Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Worst Blogger of 2008

Me and my babies

I always thought it odd that magazines and newspapers ran features on the top news stories of the year in December. I mean, what if the world blew up on Dec. 31? They would have missed the biggest story of the year.

That’s why I waited until today to announce the winner of my very own “Worst Blogger of 2008” competition. The word “competition,” by the way, is merely a convention. There was no competition. I was the sole contestant, and I won, hands-down.

Certainly there are lots of bloggers out there who posted less frequently than I did or as inconsistently as I did during the past year. I don’t know all of those bloggers. But I do know me, and I was the one who selected the winner. So there.

Here’s the thing: I tend to retreat at times, especially when I’ve been in the public eye a lot. And I was in the public eye during most of 2008 when I was promoting We the Purple. A few weeks after the election, all that publicity got to me, and I began receding into the shadows again. I’m more of an introvert than people might think.

I’m going to try not to repeat this prestigious win in 2009, but you never know. If Stephen Colbert comes calling, I may just stop blogging. For a while, anyway.

Oh, that’s me up there with all those books…some of the books I’ve written in the past 10 years. Hey, you should be impressed that I had any time at all to blog. No?

Cross-posted on all my other blogs. As if I can post three fresh blogs today. Please. I’m so out of practice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Days 15 & 16: The high cost of diabetes

At yet another appointment with a healthcare professional, I was trying to figure out if a different glucoseiStock_000004236228XSmall monitor would be more cost-effective. Not the monitor itself, but the test strips that the monitor uses.

The monitors are easy to come by. Manufacturers give them away, even those that cost close to $100, because they know they’ll make up the loss with the sale of test strips. Each strip costs me just over $1, and since I’m supposed to monitor my glucose around five times a day, the cost really adds up.

But that’s just a fraction of the total monthly cost of diabetes maintenance. Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of diabetes-related expenses:

  • Healthcare insurance, if you can even get it. Premiums for diabetics are higher than those for people with some other pre-existing conditions, partly because of the many potential complications resulting from diabetes. I am among the millions of Americans without health insurance, and every day I feel as if I’m living on the precipice of financial disaster.
  • Equipment, such as glucose monitors and test strips, insulin pumps, disposable 2.1.2_advantageimage insulin needles and so forth. Without insurance or participation in some kind of discount program, the temptation is to let these purchases slide. Diabetics often end up testing less frequently to save on the cost of strips and using insulin needles multiple times, until they’re so blunt that they hurt. Don’t ask me how I know this.
  • Doctor visits and labs. Insanely expensive without insurance. Oh, to go back to the days of a $20 co-pay! One doctor’s visit with labs can run $200-plus, and I’m supposed to see my doctor once a month. So I stretch it out to six weeks…two months…three months. At one point recently I went seven months between visits, which isn’t easy to do when doctors insist on in-office visits when all you need is a refill on a life-saving medication.
  • Medications. There’s the obvious, like oral diabetes meds and insulin, and the secondary meds, like those that regulate cholesterol and blood pressure. I’m on five meds; I get two from India to save on the cost, but even so my monthly total is several hundred dollars.
  • Food. Medical professionals are finally figuring out that all those health-food nuts weren’t so nuts after all. Now I know you can go overboard with the whole natural-foods thing, but I do believe that buying locally grown organic food is the way to go whenever possible. All you have to do is go straight from your local supermarket to a Whole Foods or Wild Oats store and check out the produce section. I want to pitch a tent in my local Whole Foods produce department and graze for a week. Even if you don’t go organic, simply eating unprocessed foods in their unaltered condition is so much healthier—but so much more expensive.
  • Supplements. One doctor had me downing so many vitamins and minerals that I barely had time to eat real food. The thing is, he wasn’t a nut job. I believe he was on the right track—my glucose levels did stabilize—and maybe I’ll return to his regimen one day. But the thought of swallowing 30 pills every day in addition to my meds and an abundance of raw fruits vegetables, plus paying the additional price for those pills, just doesn’t cut it right now.

I’m sure I’ve missed an entire category or two of diabetes-related expenses. But this is all so depressing that I’m just going to stop the list now.

How about you? What’s your biggest health-related expense?

Fasting glucose: 175 and 164

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 14: It’s always something

And tonight it was the challenge of eating out. I had just finished a 2.5 mile, late afternoon walk in the mountains and was craving steak. Seriously. This happens maybe once or twice a year. Bison is the only red meat that holds any appeal for me; filet beef just doesn’t measure up.

But there I was with this craving, and it would not be ignored. So I corralled my husband and talked him in to having dinner at one of the few restaurants in town that we’d never visited, mainly because the ownership changed so frequently that we weren’t even sure it was still in business.

It was, and on the way there I felt my blood sugar plummet. I immediately told the server I was diabetic and needed bread—fast.

You know what happened next, right? She was in server mode and would not be shaken out of it. Before she could take care of this urgent request, she just had to get our drink orders. And then she had to serve our drinks before she got the bread.

A few minutes later the bread arrived, warm and delicious and all that. But I needed it fast, and cold and stale would have worked just fine.

Several restaurateurs have told me that I should always let the host/hostess and server know that I am diabetic, especially when I’m on a business trip and eating alone or with colleagues who may not be aware of my condition. My husband was with me tonight and would have know what to do had I passed out, but I don’t think the restaurant staff would have wanted it to reach that point.

Of course, I had diabetic gel with me and could have squeezed a few ounces into my mouth. But one of the overriding characteristics of low blood sugar is the inability to think straight, so I didn’t think to do that. And I didn’t think to tell my husband that the situation was worse than it appeared to be. We’ve been together for 30 years, and he knows the symptoms well enough. But I’ve also become a master at hiding them, and this time I had visions of a juicy filet clouding my thinking. Not good.

I survived, satisfied my craving and suffered the consequences—a three-hour “nap.” It’s now almost midnight, and I just woke up.

So tell me: how do you get a clueless server to take your urgent needs seriously?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 12: “Kiss Diabetes Goodbye”

Help the American Diabetes Association Kiss Diabetes Goodbye

I’d love to kiss my own diabetes goodbye. But even more than that, I’d love to kiss diabetes goodbye for the many children that are diagnosed with Type 1 at an early age. One young girl I know was recently diagnosed with Type 1 and had to start giving herself shots during the time her grandmother was undergoing cancer treatment. This child is growing up in an environment saturated with illness and doctors and hospitals.

Everybody knows someone with diabetes, and many people are actively involved in a diabetic’s treatment and care. And those people are the ones most likely to donate their time, effort, and money to diabetes-related programs. As one of its programs in connection with National Diabetes Month, the American Diabetes Association has launched Kiss Diabetes Goodbye, an effort to raise a million dollars in November for diabetes research.

V8 Brand is contributing $100,000 in matching funds as part of the ADA program. That seemed paltry at first, but then I found out that V8 is also donating 30 million servings of fresh vegetables to local food banks through Feeding America (which used to be America’s Second Harvest). I’ll give them a pass this time.

I know, I know—every disease-oriented foundation has its hand out today begging for donations. But if you’re reading this blog, you have some connection to diabetes, or at least to one diabetic (me). Your donation may not help me—I don’t expect to see a cure for diabetes in my lifetime—but it just may help my young friend and all the other diabetic children who will otherwise face decades of needles, insulin, testing, doctors, hospitals, labs and potential complications, some of them deadly.

You can donate here.

Fasting glucose: 170

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 11: Fight or flight

One challenge in a personal war on diabetes is the temptation to simply flee (from the program you're on) when you don't see any measurable progress. Your glucose readings aren’t going down, you don’t feel any better, but you also don’t feel any worse.diabetes-logo_64

The problem is that until something goes horribly wrong, we really don’t feel much of anything. If things are getting worse, we can’t tell. Many of our symptoms are hidden, and if we’re not testing regularly or paying close attention to the way we feel before and after meals, we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking we can graze at an all-you-can-eat buffet without suffering any consequences, long-term or short-term.

This is where a support network or support group becomes critical. Right now I’m relying on the support of health-care professionals and a few friends with celiac disease, but I know that’s not enough.

The trick is finding the right group. I attended a few meetings of a diabetes support group where I used to live, but everyone else was Type 1 and had a different set of challenges than I had. I think it would have been okay if there had been even just one or two Type 2 diabetics, because I do believe both types can learn something from each other.

Until I find one, I’ll keep the fight up with the help of professionals and my celiac friends. No way am I going to flee.

If you belong to an online Type 2 support group that you would recommend, let me know about it, okay?

Fasting glucose: 194

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 10: Are you on a raw food diet?

My nutritionist wants me to consider trying a raw food diet, once I get everything else under control. As every diabetic out there knows, to really take control of your health and well-being requires an enormous commitment of time, energy, money and discipline, and I have enough on my plate as it is. Pun intended.iStock_Fresh VeggiesXSmall

I did roam around a few raw-food sites last night and discovered what I suspected would be the case: the raw-food community is populated with true believers. I don’t mind that. But just as in the religious world, the nutrition world has its fundamentalists, those all-or-nothing evangelists who insist you go cold turkey (the “cold” part meant literally in this case) and buy thousands of dollars of new kitchen equipment to do so.

I ignored those sites. I’m all for eating raw, organic foods, but please—everything in moderation, you know?

There are also lots of raw-food “cookbooks,” which should be called recipe books for the sake of accuracy. But even here, there’s a lot of nonsense, like one book that apparently includes a “recipe” for chopped parsley: 1. Wash a bunch of parsley. 2. Chop the parsley. It’s impossible for someone who lives in a rural area (as I do) to leaf through a pile of books at a local Barnes & Noble since no such store exists. I rely on reader reviews on Amazon, but they can be wildly inconsistent.

So: Who can recommend a down-to-earth raw food site and/or recipe book that provides genuinely helpful information, recipes that include ingredients that I could find in any decent grocery store, and doesn’t require me to buy a dehydrator and such before I even know if I’m going to like this way of eating?

Suggestions, please! TIA, of course.

Fasting glucose: 202. I’m okay. Honest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 9: Meal planning. Ugh.

balanced meal

Have you had success creating a meal plan and then sticking to it? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

This has proven to be the least successful aspect of my 90-day war on diabetes. I never know what I’m going to have for my next meal, let alone for dinner 28 days in the future.

Even my nutritionist sympathizes. I met with her today, and when I mentioned my doctor’s insistence that I create a 30-day meal plan, she got all bug-eyed. No way could she do that, she said.

Then there’s the whole no gluten, no dairy, no corn, no soy challenge.

So…who can help me out here? The first person to send me a usable 30-day menu plan that I can cut and paste and adopt as my very own will win my undying gratitude.*

Fasting glucose: 180

* So will everyone else who does the same.