Q & A: The Little Things to Being a Diabetic

Q: What’s your biggest pet-peeve as a Diabetic?

A: I have a lot of pet-peeves when it comes to having Type 1 Diabetes. The biggest pet-peeve is probably just having diabetes in general. But I’m stuck with it for the time being, so I should probably get over that one. My next one would probably be the interactions between my diabetes and other people who don’t have Type 1. I get very frustrated when people make assumptions about my diabetes and become way too concerned about like me eating a cupcake or exercising.

Another pet-peeve within the realm of having diabetes is the unpredictability. There’s a lot of shots in the dark with T1D (no pun intended), no matter how long you’ve been living with the disease. How many carbs are in this dish I ordered? Will going on a run/walk right now, make my blood glucose levels lower or higher? It’s a lot of guessing and sometimes, no matter how confident you are in your guesses, your body won’t always play a long and next thing you know, you’re low/high for no reason whatsoever.

An example of this unpredictability is when I go to work out. I eat before, bolus appropriately (sometimes adjusting the bolus depending on how intense the workout is going to be), and then I lower my basal rate 30 minutes before. Seems like if I take these precautions then my BG should be fine, but it never is. I'll find myself sky rocketing high during a workout and then end up being nauseas and unable to work 100%, but then if I don't adjust my basal as much, my BG drops and my workout is cut early. Another variable in this example is the kind of workout I'm getting. If I run every day, I'll notice what running alone does to my body. But I do a lot of group exercise classes and sometimes I don't know the amount of cardio to expect (a BG dropper) and how much strength training we'll do (a BG riser).

With the unpredictability, comes the inevitability of being under prepared. When you don’t expect the BG levels to go low, you might not have the means to treat your low within reach. Things just go downhill from there. Or if the BG goes higher than expected and you're on your way to lunch with a friend or need to get ready and go to work it's like AGGGHHH. That's the best word to describe it.

Q: What are the top funniest things your insulin pump has been mistaken for?

A: Over the years and with the changes in insulin pumps, I’ve had my pump mistaken for a lot of things and the smart-ass in me would always come up with some cheeky response. I remember being about 9 years old (so two years after my diagnosis) and I was wearing a Medtronic pump on my bathing suit at the lake when a kid yelled at me, demanding to know what the wire going into my arm was. I immediately responded, “It’s how I communicate with the mothership.” That shut him up immediately. When I first started wearing a pump I would get so annoyed of people asking me what it was. Maybe it was the attention from strangers but it would really bug me. So one time I gave a curious stranger an elaborate story about how it was a pager and how the wire goes into my body because it’s powered by energy. So I started running in place and showed them the full battery symbol.

One of the funnier stories (looking back, not at the time) was when a kid in my 6th grade science class asked me about the pump and I responded that it was a video game. Well just as any 11 year old boy would, he wanted to play on it and when I didn't let him he took it, not expecting it to be attached by a wire to my body. We now joke about it after staying friends for 10 years, and I now thank him for giving me an excuse to go home early from school that day.

Now that I’m older, I’ll take the couple minutes it takes to explain to someone what “that thing coming out my arm is” because it’s important to educate people about diabetes and show them that this disease is manageable because of "the thing in my arm" and doesn’t always have to be restricting, a common misconception.

Q: What were your go-to low snacks when you were first diagnosed and what are they like now?

A: Clifford the Big Red Dog apple juice boxes! These things were tiny, so perfect for fixing a hypo. My mom would buy these by the case to keep up with my middle of the night crashes and they’d just sit right next to my bed. I remember the middle of the night hypos where it would take me forever to get the straw through the top of the juice box, it was like a drunk trying to throw a bullseye in darts.

Then I went through a honey phase because honey is just SO freakin’ delicious. I’d put it on a spoonful of almond butter for a lil low and sometimes if I was desperate, just a straight spoonful. But my Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) told me that I shouldn't do that because it's there is so much sugar in honey and it can be hard not to over consume.

For some reason I have a hard time keeping up with my glucose tabs. I’ll buy them, go through them and then just go without them for months before repeating the cycle. I guess because they’re just 4g of sugar, I feel like I need to eat a lot of them per hypo. Or they’re also the perfect amount of sugar to have while running, or right before a workout if the BG is on the lower side. Oh and raspberry is definitely my favorite flavor.

Q: Diabetics can eat pretty much anything, but different foods effect BG levels in different ways. Are there any foods that you just don’t even try to make work because you know they’ll mess up your BG levels?

A: POP TARTS! I used to love pop tarts when I was little, but only had them on the occasional weekend or if I was having a sleepover and my friend’s family would have them. But every time I had one, I remember not feeling good all day and ending up with ketones despite putting in a bolus for the right amount of carbohydrates. I think it was the crazy high amount of sugar, or maybe just the complexity of the treat. The pastry, the frosting and then the jelly inside.

I’ve also never found pizza to work hand in hand with the insulin. I’ve heard this from a lot of diabetics. This is probably the cheese with a high fat and protein content, with the tomato sauce that, depending on the quality of the pizza, might some added sugar in it, and then lets not forget that beautiful dough and thick crusts! Yeah, this food does not like to let insulin do its job.

Q: Do you celebrate your diaversaries?

A: I remember as I grew up, I would meet more and more diabetics and was so pleasantly surprised to find out how I’m not the only one to celebrate diaversaries. Non-diabetics would always think it was so funny in a weird way because diabetes isn’t like a marriage where you’re marrying the love of your life. Rather with diabetes you’re marrying a chronic illness that’s just going to nag at you for the rest of you life. Are those the same thing?

Anyways, I’ve been celebrating my diaversaries since the very first one. My mom always made a big deal about them from what I remember because I can’t imagine the date I was diagnosed was something I would remember as a 7 year old. I think she knew how hard this life was for me after my diagnosis, even though she was the one having restless nights and constantly having to learn what I couldn’t, so she wanted to make me feel like I was doing a good job at taking care of myself and there was no need to always feel such hatred toward myself for having diabetes.

For most of them, my family and I would go for a big carbohydrate filled dinner at Benihanas. This is one of our fave celebration places, mostly for the garlic butter and fried rice, so it was the go-to spot. It was never the exact same after I had to shake the habit of ordering Shirley Temple’s (7Up & grenadine). If you have been to Benihanas, you know that right after your seated at your table/the chefs cooking station, the host usually asks if you’re celebrating any birthdays so they can prepare ice cream and such. But my mom would always tell them “No, we’re celebrating her anniversary!” and one time, I distinctly remember a man saying “You look a little young to be celebrating an anniversary” and I think he was quite surprised when we explained to him that it was actually a diaversary that we were celebrating.