Category Archives: Worthy Causes

The Other Health Issue That’s Always On My Mind

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The wonderful DOC isn’t my only online support group.  I also frequent support groups for people with food allergies.  I worry about my diabetes throughout the day as needed.  But since my daughter was 8 months old and diagnosed with strong peanut and egg allergies via skin and blood testing, diabetes has often been in the back of my mind.

I never wanted to be the crazy mom that wipes her children’s hands all the time when out in public.  I never intended to worry about another child holding my child’s hand.  I didn’t imagine I’d have to meticulously inspect every morsel of food before it passed my daughter’s lips.  I never imagined packing so much food every time we go out.  I thought our family would avoid restaurants in order to save money, not to save our child from getting sick.  And I thought we’d never go to fast food places because they are junk food rather than because they are unsafe.

Many trips out of our apartment result in some kind of itchy rash, despite the fact that she never eats what she is allergic to.  See, it’s not like I have to just avoid feeding her peanuts and eggs.  That part is easy.  I have to avoid her touching these foods, or touching someone who touched these foods, or touching a surface that someone touched who touched these foods, or even getting a kiss on the cheek from someone who had these foods earlier that day.  And do you know how many processed foods have peanut and eggs in them?  Or are manufactured on the same line as peanut and eggs?  Most processed foods.  I know, I’ve read all the labels and sadly placed the item back on the shelf.  Not because I wanted to purchase it, but because it’s one more item that is out in the world that adds to the threat.

The other day at the library a little boy pulls out a PB&J sandwich as he plays with the toys and books and I have to grab my kids, who are kicking and screaming (and about 35 pounds each) and leave.  I know they don’t understand so I can’t really explain.  I just have to keep them away.

Often, we’ll get home from a store and my daughter will be busy scratching frantically at her whole body.  There are noticeably red, raised rash welps.  She gets horrible diaper rashes every month that make her cry and scream in pain,  When she calms down, I look at her lovingly, trying to disguise my pain, and she just smiles.  And that smile makes me want to burst into tears.  I worry that when she’s older and aware of all she is missing out on, the baseball game, the birthday party, the library egg painting Easter party, snacks with friends, and the restaurants…I worry she won’t be smiling all the time the way she does now.  I worry she’ll go through something similar to what I went through.  Being diagnosed with type 1 as a child in the 90’s and using the older insulin, I had to live a very strict routine of diabetes management, meals, and snacks between the ages of 11 and 17.  And of course, I felt very different.  And of course, it’s hard on a kid.  It can be an empowering lesson and it was for me but I don’t want her to have to go through that.

Or her twin brother.  He’s had to live like her because of their constant contact with each other and he doesn’t have any food allergies. We’re all in this together as a family.  In fact, my mom is now a pro when it comes to cooking safely for us when we come over.  My dad replaced his beloved peanut butter with peanut free almond butter.  My family brushes their teeth and washes their hands and clean all the surfaces before we come over.  It’s our new normal.

This is a diabetes blog and so I have to say I’m incredibly thankful I’m writing about her food allergies as opposed to her having diabetes.  I am so thankful my kids don’t have diabetes.  I really want you to know that.  But, I am aware of how our lives have been impacted because of food allergies.  We’ve been scared to go places or see people as a result.  We’ve had to deal with people not understanding the severity of her situation in the least bit.  And because she was diagnosed at such a young age, there was no available epi pen for her weight range so we had to completely avoid scenarios where she might be exposed because we wouldn’t have an epi pen with which to give us enough time to make it to the hospital if an emergency situation came up.

So if you come across a “paranoid” or “overprotective” parent of a child with severe or life-threatening food allergies, please be kind and sensitive.  They don’t want to be that way but there is no other way to be when you love your child.  People do die from food allergies.  Those of you with diabetes or with children who have diabetes, I know you totally understand.

Thanks for listening.

March 27th 2012 is American Diabetes Association Alert Day

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If you have diabetes, today is a good day to mention to friends, co-workers, family, acquaintances that today is Diabetes Alert Day and that it’s good to be aware of the symptoms of diabetes because early intervention is super important.

If you don’t have diabetes, today is the day to take action.  What I want you to do is to act on making sure you and your loved ones don’t have diabetes.  Go here to learn more about diabetes and to find tons of helpful resources in English and Spanish.

Procrastination and denial are dangerous, more dangerous than diabetes.  Be informed and act now.

2012 Diabetes Sisters Conference, See You There?

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The 2012 Diabetes Sisters Conference is taking place in Raleigh, North Carolina this May 18-20.

I wrote about my experience last year.  But that post can’t do it justice because in the past year since the conference, I’ve kept in touch with a handful of the women I met and have been SO thankful for the friendships that have resulted.  I would not know these women if it weren’t for this conference and I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to bond with women whose struggle is similar to my own.

This year I’m excited to make this a bit of a family affair.  My husband, Alex has been helping Brandy’s husband Chris (along with Diabetes Daily’s David Edelman) to plan the first ever, Partner’s Perspective Program.  And Alex will definitely be attending the program.  It should be great.  I mean, we know our partners deal with a lot and perhaps aren’t too comfortable with telling us for fear of making us feel bad so I think it’s wonderful that there will be a place for them to meet, relate, and discuss the unique aspects of being with someone who has diabetes and all the issues that arise as a result.  I hope these partners also gain some insight into what we would like from them in certain situations.  I also think it will be a great opportunity for all us women to give our partners a big collective, “thank you!”

I happen to literally have a diabetes sister, my type 1 sister Ana, who will also be attending the conference this year.  She used to be a lot more involved with diabetes stuff, even attending the Children’s Congress in Washington D.C. as a Delegate the same year Diabetes Mine’s, Allison Nimlos went.  (Allison and her husband will be at the conference, by the way.)  Ana also loved her Diabetes Camp experiences as a younger kid and I’m so excited she’ll get to experience this event.

Something I really like about this conference is women with any type of diabetes are welcome.  So though I can obviously relate more to someone who has type 1 when it comes to certain things, I find it really wonderful to learn from a woman with type 2 about what it’s like for her.  I always end up realizing that we are all really in the same boat.  We struggle day to day with making a multitude of choices, choices which impact our health and our lives.  We all have to worry about food and pay a little too much attention to it.  We all check our blood sugar.  We all feel the threat of diabetes complications and we all want to live the best life possible with our diabetes.

That brings me to another awesome benefit of the conference.  The learning experience.  There are a wide range of speakers on an array of relevant topics to women with diabetes.  The speakers are really professional and invested in the topics at hand.  I appreciated getting away from my children long enough to take notes about things like heart disease last year and sit and think long and hard about why I take care of myself instead of worry about it in fleeting bits while chasing my kids around the living room.

That’s the other thing.  It’s a safe environment.  You can laugh, cry, and check your blood sugar without feeling out of place.  Brandy Barnes calling her organization “Diabetes Sisters” is right on the mark.  It’s rather self-explanatory now that I think of it.  If you want to attend, please register quick before it’s too late.

Click here to register and learn more.

I SO hope I see you there!

For the Love of Advocacy

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I have always been very nervous about public speaking.  In elementary school I was evaluated for mental retardation because I found it so hard to speak in front of teachers and classmates.  In middle school I used my diabetes as an excuse to not have to give my speech in class “My blood sugar is high, I just can’t do it today.”  In high school, I got really goofy with my public speaking as a way to curb my fear.  I used humor and I always began by saying how nervous I was so people wouldn’t whisper to each other “she seems nervous right?”  It seemed best if they just knew and then rooted for me to not bomb my presentation.

I did several public talks about my diabetes and other topics as a teenager at camps and church youth groups.  I have done presentations for work, twice presenting in Spanish to dozens of male contractors, an intimidating crowd for me.  Each time I was sick to my stomach, trembling, and 100% in love with the idea of speaking in public.  I really enjoy it but it has made me wonder why I like torturing myself.

I think I love it because I am SO moved by public speakers.  So incredibly moved and inspired.  And if there is the slightest chance that I could do a little of that for someone else by sharing my story or struggle or anything, then the nervousness is more than worth it.

I’m hoping to participate in the A1c Champion’s program.  I’m also going to be presenting in public this year in various local workshops about nutrition and other wellness topics to people who want to hear what I have to say.  I hope to be relaxed through it all but maybe also accept that perhaps part of my nervousness is just extreme excitement over doing something I really, really want to do that just might possibly help someone.

So mostly, I think I want to do it for the love of advocacy.  Since I was little, speaking up to help someone has always been one of my favorite things.

Don’t Settle When It Comes to Health

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I know it’s comforting to settle for the current level of health we have, especially when faced with the prospect of making seemingly impossible lifestyle changes.  Yet, I find that at the end of the day, much of our frustrations and grief, directly or indirectly, come from our less than stellar health.

Most days I feel like I can say I’m “pretty healthy”.  There are days though, when I’m more honest with myself, and picky, too.  On these days I realize I have a long way to go to reach the level of health I long for.  When almost everyone we know struggles with some fatigue, extra weight, acne or other skin issues, mental illness, and other nagging health problems, it’s no wonder so many of us tend to feel that it’s just all an unavoidable part of being human.

Many of us have forgotten that it’s possible to feel and look much better than we do.  I used to think that all teenagers got acne.  Then I learned my parents never got acne and their peers rarely did, either.  I didn’t until I was 23 and my horrible diet finally caught up with me.  I used to think that everyone got indigestion after many meals.  Nope.  Some people rarely get indigestion.  Or headaches, stiff joints, mood swings, irritability, hot flashes during menopause.  Some people don’t even have to brush their teeth to avoid cavities, bad breathe, and gum disease.  Can you imagine?  But these select people eat very differently from us.  And in most cases, they do it because they have no other choice.

While these people have to work hard to find and prepare the food they eat, we have to work hard not to eat.  If the only choices we had were vegetables and fish for dinner, we’d just eat it and reap the health benefits.  You and I have a unique situation that is becoming the norm across the globe.  We have thousands of foods and “foods” to select from and then hundreds of dietary theories from which we can subscribe and it’s all very daunting.

Why is there a type 2 diabetes epidemic? I hear a lot of talk that it’s our genes that are somehow making us more and more susceptible coupled with our changing lifestyle habits and environment. And that’s technically true, but do we ever think about what changes our genes in the first place? According to what I’ve learned, a big part of the reason is the food we eat and the food we don’t eat or rather the food our ancestors ate and didn’t eat. With each new generation, eating habits in recent years have included more genetically modified foods and chemicals and when we have children, we aren’t building a person as well as we could because our diet doesn’t provide us the tools with which to properly do this. Teeth aren’t as straight, facial features aren’t as symmetrical, brain cavities aren’t as roomy (affecting hormone production), and so on.  Nutrients are needed to make a human being and bring them healthy into this world. In a nutrient starved world, we’re consistently churning out more and more children who are challenged with early health issues like the predisposition to allergies, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

The good news is that even if we suffered the effects of malnourished ancestors, (remember you can be overweight and malnourished) we can still turn things around for future generations. We can change our eating habits and create healthier children, who will in turn be poised to create healthier children themselves.

We can also change our habits and gain from doing so right now.  Genes get activated much like an on/off switch with what we eat and how we live.  If we carry a predisposition to type 2 diabetes, a certain lifestyle has the potential to keep the switch on off and help us avoid developing type 2 diabetes.  This is not an easy task in this modern world of ours but I think it’s empowering to know what’s possible and to strive towards the best outcome for all of us.  I understand we can’t do this overnight.  Personally, I’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to trying to begin to change my lifestyle habits.  I can attest to the fact that it takes time and a lot of effort.  But, I do think it’s worth it and doable.

Health isn’t just about comfort and looks.  It’s about humanity, economic stability, peace, creativity, and growth in a society.

There is no blame game here.  None of us is perfect.  We are all allowed our weaknesses.  It’s about taking responsibility for our bodies and choosing to pay attention and learn about what to do to stay well and improve health.  Those of us with extra time or ability to do so can advocate for those who can’t get access to healthy foods and information.  Policies from government need to reinforce healthy lifestyle habits because even the most determined and self willed individual is up against huge obstacles when it comes to a healthy diet and lifestyle and where does that leave the rest of us?

I don’t want to settle for so-so health, when I could have awesome health.  I’m worth awesome health.  And definitely, so are you…and your children, and grandchildren, too.

We Need Your Help

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There is a wonderful blog written by a mother of 3 children with type 1 diabetes.  Her name is Meri.  She writes at Our Diabetic Life.  Meri is a beautiful writer.  She Is also a deep and caring human being who constantly stirs our diabetes community with profound and meaningful observations and reflections.   Meri is one of the most wise and graceful diabetes advocates I’ve encountered and I love her sense of humor.

When I first learned about her family and how they have 4 boys (4 boys!) and how three of them have type 1 diabetes, I was blown away.  I knew what it was like to grow up in a household being the oldest of 5 kids, two of which having type 1 diabetes and I couldn’t imagine there being another with type 1.  Three just seems so overwhelming for one family.

Then yesterday I read through my usual diabetes blogs and found out that Meri’s husband, Ryan, has just been diagnosed with having 6 brain tumors and several in the lungs and abdomen.  I felt like I was reading a story and not a real person’s post.  Because it just can’t be.  The world works in mysterious ways though and Meri and her family have firmly decided to go ahead with aggressive treatment and to ask everyone who’s ears this news touches to please pray hard.  They are in need of a miracle.

You don’t have to be religious. If you’re not, it’s a matter of believing that the most unlikely thing could happen without a reasonable explanation.  What if we expected it?  I don’t know.  I just know that our community always supports every member in need and right now, the primary need for this family is that we be positively, without a doubt, sure that Ryan Schuhmacher is going to be ok.

Please visit the Schuhmacher Family Miracle page on Facebook and “like” it.

On Sunday the 4th of March, the family is taking the day to pray and fast. They are asking for strong prayers that day if you want to join them.

Believe you and I can help with thoughts and prayers.  I do.

XOXO

The Sushi Pushers

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My husband gets sushi at the same place every time.  The guys at the sushi bar know him and enjoy chatting in their native language with my husband each time he stops by.  Sometimes we stop by together and they always wonder why I don’t get sushi, too.  I have always brushed it off saying I just don’t want any when the truth is that I love sushi, but I avoid rice because it makes blood sugar management a little too complicated for me.

The other day I went to this place alone and was thinking of getting my husband some sushi.  I got him the usual when I got asked the usual question in Spanish, “Why aren’t you getting any for yourself?”  I said, “No, I just don’t want any, thanks…” Then they offered me a free sample to eat on the spot from a little bowl.  For something like this I’d typically give insulin and wait a few minutes before eating.  So I didn’t take the sample.  They asked again, “Really!  Try it!  It’s got shrimp and avocado and onions!”  I have witnessed them doing this to all the customers that stopped by and rarely did anyone refuse a sample.  That all sounded delicious to me but those little sushi rolls still had rice so finally, thinking about how I’m supposed to be a diabetes advocate, I explained to the guys the real reason.  “I have type 1 diabetes and must give insulin before eating anything and I don’t want to do that right now.”

Silence.

“But you’re young and you look healthy.”  “Well, I am young and healthy.”  Then I explained what type 1 diabetes was and they asked me about how I give insulin.  I explained that I give insulin shots as needed to bring down my sugar and to cover the carbs in any food I eat.  One guy said, “I didn’t know healthy people could get diabetes…”, shaking his head slowly.  Another nodded enthusiastically and said, “Good for you, you seem very happy for a person with something so serious.”

I thanked them for listening, they assured me they would no longer push me to sample sushi, and we said “adios”.

There really are countless opportunities to advocate for our condition.  We should take these opportunities, even if someone has been rude, because if not us, then who?

Your Used Strips are Needed for Art Project!

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Happy Monday, everyone!

As you all probably know by now, the illustrator of the site is my type 1 sister, Ana.  She also writes posts from time to time but mostly she is super busy at James Madison University studying studio art and art education and taking an insane number of credits.

Ana needs our help for a diabetes related art project for school.  She determines that she needs thousands of strips for this project.  We are asking for donations of your used strips (don’t worry she’ll be working with gloves!)

Please, please, please start saving your strips and mail them to her by March 1st.  Please include the amount of time that it took you to use the number of strips you are sending (a week, a month, etc).

This will be SO appreciated and can’t be done without your help.  When you’re ready to mail email me at sysy@thegirlsguidetodiabetes.com and I’ll send you her mailing address.

Once Ana receives your strips we’ll be entering you into a running for a special prize that one lucky winner will get mailed to them :D

Thanks so much in advance!  Hopefully Ana will get enough donations and will be able to do the project.  I’ll be sure to post it when she’s done!

****Update****

Ana’s project idea for this has been cancelled because we’ve realized that used strips are bio hazardous waste and it’s not a good idea to ask others to mail it in.  In fact, mailing it in certain states is considered illegal SO Ana will be choosing another diabetes related idea for her art project, we’ll keep you posted on what it is!  Thank you to everyone who was so kind and willing to help out! :D

XOXO

Why Scary Diabetic Ads Waste Our Money

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Why are ad campaigns done in this fashion?  I thought about it for a while last night and came to the conclusion that campaigns like this, which motivate based on fear, are decided upon in the same manor a toddler falls to the ground in a tantrum when he is so overwhelmed and under-equipped with words that he can’t get his message across.  In other words, this seems like a pitiful move of desperation.

It’s always a mistake when we act hastily and sole based on emotions.  In the case of this ad in which an obese man has digitally had his leg amputated and the point made on the add that portions have grown and so has type 2 diabetes, the connection is brutal.  The ad states that type 2 diabetes leads to amputations.  It can…but give me a break.

Let me put my self 10 years back into my once very overweight body.  For real.  I’d show you a picture but I think I burned them all.  Now, I’ll imagine seeing this ad for the first time and ask myself what I think:

I’m completely aware about my weight, thank you very much.  I’m already scared senseless of diabetes complications.  I know I need to eat less.  I also know that I’m hungry all the time…but I don’t know why.  I know that I don’t feel well and am not nearly as happy as I could be.  This ad just depresses me and reminds me that a soft drink or other cheap drive thru treat will cheer me up for at least 10 minutes.  This ad makes me feel like a baby who has a pointed wagging finger in front of me while being threatened with a spanking.

I had to physically, mentally, and emotionally hit rock bottom and crawl on my hands and knees searching for information that would save my life and change it entirely for the better.  I discovered information online about healthy lifestyle habits.  I began making changes slowly.  I exercised more, I ate different foods, and most importantly, I began forcing myself to change my thinking from overly negative to positive.  Positive thoughts and these lifestyle changes began to slowly help lift me out of my depression, which helped me do what I needed to do-like test my blood sugars and exercise, and shun junk food.  I lost weight, nerve pain in my feet disappeared, I changed jobs, I improved relationships, and I felt hopeful about my future with diabetes.  My entire life changed because of positive information helping me, guiding me towards a new way of thinking and living.  I would have loved a billboard containing a hint of the information I had to dig up to find.  I would have loved for it to be more accessible to me.

The ads that inspire fear in people who are already fearful and suffering do nothing.  NOTHING except harm our psyches even more than they are already being harmed by our lack of health and all that a lack of health leads to.

So I propose NYC and those in charge of similar campaigns for change stop panicking and making ads like chickens with their heads cut off- “Let’s tell them (particularly Latinos) that they better start downsizing their soft drinks or they’ll lose their legs and worsen our economy even more!  Let’s tell them before we’re all really screwed!”  How about we start thinking solidly and compassionately about what really motivates people.  Hire people with diabetes as consultants.  Hire psychologists who can help you determine how people get motivated.  Stop deciding for yourselves that informing people about the worst case scenarios is going to slap them straight into the right actions.  I’m sure that method doesn’t work on you.

You know…hope and positively stated, encouraging information works a lot better.

Type 1 University Offering Free Classes this January!

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It’s Fabulous Friday where we focus on self respect and self love.  Two things today:

I am letting you all know too late!  But late is better than never.  I just found out that Type 1 University is offering live classes for free this month.  They are a great value and I would suggest treating yourself to one really soon!

Here’s my post about my experience with a type 1 university class.

And here is the website where you can check it out and take advantage of this generous opportunity.

And a question to ponder today:

Do you truly dislike your job or is something deeper bothering you?

Often times we say we hate our jobs when really, we are unhappy with something about ourselves or our lives outside of work.  Make sure you work towards the root issues because if not, you’ll always hate your job, no matter where you work or what you do.

Have a great weekend!

XOXO

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