Countdown to Spring!

Officially, spring is T-9 days away. Finally! Of course, I live in New Hampshire, so we’ve still got at least a foot of snow on the ground most places. I can’t call spring “over” until mid-April at least. But the world is defrosting a little bit. I saw grass for the first time in months yesterday! I’d almost forgotten what it looks like.

And along with spring comes the beginning of the derby season! Officially our season doesn’t start until the beginning of April, when we can move into our regular season practice spot. During the offseason, we’ve been getting our skate on at skateparks and indoor rinks. When skating isn’t an option, we’ve been getting together to go over WFTDA rules and strategy. Our goal this season is to learn the rules so well that we have no penalties–we’ll see how that one goes 🙂 And, our training committee added a few new members to help run off-skates conditioning routines. We did maybe three off-skates session last season, and even though many of us don’t like it (hey, we’re there to skate), we can’t argue that it’s not good for us to do more. Training has said that they’re going to set aside practice time to do off-skates conditioning throughout the season. One of the newer committee members has even suggested we do a group 5k!

On my own time, I’ve been hitting the gym to do some jogging and weight training on my own. I haven’t been the most consistent with it, so recently I’ve booked some time off on my calendar in hopes that having the actual “appointment” would make me go. I’m way too scatterbrained to remember to go if I don’t have a reminder, as I have learned this winter. I don’t particularly enjoy running on the treadmill because it’s so boring (seriously, you’re running nowhere), but it feels very safe for me because I can keep a jar of glucose tabs and my meter on hand in case my blood sugar goes low. If I’m running outdoors, I need to carry around a fannypack or some kind of backpack to keep that stuff on me, and there won’t necessarily be people around to help me if I have a severe low blood sugar, unlike on the treadmill at the gym.

Plus, I really don’t want to be running over snowbanks and piles of slush.

I think it says a lot about how far I’ve come, both physically and mentally, since the start of last season. I was pretty shy and anxious when I started playing derby, and I didn’t have a lot of locally-located friends at the time. I also wasn’t in great shape–I could barely run, I had little muscle strength, and I had absolutely no idea what I needed to do to get my blood sugars under control. I spent the first couple months of the season barely being able to make it through a practice because I just couldn’t figure out a routine. (To be honest, I’m surprised I stuck that out–it’s incredibly discouraging to see everyone else working out and having to sit down and wait because my blood sugar is too high or too low. I’m also really insecure about it because it can look like I’m being lazy or like I’m giving up too easily. I haven’t had the most supportive teammates and coaches in athletic groups in the past, but my league has always been amazingly supportive of me.)

I’m giving it one last push to gear up for the season–I’m hitting up the gym to go through as much of the rest of that couch-to-5k program (I just finished week 4!), and I’m working on strengthening my derby muscles. I’ve also started doing some short conditioning exercises in the morning when I’m getting ready for the day. I set a second alarm on my phone, partially to make sure I actually get out of bed, but mostly to remind myself to do the exercises: side planks on each side (currently 60 sec each; goal is to increase by five seconds each morning), 15-20 slow lunges (I’ve always had a problem with lunges), and ten push-ups (I could do so many at the end of last season and now I’ve lost that!). At the gym I’m incorporating weights to my lunges and squats, and I’m doing some upper-body exercises as well. I refuse to start off this season totally out-of-shape. I want to get on the track and kick some ass as soon as possible!

So, T-22 days until we move back in and start setting up for the season. And I’m gonna make it count.

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Real talk: diabetes is kind of a big deal and this article hit close to home

This morning the Diabetes Training Camp Facebook page posted an article titled “Stop diabetes ‘blame’” that really, really hit close to home for me. It was not an easy read–the first article linked to in this one was about a 22-year-old who died from diabetes issues, and the second was a link to a study that showed that t1d women tend to die earlier than t1d men–but it was such a good read. It felt very personal, too. This was something I thought about sharing on Facebook, but I stopped because it talked about so much stuff that’s so personal to me.

I’m not afraid to talk about my diabetes. I mean, obviously–I’ve got this blog, and I’ve got a tattoo on my left wrist that says “diabetic type 1.” There are a number of diabetics who like to keep it quiet, but I have never been able to do that. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that approach, just that I’m incapable of it.) But I still have boundaries there. There’s stuff that I talk about, like I’m not afraid to ask for juice if I’m having a low blood sugar or excusing myself to go take insulin after a meal, but there’s a deeper layer that I don’t really talk about to a lot of people.

This article hit that layer like a sledgehammer.

There’s a lot of scary things about diabetes. I’ve had nights (especially after particularly rough derby practices) where I’ve had to set alarms to get me up every couple of hours to make sure I was okay, even though I have a CGM, because my blood sugars can drop or rise too quickly for the CGM to catch it. I leave a trail of insulin pen needle wrappers and used test strips where ever I go, even though I swear I pick them all up. I have a pretty severe anxiety problem surrounding my blood sugars, because I’m terrified of my blood sugar going low and me not being able to treat it or catch it on time before I pass out (and potentially die). It’s a life-threatening disease, and even thought it seems like insulin fixes it, insulin is only a treatment, not a cure, and it’s not even predictable–it’s a total guessing game as to what my body is doing this week, and the rules to said game change unannounced and at random.

It’s also a lonely disease. I think that’s harder for me than the scary part. I tend to get two responses when people find out I’m diabetic: “You take shots all the time? I could never do that” or “Oh, I totally understand. Sometimes I have asthma when I run.” Neither of those is even a little bit comforting. To the first response, I say “Beats dying.” Yeah, kinda bitchy, but I really don’t appreciate being reminded that what I do is not “normal” and that it’s this whole extra thing I have to deal with*. To the second response: yeah, asthma is an issue, and it can get serious, I will give you that. And I don’t want to play Misery Olympics here. But I don’t understand what it’s like to have asthma, and you don’t understand what it’s like to have diabetes. It’s not a fair comparison to make.

And it’s so lonely because most people don’t get what it’s like to have a life-threatening disease. I’m hyper-aware of my own mortality because my life is completely dependent on this medication. If I don’t have access to that, it’s not going to take long before my body poisons itself (it’s called diabetic ketoacidosis). It’s terrifying to think about how fragile I am in that respect. On the other hand, if I take too much insulin, then I’m still in trouble, because it’s possible to die from hypoglycemic shock. Someone on the internet once pointed out how powerful insulin is because it can both keep you alive or it can kill you (if not used correctly). Not to mention it’s incredibly expensive and very hard to get access to outside of Western countries, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

Diabetes can’t be both a very serious condition that produces a variety of outcomes even when a patient with the condition is “compliant” AND a disease that is totally dependent upon a reckless drug (insulin) where success is completely and totally the responsibility of the person with type 1 diabetes. The message here – If you do not succeed, you did it to yourself. Don’t screw up.  

I don’t think there’s that much more I want to say on this, because there are a million more things I have to say on this topic, but go read that article. It explains the issue about a million times better than I ever could.

I just have a lot of feelings

*Seriously I really fucking hate hearing “Oh I could never take shots/check my blood sugar/do what you do!” Way to remind me that I’m not normal. Please stop saying it. 

Start saving for that ticket to Barcelona

Barcelona announced as the host of first-ever World Roller Games in 2017

Start saving for that ticket to Barcelona. In 2017, they’re going to host the first-ever World Roller Games. according to this article.

And, apparently, there is an International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS).

This is amazing.

FIRS has ten roller disciples, one of which is roller derby. The others are:

  • Speed skating
  • Artistic (jam) skating
  • Rink hockey
  • Inline hockey
  • Inline downhill
  • Skateboarding*
  • Inline freestyle
  • Inline alpine

But we all know roller derby is the best one, right? 😉

This is actually a really cool thing that exists, and it gives you ideas for ways to cross-train that still involve skating. (Maybe not inline downhill. That sounds terrifying.) We do something like inline freestyle when we hang out at the skate park (Chicks in Bowls, anyone?), which has been wicked fun, even if a different kind of risky than derby. And I know of a guy who does a speed skating clinic down in Massachusetts that a number of Boston area skaters go to.

Anyone else out there do any of these? I’d love to hear from you as I’m super curious about the rest of these roller sports!

*I’ve actually toyed with the idea of picking up skateboarding, and this article from XO Jane makes me feel like I’m never too old and never too female to pick up the sport. Maybe I’ll do that this summer?

Baby steps

There’s about a million articles out there about changing your current habits (or creating new ones). Write on a calendar, make a gold star chart, set yourself reminders, et cetera, et cetera. And for anyone who’s trying to reach a new goal or build a new habit, I highly recommend to try them all out! See what works for you and what doesn’t. What I swear by might not work for you, and what doesn’t work at all for me might be just the thing for you.

(I like to treat life like one big science experiment, personally. Try all the things!)

Try all the things

(Man, I love science experiments.)

I think that the one thing that every successful new goal setting method has in common, though, is to take baby steps. You can’t expect yourself to just wake up and be able to run a 5k. (Well, okay. Maybe you can. I certainly can’t.) You’re not going to master calculus overnight. A sweater will not be the first thing you knit*.

I am not good at setting goals and actually remembering to do them. I’m absent-minded and I have to write it down in five places if I need to get something done. I’m terrible at habits–I set an alarm to go off at 9:30PM every day to remind me to take my Lantus, and I still manage to forget once in a while. You’d think I’d remember to take my life-sustaining medication, right? Nope. I am that level of absent-minded.

But I’m trying a new thing. Well, it’s not that new–it’s something people have been saying forever. Do it first thing in the morning. And I’ve always been like “I have no time in the morning; I’m slow and I get into work at 7:30.” (I’m really good at excuses.)

So this is cool because it has three effects: one, I’m getting out of bed ten minutes sooner by hitting snooze one less time. Two, I’m starting off my day with a little bit of exercise. And three, I’m actually getting in my small baby steps routine of side planks, lunges, and push-ups.

I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch. I think I’ve only been doing this for a week or so. My derby league has been focusing a lot on conditioning, since we don’t have a skating space right now. We didn’t focus much on off-skates exercise last season. And not that I’m complaining (I would so much rather skate than run), but we definitely do need more of that. It’s only going to help us if we get better at cardio, agility, and strength training. And some of the strength training we’ve been doing has made me realize how much I need to work more on my own.

I’ve always had a hard time with lunges. I have trouble with my form and it causes my inner thigh muscles to tie themselves in knots. So I don’t do as many lunges as I should because they’re difficult, when really I need to suck it up and do more so that they become less difficult. I asked the head coach what I should do to fix this, and he said that just doing a few every day will help for now. That’s my top priority right now. The push-ups and side planks I’ve added because I’ve lost a lot of the strength that I had built up at the end of last season, and I really miss being able to do a set of twenty push-ups.

Man, I am really starting to regret letting my end-of-season fitness go to waste…

*Actually, a sweater was the first actual project I knit. I didn’t know what gauge was and knit something three sizes too big for me. I don’t recommend doing it that way.

Catching up, now that I have a minute to breathe

Phew! Just to give you an idea of what’s been going on at my day job lately:

1. Had a work trip to spend a week in the UK with two days notice.
2. Had many days in the past few weeks where I’ve had to be up at 3AM for meetings (!)
3. Big push to get stuff done as we’re long past some deadlines resulting in aforementioned 3AM meetings and too much overtime for my liking.

In my personal life:

1. Snow. Lots of snow. All the snow.
2. We lack a skateable practice space right now, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t practicing:

(That’s me in the blue tights. I think my plank form needs work…)
3. Some, um, snafus with my health care coverage and diabetes supplies I paid $400 for a month supply of Humalog recently. Any Canadians want to marry me so that I can get in on your health care system?

I’m aiming to resume a regular blogging schedule. I think things have calmed down enough for that. I miss this blog!

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been…

Yes, this is another case of “real life is getting in the way.” I’ve had all the things going on at my day job lately–and by “all the things” I really do mean that; last week I had to get up at 3AM for meetings Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and at 5AM on Thursday. This is not the first time this has happened, but it is the first time I’ve had to do it so much in one week. It’s Saturday and my sleep schedule is still messed up.

As I once put it on Facebook: #internationaldepartmentproblems

So I need to take a little hiatus until this blows over (which I’m hoping will be very soon! It’s stressful having to work the normal working hours of another time zone).

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!

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.