Month: November 2011

Martin and Mom - 2006

Bummin’ Around

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 18: A comment as a blog post. Pick someone else’s post (from the past or from today) and write a comment to them. Write that comment as your blog post for today. Link back to them to let them know you were inspired.NHBPM_2011_Day18

Yesterday, I was reading through the “Let It Be” themed blog posts, and one really stuck out to me. Jen, over at Blood, Sweat & Carbs, wrote about the fear that so many parents have when raising a child with Type 1 diabetes. Jen’s words are real, and vivid, and I know something that every single parent of a child with diabetes thinks about, but never wants to admit. For some reason, Jen’s fear reminded me of a story that I haven’t thought about in awhile.

One morning in my early 20’s, I woke up all alone, in a strange bed, cold, in a room well lit with fluorescent lights, covered with nothing but a thin sheet, wearing only a pair of shorts, and staring at the clock on the wall above the door, trying my best to figure out when and where in the world I was. Turned out I was in the emergency room, having had a severe low blood sugar and seizure early that morning.

My dad would always call me in the mornings when he was working off the coast of Louisiana on oil rigs, and he later said that I had answered the call, but then he heard a crack and the phone went dead. The crack was my head hitting the kitchen floor. My girlfriend at the time heard the commotion, found me in the floor, and called 911.

After the ambulance ride and whatever the doctors did in the ER to get me back to good, my girlfriend and my college roommate finally invaded my room in the ER after having been told to wait in the lobby for a time. It wasn’t long before my mom and grandma, who lived an hour and a half away, also showed up. I remember being happy to tears that they were all there, and that I wasn’t alone anymore. Hospitals are scary when you’re that low. Heck, the entire world is scary when you’re that low.

It was still relatively early morning when I was discharged from the ER. I was starving, so we all went to McDonald’s to get breakfast. And who doesn’t love McDonald’s breakfast? No one. It’s awesome. Anyway…

While we were in line, a homeless man asked my mom if she could spare a few dollars so that he could get some breakfast. Thankful that I was okay, and in the spirit of blessings, my mom didn’t hesitate to give the man a bit of the cash for him to get himself some food with. The disheveled man promptly took the money and headed for the door, where his friend was waiting, so that they could most likely go buy themselves some booze instead.

Seeing this, my mom marched after him and grabbed him by the collar before he could get out the door and told him, “Now, I gave you money because you were hungry and wanted breakfast, and I just picked up my son from the hospital and we are thankful to be alive this morning. I didn’t give you money to go blow it on booze and cigarettes.” She then proceeded to walk the man to the counter at McDonald’s, as if he was a six year old boy, and made him order breakfast for him and his friend. Then she took her change back and sent them on their way with a paper bag full of hot McDonald’s goodness.

Back where me, my girlfriend, and my grandma were sitting, we couldn’t stop laughing at the spectacle of my mom making this bum unexpectedly order him and his friend breakfast. To this day, that story that started out so frightening still brings a smile to my face.

I don’t know why Jen’s post made me think of it. Maybe just to illustrate that diabetes is what it is, and it is going to throw a curveball in the direction of all of us at some point. The key is to be ready, and to be thankful for all the times that diabetes doesn’t win, which hopefully far outnumber the more fearful moments. Remember that, as a parent, it is your reaction to diabetes that your child will remember and learn to mimic, and will carry with them through life.

And also, never give a bum money at McDonald’s. Walk him to the counter and make him order breakfast instead. (Thanks Mom!)

Martin and Mom - 2006

Me and Mom (2006)

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

Complimentary Burro

Complimentary Burro

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 17: Let It Be. What’s something that bothers you or weighs on you? Let it go. Talk out the letting go process and how you’re going to be better to yourself for it.NHBPM_2011_Day17

You want to know what weighs on me? Backpacks. Messenger bags. Man bags. (It’s called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.) Call them whatever you want, I don’t like having to carry so much junk around with me to stay alive. Especially when I’m trying to do something fun…which is like, all the time in my world.

Diabetes is a disease that should come with a complimentary burro. And I don’t mean one that says “Thank you” or “You look very nice today.” I’m talking about a burro to help haul around all of the supplies required for “optimal” diabetes control.

Complimentary Burro

Photo by moose.boy (Flickr - CC license)

I carry around a messenger bag or backpack just about everywhere I go. This is what is in my messenger bag right now:

Okay, so maybe I don’t need ALL of that stuff to stay alive. Still, I could do without half of it if it weren’t for diabetes. When I travel, I like to lighten the load a bit; I put my working files in my Dropbox so I don’t have to carry the USB flash drive. I know, BIG difference. (That’s sarcasm.)

I can look at that list of stuff and justify every single bit of it. What can I say? I like to be prepared. They should tell you at diagnosis that a side effect of having diabetes is chronic overpacking.

I think I’m going to need a bigger bag.

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

Florida Capitol - World Diabetes Day 2011

100 and World Diabetes Day

NHBPM_2011_Day16

Monday, November 14, was World Diabetes Day. All around the world people were wearing blue, sharing their stories with diabetes, advocating and increasing awareness, and even lighting landmarks blue. Here in Florida, the city of Orlando changed a number of their downtown landmarks to blue thanks in large part to the efforts of one Tremayne Sirmons, a person with Type 1 diabetes who made it his personal mission to turn the world around him blue for just one day.

A bit further north in Tallahassee, the folks at Novo Nordisk sponsored and managed to convince the powers that be to allow the old Florida state capitol building to be lit blue for World Diabetes Day. This was reportedly the first time ever that the capitol has allowed any group to change its public facing image in such a way for health awareness.

Florida Capitol - World Diabetes Day 2011

Manan Shah, who works for Novo Nordisk, shared with me that it took them several years to finally make lighting the capitol blue a reality here in Florida. They have been successful at lighting the capitol of North Carolina blue for the past two years. Like Manan, I hope that this trend continues to the point that every state in the union has their capitol turned blue on November 14 each year. Can you imagine if the capitol in Washington D.C. went blue for World Diabetes Day? That would certainly set an example for all of the states.

Go ahead, put it on your list of things to do. It’s on mine, as soon as I can get to Washington and start putting the bug in the ear of senators and state representatives on the hill.

I felt a swell of pride for the state of Florida on Monday night, and was so pleased and grateful that they made such a bold statement in support of people with diabetes as to allow the historic capitol building to change its image in such a profound way. Earlier in the day there had been a press conference on the steps of the old capitol, and one of the speakers was a 15 year old diabetes advocate with Type 1 diabetes who shared her story and made it clear that diabetes is not a disease that can be ignored.

And we won’t be ignored either. Next year, I expect to see even more cities, states, and people getting on board with showing their support for people with diabetes on World Diabetes Day…and every day.

Florida Capitol - WDD 2011 - A-Flizzle and Martin

A-Flizzle and me in front of the Florida capitol, blue for World Diabetes Day 2011

Disclaimer: The folks at Novo Nordisk did not pay me or provide sponsorship to Diabetically Speaking in order for me to say kind things about them in today’s post. It’s legitimate gratitude that I have for Novo Nordisk for footing the bill to turn the Florida capitol blue for World Diabetes Day and showing support for people with diabetes. I hope they have continued success next year. (Hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge…do it again, do it again!)

Florida Capitol - WDD 2011 - Novo Nordisk

Me with Manan Shah (left) and Rich Ropp (right) from Novo Nordisk, sponsors for turning the Florida capitol blue for World Diabetes Day 2011

P.S. – Today’s blog post is my 100th blog post since launching Diabetically Speaking. That may not be a big deal for some folks, but I am taking it as an accomplishment, and proud that I was able to share something as important as World Diabetes Day as my 100th blog post. Thank you all for reading, and for your continued encouragement. Now here’s a gratuitous picture of a 100.

BG 100

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

Monster Video Screenshot

Monster

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 15: This one’s for you, baby. Dedicate a song to your condition. Why did you pick that song? Find a YouTube or link to a version to embed in your post.NHBPM_2011_Day15

I’ve been thinking about this blog post, and letting it marinate in my imagination for the past day or two. I’ve written and related music to my place in the world in the past, including here, here, and here.

Lately I’ve been in this spot where I haven’t been wearing my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) consistently (again). Recently my sensors expired, and after trying to get the remainder to work to no avail, I don’t even have the option to wear my CGM now until I order pump supplies again.

It has been about a month since I have worn my CGM. As a result, my blood sugars have been all over the place. This morning I woke up at 292. Then tonight, I bottomed out at 35.

Diabetes is like that. Sometimes it feels like there is this beast inside that is chewing through wires and smashing buttons and causing all havoc in my body’s proverbial blood sugar control room. That was when I thought of the perfect song to dedicate to my diabetes…“Monster” by Skillet.

Listen to the lyrics. The song is all about a monster that cannot be controlled. We try with diabetes, but so often it feels like we are the lion tamer in a cage with three lions who at any minute could decide that they’ve had enough of behaving.

A lot of the time I hide the diabetes monster, and bed it down so that it doesn’t make noise or cause a commotion. Another line in the song, “My secret side I keep, hid under lock and key, I keep it caged but I can’t control it.” Keeping all of our diabetes fueled emotions bottled up inside is sometimes the only way that we have the strength to deal with diabetes, as if ignoring it will make it go away.

Throughout the song there is a line that says, “I must confess that I feel like a monster.” That is how I feel when my blood sugar is low or high and I’m struggling with diabetes. I need to let it out and say, “No, this is not okay!” Maybe I need help, or maybe I just need someone to appreciate the gravity of what I’m feeling inside.

This battle wages inside all of us with diabetes, regardless of type, and eventually we manage to become the monster ourselves and fight back.

In a few weeks I will have new CGM sensors, and will know exactly what my blood sugars are doing between finger pricks. Well, at least within 20%. It doesn’t sound that dramatically radical, ordering pump supplies and getting new CGM sensors, but that is exactly what it is. It is action taken to gain control and tame the beast.

I say to you, diabetes…who’s the monster now? RAWWWRR!

 

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

To Boldly Go Where No PWD Has Gone Before

Elevator Speech

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 14: Elevator blog. If you were in an elevator with someone and they asked you about your blog, what would you tell them?NHBPM_2011_Day14

My blog is my perspective on living with diabetes, including random nonsense, diabetes-related acronyms, and as much humor and entertainment as I can muster. The goal is to help people with diabetes fill in the gaps between the clinical and the unknown, encourage a sense of community, and make sure that no one ever feels alone with diabetes. And to boldly go where no person with diabetes has gone before.

To Boldly Go Where No PWD Has Gone Before

Today, November 14, is also World Diabetes Day. Landmarks around the world are being lit blue tonight to honor people with diabetes and to help raise diabetes awareness. Join me in wearing blue today, take someone with you to a World Diabetes Day event, and help show the world that despite the challenges of living life with diabetes, people are able to thrive with this disease when they have access to proper medications and treatments. Insulin is a blessing to all of us with diabetes who need it to stay alive, and we are immensely grateful for it, but it is not a cure. WE NEED A CURE!Diabetes Blue Circle

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

How To Be Like Walt

The Plus Factor

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 13: Open a book. Point to a page. Free write for 10-15 minutes on that word or passage. Post without editing if you can!NHBPM_2011_Day13

Presently I’m in the midst of a couple of books, magazines, and academic journals at one time. That might actually explain why I am such a slow reader these days. My reading adventures are as varied and overbooked as my daily schedule. The top book that I’m reading at the moment and getting the most joy out of is “How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life” by Pat Williams.

How To Be Like Walt

I am presently about halfway through the book, and I absolutely love it. I have deliberately taken my time with this book, savoring it in small portions, because it is a joy to read and I find it so interesting. It chronicles the life of Walt Disney, both from the personal perspective of Walt, but also by the people that he worked with and inspired throughout his life. I’m a fan of Walt Disney to begin with, but I really appreciate the details and stories surrounding Walt’s life, ideas, and inspiration.

You can find something interesting and thought provoking on just about any page in the book you turn to. I can’t say that about most books I read. To honor the spirit of this blog prompt, I opened the book up and turned to page 154, to a section titled “The plus factor.”

Sometime in the 1940’s Walt Disney coined the term “plussing,” a verb meant to give people more than they expect.

Sometimes we get in the habit of only giving people what they expect, and not much more than that. I don’t think we do it intentionally, but we just get accustomed to a certain level of performance and we ride that wave for as long as we possibly can, until events force us to swim back out and seek the next big swell.

I think of my life with diabetes, and how sometimes I don’t want to do the work required to exceed the expectations of myself (which are impossibly high), my endo, or my CDE. I do only enough to get by, and hope that I get a lucky roll of the dice when it comes to my weight, my A1C, or my blood sugar graphs.

Walt would say that sort of behavior is ludicrous, and won’t ever allow me to grow and be my best. I don’t have to be perfect, but “plussing” is saying that I can always do just a little bit more in an effort to exceed expectations, even if those expectations are my own.

Walt was never satisfied with “good enough,” and that is how our life with diabetes is a lot of the time. We always want to have a little bit better blood sugar numbers, a little bit lower A1C, a little bit less weight, a little more exercise, a little bit less carbs. So much of what we deal with is just data, but it’s hard not to assign emotions to all of those numbers, especially when those numbers keep us from achieving something that we want.

“Walt Disney was adamant about quality. He always found new ways to ‘plus the experience.’ He wanted to give people more than they anticipated.” – Dan Viets, Disney Historian and Coauthor, Walt Disney’s Missouri

Dare to plus your world. Even if you have to take a step backward to move forward, always aim for a bit better than where you are right now.

 

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

High Five

Laughing At The Hard Times

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 12: Teach a class. What’s something that you are uniquely great at and could teach a class on? Write the tutorial in a blog post. Bonus points for images, links to resources, and video.NHBPM_2011_Day12

It’s okay to complain. I do it, you do it, we all do it. It’s a natural vent for getting things out, and getting to the positive side of things. Something that I feel I am good at is finding the brighter side, which usually also includes humor and laughter.

I love to laugh, make jokes, and entertain. It is part of who I am, how I define myself, and what makes me happy. It’s difficult not to be happy when you are smiling and laughing. And when you are riding a roller coaster. Or sky diving.

I am not a psychologist, counselor, therapist, brainwasher, Vulcan mindmelder, or use The Force, and I don’t have ESPN. But in my world, I trust that when people can laugh about things, they can survive them.

One of my very favorite quotes, and I use it often, is by Bill Cosby.

“You can turn painful situations around with laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.” – Bill Cosby

I believe that, to my core. We’ve all been through difficult times in various shapes and sizes. What has gotten me through almost every single hard time and helped me learn how to smile again is the power of laughter and the support by people who like to laugh as well.

Try it. You might like it.

High Five

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

Halloween Howl 2011

Just One Little Touch

NHBPM_2011_Day11

For Halloween this year, A-Flizzle and I joined some friends for the Halloween Howl at the Tallahassee Museum. There was a Not-So-Spooky Trail for the kids full of inflatable Halloween ghouls and ghosts, dinosaurs constructed out of junked car parts, as well as animals that were so accustomed to humans that they would come right up to the fence to say hello. I loved it! (And maybe I want to go back during the daytime so I can play with the animals. Just sayin’.)

There was a haunted trail for the more mature crowd, which was really well done. They had folks walk in groups of 4-6 people through a dark and winding forest, and all of a sudden you would turn around and there would be some evil beastie following closely just waiting to get a squeal out of you. Not that I squealed…much…I mean…that was all A-Flizzle. Honest.

The zombie maze was also a highlight. Imagine zigging and zagging your way through a loud, gory fright fest full of brain-hungry zombies everywhere. EVERYWHERE! They were on the ground, in the passageways, chasing humans, chasing each other, agitated because they were trapped behind some obstacle. It was awesome!

After the Halloween Howl, we all decided to go to one of our favorite pizza joints in town and have dinner. I don’t typically hide my diabetes, but at the same time, when we’re hanging out with friends that haven’t spent a significant time around me and my life with diabetes, I try to not make too much of a spectacle of it either.

A-Flizzle had thrown my blood sugar kit in her purse, and after we sat down at our table, I reached my hand over and gently touched her leg with my finger. No words. No look. Not even a break in conversation. Just one little touch. Two seconds later I had a BG kit in my hands and was checking the status of things.

A-Flizzle is great for a lot of reasons. We laugh a lot, we have adventures together, and she tolerates my dog who may or may not leak a little when he gets excited. While we are always there for each other, she still gives me my space and independence. I’ll be the first to admit that I am too independent for my own good, and she would agree, but she doesn’t hold that against me. She will carry my BG kit in her bag if I don’t have a [man] bag of my own to carry it around in, and she also carries four glucose tabs on her key chain everywhere she goes…just in case I need them.

Seriously? How many of you carry something on your key chain just in case somebody else needs it? A-Flizzle is boss. We should all be so lucky. I’m glad I am.

Halloween Howl 2011

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

DOC at FFL 2011

Growing The DOC

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 10: The future of online activism. Our favorite social media sites are constantly undergoing renovations to become quicker to navigate, easier to interact with, all encompassing, mobile, and everywhere. Imagine the same thing about your community – how will they evolve, improve, and grow?NHBPM_2011_Day10

The Diabetes Online Community (DOC) is growing. People with diabetes (PWD’s) are discovering that there are other people out there in the world and on the internet just like them, who know what they are going through, and who deal with the same things day in and day out.

According to the World Health Organization, in August of 2011 there were 346 million people worldwide who have diabetes. Most of those 346 million people have never even heard of a diabetes community, much less a community that is online, worldwide, and accessible at any time, day or night.

Last week there were 111 people involved in the weekly Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (#DSMA) Twitter chat. That is 111 people who either have diabetes or who live with and love someone who does. For every one of them there are millions more who are living with diabetes alone, with no support, no encouragement, and nobody to turn to who truly understands the daily pricking, poking, counting, injecting, and correcting adventure that is life with diabetes.

DSMA is not everyone in the diabetes online community, by far. There are a host of diabetes online gateways and communication forums, including Juvenation, Children With Diabetes, TuDiabetes, dLife, Diabetes Daily, and ACT1 Diabetes, just to name a few. (If you know of other online communities for PWD’s, please share them in the comments below.)

The point is that we, as a diabetes community, have a lot of room to grow. So far we’ve really grown organically, and often accidentally. Someone may be searching for something about diabetes and spot a link to a diabetes blog. From that blog they may find references to other blogs, different types of information, and maybe even reach out to an online community with questions.

Healthcare professionals need to better recognize that patient advocacy and support is not going to go away, and that it is not a bad thing, and encourage patients to get more involved with the online communities that are there for them. From those that I’ve talked to, the overwhelming majority of doctors do not like their patients getting information online relating to their health condition. Most doctors would prefer that a patient contact them directly for support. Meanwhile, these same doctors go to great lengths to remain incommunicado, often having an unlisted personal phone number, not sharing their email address, staying off of Facebook, and forwarding patient calls to voicemail instead of a real live human being after hours.

If you, as a doctor, expect your patients to look to you to be their primary contact for questions, then you must be available 24/7 just like the online communities are. Otherwise, change your expectations, because patients are not going to stop looking for the information and support that they need to live with their chronic condition.

I realize that doctors are cautious about patients contacting other people who do not know their medical history and asking clinical questions. It’s a valid concern, but it doesn’t cover the whole picture of what it is like sharing a world 24/7 with diabetes.

The Diabetes Online Community is about LIVING with diabetes. Our doctors and healthcare professionals play a critical role in our living with diabetes, but they are supporting cast. We, the people WITH diabetes, are the stars of the show. Doctors need to make sure that the patient views them as part of the solution, a partner, not some overbearing dictator of their health.

Diabetes is a chronic illness that requires people to manage almost all aspects of their disease independent of a physician’s watchful eye. We look to our endocrinologist, CDE, or primary care physician for overall guidance, but ultimately we are the ones taking action on all of the diabetes decisions we have to make on a daily basis. Nobody calls their doctor every single time they need to inject insulin. We educate, we calculate, and we dose accordingly.

The diabetes online community also provides something else that most doctors simply can’t, and that is time for the emotional side of the disease. We take time to get to know each other, and bond. Diabetes is an incredibly emotional disease, and the online community is more capable of providing support and encouragement and understanding at the point of need than any doctor’s office can, because those in the community deal with the same emotional triggers day in and day out.

If there is anything that I have learned about diabetes in my 30+ years with it, it is this: The only diabetes quick fix is glucose when you’re low. Everything else takes time, patience, and deliberate action to make it better. Having a community of people available who understands is the difference between thriving with diabetes and simply surviving with it.

DOC at FFL 2011

Photo by C.

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month

This is also my belated post for dblog day 2011: http://diabetestalkfest.com/blog/?p=461

dblog day 11-09-2011

Martin_DC_Feb2011

Brand, Me

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 9: My personal brand. As a Health Activist, you are a front-facing leader. What do you imagine you look like to your readers? What qualities do you possess? It’s ok to toot your own horn today – you have full permission to indulge. And don’t hold back.NHBPM_2011_Day09

As a diabetes advocate, a person with diabetes, and a purveyor of all things awesome, I insist that what I write about be honest. I want people who stumble across my bloggity blog to appreciate that what I’m sharing is me, my life with diabetes, and that it is genuine, and based on a real human bean’s perspective.

I don’t want anyone to look to me for clinical advice, because I’m not a clinician. I don’t work for Clinique either, which is what I think of when I hear words like “clinical” and “clinician.” You know the people at Clinique walk around the office going, “I’m a Clinique clinician going to the clinic to get all clinical on some classy cloud computing clowns.”

Clearly, I have an extremely vivid imagination. I like to think of myself as a cartoon character, with a busted pancreas and a slight problem with blood sugars that fall faster than ACME anvils in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Some of my posts (I hope) are imaginative, and entertaining. I admire the creativity and ingenuity of people like Walt Disney, so maybe that is where my cartoon imagination comes from.

As serious as life with diabetes is, it is also entertaining, and I try to share that. I’m a storyteller. Not to be confused with a liar. I like to read stories where there is a beginning and an end, and somewhere in the middle is adventure, good versus evil, and a bit of anticipation for what is going to happen next. There also has to be a point. Without a point…well, what’s the point?

I’m also an educator. A librarian, actually. I like to provide people with information that they can use, and learn from, and appreciate. Nothing makes me happier than reading a comment or receiving an email from someone about a post I’ve written that echoes what they feel, what they deal with, or puts into words what they are going through. I’m a people person, and that connection reinforces the importance of sharing things about my so-called diabetes life.

I hope that when my readers look at me and my blog, that they smile. Maybe occasionally they get a little watery eyed. Hopefully they laugh out loud, often. I hope that they are touched, even if it’s slightly inappropriate touching, and that they find a connection, hope, motivation, and support in that they are not alone with diabetes. No one should ever feel alone with diabetes.

Martin_DC_Feb2011

This post was written as part of National Health Blog Post Month (NHBPM) – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

National Health Blog Post Month