Category Archives: Diabetes and Parenting

Interview with Type 1 Living Abroad, Ariana Mullins

 

Remember earlier this year when I interviewed Nathan ShackelfordHis blog is still one of my faves.  Well, he said I might like to check out his sister’s blog.  Ariana Mullins has type 1 diabetes like her brother, but doesn’t blog about it.  Instead she blogs about her family’s adventures living in Europe.  She is a fantastic writer (she just wrote my favorite blog post ever) and takes some amazing pictures.  Do check out her blog, it’s a beautiful reminder of what living a healthy, fabulous, and grateful life is all about.

I asked her some questions about how she manages her diabetes and what it was like having diabetes and living in Europe (and other places):

How long have you had type 1 diabetes?

I was diagnosed 21 years ago, at age 12.  By the way, I was diagnosed by my dad and his glucometer, and never even saw a doctor  about my diabetes until I was 14.  My dad and older bother are both type 1 diabetics, and we were living in a rural area in the Philippines. My dad helped me work out my insulin dosages, taught me to estimate carb counts, etc.  My brother sent me my first insulin wallet, (which I used for the next 15 years!)  I decided right away that I wanted to be healthier than any non-diabetic, and took everything related to self-care pretty seriously.  Six months after diagnosis, I left for boarding school, on another island– so I was really on my own!  When I did finally see an endocrinologist, he was amazed that I had an A1c of 5.6!

What’s your motto in life?

“Never make decisions based on fear.”  I think I have lived this philosophy pretty well with my diabetes.  I haven’t let my diagnosis keep me from doing anything I really wanted to do, with the exception of snorkeling and scuba diving.  I used to snorkel all the time as a kid, but once I became diabetic, the idea of being in the middle of the ocean with low blood sugar was just too hard to justify!  Other than that, I have not let my diagnosis keep me from living as fully as possible, trying as many new experiences as I can.

Ariana and her brother, Nathan:IMG_1246

What is your diet like and why do you eat that way?

I eat low carb, and follow more of a paleo-type of approach.  I love food, and love to cook.  We originally started eating a grain-free diet because of food allergies that my daughter and husband have, but I quickly realized that it was great for all of us, and simplified my life a lot, since I was already not eating much starch anyway.  We eat plenty of meat and eggs, lots of vegetables, coconut products, and plenty of fat.  If we’ve been to France recently, then there’s plenty of great cheese on the table, as well!
I don’t crave a lot of sweets, but I do make room in my day for dark chocolate (usually 80%) and am happy to try out grain-free dessert recipes for my family, although I don’t usually eatmuch of those treats.  We always eat very well, though, with an emphasis on great quality items.  Who wouldn’t be happy to have a nice steak with herbed butter, grilled asparagus, olives, and a fresh, herbal salad for dinner?  Add a glass of red wine and some chocolate for dessert, and I feel like one lucky lady!  I never feel deprived, and absolutely love eating all of the great food at our table.

I think that one of the most positive, proactive things a person (regardless of health concerns) can do is to look at their food supply– what are we really eating, and where did it come from?  How was it produced?  Taking an interest in our sustenance is extremely rewarding, and eating well does not have to be expensive or difficult.  It’s true that eating quality food is a real priority for me, both in terms of budget and effort, but I don’t spend more than the average person (in fact, probably less!) and we feel incredibly wealthy when we sit down to eat together.

(Sysy speaking-she isn’t kidding.  Below is her cooking.  It’s what I want for dinner.)

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What in your opinion, is the toughest thing about living with type 1 diabetes?

I think the hardest part is just that it’s always there, on my mind, and impacting the smallest decisions in my day.  What I eat, when I eat.  The type of exercise I do, when, how long, etc.  Although diabetes doesn’t limit me much, it impacts everything.  When I leave the house, I have to think about whether I have something on hand in case of hypoglycemia, and whether it’s enough, or where I could get more, if needed.   And I am always counting…  The insulin I took, what I ate, when, what I will eat, what my last number was, what happened yesterday or the day before, trying to anticipate what my blood sugar might do.  There are so many variables– how much sleep I got, the amount of stress I am under, how old my insulin is, which ratio of insulin in my system is basal, how long a bolus dose will be working… The list of factors is endless, and it can be overwhelming at times, when there is a problematic dynamic happening that I need to figure out.  I can do everything “right” and still not get the numbers I am shooting for.  Diabetes takes a ton of mental energy and patience, and when other things in my life are a little wild, it can feel like too much!

Do you ever fear your daughter will develop it?

Yes, I do fear that she might.  Genetically, the chances are not too bad, but there is always that possibility.  Honestly, this is another reason that we eat the way we do– I want to give her the best health foundation that I can.  I do my best without being obsessive, and the rest is really not up to me.  It’s not something I think about every day, though, and it really wouldn’t be the end of the world if she did develop diabetes.

With her adorable daughter, Amelia:IMG_5617

Is it challenging living abroad with type 1 diabetes? What places have been the most challenging/least challenging?

I don’t find living abroad with this diagnosis to be much more challenging than living in the US.  In Germany, I did have to do more work to find a doctor that spoke English.  My diabetes is the same here as it would be anywhere else in the world.  I think it would be more challenging living in a really hot country, where I had to think all of the time about keeping my insulin cold.  Or a place that I couldn’t find supplies so easily.  But so far, it’s not hard at all.  We travel quite a bit, and that of course presents some challenges, but usually nothing too serious.  And of course,  the travel is so worth it!

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If you can’t find glucose tablets, what do you use for lows?

Fruit– I often carry an apple in my purse.  I can’t find Smarties candy here, which is my #1 choice.  Fruit leathers are pretty good, though, and if I am out and about, then getting a little bit of fruit juice is fast and effective.

How many times a day do you check your blood sugars?

This actually varies.  Since I have some limitations of test strip supply, I use a “save and splurge” sort of strategy.  I might use tons of strips for a few days, while I am figuring out a dynamic or blood sugar problem.  Once I have logged all of that information and have something to work with, I will make changes, and then check less obsessively, to see how things are going.  On average, though, I’d say I check 5-7 times per day.

Why did you decide to move abroad? Were you worried about how you would manage with your diabetes?

We decided to move overseas because we wanted to live in Europe.  It’s really that simple!  When we found out that my husband could get a good job working for the US government overseas, we jumped at the opportunity.  We lived in Germany for a while, and now we have been in England for over a year.
To be honest, my diabetes was not even a factor I considered when making the decision to move.  I think this makes sense, if you take into account my first years as a diabetic– completely self-managing in a foreign country.  I had not gotten exceptional care from doctors in the US, and the cost of insurance, co-pays and things like that never made me feel like I was particularly lucky to be a diabetic in my home country.  Once, I went to see a really great endo in Portland, and they booked my appointment and said they would accept my insurance.  But it turned out that they wouldn’t– I found this out after the doctor had run a whole bunch of labs (which just revealed that I was super healthy!) and we ran up a bill of $1,000 for that one visit, during a time of financial strain!  I could not even afford a follow up, which would have been the more valuable visit.  See what I mean?  There are great resources for diabetics, but not necessarily available to the people who need them.

So, here in England, the way they manage diabetes is not that great, either.  But they do cover prescriptions and supplies 100%!  Honestly, it is the patient that manages their diabetes, not the doctor.  So I would rather be empowered by having the supplies and medications I need, than lots of face time with doctors and nurses.  That said, there is a diabetes clinic nearby, and I can call one of the nurses, send them my logs, etc., whenever I want, for help.  The technology is a bit behind, though.  Not many diabetics use pumps here, since the funding is limited, and CGM supplies are not covered.  I am currently on a waiting list for a pump class, and then subsequently getting set up with a pump.  I don’t know how long it will be, and it’s not something I am expecting next week, I’m just waiting to see how it plays out.  Interestingly, you have to sort of prove your worthiness to get a pump– a reasonable A1c, and adeptness at carb counting and adjusting insulin.  I know these are kind of basic in the US, but I think it’s more rare to find PWDs who are very engaged in their own management.  This observation is simply based on the way things are handled– I haven’t met another PWD here yet!

What advice do you have for someone with type 1 who is considering moving to England (where you live now)?

I would recommend that they work to get their diabetes well-managed, through whatever resources they have available to them at home first.  It may vary depending on where in England they land, but I don’t think the management resources here are great.  They would need to be pretty competent with trouble-shooting and investigating issues on their own.  Sure, there are doctors and nurses here to help, but it could take a while to get an appointment at a diabetes clinic, or to find the exact type of help they need.  For example, if I had been working with a great endo before I moved here, I would have tried to set up a way to stay in contact with them, and pay for consults over the phone or via email.  On the other hand, if they qualify for NHS coverage, then they are going to love getting all their supplies for free!

The thing that most positively impacts your diabetes management?

A curiosity about the human body, and health in general.  Being diagnosed at a young age definitely sparked my life-long interest in health and nutrition.  Our bodies are really amazing.  They are always working hard to do their best, and deserve our best in return– the best nutrition we can find, plenty of rest, play, etc.  It makes me sad when I see people feeling angry with their bodies, or fighting them– the body is always working really hard, and never tries to sabotage us! The discomforts or troubling symptoms I may have are just forms of communication.  If I pay attention and respond, I can take great care of myself!  Don’t let the challenges of living with diabetes overshadow all of the really wonderful things that we are capable of through such exquisitely designed structures!

Where in the world would Carmen Sandiego be if she had type 1 diabetes?

Probably in Germany!  The best diabetes technology always seems to be coming from there, and they also have a great healthcare system that allows diabetics to get the care that they need, with minimal personal expense.

Any last words?

I don’t usually write about diabetes, so this was a positive exercise for me, in terms of articulating my experience with this condition.  Diabetes is actually not a big part of my identity.  I learned from an early age that I didn’t like being thought of as “that diabetic girl.”  People either felt sorry for me, or felt like they needed to get involved, or (worse yet!) tell me their best diabetes-related horror story.  No thanks!  Life is so interesting, and there is so much out there to experience, so I do my best to strike the balance between taking good care of myself, and just living and enjoying everything else around me.

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With her husband, Jeff.

Thank you for letting me share a bit about my experiences, Sysy!

Anytime!  Thanks for being so candid and helping prove that people with diabetes can do anything.

“Kids First, Diabetes Second” Book Review

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“Kids First, Diabetes Second” is the first book by Leighann Calentine, who has a young daughter with type 1 diabetes and writes the popular blog D-mom.com.

This book is for someone who has a child with type 1 diabetes.  Whether your child has just been diagnosed or has had diabetes for a while, this book would be a great resource to have at home.

Leighann seems to be one of those moms that is really organized and determined to figure things out.  Her child has only had type 1 for six years and yet she has worked to bring order and efficiency to their routine all the while, prioritizing her child’s experience of childhood.

I really respect these efforts.  I think it’s very sweet to see parents work so hard to acknowledge their child’s feelings and unique struggle while still taking care of their health with something as delicate and volatile as type 1 diabetes.

This book has helpful and practical information on many common scenarios involved in raising a child with type 1 diabetes like school, birthday parties, sports, and play dates.

I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone who has a child with diabetes.  Leighann is one smart cookie and I would expect anyone to get lots of value from this book.

That said, speaking as someone who did grow up with type 1 diabetes and is now an adult who can look back, I’d like to share a little bit from my experience.  It’s unique to me but perhaps not so uncommon and I think it may serve as a gentle reminder on the emphasis we may give diabetes:

Now that I’m 29, I can honestly say I don’t regret those times I felt left out at school.  They didn’t scar me.  The times I went to birthday parties and couldn’t have cake were not big deals.  Or maybe at the time they were to my young mind, but I learned to appreciate the true meaning in a get together, which was the friendship and fun and laughter involved.  Other kids may react differently to experiences like this so I understand that everything varies depending on the personality of one’s child.

Now that I’m 29, what I do regret are all the times my blood sugar was less than great as a child with diabetes.  Childhood is a short period of time compared with adulthood.  To face complications in young adulthood is a scary thought or reality that no cake or ice cream could ever relieve.  In adulthood we contemplate having a family and we need to be healthy to do this.  In adulthood we need to get through school or some kind of learning experience and be productive and build a life for ourselves and it really helps to be healthy.  For our bodies to grow appropriately in childhood and our brains to develop well we need stable blood sugar management.

I tricked my parents as a kid, so they’d see a good number on the meter when really, I had mixed my blood with saliva to shield them from a high.  But their efforts were very much on keeping our blood sugars controlled even if it meant missing out on something edible and delicious.

Looking back I feel as if it was a gift and a lesson to me and now I can say that I’m not worried about fitting in or missing out on foods and I’m more concerned with being true to my unique self and focusing on the bigger picture.

To me, part of the bigger picture is that our society and it’s habits around food are in such a dangerous state, that instead of figuring out how I can fit in it, I am figuring out how to live well despite it even if it means not enjoying many things.  Actually, I’ve learned new things to enjoy so that I don’t feel deprived, my blood sugars stay stable, and I’m also leading the way for my family.

I am teaching my two young children not to fit in to the American way of eating and many aspects of the American way of living because I don’t see it as healthy.  And I hope that makes it easier for them to be healthy and happy adults who instead of figuring out how to fit in, choose a better alternative.

So while I have NO DOUBT that Leighann will raise a healthy and intelligent daughter with diabetes and her book is full of information that is not to be missed, I hope you’ll keep in mind that as a child enters adulthood, diabetes may tie for first.  It ties for first in my life and I’m ok with that because I have found no other way to stay very healthy.  And that allows me so many more pleasures in what I hope will be a long, long life.

To buy this excellent book, go here.

The Way Kids Do It

 

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I’m the one in the “cool” mighty ducks shirt.

When I was a 13 year old 8th grader I got to go to Washington D.C. on a field trip with my school.  It was my first over night field trip and I was beyond thrilled to be on my own for a few days.  One of my best friend’s sat next to me on the bus.  I can recall crying together when we saw the thousands of names of the soldiers at a war memorial.  We giggled about the Presidents (can’t remember that inside joke).  We stood in long lines in the scorching sun, waiting up to an hour at a time just to get a passing glimpse of the Declaration of Independence, Honest Abe, and the Washington Memorial.

I do have fond memories of that trip.  But I also remember the way diabetes almost ruined it, and totally would have had I not been a 13 year old kid.  I was high most of the time on the trip and therefore felt sick.  All the time waiting in the sun probably didn’t help matters.  The worst was my need to pee ALL the time and only being able to when the schedule allowed it.

I wanted to cry my urine out of my freaking eye balls.  I seriously did.  I needed to pee so bad but couldn’t.  Teachers told us to hold it.  No one understood that my high blood sugar made me need to attack the water fountains and go more often but I wasn’t about to say so in front of all my peers.  I got a nick name on that trip that lasted a while.  “Pee-Pee Sysy”  It’s ok.  I am not one to get bitter about things like that.  I would have called me that, too, the way I jumped up and down in line all day with my friends, saying that I really needed “to go”.  Humor actually helped me survive the trip.  It was essential.

I was so excited about eating at my first Hard Rock Café when I asked my teacher for my insulin and with a panicked look on her face, she realized they had left it on the bus which had left us at the restaurant.  I wasn’t allowed to carry my own insulin because the school policy deemed me too young to carry around a prescription drug and needles around and now my teachers forgot it?  Oh it got better- after all the teachers huddled together about the issue they gave me a stern talking to.  They asked me how I could manage to forget reminding them about my insulin.  I was disappointed at these “adults”, who by the way, were and ironically still are some of my favorite teachers.  Deep down I knew I could now sue the school.  But being young and shy and completely furious, I didn’t even say a word back.

I wanted to let them know that they had no right to take their fear out on me when they very well knew that I was to have my insulin available to me at all times, that they should just admit their mistake instead of make me feel worse than I already would feel.  But I said I’d be ok and I ordered a diet coke that I sipped somberly while all my classmates ate their burgers.  After an hour I checked my blood sugar and saw I had gone up to 350.  I gave insulin a few hours later when we got back to the bus and since it was those old R and NPH insulin, the dosage pushed me off schedule and messed up my numbers more than they already were.

I cried myself to sleep that night, exhausted by the way diabetes made my life and how it couldn’t even butt out of a once-in-a-lifetime 8th grade field trip.  I had made the A/B Honor Roll, I did well in track that year.  I was always nice to my teachers.  I didn’t deserve any of this.

The next day I felt unexpectedly relieved to be heading home.  No more holding my bladder.  I’d get help from my parents with my diabetes and I’d have my insulin back in my possession, where it belonged.

And then as if nothing unfortunate ever happened, as if I never had diabetes at all, I thought about nothing but all the good memories from the trip.

That’s the way kids do it.  And for those with diabetes, it’s a miraculous saving grace.

Diabetes isn’t a Drama Queen

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The other night, I realized my kids had ate my glucose tablets so I reached under my bed for the emergency bag of gummy candies I have stashed there.  I frantically tore the bag open and started stuffing my mouth in frustration.  Alex studied me for a moment and said, “Are you ok?”

Through a mouthful of sticky, fruit shaped, red 40 dyed High Fructose Corn Syrup poison I muttered, “I hate these lows, the ones that shoot down quickly.”  Then as beads of sweat came down my forehead and my heart raced I said, “It literally feels like death is coming to get me.”

Alex looked at me sympathetically and said frankly, “Well, that’s pretty much what’s happening, isn’t it?”

I’m usually a tad dramatic but this time and many other times, diabetes rises to the occasion.

Diabetes isn’t a drama queen.  And we’re not drama queens or kings for living with it.

This stuff is for real.

Three

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My kid’s turned three the other day.  We spent the day watching 9 little kids play together in celebration.  They all dealt with obstacles as those obstacles presented themselves (how do I reach that blackberry on the blackberry tree?)  They helped each other.  They weren’t afraid to tell the truth.  Or to cry.  Or laugh.  And when they fell down they just jumped back up and continued on their way.

If we manage our diabetes in the same spirit with which a child lives, I think we can do pretty well.

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The kids planted a tree with dad for their birthday.

A word on my children in case they read this one day.  Aurora is a sensitive and cheerful child.  She likes to act.  In fact, the world is her stage, almost all the time.  She can play alone for hours.  She loves to dance and sing and is very enthusiastic and kind towards others.  She is a bit of a drama queen like me, which entertains me to no end.  She loves being outdoors and discovered that she loves being barefoot outside.  So much so that I now struggle to get her to wear shoes.  Oh, and she’s very stubborn.  But I’m kind of glad about that.  Her favorite food is anything starchy or sweet (ugh).

Henri is really extroverted and friendly.  He is excitable and high energy.  When he stops moving he falls asleep.  He loves to inspect everything new that presents itself, whether that be a bug, a piece of technology, a toy, or a blade of grass.  He can be a handful but I have discovered that if he’s had his fill of social endeavor, he’s calm and happy.  If not, well, look out, that’s all I gotta say.  With all his moving about he is a surprisingly good cuddle bug and is very affectionate and loving.  He is also very decisive and bossy.  He’ll only eat chicken if there are bones attached.

The Girl’s Guide to Diabetes also turns Three!

I had began blogging with one goal in mind: to tell others that going from lowest of low to happy and healthy was possible because that’s my story.  But this blogging thing has turned into a vehicle for being a diabetes advocate and for discovering opportunities for talking to more people about our diabetes than I ever imagined.  My favorite thing is teamwork and camaraderie and working on making a real difference.  Blogging has opened up a world where these things are all possible-much more so than if I had just done what I set out to do initially.

So here’s to going with the flow and letting hard work and one’s heart lead the way.  Fulfillment doesn’t escape us that way.  I foresee blogging forever so watch out!

XOXO

ps:  If you want to guest post, I don’t care who you are, you’re welcome to (provided you’re real).  Contact me at sysy@thegirlsguidetodiabetes.com

Leashes Aren’t Only for Dogs

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Aurora took this picture of “daddy chasing brother”

Alex is going to be away a few weeks working out of state which is leaving me going from cliff hanging to free falling.  Or so it feels.

It’s not just that I’m doing more by myself but also, Alex and I are used to doing everything together so it’s hard to have him away.  And of course, there is the issue of having twin toddlers and how they are at an age where it’s much easier to have a one adult per child ratio happening.

Just the other day at the grocery store, Henri took off running as I was paying.  I left Aurora by the cart and took off sprinting after him.  Henri is the fastest little boy I’ve ever seen and of course, he’s mine.  Just as he was about to pass the last set of doors before getting to the street, an elderly man saw him and his lunatic mom (aka-me) a ways behind him, screaming “STOP Henriiii!”  The man shuffled his feet to the left and then to the right repeatedly while bent over with arms spread to the sides to prevent Henri from getting past.  The man looked exactly like a center on the basketball court.  Henri tried one last attempt through the man’s legs as the stranger whom we’ll call “light on his feet Bob” snatched him up and handed him to me.

I was so embarrassed I apologized and thanked “Bob” and he said while grinning, “Nah, honey, now you see why they say it takes a village?”  A village of kind, nimble footed souls, yes.  Then off I went in search of Aurora who had picked up a few bags of M&M’s, clutching them close to her chocolate loving heart.  It’s funny, she’s never had M&M’s before, doesn’t see TV commercials, and yet her instincts tell her they’re good.

So that’s why we don’t go out often enough.  Let me ask you all a desperate and serious question.  Would it be awful to use those …child leashes-I mean restraints?  I keep cringing at the thought of using them but I cringe even more to think of one of my kids meeting a car while on the run.  They do it a lot.  They think it’s funny to see me freak out.  Did you see one of the latest Modern Family episodes where Cam and Mitchell use one for their daughter while at Disneyland?  Did you see the way the family reacted?  Like it was inappropriate and ridiculous looking?  Like they were treating her like an untrained puppy?  WELL.  That’s what I’m talking about.  And they were two adults for one child.

My mom had five kids and she says that she has learned that twins are uniquely difficult (not more, just uniquely) because of how they’re at the same developmental stage.  And I think that’s what is tough for me.  I can’t go anywhere safely or without tons of stress but almost everyone imagines I should be able to (as I imagined I’d be able to before actually experiencing this wonderful madness).  It’s not that I feel judged.  I just don’t feel quite understood.  Even some of my siblings don’t see what’s so challenging about it.  And then there’s the third baby I have to take care of-my diabetes.  The combination makes me feel like I’m risking the kid’s safety too often and my health, too.

That’s it.  I’m ordering child restraints right away.  Thanks for listening.  And next time we all see a kid-on-a-leash, let’s think about how the parent behind the child is simply scared that their little runaway will run away and get abducted or struck by a car.  Or injure a helpful stranger trying to stop them.

Interview about Bonding with My Sister Over Type 1 Diabetes

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Painting is called “Thank You” by Ana Morales

 

I had a chance to meet Sanofi’s Laura Kolodjeski in Washington D.C. last month and not only did we so easily hit it off as friends, Laura also interviewed me about what it was like for my family to have two type 1 diabetes diagnosis in the family.  You all know how I can go on and on and so here is Part 1 of that interview.  It’s pretty candid considering how comfortable I was speaking to Laura.  I hope you all enjoy.

Thanks, Laura!

Confessions From a Stay-At-Home Mom

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Yes, that’s my son wearing his sister’s hair bow.

 

Lately I’ve had some breakthroughs in honesty with myself (sounds funny and sad all at once doesn’t it?)  I’ve come to an interesting conclusion…

During my twin pregnancy I imagined being the kind of mom that cooks organic food, takes the kids out to the park and on play dates, reads books and plays games and sings songs all day, and enjoys it all thoroughly.

HA.

I’ve slowly but surely arrived at the understanding with myself that I suck as a stay at home mom.  There.  I said it.  Just to catch a break I let my kids color on the walls (which takes HOURS of scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar to remove).  I allow them to leap over the high end of the couch (yeah, kinda dangerous-but they’re so skillful!).  And sometimes they eat pop tarts for breakfast (which leads me to deal with the subsequent sugar overload and extremely agitated behavior).  Now don’t get me wrong.  I know that’s not that bad.  Overall, my kids eat healthy and get treated really well.

When I say I suck as a stay at home mom, what I mean is I don’t like it (I can’t believe I just said that).

I do like being in my robe all morning if I so please.  I like knowing how my kids are doing at all times of the day.  I like seeing the fun and funny and crazy things they do.  I know I’m fortunate to be able to stay home with them.  But, I feel like I lose my mind.  Even when I was a kid, I preferred to hang around adults.  Now that I am one, this is all too true for me.  One never gets used to diapers, in my case.  I can only sing but so many kid songs during the day before I feel my brain wanting to explode.  And when my kids scream in unison, I want to run down the street to the liquor store.

My anxiousness to work in my field of passion, health and nutrition for people with diabetes, as a health coach, has me raring to go like a hungry bull or race horse.  I am torn between wanting so badly to dedicate time on this and yet I am full of guilt because I know my kids deserve better.  They deserve my undivided attention.  I’d hire a nanny but I can’t afford one or daycare.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do until they were born but that’s precisely when I got really busy so I haven’t been able to dedicate time to my newfound “thing”.  It’s pretty frustrating, as wonderful a blessing as they are.

I will say that my kids do get the best of me.  My blog and other online work gets my scraps, late at night or during naptime.  It’s just that the best of me is feeling so forced?  I can totally understand women who have their kids and return to work a few months later.  We are not all the same personality type and cannot possibly all do the same parenting styles.  The thing is, since I can’t get my kids another care taker, it is my responsibility to not work 10 other jobs while parenting them all day.  I can’t burn out and I can’t let my health slip.  And if I don’t give them 100%, problems will arise that could have been prevented.

So I resolve to hold back a little on the blog.  Maybe write once a week?  One quality post is better than three hurried ones, I’m sure.  I think it’s great I’m feeling really motivated for my work (first time EVER!).  But, I’m trying to remember there is a time for everything.  I checked my blood sugar 20 times a day to make them, surely I can parent them the way I feel is best even though it’s not my favorite thing?  (Kids, if you read this one day, YOU are both my favorite things but I am no Mary Poppins)

Does anyone else feel torn, selfish, or anxious about life as a mom?  I think we need to talk about this more openly.  I don’t want to be ashamed for feeling torn between what I need to do and what I want to do.  It does help to get this all out.

DSMA Blog Carnival January 2012

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I’m barely squeezing in DSMA’s Blog Carnival entry for this month which asks the question:

What is the one thing you are looking forward to this year?

My formal answer is…my health coaching business!  It fits into my life and personality perfectly.  And though I love being with my kids, I do think I’m one of those moms that needs a part time thing to stay sane.  Not to mention, the way the economy is these days…I can totally get why both parents often work to make ends meet.  We are no different.

Now for my secret, locked away answer. My kids will be turning three in June and I look forward to them talking.  By now, yes, they are technically behind.  But, luckily, that’s the only set back that can be observed AND…I feel like it’s right around the corner.  My son talks all the time only you really can’t make out much of what he says.  It’s time for him to stop using “twin gibberish” or “twinspeak” and start using English or Spanish.  He knows both.  Son, just pick one.  I beg you.

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My daughter on the other hand doesn’t say much.  She likes to make a lot of noises.  She can imitate any noise (or action for that matter, she could be a very talented mime).  She can do any animal sound, even an elephant (an advanced one, in my opinion) and the other day I heard her repeating her leaptop’s alphabet sounds.  She can pronounce the sound for every letter in the alphabet.  I’ve heard her say well over 50 words by now.  But she doesn’t like repeating them.  It’s like she doesn’t want to talk, yet.  Weird, because mom is such a blabbermouth and clearly, it’s so much fun.  Anyway, I think she has a pretty wild sense of  humor.  Yesterday for example, Alex encouraged her to say “mama” instead of “papa” when calling out to me.  She can say “mama” and she does say it, but she thinks it’s funny to say “papa” because I’m like, “No! I’m mama!”  We asked her to say “mama” quite a bit and you know what she did?  She spent the rest of the evening calling me “Sysy”, instead.  You see what silliness I’m dealing with here?

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Anyway, the reason that this is something I’m really looking forward to is not just because it’s convenient and fun to have them talk but mostly because deep…deep down I sometimes wonder if my kids don’t talk yet because of my having diabetes or not breast feeding them long enough or not feeding them the right stuff or just doing something wrong.  I usually understand that this happens to plenty of kids and I know it’s common in twins, but on certain days, I find myself scared that somehow I’ve ruined them.  Perhaps with toddler TV shows or by somehow being an inadequate mom.

It’s often an asset to be the type that analyzes situations to death but when it comes to parenting I think it drives a person nuts.  Surprisingly, it’s been helpful to write this post out.  It has helped me realize I just want to focus on making the most of this year by doing things with them like finger painting, howling at the moon, running in the grandparent’s yard, playing with cousins, dancing on the balcony when it rains, and hopefully, when they are ready, having long conversations…about anything.

Interview with Dan and Sally Roman

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Dan and Sally Roman have two children who have been diagnosed with type 1 and neither child takes insulin. They don’t call what they’ve done a cure, rather blood sugars have been normalized via lifestyle habits. I was as confused and shocked as you when I first heard of this. I ask that you please keep an open mind as you read this.

No one has to feel compelled to do as they have done, however to say what they are doing is a lie or a scam, without having infinite knowledge about type 1 diabetes or what they’re doing is exercising ignorance and I know we can all rise above that. It benefits us all to learn more about what they’ve done and to think about how this information could be used by our diabetes researchers.

I’ve interviewed Dan Roman to hear their story and to get some tough questions answered.

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Please tell us a little about yourselves and your family.

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Sally and I are the parents of 6 children ranging in ages from 10 to 24. The four children still at home with us are 10, 12, 14 and 16. We have two type 1 diabetic children, ages 10 and 14, with whom we have had great success managing their disease through diet and lifestyle changes. I previously worked for 18 years with a specialty pharmacy and disposable medical supply company where I held the title of Vice President of Sales. Sally was formerly a registered nurse before becoming a full time mother of 6 children. After diligent research (and some good old fashion trial and error) we discovered the elements that comprise what we call the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle. Through an ongoing process of combining various alternative measures and seeing the cause and effect of different foods, we have fine-tuned this lifestyle for greater success and easier, more practical application in a busy world. We now enjoy helping others learn the practical application of the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle though our company, Health-e-Solutions.

Will you share a little of your two son’s diagnosis stories?

Our story began in January of 2008. We thought our youngest child, Gabriel, possibly had a bladder infection because of his frequent urination. Our children had a bad flu virus over the holidays and Gabriel just did not recover from it completely.

Our family doctor said he suspected Gabriel had type 1 diabetes. We were shocked. We had no family history of diabetes, and overall our family had been very healthy. The tests taken the next day and explained by our pediatric endocrinologist revealed that our six-year-old son would probably be insulin-dependent within six months. He did not yet need insulin injections but was close to that point. Our doctor insisted that there was nothing we could do to prevent the onset of diabetes. He said that no dietary changes were needed or would help. He advised us to prepare for the inevitable day that was just around the corner when Gabriel would need to go on insulin.

We spent extensive time researching all possible options of treatment. We incorporated several approaches after realizing that our nutrition can really impact our health. We began to test different foods and meticulously chart Gabe’s various food responses. We discovered that many recipes we found for diabetics had too high of a glycemic load, even many alkaline recipes. Desperate to make this lifestyle change “livable,” my wife camped out in the kitchen experimenting with new culinary creations.

It was so rewarding to see that within a month Gabriel’s blood sugar levels stabilized.

Our story took a twist in the road when only four months later our ten year old son, Nathan, was also diagnosed with early type 1 diabetes. Nathan had been exhibiting behavior changes for several months. He was very moody and could not concentrate in school. His grades were suffering. We learned that siblings of type one diabetics were at much greater risk of developing diabetes than the general population, so we decided to have all of our children tested.

Nathan joined his brother on the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle adventure. The same day Nathan was diagnosed, a blood test revealed that Gabriel’s fasting insulin had dropped below the measurable limits of the test and his c-peptide was down to .18 (normal range was .8 – 3.1). Although we were thankful that Gabriel was maintaining normal blood sugar levels, we grieved at what appeared to be the loss of insulin production. Gabriel seemed to be following the path the pediatric endocrinologist laid out for us, except that neither of our boys required any exogenous insulin yet. Even with very low insulin levels, their blood sugars were very stable while eating the diabetic-alkaline diet.

By this time we found a naturopathic physician well versed in diabetes and very supportive of our lifestyle changes. We decided to have our boys followed by him instead of the pediatric endocrinologist.

In July of 2008, after two months of perseverance, we ended up back at our doctor’s office. We were stunned when he announced the results of both boys’ recent lab tests. Gabriel’s pancreas had once again begun to produce some insulin (still below normal, but a definite change in direction). Nathan was overproducing insulin in order to compensate for insulin antibodies present. Both were maintaining normal blood sugar levels. We were overwhelmed with gratitude.

Fast forward to today, it has been four years since Gabriel was diagnosed. Both he and Nathan are doing exceptionally well. Their A1c tests remain below 5.0 and their blood sugar levels are very stable. All other tests are within the “normal” ranges.

Do your boys take insulin?

No. Neither one of them has ever had to take insulin because we were fortunate enough to catch the disease in an early enough stage of progression. For that we are very thankful for the astute observations of our family doctor back in January of 2008.

Do they still have diabetes or do you feel it has been reversed?

Yes, they still have diabetes, but yes it has been reversed. All of their symptoms have disappeared. As long as they remain on the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle they have normal blood glucose results. We now only test their blood glucose levels when they try new foods because they have been so stable for such a long time.

We like to say that the monster (diabetes) is locked up in a box. As long as our boys are faithful to living the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle, they are symptom-free. They do not have to test blood sugars daily. They can eat whatever they want, whenever they want, so long as it is within the diabetic-alkaline diet. They do not count carbs or food portions. They (and we) sleep care-free at night, never worrying about hypoglycemia. We know the monster is still there, locked up in that box, but it is severely limited in what it can do.

What is the explanation that doctors give you about this? Do you they think their diabetes has been reversed?

We typically hear that they must have been misdiagnosed, or that they are having a very strong honeymoon phase. But this cannot explain all the others who have implemented the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle and had similar or even more remarkable results. Some have gotten completely off insulin and no longer have any antibodies. Of course, everybody responds differently because everybody is unique in how they express their diabetes.

Our two doctors that have reviewed their cases believe the symptoms have been reversed, and they definitely attribute it to the diet and lifestyle changes. We definitely think their diabetes has been reversed. The symptoms have all disappeared. But that is not to say we think they have been cured. As stated earlier, the monster is locked up in a box.

Is there any possibility that your sons have one of the more unpopular forms of diabetes such as ketosis prone diabetes which looks and acts much like type 1 but can be managed without insulin with a low carb diet?

It is unlikely. KPD is usually found in African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minority ethnic groups of non-European descent. These patients are usually obese, have a strong family history of diabetes, and, most importantly, are characterized by DKA at time of diagnosis. Our boys have none of those markers, and they were not in DKA at time of diagnosis.

Most doctors out there say there is no type 1 diabetes cure. People who are taught that and who hear your story probably feel confused and very skeptical. What can you say about this?

Their reaction is understandable on many levels. I think two keys motivate that confusion. First the word cure is a very nebulous term that carries a lot of different meanings with it – probably as many meanings as there are diabetics. We do not use the word cure. We think the term remission is a better fit. Even so, I think a lot of type 1 diabetics would be very happy with the results we have had if it were the same for them. In fact, they might even use the word cure.

When insulin was discovered and the first people began injecting it, insulin was called a diabetes cure. Were they wrong? Yes, but to those living at that time, insulin injections were far superior to the alternatives they had. So much so that it was a practical cure for them.

Secondly, mainstream medicine places very little value on nutrition and its impact on type 1 diabetes. In fact most people are told at time of diagnosis, just as we were told that diet will make no difference. They are told to eat whatever they want and just cover it with the right amount of insulin. This is wrong on so many levels it would require pages to address. This approach sets up the type 1 diabetic for early onset of more health complications, lowers their nutritional quality of life, makes blood sugar management more difficult, is inconsistent with research, and decreases the chances of protecting remaining beta cells (Autopsies on type 1 diabetics reveal that the majority still have at least some functioning beta cells). With all the research into finding a way to regenerate or replicate beta cells, it seems we ought to do all we can to preserve what we have.

We have found that naturopathic doctors are well ahead of standard care doctors when it comes to a more holistic approach to treating diabetes that gets at root causes instead of just treating symptoms. Their support has been very instrumental in our continuing efforts and success.

Is this Alkaline diet that your boys are on also a low carb diet?

Yes and no. Compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD) the answer is yes. If you mean carbs as most people understand them (cookies, cake, candy, bread, rice, potatoes, the answer is still yes. However, if you mean in a strict definition of carbohydrates, then the answer is no. In fact, we had a typical two week meal plan analyzed and found out that the average daily carbohydrate intake was 196 grams! 121 of those grams were fiber, so the net carbs were 75 grams.

We have found that it is more important to focus on the type of carbs you are eating than the amount. Both are important, but making sure you are eating what we call “Right Carbs” is more important. “Right Carbs” are those carbohydrates that are alkaline-forming, high in fiber, low in sugar content, and high in anti-oxidants.

Do you think this way of eating has to be implemented early on in order to work?

What do you mean by “work”?

It is true that the earlier in the disease progression you begin the better are your chances for more dramatic results. However, we believe most people, no matter where they are in disease progression can experience at least some benefit. We have a woman who has been type 1 for over 35 years who started the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle about 6 months ago who has now had her best two A1c results in her entire life as a diabetic. I would say that is an indication the lifestyle is “working.” Does she still take insulin? Yes, although the amount is reduced.

We tell people that the goal should not be getting off insulin, although that is a nice side benefit for some of us! The goal should be excellent blood sugar management in the healthiest way possible. So with that goal in mind, we think the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle works beautifully! Results vary from person to person, but we believe the lifestyle is the healthiest way to manage diabetes. Even our kids that are not diabetic feel better on the diet!

I would imagine that word about what you both have done would spread like wild fire and doctors everywhere would attempt to screen children for signs of early type 1 diabetes in development and then quickly start them on this diet. How come this hasn’t happened?

There is an old expression that says, ‘the first one through the wall gets the bloodiest.’ While we are certainly not the first, we are close enough to it to reap the consequences of being well outside standard care practices and opinions.

In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweiss discovered that hand washing by medical students and doctors before they treated obstetrical patients would reduce dramatically the incidence of maternal deaths. Although hugely successful; Semmelweis’ discovery directly conflicted with the beliefs of science and medicine in his time. His colleagues and other medical professionals refused to accept his findings. The continued criticism and lash out finally broke him down. By 1865, he was suffering from depression, forgetfulness and other neural complaints and was eventually committed to an asylum.

We hope we have a more pleasant outcome, but we are just happy to help those who are willing to listen to alternative methods of managing and treating type 1 diabetes.

We also find a lot of research supports the nutritional components of the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle and very little that detracts from it. After all, the foundation of this lifestyle is just healthy food – how can you go wrong?

Do you think education and awareness about what you’ve done should spread in order to help save lives?

Absolutely!

Why isn’t the information you share in your business free?

For nearly three years we helped people as time would allow and did not charge anything. At that time, I was working at my former place of employment. Now that we are doing this full time, we have the opportunity to help more people, a nice array of products and services to offer, and time to keep developing better services. We really have a desire to help as many people as we can, but we do still need to put food (healthy food!) on the table for our children.

We do extensive research, provide free correspondence, write many articles and reports and offer many recipes on our website all for free. However there is a lot of administrative work that goes into keeping a web site running and offering products and services.

We get asked this question fairly often, but I wonder if the same would be asked of health care professionals, or even of the author of a book with information that could potentially save lives? The unfortunate reality of life is we all have to make a living. We feel blessed to be able to help people while trying to do so.

Can anyone with type 1 benefit from your services and information?

Yes. We believe the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle we have implemented can be beneficial for anyone with type 1 diabetes. It can also be of great benefit to pre-diabetics and type 2 diabetics – we work with them as well. Since we are showing people how to live what we believe to be a healthier lifestyle, virtually anybody can benefit from our services. But our goal and passion is to teach type 1 diabetics how to better manage this disease for long term health and sustainability.

It is interesting that many of the organ-specific autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Lupus, autoimmune thyroid disease, all have special diets associated with them that seem to help manage or reverse symptoms. The diets are similar, in many ways to the diabetic-alkaline lifestyle. It is also interesting that people with type 1 diabetes also have higher incidence rates of these other organ-specific autoimmune diseases. If lifestyle and dietary change make a difference with those autoimmune diseases, it stands to reason that that the same may be true for type 1 diabetes.

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Dan and Sally, thank you so much for taking the time to answer those questions and speak to me over the phone.

To readers, thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you’re feeling a pang of jealousy as I had initially, understand this is due to the amount of suffering we have endured at the hands of type 1 diabetes. I felt at ease once I realized that perhaps we can learn really valuable information here. The way I see it, if a hand full of children and adults can benefit from this information and approach, I consider this priceless.

We are so quick and willing to spread myth busting information about diabetes. What about being open to information that might be used to help some people with diabetes? What about those who are in the early stages of developing it? I think that not spreading hopeful information like this to those willing to try it is a shame. This doesn’t mean anyone judges anyone for not being willing to try it or sacrifice certain foods. It’s a personal decision that should be respected. However, having access to information and opportunity is something we all deserve. The chance to decide for ourselves how we go about tackling our diabetes is essential.

To learn more about the information and guidance they offer, please go to their website:

HealtheSolutions.com

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