon the semi-intentional pun). This time, I was pretty excited. My glucose levels had never been better, if my meter was to be believed. More lows, but less bouncing, and much more in-range. I very recently joined a gym, and felt last weekend that I was kicking diabetes’ ass. I was sure that this A1c was going to be my best ever. It was going to start with 6. 6.7, 6.8, 6.9, maybe…but definitely 6. My average on the meter indicated 6.7, but I figured it didn’t tell me the whole story, so I didn’t think it would necessarily be that low, because I was hoping.

I have a daydream that I come back to every so often. I finally break the 6 barrier that I’ve never been able to crack. My endo opens the exam room door with a bottle of champagne in hand. I break down in happy tears. “I can’t believe I finally did it,” I say. “I can’t believe I’ve come so far.” A sports jersey with my last name and A1c number is revealed. Lucas, 6.8. The jersey is mounted, attached to wires, lifted to the ceiling for display. The number is retired. I’ve done it. Finally. One final achievement. One thing to cross off my bucket list.

I don’t know why the 6 barrier, as I call it, is so important to me. You’d think getting down to 7.1 once would have been satisfying enough. It certainly was to my endo. But not to me.

But on Monday, I didn’t get a 7.1.

I got a 7.4.

Now, that’s not a bad number, and it’s down from the last two. But it’s not even in my top three, and I was expecting at least .5 less from all the data I had. Therefore, even though it was respectable, I felt a sharp shock of disappointment. The wrong kind of tears prickled behind my eyes. I needed to make sure I had heard right. “That’s disappointing,” I said. The resident was not mean, but not very comforting (and still had quite a bit to learn; thankfully my CDE, who has T1 herself, showed up to guide her through some aspects and nip any offense in the bud); “yes, it’s not the greatest number, but it is down from last time.” She didn’t know how hard I’d worked. She couldn’t see it. Then I found out that, not only had I not lost weight via dieting and exercise, I had gained a pound (the nurse was shocked – apparently I really, really don’t look like I weigh what I do – what does that even mean, it’s like “you don’t look diabetic” – what does a diabetic look like? – but I’ll choose to take that as a compliment). In any case, I was feeling really discouraged about everything. I wasn’t pumped. I was dumped.

Then my endo came in, heard my number, and immediately congratulated me, and it was a very strange feeling, but it was what I needed to hear. While we’ve had our differences, here is a woman who knows my history. I know she knows my history, and suddenly things were once again in perspective.

A few years ago, I “knew” I had no chance of being a “good” diabetic, so if I had to be the best something (and I always did) I had to be the best at being the worst diabetic. It was almost a form of pride to be that “bad.” In undergrad, Princeton kids loved to one-up each other on how little sleep had been had, how many pages of work were due, how few hours were left to do it. Much of what we took pride in was how stressed we could make ourselves. It’s not necessarily the healthiest way to live, and often indicates a certain degree of fatalism.

Now, my perfectionism has swung the other way, and I’m disappointed by a number my endocrinologist sees as perfectly viable. I was “happy,” and she was not, when I was mistreating myself. Now she’s happy, and I’m not.

But if I thought about it this way enough, I could be.  Because disappointment can be positive. Because what this disappointment means is that I can see myself do better. I can expect myself to do better. I can see better as a possibility. I can see an A1c starting with 6 on my horizon. I CAN say, “I can’t believe I’ve come so far.” Because 6 barrier or not, I have. I have come so far.

I probably won’t be fully happy until that number actually gets entered into my chart, but the visualization of it is a good thing. To have disappointment, you need to have hope. Recognizing that is something to hold on to.

So I think I have a new goal. It’s not to break the 6 barrier, and celebrate with champagne and tears, and retire my jersey with an achievement unlocked. It’s to break the 6 barrier, take it all in, smile a little, and say, “okay. What’s next?”

What’s next?

It’s hope.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Diabetes Blog Week Day 2: Poetry (Under the D)

Today is the second day of Diabetes Blog Week. 

This year, Diabetes Blog Week and TuDiabetes are teaming up to bring out the poet in you! Write a poem, rhyme, ballad, haiku, or any other form of poetry about diabetes.

If anyone knows me, you'll know that I really like writing poetry, and that I really, really like wordplay and song parodies. (My autobiography may be called: "Ilana Lucas: Another F*$%ing Song Parody.") Over the past several months, my handbell group has been performing a version of "Under The Sea" from The Little Mermaid. 

I, naturally, started to think about it as, "Under the D."  Here's our last performance, so you can listen and sing along. I give you: Under The D.


The treatment is always easier
With somebody else’s “type”
You dream of a cure in five years
That turns out to just be hype
But look at the bills around you
Expenses grow more and more
Your day-to-day life confounds you
What more can you bolus for?

Under the D
Under the D
Nothing is dumber
Than self worth by number
Of A1c
A pancreas you can’t replace
When all that you can do is give chase
Glucoaster riding
Barely subsiding
Under the D

You’re tired of D-cheerleading
To awareness- and fund-raise
You find your morale is bleeding
But everything bleeds these days
You’ve just got to get connected
In worldwide community
You won’t drown, but be respected:
You’re under the D-O-C!

Under the D
Under the D
Your calculations
And ministrations
Just sorcery!
Taking injections like a chump
Or just always attached to a pump
No getaways here
Counting our days here
Under the D
Under the D
We’re doing time fo’
No crime but auto-
Under a white blood cell assault-
How dare you say it’s anyone’s fault?
We take exception
To your perception
Under the D

The basal appraisal
Bolus that trolls us
Carbs with the barbs
The endo cajoles us
Lancet will dance it
SWAGing, we chance it
Yes, we can eat that dough!

We slip from a strip
Inaccurate facts
We flip at a quip
That’s lacking in tact
We sigh at a high
A site in the thigh
And oh, those hypos blow!

Under the D
The D-O-C
When you have no choice
Raise up that e-voice
With agency!
When diabetes tells you “quit,”
Know that you’ll never listen to it
You’re a survivor
And you will strive here
Under the D
We’ll talk it out here
Until we shout here
The D-O-C
Each little Tweeter
Whose blood is sweeter
Adds to the chorus
You can’t ignore us
Starting a movement
‘Til there’s improvement
The D-O-C!

Monday, May 12, 2014

D-Blog Week Day 1: Change The World (Sweat the Small Stuff)

Today marks the start of D-Blog week, a wonderful yearly outpouring of the diabetic experience as organized by Karen Graffeo of Bitter-Sweet Diabetes. Go here to learn more about the week and why it's important.

Today's topic is: "Change The World" - what diabetes issues are you passionate about?

When we talk about changing the world, there’s a lot of emphasis on the big picture; drastically improving our lives, finding a cure, creating a more affordable diabetic world. On a day-to-day basis, however, we think and post a lot about the small annoyances of diabetes, partially because there are a lot of them. Broken site. Pharmacy mix-up. Insulin skunked. Supply cost. Error five. High. Low. Out of glucose tablets. Out of time. Out of patience. Buzzing inappropriately in class. Buzzing appropriately when some idiot says something stupid.

We get told to think big, think about the future; to not sweat the small stuff in life, but there’s a lot of small stuff worth sweating.

Sometimes the stuff we sweat seems disproportionate to the amount we sweat it. Example: Me, at the eye doctor. I have a phobia of things touching my eyes. Blood? Surgery? Injections? A little scary, maybe, but a walk in the park compared to the small stuff: eye drops.  But if I look at the big picture, it symbolizes fear of things I can’t control; fear of a loss of vision, and, with that, a loss of connection with others.

Sometimes, I think the reason I rant/post/tweet/think about the small stuff disproportionately, is because the big stuff is too scary, too multifaceted, too overwhelming.

If you listen closely, though, you’ll hear volumes. Each small thing raises its voice, and speaks as a symptom of a larger problem that we might not want to fully think about, or might not even be able to understand fully.

Let’s break it down. Let’s listen.

Broken site: pain. Reminds me of my broken body. Ruined day. How do I get back down? How many days is diabetes going to ruin? What if this happens on my wedding day? What if something like this kills me?

Pharmacy mix-up: I can’t believe my life depends on other people to this extent, and that I need permission to buy the thing I need to live, and that I can run out of it and my life can be in danger because of a mix-up. How can insulin be such a dangerous, controlled substance, and yet so vital? What if something like this kills me?

Insulin skunked: I’m so fragile when it comes to ecological events and even weather conditions. How could I survive a zombie apocalypse when sitting in the sun can deactivate the substance I need to live? How can I walk the line between the number of proscribed degrees I’m allowed to live in? If climate change destroys society as we know it, how long will I be able to go on? What if production stops? I can’t siphon the pancreases of roaming farm animals. What if something like this kills me?

Supply cost: why do I get punished for something beyond my control? Why, even with a great health care system, are prescriptions not covered? Why am I limited in where I can live based on the health care system of that country? Am I a drain on society? Am I seen as second-class, a “taker,” if I get help from the government? How can I spend my life as a consumer of expensive health resources? Why am I more valuable to corporations as a constantly-purchasing chronic illness than a cured, functioning human being? (What if that sort of thinking kills me?)

Error five: I’ve bled for no reason. I’ve lost money and vital fluid and I have to do it again. I wonder what it’s like not seeing your own blood all the time, even though I just failed at bleeding enough. You had one job, lancet. How can this be my day-to-day? Who knows if the strip will lie to me even if I get enough blood on it, and tell my I’m a number that I’m not? And what if something like that kills me?

Out of glucose tablets: Why is it part of life to have to shake and feel faint every once in a while? Now I’m sweating the actual sweating. Why do I have to eat the equivalent of candy I don’t even want, which derails any sort of weight loss progress? What if this happens in a public place, at an important meeting, a performance? What if it impacts my career advancement? What if I’m embarrassed? What if it happens at my wedding? What if it happens in a private place and there’s nobody around to help me? What if something like that kills me?

Misconceptions: How can people so fundamentally judge and misunderstand each other? How can people with similar conditions be so divisive in a rush to be the more sympathetic case? How can simple facts be so twisted and misinterpreted for the sake of a cruel joke, a hoax, or personal gain? And what if something like that kills me?

The refrain is constantly there. The small stuff is the heartbeat pumping the lifeblood of diabetes: the fear inherent in every move we make. The small stuff is the big stuff. The big stuff is the small stuff. We are made of atoms, and capillaries, and the tiniest prickles on the skin. When we complain about the small stuff, we are saying: we are here. We are saying: we are scared. We are saying: listen.  We aren’t saying the small stuff is always life or death, but contained within the small stuff is life and death, over and over. Our bodies have memories and we tread the same paths again and again, searching for a way out. When we find that way out, it will begin with one small step.

Each one of us, each, with our individual stories, our daily annoyances; each of us is the small stuff in a national, global, universal dance. But together, we contain multitudes.

Let’s sweat the small stuff together.