Diabetes Awareness Month: I'll Be Your DAM Guide

230436_5814November is Diabetes Awareness Month. (It’s also Awareness Months for epilepsy, COPD, Movember, pancreatic cancer, and prematurity.) For those of us living with diabetes, it’s also called… November.

I wanted to do something different this year to help raise awareness of a chronic illness that directly impacts 26 million people in the United States alone. (The indirect impact is staggering. Think of family members, friends, coworkers, employers, and health care professionals and you get dizzy and a little nauseous.)

Every day this month, I will share information about diabetes in an easy-to-read, easy-to-share post. I promise to be honest and not sugar-coat (Oh, the puns will happen. Just roll with it.) anything I share. I’ll give you facts. I’ll give you resources. I’ll give you experiences. I’ll give you the real deal. Some information will be common knowledge, but other posts will be ones that will make you stop and think.

For November, I’ll be your Diabetes Awareness Month guide. Your DAM guide, like Arnie.

 

 

 

Can I ask you to do one thing for me?

(You can do one thing – or many. Your choice. I’m happy with one, but go crazy if you feel like it. You’ll be in good company.)

  • If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, please do so. (Upper right hand corner. See? Over there? Where it says: “Get It In Your Inbox?”) Sign up and get posts about diabetes awareness and as a bonus, you’ll get other posts about diabetes and me. I don’t sell your email address, will never send you spam (not even the one in the can, because I hoard those), and you’ll never miss a post about the coolest toddler on the block.
  • Like this blog on FaceBook. Or you can follow this blog on Twitter. These don’t just have posts from this blog on them. I fish throughout the Internet for nifty snippets of diabetes goodness and throw them out as chum. Or delicacies. You pick.
  • But at least once this month, if you do nothing else, share a post about something you think is important for people in your life to hear about diabetes. (Each post has a share section at the bottom of it. You can even share a post via email!) Share with other people with diabetes. Share with a friend or a coworker. Anyone who will listen (and even those who may not want to listen, but need to hear it.), but share.

I am one woman, but I am aware that a single person can make a difference in the world. I am aware of what a few of us can do. I am aware of what many of us can accomplish. The Diabetes Online Community has shown me that. 

Now, before we start the DAM tour, does anyone have any DAM questions?

Fab Five Fridays: Weapon of Choice Edition…

The song Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim has been stuck in my head for days, so I’m passing it on to you, along with my diabetes management weapons of choice.

1. Accu-Chek® Multiclix Lancet Device – I’ve shunned all other lancet devices, because this one is the least painful of all that I’ve ever tried. (Mine is blue. Go blue for diabetes awareness!) It doesn’t matter if you have fingers that are as smooth as a baby’s bottom or as tough as a long-haul trucker’s bottom… there’s a lancet setting that will draw blood without you squinching up your nose and holding your breath before you push the button.

It uses a drum system, unlike the lancet devices that I used a long time ago (and some not so long ago…) where you have to pull the protective cap off the lancet after putting it in the device. It’s cleaner to use and did I mention… it doesn’t hurt much. (I won’t lie and say it’s painless. Don’t you hate those advertisements you see on TV saying that? I’m going to find the marketing genius who came up with that fallacy and have them use a lancet 15 times in one day. “Hurt yet? No? Again.”)

I did have a chance to try the Fastclix device from Accu-Chek® recently and here’s the fatal flaw. It doesn’t require you to “cock the trigger” like the Multiclix, so it’s one push and you get blood. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Why would you want a two-step process? Answer: When your toddler gets her hands on it and pretends to be like mommy, she doesn’t get a pretend prick. We were both pretty surprised.

2. Pumping Insulin: Everything You Need to Succeed on an Insulin Pump – by John Walsh. It’s been updated over the years, but it’s the first book I had about pumping and it’s been my go-to book when I’ve had to do adjustments. I don’t know everything about pumping, so this is a great resource to have on my bookshelf. (And another good book to have? Think Like a Pancreas: A Practical Guide to Managing Diabetes with Insulin by Gary Scheiner. That’s on my Kindle so I can read it anywhere…)

3. True2Go Blood Glucose System – This little 10 strip system has saved my bottom (which is neither a baby’s nor a long-haul trucker’s) more than once. I’ve been stuck out in the wild without my meter (or run out of strips while on vacation) and I’ve picked one of these up at the closest major pharmacy. The kit comes with a lancet device and ten strips, so you’ll be able to do the deed. I now keep one in my car glove compartment just in case. This is an ideal “throw in a go bag” item.

4. BIOFREEZE Pain Relieving Gel – This stuff is the bomb. Yes, it’s not particularly a “diabetes weapon of choice”, but for those of us who can’t use acetaminophen because we use a Dexcom (it makes the Dex go all wonky), this is an amazing thing. I’ve been using it for years for my muscular aches and pains (of which I have many, as you know) and while it doesn’t make you smell fresh as a daisy, it does work wonders. So, if you have a muscular ache (say, from running in that marathon or, more realistically, down the block), this is what you want to use. Best of all? It comes in a roll on. Better than Ben-Gay. Totally.

5. FRIO Insulin Cooling Pump Wallet – I have a pump and have learned the sad lesson of skunking insulin after just two hours at the beach (even with putting my pump in a lunch cooler). FRIO has all sorts of configurations and I’ll most likely get one for my emergency bag that I’m putting together for my insulin…). This keeps your insulin pump cool while you’re getting hot (and supposedly vice versa on the ski slopes).

That’s a peek into my weapons arsenal for this week. What’s YOUR weapon of choice?

Take the time to watch this video for Weapon of Choice. Christopher Walken is a bad ass and this proves it. Gah.

Diabetes Roulette

NeonAs I was discharged from Joslin’s inpatient treatment unit after my diagnosis, we stopped in the clinic gift shop (What a silly euphemism for pharmacy) for it. My parents insisted.

It was ugly.

Institutional. Klunky. An eyesore.

And a constant reminder that I had, as it was engraved on the back of it: DIABETES.

The firecracker red caduceus symbol was like a neon sign to strangers, both adults and children. The conversations were:

ADULT VERSION

“Are you allergic to penicillin?”

“No, I have diabetes.”

The Look* came next and the inevitable Greek tragedy of some loved one who was afflicted with this horrible, wretched, unforgiving disease and was now dead. (Don’t get me wrong. It’s horrible, wretched, and unforgiving, but I was twelve. A mature twelve, but I was still scared out of my wits. You don’t say stuff like that to a kid. Ever.)

*The Look can only be described as the reaction on your face when you accidentally punt a puppy into a wall or fart in a quiet room full of people you want to impress. A painful, pitiful, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that this is happening…” expression. You know The Look. 

CHILDREN VERSION

“What’s that?”

“I have to wear it because my parents said so. I have diabetes.”

“Whatever. It’s pretty shiny.”

Fin.

I preferred the children’s style of conversation, obviously.

I dutifully wore it everywhere and just gritted my teeth every time I looked down at my wrist. For a while, I shoved it under my Swatch® watch and hoped that no one would notice. By the time I was sixteen, that stainless steel shackle was thrown into the bottom of the jewelry box. Sayonara.

In an attempt to get me to wear something in case I passed out in public, my parents bought a prettier, delicate gold one. It got some play, but joined the first one at the bottom of the box.

“Stainless, meet Gold. You’ve got so much in common.”

Years went by and when the mood hit, I would pull out Gold and slap it on. When I went on vacation or when I was traveling for business. Never when I was out “hitting the clubs” (Gah, what a horrible phrase…), when I probably needed it most.

RevolverDiabetes Roulette. 

That’s what I was playing. For stupid, vain reasons. I didn’t want people to know that I had diabetes. I didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want people to know me as “the chick with diabetes” (rather than “the chick with the classic, dry wit” – they didn’t know me as that either, but I could dream…), didn’t want to be judged if I was stuffing my face with a doughnut or a Big Mac.

Even after I began wearing a pump, I would still not regularly wear a bracelet. I bought a Sports version for kicks, but it joined Stainless and Gold in the box (which was starting to get crowded…)

I didn’t when I began wearing a CGM. Why? Wasn’t it obvious? Neon signs – two of them now. (And these items even beep!)

Goodness, it wasn’t like people couldn’t see those items strapped to me like a mad bomber in the marketplace. And I wasn’t shy about my diabetes anymore. I’ll talk about it to anyone who asks and I tend to push back when they start up the kidney or amputation monologue.

Know what changed?

I was sitting in a session at the Friends for Life Conference in a highly emotional (at least for me) session: “Parenting with Type 1 Diabetes”, listening to someone I admire greatly say:

“I have my children’s names on my ID bracelet so that if something happens, the first responders can call them by their name.” 

At that moment, my selfish Diabetes Roulette game was over.

If something ever happened to me in public, I want my daughter to be safe and spoken to gently by her name. I want my husband to come get her or to be informed of what was happening.

I am wearing  one of those ID bracelets now (Blaze orange Sport, if you must know, which makes Stainless look downright sedate), waiting impatiently for the new Lauren’s Hope one with my daughter’s name and my husband’s phone number engraved on the tag.

It will be a constant reminder that I have diabetes.

And a family.

And that both need to be cared for when I can’t.

 

 

One Sweet App… mySugr

12-Logging-plain

My iPhone and I have an unhealthy relationship.

Call it co-dependency, call it obsession, call it whatever you want, but it’s always within reach.

I’ve had a mobile phone since the early 90s. My very first job after university was individual/corporate mobile sales, back when reps made a lot of money and plans were not “unlimited talk time”. I had a handheld (ooohh…. Motorola MicroTAC), an installed mobile, and…I kid you not… a mobile fax machine in my car. I calculated once that the amount I talked in a single month, if I had to pay for the service, would have run me over $6,000 if I hadn’t worked for the carrier. There’s a long history of me loving mobile technology. Having an iPhone giving me access to data and apps just heightens the rush.

I have long lamented the technology shortcomings when it comes to diabetes tracking management. For some reason, the tech world can’t seem to get the concept of what information we need to keep us on top of it all. Some were clunky, some were lacking key info tracking, and some were just downright worthless. Search after search for iPhone apps that claim to make diabetes lifestyle tracking easy came up short.

Until now.

An opportunity presented itself recently for me to test the new U.S. version of mySugr on my iPhone before it’s official launch on June 4th here in the States and I jumped on it. It only seems natural that if I was going to track my daily challenge with a non-functioning pancreas, it would have to be with my iPhone.

From the get go, I was hooked. It’s easy and fast to input data and simple to use. That’s what I wanted and now I have a diabetes tracking management tool that fits me and my iPhone addiction. I give it two thumbs up (and even more thumbs if I could borrow them…)

Set-up was a breeze. You can select your type of insulin therapy (pens/syringes, pump, or even no insulin), your thresholds for hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and your target range. I had a little glitch setting up my carbs, as an accidental initial swipe had me putting in “exchanges” instead of “grams”.

Want to enter data? Push the big plus button in the right hand corner and a screen opens with the time and location filled in for you. Input your blood glucose, carbohydrates, bolus, temp basal, activity, and notes. Other apps I’ve played with have been restrictive in what you could add, but I love the ability to enter a description of what I’m eating (and even take a picture of it!) as well as a detailed note about what’s going on at that moment. You can also add tags based on how you’re feeling, food intake, or activity level. 14-Challenges-plain

Once you’ve inputed your info, the main screen will show you your overall information, including a seven day BG average, deviation, number of carbs taken in, and (I love this) how many hypos/hypers you’ve had based on your BGs. There’s a graph that changes colors based on where your blood glucose level sits at that point. Red (boo), orange (less boo), and green (yippee).

If you’re looking for more in-depth analysis, you can go to the… Analysis screen (I know. They did a great job naming that.) to check out averages by month, 14 and 7 days, and the last 24 hours. This was really helpful to me to see on one screen. There’s also a reports page that you can export and print out (mighty helpful to bring to your endo!) and if you upgrade to the Pro package, there’s additional reports options.

Using mySugr became an easy part of my diabetes management routine. iPhone went next to my meter. Check blood sugar, quick input into the app and off I went. My little monster (which I named Lazy Pancreas) would growl appropriately onscreen or silently purr in contentment (it does have sound, but with a two year old who wants to hold anything that makes noise, it’s on mute). In a previous post, I admitted that I was part of the problem managing my diabetes, and mySugr has become a tool to help sweep away that feeling of frustration.

Now, you know me. I’m not quiet about what I like and what I don’t like, so here goes…What would I change about the app? I’d add a few things:

  • There’s no pop-up reminders. Gosh, I have reminders with stupid games on my phone if I haven’t opened the app, so it would be easy to add this feature. Just a pop up on occasion saying: “Hey, noticed you haven’t put your BG in mySugr in a while…”
  • Ability to put in a reminder to change my infusion set/CGM. (File that under pop-up reminder, perhaps.)
  • A more comprehensive FAQ. I know that that I said that it’s easy to use, but I’m a believer that if you have an FAQ that gives you detailed info on all the tools, you’ll use it more. (And I was frustrated with the carbs/exchanges slider for a few days and if I hadn’t asked someone within the company, I would have bailed on the app, which would have been a shame. It was a point that could have been easily solved with an FAQ.) Same with the graphing. A FAQ on that would be splendiferous.
  • There’s no graphical component in the report section. I’d love a graph to print out and pour over.
  • I’d like the ability to move the tags around or add additional tags. I don’t use a lot of them, but some that I do require scrolling and others I would probably never use (like the “Chilling” tab… never used it, but the “Stress” tab got a lot of play). If I could move the tabs that I use most to the front screen and add ones that I’d like to see (“Severe Hypo”), that would be very cool.

These aren’t big things – and they’re not deal breakers. I am loving this app.

I won’t get into the “cutesy” factor – you can name your “diabetes monster” that you try to tame by logging your information and keeping track of everything. You may love or hate the way the monster changes colors or quips silly things when you enter your blood glucose. The founders of the company wanted to make the app fun to use with a points and challenge system that can give you free days of their Pro version. (As I was testing pre iTunes availability, I didn’t use the Pro version.)

Personally, I’m sold… and best of all, it’s free. It’s available for iPhones and Android phones. If you’re looking for one sweet app for diabetes… it’s mySugr.

If you want to learn more, you can go to their website. You can also check out the company on Twitter and Facebook and listen to what other users have to say. My friend, Scott Johnson, gives his review about mySugr as well.

Please note: I have not received any financial compensation for this review and have no business relationship with the company, although gosh darn it, I wish I could work with them – seems like a fun bunch of very smart people who know what diabetics are looking for in an app.