In case you’re wondering what having a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) is like…

The coolest high-tech medical device that I use is definitely my continuous glucose monitor (CGM). It monitors my blood sugar by testing every five minutes to see where I am, which has been incredibly useful for planning and finding trends in my blood sugars. For example: my blood sugar tends to drop a little bit around two in the morning, so to prevent overnight lows I’ve started going to bed a bit higher than I normally would.

It’s also been useful for catching highs and lows before they get severe. This is the main reason why I got it, actually–I’ve had diabetes for almost nineteen years now and I’ve lost a lot of my ability to feel my blood sugar fluctuations, so it requires me to be really low or really high before I can feel the effects. Not only is this dangerous because it can render me unable to treat it without help, but it also has long-term implications for my health.

The CGM can sense when my blood sugar is rising or dropping, and it alerts me when it gets above or below a certain level. It’s particularly useful at night when I’m even more susceptible to severe lows because my blood sugar has to be dangerously low before I wake up. But the CGM wakes me up (I’m a light sleeper and man, is that buzzing LOUD!) way before it gets to that point. It gives me a sense of security.

Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. The FDA has not approved it to fully replace the traditional manual blood sugar testing (you know, the one that involves a finger prick and a little machine) because it’s not 100% accurate so I’m not completely rid of the traditional blood sugar testing. I always test before treating a high or low, and at a minimum I have to test every twelve hours so that I can recalibrate the CGM. That being said, it’s still greatly reduced the number of times I check my blood sugar during the day from 10-12 down to 2-3.

The other way in which it isn’t perfect relates directly to roller derby (and other forms of exercise). There is a bit of a lag with the CGM when my blood sugars are rising or falling rapidly. The CGM could read that my blood sugar is 140 when actually it’s 90 and dropping, or it could read 140 when it’s actually 200 and rising.

This doesn’t happen often (my blood sugars don’t generally rise or fall that rapidly), so it’s not like this is happening daily, but it makes it tricky when I’m exercising. During bouts, for example, I manually test my blood sugar every time I’m on the bench just to be on the safe side since the extra rush of adrenaline I get from the excitement of bouting can have unpredictable effects on my blood sugar. So again, I’m not completely free of the manual finger-sticking mildly bloody form of blood sugar testing.

But overall, the positives far outnumber the negatives for the CGM.

A note on the way it works, for those of you who are unfamiliar with current diabetes technology: the CGM comes in three parts (the sensor, the transmitter, and the receiver). The sensor is the little bit that actually tests my blood sugar. It’s a little sensor that sits on my stomach with a piece that goes under my skin and looks a little bit like a reversed antenna. I have to change it every week or so, but since the sensor kits come with applicators, it’s pretty easy to do. After the first couple of weeks, I felt pretty comfortable with it and now it takes me about two minutes to change the whole set. Even though there’s a piece an inch or two long that sits under my skin, I can’t really feel it so it doesn’t hurt. And it holds up to a tough roller derby practice in the July heat, so they’re pretty durable.

The second part, the transmitter, is a little grey piece that snaps onto the sensor site and transmits the reading to the third part, the receiver. It sticks out a little bit, so if I’m wearing something tight across my stomach you can see a little thing that sticks out, but it’s not obtrusive enough for me to feel awkward or uncomfortable about it.

And the receiver is the part that I actually interact with. It’s a little device that looks a bit like an older cell phone (anyone remember the LG Chocolate phones in the late 2000s? It looks like one of those) and shows me my blood sugar reading on a graph over time. I can zoom in close enough to see the graph trend for the past hour, or far enough to show me where I’ve been over the past 12 hours. I prefer to keep it at the level where I can see where I’ve been for the past two hours because otherwise it looks too dense or doesn’t give me enough historical data.

On the receiver, I can also enter my blood sugar when recalibrating, I can change the levels at which it alerts me that my blood sugar is high or low, and I can shut it off if I need to. There’s also functionality for me to enter my meals, exercise, and insulin, but I don’t use that so I can’t speak for how that works.

It’s a really cool device, especially considering that when I was diagnosed in the mid-1990s the blood sugar monitoring technology consisted of a huge boxy meter that required a pretty big blood sample (big enough that it was difficult for a five-year-old’s tiny fingers) and took 45 seconds to count down to give me a reading!

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In which Dany learns that skiing and skating aren’t quite the same thing

Last week I had some time off from work, so I was able to go skiing! I’ve been skiing since I was about twelve or so (hey, I grew up in New Hampshire, we have to find some redeeming qualities about winter here), and I picked up snowboarding around seventeen or eighteen.

As of last Monday, I had not been skiing since March 2013. This means that I had not been skiing since I started skating.

Skiing for the first time since learning to skate is hilarious

What I expected to happen: “It’s been so long since I’ve skiied, and they said it was tough transitioning back to skiing after learning to skate, but it’s fine, I’ve been able to ski for ages.”

What actually happened: “Derby stance!” [falls over] “More derby stance!” [falls over again] “Bend your knees!” [falls over for the third time this run]

It turns out that skating can help your skiing, sure. Both use very similar sets of muscles–my first day on the slopes every year is usually marked by extremely sore legs the next couple of days after because I don’t usually hang out working on my ski muscles when it’s not ski season. I got in a pretty full day of skiing and barely felt a thing on my legs. On the contrary, I didn’t feel like I was getting low enough when skiing and kept losing my balance and falling as a result!

I was laughing the whole way down the mountain, that’s for sure.

My body seemed to remember how to hold itself when on skis after a couple of runs, and I wasn’t having any problems at all by the time I stopped for lunch. But those first couple of runs were tough, especially since I couldn’t figure out why I kept falling at first! I’m not sure how to explain the difference between skiing stance and derby stance, but I think they key parts are: a) you balance your weight differently on skis than on skates and b) skating stance (never mind derby stance) is much lower than skiing stance.

I probably won’t be able to go skiing or boarding as often as I like this winter because of my job (boring, I know), but man, I can’t wait to experience that again.

New Research Suggests that One in Three Type 1 Diabetics Still Product Insulin For Years After Diagnosis

I found this really cool new study that suggests that about a third of type 1 diabetics still produce insulin for years after the initial diagnosis. For those of you who are unaware, in type 1 diabetes the body doesn’t produce insulin (a vital part of the digestive system, without which you die) because the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. (The joke is “autoimmune disease: because the only thing tough enough to kick my ass is me.”)

This research is amazing because it’s such a game changer. It doesn’t affect all type 1 diabetics, as the title says, but it could change the way diabetes gets treated in some people. It’s not uncommon for peoples’ bodies to keep producing insulin even after diagnosis, which is known as the “honeymoon period” because it requires less work since the body is still somewhat able to regulate itself, but this proves that there’s definitely a subset of diabetics who still produce insulin for years after diagnosis–this study cites one individual who was producing insulin for 40 years after diagnosis!

It’s also a total game-changer because it could affect the type of policy coverage certain people receive. A really popular way of treating diabetes is the insulin pump, which acts as a sort of electronic pancreas that is manually controlled by the user and is attached to them at all times, kind of like a mini-IV. Insulin pump coverage by many health care plans depends on clinical proof of having an autoimmune disorder and having proof that the patient’s body is no longer producing insulin. In the case of the 30% of diabetics who are still producing insulin, this means that they can be denied coverage for this treatment.

The information used in this study to gather this information was taken by the T1DExchange, which collects information from type 1 diabetics. I’ve taken part in that–there’s a database somewhere that has some of my medical history pertaining to my diabetes. I’m glad to know that that information is helping with studies like this one!

Here’s the source for the article on this. Here’s the study, if you feel like wading through academic research. I love reading stuff like this, even though I don’t have the academic background to fully understand it. (If I didn’t have diabetes, I probably wouldn’t understand any of it–I haven’t taken a biology class since high school!) I’d love to do more work with diabetics, but I really don’t want to go to medical school, so for now I have to be content with reading articles on new research.

I Wrote a Thing, Just Not Here

I don’t have a new post here today, but check out my post on my league’s blog about some of my off-season adventures (skateventures? Is that a thing? It is now).

I’m on vacation this week, and the plan was to ski and snowboard all week…but it’s way too effing cold for that:

So I guess I’m just gonna enjoy my time off from work by being lazy and catching up on chores.