Friday, July 25, 2014

The Bionic Pancreas Moves Closer to Reality

For the past year or so we have been hearing clips about the Bionic Pancreas Project.  I was lucky enough to have heard  Dr. Ed Damiano present about his  work at the CWD Friends for Life Conference in Toronto.  It was the first time that I was truly excited by what was happening in diabetes research.

This was a project that was privately funded and motivated by a father’s love. There was no political agenda to hold things up.  There was only his passion and desire to see his son safe when he could no longer be there to watch him at night.  His drive pulled at my heart and for the first time gave me hope.

This summer, clinical trials are continuing.  More adults are getting to experience life with the bionic pancreas.  More children are getting to experience it as well. According to the latest video, they are now reaching the stage to change the design making things more streamline.  This is moving quickly to become a reality!

Being me, and spending so many years advocating for access to better treatments regardless of income or insurance coverage, I can’t help but wonder what direction this project will take.  To me, and I am sure to Dr. Damiano, this device is the diabetes equivalent of a pacemaker and should come under the larger umbrella of our health care system making it available to everyone who is insulin dependent.

At this stage, they are far from knowing how things will proceed in terms of distribution.  We will have to wait.  While we wait, I will continue to work to see access to insulin pumps and CGMs for all people with diabetes regardless of age.  I will continue to put money into my son’s RDSP just in case he does have to purchase the system out-of-pocket to begin with.  If need be, we will advocate for access for everyone to this life changing technology but for now, I will watch and cheer from the sidelines.  I will hope that this will be the technology that changes the life of my son and all of our children with diabetes (no matter what their age).



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Support in the Strangest of Places

I am an avid reader. I have loved to read since I was a child. If I could find a way to read for a living, I would be a very happy and ideally very rich person.  I read everything. I read action books, mysteries, spiritual books, diabetes books, and most recently a book about a mother of a girl who has anorexia.

I am not exactly sure what made me decide to open this book and read it.  Perhaps it is my own struggle with my body image. Perhaps it was the fact that is was a mother telling a story of her struggle with her child's potentially lethal disease.  Whatever it was, this book quickly showed me that being a parent of a child with a disease--any disease, sadly puts you in a club with more similarities than differences.

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown, first hit home when she wrote "you're not to blame, you're not alone, and you can make a difference in your child's life".  What a powerful statement! It needs to be a poster in our diabetes clinics.  It is a statement that each and every parent of a child with diabetes needs to fully understand and embrace.  As I have said before, we carry our own guilt and are further burdened by the misconceptions of others. We need to know that we are doing our very best and that is all that any one can ask.

For some reason, Ms. Brown seemed to make more than one comparison of life with anorexia and life with diabetes.  I am not sure if she knew someone living with diabetes or in her research she found some similarities but she does make reference to living with the disease on more than one occasion.  She also makes many statements that could easily apply to living with a child with diabetes.

She talks about feeling overwhelmed by her daughter's illness and then feeling guilty about it. "I can take a walk, read a book, shut out the anorexia for a little while. But its insider her. She can't get away, not for a second." How many  parents of children with diabetes have felt that exact same way? How often have we felt guilty because we could sleep through the night when our child went away to camp or when we went on vacation and left them with a responsible parent or loved one? It hurts us to know that we can leave it behind but our children can't.

She talks about things like her daughter lying to her about food and again the issue crosses over easily into life with diabetes.  In our case, our children tend to reach an age where they lie about food intake, insulin dosing, or bg level readings.  The violation of our trust is devastating either way and in both cases the lie is brought about by frustrations with a disease. It isn't any better no matter where it comes from. The pain and sadness as a parent is equally overwhelming.

Ms. Brown talks about wondering if her daughter's behavior is because of anorexia or simply because she is a teen?  When my son was small and would fall asleep during the day, I would panic and test him.  Was he sleeping because he was a toddler who was tired or was he low and had passed out? If he threw a tantrum, was he being a child full of spite and temper or was his rage fueled by high blood glucose and therefore he may not completely responsible for his actions? How did I decide? How did I find a balance with punishment? Like the author, I struggled.

In Brave Girl Eating, the author also talks about stigma.  In this case the stigma of a mental illness. In diabetes, we know that there are many stigmas and fighting the public's misconceptions can often be almost as difficult as battling bg levels.  To make things even worse, there are an increased number of people living with diabetes who also are dealing with eating disorders (is it any wonder when their lives revolve around food 24/7) as well as depression.  They must understand this book in more ways than I can begin to imagine.  How painful.

Ms. Brown also speaks to the idea that anorexia has taught her to live in the moment. Ironically diabetes has had a similar effect on my own life.  Learning to live life four hours at a time was the only way for me to cope.  Nothing else mattered. Tomorrow was too far away but his NovoRapid would kick in within four hours and it could fix that high, maintain his perfect reading or be just enough to send him low and create more havoc for me.  Four hours--just get through four hours and then go forward.

As I mentioned, ironically she notes the similarity to diabetes more than once. In learning to live with the new normal of life with anorexia, she wrote, "I told her if she had diabetes, she'd have to test her blood sugar every day; at first it would be a pain, but she'd get used to it.  It would become just one of those things she had to do, like brushing her teeth.  It would become part of "normal" for her."  We know that diabetes is a bit more than testing daily.  We know that you never really get used to lancing your finger each day, but it is something that has to be done...like brushing your teeth.  It is something that you somehow have to come to accept in order to move forward with your life.

Its funny where you find inspiration and camaraderie. I started this book because I was in part looking for insight into my own body image issues.  I finished this book realizing that parents of children fighting illnesses may have many more similarities than we thought possible.  When we open our minds and our hearts, we find support in the strangest of places.
eating

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Weight of Guilt

As I started to read Ginger Vieira’s book Diabetes Burnout, I was hit by an incredible sense of guilt.  Did I push my son too hard? Did I expect too much? I was later vindicated but I was reminded  the overwhelming guilt that comes with being a parent of a child with diabetes…or maybe its just me.

Well meaning people share with us many “reasons” that children develop diabetes and somewhere in the back of our mind’s ( well my mind anyway) we ask was that it? Was that why my son developed this disease? Did I not breast feed my son long enough? Did I feed him cow’s milk too soon? Was vaccinating on schedule a bad thing? Was there a family history that we missed? I know that I didn’t feed him too much junk.  I know that it wasn’t two years of chocolate bars that did this to him but maybe that first time that he seemed off months before I should have realized that he was seriously ill and that it wasn’t just the flu?

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t spend all of my energy feeling guilty about the “what ifs”.  Diabetes took up enough of my energy on its own…but that led me to a new source of guilt.  Had I denied my other son because diabetes took so much of my energy? My older son never complained but it was a question that popped into my head now and again.  We went to diabetes related events and he met many new friends. He always seemed to have more fun than my child with diabetes.

I was there for my oldest son in his events and activities.  He knew that when there was an issue that required someone to stand beside him, I always did.  I was also there for the softball games, school events, report card days, sick days, and driving school.  I was pretty sure that I had successfully found a balance.

But what about a balance with diabetes and my youngest son? Did it take over everything? Did he hate me because I punished him for diabetes related offenses? Did he feel that I had robbed him of his childhood by focusing on testing and injecting when he wanted to play and forget it all?

My children seem to be well-adjusted. We have memories of family vacations and times spent with each other. We communicate regularly.  I guess I didn’t scar them too badly–I hope.I didn’t have to feel guilty about robbing my children of their childhoods.  Diabetes changed things but it didn’t destroy it.

One other area of guilt seems to always flutter on the sidelines.  I know I am not alone in with this one. I have heard other parents mention it. Its the guilt that comes when our children go away and take diabetes with them.  It’s that time when they go to the other parent’s house, spend the night with a friend or with grandparents.  It’s that time when they go to camp for a week or move away from home. It is then that a new guilt moves in.  I no longer have to think about diabetes 24/7.  Oh I still wake at night. I still look at a meal and automatically count the carbs and dose insulin in my head.  I wonder what my child’s blood glucose level is at any given time.  I worry and wonder if he is taking proper care of himself, but I have a break.  I  don’t really have to be awake at night. I can enjoy that extra glass of wine without fear of dealing with a low later that evening.  I don’t have to remember to test after that walk.  I have it easy.  It’s not fair.  The guilt becomes stifling.

As a parent, I want to carry the burden of this disease for my son but I can’t.  I want to give him a break but I can’t even if I  get one! It doesn’t seem right. I must be a terrible parent…but maybe I am not.

When my son is with me, I help him with care when he wants.  When he has an issue and he is away from me, he calls and asks for help.  We talk about readings…when he is ready.  We talk about other things as well.  I work hard to make diabetes the last thing I ask him about not the first.

Guilt doesn’t get me anywhere. It’s a backwards looking emotion. Life didn’t come with a guidebook.  My children were not born with a manual attached.  I do my best. We all do.  Guilt must be released not harbored…and I do.  I have made mistakes but my kids are okay.  They are strong.  They are relatively healthy.  They are smart.  They do me proud.  Why waste energy with guilt? Move forward and smile.  It’s the only way to go.

Gifts like this make me realize that all is very well indeed.
Gifts like this make me realize that all is very well indeed.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dealing with Diabetes Burnout..A Book Review

Ginger Vieira recently released her third book called Dealing with Diabetes Burnout,  How to Recharge and Get Back on Track When You Feel Frustrated and Overwhelmed by Diabetes. I was once again lucky enough to be given a copy of the book to read. As I prepared to write my overview of the book, I  took a glance at how many pages of interest I had marked off. A lot! That means that this was a wonderful book with many excellent points for me to share!

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading this book.  What would I learn? Would much of it apply to me? Who would this book fit? Well, I learned quite a bit. I gained a new perspective and I can think of quite a few people who this book would help.  Most importantly however, it is a great hands on resource for people who live with diabetes–Type 1 or Type 2.

This book doesn’t just give you a bunch of information and feel good stories.  It is filled with exercises and activities that Ginger challenges you to do to help you deal with your own diabetes burnout.  She doesn’t chastise you for the fact that “I haven’t checked my blood sugar in three weeks (ehh…months)” –a fabulous title of one of the chapters of the book.  Instead she reminds you that you are being asked to manage something that your body is supposed to do on its own based on a variety of other physiological and hormonal processes. (page 21).  She tells  you to look at all of the great things that you are doing and praise yourself for the one thing you are getting right. “developing the ability to step back and see what wasn’t working–rather than blaming yourself–is the trick to creating a new plan that will lead you to your goal.” (Page 33)

This theme is further emphasized by all of the great chapter titles like “I want to be perfect by tomorrow (or I’m giving up!) where Ginger notes that some times are not ideal for change. She suggests that you create your own personalized “pick up plan” to help you refocus in times of stress.

Ginger offers tips on how to handle support from well-meaning people who really don’t get it as well as how to best make use of people who do get it and do want to help.  She shows you how to use technology to make your life a bit easier as well as great real life tips for those of us who would just like to live a healthier lifestyle but find ourselves giving up too soon.

Being a parent of a child with diabetes, as I began to read this book I felt horrible.  I was a failure.  I was the parent who struggled to understand how you could “forget” to do something that you have done all of your life.  Did I push too hard?  Should I have been calmer when his doctor praised him for testing more than once per day and I was looking to see 8-12 readings per day? I was sure that I had totally ruined my son’s childhood.

Thankfully I got some reprieve from my incredible guilt when I moved into the chapter called “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”.  Here Ginger talks about raising a child with diabetes and how truly difficult it is to do. She highlights many of the fears that we have.  The torture we go through when our child is low and disoriented or the failure we feel when they are high and we are positive that we alone are responsible for the kidney damage they may one day have. She offers more wisdom and options to dealing with our children and how to get through to our teens. I was left knowing that I hadn’t scared my child completely…well at least not in that realm.

Nearing the end of the book, I came across one of the very best quotes I have ever read on the issue of diabetes care and one that should be framed and read by everyone dealing with this disease (especially us guilt laden parents)….
“Doing the best any of us can do in life with diabetes does not have to mean perfect blood sugars all the time. Sometimes our best is awesome and sometimes it’s not quite so awesome but it’s still our best in that moment.  And that’s okay.  It has to be, because “perfection” is a crazy expectation.”  

Dealing with Diabetes Burnout is a fabulous resource. If I had one criticism of the book it would be having too many personal stories illustrating various points in the book. Reading through page after page of examples of other people’s burnout was taxing on my incredibly shrinking attention span. That said however, I have no clue as to how I would have cut back on some of the submissions that were used.  They were often very powerful stories that needed to be shared.

Who should read this book? Anyone living with diabetes because as Ginger Vieira notes, at one point you will go through some form of burnout.  To a lesser degree, parents of children of diabetes (no matter what age your “child” may be).  This book will give you insight into the emotions that your child may be dealing with and will also give you a few tips to help you in your own life as well.
diabetes burnout book

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Diabetes Greeting Cards

Yes, you read that right...Diabetes Greeting Cards!

I often get requests from people who want to share a post on my blog. They want to write about how to cure your diabetes by eating their miracle food. They want to tell my readers all about their awesome socks that will instantly cure all that ails you and things that you didn't even know were ailing you. Once in a blue moon, someone will send me something relevant and I will think about posting what they send me.

A few weeks ago I received a request from a woman who wanted to promote her greeting cards. My first thought was...wow! She called me Barb and not "Dear Advocacy". I decided to read a bit further. They had a really interesting concepts, they were cards for people with diabetes but they weren't stupid. They were actually kind of cute. Enough from me on the subject though....

I'm Nene Adams and I'm an insulin dependent Type II diabetic. I've also been a greeting card designer since 2007.

Following a stay of several weeks in the hospital for a diabetes related medical problem, I was inspired to do some research into diabetes. I learned a lot, including the fact that there seemed to be very few greeting cards designed specifically for diabetics.I thought there needed to be more and better choices for a group of people the mainstream card retailers were ignoring.

Me and my partner, Corrie Kuipers, have teamed up with a few other talented artists - Doreen Erhardt, Betsy Cush and Sharon Fernleaf - to create a line of greeting cards for children and teenagers/young adults with diabetes. The messages are positive and supportive, not just a generic "get well." The images are colorful and often humorous in each artist's distinctive style.

We hope these cards will help inspire and encourage diabetic kids and their loved ones. http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/get-well-feel-better-cards/diabetes

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mom! It looks like I've Been Shot...Again

In honor of Throwback Thursday, here is a humorous post from May 4th, 2010. Enjoy!

Last night I wrestled my son to the ground and later heard about the consequences. You see said child, admitted that no he hadn't been spending his time mulling over the perfect gifts to purchase for his devoted mother for either Mother's Day or her birthday.  In some countries I am sure his actions would have constituted a hanging offense but in our house in meant that I tackled him, interrupted his Wii game, pinned him down and tickled him.  Thankfully I still have a few pounds and an inch or two on him so I can still win. 


The downside to this fun when you have a child on an insulin pump who wears sites in his leg is obvious to those of us who live there.  After the screams of "I've gotta pee!!!!", came the grumblings of "You pulled out my site!".  With the cost of pump supplies being covered for us, it felt good to say "Well, just go and change it."  Once upon a time, I would have cried at the $20+ that I had just wasted even if it was in the name of fun. 


Being a teen, my son was in no rush to change the site and Mom had visions of highs for the rest of the evening.  The longer he waited, the less insulin he would get, the higher his bg levels would climb I was sure.  Again, being a teen and being my son, he stated that the site was salvageable and he had simply taped it in place.  I was worried.  Was the site really still in? Yes he assured me as he headed off to the shower.  His grumbling about being bested by his mother had been replaced by the comment that if Mom could wrestle him then wrestling with his brother should once again be allowed (It was discontinued after brother's elbow met son's eye and left a nasty shiner).  I attempted to burst his bubble but he still was quite proud of his logic as he headed off for his marathon shower. 


Once he undressed he proclaimed "Mom, I look like I have been shot!"  What did that mean? He told me that there was blood all over his leg.  I said that was it, the site was gone! He had to change it.  He proceeded to shower and I never got to really check out the damage.  He kindly left the dead and bloodied site in the shower for me though.  Ironically he was disgusted when he found it on top of an envelope later.  I had taken a picture and left it for him. He told me that the site should be in the garbage! Um, who left it in the shower to start with? Oy!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Another Corner Turned

The weekly bg reading review that I had dictated in September has long gone by the wayside. I occasionally ask about readings on the phone or over text conversations but I try to keep it to a minimal.  If my son gets into real trouble, he calls or texts me with his SOS.  Diabetes care is remaining in the periphery of our relationship as he strives to make it on his own. We still talk about care and I still like to know what is going on but I think I truly have turned a corner in my new role and acceptance of it.

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that we have a phone conversation about his readings in the coming days.  My son told me that he had an upcoming appointment with his CDE.  I then suggested that we wait until after the appointment and then we could discuss what was or wasn’t done and see how we felt about it.

My son thought that was a great idea and we set our new date to chat.  Last week that day arrived.  I knew that my son’s readings had been uploaded by his educator (my son has managed to lose two cables for his pump and I feel bad contacting our rep for a third one). I went online to see what the readings looked like.

As I opened the screen I laughed and laughed.  There were a lot of boluses and insulin cartridge fills but I only saw two readings. I laughed some more! For a change, it was not me who got to look at no data and try to sort things out. It wasn’t me to go…”What gives?” only to be told that he had used other meters but didn’t have them with him. This was not my problem.  I laughed some more
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It felt good to have that burden lifted. Whether there were or were not readings, I was not the one who would bang their head in frustration and begin the tedious task of trying to track down information. The smile remained on my face.

Later that evening I called my son and we discussed his appointment.  It had gone well. He had readings on a different meter and the two of them had discussed the area my son knew was a problem.  My son was pleased that he wasn’t told what to do but asked his opinion on the problem.  Suggestions were made by both parties and my son left happy.

Mom wasn’t needed.  For a change, that felt okay.  My son was happy. He had made his own decisions. He had been able to talk to someone about his care and share his knowledge. It was a win-win situation as far as I could tell.

I will still call and talk readings. I will still be here to troubleshoot and to cheer from the sidelines but my son really is taking charge. He can do this. I always knew he could but the fact that he is doing it makes me feel a bit better…well for today anyway.
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