Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Audience


My daughter and I spent a week this summer on a church youth group trip.  We stayed in a little white church, sharing a room with 5 middle and high school aged girls (the boys had their own space).  It was an experience in communal living in many ways, including sharing more about my daughter's diabetes than we usually do.

We're not embarrassed about diabetes, but at the same time we tend to keep it undercover when possible.  Ordinarily when there's a low in public or the need to check before a communal meal, only the most diabetes-savvy eye would know what was going on.  We weren't even to our destination yet when this way of doing things became impossible.  The caravan of cars stopped for dinner on the way there, and we ended up at different tables, yelling blood sugar numbers and estimated carb counts over the heads of our fellow travelers.

On the first night, Dexi was on high alert for a borderline low blood sugar.  The kind where she thinks it's hovering at 65 and the finger sticks all say 85 and she can't be convinced she's wrong.  Except this was happening in a room with 6 other people who were trying to sleep, all right next to each other.  I'd never realized how incredibly loud the vibrate mode on the Dexcom is, or how loud the faint little beep is when then the blood sugar reads out on the meter.  And when I gave up and opened a juice box so that Dexi and I could both just get some sleep?  That straw wrapper was deafening.

We had a few moments when we had to step aside from work or play to treat lows.  Our brightly colored meter case was visible at all times from wherever we were working or playing.  Math was done out loud at meals and my daughter hoisted the cookie package over her head nightly to check the carbs.

The experience made me contemplate why we tend to keep diabetes out of sight when we're not with our closest friends and family.  For me it has to do with not wanting diabetes to get in other people's way.  We don't want everyone to stop what they're doing because my kid has a low blood sugar.  We don't want people to wait to eat because my kid still has to check or read the label for the taco shells. We don't want everyone in the room to worry when they hear the Dexcom buzz.

It turns out, that two things happened over the course of the week, neither of which had to do with diabetes causing an undue burden on our fellow travelers.  Primarily, despite having to deal with diabetes out in the open, people rarely noticed.  There were plenty of other people there, doing plenty of other things, and my child stepping aside to check her blood sugar, or even the buzzes and beeps of the first night went, for the most part, unnoticed.  And secondarily, when people did notice, they wanted nothing more than to help.  It turns out that taking a break from the evening basketball game and chatting with my daughter while her blood sugar came up, or running back to the kitchen to grab the nutrition label were not deemed onerous tasks. 

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not too good at accepting help.  For anything.  But people with diabetes sometimes need help.  This was a great experience in reminding my daughter that sharing a little of her diabetes with others isn't a bad thing, though she was already better about it than I was. It's a lesson we both needed to learn, but which will serve her particularly well as she continues to grow up and to be out and about in the world without me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Soggy

We love our annual Cape Cod vacation. The chance to slow down, take long walks, sit on the beach, read in a hammock and do jigsaw puzzles is a rare opportunity for which we are grateful.

Dexi does not like this trip at all. This was the second year we've brought her along and the second year she's bailed out on us.


Daily visits to the pool at home have shortened the length of use for sensors to 6-7 days this summer vs. our usual 10 or more. I have no complaints about that.

But there's something about salt water. Or maybe it's the steady 100% humidity.   Is it the sweat from walks and runs and ball games? Perhaps the layer of sand which had somehow accumulated under the tape was the final straw?

The lack of Dexi data was ok.  The lack of beeping was heavenly, and a break from constantly checking the number and graph was nice too. 

But if anyone has a Dex that doesn't mind the beach, I'd love to hear how you make that happen!


Watching


This summer marks the first when my daughter is sometimes hanging out at the town pool without me. She and her friends gather there in the afternoon after their assorted camps and volunteer activities.  They bring snacks or money for the snack bar.  They play volleyball, swim, and walk in circles around the pool grounds to see and be seen.

For me, it's an exercise in trust.  First, I have to trust that our general routine and a healthy helping of good luck will keep her safe from any diabetes emergencies.  Second, I have to trust her that she will keep an eye on herself and be aware of impending lows so that she can treat them.  Thirdly, I have to trust that she will choose and bolus for her snacks wisely.  And fourth I have to trust that she will 'remember' to reconnect her pump within a reasonable amount of time after swimming.

I still like to go to the pool too.  On a hot day, some time in the lap lanes is my favorite form of exercise. When I can arrange to meet some other moms there in the late afternoon, it's fun to catch up. When I go, my daughter still sits with her friends and does her own thing.  Which is interesting to watch.

One day as I watched, she ate a cookie, and bolused for it.  She reconnected her pump after swimming, clipping it onto her bathing suit.  She checked her dexcom after getting out of the water the second time and grabbed a handful of goldfish crackers, later telling me she was 80 and felt like she was going down.

Another day I watched as her friends waited patiently for her to reconnect her pump and gather her little bag before they headed for the snack bar after a swim. She bought sour patch kids and bolused for them, as evidenced by the blood sugar of 77 when we got home for dinner.

Would I rather she bring a container of grapes or pre-portioned packages of whole grain crackers to snack on?  Of course.  Do I worry about whether she's going to forget to reconnect her pump and end up super high?  Yes.  Do I wonder if she's relying too much on the dexcom and not actually checking with a meter while she's there. Sometimes.

But here's the thing:  She's coming home with nice looking dexcom graphs and excellent pre-dinner blood sugars.  She's obviously responsibly reconnecting her pump and bolusing for the junk food.  She's noticing when she's trending low and grabbing a handful of something to stop the slide.

Really, this is a great opportunity to practice dealing with all kinds of diabetes issues on her own.  She'll make mistakes this summer, I'm sure.  I've made my fair share of them over the past 12 years when I've been in charge.  Nobody's perfect.

But so far so good.




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trust


"Okay- let's do this," said my dentist, smiling at me as he put on his gloves and reached for the drill.

A few years ago, my knuckles would have already been white as I clenched the arm rests and squeezed my eyes shut.

This week?  I was o.k.  I wasn't thrilled, of course, but anxious isn't a word which comes to mind either. Why the change?

I like and trust my dentist.  His positive reinforcement at cleanings has helped me improve my overall dental health. And we've been through things together:  broken teeth, a root canal, a handful of fillings some of which were in awkward spots, and most recently an exam and x-ray because I was terrified I'd broken my jaw. He is kind, funny, and has a way of putting even the biggest dentist-phobe at ease. Most importantly, he does his job well. He's up to date on and uses the latest techniques and technology.  I've never experienced measurable pain during a procedure. He works fast and efficiently to minimize my discomfort. And everything he's done so far has turned out just fine.

So yesterday, as the drill revved up to clear the way for a new crown due to a broken tooth from the aforementioned fall and not-broken jaw, I took a deep breath and assumed everything would turn out just fine.

I white knuckled it through countless dentist appointments for the first 35 years of my life.  I dreaded them and often postponed them.  I put off taking care of dental problems because I was so uncomfortable.  And when I went for a cleaning I often left feeling even worse, having been chastised for the state of my gums or the cavity in my wisdom tooth.  It turns out I just hadn't found the right dentist.

This week's experience reminded me of the equal importance of finding a good endocrinologist.  We don't dread those appointments either.  We like the doctor.  We receive positive reinforcement for the work we do at home to maintain diabetes health.  We've been through stuff together: new schools and nurses, first independent site changes, growth spurts, starting a dexcom, and now the beginnings of puberty.  He is smart, kind, funny and very concerned for my daughter's health and overall well being.  He's given us countless effective suggestions over the years.  My daughter's diabetes management is, with his help, just fine.

I know there are people out there who do not realize what having a good endocrinologist feels like. They dread their appointments.  They falsify data so they don't get yelled at.  They leave feeling hopeless. They receive little or no useful advice from the doctor.  They float through years of diabetes care assuming they're entirely at fault for high A1C's or endless rounds of lows.  They feel like I did about going to the dentist, and they don't know that it could be better.

No, I don't put little stars and smiley faces around the calendar dates of my dental cleanings, nor do I do so for my daughter's endo appointments.  But I don't dread them. I enjoy the people I see there, and I leave feeling improved for having gone.  If that's ever not true, I'll know to go elsewhere.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Baring It All


I'm incredibly proud that my daughter is willing to bare it all at the pool.

Said no mother ever.

Except me.

She's not really baring it all all, of course.  But she decided this spring that she really wanted a bikini.

Many sentences uttered at our house now start with, "All of my friends are...," and I was informed this spring that all of her friends would be wearing only bikinis at the pool this summer.  This was a big step for two reasons:

While some girls wear bikinis from the beginning, my daughter never had, so this was a milestone in terms of growing up.  Despite our concerns about finding bikinis appropriate for a tween/young teen, we found two very cute ones.  Ruffly tops and bottoms with plenty of coverage are out there if you look long enough.

The second concern, of course, was the increased obviousness of the diabetes paraphernalia.  About this, my daughter decided she simply didn't care.  Wearing a bikini trumped any concern about the dexcom sensor taped to her belly and the insulin pump clipped to her bathing suit.

My daughter has so far had more people ask her about the dexcom and  pump at her morning summer music program (where it's generally in her pocket or clipped to her waistband under a t-shirt) than at the pool. Perhaps we'll keep a running tally.  When asked, she has a couple of short answers prepared, and is able to move on without much fanfare.

The only comment I've heard so far was from a mom I know tangentially, a friend of a friend, who came up to me and said, "I just wanted to tell you I'm so impressed with her wearing a bikini and not caring what anyone thinks.  I think that's just great."

At 13, it's an impressive decision to make. As a rule, these are the years of trying to fit in, the years of "all my friends are."  So I'm proud of my daughter for baring it all at the pool.  I'm proud that she's comfortable with what she looks like, taped on contraptions and all.  I'm proud that she's willing to answer the inevitable questions.  I'm proud that she's not going to let diabetes stop her from doing something she wants to do, however relatively trivial this particular decision may be.

I still have mixed feelings about this. Watching my little girl walk past me at the pool in her bikini makes me do a double-take every time.  But it has nothing to do with the dexcom sensor.






Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Making It Fun


Yesterday was endo day. We had a 4:30 appointment in the city.

Yesterday also happened to be an extra long weekend day off from the music program my daughter attends in the summer. She's usually there from 8-3.

So what could have been a rare lunch and afternoon at the pool with friends looked instead like it would be a boring morning of errands and chores, a boring peanut butter sandwich and maybe some screen time before a long car ride, a doctor's appointment and  another long ride home through rush hour traffic.

Not so fast.  Maybe we could make some lemonade out of those lemons.  A little creative thinking, mapquesting and internet searching led us to a truly fun day at the zoo. There was some challenging driving involved, and a little anxiety about the timing of the whole operation, but we went for it.



We got ourselves up and to the zoo when it opened and spent about five hours wandering around watching penguins, monkeys, bears, and especially this baby gorilla.  Who was adorable.  

We had an awesome time.  We arrived at our appointment plenty early.  The appointment went well too. But dinner conversation revolved around the zoo, with any diabetes-related news taking a definite back seat.

Living with diabetes comes with a long, annoying list of responsibilities. There are days when diabetes usurps possibilities which would be more fun.  Sometimes sitting out an activity with a low blood sugar, or missing an after school activity because of a doctor's appointment is just the way it is.  But sometimes, with some extra effort, it can be an excuse to do something great.  I highly recommend taking advantage of those opportunities.  Especially if there's a baby gorilla at your diabetes clinic's closest zoo.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kohlenhydrate



A friend returned from a week visiting family in Germany with these delicious treats as a souvenir for my daughter.

If each piece weighs 16.76 grams and a serving is 100 grams and each 100 grams has 53 grams of kohlenhydrate, then how many grams of kohlenhydrate does one piece have?

These treats appeared in time for lunch at the nurse-free summer music program my daughter attends.  She valiantly tried to figure out how many carbs each one contained but kept coming up with unreasonable sounding answers.  "So I ate one and guessed."

Who could blame her?  It's hard enough sometimes to sort out carbs on an American and english-language nutrition label.  Figuring this one out could significantly cut into a person's chocolate enjoyment.