Category Archives: my betes

when the diabetes doesn’t make sense (a poem)

My rune of pancreatic confusion (Based on a true story.)

I simply ate toast
sugar, sky high;
Devoured a doughnut
blood glucose low
warning, eat more sugar;
I exercised
on an exercise bike
pump alarm (alarm!):
check for occlusion, BG too high;
Unpredictable, erratic,
rollercoaster (one that goes fast, and upside-down);

Dramatic recitation and/or interpretive dancing based on poem will occur following readers’ requests.


“we bonded over pumps.”

It’s a connection that’s often sought after, but rarely achieved. It’s a cosmic collision of two insulin-dependent forces, the chance meeting of two strangers drawn together by broken beta cells. It’s the betes bond.

We discussed where our pumps were hidden (her momma gave her a little more to shake than mine did, so hers was concealed in cleavage, mine was awkwardly placed in my armpit); we reminisced about nights of low-sugar fridge-raiding that ended in consuming things we weren’t proud of (cough::spoonfulsoffunfettifrosting::cough); we admitted we maybe sometimes don’t change our pump insertion sets quiiite as often as directed (and we both felt less guilty about it); and we realized that she was a fan of my shamefully abandoned blog.

Hence, this update. Nothing like a Sally Field “they like me” moment to get a girl’s butt in gear. In fact, it’s so in gear, I’m going to post twice this (gasp!).

And here’s a treat–an image I’ve been saving to use on this very blog at just the right moment (which is apparently right now):

the ancient insulinosaurus. roar.

(Thanks, Courtney, for letting me use it!)

my pump & me: a story of friendship, insulin-dependency, and robots


We’re attached–spiritually, emotionally, and by 23 inches of thin, semi-stretchy tubing. We go everywhere together. We sleep together, go to work together; to the park and to the beach; in cars and on trains; to the mall and out to eat. And when I’m in the shower, it waits patiently in its spot on my dresser, ready to be plugged in, right where it belongs, when I’m clean.

Sometimes, it fits snugly into my jeans pocket, other times it braves the day tucked inside a bra, and every now and then it gets to try out its little black case, attached to a strap that velcroes around my thigh, hidden away like a sheathed weapon.

I even give it nicknames, like insu-pod (because it looks like an mp3 player from 2001), Jiminy Click-it (because its cute buttons make clicking noises when I dial in a bolus), or my little pager (Only drug dealers and doctors have beepers, right? I never tire of that joke!).

My pump is just so adorable, from its MS-DOS–like display screen to the way it gets all vibrate-y when it’s hungry [out of insulin] or tired [in need of a new AAA battery]. Like most humans, sometimes it needs things, like new reservoirs or infusion sets, and while those can clean out my wallet, it’s a small price to pay for a friendship such as ours.

Before my pump came along, I was hanging out with a less savory crowd–the syringe gang. They were a dime a dozen (or, rather, $10 a box, but it’s all the same). They were always around, at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed, but they didn’t stay by my side. They came, the poked and pinched my arms and thighs and stomach, and they left with the next day’s trash, never to be seen again. Then there were the times they’d show up in my purse, and I’d grab one accidentally and offer it to a stranger or coworker in need of a writing utensil. They made me look more than a bit sketchy.

But those days are over, and now it’s just me, and my beloved pump, robot-and-human friends ’til the end.

bowie, bars, and bras: times i’d like to just blame the betes

Sometimes, I like to keep my diabetes quiet. I like to focus attention elsewhere (“Hey, is that David Bowie from the 1986 movie Labyrinth?”–jab the needle in, take it out–“Oh, nevermind, just another super-tight-panted man with eyeshadow.”), sneakily eat some glucose tablets without anyone asking if I’m okay, or order an ice cream without the line of questioning that starts with, “You can eat that?”

And then there are times I wish I had DIABETIC stamped on my forehead, just for clarification purposes.

I'm still trying to figure out how this will work with bangs; so is David Bowie.

I'm still trying to figure out how this will work with bangs; so is David Bowie.

Here are three such instances.

Scenario 1: When ordering a drink at a bar. Bartender, I’m not trying to be difficult. I just need to ask (eight times) if that’s diet soda, because if it’s not, we’re likely to have a problem. No, I’m not a super weight-conscious diet freak; I’m not an Atkins-ite afraid of carbohydrates; and I’m not accusing you of doing your job incorrectly. I just really don’t want to go home with my blood sugar at 300. Is that too much to ask?!

Scenario 2: Deciding where/when to eat (especially in large groups). I know it’s hard to find a restaurant that suits everyone. There’s menu, price, location, seating to consider, and nobody wants to be responsible for the decision, just in case it turns out to be a regrettable decision. But for the sake of all things holy, we’ve been walking around for six hours and I need a place to sit and some complimentary dinner rolls. …And I really want to avoid pulling out the look-at-me, look-at-me diabetic card, which tends to cause the “‘ohmygod I forgot, I’m so sorry,’ if there were a gurney accessible I’d be strapped to it and wheeled to the nearest place selling anything that resembles food” reaction.

Scenario 3: Keying a bolus* into my insulin pump—when said pump is stashed in my bra. I’ll just give you the details of one particular mortifying event: a co-worker walked into my cubicle and saw what, to an outsider, most likely appeared to be me self-administering a breast exam. In reality, I was repositioning my pump, which was at the time living under my arm/inside my bra. But, the horrorstruck look on my face when I realized what it must have looked like prevented me from being able to explain that. After a few seconds of awkward silence, we commenced with the work-related conversation, ignoring the fact that my hand had just been down the front of my shirt. Way down.

*bolus (n.): incredibly gross-sounding word that really means chewed up food, but, in the Encyclopedia Diabetecum, refers to a mealtime dose of insulin

alyce and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad betes-day

Alright, so perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic. But there are some days I just can’t take it anymore.

I’m running late, but I still have to make time to jab a big needle in my side and–woops!–that didn’t go in right. Do over. That’s a wasted $20 and a bitch of a sting in my side. It’s finally in, now time to check the sugar so I don’t pass out on the walk to work (because, of course, I am out of glucose tablets/granola bars/easily portable & sugarful snacks to throw in my bag in case a “situation” should arise). But the blood just WON’T COME OUT of my finger! I squeeze and I prick and still, the gross, calloused fingertip skin will only spew a spot of bright red liquid–not enough. Finally I’ve milked (yes, that’s a legitimate term used when teaching patients how to use glucose meters, no joke) enough and I get a reading…in the 200s. Awesome.

At least I have my pump, my little pal who will bring that blood sugar right down to where it needs to be. But, my dear pump, where will I put you today? I’m wearing a dress to work, so no pockets to stick you in. That god damn velcro garter belt/pump holster device I paid fifteen bucks for is not the most comfortable on a hot summer day, and I’d really like to avoid looking like I have a tumor on the side of my boob, but, well, you’ll have to live in my bra today because there’s You god damn thing! Why must you be attached to me every second of the day? I’m getting a little claustrophobic in this relationship; I think I need some space. Oh, that’s right, all the space you can give me is the length of your 23-inch tubing–and that would only work if I had a handmaiden/small child to walk near me holding you all day. Nope, that wouldn’t be awkward at all.

And it’s days like these I don’t want to punch diabetes, I want to annihilate it.



End scene.

why an “artificial pancreas” is not as magical as it sounds

ABC News is excited about it! An artificial pancreas trial has begun! People with diabetes may be able to live (dare we say it) normal lives!

But…wait. What exactly is this fantastical device that could someday revolutionize diabetes care until we find a cure? What does it look like? Oh, right, it looks like the continuous glucose monitor on one side of your stomach, the pump attached to the other, and a “computer” that takes readings from the former and tells the latter how to function.

For people like me who use a glucose monitor (continuous or otherwise) and an insulin pump, that computer is called brains.

Trials have shown the bionic system [wa-na-naaaa] (as it will be heretofore called) does a better job regulating blood sugars than plain ol’ brains, which makes good sense. The computer portion uses complicated algorithms to predict blood sugar behavior and administer the correct amount of insulin (or, in the case of incoming hypoglycemia, no insulin at all). Sounds dandy.

But what about malfunctions? What about knowing our own bodies and eating habits better than any computer possibly could? The prospect of a computer shutting off my pump automatically or putting insulin into my bloodstream without me realizing (nope, you can’t feel it goin’ in) is effing scary. I like the control, even if it means expending some extra brains-power to have it.

So, thank you, Boris, really. I think this type of research is definitely important and should continue. But…no thanks. Not yet, not for me.

high & low blood sugars: a PSA

I know what you’re thinking. You’re sitting there wondering: How can I tell if my diabetic [friend/coworker/dad/cat/cousin’s girlfriend] is in trouble; you know, sugar trouble?
By asking that question and possessing even the slightest urge to understand the answer, you’re already a good [friend/coworker/daughter/pet owner/boyfriend’s cousin].

Here, I’ve compiled a basic list of warning signs* for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, or “betes rage,” as it’s known in my circle of friends) and hyperglycemia (aka high blood sugar, aka narcolepsy).

When experiencing hypoglycemia, subjects may feel:

  • dizzy
  • light-headed
  • super giggly
  • livid at you/the world for no logical reason (hence, betes rage)
  • like they’ve been huffing paint or glue
  • super shaky
  • the urge to devour every bit of sweet food within reach
  • insatiable hunger
  • like the heat’s been turned up—way up
  • that their muscles are made of Jell-o

Now what? Feed.them.sugar. Something with at least 15 grams of carbohydrates and protein is good for them; whatever they’re craving is good for you. (Remember, volatile situation here. Subject probably does not mean what she is saying…or how she is glaring at you.) Then wait. It takes a while, and there’s no better way to cause a full blown betes freakout than asking, “feel better yet?” every three seconds. Eventually, make sure the subject checks her sugar with a glucometer (nerd alert!!), just to be sure.

When experiencing hyperglycemia, subjects may feel:

  • insatiable thirst
  • tired to the point of legit narcolepsy
  • like their limbs are weighted down
  • the need to urinate every.ten.minutes.
  • annoyed (at everyone and everything) that they can’t just go to sleep, like, right now

Now what? Ask subject if she has checked her blood sugar, as it is possible she’s just tired, thirsty, and in a shit mood. (While this may actually worsen said mood, it is indeed necessary. Be strong.) If sugar is somewhere over 200 (note: varies depending on subject), a proper dose of insulin should be administered. Other ways to decrease blood sugar: vigorous exercise, vigorous water chugging, though the latter is not recommended.

If hyperglycemia isn’t treated, the body may start burning fat to gain energy, since, without enough of our pal insulin, glucose (street name: sugar) can’t be the muscles’ source of energy. While this is a surefire way for a diabetic to eat and drink all she wants and still shed quite a few pounds, there’s also that tricky little side effect called ketoacidosis, which has its own side effect: diabetic coma (street name: near-death).

*Serious (no, really, not a joke) disclaimer: List of symptoms comes from my own betes-sperience and is by no means complete[ly factual]. As I’m not a cat, I can’t speak for the feline diabetic population.

This message brought to you by the National Council of People Who’d Rather Not See Their Friends In Diabetic Comas.

photo courtesy of, obviously

photo courtesy of, obviously