Thursday, April 30, 2009

How it's changed my life

My 8th year diabetic diagnosis anniversary is April 29, 2001. I've been thinking lately of how that diagnosis has changed my life. I think maybe I'll just write it out in list form so that it isn't a mumbled jumble of thoughts. These are in no particular order.

Diabetes has changed my life in that, it has:

- made me have to go to the doctor a lot more

I see the doctor every three months. I have to have my A1C taken every three months when I visit the diabetes doctor. I have to have "routine" (as in routine for diabetic) blood work at least every other year. I have to have a foot exam at least every year. I have to get a flu shot every year.
During my pregnancies, I had to visit the diabetes doctor more frequently, every three weeks on average. I had to see the ObGyn more often than regular women. I also had to see a specialist at least once or twice per trimester. During the 4 weeks of pregnancy I had to have non-stress tests performed on the boys twice per week. Going to the doctor was like a part-time job. Much time spent in doctors offices.
I also now have to see the eye doctor once per year.

-made my vision worse
Two weeks before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I couldn't see. It was the strangest thing in the world. I swear to you I lost my vision over night. One day I woke up and had a difficult time seeing anything. It was so bad that I went to Zuka Juice and could not even read a single word on the menu. I remember moving to the front row in each of my college classes, thinking, why in the world can I not see the board?
As soon as I was diagnosed and put on insulin, my vision dramatically improved. However, I have worn glasses for nearsightedness ever since.

- made me more aware of the ingredients in my food

I control my diabetes basically by doing two things. 1. I take insulin via infusion set with an insulin pump. 2. I count my carbohydrates.
I've had to learn a lot about nutrition since becoming diabetic. I've learned a little more about what's in foods such as proteins, carbs, fiber, fats, calories, etc. But mainly, I just know how to count carbs. Some foods are harder for me, but I could look at just about any item of food or meal and tell you how many carbs it contains.

- made me an expert on diabetes

I was diagnosed at the age of 20. My doctors at the time figured that I was an adult and could figure it out on my own. They helped me a lot in trying to get my insulin regimens stabilized but mostly I had to learn about it on my own. I went information-crazy and read every thing I could about diabetes. I love to talk about it. I blog about it occasionally. I hate it when people are ignorant about the disease. I often think that I'd love to be a diabetes educator.

- made me more sensitive to pain

The weirdest thing, and maybe you don't believe me... but I've become less tolerant of pain. I've heard people use the term "pain threshold" before. Mine has significantly decreased since being diagnosed. Any ideas why?

- made it a little more difficult for me to heal

For some reason I don't heal as well now that I have diabetes. I guess it has something to do with the lessened blood flow/ circulation issue that diabetics have. When I get a minor cut or abrasion on my skin, it doesn't heal well. 7 days ago I had some blood work taken. I still have a mark on my arm. 3 weeks ago I scraped my arm on the garage door, I have a pretty bad scar there now.

- made me more aware of my body

Not always, but for the most part, I'm very aware of how I feel. I can tell if my sugar is too low right away, almost always. I can often tell if my sugars are high. I will sometimes just know when I shouldn't take any insulin, or if I should just give myself an extra unit. Someone told me when I was first diagnosed, I think it was that first doctor, that I would be the one who knew myself better than others. I've certainly come to find that as truth.

- made me somewhat more susceptible to illness
Diabetics are often more ill than others. I have the immune system of a true teacher. I can be around millions of germs each day and go weeks without coming down with an illness. There are a few things that I've had more trouble with though. My digestive system doesn't work as well as it should. I often have tummy aches. I also get bladder infections more easily. No fun.

- made me very grateful for the scientists in the world
Scientists are getting closer and closer to finding a cure for Diabetes. The advances in technology and medicine they've made have made my life with Diabetes so much easier than it would have or could have been.

- made me a little healthier

I think that if I didn't have Diabetes, I wouldn't be as healthy as I am today. I have a really big sweet-tooth and although I CAN eat sweets and be diabetic, I'm at least more conscious of what I eat. I could stand to lose 15 pounds and exercise a whole lot more than I do, but nonetheless.
- allowed me to make many friends

Everywhere I go, I meet someone with diabetes. A lot of people have type 2, but inevitably, I'll meet someone who has type 1. It's always nice to be able to talk to someone who knows EXACTLY what you're going through. When you have something like diabetes, its easy to become fast friends.

Anyway, that's all for today I suppose. Diabetes isn't always a bad thing. Although diagnosis can be quite overwhelming, it has taught me a lot and has probably made me a little better of a person.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tips for going Sugar Free

Guest Post- originally written on February 20, 2009 for a fitness blog my friend writes: Fit Me Pink

I thought I’d offer a few tips for how to go sugar-free, or low-carb. A little about me to introduce myself to the readers… I’m 28 and have 2 kids. I’ve had diabetes for coming up on 8 years. I have type 1 diabetes which means that I am insulin resistant (ie, I have to take insulin to control my sugars and essentially stay alive). Because I was diagnosed as an adult (20 years old) I was basically expected to figure things out for myself. At the time of my diagnosis, I pretty much went information crazy. I looked up everything I could find about diabetes and learned a lot. I continue to read a lot about the condition and find it very fascinating. I love to talk about diabetes and how it affects my life. I also blog about my diabetes occasionally. You can check out those posts on my blog by clicking on the diabetes label link.
Life post-diagnosis has changed in some ways greatly and in other ways very minimally. I can still eat like pretty much every one else, I just have to monitor all of my carbohydrates. As a diabetic, I’m concerned with all sugars: glucose, fructose, and lactose. But what I have to pay attention to most on a food label or food item that I’m eating is the total number of carbohydrates. I count carbs in everything I eat and drink so that I know how much insulin to take. My diet is not completely carbohydrate-free and I don’t really recommend that sort of an approach.

Having children is one way that diabetes greatly impacted my life. I have to monitor my sugars extremely carefully and work really hard at keeping them within a very normal range. I’ve had two healthy baby boys and they both weighed about 8.5 pounds. Their lungs were fully developed and neither boy suffered any post-birth effects from my diabetes. These are my greatest diabetic accomplishments. While living with diabetes can be difficult, there are even days when I forget that I am diabetic, and for that, I am very thankful. It wouldn’t be possible without the help of all of the wonderful diabetic advancements and improvements science has brought us.
Here are my tips for going sugar free! (Very timely for me, with my not-very-successful-so-far-sugar-fast!)
  1. Decide what kind of carbs you want to cut, and then set some goals.
  2. Cut the unnecessary carbs. Desserts and things high in sugar often have an alternative. Be aware that some things that say "sugar-free" or "no sugar added" on the labels actually do have some carbs, so you’ll want to check the label to find out how many. If you compare it with a regular product, you usually notice at least a 20% decrease in total carbohydrates.
  3. Just because it’s "sugar free" doesn’t mean it tastes like cardboard! There are a lot of really good "sugar-free," or "no-sugar-added" products that taste pretty good. Some of my favorites are: Jell-O sugar free pudding, light Dannon yogurt, Smuckers no sugar added jelly, light maple syrup, and Dryer’s slow-churned no-sugar-added ice-cream.
  4. Choose a favorite sugar-free treat...and stock up! There are actually treats out there that have very few carbs, and some have none. 7-11 has a great Crystal Light Slurpee with only 5 calories per 8 ounces and zero carbs. The Cheese Cake Factory sells a "Carb Free" cheesecake that only has 6 carbs! My suggestion is to take it home and add some sugar free cherry pie filling on top!
  5. Eat the good carbs! Fruit and fruit juices are good carbohydrate choices that often satisfy your sweet-tooth!
  6. Try to never drink carbs or calories! There are so many great diet drinks out there…drinking empty calories or carbs really doesn’t make sense. My one exception to this rule is while working out…a good sports drink with some electrolytes can be an excellent choice.
  7. Keep a back up for when you’re feeling you may cave! Gum works really well. Apparently the ever-so-obvious people from product placement at the Biggest Loser think so too!
  8. Choose a day to cheat. Sometimes it’s okay to cheat. Set aside a cheat-day for yourself. One day a week (or less, if you’re brave) is good enough. A friend of mine eats whatever she pleases on Sundays. She doesn’t count calories or carbs on this day, and she’s been able to maintain an 80 pound weigh-loss for 8 years!
  9. Remember how good you feel. Going low-carb can be a difficult thing to do. However, it does make you feel great. My sugars get much more level, and overall I feel so much better. Remember that when you’re about have some leftover birthday cake.
  10. Do it with a buddy. Having support makes things much easier!