Fighting discrimination of diabetics, and ignorance too

I am in shock–and not the low blood sugar-engendered type–about the recent story of a man living with Type 1 diabetes who was severely beaten and injured by police officers because they thought he was . . . drunk. Yes, that’s right. Our society’s rule-keepers were so intent on taking down the “bad” and threatening people on our streets that they never gave a thought to checking someone’s actual health status or tried to understand, outside of their own survival mode of thinking, what was actually happening right in front of them. That this man didn’t die from their ignorance–is a miracle. That this could actually take place in this day and age, with so many people suffering from so many serious health conditions, is unthinkable. Ignorant? Yes. Discriminatory? Even if not intentional, the answer is still a qualified ‘yes’.
I remember when I was just a girl of 12, my mother reading aloud a similar tiny news story from the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was incredulous. “Can you believe this?” she asked. “A man with diabetes, believed to be drunk, was beaten and thrown by police officers into a holding tank til he woke up.”
“What happened?” I asked. At that age, I didn’t know what a holding tank was, and I didn’t know the point of sharing this news with me.
“He didn’t wake up. He died,” she answered me bluntly, “from diabetic shock.” We knew she meant extremely low blood sugar. That got to me, even at such a young age. I couldn’t understand the justification of taking someone’s life for reasons of sheer ignorance.
Today, stories like this one still abound. You can suggest, I guess, that everyone with a health condition would be better off wearing a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace. Or that people should carry some type of card with them listing health conditions. Yes, that might help, although many of us choose not to do so to safeguard our privacy. And that is my right, and yours, too. But it doesn’t solve the pervasive problems of oversight and not educating people to facilitate deeper awareness. I thought in this day and age–with so many people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes–that so much more is known, understood and favorable toward making our lives both safer and better. I guess I’m wrong. Fighting discrimination against people with any health conditions, and ignorance about them, go hand-in-hand. There’s no other way around it.
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surviving diabetes=small steps, and some stubbornness

A lot of people think being stubborn is an unhealthy trait. But for me, I can see that my refusal to give in to the impact diabetes has on me physically and emotionally has served a purpose. A great one. And that is refusing to give up on moving forward. Sometimes the steps aren’t easy. Other times I have been furious at being so different from friends and family. I’ve certainly cried my share of self-pity party tears–haven’t we all? I’ve sometimes run away from facing diabetes straight on. But give in? Not yet.

That’s why I read, with interest, this recent article from a 1994-2008 study on just how serious the impact is on most people who have diabetes:
Some of the unignorable facts that emerged from this study of 385 young diabetic teens into their thirties?
* having diabetes significantly increased the risk of dropping out of high school
* diabetics were 8-13% less likely to attend college
* while in school, people with diabetes had more frequent absences, adding up to substantially missed periods of schooling
* over a 40-year work period, diabetes affected overall earnings–people with diabetes made $160,000 less than people without the disease
The article tries to soften the blow of these issues through William Polonsky’s statements. He is CEO of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute and an associate clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.  Although saying he “was surprised and disturbed by the study’s findings,” he went on to soft-pedal by adding, “if these findings are true for this group of kids from the early 1990’s, they’re probably not anymore” due to “changes in diabetes management over the past 20 or 30 years (which) have made a significant difference in the way people with diabetes live.”
“In the past,” Polonsky says, “some people were told by their physicians that they weren’t going to live too long, probably not even past 30 or 40 . . . which would have had an impact on how someone would view schooling . . . and career plans. Now, young people with type 1 diabetes can expect to have a normal or close-to-normal life span.”
I’ll admit that today’s medical technology helps. Home blood sugar testing, alone, turned my understanding of everything I do to take care of myself into one of immediate impact. These days, I actively immerse myself in taking the steps I need to take to be in the best health I can be. The data force me to do that and helped make me more accountable. A good thing, like Polonsky says!
But does this man realize how many negative messages are still out there for anyone dealing with lifelong health conditions? Those kids from the 1990’s, along with huge numbers of older people with Type 1 diabetes, have had to deal with this psychological assault, along with diabetes’ physical challenges, for a long time, fighting those messages we’ve heard for years.
I’ll admit that I was uncertain, especially when I was younger, about my own chances to live a long, full life due to having diabetes. Polonsky concedes to a typical mindframe in the medical community that has struck this kind of fear into so many diabetics. Comments I heard while growing up?
    ‘You’ll be lucky to live into your 30’s or 40’s.’
    ‘If you don’t start taking better care of yourself, you’re going to go blind. Or lose a toe. Or leg.’
   ‘You’ll never have a family.’
   ‘We can’t sell you life insurance if you have diabetes!’
   Nasty thinking. Dangerous territory. And all–not true! Thus, I am strangely grateful for that quirky trait of being stubborn. So many times in the face of negativity, I’ve stuck out my tongue at the naysayers. It’s helped me survive, somehow, and laugh at the absurdity of what I am dealing with. Deep inside, despite all my fears about this stuff coming true, my anger at proving it wasn’t going to take over my life was stronger than those messages. Well, most of the time. But you can’t live in a bubble of negativity too long before wanting to poke through it and see what else is out there in life.

And so it goes. Staying stubborn in the face of  negative feedback can, oddly enough, be a saving grace. You may need to think about a perspective different than yours, but you can’t give in like a passive sheep to diabetes’ (or any other health issues’) demands. Reflect on what’s really best for you (I have recently assembled a great team of doctors), be proactive and tweak what you need to do to take care of yourself and your loved ones (that’s why I wear an insulin pump), and then move past your worries to enjoy what life has to offer (I train my dogs in agility, conformation, obedience & pet therapy and immerse myself in ceramics & photography).  These steps are what I coach myself to do every day. Usually, it helps me move forward, even if that step, on a particular day, is but a small one.
B well, b happy. And be proactive, even if you can only take the smallest step.
Until next time, Kath
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Moving past being just someone with diabetes!

Quotes can be inspirational, but too often they’re a royal pain in the rear–dredging up feelings I’d rather ignore or experiences I’d rather leave in my past.  Too preachy. More often than not, condescending. But sometimes, yes, I’ll admit there are times when a good one comes along that can change your day, light a smile, and inspire you to dig in harder to face some of the obstacles in your path.

I signed up a few months back to get online delivery of daily quotes through Inspirational Daily. Some days, admittedly, I choose to hit “delete.” And just like that, the pressure of having to face someone else’s idea of inspiration is gone (LOL)! But there are other days I’m more open to ponder the connections between how I live my life and the daily quote sent out through someone’s else’s website. Yesterday was one of those days, when my email delivered a doozy to my virtual doorstep and I chose to hit “read.” Here’s what grabbed me:

You’ve got to follow your passion. You’ve got to figure out what it is you love–who you really are. And have the courage to do that. I believe that the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dreams.   —Oprah Winfrey

Well, dear Oprah, there’s a reason your quote reasonated with me! It’s through digging deep into what I love to do that I can forget my worries about living with long-term diabetes. Instead of being tempted by foods I shouldn’t eat 24/7, I’m happy to be digging in my garden until my blood sugar drops so low that I have to legitimately eat! I’m carried away by shaping clay on my humming potter’s wheel into a miraculous vessel, or trying to master applying a Photoshop action to one of my beloved photographs, or making the right connection with one of my sweet dogs so that she goes sailing over jumps and swishes perfectly through her agility weave poles . . .  It’s all beautiful when those efforts work.

Kath on potters wheel in Japan

It doesn’t really matter what your passions and talents are. They’re “happiness channels”–there for the taking, helping us feel better about ourselves. My happiness makes those around me happier, too. But most important for me, my passions move me into another dimension–one far removed from the everyday burdens of living with (and worrying about) diabetes. I am someone else in the time I spend passionately engaged in things I love to do. That, alone, is worth the time and space it takes to grapple with the daily onslaught of quotes delivered to my virtual doorstep!

B well, b happy, and pursue your passions. Somehow, they are all magically linked!

Until next time, kath

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5 things to do when meeting your new endocrinologist or diabetes doctor

FINALLY! My appointment with my new endocrinologist rolled around last week (thankfully a week before and not post-Thanksgiving with all the food excesses we’re surrounded with!).

I’ll admit I was a little nervous waiting for this appointment. How could I not be after the negative experience I had spending four long unfruitful years with another diabetes doctor who didn’t make enough time to listen or problem-solve in positive ways with me? The experience with my previous doc not only left me with a bad taste about seeking another endocrinologist; it also left me questioning my own thinking, expectations and diabetes management style in very negative ways. In a word, rarely getting my very long-term diabetes issues addressed by that doc badly undermined my normal positive thinking. I had begun to question myself and even wondered if I knew enough–despite living over 46 years with Type 1 diabetes–to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

So this time around, while I waited for THE big heart-thumping appointment day with my new doc (who really was my “old” doc many years ago, and whom I couldn’t see until recently because I was on an off-limits health plan for his practice), I did some homework. Some planning, if you will, to help ensure our reintroduction was successful. I wanted to give Dr. E an accurate picture of what I know, what I do to take care of myself, and what I am willing to learn and do differently in collaboration with him.

So I came up with a list of FIVE  THINK-THROUGHS that helped make my appointment a success:

   1- Make a list of everything related to managing my diabetes that is working well for me.

   2- List some daily problems or challenges that threaten my health and thinking related to diabetes.

   3- Prioritize–or number–these challenges, from the most important to the tiniest concern.

   4- Keep an accurate log for at least 3 days (5 days is better!), and record in it all blood sugar levels, food (carb) intake, insulin amounts, times, medications, and daily issues that come up. Then take time, every day, to reflect on patterns I understand and problems I note so that I can thoughtfully contribute to the patient-doctor conversation.

   5- Think about what is not working in my own health management, and write down what issues I’m willing to address with the help of my doctor!

Doing these five things takes honesty and a little time. But the stakes are high: prepping for meetings with our doctors gives us the promise of more quality time spent living our lives productively and more independently. My new doc understood that I’d spent time thinking about what issues were most important to adddress together, and it paid off. I have a knowledgeable, caring endocrinologist who’s clearly on my side. And just as important, he has a new patient willing to do whatever it takes to team up and be successful in terms of managing her own health. That pays off physically and emotionally. For me, it’s the golden key to living life well.


B well, b happy. Until next time, kath

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8 thoughts on not giving up on diabetes & moving forward

I don’t usually pass along quotes, although many inspire me toward appreciating life. But here’s one I thought I’d share. It may serve to strengthen your resolve or lighten your load–especially if you’ve been worrying a little too much about the “what if’s” of diabetes or another health issue.

Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.                                                                                                                                              – Steve Maraboli       

Blessings? They surround us, challenging our thinking and the obstacles in our path. Diabetes, in a strange way, has ultimately made me a better person by forcing me to think, problem-solve, outwit and be able to laugh at all the zany situations that come up and are related to the disease. Would I rather be free of its burdens? Of course. But I also give thanks, at this time of the season, for its challenges. They remind me of the joy and beauty all around me. 

Celebrating Tess & Zoe's bds!

B well, b happy. And have a happy THANKSgiving. 

Until next time, kath
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World Diabetes Day is Nov 14th–and how do I feel about that?

World Diabetes Day is not something I’d admit giving much thought to, but then I clicked on a few links to read about so many people’s efforts trying corral awareness about the epidemic of diabetes in the U.S. and around the globe. Most of the planned activities and information is about Type 2. That’s not me, I thought. But scanning the Twitter postings, I still gasped when I read this mind-boggling projection:  It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans will get Type 2 diabetes by 2050.

Wow! That means that of nearly every family I know, one member of that family to whom I’m connected by blood or friendship will become diabetic.  Of course, these projected stats are really pointed toward adults in their 30’s and older. But where I live in New Mexico, even now there is an epidemic of young people being diagnosed with Type 2 in their teens! In the last decade, the number of Hispanics and Native Americans succumbing to diabetes has opened an equal opportunity door to admit every ethnicity you can name.

Many of these new diabetics have to go on insulin. And despite the life-lengthening promise of insulin, it has a darker side. I know about that side because I’ve been taking insulin either through single daily injections, twice daily injections, four times-a-day injections, five-times-a-day injections, extra when-I’ve-been-sick-with-the-flu injections, and 24/7 insulin-delivered-through-a-pump “injections” for an unbelievable 46 years and 7 months. So despite its helpful properties to keep me going, it’s definitely not a cure for diabetes.

Just for the sake of having some admittedly distorted fun, I converted the length of time I’ve been taking insulin to try to ward off the evil complications of diabetes. That calculates to approximately 17,045 days or 2,435 weeks I’ve had the dubious honor of living with diabetes.  Today, my blood sugar’s a little on the high side, and I am sitting here with time on my hands, waiting for the extra insulin I just took to help lower it. But who’s counting?!?

In a further push toward masochism, my curiosity got the better of my self-control (always my nemesis, anyway) which warned me not to proceed in this direction, so I then tried to determine the number of insulin injections I’ve taken over 46 years and 7 months. In just the first 15 years of having diabetes, my average was 22,000 insulin injections! That’s a human pincusion, for goodness sake;  a government war-time experiment gone wrong, of sorts . . . 

And how many shots have I taken in the remaining 28 years? Hmmm–impossible to calculate, as I’ve been on an insulin pump that delivers insulin to me 24/7. That is, when it doesn’t clog up, run down, get detached from my body for water sports, or been set aside the relatively few times I’ve been hospitalized and on a scene-stealing I.V.

All of this amounts to a staggering impact on just one person’s life circle. So the growing epidemic is, indeed, mind-boggling in its menacing march. Beyond my grumblings about who might be responsible for this plight and my occasional epithats at the obstacles thrown at me, I still have to laugh at the craziness of it all, the ups and downs, the behaviors and scenes engendered by diabetes. What other choice is there? Usually, the laughter restores me, keeping me sane from the worry than can be so consuming.

Yet it’s interesting that I also feel a sense of honor–appreciation, if you will–to be in relatively good health after so many years grappling with this demanding disease. To live through a challenging experience usually brings deeper understanding, compassion, and a skill-set many others need. It is my hope to share these lessons and understandings along the road toward conquering diabetes–in spite of and because of it all.

So World Diabetes Day, bring it on! I hope the team players win this one.

 B well, b happy. Stare those demons down . . . and laugh just a little.

Until next time, kath

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the joy of partying your success–even when it’s not about diabetes!

Four interesting things happened recently that made me think about how much of a struggle it sometimes is to live happily and passionately in spite of a lifetime of health issues like diabetes, and how critical it is to throw yourself with passion into doing the things that make you happy. Things that bring joy into your life. Activities that are so consuming that they make you forget, even if just for a little while, the burdens of trying to stay healthy and all that means.

First, my sister had a birthday and turned, well, three years younger than me. Nope, not telling! But I was thrilled to read her post at and feel her growing happiness and appreciation, post-breast cancer, of everyone and everything in her life. She epitomizes what life’s all about–greeting every day with zest, loving her time with family and friends, immersing herself with gusto into cooking and city life, travel adventures and singing. Yes, my sister, I’m proud to say, is singing once again. That says it all: I am happy enough to sing my heart out and share my passion with others.

Then, I read an article on the internet that grabbed my attention–mostly because of what is not commonly seen these days in the news. It was about coping with Type 1 diabetes–and the article acknowledges how very hard it is.

See:  http://www/

Although it gives just a simple glimpse into some of the burdens of this disease, it still made me ponder how often (healthwise) I feel like a “bad” person when my blood sugars aren’t in control–despite my best efforts at maintaining my willpower, managing an insulin pump, trying to fit in healthy meals and exercise, and overcoming the high blood sugar rises that accompany stress. Or how often I fight feelings of sheer panic when I start to envision a future where I succumb to the often-reported scary complications of long-term Type 1 diabetes. I try not to do that too often, but it’s always there. And the best I can do is to keep trying, refuse to give up and live as normal a life as possible.

The third incident was happy and fun. I was on an agility course last week with my 6-year old whippet Zoe. She and I have been in the process of becoming a team where we can interpret each other’s signals, verbal commands and moves. The resulting bond from working together is awesome! When we finished a particular sequence of running several obstacles, the trainer’s words rang out to me. “Party her! Party her really well! She did a great job following you!” That made me smile so brightly that it could have lit up a room. First of all, I love playing with words, and here was a perfect example of turning a noun into the most amazing verb; it was perfect! Then I realized, that this word–as a verb–is so powerful, too. I couldn’t think of a better way to say what needed to be said. I thought later, as I drove Zoe and myself home, we all need to “party ourselves” in the issues and things that matter. We need to recognize the importance of taking the smallest steps forward on our life journey and be sure to celebrate doing so. 

Finally, I had the absolute joy of running Zoe in an AKC agility trial last week. My sweet little whippet who is so shy becomes a driving, maniacal force out on the field–so much so that she (and I) often make mistakes (which we learn from) and of course then get disqualified (DQ’d). (It’s humbling, but you have to imagine trying to keep up with a whippet who can run like the wind!) So after a long dry spell of four trials and eight runs over five long months with no qualifying scores at all, on our very last run of the day, we finished the course. I knew Zoe had erred once when she went around, instead of through, the tire. So I’d brought her back and, this time, she soared through it, bounding over the last two jumps to the finish line. Had we “Q’d?” OMG–yes and more! Zoe and I had earned an astonishing FIRST PLACE!

A miracle? Perhaps. But I thought of all of our hard work and the challenges I faced struggling to not give up! That work and passion gave me such joy. I had tried to fly like the wind, too-channeling my beautiful soaring dog–and I was thrown into another dimension where diabetes, for once, didn’t exist, and the feeling of success was so sweet, so tempting, that it moved me to vow that I’ll keep on trying and loving life in spite of all its imperfections.

Power to partying your passions, and your steps forward no matter how big or small! 

B well, be happy. Until next time, kath

the ultimate sin

There’s NOTHING more upsetting, more disappointing, more stress-producing to someone living with diabetes or another long-term health problem than finding out their doctor is simply not a supportive team member. And by “team member,” I mean these things–all of which are essential, in my opinion, to helping me live with the ups and downs of diabetes!–


   1- open communication

   2- good listening skills

   3- positive outlook

   4- collaboration and TEAMWORK at all times!

   5- problem-solving skills

   6- mutual sense of caring and respect

   7- the ability to share and exchange what you know about diabetes

   8- helpful connections to professionals who can make a difference in how you deal with diabetes

   9- mutual ability to set goals and work steadily to reach them


Why am I so burned about these issues? I have spent the better part of four years working with an endocrinologist most people rave about–only to continue hitting my head against the wall, believing he’d indeed come to know me, value my experiences, help me live better with diabetes. Recently, I swallowed hard and talked to him about what I needed from him to do well. This took courage. Staying with him was my mistake; I assumed that, given enough time, he’d come to care about me and my struggles to maintain the best blood sugars possible. So I’ll admit it right now: I was wrong! Assumptions are almost always the breeding ground for miscommunication and differences.

Yesterday, two things happened that hit me smack in the face after nearly four years of struggling to connect with “one of the best endocrinologists” in my health care plan:  My doctor–overwhelmed by entering data into a system requiring computerized (versus paper-filled) medical records–asked me question after question that proved he didn’t remember much of anything about me and doesn’t regard me as a collaborator in how “we” try to manage my diabetes issues.

“So,” he started (50 minutes later than my scheduled appointment time), “your HA1C went up and you’re not in very good control.” No questions, no problem-solving. In fact, he was so focused on his system’s red tape accountability and his own personal problems, he didn’t even follow through on the fact that no one had downloaded information from my insulin pump or blood sugar machine. Sighing, no direct eye contact, entering the most basic information including, “How long have you had diabetes?” For this, I waited an hour?

The second glaring incident came after I went home following my appointment with Dr. T. My husband related that when he’d been contacted by the doctor on call regarding his sinus infection, it was my doc who called him back. Their exchange went something like this:  “Hello, this is Dr. T.”  “Oh,” my husband replied, “Hi, Dr. T. You treat my wife Kathy for diabetes.” The shocking undeniable proof of his response? “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. I have so many patients. What’s your problem?”

For THIS I worked four years, hoping that I could help shape this “great” doc into someone who could make a difference both for me and others? His depressed and negative attitude may be symptoms of a system that is overwhelming all of our physicians. And he has been slammed with coming to terms with developing  his own diabetes (Type 2). But I can finally solidly say, THIS IS NO EXCUSE! Everyone living with serious health issues deserves better and should seek out the best possible team you can find. Each one of us deserves to be part of that team!

So I indeed feel like a fool–disappointed, saddened, a little hopeless right now. My doctor has committed the ultimate sin by not respecting and including me. I perhaps did the same–by trusting too much, waiting too long, not listening to the warning signs  because I feared seeking out a better partner from the great unknown. But my anger at myself for allowing this situation to fester is starting to work a magic of its own–empowering me to move forward and willfully take (and demand) a different–and more positive–path. We all deserve at least that.

B well, b happy, and live life to the fullest.

Until next time, kath

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Is there anything NOT connected to having diabetes?!?

Oh, the documented connections to living with the impact of diabetes keep growing and growing. The articles merely seem to confirm much of that which those of us living with the disease see in our own bodies. Every time an article is published, my less-better half–the doubting, more cynical side–shouts, “Duh! Where have YOU been that you’re just now getting around to figuring out all the problems we live with day in and day out?” Honestly, it’s enough to make you want to scream.

I took a trip in June to NYC to visit my sister Eileen. While we were getting ready for sleep at a lovely beachside B & B, the t.v. was on low volume in an attempt to quiet our thoughts from a busy day. The problem? I couldn’t hear the low volume as well as my sister. As I turned it up, she asked, “Have you thought about getting your hearing tested?” So, ever curious about the outcome, I went to an audiologist when I returned home. Her comment to me upon sharing the not-too-bad results? “Did you know that diabetes can affect your hearing?” WHAT? That’s something I never ever thought about. But, of course, the blood vessels in the ear canals are not so different from the ones in our eyes and fingers and hands that swell with the abnormal rise and fall of blood sugar levels. Dang! Who really wants to know about that?

Then, joy of joys, I came across an internet article on the link between diabetes and arthritis.  WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? More than half the people living with diabetes will develop arthritis? Aren’t trigger finger issues, stiff hand syndrome, eye vessel changes, thyroid problems, food-exercise-weight issues and all the other things we know about quite enough?!?

I say ENOUGH ALREADY! Yes, I’ll admit I’m glad most of us are living long enough to have our diabetes-related health problems formally recognized by the medical community, but give us some help and hope–here and now! I’m multi-tasking the best I know how to try to take care of myself. The benefit? Living a wonderful life full of the things I love to do, people I love being with, pets I adore. The articles inspire me to realize just how important all these things are to me.

We can’t give up hope. But–eek! I may just have to stop clicking on and reading too many of these articles for my own good.

B well, b happy. And stay RELATIVELY well-informed–relative to what u can handle and need to know!

Until next time, kath

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summers ‘n hummers ‘n things that matter

The never-ending search for food

 This past weekend I got to photograph hundreds of hummingbirds (mostly the rufous type; see one of my photographs above) with a group of fellow photobuffs in Santa Fe. What a glorious way to spend a morning–watching the antics of dive-bombing hummers buzzing everywhere!  It’s my passion for these miracles of everyday life and connecting with others that provide me with motivation and enough wonder to keep me going.

And the morning didn’t disappoint. The birds’ sequined feathers dazzled me. Their quest for energy-sustaining liquids fascinated. And their near-nonstop activity was mesmerizing. Then, looking at all the energy these jeweled hummers expended, a curious thought grabbed me.

Though I love watching these tiny acrobats, I can’t imagine how much sugar (i.e., carbs and food) it would take to keep me going like that! Our group’s hosts, in fact, let us know that they mix up, on average, over 300 pounds of sugar and water in one season. That translates into 1,733 calories (straight carbs) per pound of sugar, or almost 520,000 calories per season for those busy little creatures! I can’t even imagine having to figure out insulin coverage for this type of routine!

Having to count my carb intake every day and balance it with activity, sometimes feeling trapped into a “Groundhog Day” repetitive pattern of being chained to food as an insuling-taking Type 1 diabetic, this thought of never being able to do anything but sustain one’s life by a singular quest for food takes my breath away! And exercising like that? It really would take a miracle for any of us to sustain that level of activity (insulin-dependent or not). Go hummers, go!  Amazing what we take for granted, isn’t it?

B well, b happy. I’d love to hear about your passions that keep you going in spite of health challenges.

Until next time, kath

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