What are the challenges specific to adults diagnoses? Psychological associate Michelle Sorensen answers.

Photo provided by Michelle Sorensen

Photo provided by Michelle Sorensen

After I saw Michelle speak at the Animas Type 1 Update this year, I knew I had to connect with her.

She was able to articulate so much of what I couldn’t say about my emotional journey with type 1 diabetes. One of the best takeaways I had from that event was this short video she shared. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do.

Michelle has been kind enough to answer some of my most burning questions. Here is the first one!

What are the challenges specific to adults diagnosed with T1?

I think there are some very unique challenges.  It seems to me that with adult Type 1’s, there is an increased risk of misdiagnosis. That being said, there is no doubt that T1’s of all ages are at risk of a missed diagnosis.  I meet so many T1’s diagnosed as adults who were clearly more likely to have T1 than T2 based on age and risk factors, but are started on oral medications rather than insulin because they are labelled as T2.  The LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) cases are even more likely to receive this treatment and are often told their blood sugars are not high enough to be T1.  This is so frustrating because early intervention can really ease the physical and emotional suffering for people diagnosed with T1.

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I think for a few different reasons these traumatic and dangerous diagnosis stories occur more to adult Type 1’s.  For children diagnosed with diabetes, the alarms bells go off and they are usually treated with insulin right away once they are diagnosed.  For those fortunate enough to have a children’s hospital, treatment is especially prompt and appropriate.  Conversely, I have met young adults sent away from a physician with high blood sugars either on oral medication or simply given a referral to a diabetes clinic.  This lack of proper medical attention adds to the confusion, isolation, and psychological trauma.

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So many adult T1’s are starting their diabetes journey with a lot of grief and loss but without the right kind of support. They may be out of the family home but many have not yet established a family of their own. Young adults are trying to establish autonomy and independence and may see asking for family help as weak or childish.

They are expected from the beginning to manage their own diabetes but could often benefit from having supportive family or friends taught alongside them how to check their blood sugar or administer insulin.

Closing speaker Joe Solowiejczyk quoted this prayer during his talk.

Managing one’s diabetes is a huge burden to carry alone. When adults with T1 (who were diagnosed as children) describe their past experience in paediatric care, it is often with longing.  They remember the way staff knew them and their families, the encouragement and the smiles.  Adults could use all of this as well! We like smiles and bright colours and being seen as a whole person!

Look out for more Q&A with her in the future.

Thank you Michelle 🙂

Read more about her here.

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Retina eye exam. I kind of love it?

 

When I leave a doctor’s office, I want to feel as though I’ve walked away with a big overflowing gift basket.

Inside would be all kinds of treats that would sustain me until my next visit.

I definitely felt that way after my last optometrist appointment.

Here’s what I got (lifts red blue checkered cloth):

A relaxed, uplifting atmosphere: When the overall vibe of a doctor’s office is friendly, I believe it makes the world of difference to everyone involved. From a patient perspective, the more comfortable I am, the more likely I will open up and be receptive to what is said.

New information: I left armed with a greater understanding of how diabetes effects blood vessels in the eye. Like every yearly visit, I got my retina assessment done (cost not covered by the Ontario government) where they took a picture of my whole eye, all the way to the back.

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My doctor went through it all, the different parts of the eye, what he looks for when he examines. Although truth be told I don’t retain much of what he says, my mind grasps onto a few points. Bit by bit my diabetes information jar is filling.

Feeling empowered: I felt like I had control over my eye health. Healthy blood glucose levels= healthy eyes. I can’t control everything, but the things that I can, I will.

I find going to the eye doctor fun. It’s like a game. Slide A or slide B? Follow my finger, look into the light. Focus on the little farm-house picture inside this machine.

Is there any medical appointment that you enjoy going to?

 

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Going online: best & worst idea for someone newly diagnosed with diabetes (or anything for that matter)

When WebMD first came out, I was one of many who turned to the website when I felt the slightest symptom.
A cough: Was it a sign of the common cold, a debilitating throat infection or a warning of some pretty serious disease? Take your pick. Want to scare yourself silly? Start browsing.

We all know how the internet works. It’s a free-for-all for anyone with an idea and a connection. And although we know we should screen what we absorb online, sometimes proper judgement gets thrown to the wayside. This could happen when, let’s say, you are diagnosed with a disease you know nothing about and are told you will have to rely on insulin to survive.

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It makes sense really, a wealth of information right at your fingertips, a range of opinions and seemingly good answers to questions that would take hours to answer in a doctor’s office.

But there’s a great danger out there if you are in an emotionally vulnerable state of mind.

I didn’t realize it myself until now. What I read and who I communicated with (willingly or not) has definitely shaped how I view diabetes.
I was so overwhelmed with it all, and I found reaching out to people on Twitter made me feel less alone. On the flip side, sometimes my feed would seem like a storm of people complaining. I thought of myself 5 years later, a decade…would I be just as angry and resentful of my condition?

I sometimes got private messages from people who told me my doctors were wrong, that what I was doing wasn’t the “right way”. But when I felt so incredibly sad and frustrated, here were a bunch of strangers who understood what I was going through.

Today I’m much more selective of how I screen diabetes information. I look at how I conduct myself online much like how I should in all other aspects of life. I must be careful and selective of who I trust, be surrounded by those who will uplift and inspire me, and spend my time wisely. 

The online world has changed how we communicate but online or not, some things remain the same. There will be positives and negatives (opinions, people), those to be trusted and others with false claims. Do your research and do things that make you feel comfortable.

Tips to tackle the online world with a health challenge: 
  • Filter, filter, filter. Many social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook) allow you to make lists so you can choose what you want to see. I have my lists filtered so if I don’t want to come online and read about diabetes-related news/info that day, I don’t have to come across it.
  • Ask yourself who is the creator and what is the motive? A good exercise is to repeat the information given and ask yourself if you would trust it if a stranger said it to you on the street.
  • Verify reputation. Has this person been mentioned on other sites? Are they featured in reputable publications? Do a quick search and find out more. There are a lot of people who claim to be experts who have little to no educational background on the subject.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. Not sure where to turn to for information online? Ask the experts. E-mail an organization and ask who or what sites they’d recommend for topic x. Find well established and respected online sources and see who they mention in links and go from there. Call for help on Twitter. Word of mouth can often lead you to the best resources.
  • Give an attitude check. Yes, the internet is a place where people like to pour out complaints. I think people are more likely to complain online than in real life about certain issues, but the internet is also home to tons of inspirational stories. There are tons of sites dedicated to people who may have similar health challenges who are defying the odds and living each day to the fullest. What kind of outlook do you want to have on life? That’s what you should be searching and bookmarking.

Safe surfing,

J

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

2013 Year in review fitness goals. Did I meet them? Plus my promise for 2014.

I had three fitness goals for 2013: complete two mini triathlons and my first half-marathon.

It was pretty ugly at times, and there were moments where I wanted to throw in the towel (and toss my meter into the lake and never look back), but I pushed through and got it done.

Being able to do these events during my first year and some after diagnosis mean more to me than my university degree or any promotion I’ve gotten too.

 

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Why? Because the past few years have been the toughest of my life thus far.

I found out about multiple health challenges and with that came the stress, the worry and the realization of how precious life is. It also meant coming to terms with how I lived my life up to this point. It was and is really, really tough.

It was a smack in the face about every aspect of my life.

A quarter life crisis on steroids.

After all the hospital visits and endless doctors appointments, it seemed as though the universe was saying that my body was simply faulty.

As things got worse, I started to look at training differently. A gym session wasn’t just a time to get sweaty and have fun, it was a part of my day where I felt in control and in charge. Getting stronger and faster showed me how powerful I was. And instead of my body being ugly and riddled with defects, I saw how beautiful I could make it. I could turn myself into a well oiled machine and the things I did this year, blew me away.

I completed all my goals by the fall, so I decided to tackle Runner’s World magazine’s Run Streak Challenge. Run 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I haven’t missed a day, and this morning, I silenced my doubts about hitting my 9 minute/mile goal with this:

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So 2014, I will start with the Inches Challenge at my gym. It’s time to devote myself even more. I’m ready.

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And with Nike’s #WeRun2014 challenge. 100 miles in the first month of the year.

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The distance seems scary, but so are a lot of other things. I can do it. And YOU can do whatever you set your mind to. If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s that fear can rob you of your dreams and the life you want to live. So proclaim your fitness goals for next year.

2014: 

  • #WeRun2014
  • Complete my gym’s inches challenge
  • Complete the Ottawa half-marathon
  • Complete 150km MS Bike ride (my first long distance ride)
  • Get over fear of lake swimming (so I can do more triathlons)
  • Volunteer more at events/programs that promote physical activity

I’ll be here, writing next year around this time, about how I accomplished the above. And you will too with your goals.

In the spirit of hashtags…

#letsdothis

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