On Tuesday night I had the opportunity to speak at Community Workshop for Diabetes in Linwood New Jersey in honor of National Diabetes Month.
I spoke to 20 Type 1's and 2's and their counterparts and you know what? We all learned a lot!
First off, I explained that I wasn’t a medical professional, but I was an expert at living life with diabetes. Most in the group were over 60 and they all had lots of questions.
My first question after introducing myself was: What things have you heard about diabetes?
One woman raised her hand and said: I heard eating too much sugar gives you diabetes.
Another insisted that “sugar free” food was better than none-sugar free.
One gentleman raised his hand and said: I don’t have it bad-I’m not on shots.
And then the debunking of the Diabetes Myths began in earnest! You guys know me, so you can bet I had a fun time proving those myths wrong.
We talked in great detail about the different types of diabetes and what they actually meant. Most had no clue what the differences were because no one had ever taken the time to explain the different types to them.
We chatted about small changes equaling big results. Things like learning to read labels and the evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Increasing their exercise routines, even if it’s taking a 10-minute walk twice a day or sitting in a chair and doing exercises with the resistance bands.
I learned that many of the people I was talking with worked very hard to control their diabetes, but that most didn’t know what an Endocrinologist or CDE was and that was frustrating. To me, Endos and CDEs are the diabetes mechanics- we need to see them every 3 months for a tune-up.
I knew something clicked when the Activities Director, who I know and love, (who is T2 and I’m constantly badgering about getting an Endo) raised her hand and said: I’m making an appointment with an Endo Kel- next time I see you, I'll have the answer you want to hear.
When another woman raised her hand and complained about having to watch what she ate, I looked at her and said: I hear you- nobody likes to be told what he or she can’t do. But nobody, diabetic or not, can eat what they want over the age of 30 with out looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. It’s about making smart choices. A Certified Diabetes Educator can help you to make smart choices so you can have a cupcake every now and then.
I talked about the Diabetes On-line Community and how it was a great source of both knowledge and comfort, and how even after having the disease for 30 years- It changed my life fantastic ways that I’m still trying to process!
I think the biggest impact the evening was regarding testing blood sugars. Most in the room only tested between 1 and 3 times a day. By the end of the evening 5 people who lived at the assisted living community had committed to adding a 3 pm and bedtime blood sugar for one week- just to see what the results were. That request would be written on their charts, and the staff would make sure that those extra bg tests would be administered. I was proud of them for making that commitment!
But the part of the evening that zinged my heart happened at the end.
After the discussion ended, a tall skinny man who was about 60, and his daughter came up to me. He’d really been active in the workshop and I really appreciated how much he brought to the group.
“Kelly I work so hard to take care of myself. I was diagnosed with Diabetes 24 years ago. I go to an Endo, I eat six small meals a day, but the testing is really giving me a problem as of late, I have Parkinson’s’, and my finger shakes so much that I can barely get the drop of blood onto the test strip – any suggestions?"
I looked at him for a moment and wanted to cry (but kept my game face on) because I really wanted to help him. He’d been so positive and he was working so hard to own his diabetes. Silently, I cursed Parkinson’s for disrupting his life & his life with diabetes.
I thought for a moment and remembered 2 times in my life where testing was really difficult. The first was when my left arm was in a cast and the second was when I sliced my left finger and had 6 stitches and my hand and was in some sort awkward metal splint and bandage contraption. Both injuries made testing cumbersome. It’s ironic that even though I’m left handed, I actually favor testing on my left hand instead of my right.
Anyway, I could get the blood out of most of my fingers, but the cast and or splint were bulky and I’d never quite make a clean sweep to the meter. I’d found comfort in testing in a backwards sort of way.
I looked at him and said: Well… instead of bringing your finger to your meter to test like you usually do, why not try bringing your meter to your finger instead? Your meter is bigger and easier for you to manipulate than a little test strip."
He looked at me, smiled, and said: You know what, I’ve asked so many people about this; my Dr's, the woman who does my monthly blood work, and no one ever suggested that before. It makes sense and I can’t wait to try it! THANK YOU SO MUCH.
I looked at him, smiled back and said: Your welcome-I'm so glad I could help! Your Endo is an expert at Diabetes, but patients are experts at living with diabetes. We know all sorts of tricks of the Diabetes trade because we live with it 24X7.