Why Dance?

I stumbled upon a really neat non-profit based out of San Francisco this weekend.

A couple of my friends participated in and/or watched April Follies: a same sex dance ballroom dance competition held in the Bay Area this weekend. One of their vendors was Dance Out Diabetes. (Some of their board members and volunteers even competed and did REALLY well.)

Dance Out Diabetes provides monthly dances and instruction for folks who are enjoying life, either as a T1, a T2, or a pre-diabetic, and want a creative solution for that “physical activity” element of self care. Dance instruction features ballroom and social dancing, zumba, disco, and soul line dancing, just to name a few. The instructors are volunteers, as are the Certified Diabetes Educators and Dietitians. The funding they receive provides A1Cs, glucose tests at the dances, nutrition counseling, and height/weight checks.

You can visit their website here: http://www.danceoutdiabetes.org/

Now that I’m only semi-employed, I might have some extra time to head to the bay and volunteer. After all, I’m a prime example of how exercise can help glucose control, even though I complain non-stop about where to put my pump while in costume. Granted I can’t provide medical advice, I can provide another stem on a network of support.

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Things They Don’t Tell You…

So here is an info post for those of you who are recently diagnosed or are making strides to clean up your act.

The docs always tell you upon diagnosis what you need to survive: your meds, your test strips and meter, and a way of taking your meds. Maybe a log book. And some fast acting glucose.

I’m here to tell you about all the stuff that really comes in handy, but docs don’t always tell you to invest in, either because they forget, or maybe you’ll figure it out on your own.

1) Measuring cups, spoons, and a scale

Are you counting carbs down to an exact science? Then you’ll need these. A cup of steamed white rice is somewhere around 45 grams of carbs. So maybe you just want half? Measure it. Take it from me. I can’t “eyeball” anything worth beans and I’ve had this for 30+ years.

It’s especially tricky when your serving size is measured in grams. (See scale suggestion.)

2) Storage space

I currently have my supplies in two locations. The hall closet and my bedroom closet. A shelf in each is occupied, mostly because I get three month supplies of everything. And you can’t forget the fridge for your unopened insulin. Mine sits on the door where the butter and eggs should be.

3) A sharps container

If you are on shots, throwing your used syringes in the trash is generally frowned upon… and in most places probably illegal. My family used have a device that would crop the needles off before dispensing them. But be warned: these buggers are small and expensive. And you’ll probably need many of them.

4) A fanny pack

Don’t hate. I still have a black one. I don’t actually wear it though. I use it to pack my supplies in when I travel. It has so many pockets and it was freakin’ cheap. Yeah – I could get something fancy pants on Etsy, but why? It’s just going to stay in my luggage all day.

Some athletes will find them useful for carrying their meters on bike rides or runs. (I never did, but if it works for you…)

5) Pump accessories

Pumps come with basic supplies to make them function for you. But that doesn’t make them any more convenient. My pump is “skinned” or stickered with a fun design that exposes the important information and buttons only. I have two holsters. I have a leg band and stomach band. I really wish I had a remote control.

6) The Calorie King book

This was one of the most useful items I had when I first became a pumper. (Now I just use an app, but some people like books.) It has calorie, fat, and carb counts for just about everything. It has to be updated every year, so be aware that you can also just Google the website in a pinch. Especially handy when you aren’t sure how to carb count that epic restaurant salad.

7) 4 Oz Juice cups

So, if you are like me and like to consume the fridge when a low blood sugar shows up, control the portions BEFORE you pour. I found that if I snagged an 8-10 oz glass from the cupboard, I poured myself a whopping 33 – 40 grams of carbs to treat a low. Not good. So I recently found 4 oz plastic cups at my local supermarket. Boom. 15-20 fast acting carbs. (Though, they are way easier to try and chug, so go easy.)

8) Smaller plates

Maybe it’s a psychological thing. But if I have a giant buffet plate, I want to fill it edge to edge. And now I’ve got all this food in front of me that I’m not sure how to carb count. So we have luncheon plates, which are significantly smaller and we use for everyday meals. So much easier.

9) A mobile app

I currently use one to keep blood sugar and carb logs. It’s hit or miss sometimes, but works much better for me than toting around a paper log book. (Or doing nothing at all!) My specific app allows you to graph your sugars so you can see your progress over the week, month, and year. There are many out there for all devices, with various price points and features. (My specific one is called Diabetes App – located in the App Store.)

10) Resilience and Patience

Hey, so, you were running really really well for the last day and a half and suddenly your blood sugars are over 250 for no apparent reason. Or maybe you just wanted that slice of cake. Or you skipped your work out. Oops. Oh well. Treat the high, carb count for that piece of cake, and make up your workout tomorrow. Move on. It does nothing to dwell on it or guilt yourself for something that doesn’t want to be controlled.

Have another tip to add? Share it below.

A PR Girl’s Guide to Pitching Bloggers with Diabetes

How to avoid this!

Or… how I would pitch myself.

My WordPress feed is quite handy for finding new and fun bloggers. I’m not sure if I’m just noticing more because I am in PR, or if PR firms are taking note that it’s Diabetes Awareness month, but man, there are a lot of pitches going around. I’ll knock on wood for now, as it seems my blog is too new to be searchable, but I’ve read about 4 blogs all covering the same thing – how NOT to pitch to a person with diabetes.

On behalf of PR gurus from around the world… I’m sorry. Let’s fix this disconnect now.

From my perspective, it is SO HARD to make a form letter that’s getting passed around to 100s of emails sound like it applies to everyone you are emailing. And then make it sound casual, as though you’ve known the recipient for years. In some ways, it works. But depending on the timing, topic, angle, and appropriateness, it probably won’t. So – note to PR folks… EVERYONE is pitching Diabetes Awareness Month now… try a different angle… please.

So what would get my attention? In a good way? Here you go:

1) Educate yourself on the different types of diabetes variations.

Have a great diet to help “reverse the affects of Type 2 diabetes” or have this awesome new drug that decreases insulin resistance? Great! Don’t wanna hear about it. None of that stuff would help me. Same goes for the folks wanting to pitch advice on how to reverse pre-diabetes. I’m afraid you are bit too late for that one. And just because obesity can cause diabetes doesn’t mean I’m overweight. (And don’t question why I’m not…) Google is your best friend. TAGS in blogs are even better. (I try to mention a Type 1 related tag in all my posts.) Know your audience. Duh.

2) We have Diabetes. It doesn’t have us.

When I did volunteer work for the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, now the Inclusion Project, a number of years ago, the organization had a specific lexicon of phrases and words that were appropriate in public domains. For example, we never said a child is autistic; we said he has autism. Or we never said he is handicapped; rather a child with special needs. And we definitely never distinguished between kids without disabilities as “normal.” Since the goal of the organization was to foster inclusion, we had to change our vocab.

If you come to me and say that I am a diabetic, it implies that this who I am, and only who I am. It owns me and controls me. Rather, I prefer to say I have diabetes, because then it becomes a trait similar to “I have brown eyes.” My brown eyes don’t make me who I am; it’s simply a part of me.

3) Guilt doesn’t work.

Pitching grim statistics, or implying that I’m horrible at controlling my blood sugar and only your product/service can help is a surefire way to make me hit the delete key. (Or fire back with a snarky response.) We all work hard at controlling this unwieldy disease. We all play mental games with ourselves, trying to wrap our heads around why our bodies work the way they do. We get enough flack from our doctors and family members. We don’t need it from a stranger hiding behind a keyboard as well.

4) I’m a person too. 

Yeah, sure, I may be a statistic in some form. But I’m also a person. Make sure your pitch has human life and doesn’t just drone on about how erry’body with diabetes is suffering and blah blah blah. We don’t suffer from anything. I aim to be just as human as everyone else. (Even though I’m battery powered.)

Special thanks to Kerry, Kim, and Christopher for bringing this to my attention. Also check out NYC PR Girls for more general advice on being successful in PR.

Diabetic Lexicon

As a diabetic, I have my unique set of vocabulary. And I realize that not everyone reading may know what I’m talking about and why I do things the way I do. So – here are some definitions to commonly used terms I throw around.

Fasting blood glucose test
A method of finding out how much glucose or sugar is present in the blood after fasting for 8 hours.

Type 1 Diabetes (What I have…) (T1)
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus occurs when a person permanently loses the ability to produce insulin or has become insulin-dependent. Specifically, the islets of Langerhans – located in the pancreas – lose the beta cells which produce insulin. Without insulin, glucose levels rise causing sugar diabetes. The chief cause of this beta cell loss is an autoimmune attack. Type One (1) Diabetes Mellitus is irreversible and has no connection to diet or exercise.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2)
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is also referred to as adult-onset diabetes, maturity-onset diabetes, or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. The pancreas maintains the ability to keep producing insulin but one of three conditinos can occur: defective insulin secretions, insulin resistance or reduced insulin sensitivity. Reduced insulin sensitivity seems to lead all causes due to obesity, the leading cause of Type Two (2) diabetes mellitus. Fat around the waist secretes hormones (adipokines) that almost makes obese people allergic to glucose. As a result, insulin levels increase and oral medication becomes the preferred treatment.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDs)
Gestational diabetes, in simplified form, is Type Two (2) Diabetes Mellitus that occurs in women during pregnancy. For reasons many do not understand, the pancreas either fails to produce enough insulin or the body fails to respond to insulin secretions. Gestational diabetes affects 2-5% of pregnant women and can improve or even disappear after pregnancy.

Glucose
The main carbohydrate fuel (energy) in the blood.

Glycated hemoglobin test (HbA1c)
Determines effective (or ineffective) management of diabetes. Hemoglobin is a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues. It can also attach to sugar in the blood forming a substance called glycated hemoglobin or a Hemoglobin A1C. The test provides an average blood glucose measurement over a 6-12 week period and is used in conjunction with home glucose monitoring to make treatment adjustments. The ideal range for people with diabetes is generally less than 7%. (I’m currently at 7%.)

Insulin
A hormone produced by the pancreas in the Islets of Langerhans that helps the body process glucose for cell energy.

Insulin pump
A small, computerized device – about the size of a small cellphone – that releases a steady flow of insulin into the body.

Insulin resistance
When insulin does not do its job properly. Can occur in overweight people and even with high daily doses of insulin.

Pancreas
An organ in the abdomen that produces chemicals that aid in digestion. It also manufactures insulin which breaks down glucose for cell energy.

Peak action
When the effect of something is at its strongest, i.e., when insulin has the most effect in lowering blood glucose levels.

Hyperglycemia
High, above average blood glucose levels. Common amongst diabetics.

Hypoglycemia
Lower than average blood glucose levels. Common amongst diabetics where there’s too much insulin and not enough glucose.

Insulin reaction
Also called hypoglycemia. Occurs when a diabetic injects too much insulin, eaten too little or has exercised without ingesting a sufficient amount of food.