Health — March 1, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Keeping Life Sweet: A Series on Getting Healthy with Diabetes, Part 1

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A commentary by Staff Writer, Maegan Carrasquillo

Every year I look back on what I’ve accomplished and what I could work on in the coming one and create a list. 2018 for me, was not a particularly wonderful year so the “what I could work on” part of the list seemed a lot longer than usual. Instead of feeling defeated I decided I would focus on the one aspect out of those issues that would have the greatest overall impact; my health.

Currently I’m a 30-year-old mother with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes. At first glance, I don’t seem terribly out of shape or ill, but as the old adage goes, never judge a book by its cover. Most days I wake up exhausted and never really shake that funk. My diet isn’t the worst for a typical person, but my love of chocolate covered anything isn’t ideal for my diabetes. I also don’t exercise regularly so when I chase the dog around the yard and I’m huffing and puffing it’s embarrassing, especially when my daughter points and laughs (have children they said…). Keeping my diabetes in check is probably the main issue I face.

I was diagnosed at 13 after losing 10 pounds in a week and being so ill I couldn’t lift my head. My father had to carry me into the doctor’s office, and I remember the doctor and my parents speaking in hushed voices as I lay on the table. After a few different tests the doctor came back and said, “She has juvenile diabetes. I’ve called the hospital, they’re expecting you.” Over the course of two days I met with two endocrinologists (specialists in diabetes and the endocrine system), a nutritionist, and a slew of nurses. I was taught how to use a glucometer to test my blood sugar, something I would need to do from that point forward when I woke up, before and after each meal, as well as before bed. I was shown how to count carbohydrates and given a book listing their amounts in certain unlabeled foods like apples and bananas. Finally, I was given insulin and taught how to inject myself with a syringe. So glad they saved the best for last.

My diabetes education didn’t end when I left the hospital. After 17 years I’m still learning new things and with all of the advances in science and technology I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. Thankfully my experience hasn’t been all bad. I no longer inject insulin four-to-six times a day or track every blood sugar reading in a tiny log book. With my new insulin pump I can receive insulin multiple times a day as well as track my blood sugars and all with only one injection every three days. The pump is a device I wear outside my body attached by a clip to my belt or bra that is about the size of a deck of cards. Every three days I insert a new cannula (a small tube that goes beneath the skin to deliver insulin through a tube) that is held on with an adhesive.  My pump also pairs with something called a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). The CGM is a small device that is inserted in the skin for seven days that tests blood sugar every five minutes and sends back the information to the pump. It can help to keep my blood sugars more tightly controlled and prevent low blood sugar.

My goal for this year is to be healthy. It may sound simple but it’s something I haven’t been in years. Now a goal without a plan is just a wish, so I have many plans in place.

  1. Get a better handle on my diabetic health.
    I recently went to see my endocrinologist to get an idea of where I am now. She tested my A1C which measures average blood sugars within the past two-to-three months. I’d like my reading to be around a 5.5 – 6.5 and currently it’s an 8.8. To help lower my A1C my doctor suggested I start using the CGM, modifying my diet, and getting more exercise.
  2. Change my diet.
    I’ll work on eating more vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains while lessening my intake of salt and sugar. I’ll also be working on portion control and a stricter schedule to avoid excessive snacking between meals.
  3. Work on getting more exercise.
    Admittedly, during the winter months in New England this is more difficult, but I’ve started every morning with a 10-minute stretching routine that actually makes me crave more activity. At this point I’m only taking long walks with my dog and taking my daughter on outside exploring adventures, but I do plan to include jogging and possibly a daily swim once the weather is kinder.
  4. Work on mental health.
    Depression is a common struggle for anyone dealing with a long-term illness like diabetes, and though I’ve grown to love my often-cynical outlook I do believe that a happier me is the end goal here.

I’m looking forward to a 2019 full of positive changes and though I know it might be rough (especially without chocolate covered stuff), I invite you to join me on this journey to wellness and hope you will follow my progress through this six-part, Focus on Good Health series.

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. None of the information presented is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.  This is a personal account and individual experiences may vary. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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