What Helps the Most
A look at the things that make diabetes more manageable.
with Amy Tenderich
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
May 2008 —Living with diabetes is inconvenient. It's aggravating. Some weeks it's utterly exasperating. I realized recently that what helps me the most is anything that can alleviate those negative sensations – that is, anything that makes my diabetes seem less inconvenient, less aggravating, less exasperating. So I took stock of some things that have helped me this way in the past few years and came up with the following list, in no particular order.
1) Pump with built-in meter. I use the OmniPod, a new tubeless system for pumping insulin. One of the nicest things about it is the fact that the "controller unit" for this pump also has a FreeStyle glucose meter built right in. So I only have to carry the one device around – less to keep track of, and I can carry a smaller purse. This just makes me feel more free.
2) Great supply bags. I'm into style, so when I can't help schlepping a lot of diabetes gear around with me – like when I'm traveling – I'm very grateful for the fashionable new bags coming out on the market. Some of my favorites are aDorn designs messenger bag and the many colorful little cases new from StickMeDesigns.
3) No-pain lancing devices. I've been testing the Pelikan Sun, the world's first electronic lancing device. It really is amazing how you don't feel a thing. I can't say I was ever really much bothered by the pain. But by comparison, my old lancet now starts to feel like a poke with a thumbtack. The Pelikan is pricey and somewhat bulky to carry around, but I find that I do test a lot more often and feel less annoyed by it, so those are big pluses. A lot of patients also swear by the more affordable Accu-Chek Multiclix, which I hear is quite painless and convenient.
4) A troubleshooting approach. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You can't view your diabetes as a fight, or a battle, or you'll be living your life at war. You have to make peace with your diabetes, and integrate the constant management into the rest of your life. I think of it as an ongoing game of troubleshooting, because let's face it: "diabetes management" is just a fancy term for trying figure out what's going wrong with your blood glucose control every day of your life and how to fix it. Viewing it this way helps me feel less nervous about "screwing up."
5) Exercise, exercise, exercise. I've found that nothing makes me feel more energetic, better about my body, and even better about my eating habits than regular exercise. I try to jog, take aerobics classes, and ride my bike as often as possible. The latter two seem to provide me the best "endorphin high." In fact, I get grumpy when I don't exercise, and my blood sugar shoots up – so I know it's helping.
6) Carb counting aids. Anything that can help me here is HUGE. I wish to God that carb counts would be stamped on every piece of food, but since that's not going to happen, I rely pretty heavily on my nice compact digital kitchen scale. For practice, another neat thing I've discovered is Carb Cards, nifty flash cards that help remind you how to count for loads of basic foods.
7) Finding community. Not feeling alone with your diabetes is everything. Nowadays, it doesn't really matter if you meet other PWDs (people with diabetes) in-person or online. Either way, it's wonderful to feel like you're part of a community of folks who know JUST what you're going through, and how hard it can be. The beauty of the Internet is that it lets you easily connect with people all over the country and all over the world. Online, you'll also likely learn about people with diabetes who really inspire you.
8) A good laugh. Do this on a regular basis. Laughing right in the face of diabetes is best. Check out the LOL diabetes website, created by dLife editor Kerri Morrone. My kids have also helped me find all sorts of funny stuff to enjoy, like the Islets of Humor cartoons (they searched the Net), and the goofiest YouTube videos (non-diabetes-related.)
9) A doctor/educator who's a friend. A few years ago, I interviewed Dr. Anne Peters of USC. One of the first things she said to me was, "finding a doctor is like finding a friend." Amen. The importance of good rapport with your diabetes doctor or educator is not to be underestimated. It's taken me several years, but I've finally found an endocrinologist who makes me happy. She understands me. She listens to me. She offers me help in a way that I actually find helpful. If you don't have this yet, keep looking. It's worth the effort.
OK, so I only made it to No. 9 with my list of "things that help the most." But what a gift if all nine of these truly impact my life for the better!
It's a little corny, but when diabetes gets especially frustrating, I try to make like in the Sound of Music: I simply think of my favorite things… and then I don't feel so bad.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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