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A Type 1 Diabetes Guide to the Universe…Book Review

A Type 1 Diabetes Guide to the Universe
A Type 1 Diabetes Guide to the Universe

A few months a book came out by one of my favorite speakers.  Joe Solowiejczyk was first introduced to me through a mutual friend a number of years ago.  I didn’t know what to do about my son who has diabetes.  We seemed to be constantly battling and getting nowhere.  A phone call was arrange and Joe helped to put me on the right track.  A few years later, I would get the privilege of listening to him speak at a CWD Friends for Life Conference.

Having had such a positive response in my interactions with Joe, I was very excited to hear that he had a book coming out. I was even more excited when I was asked to read and review the book!

I have never read a book like this before. You purchase it online and read it through iBooks.  (I sadly can’t find it available in any other format) The unique part of this book is that it is not all text, there is a lot of amazing videos that you can watch as you read, before you read, or after you read.  I watched as I read which resulted in my taking a lot longer to read this book than I normally would.

The videos were amazing! Not only was it wonderful to see so many faces that I knew, it was touching to watch.  From the very beginning it is hard to stem the tears as parents share the powerful emotions they first had upon hearing that their child had Type 1 diabetes.  Joe reminds readers who may just be beginning this journey that while they will experience a sea of intense emotions, they will get through.

Along with the text and videos, there are also exercises to help you as well.  In the chapter on “The First Days” Joe provides an exercise about your feelings surrounding your child’s diagnosis.  He reminds parents to work together so that you can carve out a bit of time to recharge along the way.

This unique book gives you fundamental basics on the physiology of diabetes, as well as helping to mend your spirit.  He examines everything from diet and exercise to sick day management and insulin sensitivity factors. In chapter 7, he sums up the theme of the book perfectly “What we’re talking about here, and throughout the entire book, is to provide you, the parent with enough practical management information and management principles that allow you to feel like you’re in the “driver’s seat” enough to be able to feel like you can continue to parent effectively WHILE managing the diabetes competently at the same time!”

As I mentioned, this book isn’t all about Joe Solowiejczyk and his thoughts and experiences, it’s also about real people and real families.  He allows them to talk about their experiences and give YOU advice as well.  For me, it was in those videos that some of the best advice was found.

Kyle Cochrane, American Ninja Warrior competitor and all around great young man, said what many of us already know, that “diabetes is only given to the strongest people”.  Another young man gave a word of warning to those who are newly diagnosed by suggesting that they not look for a career in a chocolate factory!  A family simply stated that “if Joshua could do it without diabetes, then he can do it with diabetes…we will make sure that that happens.”–Truly fabulous!

One of the best things about these interview with real people was that all of the family was interviewed.  You got to see tiny siblings and siblings that have been living with diabetes for years.  Each one of them had moments when they felt second to the child with diabetes and it was heartbreaking to watch.

As a parent, it was great to listen to teens who admitted to messing up now and then.  They also admitted to relishing the moment when they got to leave from under their parents’ wings.  They gave brilliant advice on how parents may need to back off and teens may need to realize that what Mom/Dad are doing is completely out of love. They discussed trying to let diabetes come second…only to realize that life was much better when it was dealt with first.

Listening to the daughter of a long time friend say that she would forget to bolus when she moved away to go to school oddly made my heart sing.  As I said, I have known this family for a long time.  They are amazing and their daughter showed me that my son (who also forgets to bolus sometimes) is human and not just forgetting to stress me out. She said that despite a lifetime of injections she still hates needles!  My son FREAKS out, completely stresses, at having to have blood work done despite also having had a lifetime of needles. These few little anecdotes made me feel connected to both the book and the families involved.  After all of these years and all of the connections that I have made, that was truly special to have this connection also come from a book!

I am not normally a person to watch videos.  I hate to look it up on YouTube if I can read about it instead.  This book was different however.  Seeing people share their stories added a different dimension to this book–one that added so much more to the experience.

That is what reading A Type1 Diabetes Guide to the Universe is…an experience to be had by the newly diagnosed, those sending their children to school for the first time, those sending their teens to parties, those sending young adults off to university. In other words, this is a book for every stage of your life as a family with Type 1 diabetes.

Support in the Strangest of Places

I am an avid reader. I have loved to read since I was a child. If I could find a way to read for a living, I would be a very happy and ideally very rich person.  I read everything. I read action books, mysteries, spiritual books, diabetes books, and most recently a book about a mother of a girl who has anorexia.

I am not exactly sure what made me decide to open this book and read it.  Perhaps it is my own struggle with my body image. Perhaps it was the fact that is was a mother telling a story of her struggle with her child’s potentially lethal disease.  Whatever it was, this book quickly showed me that being a parent of a child with a disease–any disease, sadly puts you in a club with more similarities than differences.

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown, first hit home when she wrote “you’re not to blame, you’re not alone, and you can make a difference in your child’s life“.  What a powerful statement! It needs to be a poster in our diabetes clinics.  It is a statement that each and every parent of a child with diabetes needs to fully understand and embrace.  As I have said before, we carry our own guilt and are further burdened by the misconceptions of others. We need to know that we are doing our very best and that is all that any one can ask.

For some reason, Ms. Brown seemed to make more than one comparison of life with anorexia and life with diabetes.  I am not sure if she knew someone living with diabetes or in her research she found some similarities but she does make reference to living with the disease on more than one occasion.  She also makes many statements that could easily apply to living with a child with diabetes.

She talks about feeling overwhelmed by her daughter’s illness and then feeling guilty about it. “I can take a walk, read a book, shut out the anorexia for a little while. But its insider her. She can’t get away, not for a second.” How many  parents of children with diabetes have felt that exact same way? How often have we felt guilty because we could sleep through the night when our child went away to camp or when we went on vacation and left them with a responsible parent or loved one? It hurts us to know that we can leave it behind but our children can’t.

She talks about things like her daughter lying to her about food and again the issue crosses over easily into life with diabetes.  In our case, our children tend to reach an age where they lie about food intake, insulin dosing, or bg level readings.  The violation of our trust is devastating either way and in both cases the lie is brought about by frustrations with a disease. It isn’t any better no matter where it comes from. The pain and sadness as a parent is equally overwhelming.

Ms. Brown talks about wondering if her daughter’s behavior is because of anorexia or simply because she is a teen?  When my son was small and would fall asleep during the day, I would panic and test him.  Was he sleeping because he was a toddler who was tired or was he low and had passed out? If he threw a tantrum, was he being a child full of spite and temper or was his rage fueled by high blood glucose and therefore he may not completely responsible for his actions? How did I decide? How did I find a balance with punishment? Like the author, I struggled.

In Brave Girl Eating, the author also talks about stigma.  In this case the stigma of a mental illness. In diabetes, we know that there are many stigmas and fighting the public’s misconceptions can often be almost as difficult as battling bg levels.  To make things even worse, there are an increased number of people living with diabetes who also are dealing with eating disorders (is it any wonder when their lives revolve around food 24/7) as well as depression.  They must understand this book in more ways than I can begin to imagine.  How painful.

Ms. Brown also speaks to the idea that anorexia has taught her to live in the moment. Ironically diabetes has had a similar effect on my own life.  Learning to live life four hours at a time was the only way for me to cope.  Nothing else mattered. Tomorrow was too far away but his NovoRapid would kick in within four hours and it could fix that high, maintain his perfect reading or be just enough to send him low and create more havoc for me.  Four hours–just get through four hours and then go forward.

As I mentioned, ironically she notes the similarity to diabetes more than once. In learning to live with the new normal of life with anorexia, she wrote, “I told her if she had diabetes, she’d have to test her blood sugar every day; at first it would be a pain, but she’d get used to it.  It would become just one of those things she had to do, like brushing her teeth.  It would become part of “normal” for her.”  We know that diabetes is a bit more than testing daily.  We know that you never really get used to lancing your finger each day, but it is something that has to be done…like brushing your teeth.  It is something that you somehow have to come to accept in order to move forward with your life.

Its funny where you find inspiration and camaraderie. I started this book because I was in part looking for insight into my own body image issues.  I finished this book realizing that parents of children fighting illnesses may have many more similarities than we thought possible.  When we open our minds and our hearts, we find support in the strangest of places.
eating

Balancing Diabetes…A book review

A number of months ago, I was honored when the folks at Spry Publishing contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing an advanced copy of Kerri Sparling’s new book, Balancing Diabetes. I have enjoyed Kerri’s blog but I honestly wondered about a book that suggested that you could find some balance in a life with diabetes.  What pat formula would she suggest?

Any fears or concerns that I had were quickly pushed aside as I began to devour this book. As with any book that I read and am going to review, I bookmark passages and pages with little notes of why this sentence or paragraph moved me.  In looking back at Kerri’s book, I literally have over 50 different sections marked off for mention! This has to be a great book…and it is.

As  a mother of a child with diabetes, I was also worried that I would be reading this book from the outside. Kerri is a person with diabetes and this book would be all about her right? Wrong. By page 9 Kerri’s mother shares her feelings and I could hear myself in her words “…I didn’t know what we were getting into. I just thought, Okay let’s go deal with this, whatever this is.”  Kerri’s mom goes on to say that she handled what she was given but did not want any more.  She would learn in stages because the get everything at once would be overwhelming. I felt the same way when my son was diagnosed.  I was on overload and autopilot for months. Slowly I would add knowledge and information when I could handle it…this was how we, as parents, found balance with diabetes.

This book brought out many emotions.  Reading about the burden of being shown and repeatedly told about your own mortality at such a young age made me wonder how my son feels? Is he still an immortal teen or does he have Kerri’s “heightened awareness of how vulnerable” her health was? Either way, does he also know, that I share Kerri’s mother’s feelings when Kerri told her that she didn’t care if she was high and her mother responded “For now, I’ll care enough for both of us.”  Yes, I cried reading this.

But like the title, this book has balance.  While there are many very serious conversations, humor creates a fabulous balance and brings a different kind of tears…the ones you get from laughing! Kerri’s wonderful sense of humor shines through in this book.  The topic of sex is never an easy one but Kerri takes you past the embarrassment and makes you laugh with her candor.  She shares the story of her first serious low  with her husband. It took place after they had made love and her husband lays claim  to responsibility for it happening!

Besides the amazing humor and the walk through Kerri’s life, she brings in the experiences of many other people who live with diabetes to provide some fabulous tips for living a full life with diabetes.  They  takes us through diagnosis, the trials of teens, life as a young adult, dating, marriage and even pregnancy.  Kerri talks about the sense of helplessness that diabetes can create at times–for the person with diabetes, their partner, and even for the parents.  Sean Oser provides insight on dealing with blood sugar readings, “There are no good or bad blood sugars; every result is just a number, and it tells us what to do next.” This is a motto that I have tried to instill in my own son for years.

Balancing Diabetes looks at pump starts, travel and advocacy.  Each topic is looked at both from Kerri’s perspective as well as that of  many other people in the diabetes community.
The most poignant section in the book for me, was when I saw a person state that they do NOT believe that you can find a balance when living with diabetes.  What? But the title of the book says that you will.  How could this happen? How could someone state that balance cannot be achieved? Well, that is the beauty of this book! It does not show one size fits all, pat answers. This book shows you real life. It shows real pain and real accomplishments. It emphasizes that diabetes really is a “your diabetes may vary” kind of disease.  How wonderful!

This book is a fabulous balance of perspectives and stories.  It does not tell you one way to “do it right and achieve balance”, it shows you a variety of approaches to a variety of topics and what works for different people.  The best thing is that it also tells you that you never fail. If you have been really bad about taking responsibility for your diabetes care, cut yourself some slack and make a change now.  It’s not too late. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes related complications, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not your fault.  Brush yourself off and move forward. You have got this handled. You are amazing!

Balancing Diabetes is a wonderfully written book filled with a balance of real life events that show that we are not alone–whether we live with diabetes, are parents of a child with diabetes, or just love a person with diabetes. Now hurry up and order your copy because I noticed that Amazon Canada was almost out already!
balancing2

Raising Teens with Diabetes…Book Review

“Raising Teens with Diabetes. A survival guide for parents” by Moira McCarthy arrived at just the right time for me. I had heard that she was writing a book and it had been published. Thanks to the interwoven world of Facebook, I had seen her posts in groups that I belonged to as well as comments from mutual friends. I was therefore really excited when the folks at Spry Publishing asked me if I would like to read an advance copy of the book.  My son with diabetes is just a few months shy of 16.  We are knee-deep into the teen years and tips for handling drinking, driving, and letting go are definitely all things that I welcome with open arms!
Each chapter of this book opens with Moira’s own personal stories.  In chapter one she gets us started by introducing us to the world of “Hurricane Hormone” and advises us of the horror ride that both parents and teens are about to embark on.
Moira’s daughter was young when she was diagnosed with diabetes, so much of the book looks at burnout of both parent and teen after years of dealing with this disease.  As a parent of a child diagnosed at two, this was definitely a welcomed perspective.  She does not exclude those diagnosed at a later age though or even those who were diagnosed in their teen years or later. Chapter three is dedicated to those children struggling with their adolescence as well as a new diagnosis.  Short asides, from people like Moira’s own daughter as well as well-known bloggers and the JDRF’s own Aaron Kowalski give a wide perspective on this topic.
“Raising Teens with Diabetes” looks at family dynamics, the role of siblings, and the role of friendships–old and new with some great tips and pitfalls that many parents fall into. Moira warns of making your child’s friends the “diabetes police” and suggests ways to use friendships to help your child without going overboard.  She further touches on the more quiet or shy teen and how to ensure that they tell their friends at least the basics in diabetes management and care.
As the book nears the halfway point, you are now beginning to learn how to set the stage for adulthood.  Moira looks at school and letting go–allowing your child to be more responsible for their care in a safe setting, setting limits and having consequences that fit the action.  She talks about the rules for driving and how vital it is to stick to them.  Since my son will be legally able to begin this process in a matter of months, I read keenly wondering if we can both stick to these guidelines and knowing how important they truly are.
This book even talks about sex! I instantly was hooked when Moira’s first suggestion when handling dating and then sex was “…go on every single date with them, forever and ever…and this will not be a worry.”  I loved it! My sons would definitely not agree however.
By Chapter 10, we are faced with another teen challenge–Drinking! It terrifies me.  My son is very private. He does not talk about diabetes.  He does not hide his testing or bolusing but he does not advertise it or talk about it either.  A few of his closest friends know about it.  His best friend has a good idea of what to do but who will help him when he and his friends decide to drink?
This book offers a great chance to talk to your teen about these subjects as you read.  I would often bring up topics as they were covered.  “Did you know…” or “Wow! This book says…” were great conversation starters. We were even able to talk about erectile dysfunction! In the early chapters, Moira’s warns that teen males exposed to tv commercials may quietly be concerned about this complication. My son shook his head and swore this was not something that he had remotely considered or knew about.  One problem overcome already!
Drug use was something that I had somehow not considered until it was brought up in the book. It is something that I have thought of and talked to my oldest son about but drugs and diabetes? It was not a topic I had ever considered…how naive was that! I was therefore really grateful to have the topic mentioned.  In modern society, it is definitely something that needs to be discussed and prepared for as much as all of the other topics.
I also had my eyes opened to a new view with the section on rebellion. Moira writes about the first time her daughter lied to her about a bg level and how things spiralled out of control until she ended up in ICU.  Her daughter said she got a test of “the drug she’s struggled with for years.  That drug is called freedom.  That day,(when she lied about a reading) she realized that I trusted her so much, she could pretty much do or not do whatever she wanted.  The idea of not checking was so delicious, she still says today she thinks she must know what drug addicts feel like when they try to detox.  She skipped testing more and more…And she told me after she landed in the ICU and almost died, as sick as it made her feel physically, the emotional high of DENYING diabetes any power in her life…made that horrid feeling all worth the while.”  Even rereading this passage still makes me want to cry.  I “get it”. It hurts me but I “get it”.  I understand a bit more why my son “forgets” when he goes away from me. It’s not just about feeling so great that you forget you need to bolus/test, it’s about denying diabetes.  I wish that they could.
I appreciated Moira’s honesty when she noted that she had once thought that her daughter would never rebel.  That that sort of thing was something that happened to “other families”.  I have always known that this could happen to us.  I have also looked on to some of my friends and wondered, “how did they get such perfect kids? They never seemed to have any issues.”  I have also watched some parents struggle to do everything that they could with non-compliant teens and somehow manage to come out into adulthood with amazing young people.  I know that “this too shall pass” and “Raising Teens with Diabetes”  gives some wonderful tips on how to handle the rough ride until it does.
If you have a teen with diabetes this book is for you.  If you have a child who will grow up to be a teen with diabetes, keep this book around for later years. It will come in handy! Thank you Moira for giving new things to think about and a wonderful tool to refer back to.
teens with diabetes

Kids First Diabetes Second…The Full Story

I have said before and I will say it again, I was pleasantly surprised by Leighann Calentine’s new book Kids First Diabetes Second.  I had seriously wondered how someone relatively new to diabetes would handle an entire book…okay Leighann is not a newbie but sadly we have been on this block a few more years and as I have said, I have become crass over the years. As I said previously, she handled it fabulously! Again, I think this should definitely be given to all newly diagnosed, anyone struggling or just wanting to read a good “diabetes” book. 


The book begins with Leighann stating that after diagnosis, she went into “mommy mode” and took it “one meal at a time”.  At that point she had me hooked. I felt a kinship.  I always tell the newly diagnosed that I live life four hours at at time…basically one meal at a time when we were on MDI. She also quotes a nurse who told her that she needed to give her daughter choices but taking care of diabetes was never a choice. I also live this one. My son could choose where his site went, which finger to lance or which color pump he wanted but he could not choose not to test, inject or ultimately to pump. The Calentine’s may not have had as many years of the dia-beast as we had but they had learned well and were sharing great insights with Kids First Diabetes Second!

It was great to read about the support that “Rufus the Bear with Diabetes” still gives children. I remember when I first found Rufus. I remember sharing emails with his creator and finding a wonderful new friend in Carol Cramer. Her kindness still shines through in her bears. My son still has his Rufus that we bought about 10 years ago. I made him outfits.  We received pumps for him.  I had the pleasure of giving away a large number of Rufus and Ruby bears before they were given away here in Canada.  The letters of appreciation and the sense of community that the bears brought still brings a smile to my heart. 



The advice that Leighann has given to parents of children with diabetes in the chapter titled “Your Support System” are definitely words to live by and advice that all of us that live there would also give. 


I did have to laugh however when I read about the importance of changing a lancet.  This did show the gap in our diabetes “ages”.  My son changes his lancet with the changing of clocks or when no matter how hard he squeezes his finger he can’t get blood. Yes, lancets are cheap but we are lazy. We use the thinnest lancets but in over 12 years we have probably not bought a dozen boxes of lancets.  We used the multi-clicks for a bit (elevating our lancet purchases) but still, he rarely changed the drum.  Most of our diabetes pals are the same way. They too would laugh at the idea of actually changing a lancet after every use. 

I also found a difference in our children.  Quinn loves to share and is open about her diabetes. My son is reserved and would rather die than have to talk to someone about it. It has been a part of his life for longer than he can remember but he remains very private about diabetes.  He hates having to be involved in anything diabetes related. That is “mom’s thing”. Its his disease but he will keep it to himself thank you very much. I applaud those who are able to “wear it proudly” and I was able to gain some hope in reading about Naomi, a young adult who sounds like she was a lot like my son–diagnosed at two and very private until she was in college.

I loved reading about Linda Werts who planned to move away to school with her son when he graduated high school.  How many times did my d-parent friends and I joke that we would be the mother in the Robert Munch book “I’ll Love You Forever”?  When my sons were younger, they were never leaving home. They would forever live in my house and my refrigerator. Now that they are older, they both have plans of their own that sadly do not include living with Mom or Mom being allowed to move away with them. When that time comes for my son with diabetes, I will rely on those who have gone before me to guide me and I will try not to be the Munch Mother…really…I’ll try…I promise…


The use throughout Kids First Diabetes Second of short essays from many diabetes “experts”…those who have “been there, done that” was wonderful.  It gave a perspective from parents who have journeyed where you have yet to tread, adults who have lived the lives of our children, and more.  These snippets truly rounded out a very good diabetes resource.  

We use different technologies.  Our children are different ages. I wondered how she avoided that slap in the face that many of us feel when we see our child “attached” to something that keeps them alive (aka an insulin pump).  For many of us, that is the one downside we faced as we journeyed down the pumping road–seeing “diabetes” by seeing our children hooked to a device,  attached to something that will keep them alive.  Despite those few differences, we are both mothers of children with diabetes. We are advocates for our children. We share our lives with others in hopes of helping them get through.  We are part of a club that no one wants to belong to but are constantly amazed by the strength of those who are invited to join.  

Leighann Calentine and her family have shown a lot of strength in their sharing and their activities. It shows throughout this book. Great job Leighann…and as for the rest of you? Go order the book for Pete’s sake! Its even available for your eReader


The Book of Better

A few months ago I received an email from a person claiming to be a publisher. He wanted me to read a book by someone I had never heard of.  I did a bit of enquiring to see if this was for real or they would be later calling asking me to send my bank account information to Pakistan. 

It turned out that it was all on the up and up.  They just really wanted to send me two of my favorite things–something free and something to read! I gave them an address to send the book and promised I would mention it one day here.

After Christmas and a few personal issues, I finally made it through the book. Please don’t think that the book was a struggle. Actually I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed it.  Making time to read was my personal challenge.

Like any other non-fiction book that I read, I read this one with a check-out receipt nearby.  I use the receipt to rip and mark pages that strike me for some reason.  This book got eight of my fancy bookmarks.  Not bad!

Chuck Eichten provides a very basic explanation of what diabetes is.  We have all used the car model whereby we tell people that glucose is the fuel that makes the body run just like gas is the fuel that makes a car run. The book of Better. Life with diabetes can’t be perfect Make it better, suggests that diabetes is “as if we sprayed gas all over the car but never opened the gas cap.” I thought that was a great visual for people who have no clue.

Mr. Eichten uses humour to get his point across in a wonderful way.  He is matter fact about the reality that we are simply people trying to a job we were not taught to do…be a pancreas. We can only do our best and aim for “better”. 

The book also makes a lot of use of color.  Personally that is a problem as well as a positive feature. I love the boldness in such pages as 110, when he notes that “In 1921, the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with diabetes was less than 12 months.  In 1922, life expectancy was more than 12 years. In 1921, if you had diabetes you died. In 1922, you lived.” The choice of black, white and yellow poses a real problem when you are trying to read at night. Between aging eyes and colored print, I often missed key points due to the frustration of not being able to properly see what I was reading.

I also appreciate Mr. Eichten’s pro-pumping take.  I personally agree that pumping is the best method of insulin delivery. I love, love his illustration of the number of injections (portrayed by small yellow dots) you would take in ten years versus the small yellow box of infusion set insertions.  I like that he notes financial restraints may be a huge hurdle for many.  He turns to governments and pump companies to change this.

The book of Better. Life with diabetes can’t be perfect Make it better takes a stab at the issue of children with diabetes.  I agree with him to a degree. Our children are a lot more flexible than we think.  As parents, we are a lot less flexible than we could be.  I think that some children still have huge issues with this lifestyle change but again, agree that ultimately children learn from parents. I have always said that my job as a parent of a child with diabetes is to learn all I can and then teach all I can to my son. His job is to use these tools wisely. 

All in all the book is great. If you want a touch of humour to give you a kick in the right direction, The book of Better. Life with diabetes can’t be perfect Make it better may be just what you are looking for.  If you are a little older, I would advise reading the book during the day when natural light is plentiful to get the most out of what it has to offer.

Thank you Jonathan Lazzara for contacting me and thanks to Chuck Eichten for tackling the serious issue of life with diabetes with the right touch of humour!