Tag Archives: connection

Message #Dblogweek

Eek! It’s #dblog week2016!! I haven’t written 5 blog posts in the last 5 months an now I have committed to 5 in a week!  But there are some excellent topics this week so here goes…

If you don’t know about #dblog week, check it out here. There are many many bloggers signed up and there will be a boatload of amazing posts to read over the course of the week. 

Here is the first prompt this week:
Lets kick off the week by talking about why we are here, in the diabetes blog space. What is the most important diabetes awareness message to you? Why is that message important for you, and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing it on your blog?

I am here for many reasons but the main one can be summed up in one word: connection. My desire to connect with others living with diabetes goes all the way back to my diagnosis. My dad’s brother has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1960. In march 1997, as I lay in the intensive care unit the day after my diagnosis, slowly coming out of DKA, he came to visit. In just one look from him, I understood both how sorry he was that I also had to live with with this for the rest of my life but also how relieved he felt that now someone else actually understood how he feels.

It literally took that one look from my uncle to know that I didn’t have to do this alone and that it would indeed be harder without others who truly understood. I started looking to connect with others relatively quickly. It did help that the internet already existed although there was very little in the way of valuable information about actually living well with diabetes at the time. The first message boards and forums were starting to appear too so at least there were ways of finding others to converse with.

Over the last 19 years, true to this desire to connect with others, I’ve been both member and founder of local support groups, and have frequented a lot of on-line diabetes spaces for both diabetes and celiac disease. And as in life, each chronic illness took turns in which got more on-line time. But once the main learning curve of celiac was covered, I’ve definitely been more actively involved in diabetes related support on-line and off. The online forum that became my diabetes “home” on the internet for many years was the Diabetic Mommy forum. Many of the women I met there have become real friends, whether or not I have met them in real life.

A particularly bad bout of diabetes burnout hit me when my second daughter was about 12-18 months old. It was after several years of trying to maintain pregnancy blood glucose levels and by that point I was busy with raising my family and going back to work and I had less time to take care of my diabetes, let alone talk to others about it. When my A1c came back about 2% over what I wanted it to be, I realised that I needed to take action and for me, that was re-connecting actively with my D-family (OK, and also actually checking my BG levels, but honestly, chatting with others helped me check my blood sugar!).

So I started actively participating in tweetchats, not just passively reading them the next day. And although I had been an avid blog-reader for years, I started to reply to some blog posts and connect with the blogging community. The whole rise in blogging had passed me by since I had exactly what I needed in support at the time – around diabetes and pregnancy. I love the learning and the “me too” feeling that came with reading of tweets and blog posts, but I knew from experience that contributing to those conversations was just as important to me on both and emotional and a diabetes management perspective.

The more I connect with other people with diabetes, whether through direct twitter conversations, through reading blogs, through participating in Facebook groups… the better I feel and the better my diabetes behaves. Not to say there aren’t ups and downs (obviously), but I guess what I’m saying is that the connections I have made by being active in this community have helped make living with diabetes a little easier to deal with. So I’m here to find support and hopefully to give some as well through sharing my story and connecting with others.

 

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Encounters of the diabetes kind

I just spent a couple of days in Oslo, Norway on a business trip. Things were very busy leading up to my trip and I hadn’t really paused to think about the fact that I was going to a city and country I had never been to before. Nor about the fact that I “know” a Norwegian. I put “know” in quotations as we hadn’t ever met in real life but had been conversing for years on an online diabetes forum.

When I finally got to my destination I thought about what I could do with the very few hours of free time I had before and after my meetings. It was only then that I contacted my Norwegian friend to ask if she actually lived in Oslo. She did, and as it turned out, she was free to meet up the following evening, just at the time that my meetings were ending.

We didn’t plan anything overly exciting but we sat for an hour and a half at Starbucks talking diabetes, of course, but not only. We talked about family, work, travel and bi-culturalism as if we had been close friends for years. But in reality, we haven’t been in close contact lately as the forum that brought us together originally was about diabetes and pregnancy and our respective kids are now between 9 and 4.5 years old. I love the power of the internet and social media, that we can so easily create a network of contacts and friends all over the world at a few clicks of a mouse or taps and swipes on a smartphone. But there is a different level of magic when those conversations and friendships are taken off-line.

On a completely different level, I had one more encounter with diabetes in the wild before I left the country. I was standing in line to go through security at the Oslo airport on my way home. As the queue snaked forward, there was a counter space that people could use to organize the things that need to be taken out of carry-on bags to go through the x-ray machine. I happened to glance up as I passed on the other side of this counter and saw a young woman putting a glucose meter and insulin pen in a clear plastic ziplock bag.

My first thought was -” that’s strange, I’ve never taken my diabetes paraphernalia out of my purse for airport security, unless asked”. The fact that I was looking at another girl with type 1 was only my second thought. I smiled at her and she looked a little bewildered. Not sure how much was her stress about travelling with diabetes and how much was the fact she had no idea I had diabetes and therefore why this strange woman in line was smiling at her. So I took my pump out of the pocket of my jeans and held it up to her.

I saw the recognition light go on in her head and she fired off some very rapid Norwegian about “no pump” – at least those were the only words I caught. Then the line moved on but I felt empowered by the mutual understanding of the stress of travelling with diabetes and that I wasn’t the only one in that line wondering if I would be pulled aside to be asked about my diabetes kit.

Oh, and if you are ever in Oslo, the Vigeland sculpture park is a must see. The sculptures and statues blew me away in the emotion that they conveyed. I only wish I had a better camera than my iPhone 4S to capture the beauty.

VigelandChildonBackwmVigelandOldLadieswm VigelandcouplewmVigelandWomanBabywm

#dblogweek 2015 – Continuing Connections

Wow, the last day of #dlbogweek! (And I only missed one day!!). Today’s topic is about the connections that we make in the diabetes online community.

Ironically, perhaps, one of my favourite parts of making online connections in the DOC is when I actually then get to meet people face to face. I have been lucky enough over the years to meet a number of people “in real life” after having met them online through forums or blogs or tweetchats. But what is so important with the online space is that the possibilities of these connections is so much greater. It allows us to find and interact with people in the next town over or on the other side of the world who understand our own situation so intimately without ever setting eyes on each other.

As I said in my first #dblogweek post, this is my first time participating. I actually got a “happy anniversary” message from WordPress today because I created my blog immediately AFTER last year’s #dblogweek. I couldn’t take the pressure of starting a blog with 7 posts in 7 days, but after reading hundreds of posts that week, I finally took the leap and created this space.

But the difficult part for me this year was that with so much time composing posts, I didn’t actually spend a lot of time reading the posts of other participants. Next week will be a “part 2” of #dblogweek for me. I’m really looking forward to getting caught up and reading what others have written on the same topics I have thought about during this time. The few posts that I did read, whether from blogs that I know and love or ones that I just discovered were further confirmation of how awesome this community is.

Thank you, Karen, for spearheading this project that facilitates further connections within the community.

#dblogweek 2015 – Favourites and Motivations

And for my second post of the day… to at least attempt to catch up on #dblogweek! The topic today is “Favourites and Motivations”. After only a year of blogging I had a hard time picking a favourite bit of my blog, so I’ll share with you some of my motivation for being here.

I have understood from the day of my diagnosis how important it would be to connect with other people with diabetes. It all started as I lay in the ICU with bruises up and down both arms from all the IVs and artery lines that the doctors had placed with difficulty, the night before. But I was already feeling better 18 hours after diagnosis and the symptoms of my DKA were clearing up quickly.  Only close family were allowed into intensive care but I was very glad to see my uncle, who had by then been living with type 1 for 37 years.

I saw his concern for me and his sadness that someone else in the family would have to live with diabetes from now on. But I also saw his relief at no longer being alone in this and felt a connection with him that we had never had before. I hadn’t been able to adequately describe to anyone until then exactly how horrible I had felt in DKA. How unbelievably dry my mouth was, for example. No, not like when you’re really thirsty, more like when there is no saliva left. At all. But I didn’t need to explain it to him. He knew. He had been there.

So it was never really a question in my mind. If I wanted to live well with this (and I did!), I knew that I had to find peers to share stories, to compare notes, to support and to be supported by.  I joined an online forum while I was away at university and when I got back to Toronto after a few years, I found a group of women through the local chapter of the Canadian Diabetes association who became my core support group for a number of years.

I continued to participate in a few online forums, especially the Delphi “Diabetic Mommy” group. That group has been a lifeline through preparing for pregnancy and dealing with diabetes through pregnancy and motherhood. I have met only a few women from that group in “real” life, but I consider a number of them to be good friends. I also was very active for a number of years on a Celiac disease forum. The learning curve is so insane when you first go gluten free, that I don’t know how anyone does it without some support online or off.

A few years later, as the first D-blogs started appearing, I became an avid reader. But I think what held me back at first from starting my own blog was that I don’t love to write. I knew could respond to forum posts with supportive and well-informed answers, but I think I was a little intimidated on some level to create my own content rather than responding to others. So for years I put it off. But I have come to realise that as a diabetes advocate, it is important to have a personal space on the web to be able to share ideas in a more open space than what you can find in a forum or Facebook group.

I still find it a little scary to put myself out there but knowing the support I have found and have been able to share over the years of connecting with other PWD, that is motivation enough to share my thoughts with all of you. Sharing my story certainly helps me deal with my own diabetes and celiac disease and if just one person finds comfort in what they read here, my effort is worth it. And that motivates me to continue.

(Canadian!) Insulin pump in the (Parisian) wild

It was warm and sunny this afternoon in Paris. After the kids’ music classes, we scooted to a nearby park to take advantage of the spring weather. There was climbing, sliding, jumping, balancing and running. And snacks – well, they had snacks, I had glucose tablets just to keep up with their energy level.

Then, just as I watched my younger daughter run around from the bottom of a slide to go back up the climbing wall, a woman walked up to me a said Hi, in English. This isn’t all that surprising for the neighbourhood, but I’m always happy to meet other anglophones around town. But she didn’t stop there – she continued with a “I’m sorry but I couldn’t help but notice…” and then she pointed to my pump on the waistband of my jeans and then pointed to her own pocket, where I saw a purple Medtronic pump poking out.

The conversation took off right away. She’s had type 1 for 40+ years and been on a pump for 3. She said her only regret is not getting on a pump earlier. When we had talked diabetes for a couple minutes, we switched to life stories. Each picking up on our respective North-American-but-not-quite-American accents, we had a second “wow, cool” moment realising we are both Canadian, me from Toronto and her from Nova Scotia. Beyond the visible pump tubing we also both had Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) backpacks. Secret Diabetes flags and secret Canadian flags.

Since we were both running after children (Mummy, come play tag – you’re IT!), we didn’t get to chat for long, but how fun it was to be able to say “Me too!” with a total stranger. She’s only in Paris for a few months and neither of us were at our regular local parks so I don’t know if we’ll meet again. But it was nice to make a connection with a fellow Canadian with diabetes.