Monday, August 12, 2019

Getting out of my comfort zone

My only meetups with other diabetics tend to be outside of Canada over the past 11 years since I started dabbling in the diabetes education/advocacy area, at conferences where you're inside and learning about new advances, meeting new friends, etc.  Most don't tend to involve much activity, so this recent long weekend trip near Sudbury, Ontario back in the beginning of July was a nice treat.

I attended an outdoor adventure with other Type 1 diabetics and their "5.5er's" (either our partner in crime or friend/parent) organised by Connected in Motion (CIM).  It's been over 40 plus years since I went "into the wilderness" as a child in the 1970's at Camp Banting near Ottawa (it was almost closed down last year by Diabetes Canada, but luckily funding from private organizations, folks like myself are keeping it running for hopefully many years as Canada's longest-running camp for Type 1 diabetics since 1953).  All I know is that the 2 weeks away back in those days (giving my parents a much-needed break) was awesome, even better was being with others like myself.   Back then, it wasn't a cheap experience for my Dad to fork out for as the only breadwinner in our house.   To me it was heaven having blisters on my hands from paddling hard in the Ottawa River,  getting dirt under my nails as a child, listening to haunted stories around the campfire, and scaring some of my bunkmates with wiggling legs of a daddy long-legged spider. 

Canoes all lined up for their next adventure

Back to the present, the French River Provincial Park was our first initial meet up for the 2019 5.5er Canoe Trip event.  Majority of people who attend these events tend to live closer to the areas that events are held, so it was a good 8 hour drive through some beautiful parts of Canada as we traversed along the Ottawa River on Hwy 17.  If you're a true Canadian, road tripping is part of what we're known for due to the large size of our country and the cost of air travel here.

Paddling along and well protected from the sun

We'd not calculated properly the time it would take to get there, so arriving in the dark was fun on the Friday night, even more fun later on, once we set up our 2-man tent that's provided (really meant for 1 - but if you don't mind sleeping opposite each other at night ** my feet don't smell **, you are comfy as a little bug in a rug).  I'd not been in a provincial campground, especially one that many Toronto folks can easily drive to, was a wee bit daunting for someone like myself that's not too big on those types of campgrounds.  The main thing, it was only one night - otherwise - Sock Monkey. Yes, he came along despite some of the other attendees thinking it a wee bit odd that an old fart T1D would have a stuffed toy ... ahhhh ... long time insulin junkie ... makes the brain refuse to grow up perhaps???  Well at least in my case it does.  If I keep on attending more CIM events, hopefully, they'll get used to him being part of the team like my American #foundmytribe have, along with my cat ears (these weren't revealed at this event).

Sock Monkey enjoying his cuppa joe in the morning !

All, I can say is, the 3 days we were all together, was absolutely awesome.  Exploring via your own canoe, and feeling like you're in a Group of Seven picture, breathtaking as you paddled along.  Helping each other out, e.g. if your insulin gets fried in your canoe in the sun/heat, everyone has extra vials of insulin to help you (they did get it all sorted out).  For those of us (mainly myself and my hubby Mike) who hadn't canoed in a while, the whole gang was very forgiving as we slowly meandered to them to give them a love tap as we figured out how to steer (as Mike said, very different from sailing LOL).  If we could have been captured flipping our canoe over close to shore, you'd be seeing it here in this blog ... in    s   l   o   w  motion, which is what someone had said it looked like when it happened. 

The fresh air, the water (no one contracted Beaver Fever), the crackling of the fire as our food was cooked over it (no fire ban that weekend - yee haa), paddle going through the water.  If you're a lover of good coffee, then you will not be disappointed with the filtered water we used to prepare our morning wake up call of the wilds bevy!   What a way to start the day off, #insulinandcoffee!  And of course, sitting on the throne (aka thunderbox) .... ahhhh ... nothing like taking a crap in the woods!

I was surprised that at my age, I  could keep up with some of the younger folks within the crowd.  I was a bit worried and having an anxiety attack as I arrived (it's weird as I'm aging, I find large groups are difficult to handle when I've been to diabetic conventions), along with not knowing anyone.  Luckily, the 14 of us all easily melded together as a team.  Even better, there wasn't much of an age difference that would make me stand out like an old fart in a canoe as well   

So, if you're ever thinking it's too late to try an adventure that may be out of your comfort zone.  I can thoroughly recommend going on this yearly weekend event that CIM holds as well as their other events in North America (not just in Canada, but also in the United States).  I know that despite this only being my second time portaging, I'm wanting to do a longer trip eventually.   

Evidence that someone had a low blood sugar - can you spot the gumdrop?

And before I go, all I want to say is " Eat your heart out Gordon Ramsey, cooking over a campfire is the best way to eat ". One of the meals that we had over the weekend, was so delicious, that many of us asked for the recipe.  Thank you, Amy Burrows, for showing us you can eat well when canoe tripping and don't have refrigeration!  

Portage Heaven Buddha Bowl 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups cubed extra-firm tofu
8 cups hot cooked brown rice
2 cups grated carrots
2 cups grated beets
2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
2 cups slivered almonds toasted

-- Glory Bowl Dressing --

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/3 cup Tamari
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Really, no directions needed.  It's that easy!!!  And we used rice that we had leftover from the previous nights' dinner.  This feeds a crowd of 15 hungry paddlers easily!  Bon appetite!

Time to head back to city life ... waaahhhhh

Psst, if you're wanting to attend one of the Connected in Motion 2019 SlipStream Events -this check out this link for more info.  Meeting up with fellow T1D's over a weekend event and chill around an open campfire.   You still have time to register and I may see you there (you could be bunk mates with me and Sock Monkey). 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Flying High While Chasing the Sun

   Earlier this month, I arrived back home to Canada after a 30 hour flight from Singapore.  I’d had a working / holiday  in Asia for the month of December that had started off in Tokyo, and couldn’t ask for a better holiday with the various countries we explored along the way while cruising  the high seas on the Diamond Princess (and discovering that some of what we take for granted as diabetics here with gadgets, etc.  is unheard of in many of the countries I visited - we are very spoiled!!).

   When I'd originally flown out earlier in December to Tokyo, I had worn my Animas Ping insulin pump after reading a comment on Facebook advising against wearing it when flying.  I've gone back to find that post since seeing it back in November before I departed , but you know Facebook, lots of action in these groups we belong to, and you need a lot of time/patience to search posts at time, and so far, I’ve had no luck.

   Fast forward to our rather turbulent flights at the end of the December to bring us back home.  Early 4 AM (ugh!) start to head to Changi Airport in Singapore (the most beautiful airport I've ever been and below is a little video at this link  I made with fishies in the Enchanted Garden). 

   The 6 hour flight to Tokyo I slept the majority of it, in-between my last bits of yummy food service on the flight.  Blood sugars were doing fine just like they had done throughout the whole month when I was on the Omnipod.  When we were approaching Narita Airport we heard the engines accelerated as the plane pulled up to a higher altitude to avoid either an ongoing plane (or a drone LOL?).  The plane landed and as usual we let all the folks in a rush get off with us being the last.  I noticed my water bottle that had been emptied earlier, sucked in pretty flat.  It’s not unusual for that to happen, but it was something that came to my mind later on when problems started to occur in the 2nd leg of our journey home. 

   Narita is a big airport, so with the 3 hour layover before our next flight, I got to use up the rest of our Yen walking around and getting some much needed leg stretching.  Of course, this kept  Sock Monkey amused as you can see below.  I’d noticed my Dexcom G4 that my trend arrow was straight but my blood sugars seemed to be rising with the alarm/vibrations going off.  No big concern to most of us, simple correction bolus, and all was good (or so I thought).  At this point in time, I still had a days’ worth of insulin left in the Pod, which I’d calculated would last out until the Pod needing changing when we got home to Canada.

   The next leg of our trip was  a 13 hour flight,  I realised something was up.  Corrections didn’t seem to be doing anything and trend line though still straight was showing blood sugars on the rise. Fiasp to the rescue though  I was worried about  the risk of stacking insulin at this point in and maybe going low fast.  The strange thing was that the Omnipod PDM at this point hadn’t alarmed of an Occlusion or possible problem with the Pod.  Confirming blood sugars with a meter to see if my CGM was off track, proved it was pretty well spot on.  I can’t say enough about how valuable a CGM is to a diabetic on insulin!!

25 mmol/l or 450 mg/dl

   We informed the Air Canada flight crew at this point in time that even with the turbulent air that we had most of the flight, that I was having some serious health issues and needed a safe space (not the cramped loo) to do some medical change outs and also to be prepared in case I crashed low .  Due to majority of folks on this long journey sleeping, with our mini flash light in our mouths, we pulled out my medical kit bag and proceeded to remove the Pod which when we looked at the site, it seemed dry as a bone.  This is unusual as usually you see either a drop of insulin and/or blood at the site where cannula is inserted and/or on the cannula.  Also, the cannula of the Pod wasn’t kinked, so obviously that wasn’t the problem.  My hubby Mike assisted me especially with the turbulent flight, and in less than 20 minutes, the Animas Ping was back up and running! Let’s just say the crew of Air Canada was very sweet in allowing me to take over a busy area and at the same time, they learned abit about insulin pumping and Type 1 diabetes.  Yuppers, that’s me, always the educator!

Back on my juice of life with the Animas Ping
   The waiting game started, and with the Fiasp in me, basal insulin working, within 3 hours, I was seeing my trend line going back to my happy zone that I like to keep myself.  I managed to nod off at that point (I was freaking out of course with what was happening earlier), but still being on high alert, it was a pretty crappy sleep even sitting in the Premium Economy that we managed to snag for a few extra bucks for this long flight home (personally, it’s not worth it, but we gave it a try, I prefer cattle class).

  Our conclusion of what we think may have happened - remember that water bottle above?  I found out from a long time Omnipod user that the reservoir that holds the insulin is a bladder, so unlike my Animas cartridge that is solid plastic, this one is flexible.  That could explain perhaps why the insulin was not being infused into the skin if the bladder had sucked itself in.  I had looked over the manual while on flight, to see if there was any mention of this, but there’s nothing stating that this could be a potential hazard.  I’ve talked to a few other Omnipod users, who do frequent long distance flying, it’s never occurred to them. So I’m a freak of nature.

   I dutifully reported what happened to Omnipod Canada (my first time calling Customer Service, and despite what Americans have said about them, which isn’t the greatest, I had absolutely no issues).  I did tell them that I was surprised that in the manual that there is no mention of this potential problem.  Having this at least mentioned as a potential problem would be a good thing to have in the manual, just in case.  The fact that not all insulin pumpers have the ability to afford a CGM that does keep you aware (if you have alarms set properly, etc. etc.) then it could be a potential problem.

   Meanwhile, to be on the safe side, I’ve reported this incidence to FDA and am still trying to figure out how to report it to Health Canada (it’s like looking for a needle in the haystack to find the area unlike the FDA that is very user friendly).  

   Yes, I’m still enjoying using the Omnipod, don’t get me wrong, but at least I’m now aware of a potential problem and will be more prepared, or wearing a tube pump,  and/or MDI to ensure I stay in my happy zone of blood sugar control when I'm flying or experiencing frequent air pressure changes!  Flying should be stress free!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Greetings from Japan! 日本からのご挨拶 !

I was away visiting various countries in Asia during the month of December.  Lots to write about, lots of pictures to share so keep your yes posted as I find time in between my work to put my thoughts together (and go through all the pictures that both my husband I took together).

One thing that worried me abit in the beginning of my trip was the mainly rice based diet that Asians tend to eat.  Like many diabetics, I try to limit my carb intake to keep my blood sugars from spiking, but with any food, it's all about PORTION control.  All I can say, was I ever wrong about what they eat.  While rice does remain the base of their meals in most cases, they also eat alot of fresh vegetables and fruits.  All very healthy and tasty and the main thing as I've always written about, eating food that is not processed, cooked from scratch is the way to go with being healthy!

One thing I loved to have in the morning for my meal was congee while I was away.  It's basically a rice based porridge (or gruel to some of you).  It can be eaten plain (this is according to research I have done for this short blog), but my morning meal tended to be flavoured with chicken, along with fish or other meat served along it. Along with a scattering of roasted seaweed and some nuts, it kept my blood sugars more stable then my usual oatmeal porridge and my tummy happy until later in the afternoon.  Let's just say, I was pretty impressed with the results of my blood sugars as well.

So, on that note as I'm supposed to be "working", without further adieu, here is a link that I found in my latest Canadian Living that uses your slow cooker to cook up this tasty meal (in their article no reference is made to whether it's for breakfast or dinner ... but who cares!).

And for those of you who poo poo carbs, according to the nutritional breakdown, I can now see why perhaps I was having a few lows as I was guesstimating on the amount of carbs for the portions I was eating.  So, take a peak, I dare you to try something that is different then what you normally eat, and your body may thank you.

If you're wanting to know about the benefits of eating congee then I highly recommend this link to help educate yourselves.\

And with that,  どうもありがとう Dōmo arigatō thank you very much for reading my dribbles here.  The pictures below are when Sock Monkey and I got to be dressed up in beautiful kimonas by some wonderful ladies in Shimizu, Japan (they say it takes them only 15 minutes to dress themselves up).  Of course, I chose a beautiful blue design for diabetes and yes, the Children with Diabetes bracelet from Friends for Life that I attend back in Niagara Falls, Ontario in early November was still on!).

And of course,



Mount Fuji was very clear that day!

Sock Monkey likes his hiding spot!