Category Archives: Diabetes Advocacy

A Diabetes Art Showing

My sister and fellow type 1 diabetic, Ana, had her first art showing recently on campus of her school, James Madison University.

The theme she chose was diabetes so I really wanted to share pictures of it with you all.

One of Ana’s professors expressed worry that this theme of diabetes somehow limited Ana’s potential to perhaps show her range. I would like to respectfully disagree. Diabetes is a 24/7 condition that affects every single cell in our bodies, has no cure, and has mental, social, emotional repercussions. Diabetes has no limits and neither does art.  Art is expressed in many forms and has the potential to teach, inspire, and move us deeply.  I have diabetes and know my sister but was still very surprised and moved from this collection and I know that many people without diabetes were really impacted and informed by this art work.

Ana was extraordinarily brave to open herself up in this way and allow us a chance to learn from and relate to her as a person living with diabetes. What is it they say?  That in showing our vulnerabilities we reveal our strength and courage?  Well, I agree and I’m really proud to call her my sister.

Enjoy :)

 

536055_421620284561774_590477262_n

 

Her showing starts with a setting for visitors including her business cards and a jar of strips which gives a visual for just how many of these things we go through and how many finger pricks we endure.

541243_421619827895153_32323810_n

 

This one is called “ketoacidosis”. Ana has only visited the hospital once in almost 19 years with type 1 diabetes and it was for ketoacidosis as a teenager. It came up fast and seemingly out of nowhere and scared the heck out of us. She recalls that she didn’t really know what ketoacidosis was nor did she realize how dangerous it could be.

422720_421619674561835_1699259675_n

 

Here, Ana says this represents the time between her hospital visit for ketoacidosis and the time she began these paintings.  So activities and events are shown below and collectively demonstrate what is her very “Normal Life”, as the painting is called.

431178_421619687895167_1232166635_n

 

This one stumped me until Ana explained it.  It’s the third in this series of four paintings and is called “Attack”.  During the time of Ana’s “normal life” she read up on ketoacidosis to understand it better.  She read about how serious it was and then went days waking up in the middle of the night with what sounds like anxiety attacks.  She says she felt her heart beating strongly (which is why it’s enlarged in the painting) and felt she was being choked and sick to her stomach with fear at the realization of what diabetes could cause to happen.

381211_421619701228499_1386053586_n

 

Ana ends with a piece called “Thank You” which represents the support and love from family and friends.

282254_421619754561827_1588874621_n

 

“Insulin is Not a Cure”

281840_421619774561825_1678815620_n

 

This one is called “I Can See It Happening” and represents Ana’s fear of diabetes complications, namely, blindness.  This is a strong fear for her because of how she loves to paint and make art and is a generally visually oriented person.  But the squeezing out tears is also indicative of the many frustrations from living with diabetes.

66161_421619787895157_1804266866_n

 

I don’t remember this but days after Ana’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis at age 3, she caught the flu!  Here are two framed sheets of notebook paper where our dad charted out Ana’s blood sugars trying to understand  type 1 diabetes and help take care of a young daughter with the flu all at the same time.  She was still in the honeymoon period at this point.

423664_421620234561779_1197899416_n

381364_421620251228444_1831292019_n

A wall of thoughts and feelings about diabetes…

308134_421620304561772_205837575_n

Ana asked people with and without diabetes a few questions and framed the questions and the responses she received.  Here are a few:

395220_421619997895136_1605582001_n

530514_421620004561802_616757655_n

 

Ana’s answers to those questions:

223164_421619977895138_1637808117_n

 

Our friend Jennifer Brannock’s response:

10299_421620191228450_1194701301_n

 

Our mom’s response:

408449_421619914561811_1323939758_n

 

Our Dad’s:

196555_421619951228474_1058018646_n

 

Our 12 year old brother:

196483_421620204561782_678391208_n

 

From Ana’s boyfriend (ironically, also my husband’s youngest brother):

384184_421619941228475_1771161061_n

 

Here is one girl’s heartbreaking response (let’s leave her some encouraging comments!)

406510_421620271228442_1148861565_n

 

From Patty Keller:

483217_421620064561796_450949375_n

76506_421620077895128_1598495178_n

 

More people from the DOC responded:

426331_421620264561776_1219884850_n

 

Don’t we know about ketones and strips…

527164_421620044561798_935883219_n

 

The beta cell is quite lovely:

534367_421619964561806_652800321_n

and in color:

548109_421620147895121_1549055056_n

 

I remember taking this picture one summer. Ana and our other sister Sara were in the basement roller blading to music. Our mom called down the stairs, “Ana! Check!” Ana dutifully shoved off her skates and ran upstairs to check. I thought about how our reality was so strange, yet so normal and I took a picture of her while checking her blood sugar. I didn’t tell her to “say cheese”, she did that all on her own. After this photo she went back to roller blading and I was secretly inspired by her ability to carry diabetes so gracefully.  Even though the hardship of diabetes is present, I think this picture reflects the potential we all have as people with or without diabetes.

In other words, we do what we need to do, smile…and carry on with life.

482952_421620021228467_1602368148_n

 

558166_421619841228485_1664660381_n

 

Thank you so much for viewing/reading this post.  It’s the next best thing to having had you all over to the art show in person.

We’re eager to hear what you think in the comments :)

 

XOXO, Sysy and Ana Morales

Diabetes Cost Me This Much This Year

377891_257589927631478_1971872119_n

 

I just did the math on how much money I spent this 2012 for my diabetes.  I included doctor visits and labs and prescriptions and even glucose tablets.

It came out to $1000.  And I’d like to quickly note that if I ate the standard American diet (thus needing more insulin and strips) I’d have spent almost $2000.

Anyway, not bad, right?  Or is it?  I’ve had diabetes so long I don’t even know anymore.

Recalling what others mention spending I think I’m one of the lucky ones.  Still, I know an extra $1000 would have done my family some good.

But mom being healthy does the family tons of good.

I’m really curious, how much did you spend on your diabetes this year?

Free eBook Shares Diabetes Diagnosis Stories

ebook-type1-cover-200x270

The online diabetes magazine A Sweet Life has put together two great eBooks you can download for free.  They are each a compilation of inspirational diabetes diagnosis stories but one shares stories from people with type 1 diabetes and the other, type 2 diabetes.

My story is one of the stories in the type 1 diabetes eBook.

It was an honor to share it and I thank A Sweet Life for doing this and offering it to the DOC for free.

If you haven’t checked out A Sweet Life, do so today-it’s full of seriously handy information and a source for excellent opinion articles by a number of people with diabetes.  In fact, I’d say the site is one of the DOC’s best kept secrets.  Check it out and have a great one!

XOXO

The Polls in VA Weren’t So Bad

282254_421619754561827_1588874621_n

I went to vote yesterday afternoon after my husband got home.  I was expecting to be in and out like last time around but was pleasantly surprised to see loads of people in front of me leaving me almost outside the entrance to the building.

I knew my blood sugar was around 70-80 and felt confident going in that I’d be fine to go vote and then get something to eat.  But of course when I saw all those people, I gulped thinking, “Can I make it?”  I searched my purse but didn’t have anything thanks to two little munchkins who think glucose tablets are candy.

I thought, “Well, I’m not low yet, I should be fine.”  After an hour and 15 minutes I realized I was too low to think straight and I did the irresponsible thing and argued with myself about whether it was worse to pass out in front of so many people and miss my chance to vote or walk out of the line I stood in for a long time and appear to be giving up on my voting to everyone around me.  I don’t normally care what people think but this election has me emotional and my low had me irrational so those were my thoughts.

Finally, I turned to the two ladies behind me whom I was chit-chatting with and casually mentioned, as if it were amusing, that my blood sugar was low and I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the voting booth still standing.  They looked at me and one said, “Oh, you have hypoglycemia, too?  I get low, too”.  I clarified, “I have type 1 diabetes but yes I get low and eventually go unconscious if I don’t get sugar in me.  The women looked at me with concern and one went over to the volunteer desk where people signed in and asked for some sugar and explained it was for a diabetic who needed it.

The lady at the desk looked at her huge container of juice and said, “That’s mine, we don’t have anything else.”  Another lady said, “Sorry, I don’t have anything.”  And they both went back to business.  I started feeling panicky, reluctant to make a scene and start asking people if they had Halloween candy in their purses.  I live in Virginia in a town that is divided 50/50 in this election and you could seriously feel the tension in the air.  It made me feel the opposite of warm and fuzzy and I didn’t want to ask anything of anyone.

But, I was starting to get really foggy.  All I could think was, “Sysy, you idiot, get sugar!  It’s important!” But what is it about when we’re low?  Suddenly important things become the things we hesitate about the most.

The line moved along and we ended up near the entrance to the church’s kitchen.  The three women behind me gently pushed me in there and helped me get some juice and a man ran over to me and gave me the chocolate chip cookie that he had just retrieved from his car.  I wasn’t even aware others knew about my situation.

Eyes were on me and people encouraged me to “drink and eat!” so that they wouldn’t see me hit the floor.  My blood sugar must have been really low at this point because everything was numb, especially my tongue.

After a few minutes I felt better and nervously laughed and said, “And they say people don’t help each other out anymore…”

Random comments from all around like “That’s right”, “We don’t have to agree to be united”, “People are people”, and “We’re just glad you’re ok” echoed around me and suddenly, the room didn’t feel like such a divided place.

A woman across the line said to me, “We don’t need to agree on what President to have to support each other.”

And I hate to admit it because of my cheese intolerance but that felt real warm and fuzzy.

National Diabetes Awareness Month 2012

196483_421620204561782_678391208_n

It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month.  And what are we going to do about it?  There are so many ways to pitch in and I’ll be trying to pass the word as I hear about it.  But first, I want to appeal to those out there possibly asking themselves the question, “What’s the use?”

First off, I understand.  I mean, as a society we’re also trying to cure a bunch of other devastating diseases so sometimes it feels overwhelming trying to fight for one’s own plight.  Even though I’m doing ok with my diabetes as of 11am this morning (it’s always subject to change, I’m aware of that), others have had loved ones die, depression, financial difficulties and other huge challenges to handle alongside their diabetes.  So I want to advocate not just for myself as a person with diabetes, but for all those who are struggling immensely and paying high interests for it.  Not to mention all their loved ones.

Secondly, diabetes researchers have given us very compelling statements about how close to a cure we are.  They say the main factor between us and our cure is in our wallets.  Now if you’re like me, your wallet is more decorative these days than anything else but just knowing that possibility is a strong push for me to think “Ok, how can I advocate for diabetes and get more money to the researchers?”

The clock is ticking for all of us and will soon be ticking for many more who will be diagnosed this month.

So again, It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month and what are we going to do about it?  Just pick one way in which you personally can help.  No matter how small, your help is a big deal.

In fact, start by doing the Big Blue Test.  And stay tuned for more info.

XOXO

Sysy

Travel and Diabetes Ramblings with a Stranger

387553_257602214296916_458751404_n

One of my favorite places in the world is the airport.  I knew early on the significance of such a place having moved from another continent to this one as a young child.  The airport is like a revolving door of possibilities and opportunities literally flying in and out all day in the most organized fashion we can manage.  Each trip to and from an airport includes new sights and faces.  Each trip holds a little mystery and anticipation.  In an airport we’re forced to be patient.  We’re forced to have faith in others, namely the pilot of the plane.  We’re forced to sit still and be one with our thoughts and observations.

It’s so healthy.

It’s true that frequent travelers tend to dash about, mindlessly hooked to their device of choice, but I think even they must feel much of the same.

The other day as I checked my blood sugar on the plane I noticed how uncomfortable it made the older man next to me.  So I started talking.  I explained what I was doing and why.  I shared the results, “141, I’ll take it!”  The man looked out the window and let out a deep breathe.  He said, “So many people have diabetes.  It’s going to ruin our country.”

“If we let it”, I said.

“Well, I’m glad you seem to be taking care of yourself but what about everyone else?  Why can’t people just eat better and exercise?”

I went into clarifying some myths and misconceptions about diabetes while the man listened intently.  Then I said, “I wish we could bring everyone out on a trip somewhere and educate them all about diabetes and health here in the airport.”

The man laughed out loud and furrowed his brow at me.  “Oh?  Why at an airport?”

“I don’t know, just seems like a good place for all sorts of educational metaphors to really click.”

“Oh? Tell me more.” he said.

“Ok…well, just as with travelling, living life with diabetes is full of possibilities and opportunities.  In fact, every morning we get to face a new day with blood sugars that haven’t happened yet and strive to make the best of them.  Each day we have the power to choose what we are going to do with our health, you know, what we’ll eat, whether we’ll exercise or not, and how we’ll approach challenges.  We can get organized with our lifestyle habits and diabetes management routine for better, more consistent results.  We can choose to take inspiration and support from everything around us, from the people we encounter to the day’s weather.  We can learn to accept the risks of living with diabetes and not let them slow us down just as we choose to get on a plane so we can go somewhere even if we’re scared to do so.  We can learn to handle anticipation so we can move past unsightly blood sugar results.  We can learn how being patient doesn’t mean we have to wait forever and that eventually, we’ll get where we’re going.  We can learn how to trust others and ourselves to do the best we all can.  I just feel like the airport is a peaceful and safe place for learning, I don’t know.”

The man stared blankly at me for a moment and then scratched his head.  Then he laughed again and said, “And on the plane, we go over how to bring up diabetes with strangers by testing blood sugar in front of them.  Then they can ask questions, be educated, and hopefully feel compassion and understanding and spread that around.”

“See?  It would totally work!”

In between chuckles the man said, “It did, today.”

Health Based, Not Weight Based

540945_392165640840572_423303118_n

 

I’ve been learning more about obesity and how it appears to increase the risk for disease.  Key word there is “appears”.  But before I get into that, I think we’d all agree that it’s just obvious that obesity negatively affects health in some ways.  Some obese people can go decades with excellent blood panels and be otherwise healthy, but the extra weight can lead to obstructive sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

In my nutrition studies I heard a lecture by Dr. Barry Sears where he underlined that obesity and disease are correlational and not necessarily causational.  In other words, obesity is present in a large number of those with disease but we can’t prove if it’s the obesity causing the disease or if the two just happen at the same time.

Studies in the near future should really make this area more clear to us.

In the meantime, this information, coupled with this country’s weight obsession and the fact that people assume a person is healthy simply by looking at their weight, should really change the way we approach health.

I wrote recently about the law of attraction.  When we as a society focus on fixing obesity, you know what we are collectively doing?  We are focusing on obesity.  Instead of focusing on health.  Some would argue that a focus on reducing obesity is a focus on health.  But essentially it’s not because as humans, we look for the quickest solution to our problems and a focus on obesity means we focus on things like a reduction in calories, low fat, low sugar, foods that promise to reduce weight, products that promise to help us reduce the pounds, etc.  Food marketers are pretty smart and have zeroed in on our thoughts and have created a billion products just for us.  And the majority of these products are full of the very substances that caused us our problems in the first place.

What if we focused on a health based approach?  Instead of screening people on their BMI, what if we took their blood pressure and conducted blood tests for their hormones, blood sugar, lipids, and white blood cell count?  Not only would this help many thin people suffering from fatty liver disease and high cholesterol and early stages of cancer, but it would send our society the message that just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy and just because you’re fat, it doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy.

Obesity can’t be too comfortable.  Physically, it feels nice to have a weight that doesn’t make it difficult to breathe or move.  But, I fear it’s extremely uncomfortable because of society’s view of obesity.  We’re so advanced right?  And yet, future generations are going to shake their heads in pitiful disbelief when they read about how we treated fat people.  Not to mention how we were willing to assume and judge before truly understanding.

I was generally pleased that Michelle Obama has been highlighting childhood obesity and yet I’ve always felt like the mark was missed.  Now I know how I feel about the initiative.  Hearts are in the right place but the approach is based on weight when it should be based on health and society’s access to the basic components of health.  Right now, more than ever, we need to teach our children about real foods and healthy habits without calling them fat (honestly, if I was a large kid, that would depress me).  We don’t need them to get on some chemical laden “nutritional” diet drink.  We need to work to provide all areas in our country with fresh, affordable food, proper nutritional information, and perhaps teach the basics of food and cooking in schools, rather than teach people how less calories equals less weight gain.  Who in their right mind is going to say, “Yes, I feel empowered now that I know I just need to eat less and move more.”  Obese people have fat cells that work differently than other people’s.  Their cells literally make them feel hungry, very often.  And as I’ve said before and will say again, who will endure hunger indefinitely when they don’t have to?  Who other than someone with an illness, such as an anorexic?

With all this focus on the extra weight issue, we’re avoiding making the message really straightforward and we’re avoiding doing the right things to increase our nation’s health.  We don’t want our congressmen, those who can change crucial laws, to think, “Ok, so we’re trying to get the obese people to adopt a healthy lifestyle…check.”  No, we need them to see the true challenges that many thin and not so thin people have when it comes to eating healthy.  How about subsidizing fruits and vegetables for starters, eh?  Maybe then people’s cells could get the nutrients they need and would stop asking for so much food?

Obesity and it’s links to type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, fatty liver disease, etc, are very complex.  Let’s respect that fact so that we can respect those who are being stigmatized-the very thing we all hate to happen to us.  And let’s focus on the actions that will actually help us.  Checking out our insides instead of our outsides only and helping people make better lifestyle choices because they want to be healthy, not because they want to be thin.   I don’t think it will happen with our overemphasis on “you’re too big”.

I didn’t lose weight by thinking I was too big and needed to drop weight, by the way.  I did that for years and only got bigger.  I lost weight by getting into the habit of thinking, “I’m beautiful, I matter, and I want to learn how to take care of myself”.

It’s time for our country to adopt a health based approach.  One where self love isn’t a joke or an ego driven ideal but a standard for treatment starting with oneself and extending to all others.

On the Radio

I’ll be on DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) Live! tonight as a guest.  I’m so excited to talk to some DOC friends and actually hear their voices :)  Here are the details:

266709_416714361721219_1400289302_o

Here’s the link:  http://dsmalive.com/2012/10/03/dsma-live-with-sysy-morales-on-1042012/

 

XOXO,

Sysy

The Annual Sigh of Relief

251992_405646776159125_1318344403_n

 

It’s Fab Friday and part of discovering self love is dragging ourselves to the doctor for important things such as:

Each year I get an eye exam.  And every time I go I’m anxious about the results.

I happen to be SO “uh oh” broke right now, but I’m nevertheless enjoying the finer things in life-like great eye health.

My doctor asked me to remind her how long I’ve had type 1.  I told her it would be 18 years this November.  She said, “hmm…wouldn’t it be nice if you were one of the 10% that didn’t suffer eye damage from diabetes?”

“Um, yes.  But it would be really great if that 10% were a much higher number.”

Wishing you all great allover health.  Have a great weekend.

XOXO

Diabetes Art Day 2012

Today is Diabetes Art Day!  Did you know art can be a form of healing therapy and that you don’t have to be “good” at it to reap the benefits of it?  Today, artists and non-artists make art about diabetes to express their feelings, make a statement, or just have fun.  You can view the Diabetes Art Day Page and check out all the wonderful submissions here.

My sister Ana, who has type 1 diabetes, is a studio art major in her fourth year at James Madison University.  She made this awesome piece:

DSC00399

Happy Diabetes Art Day!

XOXO

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.