coming soon

"No, Miley, it's pronounced 'die-uh-BEET-us'."

"No, Miley, it's pronounced 'die-uh-BEET-us'."

Breaking news: the Hannah Montana episode all about hip kids and diabetes–the one that was scrapped because of protest from parents of diabetics–will air this Sunday at 7:30 on Disney.

I look forward to writing a completely unsarcastic and informative review right here, on punch you in the diabetes.

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

pump

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 nowhere.else.to.put.you. 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.

BETES RAAAAAGE.

BETES RAAAAAGE.

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.

i’ve tried, but i can’t ignore nick jonas any longer.

The type 2 diabetes crowd has respected Cocoon-actor and beautiful mustache-grower Wilford Brimley. They have legendary-guy-with-deep-voice B.B. King.

And we have Disney-manufactured popster Nick Jonas, one-third of the brotherly trio the Jonas Brothers. He’s 16, he has type 1 diabetes, he writes songs about it (for real, see below), and I think he’s a wee bit dramatic.

“Got the news today,” sings Nick in the Jonas Brothers’ betes-anthem A Little Bit Longer, “but they said I had to stay a little bit longer and I’d be fine.” Here the lyricist lament having to stay in the hospital (probably for a day or two) learning to administer insulin. He continues, “But you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone,” surely refers to a functioning pancreas, which he has just found out he does not possess. The verse ends: “And you don’t know what it’s like to feel so low. And every time you smile or laugh, you glow. You don’t even know, know, no.” He’s right, most non-diabetics do not in fact know what it’s like to feel so hypoglycemic, but what the hell betes side effect causes him to glow? I guess I really just don’t even know, know, no.

(For anyone who might want to hear the lyrics with music and without my comments)

All this was easy to overlook until he became THE FACE of diabetes advocacy last week when he met President Obama (and a bunch of other Washington folk) and spoke at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on federal funding for diabetes research.

Nick Jonas

I appreciate what you’re doing, Nick, really. I’m sure there is a large contingent of teenage girls & boys with diabetes who feel you speak for them. But for the sake of the rest of the diabetic young adults everywhere, let’s work on finding you a more…relatable counterpart.

up down left right b(lood glucose) start

Way back in the day (1993 to be exact), when I was in third grade, the diabetic girl in the class used a glucose monitor that fit snugly in its zipper case; and the case was the size of a laptop bag. She squeezed what seemed at the time like a pint of blood from her index finger and stood patiently, waiting as the machine to registered, for what seemed like five full minutes.

Today’s third graders? Soon they’ll be able to check their blood sugars with a video game. They earn points for good readings. Open levels for testing regularly. Like a special island in MarioWorld that’s just for diabetics. I’m imagining pump tubing instead of green tubes, syringes instead of gold coins, and donuts & candy blasting forth from the weapons of the bad, high blood sugar guys…but I’m sure that’s totally off.

They (Bayer HealthCare) call it the Didget. It’s for the NintendoDS and it’s making diabetes kid-cool. Didget!