Why prick when your can scan?

Disclosure: I’ve just returned from the two-day #dx2Melbourne blogging event hosted by Abbot, the makers of the Freestyle libre, a flash glucose monitoring technology which has the tag line, “Why prick when you can scan?” I was sponsored by Abbott to participate in the program. They paid for my flight to Melbourne, put me up in a hotel, gave me two free sensors, a reader, and a goodie bag. I am in no way obligated to write about my experience at the event and the opinions and views expressed here are my own.

IMG_0737

I was first introduced to the freestyle libre flash glucose monitoring system last year by my CDE and Endo. They thought, that being a LADA and still producing some insulin, that it would be interesting to see what sort of data they could glean from seeing my levels plotted on a graph over time. They were also curious to see how my yoga practice and low carb diet would affect things.

The two-week trial went like a dream. My levels stayed in range, I hardly knew the sensor was there and for the first time since being diagnosed I slept through the night. When I went back for the evaluation they asked why I thought my levels had been so good? (because truly they’ve NEVER been that good)

All I could think of was that my fear of going low had been taken out of the equation. Overall I was less stressed and more confident.

After going through quite a few sensors and having a range of experiences, both great and not so great since the initial trial, I was excited to attend the #dx2Melbourne event and hear more about the product. I was also very curious to meet other bloggers who live with type 1 diabetes. In fact, I was so excited that I felt like one of those kids who are about to meet their pen pals for the first time at camp.

IMG_4055

I think I might need to devote a whole other blog to what it felt like to meet some of my diabetes heroes for the first time but in a nut shell… it was inspiring, intense, reassuring and heartfelt. Each person manages their life with diabetes in a unique way. Our discussions were robust (a word that everyone used to describe our passionate feelings) and there was definitely a lot of strong opinions. What I loved most was that none of us shied away from expressing different viewpoints on any given topic.

Being new to the discussion (most of the bloggers were at the #dx2Sydney event when the freestyle libre launched last year) I found myself stepping back, taking a breath and pondering.

One thing that stood out strongly was that because we are bloggers in the diabetes space we have to be aware of what’s happening with diabetes not only in Australia but globally.

That awareness inspires advocacy.

Most people living with diabetes aren’t going beyond what doctors are telling them or seeking out communities and or more information.  It certainly didn’t occur to me when I was first diagnosed. In fact, I remember one doctor telling me NOT to google diabetes and that I could live normally as long as I took insulin, ate well and exercised.

IMG_0751

When Greg Johnson the CEO of Diabetes Australia spoke during the event he disclosed that the issues at the founding of the organization in 1957 are the issues we are still dealing with today, “Insulin does NOT solve the problem.”

That’s why gatherings, support groups and events like these are so important. I can’t begin to express what it feels like to sit at lunch with people who casually check their blood sugar, and then take their shot. No one judges or questions because what we do to manage our diabetes is part of our every day lives.

So besides making lots of new dia-buddies and normalizing my life with diabetes, this event did have great takeaways that I’d love to share.

IMG_0740

First up was Mahmood Kazemi, senior director of Abbott global medical & scientific affairs. I’m not really a statistics gal but I was impressed when he shared that after gathering unidentifiable data from over 55,343 readers (the device you scan over the sensor to find out your BG level) an average of 16.3 scans a day affords better glucose control and lower A1c’s.

He also mentioned that things like ingesting large amounts of vitamin C, exposing the sensor to sunlight, or fast changes in environment like going from a dark to light space can throw off sensor readings. Abbott takes sensor faults seriously and sometimes they even reverse engineer a faulty sensor.

There were some questions from the group about scar tissue build up around the sensors, allergic reactions and whether Abbot will be recommending other sites, besides the backs of the arms.  Apparently, they haven’t tested accuracy “officially” beyond the arm sites but anecdotal evidence suggests that the accuracy remains consistent wherever you put it.

One of our Bloggers, Matt was keen to know when the sensor would have an alarm Mahmood reminded us that the device is not designed to be CGM, it’s a different technology with a different purpose.

IMG_3963

As a group we discussed the pro’s and cons of blogging…and later we talked more with guest speaker Isabelle Skinner about online personas and how the digital community can bring people together to create change. We had another robust discussion about the difference between coercion and saying things like, “this worked for me to help me manage my diabetes.” And what it means to be a trustworthy genuine source of information online.

A highlight of the event was heading into the Melbourne CBD to learn how to create great images for our blogs as was the live webcast on the emotional side of living with diabetes with Lisa Robins who specializes in diabetes clinical psychology.

The big question?

Did we think it would be useful to have professional psychological support on diagnosis (YES!) and what are ways that we stay positive with diabetes.

IMG_3978

Something I shared was how gratitude had really helped me. Focusing on what’s working rather than what’s not and giving myself a break…

Which included not being offended when the planned yoga for diabetes class with the group early Sunday morning was canceled.  I didn’t get a chance to ask but am curious to know why no one wanted to attend the free class. The lack of attendance has sparked a determination in me to address the issue of ignorance around this word YOGA and what people feel it represents.

More food for that in blogs to come….

In the meantime, I would highly recommend checking out what my fellow bloggers had to say about their experience of the event.

Renza of Diabetogenic

Frank of Type 1 Writes

Matt of Afrezza Down Under

Drew of Drew’s Daily Dose

Georgie of Lazy Pancreas

Kim of 1 Type 1 and Oz Diabetes Online Community

Melinda of Twice Diabetes

Tanya of The Leveled Life

Helen of Diabetes Can’t Stop Me

Alana of The Enlightened Diabetic

With great respect… Rachel

IMG_0784

P.S.  What if there was an easy way to feel better, have extra confidence and be more relaxed about managing your diabetes?

Yoga absolutely helped me and I’m convinced it can help you too

Join me on September 1, 2017 for my free yoga challenge

“Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga”

Grateful I am alive in spite of diabetes

Yesterday I did my first presentation for Yoga teachers on how to meet the needs of someone living with diabetes in a yoga class. It was a long and carefully thought out presentation. I wanted to cover a landscape which is unknown, often treacherous and has, to be brutally honest, no happy endings. At the end of the session, I opened it up to the audience for questions.

The first one?

Do you see what’s happened to you as a blessing?

I am sure the look on my face said it all.

Having a baby was a blessing
Meeting my husband was a blessing
Discovering yoga… a blessing

Type 1 diabetes? Not so much…

Later when everyone else had left she stayed behind. She was curious to know how I had come to terms with a condition that obviously was not something I chose or even wanted?

I shared that when I finally comprehended that I had type 1 diabetes, (it took me 6 years to find out that that was what I had) I felt relieved. Finally, I had an answer to the varied and confusing symptoms that not one health practitioner or medical doctor seemed to understand. But understanding what was wrong with me didn’t mean that relief translated into silver linings and rainbows.

It reminded me of when I was little and my mom used to try to get me to swallow a pill. I used to hunker down, screw up my face and flat out refuse. I’d rather die than swallow one of those damn things. So instead I’d take medicine in liquid form, or a suppository or even a skin cream.

Screen-Shot-2016-11-09-at-8.25.03-AM

Eventually, though that damn pill didn’t come in any other form and I had to face my fears and swallow. It took guts, willpower and a lot of love and encouragement from my mom to take that pill.

Now I swallow like a pro.

That’s how it felt when I finally let go and accepted my diagnosis. I swallowed it whole.

And I still do….

Every day I wake up and roll with the punches…

Like today when my reading is higher than I’d like it to be and I know that it’s better to accept than fight. So I do my yoga practice…and smile at my husband because he has my back

…and take as much time as I need to be grateful…

Grateful I am alive in spite of diabetes

DSC_3071

What if there was an easy way to feel better, have extra confidence and be more relaxed about managing your diabetes?

Yoga absolutely helped me and I’m convinced it can help you too

Join me on September 1, 2017 for my free yoga challenge

”  Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga”

With great respect…Rachel

Obviously I love Yoga

Blogging about Diabetes isn’t always easy. Sometimes I find my momentum waning. Like this week, when my email crashed and my camera wouldn’t load data onto my computer and my blood sugars decided to go up for no known reason.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that even though I want to quit… diabetes never does!

I find it fascinating to think that this disease has been with us for who knows how long. In India, they’ve been treating diabetes for over 5000 years!

When I went to India, just after my diagnosis (literally 3 days after) the cook at the retreat center where I was staying worked diligently with me to keep my blood sugar in range. Back then we didn’t know it was type 1, but the things she did worked. I ate something called Bitter Gourd every day, drank potions, modified my diet and massaged myself daily with sesame oil, Abhyanga, to relax my nervous system.

One of the most challenging things for anyone who has to mimic the action of their own pancreas is to keep stress to a minimum. Those initial days in India helped me to establish a daily routine with food and exercise…Yoga being the biggest support.

Like everyone else, it’s not easy to stay motivated, I find that when I step onto my mat it takes a few moves before I’m in the zone. I can’t say I directly notice an instant effect on my blood sugars from the practice but I do believe it trickles down. Overall my levels are stable and manageable because the practices of yoga enable to me to relax and be myself.

Obviously, I love yoga!

Goa Shoot (12 of 18)

What if there was an easy way to feel better, have extra confidence and be more relaxed about managing your diabetes?

Yoga absolutely helped me and I’m convinced it can help you too

Join me on September 1, 2017 for my free yoga challenge

”  Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga”

With great respect…Rachel

 

Diabetes Awareness Week

This week it’s National Diabetes Awareness Week in Australia #NDW2017 and I couldn’t resist posting this V-Log because it seems some things are still missing in how Diabetes Australia chooses to spread awareness through their campaign #itsabouttime. Yes, it’s important to know the #4t’s, the warning signs of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but my big question is… what if you don’t have those symptoms? And why don’t we share more about the people who live well with Diabetes?

 

When I go Low, I reach Higher

I can remember having a conversation with my doctor early on about my condition. I kept telling him I was afraid of going low because I’d read about it online. He kept telling me not to worry. “You can’t go low because your problem is high blood sugar. You’re not on insulin so we don’t need to even go there.”  

Now that I’ve been properly diagnosed as a Type 1 LADA and on insulin things are different. I’ve learned that balancing your blood sugar is like playing Russian roulette and that a low blood sugar happens because I’ve either miscalculated the amount of insulin I need to match the number of carbs in a meal, or I’ve exercised and injected too much insulin, or my basal insulin ( long-acting insulin) is set too high.  

Luckily I’m not hypo unaware (a condition that occurs when your body can no longer sense a low blood sugar due to repeated hypoglycemic events) but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anxiety around a low.

Being hypo unaware is probably the single biggest issue anyone has living with type 1. To remedy this we prick our fingers and check our meter’s incessantly, use CGM’s, have something called Glucagon (a shot which has to be mixed and prepared on the spot by someone else to get glucose into the blood stream fast) or have special diabetes alert dogs who can smell the change in our blood sugar levels, to remind us through barks and nudges to check that we are going low.Parents of young kids who live with diabetes set their alarms throughout the night to finger prick their kids, or check their CGM’s making sure they are in range. Imagine a young mum waking through the night year after year hoping their little one is still alive.

I don’t want to paint a horrific picture but it IS horrific.

So what happens when we are conscious enough to treat a low? Well often the fear and impatience of having to wait 20 minutes to see if your levels rise means 2 sips of juice turn into eating the entire contents of the fridge (no joke) By then, your blood sugar is screaming high and you have to inject again to bring it back down.Because I still produce that little bit of insulin and because I eat such a low carb diet my levels are very stable.

I’ve only gone below 3.9 a few times and have experimented enough to know exactly what will raise my levels. But I have had a few fridge binge moments that I’m not proud of. Like the time my meter said I was below 3.9 and I actually wasn’t and by the time I checked again it was too late!

For me having a steady yoga practice to help me deal with the stresses associated with the complexity of this disease has absolutely saved me.

It’s the number one reason why I jump on my mat, work with my breath and explore all aspects of this beautiful and ancient discipline. When I go low I reach higher inside myself to be grateful and accepting of whatever comes along. And sometimes a little thing like a flower on my afternoon walks makes all the difference.

 

Letting go and relaxing in

I’d been dreading my visit to the Diabetes Educator ever since I decided to split my basal dose over three months ago. When the day came I was so tense that I must have gone to the restroom about 5 times. Every time I washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror I told myself, “it’s going to be fine and even if your A1c isn’t perfect it’s not the end of the earth.”

As soon as I sat down in her office I burst into tears.

Handing me a tissue she asked me to talk about it. I explained how terrifying it was to split my basal, how I couldn’t seem to get the ratios right and that I couldn’t stand seeing higher readings on my meter. I admitted that I felt like a failure and added that when I read everyone’s posts on my diabetes facebook groups it made me feel even worse. “People seem to achieve such balance and even with everything I know it feels crazy that I should be struggling.”

Websize-2

She listened compassionately and reminded me that people always put their best face forward on Facebook. She said that in reality, I had no idea how those people were achieving their awesome A1c’s and besides it’s not a competition. She suggested we look at the cold hard facts before we passed judgment on how I was managing my health.

When she had loaded up all my data she pointed to the flat line on the screen and said, “see that? You’re flat lining, no peaks and valleys, this means you have a high protective factor. Even though overall your levels are higher than we’d like they don’t fluctuate much, a sign that your body isn’t under constant stress from crashes and peaks.”

She added that the yoga practices, low carb diet and simple daily regimes are doing wonders to keep me balanced.  “It takes time for the body to adjust to a new regimen. Let’s give it another three months to see what happens before we adjust things further.”

Websize

I felt so much lighter when I left the clinic and lucky to be able to work with someone open and progressive. She didn’t tell me to eat more, inject more or change my approach. Instead, she encouraged me not to give myself such a hard time and to trust the process.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve always encouraged my students to learn to relax. Some postures facilitate opening and others force us to work harder. If someone has a tendency to overdo things I always give them practices to chill down whereas if I can see a student finds it hard to get motivated I push them and cheer them on.

The practice I am going to share with you today is all about relaxing and letting go. I find that hip opening and inner thigh stretches are perfect for this. This sequence takes 4 minutes and definitely stretches and frees up the hips. I’m pretty open in the hips so just be aware you might find your body might not go as far as what you see in the practice.

I also filmed it spontaneously so yeah.. it was a wild hair day… But rather than get my self all made up and look glam. I thought better to show the real deal. I was doing my practice that day to cheer myself up after some hectic highs…. forcing myself to chill down and release my frustrations.

As always I’d love to know how it feels so drop me a comment below…

With great respect… Rachel

Dancing with Diabetes

This last month has been all about my obsession with Ballet. It started when I was in the airport on my way back to Australia and Misty Copeland’s, Life in Motion miraculously leaped off the shelf and into my hands for the long flight ahead. Reading about her incredible talent and rise to stardom amidst a very unstable home life and her detailed descriptions of a life in Ballet, brought back vivid memories of what it was like to live and study dance in New York City during the early 80’s.

Back then I was an aspiring Ballerina and spent every spare minute either attending dance classes or watching the greats in American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. My own career in dance lasted well into my 30’s. I never made it to a big company, ( I danced with a regional dance in education company in Tasmania), but I did get to taste what it’s like to perform day in and day out.

footsteps_herberston_zinman_batey_cowell_mcphee_89kl_large

Don’t let anyone tell you that dancing is glamorous. It takes grit, hard work, and guts to do all that graceful stuff and nerves of steel…not only to face external criticism but one’s own nagging self-doubt, fear of failure and much more.

Initially, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I tried to dance down my blood sugar levels. I’d wake up, head to my yoga room, blast out music and thrash about for 20 minutes hoping for the best.  It worked quite well in the beginning stages when I was still producing quite a bit of insulin but later, not so much. After a while, any kind of exercise raised my levels and depleted my adrenals and sadly I stopped dancing.

Reading Misty’s book made me wonder. Are there other dancers out there who live with Type 1 Diabetes?

Enter, Zippora Karz, a former ballerina with the New York City Ballet who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just as her career was taking off within the company. Lucky for me she is also a writer so to continue my passion for all things Ballet I couldn’t help devouring her book, The Sugarless Plum. It’s such a great read and perfect for anyone living with type 1 diabetes who also loves all the intrigue of the Ballet. I soared along with Zippora as she realised her dream of joining the company, and then crashed when she was diagnosed, misdiagnosed and re-diagnosed again. Her journey to health and wellbeing is remarkable, her courage unshakable and her persistence in living her dream in spite of the many challenges and unknowns awe inspiring. Can you tell I love this book!

So after a month of watching videos of Ballet, reading about Ballet and thinking seriously about attending an Adult Ballet class, I decided it was time to digress from my usual yoga for diabetes topic and share with you a short interpretive dance about what it feels like sometimes to live with diabetes.

I’d love to know how you find creative ways to manage the many emotions that arise in a life with diabetes so feel free to comment below…

With great respect…

Rachel

4 easy yoga poses for diabetes

After last weeks passionate blogging for diabetes blog week it’s time to return to the main reason I’m blogging here in the first place. To help you get motivated and inspired to incorporate yoga into your daily diabetes management plan.

For me, yoga is my life. I really notice the difference in my blood sugar levels, mood, and overall well-being if I even skip just one day of practice.

So what do I do when I’m super busy, wake up late or travel?

I do a pose or two to reduce my stress and increase my sensitivity to insulin.

Recently I was asked to share what postures I feel are best for diabetes? It’s so hard to choose just a few because all the postures are of benefit!

But if you twist my arm…the following 4 poses in the video below are my absolute favorite.

Have a great practice!…Rachel

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

How I live beyond

It’s been quite a week of sharing, reading and commenting for Diabetes Blog Week and I just want to give a big shout out to Karen Graffeo for spearheading this wonderful project.

Lets wrap up the week by sharing a little more about ourselves, beyond the chronic illness we or our loved ones live with.  Share an interest, hobby, passion, something that is YOU.  If you want to explore how it relates to or helps with diabetes you can.   Or let it be a part of you that is completely separate from diabetes, because there is more to life than just diabetes!

Yes there is definitely more to me than diabetes! I’ve worn many hats throughout the last 51 years. As a young girl, teenager and young adult I was a disciplined dancer with a heart set on being a professional one. I studied ballet and modern dance and spent hours and hours in studios refining my craft.

Eventually I  became a choreographer, danced professionally with companies in Queensland, Sydney and Tasmania and was the head of dance at a small dance college in NSW.  While all that dancing was going on I also took up yoga. I took my first yoga class at 17. And started getting serious when I was 23. I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga for over 30 years. Phew! When I look at that number I can’t believe it.

Rachy-13

Besides my absolute passion for yoga and movement, I am also a musician. In fact a singer songwriter. I kind of keep that part of me on the QT. But I have produced three CD’s of devotional music. If you want to check out a music video I made of one of my songs I’ve posted it below. In it I share another passion; creating geometrical patterns out of flowers. In yoga they are called yantras and I have travelled all over the world facilitating workshops for people to create these.

Besides yoga, dance and music?

I’ve taught in the Steiner education system (Waldorf schools) in Australia and NYC, made kids yoga videos and been a performance poet.

I’m also a mother to a 23 year old son who lives in Melbourne and married to a yogi, South African who makes my heart melt.

I also live between South Africa and Australia…which means lots of travel, time zones etc. which does play havoc with a life with diabetes but somehow I’m still standing. Must be the yoga!

Oh and I am also a total nature freak! I try and spend every day in the forest, by the beach whatever I can manage.

IMG_8439

So that’s me in a nutshell… most people don’t know me as someone who lives with diabetes. They pretty much forget most of the time because for 6 years I didn’t really let anyone know I had it. The last three years I have become way more public and involved and have started advocating for diabetes and sharing how  yoga has supported me personally to manage my health and how I am convinced it can help others. I’ve spent the last two years writing a book which will be published in the U.S on October 10, 2017.

So I am also a writer.

With my life so very full of all the different hats I wear to express myself creatively I have to work hard to chillax (thats what my Italian friend Carlo Alberto calls taking a chill pill) and that’s exactly what I plan to do once this week of diabetes blogging is over.

In the mean time i hope to read everyone else’s blog today so I can find out more about what you love and who you are beyond your life with diabetes!

Have a great weekend!

Rachel

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

 

 

 

 

We are all in this boat together

It’s still Diabetes blog week and I’m a bit late today with my submission. That’s what happens when you fly thousands of miles and have to do everything on your to-do list first before you can write!

Now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and how do you cope?  

I often wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t been on the slow boat to diabetes. I mean what if it had never happened? Would I have ended up visiting a naturopath at 18? Would I have started yoga? I guess I’ll never know.

So many of the choices I made as a young adult were based on the fact that I never really felt healthy. There was always something wrong with my digestion or with my energy levels. Looking back I know it was all to do with the fact that my onset of type 1 was super slow.

IMG_0238

As a young adult, I was racked with anxiety, shame, and guilt and there was often a feeling in and around the area of my spleen that felt like I was being sucked into a vortex.

I’m convinced that every health issue was related to the demise of a beta cell. The weird emotional feelings were probably also related. As a young person, I didn’t really know what to make of it. As an adult thankfully I do.

I’ve never really been a depressive type but since diabetes, that’s changed. It’s not that I get so depressed that I can’t get out of bed, it’s just that the whole thing gets so overwhelming sometimes that I feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. The worst part is I keep those crappy feelings to myself.

I know it would do me good to talk it out but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered. Being a yoga teacher and having a reputation has some stigma attached to it. We are the ones others look to for inspiration. We are supposed to rise above it all. Well, surprise, surprise… trying to hold myself to some sort of standard doesn’t work at all!

Diabetes is by far the single most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with and I can do yoga till the cows come home and still feel pissed off, moody, angry and down about it.

So how do I climb out of my own hole when the going gets rough?

IMG_3008

By cutting myself some slack. By taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, one insulin dose at a time.

And writing. Writing it out is like talking it out, only better. When I write I don’t care about the reader.  I write for myself. As I write I can see what it is I actually think and feel. Once it’s out there I can decide if it’s true for me or not. Words are a beautiful mirror in which one can objectively reflect.  What that axiom? The mirror never lies.

Another thing I love about self-expression through the written word is that it connects me with other writers. In the Diabetes space, we are all passengers on the same boat. We may have different cabins and have brought our own belongings but we share the same trajectory. I love meeting with my fellow passengers on deck. This week has been especially healing for me. Reading everyone’s blogs, and commenting and receiving comments has helped to heal the wounds of diagnosis and beyond.

When it comes down to it we all face this disease in our own unique way. But knowing I’m not alone, that there is a thriving community has made all the difference.

IMG_6712

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel