On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


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World Diabetes Day: A Day to Give Thanks

Today is World Diabetes Day. Despite the alarming prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, I am not writing a PSA. I’m not going to lecture about the importance or regular exercise or the necessity of eating a balanced, low-fat diet. Nope. Today I want to recognize Dr. Frederick Banting.

Today is the 123rd anniversary of Dr. Banting’s birthday. If you don’t recognize his name, he shared the Nobel Prize in 1923 for the discovery of insulin. Dr. Banting is one of the reasons that S is alive today, and it seems appropriate to celebrate his contributions to medicine and society during the month of November.

4 years old and wearing her first insulin pump. My brave girl!

4 years old and wearing her first insulin pump. My brave girl!

You see, contrary to popular understanding, insulin is not a cure for diabetes. Specifically, insulin is what keeps S and every other Type 1 diabetic alive. S takes approximately 22 units of Novolog, a fast-acting insulin, each day in tiny increments administered around the clock by her Animas Ping insulin pump. We test her blood sugar through finger sticks up to 10 times a day, and recently we’ve started to monitor her blood sugar through a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

S was the only ballerina who accessorized with a pink insulin pump.

S was the only ballerina who accessorized with a pink insulin pump.

Still the fact remains that S’s pancreas is purely for decorative purposes–or at least that’s how we tease her. And that’s probably the funniest thing I can think to say about diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the cells in the pancreas responsible for manufacturing insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot use carbohydrates for energy or remove glucose from the blood stream. While there are many theories, there is still not a definitive cause for this disease.

Ready to swim and still wearing her pump at age 9.

Ready to swim and still wearing her pump at age 9.

The need remains for a real cure. We are unspeakably grateful for S’s insulin pump and CGM, and we eagerly anticipate the day that the Artificial Pancreas Project delivers an FDA-approved device in the United States. In fact, none of these medical advances would be possible without Dr. Banting and his colleagues Dr. J.J.R. Macleod and Dr. Charles Best. And so on World Diabetes Day 2014, I would like to wish Dr. Banting a very belated but very sincere happy birthday.

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Another Way to Support JDRF

Type 1 diabetes is near and dear to my heart. In our home, we jokingly refer to S’s diabetes as our fourth child. Let me clarify: we don’t love her diabetes, but constantly checking blood sugar, calculating insulin boluses, and counting carbohydrates is a full-time job!

The other week I shared that you could support the JDRF by purchasing paper shoes at Marshalls. Today I’m encouraging you to get your annual flu shot at Walgreens. (Disclaimer: I am not anti-vaccine, nor do I want to engage in a discussion on vaccines.) Every fall we all get our flu shot (or mist) to help keep the flu virus away from S. Regular illnesses that sideline otherwise-healthy individuals can really wreak havoc on a diabetic person. As an example, S contracted bronchitis this summer from her swim team buddies. She battled high blood sugars for almost a full month as her body reacted to the illness. High blood sugars mean extra finger pricks, extra insulin, checking for ketones, and being extra-vigilant with food choices. See what a pain diabetes is?

So if we can keep S from contracting the flu, we’re all on board to get our flu shot. Okay, 3 out of 5 of us are on board. I bribe the other two dissenters.

If you’re already planning to get this year’s flu shot, why not get it at Walgreens? Save yourself a doctor’s visit (and co-pay) and contribute to the JDRF at the same time. Just print out this flyer and present it at the time of your visit. Walgreen’s will donate $1 for each flu shot.

In other diabetes news, how exciting is this tidbit?! Medtronic has just introduced an FDA-approved insulin pump that used artificial pancreas technology! On Friday, the MiniMed 530G with Enlite was approved for use in the U.S. This insulin pump/continuous glucose monitor (CGM) system suspends insulin delivery when blood sugars start to drop below target levels. Amazing stuff, people! I know that many of you are more interested in the iphone 5, but I’d camp out for a week to get my hands on one of these!