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!

Diabetes Christmas Gifts

Depending on where you live, you may already be inundated with Christmas music, Christmas decorations, and Christmas shopping lists. For some, November is way to early to be thinking of such things. For others, it’s the perfect time to get prepared.
Personally I fall into both categories. Every fiber of my being says, “No!! Stop!! Its way to early to even think of such things as Christmas.”  A tiny little voice however makes its way into my conscience and reminds me that while Christmas is just under a month away and many of my gifts have to be mailed.  This means that thinking about Christmas now so that I have gifts  bought and shipped before the 25th of December is not really a bad thing.
If you are like me, coming up with new and interesting gift ideas each year is a real challenge.  Many people buy what they really need when they need it and what sort of other “stuff” do you buy for them? Hopefully I can help with some gift ideas for those on your list that are involved in some way or other with diabetes.
Earlier in the year I was given the chance to review and read three great books.  Life is Short Laundry is Eternal by Scott Benner is the perfect gift to give to…well anyone! This book is not about diabetes, it’s about love.  It was a book that was absolutely not what I expected and brought an incredible array of emotions. I would still highly recommend it to anyone with a family or ever thinking about having a family.
The second book is a must read for all parents of children with diabetes.  Moira McCarthy’sRaising Teens with Diabetes is a great resource for parents of small children who wish to learn how to prepare for the teen years. This is also a great book for those of us knee-deep in the trenches of the terrible teens.
Finally, there was Gary Scheiner’s latest book Until there is a Cure.  Again, this was another fabulous book by a very knowledgeable man.  If you have someone on your list who is struggling to get this diabetes “stuff” figured out, this may well be the book for them.
If books are not the route that you want to go this Christmas, don’t forget that Diabetes Advocacy also has many great gift ideas.  Looking for a diabetes blanket? The website has one of those and its one of a kind (in fact I have lost the pattern sadly for those people who were wanting to make it themselves).  There are also bracelets and necklaces to fit all ages and sizes. You can add a diabetes ribbon or a diabetes charm to further personalize any of your accessories.
Yes that last part was a shameless plug but remember that it is the sales from the Diabetes Advocacy online store that pays for the costs associated with the work of Diabetes Advocacy. That being said, no one paid me to tell you about the books however, they asked me to review the books originally but my mentioning them again is just because I really think that they are great gift ideas!
Happy shopping everyone!

Kids First Diabetes Second…The Language Chapter

I finally finished Leighann Calentine’s book Kids First Diabetes Second.  That is not to say that it was just so boring that it took me forever to read.  Its a reflection of the fact that I just don’t have enough me time to read, I was trying to read three books at once AND there were not enough 3am lows to add to my reading time. 

The book was a bit of a surprise to me. I know that probably sounds rude but I was not expecting a lot.  I really didn’t know much about Leighann prior to this. I had read her blog on occasion. I knew that she was also a Diabetes Advocate but she had only been dealing with the D-monster for four years.  I have been at this for over twelve and am now a bit more crass.  Would she be able to keep my interest? The answer was a resounding YES! She did a great job explaining things and then used a fabulous panel of experts to help fill in various areas.  The balance was brilliant and this is definitely a book that should be given to every newly diagnosed family at least. 

In reading the book, I once again had a million little pieces of paper marking things that I wanted to write about in a review.  There are so many little bits of things that I thought were interesting that its going to take more than one blog post! Since I finished the book last night, I decided to start at one of the last sections that made me laugh and taught me a few things. 

Kids First Diabetes Second dedicates an entire chapter to “The Language of Diabetes”.  We all know that diabetes has its own language. We live to watch the response of people when we look at our teen or our toddler and tell them “You had better be high Mister!”  We laugh at ourselves and know our kids love it when we ask them to give us “the finger”.  

These were found in the book as well as many more and it turns out that being a diabetes dinosaur, there were a lot of terms that I just didn’t know. I love the “Bateman Belt” which we used to just refer to as his pump pouch.  Now kids can put so much more in them that the term had to be expanded. 

I laughed when I saw “diabeetus” and the fact that it causes an eye roll in many.  You know that that is how I pronounce the dreaded word right? I don’t know if its a Barb thing or a Canadian thing.  Perhaps Wilfred Brimley and I just have some sort of weird connection but to me the “diabeetees” thing sounds just as odd. 

I learned about Flat-lining and dreamed of it happening to my son one day.  We don’t have a CGM so I can only imagine how great it must be to see. 

We have experienced both definitions of a gusher.  We have seen blood spurt from his finger across the dining room table into his brother’s soup.  We have also had sites that poured out so much blood I was beginning to think he may need a transfusion but told my son that it was no big deal! 

The term “Old school” killed me.  I am not that old…really…I think….but we don’t use CGM (read cost factor and access issues) and I love a paper log. I am working really hard to move away from one but downloading pumps and meters? EEEK!! It is just so hard for me to do. (Actually she states that the term refers to people who go back to these ways and not to those of us still stuck there)  

I remember learning about SWAG and YDMV when I first joined the CWD parents list

This chapter was full of great stuff. At the end of it the author notes the importance of not looking at numbers as “good” or “bad”.  That is so hard.  I never judge my son by his reading. We do have the debate on whether we have been effective pancreases or not.  We use readings as a learning tool now that he is a teen.  When he was younger, they were Mom’s grade and Mom’s responsibility.  “Mom failed you.” would be the guilt that ran through my head. I would not tell him that but it was how I would feel.   

As Leighann and many before her have said, our children are so much more than a number. Readings are vital to their health and their well-being but they are just a tool. Its vital that we teach them that as well as helping them to flat-line! 

Stay tuned for more great insights and commentaries on Leighann Calentine’s Kids First Diabetes Second….or go and pre-order your own copy so you can find all of the good parts for yourself! 

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!