Thursday, January 21, 2016

Teens with Diabetes

I have three teenage boys with Type 1 Diabetes. I haven’t blogged much because I’m trying to respect their privacy and don’t want to throw them under the bus, so to speak.

But I feel as though it’s important to write a little bit about it. It’s been a confusing and frustrating process watching my once diligent, conscientious children turn into what seem to be careless zombies who have no idea that they have diabetes, much less a disease that demands any amount of attention.

How does one go from always remembering to literally overnight, never remembering.

Did someone sneak in during the night and take away all their common sense?

Should I call the police?

The only thing I can count on these days is routine set changes, and only because insulin is gone and they don’t like throwing up from ketones. Everything else is a crapshoot.

It’s frustrating.

Frustrating also is the fact that they all have good A1C’s.

Yes, I wrote those words. Sure, I’m thankful, but it’s luck. One day a consequence will rear it’s ugly head and I’ll have to watch. As a parent, worry breeds at an alarming rate in the depths of my chest cavity. I wonder what happens when there is no more room for the worry to grow. Will I explode?

I’m pretty sure my swelly brain has already exploded, as most days I feel like I’m herding cats.

Every day I ask myself: Why am I herding these cats? Can’t these cats herd themselves? Why am I even trying to herd these very capable cats?

More importantly, cats don’t want to be herded. You herd them and then they run away seconds after you get them in line. Do these cats have brain injuries? I’ve trained them since they were kittens and they used to herd themselves in perfect formation. They did it for years, now it’s like they have amnesia and don’t remember ever have herded.

It absolutely feels like a losing battle.

And I absolutely feel like a failure every night when I lie down to sleep.

And then I read an article about teenage brain development and suddenly it all makes sense.

No, they don’t have brain damage…but close:

“The brains of teenagers literally aren’t physically fully connected. In an adult brain, there are a number of neural connections that allow the different parts of the brain to all work together. In the teenage brain, these connections aren’t fully formed yet, and it, unsurprisingly, impacts the brain’s ability to process information in a way that looks at the entire picture. It’s been found that the last part of the brain to finish developing its connections is the frontal lobe, which is also the part of the brain that governs attention span, impulses, and motivation.”

Thank you science for helping me realize I’m not a complete failure.

I’ll continue herding and they’ll continue growing connections until one day, my zombie cats will turn into responsible adults.

In the mean time, solidarity to all the parents of teens with Diabetes. There’s hope for us yet.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The hilarity of Diabetes.

They deserve it.

They bring it on themselves; they deserve to be demeaned, pointed fingers at, and scoffed.

After all, they aren’t legitimate human beings, they’re jokes. Punch lines. Disgusting taglines.

They could all stop eating donuts and their problems would be solved.


They’re like cartoons. They aren’t real. How could someone so stupid have feelings?

I’m better than them.

Sure, I drink regular coke and eat fast food…but not McDonald’s, you know…like Panera, and breakfast sandwiches and low-fat lattes from Starbucks. I’m thin. I sure as hell don’t have Diabetes. I eat salads sometimes.

I’m not that stupid.

Everyone is laughing about it: The people on TV. (Jamie Oliver throws up in his mouth every time he says the word.) Disney/Pixar made a joke in their last film…

For crying out loud, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES THINKS THEY’RE A JOKE TOO! And he isn’t afraid to call them out. Why shouldn’t I?

Because obviously, they have diabetes from eating too much bacon and donuts.


The millions of people who have it just need to put the food down and take a fargin walk. For reals. Every single magazine in the world has an article on how to reverse and cure their diabetes, and they don’t do it.

Eat cinnamon people!

Lazy. Its just laziness. At least I try. I go to the gym once in awhile.

So I will laugh, and meme until my heart is content at these poor excuses for human beings. If I don’t make fun of them and give them a wake up call, who will?

I mean, it’s not societies duty to help find solutions to epidemics. Especially when the only solution seems to be handcuff their hands and lock up their refrigerators. The fact that it’s such an epidemic is proof that our society’s priorities are laughable.

It’s all laughable.

They should be shamed. Shaming people is the best way to motivate them. They need to hit rock bottom before they can see their ways.

So what if this disease destroys families, and puts millions of people in depression because of lack of understanding and care? Not my problem. Their problem.

They want empathy? How is empathy relevant when we aren’t talking about someone worthy of such?

Diabetes is curable. They’re idiots for allowing themselves to suffer. 

Unfortunately, the above is what is being portrayed in the world today. It seems harsh, but it is accurate.

I’d like to shed some light here by rewriting the above statements to reflect the truths I have learned while living in the home with this disease for 17 years. Although we’ve lived with Type 1 Diabetes, I have friends and loved ones with Type 2. We’re going to disregard all the above bullshit laid on us by society, and have a little reality check.

Having a serious disease is not funny. It never will be.

No one deserves a disease. Nobody. No one in a vulnerable situation deserves to be laughed at. 

But that's the problem, right? We don't view people with diabetes as vulnerable. We view them as people who eat only unhealthy food. Diabetes is so much more than food. Diet can be a contributing factor, but it isn’t brought on by on by diet alone. There are variables, predispositions, family histories, and a body chemistries. Sometimes it is metabolic, sometimes it is autoimmune. Sometimes it is a byproduct of another disease, another system shutting down. 

People with Diabetes are not a joke. They are not a punch line, or a tagline to your memes. They are human beings. Who deserve dignity, and help rather than criticism.

 This meme shows up on my facebook feed often. Always a debate follows between those who are offended, and those who think it’s the funniest thing ever. But you know who doesn’t think it’s funny? Bob.

This is a real comment in response to someone who said the candy bar/Bob meme was offensive to them: THIS IS FUNNY! If you don't see the humor, MOVE ON!!! It's facebook, people. This is NOT real life.”

I’m sorry, it is real life. Diabetes is real life to millions of people, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, every day.

If Type 2 Diabetes were only poor diet, everyone would have it. More people than not have terrible diets, and if you don't believe that, you're lying to yourself. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a healthy metabolism, good for you…but that doesn’t make you better than those that have metabolisms that have crashed.

Some overweight people have Diabetes. Some overweight people do not. That is a fact.

Some skinny people have Diabetes. Some skinny people do not. Also a fact.

 Why the hate? Why treat them like characters in your favorite sitcom than your actual neighbors. If someone you loved had diabetes, would you show so much distain?

If you do not have diabetes, it doesn’t automatically make you better than those that do. If you believe such, you need to check your ego at the door.

 Did you know that 1 Large Protein Berry Smoothie at Jamba Juice has over 100g of carbohydrates in it? That’s more than 2 Burger King Whoopers, and more than half of the carbohydrates someone on a 2000 calorie diet should eat in a day.  If you get a mocha and a blueberry oatmeal for breakfast from Starbucks, that’s also over 100g of carbohydrates. Most are uneducated about what they are eating. There is a learning curve for all of us. 

Diabetes is not cureable. Type 1 OR Type 2. Even though some doctor says it is. Even though the commercial says it is. Even though every magazine in America says it is. Yes, some people with Type 2 are lucky enough to get off medication. But diabetes remains. It is there waiting. Lurking. It isn’t just GONE. Ever. 

According to Web MD: "The term 'reversal' is used when people can go off medication but still must engage in a lifestyle program in order to stay off," says Ann Albright, PhD, RD. She's the director of diabetes translation at the CDC. For some people, reaching a healthier weight will mean taking fewer medications, or in rarer cases, no longer needing those medications at all. In one study, people with Type 2 Diabetes exercised for 175 minutes a week, limited their calories to 1,200 to 1,800 per day, and got weekly counseling and education on these lifestyle changes. Within a year, about 10% got off their diabetes medications or improved to the point where their blood sugar level was no longer in the diabetes range, and was instead classified as pre-diabetes.

Results were best for those who lost the most weight or who started the program with less severe or newly diagnosed diabetes. Fifteen percent to 20% of these people (in the best of circumstances) were able to stop taking their diabetes medications.

And the other 80 to 85% who exercised and dieted? They could not get off the medication.

Many times people with diabetes are told to eat less and sent on their way to fix their health themselves. They aren't given any help. This is like telling someone who is depressed to leave the office and just stop being depressed. But that is exactly what is happening. People with diabetes need tools, but instead are left to find their own solutions without much guidance. They need help. They need understanding. They need medications. Diabetes is said to be caused by weight gain. But studies are showing that maybe weight gain is a side effect of Diabetes. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I know many very thin, fit adults diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and others with pre-diabetes. There are other things going on here. Assuming. Judging. Mocking. They aren’t the answers.

Shaming people does not motivate people. We need to build people up to empower them, not tear them down.

 But society says tearing down is ok. How is taking away someone’s value going to motivate them for change?

It’s ok to make fun of a disease because their poster child is fat?

Well that poster child has a story. And feelings.  

Our world is lacking in the empathy department. Sarcasm and egotism reign. “It isn’t me…I will point, and I will laugh, and I will blame.”

 So the people with Diabetes try to numb the pain. But here is the thing. Research shows that we can’t selectively numb our emotions, when we numb the negative emotions, the positive ones numb too. There is no happy life when you’re the butt of jokes everywhere you turn.

We need to take a hard look at how society is treating people with Diabetes, or even people with extra weight. The word Diabetes incites negativity. Not towards the disease, but towards the people who have it.

How is that right?

I'll answer that: It just isn't.

Quotes from Dr. BrenĂ© Brown, who is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. BrenĂ© is the author of three #1 New York Times Bestsellers: Rising StrongDaring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Type 1 Diabetes looks like...

A blond boy who just finished third grade and has been losing weight. His parents think it’s from a growth spurt, but he's pale. Something isn't right.

It’s a 23-year-old woman who is starting her career in journalism and lately, she is always thirsty.  She keeps extra sodas in her drawer at work and a water bottle with her everywhere she goes.

It looks like a 6-year-old poking his finger at a birthday party, squeezing out a precious droplet of blood and then laying that blood on a test strip…waiting for the countdown, 
He wants cake. It all depends on that number.

It looks like a 65-year-old grandmother who wears an insulin pump on her hip. A pump that delivers a constant stream of insulin, a hormone her body can’t live without for more than a handful of hours.

It looks like a 30-year-old man lying in bed, not able to open his eyes. His wife shaking him violently. She rubs glucose tabs on his lips, but he won’t eat. He gets combative. He doesn’t know where he is, and he is confused. 911 is called while his wife does everything she can to get sugar into his body.

It looks like a 40-year-old man who has a few extra pounds. He goes to the doctor and the doctor reveals his test results. His doctor automatically assumes he has Type 2 Diabetes. He doesn’t do the proper tests to find out he has type 1. The pills don’t do the job. He almost dies before the truth is found.

It looks like a mother who forgot to bring her daughter’s blood sugar monitor to ballet class. Her daughter says she feels dizzy. She feeds her hoping she is doing the right thing. She would run home to get the monitor, but she isn't sure her daughter will be safe. Her daughter must leave class early, again.

It looks like an 8-month-old baby who is lethargic. He’s laying on the table in the ER and no one knows why his body is shutting down. He is in ketoacidosis. He is having seizures. His diagnosis comes within minutes of devastating consequences.

It looks like a 42-year-old mother, who hasn’t slept in 15 years. Her teenage son doesn’t want to test his blood sugar anymore. He’s burnt out. She is worried about his future; she is worried about his body. She feels responsible and wracked with guilt.

It’s a 6th grade girl, getting up in the middle of class and walking over to her glucometer on the other side of the room. Everyone stares. But she feels low and endures the embarrassment. She likes to stay in the background. Diabetes doesn’t let her.

It’s a 50-year-old man in the middle of an important meeting, and he has to pee. It cannot wait. He forgot to give himself insulin for lunch and his body is insisting on purging the extra sugar. He has to leave the meeting for a moment. His clients are unimpressed.

It’s a school principal injecting glucagon into a student who is on the ground, unresponsive from a low blood sugar. His hands shake violently. He was shown how to give the shot once. He’s scared.

It’s a 15-year-old boy at halftime, running to his parents on the sidelines for his stash of Gatorade so his body can sustain him for the second half.

It is a thousand people wearing blue at a stadium, raising funds and walking together for themselves, their family, and their friends. They desperately want a cure. The news stations aren't covering it this year.

It’s a widowed father setting his alarm for every two hours to make sure his child is safe during the night. His son has the flu. He’s contemplating going to the emergency room.

It’s the ADA offering legal services to a family whose school refuses to let their child attend because they have diabetes. It requires oversight from a nurse. They don’t have funds for a nurse.

It’s an Endocrinologist, looking into the eyes of devastated parents, telling them that their child’s body doesn’t make insulin anymore. They will have to give him shots for the rest of his life. The future they imagined for their child has changed. They mourn deeply because of it.

It is a 32 year old mother sitting on the floor in a grocery store, singing to her baby until the banana does it’s job and brings up her blood sugar up so she can walk again.

It’s a 21 year old college student injecting insulin before he eats a candy bar and another student standing next to him saying, “Isn’t that candy bar the reason you have diabetes in the first place. Should you be eating that?” The student is too tired to explain it’s autoimmune. They probably won’t understand anyway.

It looks like a father, who after being told of his child’s diagnosis, was also told that cure will most likely come in the next five years. He winces because he was told the same thing 25 years ago when he was diagnosed.

It’s a 38-year-old woman going back for yet another eye test. She’s worried about the complications from having diabetes her entire life. She’s scared to death she might be losing her vision in her right eye. She can’t talk to anyone about it. She feels so alone.

It’s a group of children traveling to Washington D.C. to personally ask the government to help fund research for a cure. They are poised. They are eloquent. The men in the offices have 10 minutes for them.

It’s two parents hunched over their checkbook. It’s either buy insulin or pay their mortgage this month.

It looks like regular people living regular lives. But nothing is regular. Every moment is touched by this disease. No days off. What is eaten, what is done, where is traveled, it is all touched by blood sugars and insulin.

The truth is, Type 1 Diabetes looks just like me.

And it looks just like you too.

But if we’ve been taught anything in our lives it is this: You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Some diseases seem invisible.

 But the effects on people’s lives are anything but.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dear Teenager:

My husband and I have a blended family. We have three children in their early twenties, and six children at home, five of them are teenagers. Lately, conversations with friends have organically taken a turn towards the topic of raising teenagers. So many of us are struggling, wanting to do the right thing. In this dispensation, helping a teen find their way in this world without stifling their free agency is a delicate process, and let’s face it…really really hard. Often our help or advice is met with resistance.

Everything I’ve read on the subject says honesty is the best policy. This letter was born of that philosophy. 

Dear Teenager:

You are right. I don’t know everything. And maybe you’re also right, I don’t know more than you; I just know different things than you. But there is something to this growing-up thing that gives one a bit of wisdom. Experience is a wicked teacher, but a teacher nonetheless. There are things I know for certain that I did not know when I was your age. I want to share a few of those things with you today, in hopes of quelling any misunderstandings between us.

1: You are loved. I didn’t know that fully when I was a teen. I thought my parents wanted me to fit into some kind of box. You are not a disappointment. You are cherished.

2: Because you are cherished, I desperately do not want to see you suffer. Unfortunately, this suffering thing is part of life. I can’t protect you from all of it, but I can try to protect you from some of it. When I set boundaries or expectations, it isn’t because I want you to conform; it is because I don’t want you to suffer. I know that there is always an easier path from point A to point B. Easier paths, and a million harder ones…some even torturous. If I stop you on your journey and ask you consider a different path than one you are choosing, it’s because I know the path I’m asking you to consider will bring less suffering if you so choose to take it. How do I know this? Because I have traveled both the easier paths and the harder ones, many many times. I can’t always see the difference between the two at the trailhead, but life has shown me some telltale signs to watch out for. I can help you watch for them.

3: Family inclusion is not meant to punish you. When I ask you to do something with the family it’s because I know we’ll make a memory together. I know that when you grow up you will remember those torturous family times with tender abandon, but those days on your computer will be only an inconsequential blur. Those YouTube videos will bring you no respite and solace in your old age. The memories of the hours spent on your computer will not heal your heart. It won’t give you the sense of belonging that only family can. Your siblings will be your best friends one day, but only if a relationship is established. You need a foundation. As a parent it is my job to provide one for you, and that might mean you going to a restaurant that you don’t like, or seeing a movie you aren’t excited about, or playing a game you think is boring.

4: I’ve made mistakes in my past. Regret is important and teaches us important things. I promise you will look back on your life and wish you had done things differently at this age. I can’t take away those mistakes from you, they will come and in some ways they are essential, but maybe I can soften the landing by helping you work through those mistakes. Maybe I can help you learn the lesson sooner than later. Having to learn the same lesson over and over again is humbling, and miserable. I can make the process easier for you if you let me in. I’m a good listener. Don’t mistake my passion for you as judgment. I want more than anything for you to be happy.

5: Life isn’t always fun. Work is an important part of success. There are many jobs that seem enticing because you get to sit in front of your computer forever. I get that. But to be successful, one needs to learn, and that takes work. And effort. Also, in the grown-up world you have to do things that you don’t want to do, every single day. You will have to work with people you don’t like. You will have to sit through boring diatribes often. Everyone has to do it, so I respectfully ask that you stop trying to excuse yourself from it. If we only had the luxury of working with only those that are likeminded, this world would be a boring place, stripped of creativity. Change demands diversity.

6: I want you to know that consequences are part of every decision you make. The smallest, most trivial decisions have consequences, as well as the big ones. You cannot escape them. Bargaining with your parents or your boss doesn’t have the power to eliminate them. Thankfully, there are not only bad consequences, but good ones too. Cause and effect is real. I know it comes naturally to blame the adults in your life for this natural phenomenon, but alas…consequences are innately embedded in everything you do. Please remember that every decision will have a consequence, and often, there will be an immediate consequence and then another one waiting down the road. After you forgotten about making a decision in the first place…years and years later…there can be a consequence waiting. As an adult, I understand this concept well, as I have seen it manifest itself in my and others lives over and over again. The concept is hard to wrap your head around as a teen. That isn’t a dig…that’s just the way it is. You may be old enough to make your own decisions, but accountability follows, whether you are 17, or 100.

7: I know you are smart. In fact, I dare say you are brilliant. My perspective may be different, and it may not be yours, but it is one worth listening to. This may come as a shock, but the adults in your life don’t like being at odds with you. They want more than anything to effectively communicate with you. You know how you want your perspective to be heard? Adults want that too. I promise to listen to you if you promise to listen to me. I will be sincere; I hope that you will be too. I get frustrated when you are dishonest or when you make excuses. If you are frank with me, you will glean the respect you desire.  I may not be as brilliant as you, but I know when I’m being played. Also, if I ask questions to dig deeper into your answer, it is because I sincerely want to understand your point of view. If I am gobsmacked by your point of view, talk with me about it, not at me. By definition, communication must go back and forth between two people; otherwise it’s just words spewed and nothing good can result.

8: Please see number 1. I'm not perfect, but my love for you is.

All my love,

The adult in your life.