Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Taking Care of My Diabetes and My Family

I was extremely honoured to be asked to speak about "Looking after my family and my diabetes" at the Diabetes Ireland National Diabetes workshops and exhibition last November. I was one of three speakers who were asked to talk about their lives with Type 1 Diabetes.

Brian spoke about his love of running which has developed into a love of Triathlons. Brian was diagnosed 4 years ago and only took up running as a way to help manage his type 1 diabetes.

Niamh spoke about her recent inter railing trip across Europe and how she planned for it and managed her type 1 diabetes during it.

Both speakers did a fantastic job.

This was my presentation;

I have lived 22 years with Type 1 diabetes. And in those 22 years, I have been lucky enough to meet my soul mate and marry him. In 2002, we moved abroad, where I went back to college as a mature student. While a student I had my first child who is now 11. 

In 2005, we moved back home to Ireland and I had my second child now 8. This is when I became a stay at home mum.

Both of my children are now in primary school, and I dabble a little bit in freelance graphic design as well as volunteering with Diabetes Ireland as much as I can.

Looking after my family means looking after me first.

I believe that I need to look after my diabetes before anything, or anyone else, first. I feel I need to do it this way otherwise I won’t be able to look after my family. My family is more important to me than life itself and that's why I put them second.

That's probably not what I'm supposed to say and It probably sounds selfish that my family, especially my children, are not an absolute first, but let me explain.

I had this realisation one day when I was having a hypo while I was feeding Ciara, who was an infant, at the time, I realised that I didn't have any glucose handy. So, I had to put her lunch on pause for which she was not happy about and go find some glucose in the kitchen. I realised then that all our lives would be so much easier if I was more organised with my diabetes first and baby second. Once through "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" is all I would need to grab my glucose meter and a glass of juice before I sat down to feed her.

Another time, she was screaming for her next meal and I knew I needed to test my blood sugars because I was feeling a bit low. My options were that I could pick her up and try to test while holding her, which was going to be tricky if she continued to scream and wriggle. Or, I could let her cry for less than 2 minutes longer, test quicker but feed sooner.
Awful photo of me. But I was just out of
hospital & malnourished.

It was very difficult not to pick up my screaming hungry baby. But I felt I was safer not to, and so was she. What if I did pick her up and then collapsed on top of her?

Putting me and my diabetes first has gotten easier as my children have grown. Now,at least, I can explain to them what’s happening and they understand that sometimes the fun has to go on pause while I check my blood sugars just like it does when they have to go to the bathroom.

They also ask me questions about my diabetes and we talk about why we all eat healthy foods in our home.

It takes a village to raise a child!

But I don’t take care of me or my family all by myself. There are other people in my life who help me do all that I need to do to take care of us.

I have a good medical team. I moved around a bit over the years and so have had a number of healthcare teams. And I know now, that the health care professionals I am most successful with are the people who ask how I'm doing before we launch into the medical stuff. The people that I don't mind showing warts and all to. Meaning that when I'm struggling with my diabetes or just life in general, that I don’t mind admitting to it and asking for help. The people who actually consider me to be part of my team and my input valuable.
And "No!" we are not
always that sickening.

I have a great team mate. My hubby is the best parenting team mate I could have ever asked for. I couldn't do either family life or diabetes management well without him. He recognises the times of chaos in our house and steps up to ease that chaos. He often has a look at my record book to help me figure out patterns. And he wants to know as much about diabetes management as I do. It may be my diabetes but my whole family lives with it, especially Phil. Whatever happens to me affects him hugely. And, I look forward to grand parenting with him, should I be lucky enough to be a grandparent.

I have MASSIVE Peer support. Peer support, for me, is one of the most important ways of how I try to manage my diabetes well. I attend a type 1 diabetes support group and subscribe to a number of diabetes Facebook groups because I need to have other people around me, who understand what it’s like to live with type 1 diabetes.

I recently watched a video of Kim Vlasnik from a blog called Texting my Pancreas. In the video she says "Peer to peer support fosters resilience and confidence. It turns our shared vulnerability into empowerment and we can gain strength from the place we normally feel weak”.

I definitely gain strength from my type 1 support group, I always leave those meetings feeling like it is possible to manage my diabetes well and that I'm not the only one who struggles with staying on top of it. There is definitely strength in numbers and the more people I know with diabetes the stronger I feel.

Because I'm worth it!

Taking care of my diabetes first, means my diabetes very seldom gets a chance to interfere with my family life and that my family has a wife and mother for as long as possible.

I take care of my diabetes because I feel that I deserve the right to not miss a second of it.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Diabetic Diet Thingy

I came across a piece called "What is a Diabetic Diet?" on Diabetes Daily in the last couple of days and thought it was worth sharing.

The question of "what can I eat?" comes up  a lot at our local Type 1 and the Type 2 support group meet ups. And even though, we would reply to our group members that nothing was off the table, the explanation doesn't end there.

The author of the piece says:
One of the biggest questions for anyone with diabetes is: what can I eat? The real, honest answer: anything!

That’s right. People with diabetes can eat anything that people without diabetes can eat. 

But, and this is a very important but, you must be aware of how it will impact you and take that into account. You can’t eat large numbers of carbohydrates and get good results (unless you are a serious athlete). But by checking your blood sugar strategically, you can learn how much of a food you can safely enjoy."

I wonder about all those people out there, without diabetes, who have no idea what they're putting into their bodies? I used to be envious of them as they just ate, and ate, and ate, for years, before it caught up with them. For me, the results of that kind of eating would be seen in less than 4 hours through my blood glucose testing.

My next thought was about how I'm not jealous of those people anymore. And how did that happened?

I used to consider the idea of a coffee and a dessert as a treat, or as the phrase goes; "being good to myself". 

In one five day period, this "treat" nearly happened three times, I felt that this went WAAAY beyond the scope of "occasionally" or "now and again". 

I said to myself; "You know, woman! The coffee is enough of a "treat"! Why don't I be good to myself by NOT having a dessert?!" After all, I wouldn't put petrol into my diesel car, would I? So why would I put fat and masses of sugar into me?

I thought this was a rather novel idea and was a little proud of myself for thinking of it! I chose to overlook the fact that it took me 40 plus years to figure it out. :-S

My whole ethos about desserts has changed because of this new (for me) way of thinking. I'm being good to myself by investing in my health, by only putting the healthiest food into it (mostly). I feel that my body deserve it! And because I'm worth it! (Thank you LÓreal!) And my family is worth it!

Yes, this is me write now - NOT! 
I'm finding that this mental attitude makes it easier to resist all those temptations. And, to be quite honest, the temptations are not always that good. Some are, some aren't but I'm not missing out on anything. I'm gaining so much for my health. Plus, I get to feel a little pious over all those people without diabetes who don't treat themselves well.

These days, my "treat" mostly consists of a high quality glossy magazine with my cuppa:-D

I might let myself enjoy a home baked dessert on an occasion but it has to be really, really, seriously, REALLY, good. But it's not a treat - it's to satisfy a craving.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Happy Blog-aversary!

This month, I will have been writing this blog for five years. Holy Moly!

What started out as a way to find more people with type 1 diabetes became therapy for me. And because it started out as a way to try and find more Irish people with diabetes, and more specifically to connect with more people with type 1, is why I named it Diabetes People.

I didn't think that there was enough thoughts in my head about my own life with diabetes to maintain a blog and so I had intended to ask other people to share their thoughts and experiences in living with diabetes too.

I also thought that if I came across a valuable piece of information for people with diabetes that posting it in one place one time was not going to reach very many people. And so, I would try to help post it in as many places as possible to make it easier for people with diabetes to find.

The idea of sharing other people's diabetes stories didn't really take off, so my blog became more about my own life with type 1 diabetes. I post once per week and I've tried to remain constant with that, except for a little while where I need all of my headspace to deal with heavy issues.

I've always used writing as therapy when I'm overwhelmed, ever since I was a teen. I knew I wasn't very good at writing and never had any expectations that I would become a successful blogger. I still believe that.
Happy 5th Birthday Diabetes People Blog

I didn't dare hope that I could be like any of those really talented writers with diabetes; like SixuntilMe's Kerri Sparling, BitterSweet's Karen Graffeo, those on Diabetesmine, etc. to name but a few.

Thankfully, I didn't have to rely on this blog to connect with irish people with diabetes. Thanks to Facebook groups we have a strong diabetes online community in Ireland; several in fact. And of course there is my diabetes support group in Ennis, Co. Clare.

I really appreciate all of you who take the time to read my musings and opinions, however "out there"they may be. I hope that I have helped you in small way, as you have helped me by appreciating this blog.

So five years down and I still feel like this is only the beginning :-D

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Friends for Life Conference Orlando

The Friends for Life conference (FFL) was started by the Childrenwithdiabetes.com organisation in the United States where families could meet each other and have a vacation in Disneyland.

Today, the FFLconference has evolved into a national mega-conference that 1,000 people with diabetes attend. It's open to ALL family members, including grandparents and now has programmes for the adults living with type 1 diabetes, as well as all the age groups of children and young people. They even have a FFL in the United Kingdom.

You may remember last August when I blogged almost endlessly after I had been lucky enough to attend FFL UK with my friend Christine!!!

The experience was fantastic and was where the seed of Thrive-abetes turned into a sapling.

So when I saw a post on Facebook from the Diabetes Hands Foundation offering scholarships to attend FFL or FFL MasterLabs I was jealous. Then! I remembered that I was married to an American and that we have planned to visit his family in Minnesota this coming July. I was actually going to be in the US while the conference is taking place and there fore less expensive to sponsor.

So I applied for a sponsorship!!! Hey, if you're not in, you can't win:-)

Guess what! Yep! I won a scholarship to the MasterLab advocacy conference which I have extended to include registration for FFL conference.

1st reason to be excited - I'm going to Orlando, Florida! I've never been before.
No. 2 reason to be excited I'm going to FFL!!!!!
No. 3 reason, well let me show you with this short video.