Boston, Chicago and Type 2. Oh, my!

I like summer. Summer means there is a lot of activity in the DOC, with conferences, meetings, people traveling, etc. I’m glad I’m still able to do some of that even with my busy schedule and my two jobs. That’s probably why I like doing what I do, because I can take time off when I need it.

So last week I was off to Boston for a diabetes summit organized by Valeritas, a company that manufactures the V-Go, an insulin delivery system designed specifically for people with type 2 diabetes, and the summit was with the purpose of  bringing the type 2 diabetes community together. I had the pleasure to see Mike Durbin, Kate Cornell, Phyllisa Deroze, Kelly Close and Bennet Dunlap. It was so nice to sit down with people who wanted to hear what we had to say and concentrate on the needs and struggles of people with type 2 diabetes. Valeritas wants to know what we need, what we want, how they can help, and of course I always bring a little be of skepticism with me but I think that’s healthy.


Phyllisa, Kate, Bea (me), Kelly, Bennet and Mike at the Type 2 Diabetes Summit

Most of the the conversation revolved around the big stigma people with type 2 diabetes have to face, with the whole “we did this to ourselves.” Now, if you put a person like me in the mix, then it becomes harder because I deal with weight issues. And you see… people don’t look beyond what they see. If you saw me, you’d probably think “no wonder she has diabetes… look at her, she’s fat!” — And I would say, no wonder I have diabetes because I have insulin resistance due to PCOS, and it’s hard for me to manage my weight because I also suffer from depression. The thing is, nobody cares… And we want people to care!

And here is where I make a stop to ask for 15 minutes of your time to watch this video where Dr. Peter Attia talks about the diabetes/insulin resistance/weight conundrum. Really… watch it… I mean WATCH IT! You can do it now or later, but please… WATCH IT.

Caring… yes, I was talking about caring. We need that, and we need compassion, and we need people to stop their judgment and their criticism. But we’re not going to get too far if we don’t unite and make our voice louder. That’s where meetings like the Type 2 Diabetes Summit come in. The DOC has such an amazing capacity for success, and it’s been shown again and again that we’re able to move mountains. So when it comes to dealing with my personal struggles with type 2 diabetes, I don’t want to do it alone. And Valeritas wants to help… we just need to figure out what kind of help we need/want without losing our identity as diabetes advocates.

Funny thing is that when I got the invitation for the type 2 diabetes summit, I was a busy bee (Bea) working on a project that’s been simmering in my mind for a while. A project that wouldn’t be possible with the help of some really cool members of the DOC and whom I’m extremely lucky to call friends. So after a long time thinking and a short time discussing it, I decided to launch a collaborative blog called The Type 2 Experience and I had Bob Pedersen, Kate Cornell, Mike Durbin, Lizmari Collazo, Sue Rericha and Rachel Foster join me and help me get it started. What happened next is Valeritas getting excited about it and wanting to know how they can help, and having Phyllisa Deroze and Bennet Dunlap join us as well. We’re still at the early stages, we still don’t know how the site is going to evolve, but I’m pumped and I really want to make it a place where people with type 2 feel connected and heard.

I came back from Boston to a diabetes themed Chicago because the ADA 73rd Scientific Sessions were in town, and although I didn’t have time to attend the sessions I was able to meet with some of DOC people, joined the Diabetes Hands Foundation at a cocktail party, and DSMA Live for an offline get together organized by Roche Diabetes Care downtown. Both events showed me I’m in the right spot at the right time. Like Cherise Shockley said, I went from being a quiet member of the DOC to being on the spotlight because of my involvement with DSMA en Vivo. And I don’t do it for me… I don’t like being the center of attention, but if I can help ONE person, then I’m all for it.

To hear Manny Hernandez talk about the mission of DHF and all the things they have accomplished to help people with diabetes not only made me happy, but extremely proud because I was humbled by their invitation to join the advisory group. There I was thinking “Holy shit, and I make part of all this?” YES, I DO! I don’t like to brag about what I do, but being part of this amazing movement and see things happening… yeah, sometimes I feel I want to cry. When I joined 6 years ago, I never imagined I would be so committed and so passionate about the diabetes cause… not at this level, anyway.

And DSMA Live… what can I say that I haven’t said already? The session last Monday was fun and engaging. I love how we talked about stigma, I love how we can connect to people, I love the members of our team, and I’m SO FREAKING HAPPY that Mila Ferrer has agreed to join the DSMA en Vivo team.

dsmaoffline(Scott, Kerri, Bennet, Cherise, Mila and Bea (me) at DSMA Live event)

This is all so general, and I believe I owe a much better and detailed post about the Type 2 Diabetes Summit, but I wanted to write about this last week, because once again I was reminded that what I do has meaning and fuels my life.

My Fear of Salads

When you have type 2 diabetes and don’t use insulin, you pretty much rely 100% on your diet to keep those numbers in range. Hard task to tackle, let me tell you… especially for a person like me who loves food and eats her emotions. You give me the option between a juicy steak with mashed potatoes and some quinoa salad with weird leaves… guess which one I’ll pick? Yes, I’m not very smart when it comes to eating, and I’m not going to deny that fact. It’s a battle of the knowing vs. the wanting. I’m 38 years, I’ve lived with diabetes for 12 of them, and I’m still trying to figure out how to eat.

And this is where the title of my post comes in. Salads… the panacea of people who like to eat healthy. Salads… what you see people ordering at a steakhouse and wonder WTF they’re doing there at all. Salad… what I consider torture because for me “salad = diet” and believe me, I’ve been on so many of those—even as a child—it just feels like punishment for a crime I didn’t commit. I’m fat, I’ve been fat all my life. I didn’t eat any more than the other kids, I was as active as the other kids, but Mother Nature decided to bestow on me the gift of a wonky endocrine system. So yeah, salad is what I eat on a diet and I hate diets, and I have to disconnect those two.

And if I think about it, I actually like salads. I can eat a healthy salad because I hate anything that is floating in so much dressing you can’t taste the vegetables. So why don’t I eat more of those? Because more often than not I’m disgusted  by the look of vegetables on a salad bar. And if there’s one single leaf that looks a little slimy… no, thanks.  I know, I’m being picky. But that’s the main reason for me. And if the salad comes directly from a restaurant kitchen, then I don’t know where those veggies have been! And yes, I can make my own salads, but by the time I get excited about them, the veggies I bought are looking as crappy as the ones on the salad bar. I guess I learned too much Microbiology in college.

How do I change this? I don’t know. I mean, I know eating salad isn’t the only thing I can do to eat healthier, but I do need to include more fruits and vegetables in my diet. I’ve been trying to do that, adding fresh berries to my cereal, telling the boyfriend I like cherries and mangoes, reminding myself I’m not going to die because I accidentally chewed on a moldy piece of raspberry.

This is just the tip of the ice berg, but at least I’m starting to recognize how I block myself from making better decisions.

*And I would so eat the salad on the photo right now: Spinach, aragula, cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese.



My Dad’s Story

This isn’t the first time I post about my dad. I’ve made it pretty clear all these years that he’s the reason why I started advocating for people with diabetes in the first place. My own diagnosis was just a coincidence, I guess. But this is probably one of those post that hurt because 1) this is yet another Fathers Day weekend I won’t get to celebrate with him, and 2) I’ve been struggling with my diabetes management lately. The first reason is obvious, the second is just because my dad, his dead and my pain are a reminder of what can happen to me if I don’t get back on the wagon and stop making excuses.

daddyThe year 2000. I had been married for less than a year, I was starting a whole new life in Canada, getting adapted to everything, learning a new language, trying to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t mommy and daddy’s little girl, but a married woman away from home. I was happy… until June 30, when my brother called me to inform me that the father I had hugged good-bye 6 months ago and seemed in good health, had had a massive heart attack and he was likely not going to make it. So I went back to Colombia and went straight from the airport to the ICU to see my dad, with the authorization of the doctor because my flight arrived past visiting hours. I was in shock, there were cables and monitors everywhere,  he was sedated, and on a ventilator. The nurse told him I was there, but for me he was already gone. I knew it in my heart I was there to say the last good-bye.

11 days of torture went on, and each one of them I spent outside the ICU with my family hoping for a miracle, but knowing the outcome wasn’t going to be good. The doctors explained what had happened, how diabetes had made my dad’s heart vessels so thin there was nothing they could do. His heart condition was silent, he never had any symptoms before. He had struggled so much with it despite trying to take good care of himself and having a loving wife who understood his needs. He had retinopathy that responded well to treatment, and he once had to deal with the possibility of a toe amputation that was avoided thanks to good doctors and my dad’s discipline. I remember being scared for him sometimes, but at that time I really didn’t grasp the damage diabetes was doing to his body. He was a hard-working man, who never complained and who was active until the day he got on that ambulance.

On July 10, 2000 as I saw his heart rhythm diminishing, I went out of the ICU and I told God it was OK… he could go. His kidneys had started failing a couple of days before. A little before 6 p.m. the nurse came out to tell us they had been trying unsuccessfully to get his heart going for the last 20 minutes. This is probably too much information, but there’s an image that will never leave my mind: the one of my father’s muscles still contracting after the shocks with the defib. And just like that, he was gone… my dad was gone. He was 64 years old, was married to my mom for 36, had 4 children, 1 grandchild, and he left a huge hole in our lives. Diabetes took him away. I will never know if he knew I was there with him, but I really hope he did. The rest is my personal history of advocacy, my diagnosis, and my efforts to understand it all.

There’s a part of me that feels that no matter what I do, things will be the same for me. I know it’s wrong to think that way but diabetes is such a treacherous thing, you can be doing all the right things and still end up in the ICU. However, I also know that as long as I’m allowed to live, I have to do the best I can with what I have, and sometimes I know I don’t do it, mostly because I have excuses but also because diabetes and recurrent depression are a shitty combination (pardon my French), and I guess I’m just coming to the realization that I’m not getting any younger.

I know that if my dad was still alive, he would be giving me all the support I need to manage this condition, not only because he had it but also because I know he loved me so very much. And that makes me feel like a big hypocrite sometimes when I purposely don’t take care of myself out of laziness, lack of motivation or simple diabetes burnout (OK, not so simple but you know what I mean). I do great for a few months, fall off the wagon, get back on again… It’s such a stupid roller-coaster. Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with it, or I think I can’t do it… so I think about my dad and what happened to him; how strong he was and the example of resilience and responsibility he always gave us.

The sad thing is that as I’m writing this post I still don’t know where to start to take the right road again, but I know I’ll figure it out. My dad is my guiding light and wherever he is right now I know he wouldn’t want me to go through these things without talking about them or ignoring them. I have his memory to honor.