Tricks of the Trade: The lighter side of Life

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Sometimes it’s the little things in life that bring the finest moments in the day.  For me it’s an ice cold Diet Dr. Pepper.  When I was first diagnosed I never thought I would like Diet Drinks.  It started really slow, but over time I found a love for what I consider the best Diet beverage on the market.  A nice ice cold glass of Diet Dr. Pepper.  Although Coke Zero tried, nothing can compare to a Diet Dr. Pepper.  If you go to Sonic and put a little diet Cherry in it…well your day just took a turn for the better.  Am a passionate about this sweet little drink…yes.  If you disagree are you wrong…yes.  Does it taste as good as a regular Dr. Pepper…not even close! 🙂

I accidently grabbed a regular Dr. Pepper from a cooler the other day.  The print on the side of the ice cold can had a swirl of “white” which led me to believe it was diet (diet normally have a silver color can with red logo while a regular Dr. Pepper has a red can with white logo).  I was pre-occupied with something else at the time and poured that ice cold beverage into a cup and took a sip and thoroughly enjoyed 2 gulps from a regular Dr. Pepper that I haven’t tasted in years.  After the second drink I realized something was not right because it just tasted SO GOOD!  To my dismay I realized that I had mistaken my Dr. Pepper can for a diet and the fun was over.  I had to pass the cup to my wife as she gave me an “Awww”, but then finished off the ice cold Dr. Pepper with a rather rude smirk 🙂

I do miss the great taste of a regular coke, but like many things that you have lots of experience with (diabetes now 25 years) you learn a few tricks along the way.  At some point in my life I figured out the overwhelming taste of Root Beer.  Other regular beverages have an effect on the taste of a diet drink but I think Root Beer has the most extreme.  I figured out that filling a cup 4/5 of the way full with a Diet Dr. Pepper, and 1/5 Root Beer you can drink the entire cup and the whole thing tastes like Root Beer.

Sometimes it’s the smallest of things that bring a smile to your face.  On rough days  the simple taste of a regular root beer, while really being mainly Diet Dr.Pepper can be just enough to remind you that ” This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

I’m guessing everyone has a different version of their “Diet Dr. Pepper”, but finding something that you can thoroughly enjoy, and on certain days taking time to sit back, relax and “drink it up” is something that I think really helps in life.  We all have rough days at times, and many times a simple delight may be just what the Dr. ordered.

 

 

Don’t Live life Alone…There are Open Arms!

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So it always seems to get people to laugh when I tell them my theory on the stages of life when it comes to relationships. It goes like this:

  • Single = Awesome
  • Dating= OK
  • Engaged= Horrible!!!
  • Married= Awesome

Some may disagree but they are wrong.  Single has great qualities, framework to make decisions and act on them in an instant.  Mobile and open for anything.  Dating is awkward.  Engaged is all the bad stuff and frustrations that could come with marriage on steroids until you have left the parking lot of the wedding, and then settling into marriage with the one you love is back to awesome.  That’s how it works 🙂 Luckily that’s not what I’m talking about in this post.  I’m talking about Community, and how whether you are single, dating, engaged (yuk) or married you can live with community.

As I’ve moved into a new role in life that I’m extremely excited about, I am constantly reminded about the hesitancy for so many to join those who wait with open arms for you to share life with them.  You see it in every aspect in life, and probably none more than the diabetic world.  There are so many organizations, web-sites, blogs, and people around the corner who want to help.  People who know that its tough, especially those early years, and they want to listen, they want to hear you vent, they want to give you advice.  It a funny saying but so true…”The older I get the less I know!”  I can remember the days when I thought I had things figured out.  Marriage and 3 kids later  I’ve realized sometimes I may be a little surprised at things and may not know “how the world works”  (that’s my middle girls Olivia in the picture and she is my best example of this 🙂

One thing I know is that starting what I would call true community with someone has always begun a little uncomfortable.  It’s always been a little awkward at first.  There is the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability, learning the good and bad of someone else and releasing the idea that I’m not perfect and never will be…ish (shout out to Jesus on that one!) But I cannot think of a time where going out on that limb didn’t open my eyes to something beautiful.  Some great words of wisdom.  A shoulder I never thought I would cry on.  An ear just to hear frustrations.  When I look back I am so thankful that we have the chance for community and there is always someone willing to live life with you.

If you’ve never tried it I suggest you give it a shot. Some people really do see it as a joy to bless you and an honor to live life by your side!

Confidence in your weakness!

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So that’s my little man in his head gear.  Will he play football, probably but who knows and this helmet is not by choice.  Brody had surgery at 3 weeks to try and fix a condition called craniosynostosis.  Because of this condition he has to wear this shaping/protective helmet for 1 1/2 years…so we are 12 months away from being done with this thing.  With this condition of Brody, Kara (my wife) and I have had several conversations about people and their reaction to the helmet and especially the helmet in different stages.  You can see the picture, the helmets above look like totally different helmets but they are in fact the same. Paula Stawn in Washington painted the helmet and we think it looks awesome!   What I think shocked us even more was the reaction and change in reaction that came with a “cool” looking helmet.

When Brody was in the white, medical looking helmet it’s amazing how people would avoid and/or ignore Brody.  Having 2 other kids you go through the Goo’s and Gaa’s when people come up to look at your baby.  “Oh he is so cute” or “she’s adorable”.  Some people will even go as far as to say ” can i hold him?”.  People normally flock to babies, they want to talk about them, they even give you these great compliments of how beautiful they are, but when they see something is wrong…. they don’t exist.  I’ve heard this from many people with disabilities, that the worst thing for them is being ignored by all those who pass by.  I truly think that most people when confronting something “different” that they are not used to, are simply trying not to offend someone or say the wrong thing, but in doing so they actually drive those affected into a world where things move all around them but they are not part of it.

Everyone has different conditions, and some are much more serious than others, but it does seem that when you have CONFIDENCE IN YOUR WEAKNESS, people respond in very positive ways.  This is when those affected will sometimes see the possible positive seeds of their issue get just enough sunlight to sprout and start to grow.  This has been the case in my life.  Diabetes on the scale of things that can happen to you doesn’t make the top 5, but it is still a bit of a bummer.  Most people slow down the conversation when they find out about it hoping they can find a quick topic to talk about that may not offend me.  My best friends are different though.  They talk about it, laugh about it, and even mock the disease at times.  In my times of dealing with diabetes and the seriousness of it, this light hearted approach is actually very comforting.  It reminds me I’m just one of the guys, that there is nothing about this that keeps me “outside the circle” of friends, but instead lets us live life like a bunch of “normal” people.  The truth is though everyone has something that they think takes them out of the “normal” category.  Most of the time it is the way that they approach this problem that decides whether or not the possible posative aspects of it ever surface.

Do we have to like our ailments? NO!  Do we have to be glad we have them? Of course not.  But with diseases like diabetes that don’t have a cure (for now), why not embrace them as being part of you.  Put a little spice on it and grill it up.  It not only helps you cope with the disease, but opens the door for friends and family to feel comfortable enough to share in the experience with you.  They can ask questions because confidence is not easily offended.  They can laugh at the funny circumstances and ironies, because confidence can easily see the lighter side of life.  This then has a very positive outlook for the diagnosed as they now are not battling this issue alone, but instead have a community that deals with this disease instead of an individual all alone…and I believe this is how life is supposed to be lived.

Do I love diabetes…No…but i’m not going to stop loving life because of it!

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Parents of Diabetics…THANK YOU!

 

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Today I was reminded of the difficulty of those who are recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  I had the priviledge to go to a JDRF photo shoot for the upcoming GALA.  Meeting so many people and hearing of their story i’m amazed at the struggle, attitudes, and desire to help their children from parents.  I can remember my parents effort when i was diagnosed.  Their sadness, anxiety, and overwhelming desire to help their little boy out.  I was 10 and although not totally grasping the struggle this was for my parents, i knew it was tramatic.  What amazed me today was meeting those parents who have kids diagnosed at an age where communication is tough.  The constant struggle of wondering if your infant is low, high, upset from a diabetic issue or just that they are a kid and kids cry for no reason.  Not being able to communicate to a parent how they are feeling, or even understanding at the time what those feelings mean would and does create in parents a unique and vulnerable anxiety.  I think i only have an idea of what it would be like to have an infant diabetic, and that idea seems like it would be excruciatingly difficult, never ending, and anxiety ridden.

Diabetes was tough on my family.  New terms, new way of life, new rules on everything.  Eat this, count your carbs, check your blood, etc, etc, etc.  Through all of that it was tough but i was 10 and could communicate my thoughts, feelings, frustrations in a typical 10 year old fashion.  The struggle was still there, but the communication helped.  When i hear of the parents who have a very limited reply from their infant, i’m amazed at their positive outlook, as well as inspired by their desire to help find a cure.

Thanks to all the parents out there  who care enough to support their kids.  To the countless sleepless nights, the dealing with anxiety of a sudden hypoglycemic episode, accompanied with the already present stress of a parent, you have all been through a lot.  We hope as kids the ability to live out our potential and dreams is not our only, but our greatest way of saying THANK YOU!!!

Workouts and Low Blood Sugars

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It happened again.  I finally get the energy and willingness (that seems to be the most difficult one) to workout.  I got my workout clothes on, convinced 2 of my 3 kids that this would be a fun activity.  My wife was on board, it was going to be a good family workout.  I had my bluetooth speaker charged and ready to go.  Everything was falling into place…. except…..

See I had taken my blood sugar about 20 minutes earlier and i was 125, so i was looking good and everything seemed steady.  But 4 minutes into the run I get the rapid falling rate alarm on my CGM.  I looked down and was at 87 with double arrows pointing down.  “Maybe I would level out”, but things happened just as I expected.  A few more minutes and there it is, the low blood sugar alarm lights up and for all intensive purposes, my workout is OVER!  This just ends up being a rock that I can’t move!

I’ve tried it all.  More simple sugars, mix in some complex carbs with protein.  I have found over the years it is an uphill battle when it comes to working out and low blood sugars.  Much like the opening picture, I think its an unwinnable battle.    If its a game, well that’s one thing. You have to give it time and let you sugar come up and then try to get back in the action no matter how exhausted you are.  But i think a simple jog, weight workout, those sort of exercises you are done.  Best to just pack up your bag and call it a day.  Chalk it up as bad luck, keep your cool and move one.

I can remember as a JH athlete in 7th grade, a point where every kid is still trying to “find themselves” I had to sit out of some of football practice because I was having trouble keeping my blood sugars up.  I remember chugging a Gatorade and in a fit of rage throwing it as hard as i could against the school building.  Frustrated that diabetes had sidelined me for a bit and “everyone else was getting better” and I wasn’t.  From them to now I’ve changed a lot (you would sure hope so, I was 13 at the time 🙂 but i learned a lesson very quickly at that age.  If i was going to pursue a dream in sports, I had to get this thing under control, and so managing Diabetes took its place as a real priority in my life.

Fast forward to my workouts of today, if you can even call them that.  I like people, and i like interacting with them. I enjoy doing the things which make that work. Meeting with people, listening them, helping people out.   I also like being healthy and in shape, I just typically don’t like the steps to get there.  I don’t enjoy running….never have.  I watched a video workout one time called “Insanity”.  The opening lines were “This is going to be the hardest workout you’ve ever done.”  Having gone through 2-days in football for years I thought that this guy was probably wrong but i didn’t want to give him the chance to prove it to me so i turned it off. 🙂  But when the stars align, and I have the desire, time, and chance to workout it is extremely frustrating when a low blood sugar makes you stop.  The most frustrating to me is when it is right in the middle of a workout.  You did enough to get a little sweaty, but didn’t really do enough to help your body achieve any progress.  UGGH!  Frustrating, but sad to say for a diabetic that is just life, and for years I let that ruin me both physically but much more mentally.  I would be so upset, frustrated, and angry that i was missing an opportunity.  In athletics it always felt like I was getting behind the competition since they had this opportunity and i now didn’t.  So what have i learned?

For my health and sanity, i have learned when i get a low blood sugar into a workout, I just call it quits.  I’m not forced to do workouts anymore, so its a personal choice, and for me the lack of energy, endurance and strength that accompanies a low blood sugar pales in comparison to the mental strain of working out after a low sugar.  For my sanity and to let my body recover, I quietly thank the Lord for the time I had and quietly make my way to the shower hoping to wash away the frustration before it sets in.  Maybe your world is different, but for me this is one of those situations where less ends up being more!

Beware the Mighty Rebound

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“Get the rebound!!!, Get the rebound!!!” I can hear still my mom yelling that as she cheered on our high school basketball team.  It was a phrase that always made me laugh.  10 guys on the court all trying to get the ball, to get a rebound, but fans still needed to always let you know what needed to be done.  “Get the Rebound!!!”  My mom was/is still a great fan!

I was a decent basketball player in high school, even got to play for the State Championship 1 year, and I was a pretty good rebounder, but in the diabetic world I can safely say I can rebound with the best of them.  Typically rebounding is a positive thing.  In sports it’s positive to get a rebound.  I remember others using the term for people that had finished a tough relationship time, or time of emotional distress and people would say that they were rebounding.  Usually meaning they are getting better.  I don’t know who decided to use that phrase to describe this nasty little thing in the diabetic world, the thing that always gets me…. the REBOUND!

It is hard to truly describe the urge to non-diabetics when I get low.  It’s not hunger, thats a small grumble i get around dinner time.  It’s not a feeling because those easily come and go.  There is an UNQUENCHABLE DESIRE to eat or drink sugar at times when I get low.  I have never done drugs and have never been a serious drinker, and i will hear people use the word “munchies” as they talk about a strong desire to eat.  I think i would give the diabetic urge the name “devourees” because i have a craving  in these times that is unstoppable.

I honestly can’t remember a time over my 25 years as a diabetic that i was good at this.  I have always over treated my lows.  I’ll be sitting there, like today knowing that I have just taken in everything that i need to recover from a low, but there is something inside of me that says ” I don’t care what you know, I NEED this one more gatorade, and this granola bar, and a little bit of orange juice/apple juice mix (just cause its good).”  Before you know it my blood sugar is taking off like a NASA space shuttle and looks like the picture i’ve shared with you today.  It has been part of my entire existence with diabetes, the over treatment of lows, and the only rebound my mom never wanted me to get!

For those who suffer through the same fate as a diabetic let me say i feel your pain.  I know the cravings, I know the feelings, and as your blood sugar soars I know the regret of “what was i thinking?!?!”  The only thing i’ve been able to do to stop it over the years is gorge myself on sugar free snacks and vegetables until the sugar kicks in and the cravings stop, but that has never proved to be the most effective or convenient.  I typically don’t carry around celery sticks on a regular, mobile basis.

I don’t have any great ideas, maybe you have some for me and i’d love to hear them.  All i can express to you is hang in there and don’t feel too bad…. the rebounds happen to me too!!!

Happy Trails: The Traveling Diabetic

 

Today I was reminded today of the struggles of traveling as a diabetic. In all of my years I think I could count on one hand the number of trips, both short 1 day and week longs, where I have been able to maintain a good, consistent blood sugar. It is inevitable, my blood sugars will spike in times of travel. If I don’t see a spike it is because I have over emphasized travelings effect and find myself in the familiar place of eating simple sugars so I don’t have to give up the wheel to my wife (not that she is a bad driver I just enjoy driving…wink…wink).

 

I’m convinced that the changing of moderate/low activity to NO activity when flying or traveling is the main culprit in a spiking blood sugar in travels. There are other factors of course. The stress, excitement, etc when traveling to a place. Very seldom are you traveling all day(s) to a place where your emotional state remains in a constant equilibrium. You are normally excited, upset, stressed or some other blood glucose altering state when you are traveling. There are also the added effects of people like me who, especially when you are sitting down, feel as though you need to be eating or drinking something or you just can’t function. Knowing all of that, the change and reduction in activity is remarkable to how it raises blood glucose.

 

Starting a diet competition about a month ago, my blood sugars have been running lower than normal with pretty consistent blood sugars. I’ve been battling lows for weeks as I try to increase my exercise, eat little to no carbs, and find my true basil insulin rate. In the middle of that we agreed to meet my wife’s family at a hotel to celebrate our oldest sons 4th birthday. The kids love getting to see each other, swim in the pool, and sleep with grandma and grandpa. It always ends up being a highlight for everyone, except for those who have to pack the kids things and make 10 trips to and from the car to unload it all, but that would be looking at the glass half empty. In the end of the day it is a blast for all!!! This day was not a huge trip. It was a 3hr 15min drive to the hotel. Having not been hit by a high blood sugar in a couple days (and yes that is rare for me) I get an alert from my CGM that my blood sugar is starting to get out of range. I’ve got it set at 200 and I was shocked to see it go up out of nowhere. I had an egg white omelet at the house in the morning with some coffee and that is it!!! I was shocked that I peaked so high 2 ½ hours into the trip. I just thought with a sugar free tea and no carbs in me, the spike wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t as fierce as a lot of my travel highs, but was still there, and I was reminded again how activity is the grease on the wheels of insulin. Without activity, insulin just doesn’t have a chance to work, even if that activity is very small.

 

This brings a big dilemma and one that I’ve fought against people of different opinions most of my life. I would argue these people are ignorant of what they are talking about, but of course that doesn’t seem to keep them from expressing their opinion. I think the phrase “ You can’t” and typically “you shouldn’t as a diabetic do _____” should be scrapped from the vocabulary. Unless you are talking about being a pilot or Navy Seal that just shouldn’t be said. Many people don’t tell you not to go on a trip, but I have heard so many times that its “hard to do with diabetes”, or “ maybe you should focus on something else you can manage with diabetes”. That was a big one for me in football. Some people said it would put an extra strain on my body and that it wasn’t a good idea. Well news flash. As a defensive end in the NFL I am trying to get past a grown man to the quarterback. Some of those grown men are 6’ 7” tall and weight 370 lbs (seriously Leonard Davis you were a huge man) and very emphatically don’t want you to get back there. My point is there is not a defensive end in the NFL who doesn’t have a “strain on their body” trying to do their job. It comes with life. A business leader will have stresses that can affect his blood sugar and other health problems, but should they not run a business, NO!!! You look at the risk, try to approach it and manage it the best you can, but anything you do in life will have some positive and negative effects on your body. And as the point of this blog is trying to make, sitting on your rear have a negative effect as well. So my suggestion is live life, chase your dreams, and make diabetes work around you. I’ve gotten on a bit of tangent, but my passion for this seems to find its way through and I feel as though it is worth saying.

 

So what do you do when you travel? Well simply put you need to check you sugar more often (CGM thank you!!!) and crank up your insulin levels just a bit. I typically start with just a few more cc’s in my basil the morning of (I take a basil shot in the morning and at night). I then give myself a little insulin when my blood sugar starts to get over the 150 mark. Typically I would love that number, but when traveling I like to get my sugars to stay a little closer down. You may find that your insulin required when riding in a car or plane with increase dramatically. Your 2 cc fix may jump to 3 or possibly 4 cc’s taking double the amount of insulin typically required. I get the same issue when I wake at night from a “high CGM alarm”. My lack of activity makes insulin work horribly so I have to increase my insulin by 50% of what I would normally take.   Snacking on a bag of sunflower seeds typically may take 1 or 2 units of insulin, while traveling for an extended time may take 3-4. That is just how things have worked out for me.

 

I know the frustration of being on a trip with high blood sugars. To be the guy on a guys trip who has to stop to use the bathroom every hour and face the ridicule of your friends coming back to the car. “ You’ve got to pee again Brandon, I thought the wives stayed home on this trip!!!”… yea you get some comments. I’ve been so excited about a trip, but spent the first day feeling so crummy because my excessive blood sugar had made me dehydrated to the point my stomach hurts and I can’t enjoy a nice sit down dinner when we get there (and eating is a huge part of my enjoyment of travel). I don’t want to whine or give a woe is me monologue, but that is just how life is sometimes. For those out there with this same frustration, I feel your pain. Keep a tight reign on that diet, pump that insulin up a bit (with Drs. Approval of course) and please, please, please don’t let it stop you from hitting the road. Life’s too short to have flawless blood sugars but never leave the front yard. Happy trails!!!