My DSMA Blue Fridays Photoshoot-Spanish Style

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone,

It’s the second installment of my thrift store dresses in blue.

We wear blue every friday to support those affected by diabetes.

I’m not sure the origin of this dress but I feel like it has a Spanish flare to it. Spain is known for its passionate, romantic and ultra-sexy dance styles so for Valentine’s Day, I think this fits well.
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Remember to use the hashtag #BlueFridays when you participate.

And since it’s love day, don’t forget about the Spare a Rose, Save a Child initiative. Help save a diabetic child’s life by donating, which will provide funds for much needed supplies like insulin, strips and access to doctors.

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How are you wearing blue today?

J

Photo Essay: Spare a Rose, Save a Child (Life for a Child Program)

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How many of us stare at our meter, then cringe and complain at our blood glucose reading?

We feel our hard fingertips and needle stings, grunt at error messages and faulty sites.

Although our frustrations shouldn’t be dismissed, they are definitely #firstworldproblems. Many in developing countries don’t have access to insulin, meters, strips or even doctors.

You can make a difference for someone living with diabetes. The difference between life and death.

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This Valentine’s Day, consider donating to the International Diabetes Federation Life for a Child program. Spare a rose in your bouquet on love day and give hope to a child who needs it.

See the faces of those you are helping.

A full list of blogs and sites helping to promote Spare A Rose, Save a Child via Kerri Sparling’s Six Until Me

Sending love to diabetic children and their families around the world,

J

Canadian Diabetes Association’s Stress, Depression and Type 1 Diabetes Talk

Hey, I know you!

Towards the end of Leah Drazek’s presentation on mental health and type 1 diabetes, I happened to spot someone I had met at the JDRF type 1 adult support group in November.

I don’t know about you, but when I see someone and know they are type 1 as well, I get this surge of excitement and happiness. My face changes. I smile. And I feel 100 times better. Does that feeling ever go away?

We updated each other on how we were doing with our diabetes management, what’s been happening since we last saw each other and offered words of support. It was short and sweet, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was something I really needed.

It’s just like being in a room filled with other type 1’s out there. The room was packed at the ING Direct Cafe in downtown Toronto, and I saw people of all ages and cultures. It was the first time I saw such diversity. If you read my previous post titled What it’s like to be the only Chinese type 1 diabetic you know, I think you’d understand how much this meant to me.

And from the audience to the speaker, that feeling continued on. As Drazek went through her slides listing stats and symptoms of mental health and type 1 diabetes, I started giving myself internal head nods and inside saying, “Yes! I’ve felt that. Oh! I can relate completely. I’ve been there!”

My note highlights

  • People with type 1 diabetes are over 3x risk of developing depression
  • Risk factors for developing depression with type 1 diabetes: female, poverty, few social support, stressful event, longer duration of diabetes, poor glycemic control, presence long term complications, physical inactivity
  • Symptoms: sadness, lack of pleasure in almost all activities, significant weight loss/gain, sleeping longer than normal, loss of energy, agitation, impaired concentration
  • How to deal: use supports such as family/friends, counselors, family doctors
  • Drink more water, less coffee, listen to music, exercise, spend time with people you like, positive self talk, antidepressant/anxiety medications, drink more h20
  • Be open and honest with your diabetes health care provider, they can better guide and provide resources

My live tweets: Canadian Diabetes Association’s Stress, Depression and Type 1 diabetes

Drazek shared personal stories about having a panic attack, how family changes impacted her stress levels and even what her blood glucose levels were before and after a recent car accident.

What made the experience worthwhile was having a fellow type 1 diabetic speaking right in front of me, being vulnerable and sharing her life in a very raw and honest way.

I walked away with more confidence, feeling less alone, and after exchanging numbers with my support group buddy, possibly a new friend.

J

Links:

Canadian Diabetes Association

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Contact List

American Diabetes Association Depression Information

 

The dreaded “before” photo & taking on the Inches Challenge

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I’m a big fan of my gym. Here’s why:

  • Trainers are friendly and so helpful. Every time I go in, I call on one of them to see if I’m doing an exercise correctly. I always have a good experience and walk away feeling empowered and not intimidated in the slightest (the latter being a big deal for me).
  • They provide lots of fundraising initiatives. For Christmas, one of the trainers dead lifted the total weight of how much food was donated. For Movember, donators could purchase from an exercise “menu”, appetizers being $2, a main course $5. I bought a few appetizers and purchased squats. At the end the trainers had to do all the exercises that were purchased from the Movember menu. I won a poster and free passes to the gym 😀
  • New programming. Last month I took part in two olympic lifting sessions (power clean and dead lift, which I’ll blog about later) and had a blast doing it. And now, I am taking on the Inches Challenge.

So the photo above explains it all. On Thursday I had my measurements taken and sat down to talk about my goals. You can decide your end date to the challenge. I have decided it will be a year from now.

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For the most part, I want more definition. I want to build muscle and decrease my body fat percentage. 2013 was definitely a year to push myself when it came to fitness and this year, I want to continue to grow and dedicate myself to my health.

Taking a “before” photo was nerve-wracking. It took 10 seconds at the most, but standing there, in form fitting gym clothes to bare every curve in front of a lens that I wasn’t shooting was no easy task. I wouldn’t have dared to enter something like this 5 years ago.

I’ve never been a person that was proud of my body. I struggled long and hard and resounded a while back that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be really fit. Being diagnosed, and all that has come with it, has really changed my perspective on things.

We hold so much power in our thoughts. We are much stronger than we believe. I’m thankful to be part of a fitness facility that helps build my self esteem and provides me with a comforting environment where I can say, “Yes, sign me up! I can do this.”

Find a place, whether it’s outside alone on a trail or a group class with an energetic instructor, that makes you feel comfortable. An environment that makes you feel strong, that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone.

It makes all the difference. And with that, you will be another step closer to conquering your fears and reaching your goals.

Body Fat 33% & going down,

J

Toronto ice storm diabetes photo art

Taken this morning around my neighbourhood.

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This post was inspired by fellow type 1 diabetic Scully. Her December 12 of 12-tiny things photo entry featured one unit of insulin as the focus, and it was amazing to see visually just how tiny a drop of insulin is.

Hope everyone is staying safe. Happy holidays,

Jessie

The needle you don’t inject yourself. Flu shot anyone?

Another needle for you. Another for me.

Before my vacation I had a meeting with my diabetes team at the hospital. My nurse Sue said I HAD to get the flu shot.

“How about I get it after my trip? Last time I got the flu shot years ago I got very sick.”

I ended up getting it yesterday at my local Shoppers Drug Mart, almost a week since I returned back from my vacay. It took less than 10 minutes, quick and easy. I didn’t know this but now every Shoppers Drug Mart in Ontario offers the flu shot.

After my jab, I Instagramed this photo:

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Thank you to everyone who responded to my photo on IG! It was interesting, as I’m a newbie type one diabetic, to hear the wide range of comments about the flu shot. Some of you said you wouldn’t go without it and others made it clear you would never take it again.

A few months ago I came down with the flu and it was terrible. It was three weeks before I got back to my old self. The nasty bug also threw my half-marathon training out of whack. This was my first big sickness since getting diagnosed and the awful feeling was one I never wanted to experience again. That, coupled with my nurse’s advice, is why I decided to get the shot this year.

Does your diabetes team advocate for the flu shot? Do you take it? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Sore arms (from today’s workout, not the shot),

Jessica

Recap: WDD & my first overseas trip with type 1 diabetes

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The night before my trip I was very nervous about flying. I didn’t want any complications going through customs and the thought of potentially ruining my vacation with delays just lingered around me.

This was my first vacation with type 1 diabetes and drumroll….I couldn’t have asked for a better one.

Airport security: I took everything out of my backpack and had all my goodies in clear bags. I had my letter in tow and as suspected, my basket of needles was halted, reversed and brought through the conveyer belt. I carried a juice box with me and the security guard said, “You’re diabetic?”

“Yes, here’s my letter.”

She didn’t look at my medical note. She took my juice box, scanned it on that fancy machine which has a name I’m not sure of, and off I went. I was thrilled. I hugged my friend and said, “I did it!”. It was a huge sigh of relief.

I knew I was spending World Diabetes Day away from home. I didn’t know how to celebrate, all I knew is that I wanted to be peaceful and happy, and to reflect on this past year with lots of pride of what I accomplished.

Right before my trip I got this wonderful surprise from insulindependence. I had a big smile on my face when I read the handwritten note from Desirae.

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My new t-shirt went right into my suitcase, as did my Connected in Motion race shirt.

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On WDD I donned both tops, wore my pin and celebrated with quiet thoughts about what transpired over the past year.

It has been definitely a rough and often dark time since I was diagnosed. However during WDD and for the rest of my trip, I felt rejuvenated and inspired. I’ve got big goals for my fitness and health this coming year.

I’m going to dedicate more time to weight training, train hard for my second half-marathon and try to find more ways to help other type 1 diabetics here and around the world.

As for my blood sugar levels on my trip, I had one low. That’s it. I floated around my 4-8 range as usual and felt great! I took next to no insulin because of all of the activity. I checked less (I’m usually pricking 15+ times a day), and it was wonderful! I think because of the setting I was able to relax about my diabetes more.

So after a week of relaxation, swimming with sharks and eating amazing tropical fruits, I’m back ready to push it at the gym. I’m ready to crush my health goals!

Suntanned and happy,

Jessica 🙂

I’m a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic who loves to exercise. Welcome to my unpredictable world.

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When I found out I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the first thing I said to myself was, “I’m not going to give up my exercise regime!”

It was a shock to find out after 29 beautiful years together, my pancreas function wanted out.

First off, way to be a quitter. I’ve invested a lot in keeping you and the rest of my body healthy. What gives? Maybe I took you for granted. I took a lot of things for granted actually. I just assumed you and the rest of my body would just “work”. But I guess not. And secondly, stop coming back for short bits of time and then leaving again. Either you are in or out. I don’t like this wishy-washy fling we’re having. I don’t know why it’s called honeymooning. This is no honeymoon.

Okay, back to exercising and being a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic.

The biggest problem I face with any type of training is going low (the technical term is hypoglycemia). It has been a very long process and I am by no means at a point where I’ve found the answer on how to work out without going low. I do accept that no matter how much I prepare or try to prevent lows, they will inevitably happen.

In the year and some since I’ve been diagnosed I have been to hospital once over  hypogylcemia  involving exercise. I swam, biked and run much earlier in the day in training for my first triathlon and although I ate when I should have, I still crashed, and crashed bad. I was completely out of it and my run buddies drove me to the hospital. I didn’t know where I was, and apparently was saying on the ride there, “We are going to do swim drills now right?” I eventually came to, and was released the same night.

If you’re competitive and have a type A personality like myself, this whole process may drive you mad.

It’s important to remember the following:

  • This learning curve will teach you the great life lesson of patience
  • It will also teach you about acceptance and lastly…
  • Unless your livelihood depends on being an athlete, you’re going to need to calm down about PB’s

That is, just for the time being. This is absolutely NOT to say that you shouldn’t have goals for fitness. I have lots of them. And a quick Google search will prove that there are plenty of accomplished athletes who have type 1 diabetes.

It’s just that because you are newly diagnosed, your body is needing to adjust to everything. And it’s a process, a long one, and one that will try your patience and may have you in tears at times. But things will get better, I promise. It’s important to stay positive.

The basics to avoiding lows for me have been (after much trial and error)

  • Eating a substantial amount of carbs before working out (what is substantial, now enters the fun part, will again, be a game of trial and error)
  • Hydrating properly (I found I need to keep hydrated throughout, whereas before I could pound out 15km without a sip of water)
  • Taking in a steady stream of carbs via eLoad Endurance Formula in my hydration pack

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I usually mix the formula and water in a water bottle, then pour it into my hydration pack. eLoad Endurance Formula is light in taste so it’s not super sweet and doesn’t overwhelm the senses. 

  • Testing often (for me it’s every 1/2 hour)
  • Eating immediately after a run to replenish
  • Documenting what works and what doesn’t

What works for one diabetic may not work for you. I always like to try different things because you never know what might end up being something that gives you exactly what you need. And also, what works ONE DAY may not work the next. And that can be extremely annoying. If your pancreas is honeymooning that will cause a whole other host of fun surprises in terms of how much insulin you need/carbs to intake before/during/after exercise. What has worked for me is throwing my hands in the air and surrendering to the fact that things are probably not going to go my way.

It took a lot of work from my nurses, dietitians, endocrinologist and GP to help decipher the world of diabetes and exercise, but let me tell you, it’s all worth the blood, sweat and tears (literally!). I completely two triathlons and my first half marathon recently. It can all be done, I assure you.

I realize now there are many frustrations that I just had to accept:

  • Carrying all your supplies including your meter, lancet device, test strips, glucose tabs, food
  • Constantly calculating what you should eat, how many carbohydrates are in your fuel foods
  • Stopping for hypoglycemia or when you are feeling ill
  • Having your friends and family worry about you when you train
  • Listening to people tell you “take it easy”

Those were the major annoyances that I have (for the most part) come to accept. It’s completely normal to be annoyed by the way. I thought my feelings of being fed up was a sign of weakness but it is absolutely not. This disease is exhausting.

If you are afraid of exercising because of lows, remember this: consistent exercise is prescribed a lot to manage stress and to alleviate a host of illnesses. It makes you feel good. It helps you become strong. Always talk to you doctor before starting any kind of new routine. But remember, the benefits of working out, in my opinion, heavily outweigh staying stagnant.

Keep moving,

Jessica

How do you deal with Halloween diabetes jokes?

It’s overwhelming.

Dealing with this disease day in and day out is downright exhausting at times. Today was a rough day in that the diabetes jokes just poured out through social media, and after a full morning at the hospital, it really hit a nerve.

On most days, I can let it roll off my back. I can shrug my shoulders and say “there are ignorant people everywhere” and that people make fun of everything. But today and on really emotional days, it’s tough. It’s the last thing I need to see or hear. And if you know anything about diabetes, it’s a disease that you must care for every day, every hour. There are no breaks.

I know people are miseducated. I know how easy it is to make diabetes jabs behind a screen. However this is what I want to say to all the people who made references to Halloween candy and diabetes:

“Today I spent my entire morning at the hospital. Do you like going to the hospital? I sat in a waiting room with some really sick people. Then sat again to get blood work done. I’ve done this so many times now, and it seems to never end.

It’s been a year and some since I’ve been diagnosed with type one diabetes and I can say without exaggeration that for me this time has been the toughest of my life.

Do you know the kind of guilt a parent goes through when their child is diagnosed with diabetes? Even though it’s not their fault at all? I wish you’d think of that when you write an ignorant comment about diabetes. Try to put yourself in the shoes of parents who have a newly diagnosed child with diabetes.  Then think about what it’s like for them to see jokes about Halloween, sugar, and diabetes. Then think about  a young child dealing with people making these jokes at them every Halloween.

It has nothing to do with eating too much sugar. And when people say sugar causes diabetes even in a joking way, it continues the cycle of uneducated people misinforming the public.

And I guess you can say, it’s all in lighthearted fun. But tell me if it’s funny if God forbid your child gets diagnosed. Or your family member or friend is in a diabetic coma.

Some diseases are just easy targets. But you should know there is no cure. I live with that reality every day. Show a little compassion. Because if ever there is a chance a disease you may have is the butt of jokes, I guarantee you won’t find it all that funny.”

Now that I’ve gotten that out. It’s time to focus on the positive.

Dealing with these jokes has been a blessing in disguise. Since being diagnosed I’ve become much more aware of what I say, and when I hear people have different diseases, I ask lots of questions, show compassion and ask how I can support them. If we all did that a little more I think the world would be a much better place.

Goodnight and let’s welcome Diabetes Awareness Month in about an hour!

Jessica