Friday 30 September 2011

The Unicorn ~ A Perfect Metaphor for the DOC

For some time now the Unicorn has been the metaphor for the DOC, so what a great surprise it was to see the unicorn featured on GLEE this week!

The show, entitled "I am Unicorn" opens with a conversation between Brittany (Heather Morris) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) in which Brittany is offering to help Kurt with his campaign to be student body president because she believes that he is "the biggest unicorn." Kurt, of course, doesn't understand her reference, so she explains the story behind the unicorn (keep in mind this is a 16 year old girl who still believes in Santa Claus). "When a pony has done a good deed he gets a horn, so he becomes a unicorn. Then he poops out cotton candy until he forgets he's magical and his horn falls off...The point is, a unicorn is someone who knows they're magical and isn't afraid to show it."

Albeit Brittany's explanation is a bit silly, I couldn't help but think what an accurate description it was for the DOC (Diabetes Online Community). Its members are truly magical, in the ways they support each other, are there for each other, and take care of each other.

I cannot think of a more perfect metaphor for the DOC.

The first part of the above mentioned episode is available below.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

"Mom, What's Wrong With Having Diabetes?"

Watching "Biggest Loser" is a longstanding Tuesday night tradition in our household. My husband and I have faithfully watched the show since its early days with Bob Harper and & Jillian Michaels, through Jillian's departure after Season 2, her return for Seasons 4 to 11 (and corresponding rise to "fitness diva" as I like to think of her), and her departure again at the end of Season 11, to the current Season 12 with new celebrity trainers. It is a weekly family event in our house; sometimes our kids watch the first hour with us and then my hubby and I watch the second hour after putting the kids in bed. Other times we tape the entire 2 hour episode and watch it later in the week. The kids love to witness the contestants' extreme transformations and I love the healthy lifestyle message promoted by the show and its trainers.

With each new season we watch the new contestants face the grueling workouts, the dramatic weigh-ins, and the before and after health evaluations. Early in each season, all of the contestants undergo a full medical exam by "Biggest Loser" doctors, and some of the findings are shared on the show. Most, if not all, of the men and women are told that they have some kind of health condition as a result of their weight; for some its high blood pressure, for some its early signs of heart disease, for some its asthma. There is usually at least one contestant who is told they have diabetes (or that they show early signs of diabetes and will develop the disease unless they make some major changes to their diet and lifestyle).

Don't get me wrong, I love the show and I have the utmost respect for the colossal challenge that its producers and trainers have taken on. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in North America and if a big television network show with celebrity trainers and Cinderella-style weight loss stories can motivate people to make positive changes in their lives, then power to them! After all, every little bit helps, right?

Where I do take offense is when the show promotes incorrect and/or insufficient messages about diabetes. At least two contestants in this week's episode were informed by "Dr. H" that they had diabetes. There was no mention of what kind of diabetes, not even a brief explanation of what diabetes is. The doctor presented the information to the contestants as if it was a death sentence and with each diagnosis the receiving contestant began to cry. My son, upon watching the scene, asked, "Mom, what's wrong with having diabetes?" My heart broke at his question and my eyes welled with tears. Yes, diabetes is a scary, unpredictable, life-threatening disease. But there is nothing "wrong" with it, and there is nothing "wrong" with someone who has it. It is a manageable disease that does not prevent a person from doing anything. Furthermore, my type 1 diabetic son (as with all type 1's and many type 2's) does not have diabetes because of obesity, lack of exercise, or poor lifestyle choices, and there is nothing he, or I, can do to change it. And I know that Dr. H is referring to type 2 diabetes, just as I'm sure he knows he is referring to type 2 diabetes, so WHY CAN'T HE SAY THAT? Why promote ignorance when this show has the ability and the reach to educate millions of viewers? This is a great teachable moment that "Biggest Loser" has simply let go to waste.

Okay, end of rant for today.

For full info about the show, visit their website.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

"Best of the 'Betes" Blogs

It's that time again, when we can nominate some of our favorite blogs from earlier this month for a "Best of the 'Betes" award! Sara, over at, has put together this great recognition system to highlight, honor and/or pay tribute to some of the month's top blogs in the following categories:

Best Use of Humor
Best Vlog
Best Recipe
Best Use of Photography
Best Advocacy
Best Reference to a D-Celebrity
Best Story of a D Meet-up
Best non-D Related Post
Best Post by a Type 1
Best Post by a Type 2
Best Post by a Type Awesome
Best Post by a LADA/ Type 1.5/ Not otherwise specified
Best story of a D-mistake
Best Motivational Post
Best Diabetes Art New category (Sept 2011)

Between the 21st and the 28th of each month send your nominations to and visit to see the winners!

Friday 23 September 2011

Diabetes on the Ice; It's a Whole Other Game

When Dylan asked me in the spring of 2010 if he could start playing ice hockey, I have to admit, my reaction was less than thrilled. Yes, hockey is the national sport in Canada, and yes, we Canadians take our hockey pretty seriously, but the fast-paced, hard-hitting, high intensity game watched on tv rises to a whole new level when my type 1 diabetic son asks to play the same game. 

I had so many questions, so many worries. Some were typical of any parent...
~ Was he too old to start playing in grade 5? At the time Dylan asked, he couldn't even walk in ice skates, yet he would be playing with boys who began the sport at age 3.
~ What if he got hurt? Dylan was small for his age when he started playing, and very thin. I was terrified he'd break a bone.
~ Could we handle the long term financial commitment? Team fees alone are $600 a year, plus equipment, power skating, tournaments, off season training, etc.
~ Could I juggle the time commitment? A minimum of 1 weekend game and 2 before school, 6:00 am practices a week, plus 1 power skating lesson a week.
~ Would the behind-the-scenes competitiveness drive me crazy? There are always parents who think their child is going to be the next big thing, and hockey is no exception. In this sport parents can be aggressive,  overly competitive, and mean, taking the game far too seriously. Could I be a part of the team without being part of the drama?

Some were exclusive to a parent of a child with diabetes...
~ How would his blood sugar react to the intense level of performance? Games are 60 minutes long and the intensity never slows. Should he test in intermission, or do I let him stay with the other boys?
~ Do we run a temp basal or just suspend the pump altogether? The intensity is so high, would be need insulin for that hour, or would burn enough carbohydrates that it would balance out?
~ What if he gets hit too hard? This is a child who has had seizures in the past. Now they were hypoglycemic induced, but he does have a low seizure threshold. Could a hard hit induce a seizure on the ice?
~ Would the hockey schedule greatly impact his diabetes routine? 2 early morning practices a week mean less sleep, different breakfast time, etc. How would that work with his current pump settings?

And finally, my biggest worry...
~Could I put everything above aside and say yes? Not just because it would make my child happy, but because it would reinforce the message that we have always tried to live by: 

Diabetes does not stand in our way.

Well, that was 18 months ago, and yesterday Dylan had his first practice for his second season of ice hockey. We've adapted pretty well and so far, everything has been pretty good. There will be some tweaking to pump setting and pre-game meals over the next few weeks, but we can handle that. And has diabetes stood in Dylan's way of playing a sport he adores? No way. 

And just in case you didn't already know, there have been a few players in the NHL with type 1 diabetes. Nick Boynton has enjoyed a professional hockey career of over 10 years already, and currently plays for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes shortly before his first NHL training camp, and has never let his diabetes prevent him from playing the game he loves. Listen to him talk about it here: 

Other current and past NHL players who have type 1 diabetes include Bobby Clarke (diagnosed at age 13), Toby Petersen (diagnosed at age 5), and Curt Frasier (diagnosed at age 25), 

Thursday 22 September 2011

Dan-D-est Oatmeal Ever!

Earlier this week I visited a new specialty grocery store that recently opened in my neighborhood and, while wandering the aisles, passed a display featuring Dan-D-Pak's new Goji Omega Boost Oatmeal. Sold in a 1 kilogram bag, it features quick oats, plus dried goji berries, dried blueberries, and ground and whole flax seeds. It was on sale, and looked delicious, so I grabbed a bag. The next morning my daughter and I tested it out for breakfast and it was absolutely delicious! My daughter needed to add a bit of honey to hers, as she found it a bit bland, but I thought the dried berries added just the right amount of sweetness for my taste.

Dan-D Foods is a local company that started here in Vancouver in 1989, and has grown dramatically and expanded to 5 countries worldwide, including the USA. Their foods consist of healthy, mostly, natural items and they actively support local community organizations, including our JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes here in Vancouver. Great company, great products.

With only 26 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein per serving, it is low on the glycemic index, and a very healthy breakfast alternative. Full nutritional information for the Goji Omega Boost Oatmeal can be found on the Dan-D Foods website.

*Review of this product is strictly voluntary and has nothing to do with Dan-D Foods Ltd.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

"30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know"

I'm really excited to be participating in "Invisible Illness Awareness Week" for the first time. And while my responses are a week late (doh!), the process has been not only thought provoking and reflective, but cathartic.

1. The illness I live with is: Type 1 Diabetes. My son has type 1 diabetes, but our family lives with it each and every day.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: Dylan was diagnosed November 21st, 2005, at the age of 4.
3. But I had symptoms since: About a week prior to diagnosis.
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Letting go of doing all of the diabetes care myself, and realizing that Dyl is responsible enough to start doing some of his own care. 
5. Most people assume: That we have Dyl's diabetes "under control" (man do I hate that phrase. There is nothing controllable about type 1 diabetes).
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Everything. Mornings are crazy in our house; diabetes simply adds an extra element to the madness.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: House M.D. Love his sense of humor.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: Dyl's insulin pump. I never want to go back to syringes.
9. The hardest part about nights are: The worry. Need I say more? Every D parent knows EXACTLY what I mean...
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. Just insulin; lots and lots of insulin.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I:  Would try anything for a cure.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose:
Invisible, I think. That's a tough question and I have mixed feelings on both sides.
13. Regarding working and career: I work on call (teacher) so that my schedule can be flexible.
14. People would be surprised to know: That it DOES get easier.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: The unpredictability. That one day everything can seem ok, and the next day diabetes kicks you in the butt.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: N/a. We have never let diabetes prevent Dylan from doing anything, and we never will.
17. The commercials about my illness: What commericals? They're all for type 2 diabetes...
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Leaving the house without all of the extra supplies.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: n/a, see #16.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: cycling to raise awareness and funds for type 1 diabetes. 
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: n/a, see #16. This is our "normal".
22. My illness has taught me: That life is the most precious gift we are ever given and needs to be cherished as such.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: oh boy, don't get me started, there are too many things people say about D that bug me...
24. But I love it when people: Understand what we're going through.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away."
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: You can do this and you are not alone.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: That we have never let diabetes define us, or stand in our way.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Listen.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I am passionate about spreading awareness about type 1 diabetes and will never give up until a cure is found.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Grateful. Not alone. Understood.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

What's Next?

It's been a month to the day since I returned home after riding across BC for the Cyclebetes National Relay. I've been keeping up with my exercise somewhat, mostly with running, but I feel like I need an extra motivator - I need a race or an event to train for and keep me focussed.

There are three different half marathons coming up during the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend (Oct 8-10) and I've decided to run one of them, I just don't know which one! Two of them are on Sunday the 9th, and one is on the holiday Monday. The two Sunday races are the BMO Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna, and the GoodLife Fitness Marathon in Victoria. Both offer half marathon distances, both are within about 3 hours of my house and would require an overnight stay the night before. The Kelowna race I have done before. In fact, it was the first ever half marathon I ran. The course is pancake flat, and has some stunning scenery as you run from city center, along the waterfront of Lake Okanagan, to Summerhill winery and back. The weather should be cold but clear. The Victoria marathon, on the other hand, would be totally new to me. I don't know the course at all, but that can make it more fun. The weather is unpredictable in Victoria, however. It could be cool and clear, or it could be heavy rain, or anything in between...

Finally, the Monday race is the North Shore Half Marathon, which is basically in my back yard. It starts about a ten minute drive east of my house and follows the waterfront for 21.2 kilometers, ending about a ten minute drive west of my house. There is one long steep downhill, but otherwise it's flat. Again, weather is unpredictable in early October.

Registration for any of the races can be done up to 2 days prior to the race itself, so for now, I think I'll just keep training and see how I feel come race time!

Monday 19 September 2011

"Stripless" Blood Glucose Meter: How Does it Work?

A few months ago, my family did a promotional video for Accuchek's new "stripless" meter, called the Mobile. Dylan absolutely loved the meter right away, and I was pretty amazed too, with its ease of use. I mean, let's be honest, those strips are messy, finicky, and just a plain nuisance. But how does the "stripless" meter work, you might be wondering? The Mobile has a cassette inside it, similar to an old music cassette tape popular in the 80's and 90's, only smaller. Inside it has a long tape that collects the blood samples and advanced itself each time you open the meter. Each cassette is good for 50 tests and costs slightly less than 50 strips.

Tonight when we were changing the cartridge, Dylan pulled out the tape in the used cartridge to see what it looked like inside. Pretty neat. So neat, in fact, that I had to take a quick picture and share it here! You can see that it's very long and has the blood collection sections separated by clear tape. For scale, the actual cassette (seen in the bottom left corner) is just under 2 inches tall.

For my original Mobile blog post, including the promotional video featuring Dylan and our family, click here.

*At the time of this post, the Mobile is available in Canada and the United Kingdom only.

Thursday 15 September 2011

To Fund or Not to Fund; the Shenanigans of the Alberta Diabetes Debate

Tuesday night I was watching my local 11:00pm news, reading a book while watching, paying limited attention to the stories until my ears perked up at the mention of the words "diabetes" and "insulin pump." I quickly found myself getting quite upset at the content of the story, so much so that I rewound the article twice to ensure that I had heard everything correctly. I then even hit record on the PVR so that I could re-watch the story in the morning with fresh eyes.

A bit of factual background presented at the offset of the article:
1) "Every 7 seconds somebody around the world dies of diabetes and that number is rising, even though the disease is largely preventable"
2) by the year 2030 there will be an estimated 5 million diabetes diagnoses
3) Diabetes is expected to rise 3% within the current decade
Now the story did not differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, but I am assuming (hoping) that point 1's reference to "preventable" was meant to describe Type 2 only, and that points 2 and 3 refers to all forms of diabetes, be it Type 1, Type 2, LADA, etc.

So here's the deal. In Canada, most provinces provide funding, at least in part, to help offset the outrageous cost of purchasing an insulin pump. They also help with the cost of maintaining the pump (including covering the cost of infusion sets and reservoirs. Sensor/CGM costs are not covered). In BC, where I live, this funding is a recent change, but a much needed one. The current issue involves the province of Alberta (next door to BC, and directly north of Montana) where the government has been debating whether or not they should join the majority of the other provincial and begin to cover insulin pump costs.

It all came to light Tuesday when the CDA (Canadian Diabetes Association) released a report stating that the Alberta gov't will not be providing any funding for insulin pumps, even though they have one of the highest rates of diabetes in the country. The reason stated by the government is that they would prefer to focus on "preventing diabetes" in the first place and that because type 2 makes up 90% of the diagnoses in Alberta, the government feels it's in their best interest to focus on prevention rather than treatment. The CDA has argued, and rightfully so, that over the next 20 years, an insulin pump program could save the province up to $10.8 million. 

The outcome: The Alberta health minister agrees that the statistics presented by the CDA are convincing and the government will continue to keep the issue "on its radar."

My questions for readers are twofold: What type of funding/subsidy options are there for insulin pumps where you live? And do you believe that the government should be responsible for helping families with the costs of an insulin pump and its supplies/maintenance?

Both the footage of the television segment, as well as the print article, can be found here: Alberta has high diabetes rate but won't fund insulin pumps.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Diabetes, Donuts, & Diet Coke

What could these three things possibly have in common, you might ask? Most of the time, nothing, but last weekend they were all present at one common location, an amusement park.We took the kids to Playland this past Saturday, to enjoy the fair before it closes for the season at the end of September.

Playland is our local amusement, complete with rides, an arcade, carnival games, and way too much of junk food. Plus, we've been experiencing a little heat wave in BC the past week, with temperatures much higher than normal for September. The predicted high for Saturday was 28 degrees Celsius, or 82.4 Fahrenheit, but the actual temperature was closer to 30 degrees (86 F). While this isn't scorching, it's more than hot enough to affect Dyl's blood sugar level. He tends to get low more quickly in the heat, plus at an amusement park there can be a lot of walking involved, so I was bit worried.

The easiest to prevent Dyl from getting low in the heat (other than staying inside), is to keep him hydrated with cool, carb free fluids, so that's what we did. We found these awesome giant refillable plastic cups that can be purchased for $10.00 and then refilled an unlimited number of times. So we immediately got one for each of the kids and every time we passed by one of the concession booths, Dyl would refill his cup with diet coke. In the end, he drank 4 of these gigantic cups of diet coke in a 4 hour period. A bit heavy on the caffeine, yes, but better than being low. And actually, he was still marginally low at one point. Nothing a few mini donuts didn't fix!

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Diabetes at School - Does it Get Any Weirder Than This?

First full day back at school today and I have mixed feelings, as it set to be an unusual start this year. Public school teachers in the province of British Columbia are currently in Phase 1 of a strike (the reasons for which are beyond the purpose of my blog). What is a Phase 1 Job Action you may ask? A bit confusing to explain, but basically teachers are not currently performing administrative duties; they are focussing solely on classroom teaching.

Now for most kids, this is no big deal, as it will likely not affect them at all. Even most parents will be unaffected by this change, unless it continues for a while, in which case report cards and parent-teacher meetings could be affected. But we will cross that bridge when and if it comes.

For a child with diabetes, the implications are a little bit more severe. At the beginning of each year, the classroom teacher, a member of the administration, and myself sit down and make sure that we have the best "medical care plan" in place for Dylan (in the US, this would be known as the "504 plan"). The medical care plan is a very effective 3-way partnership between teacher, parent, and administration. So how can that relationship be successful when teachers and administration are not communicating? Dylan is in grade 6, so he does provide the majority of his own care, but we rely on his teacher to keep an eye on him and watch for signs of high or low blood sugars, and the administration to oversee his care, ensure that he tests regularly, record the tests results, and notify me if and when there is a problem. Does this mean the Dylan has to step up and liaise between the 2 groups? Perhaps, but he is a child after all, not to mention the fact that his focus should be on his school work.

The logical conclusion would be that the onus falls on me to step up, as the "parent." As his mom I can speak with both parties and attempt to keep his diabetes care as thorough and stable as possible during this unusual time. Ok, but now let me throw in one more obstacle: I am public school teacher and a member of the same union as the teachers in his school. I am essentially part of the same job action. Where is the line between parent and teacher for me, and at what point am I "crossing the picket line" so to speak (teachers are not physically picketing, but the invisible line is still there)? I find myself in a bit of a conundrum as I am forced to address my personal beliefs about teaching and labor unions, while ensuring that my diabetic son continues to get the best care possible.

Let's hope, for everyone involved, that this labour dispute is resolved quickly and in the best interest of all parties involved. Until then, what?

Sunday 4 September 2011

Cat & Mouse

Couldn't find a physical copy of Jack & Jill, the third installment in the Alex Cross series, in my local library, so I put one of one of their three downloadable copies on hold, but that was almost 3 weeks ago, and I'm still waiting for notification that a copy is ready for download. In the meantime, I skipped ahead to the fourth installment in the series, Cat & Mouse. There is nothing in book four that ruins book three if read out of order. After all, the books are written so that the reader can start reading any book in the series and not be lost. Each book contains adequate explanation in the first few chapters to provide the reader with enough background information. That being said, I would still really like to read Jack & Jill once it's available for download.

He's baaaaaack! Gary Soneji, that is. After escaping from prison, Soneji returns to wrap up his unfinished business with Alex Cross. Add to that a second, and completely independent serial killer, Mr. Smith, and Cross has his work cut out for himself. Then there is the matter of Christine Johnson, the principal of Cross's kids' school, and the widow of one of the victims of book three.

This book was okay, but not nearly as captivating as its predecessors. In my opinion, Patterson has attempted to cram too much into this novel, resulting in a disjointed plot that jumps back and forth between two continents, and two killers. The subplot of Cross's relationship with Johnson, however, is both necessary and enjoyable, and is poised to become a critical turning point in Cross's career and personal life.

Saturday 3 September 2011

Kiss the Girls

Well, it appears that I am flying through James Patterson's Alex Cross series faster than I can review them, but I'm going to try to catch up! I read Kiss the Girls, the second book in the Cross series, a couple of weeks ago, immediately after reading Along Came a Spider. Book two is similar in format to book one; it is equally thrilling, with non-stop action until the very last page. Gruesome killings, brought to life with sadistic and bloody description. Classic Patterson.

This time Alex Cross is hunting 2 killers, aptly coined "Cassanova" and "The Gentleman Caller." The former kills on the east coast, while the latter kills on the west coast., but soon enough it appears that they may actually be working together. Cross is pulled into the massacres after his college-aged niece, Naomi, is kidnapped by "Cassanova" and Cross will stop at nothing to get her back safely.

While Patterson's writing is formulaic and predictable at times, his books read fast and grab your attention right from the first page. Great summer reading, hence why I'm reading the series!