The Big Bang Theory Bust

I love the show, The Big Bang Theory- it’s one of my favorite. In fact, last year I even dressed as Amy Farrah Fowler for Halloween. But, for the first time ever I cringed while watching a recent episode. Penny was sitting in an interview to be a pharmaceutical rep. While talking about her previous job experience as a server at the Cheesecake Factory, she says that she once convinced a group of bigger customers to order cheesecake, ones that even had an insulin pump. Then the interviewer says to her, “I have an insulin pump.”

In my experience, it’s very rare that a television show accurately depicts diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2. Maybe the statement was just a way to communicate that the customers had diabetes. But to me, Penny’s statement seemed to imply that if you have an insulin pump, your diabetes must be really bad. But that’s not the only assumption that one could make from that statement. Someone could assume that having an insulin pump means that you must not be doing a good job taking care of yourself, that you’re to blame for your present state, that an insulin pump is something you get when all else has failed.

I was watching the show with someone who knows that I have an insulin pump, but not a ton more. We haven’t had a lot of discussions about my diabetes yet and what it means to live with Type 1. We haven’t talked about my pump and what it does and what my life was like before I had it. Rather than taking the opportunity to educate, I instead cringed on the inside, hoping that my friend was not silently making assumptions about me and my diabetes based on that statement. In that moment, I hated that show for making me feel self-conscious or ashamed even for those few seconds.

Because I’m not ashamed. Having an insulin pump is nothing to be ashamed about. I love my pump. It has given me tremendous freedom, control, and flexibility that I didn’t have before.

My insulin pump is the tool that helps me keep my blood sugar under tighter control. I didn’t go on it because my control was poor, I went on it so that I could have even better control. My pump is what helps me take care of myself and be healthy, not a symbol of the opposite.

Maybe not everyone interpreted Penny’s statement the way I did, Maybe I was extra sensitive to it. But, in my opinion, The Big Bang Theory has it wrong, Penny has it wrong. I am not ashamed.

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Oh crepe!

When I was first diagnosed, I carried a little book around with me to look up the carbohydrates of everything I ate. Since I didn’t always have access to the packaging of the food, I would look up every food and add up all the carbs in my meal. Now, that same information is available right on your smartphone. However, after adding up the carbs for thousands of meals over the years, I’ve memorized the majority of the foods I eat and have gotten pretty good at estimating.Yes, there are times when I over or underestimate, but I generally feel pretty confident in my abilities.

In fact, one could say that I’ve gotten a little too confident and maybe even lazy when it comes to carb counting these days. And this attitude is dangerous. Because when I am significantly wrong in my counts, the results can be pretty catastrophic. The continued importance of being accurate in my carb counting was made abundantly clear to me last week over a meal of crepes.

I was excited to try a new crepe restaurant for dinner with a coworker. Although I knew what a crepe is, I greatly over estimated the number of carbs for the thin pancake like wrap. While a typical crepe is about 10 carbs, I had figured it was at least double, thinking of it as more of a tortilla.

Everything was fine for awhile and I figured that I had successfully calculated the meal. I drove home and decided that I was going to go for a run, never mind that I was still really full from dinner. After my second mile, I started to feel off. I figured it was just from running on such a full stomach. I headed home and showered. It wasn’t until after I finished my shower that I realized that the weird feeling was feeling more like a low blood sugar. I checked my blood sugar. 34!! Ohhh crepe!

I treated the low and eventually felt better, but the experience was definitely a reminder that even after all these years, it’s still important to look up foods that I’m not as familiar with. It’s easy to fall into old habits of guessing and being a little lazy, but I realize it’s definitely worth the extra time to look something up in the beginning than to deal with a low blood sugar later. Next crepe, I’ll be ready.

A1c Accuracy

“So how have you been?”

A seemingly innocent question asked by my endo as she sat down across from me. I never know quite how to answer this. I’ve been good. Really I have. My new job is going well, I’m enjoying living on my own in my new apartment, my weekends have been filled with fun events with my friends. I’ve been trying to get back into working out, I’ve been getting better at cooking and trying new healthy foods, things are good. But that’s not really what she wanted to know.

“I’ve been good.”

“How have your blood sugars been?”

Ah now we get to the real question.

Have they been high, low, are you having any problems, do you notice any patterns?”

“Shouldn’t you know?” I thought, assuming that she had at least looked at my graphs and A1c (which in fact she hadn’t since they were still being downloaded).

“They’ve been high lately, higher than I want, but I haven’t really noticed any patterns.”

“What about lows?”

“Yea I have them after the highs, probably from over correcting. Lots of roller coasters.”

We talked a little and made some adjustments and she got ready to wrap up the appointment.

“I was just wondering, what’s my A1c?”

“Oh I hadn’t even looked yet. (Ummm what, why not?”) It’s actually pretty good, 6.9.”

“Seriously? Are you sure?? That doesn’t make sense.” My doctor turned the screen so I could see it on the computer. I looked at her perplexed. “I’m shocked, are you sure that’s right?” It’s not that I didn’t believe that it could happen, after all almost exactly a year ago I was at 6.7, but I know what my blood sugars looked like then and I knew how they have been the past couple months, and something just wasn’t adding up. But I was hoping that maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was just remembering the worst of the past few months and in general I was doing pretty well. “I want a re-check,” I joked.

Yea I’m pretty surprised too, that doesn’t really make sense based on these graphs.”

I’m not going to lie, I kind of wanted my doctor to prove me wrong, to not agree with me. To point to some trend or something that showed that I wasn’t as off as I thought.

“We’ll have them test it again.”

In the 13 years that I’ve had diabetes and the over 50 A1c checks that I’ve had, I never really had a reason to doubt the accuracy of the test. But here I was, getting my first recheck. As I sat there waiting for the nurse to come back with the results I debated in my head whether it was better to be right or wrong in this situation. Right in that ordering another test was the correct decision, that the first result wasn’t accurate and that I know my numbers and my body. On the other hand, I was hoping that I was wrong. That I was doing better than I was giving myself credit for, that maybe my A1c was 6.9, a number I’ve been working to get back to.

The nurse walked in and I looked up expectantly.

“It’s 7.3.”

“Yea that makes more sense.”

Slightly disappointed that I wasn’t 6.9, I was still okay with that number. It’s been where I’ve been stuck at for the past 9 months so at least I wasn’t doing any worse. Okay, 7.3. it’s not my best, but it’s not my worst. I said the number over and over in my head…and then I let it go. I’m trying to use my numbers to guide me, but not get caught up in them. So instead, I thought about what I need to do different between now and my next appointment in 3 months. Rather than focus on the number itself, I thought about what I can do so that the next time I see that 6.9, I won’t doubt its accuracy.


Strip Safely & Diabetes Art Day: Strip Tease

Diabetes Art Day has collaborated with the Strip Safely initiative to raise awareness about the issue of test strip accuracy. As stated on the website, “The goal is to collect a body of images that capture the emotional experience of relying on inaccurate test strips to make decisions about food, activity and medication that affect our immediate and long term health outcomes.”While the campaign urges people to send letters and use social media to get the message out, Lee Ann, the person behind Diabetes Art Day, recognizes that printed letters just does not capture and convey the emotion the way visual art can.
Inaccurate test strips is a huge problem, putting diabetic’s health and wellbeing at risk. We need more stringent accuracy requirements and the proper process to remove those that don’t meet this standard. It’s an issue that people need to know about. This edition of Diabetes Art Day is working to do just that, to bring awareness to this important issue so that action may be taken to ensure test strips and meters meet regulatory requirements.
My artwork for this Diabetes Art Day plays off the words, “Strip Tease”. While there is some humor involved, it points to the important issue of using test strips that are safe and accurate rather than those that may be deceiving and therefore harmful.

You can check out the gallery of images for this special Strip Safely Diabetes Art Day here.