Heidi: Battling Diabetes With Exercise

 

When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on October, 24, 2011, at age 25. I just celebrated my 4-year “diaversary” a few weeks ago.

What has been the most difficult adjustment since diagnosis?

I think the simple fact of having to step in for my pancreas 24/7 has been the toughest thing for me to handle. Diabetes literally is affected by everything that you do—whether it’s eating, sitting in traffic, exercising, etc. Sometimes I joke that the color I am wearing that day impacts my blood sugar levels. You can do the same exact thing every day and experience very different results. For someone who is stubborn and a perfectionist, it’s quite the struggle.

But that same part of my personality that finds management so frustrating is the part that allows me to thrive each day because I won’t allow diabetes to get me down.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I am so proud of the person who I have become in the last 29 years, but above all, I think I achieved my biggest accomplishment earlier this month when I completed the 2015 New York City Marathon (my first). I started running a couple of months after diagnosis to help with my diabetes management, and throughout that process, I just decided to keep challenging myself. I never really had any motivating factor to exercise until my health gave me a reason to care. For me though, I wanted to push more. Having diabetes makes it so much more challenging to run (even though exercise is positive!), so running gives me an avenue to fight back and prove, mainly to myself, that not only can I run, I can run long distances. Training for the marathon and the event itself was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I did it. And I did it with Type 1.

How does diabetes affect your ability to exercise? How do you manage these obstacles?

As freeing as running can be, doing it with Type 1 can sure feel restricting. My performance is impacted by my blood sugar levels, and activities need to be planned in advance because of everything I have to take into account. It’s hard for me to just say, “OK, I feel like going out for a run right now, so that’s what I am going to do.” That’s so frustrating! If I have insulin in my system, I tend to go low during a run because my insulin sensitivity increases. For me, I eat without insulin and then run to let the exercise burn off as much sugar as possible. If I need to, I’ll use insulin after I am done running.

I wear a Medical ID charm on my necklace that has my name and says I am an insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic just in case I do experience severe low blood sugar during a run and somehow can’t take care of myself. I carry a running pack with my phone, my CGM receiver, my pump manager, a lancing device to prick my finger, test strips and high-sugar snacks like fruit gummies or gels in case my levels drop. For extra-long runs, I depend on family members to ride bike alongside me so I am not alone should I experience a medical emergency. It’s hard work, and I don’t even have it all figured out yet!

How has blogging benefited your experience with managing diabetes?

It has allowed me to put certain feelings and thoughts into writing. My career is in writing, and I often help other people tell their stories. Blogging helps me tell mine.

 What is the best advice you would give to a newly diagnosed person?

The absolute first thing I would say is that even though you have diabetes, you can still do anything. Yes, it might be more challenging, but it’s certainly possible. Take things one step at a time, and have patience.

Another thing that I need to stress is the importance of being open and talking to someone about it, whether it’s your family, friends, the diabetes online community or a diabetes coach/educator. Managing the disease every day is tough, and sometimes it feels like the numbers on your meter or your A1C results are grades for how you’re doing. It’s helpful to know you have someone to rely on without feeling judged.

Keep updated on Heidi’s inspirational story by visiting her blog The Runner Hi or follow her on twitter @TheRunnerHi

Debbie: Training with Diabetes

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You rock climb and hike, can you tell us about how you manage that with diabetes? 

I am a type 1 diabetic since August 1989. I have always been active either in dance or gymnastics as a kid. Now I rock climb in an indoor gym but I am only a very beginner. I do have extensive experience camping hiking and backpacking as I have done some amazing three day backpacking trips in Kanannaskis.

I managed by using my insulinx meter system. Back then it was 2014 and I went up and down a lot but the experience of camping with a great group of friends who I trained on the glucagon system it was amazing.

Keep updated by following Debbie on twitter @DIABETES_DEB79

Michael: “Data save lives and limbs”

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When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes? 

2002, diabetes mellitus type 2

What are your greatest daily struggles?

I was diagnosed at age 52. A conventional analysis would say I had developed sedentary and overeating habits in childhood that drove the expression of a genetic predisposition to T2DM. An alternative analysis would suggest that undiagnosed childhood insulin resistance and neuropathy drove the development of those habits, and precipitated a vicious cycle. In either case, I have half a century’s habits that make me “more diabetic” unless I counter them with more-than-habitual activity and more strategic eating. For me, glucose data are a much better motivator of this discipline than are weight or even belt-notch data—which brings us to the struggle to obtain adequate testing supplies in the face of a government-insurance establishment that rations them to essentially useless levels. And by the way, when I manage glucose levels, the weight and waist-size numbers fall with them.

Have you found any good things about having diabetes?

I’m healthier now than when I was diagnosed. Had I continued along the behavioral path I was on before diagnosis, I might well be dead by now. Also, the research I started reading and evaluating to save my life contributed to my current career as a clinical research editor and interpreter.

What is the best advice you would give a newly diagnosed person? 

Data save lives and limbs. Learn how diet and exercise affect your glucose levels, and develop habits that nurture good levels. Nag, beg, wheedle, plead, demand, and save your pennies for adequate testing supplies to manage your condition. Accept additional medical help if your particular diabetes cannot be managed with diet and activity alone.

Does diabetes define who you are?

No.  It’s defined certain choices and possibilities in my life. That includes both limitations and opportunities.

Thank you Michael for the brave and inspirational responses. To learn more about Michael and keep up to date on his battle with diabetes follow his blog diabetes2remission.blogspot.com! You can also follow him on twitter for daily updates @T2DRemission

Kris: Type 1 Is Not Going To Hold Me Back

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1. When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes later than most at 25 years old in 2012. So I’m still quite new, however it already feels like a lifetime!

2. Has there been a moment in your life when you were grateful for having diabetes?

My diagnosis was devastating at first but it led to a new career that I love, living in a new city that I love, where I met my girlfriend who I love! I’m a strong believer in things happen for a reason and something good always comes from something bad in life. I’m happier with life post-diagnosis, even though I need to live with this disease for the rest of my life.

3. Why did you start blogging? 

I started blogging fresh out of hospital as I’ve always found writing a therapeutic way to get things out. I have also been fortunate enough to take part in a few research projects that were really interesting and fun to take part in so wanted to tell the world and spread awareness of taking part in research.

Online diabetes communities are huge and very active, especially on social media. I get a lot of comfort and support from people in the same position as me, but they can be anywhere in the world.

4. Has diabetes affected your ability to exercise? 

For the first year, exercise was avoided. It was just too much to deal with on top on everything else, plus my job at the time was extremely active so that keep the blood pumping.

In 2014 I climbed Kilimanjaro, which involved lots of training. Preparing for this challenge opened my eyes to the power of exercise to manage your levels. I’d always thought exercise would make things more complicated but over the long term it stabilises the fluctuations, mostly.

Occasionally, when I want to exercise and my diabetes isn’t behaving, it stops me but this is rare and is not an excuse to never exercise.

5. What is the best advice you would give to a newly diagnosed person? 

As much as this disease is a burden on your daily life and frustrating as hell, it’s a condition that can be managed. Your future is in your hands and not your doctors, unlike most other chronic conditions. You will become an expert at nutrition, maths and understanding your body. You will become more disciplined and organised. Type 1 turns ordinary people into super heroes.

My best advice is find others with type 1 and make an effort to connect with them from time to time. Type 1 can make you feel lonely so there’s nothing better for your outlook than using others in the same position to bounce off. Whether that’s online, your local hospital, charity support group or your school or work place.

6. What is your greatest accomplishment? 

I mentioned it earlier but my biggest achievement is climbing Kilimanjaro with type 1 diabetes. I never thought I could do something like this before I was diagnosed with type 1 but to do it with a condition that’s so demanding was a real achievement for me and built my confidence up a lot. Having the condition has made me more determined and I push harder with everything I do in life now. Climbing Kili hard, painful, frustrating at times, mentally and physically draining but by far the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I showed myself that type 1 is not going to hold me back.

Continue reading about Kris’s adventures and challenges with type 1 diabetes by following his blog www.diabeticbanana.org or twitter @diabeticbanana.

Rob: “Diabetes Gave Me Drive and Made Life’s Rewards Sweeter”

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This week we got to interview Rob, writer of Diabetic Dad Runs for our Humans of Diabetes blog. Be inspired by reading Rob’s thoughts below! 

HoD: When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

DDR: I was diagnosed with type-one diabetes in January 1991, aged 12. I’d spent weeks with a raging thirst and constant need to pee. I had a few days in hospital being monitored and trying to get my head around the news I’d need daily injections for the rest of my life. Then I was packed off home with a box of syringes, phials of insulin and a glucose monitor. I was told I’d still be able to live a normal life, even with diabetes. I took ‘normal’ to mean ordinary. And, like most 12-year-olds, I didn’t want an ordinary life; I wanted it to be extraordinary.

 HoDHow did your diagnosis affect you?

DDR: I buried my head in the sand. I spent my teens and early 20s generally doings things that are no good for anyone, let alone a diabetic. I shunned my parents’ efforts for me to meet other diabetics (no one in my family has diabetes). I ignored diabetes; I rarely tested my blood and ate what I wanted.  When I was 20, I travelled in Africa for two months and didn’t even pack my glucose monitor. Unsurprisingly, this lifestyle led to no end of highs and lows. It was dangerous and irresponsible. I shudder to think how much damage I did to my body and worry I caused my loved ones.

 HoD: How does diabetes affect your ability to exercise?  

DDR: I wish I could say it has no impact, but that wouldn’t be true. In my late 20s I quit smoking and began taking my diabetes and general health more seriously. I began going to the gym and running. At 30, I completed my first (and so far only) marathon, testing my blood and refuelling on carbs on the go. The training process involved a few hypos and a lot of trial and error in terms of sugar control, but it taught me how to manage my diabetes more effectively.

A few years ago I started doing Crossfit, which involved keeping a really close eye on sugar levels and food and insulin intake on training days. I became fitter than I’d ever been. Then injury struck: frozen shoulder, a condition diabetics are far more likely to develop than non-diabetics, probably because of an imbalance in the proteins the body needs to break down scar tissue in joints. The injury wasn’t necessarily caused by diabetes, but my recovery has been delayed by it.

I expect to return to Crossfit in the next few months, after nearly two years of recovery. During this time (apart from a six-month hiatus when the pain in my shoulder got too bad), I’ve run to keep fit (and sane). After reading about the inspirational Roddy Riddle (a truly incredible type-one) I hatched a plan: to run the Marathon des Sables, a 150-mile, six-day race across the Sahara Desert in 2018. My blog, Diabetic Dad Runs, is the story of my preparation for this race.

HoD: Has there been a moment in your life when you were grateful for having diabetes?

DDR: My initial answer was a resounding no. The ceaseless injections and blood tests, the threat of hypos and the trail of test strips I seem to leave behind me everywhere I go get me down. But then I thought about it a while. In recent years diabetes has given me the drive to push myself and get fit. Now it’s pushing me to attempt something extraordinary (if a bit nuts). I’m not sure if I would have that drive if I wasn’t diabetic.

HoD: What is the best advice you would give to a newly diagnosed person? 

DDR: Avoid carbohydrates. When I was diagnosed the advice was to eat plenty of carbs to maintain sugar levels and avoid hypos. Eating too many carbs as a diabetic is like sitting on a seesaw with an overweight child: every meal sends sugar levels soaring skyward; hefty insulin doses bring them crashing back down to earth again. And so you’re always lurching from peak and trough. Since I began a low carb diet a few years ago, my insulin dose has fallen by two thirds; hypos and highs are fewer and farther between.

The nurse who told me diabetes wouldn’t stop me from living a normal life was right. Diabetes has caused a few problems along the way (for example, the impact of fluctuating blood sugar levels on mood should not be underestimated) but it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything. If you want to do something extraordinary, diabetes shouldn’t stop you. You might have to work harder than others would to achieve your goal, but that will make the rewards even sweeter.

Follow the Diabetic Dad Runs blog by clicking here; DDR is also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get in touch if you would like to share any thoughts on diabetes, nutrition, exercise or anything else! 

Doug: Conquering Marathons With Diabetes

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1. When were you diagnosed with diabetes?

“May 24th 1999, just under a month before my 21st birthday.”

2. What is your greatest daily struggle? 

“My greatest daily struggle is putting too much energy into what my #’s are too often. I find myself constantly looking at my pump display to see what my CGM is reading.”

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3. What is your greatest accomplishment? 

“My greatest accomplishment is the first marathon I finished. I couldn’t run a quarter mile on February 1, 2011 and in October I ran my first marathon. It wasn’t pretty but I finished. Since then I’ve done 6 more and have another scheduled for 10/4.”

4. Have you found any positives about having diabetes? 

“I’ve meet a lot of great people because of my diabetes and when I say met I use that word loosely because I haven’ t met 99% of them.  A lot of great diabetics on Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs.”

5. What is the best advice you would give a newly diagnosed person? 

“Things happen, you go high and you go low but test 8-10 times a day and make the necessary adjustments. I hear too many stories of people who don’t test and run all day in the 300’s and to be honest I usually ran 250 when I was diagnosed.”

6. How does having diabetes affect your ability to train for marathons?

Doug and his niece conquering the toddler trot four years in a row!
Doug and his niece conquering the toddler trot four years in a row!

“Diabetes affects my ability to train for marathons because of the constant struggle in maintaining blood sugars. No two days are the same, this weekend I ran 9.5 miles the same as I did two weeks ago and during the run two weeks ago I ranged 70-90 and needed to consume 150 carbs during whereas this week I only needed 30 grams of carb. I figure the difference was the amount of insulin on board prior to my departure and what I set my temp basal at during my long run schedule. I have found it is helpful to document everything you do so you can try to mimic the result and attempt to repeat it in the future. I know I need to see a dietician and probably should do some sports education to learn more about what I can eat to help sustain normalized blood sugars for long run activity.”

 Learn more about Doug’s training and accomplishments by following his entertaining and inspiring blog sweatabetes.wordpress.com or stay connected with Doug through twitter @salguodmai