Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Diabetes kills more Americas every year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
It is the #1 cause of blindness in adults.
It doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke.
1 in 13 Americas have it, 1 in 4 don't know it yet.

Did you already know those facts? I have had Type 1 diabetes since I was 7 years old. I grew up in the era before there were home blood testing units, nutrasweet, or nutrition fact labels. I have watched, studied, and cheered so many wonderful developments over the past 30 years that have profoundly impacted my diabetes and my daily life. I've suffered highs (400+) and lows (-25). And today, I am solid proof that controlling your blood sugars will decrease the side effects of this very deadly disease.

From the conversations I've had in my lifetime, I feel that the majority of Americans do not have a clue about diabetes, type 1 or type 2. One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding this disease is that "you are not supposed to eat sugar". Ug! I cannot count the number of times I have been with people who have just polished off a huge portion of white pasta, some rolls with butter, and a glass of wine - who then say they cannot have any dessert since the are "watching their sugar intake". Ug! So today's lesson is this - the body converts ALL carbs to sugar. ALL. So it doesn't matter if it's a glass of wine (3.2), pasta (55), rolls (20), or apple pie (40) the body turns each carb into sugar (glucose).
Here's a little science: As food enters the body, carbs are converted to usable sugar or glucose. The glucose is then passed thru the blood stream, and mixes with insulin that has been released from the cells (or injected if diabetic). This mixing then starts a series of chemical reactions that then allow the glucose to leave the blood and enter the cell, supplying it with energy. Too much glucose and not enough insulin means high blood sugar (Hyperglycemia). And not enough glucose and too much insulin means low blood sugar (Hypoglycemia).
So the next time you are tempted to tell a diabetic what they should not be eating, let's be clear that you need to point out the pasta, the rolls, the 4 beers, and not just that piece of cake.

Diabetes kills more Americas every year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What I've learned from Jake

Cancer has touched so many areas of my life, but maybe one of the hardest for me was Jake. Jake is my dog, he is 12 years old, and he was diagnosed with cancer while I was undergoing chemo for mine. He had an entire leg removed, and now almost two years later, his cancer has returned this time on his back hip in a racquetball size tumor. :0(
Jake has taught me so much about life. Whenever I have a bad day and think about how horrible things are, I see him looking at me with his big brown eyes, hopeful and happy despite his horrible luck in life, and I just can't help but smile. Here are Jake's best lessons to me.

1. Some days are very hard, stick with the basics and you will make it thru. Eat, sleep, walk. Sometimes in life we do so much more even when we don't feel like it. Some days it's OK to stick with the basics and take a break.
2. Wag your tail and try your best. Jake hops now instead of walks. Since he lived as a pack leader for 10 years before loosing his leg, most days he still tries to pee like a boy. It's very hard to balance on 2 legs, so most days he falls on his face, sometimes in the pee. It breaks my heart, but every time he jumps back up wags his tail and starts hopping back up the sidewalk like nothing happened.
3. Have Patience. When we moved to the city we gave up a fenced in back yard. This means Jake has to be walked several times a day, something I would rush thru tugging on his collar when he would stop too much. Until one day an older man stopped me on the street and told me how lucky I was to have such a remarkable dog. Then told me how well taken care of he looked, and commended me for that. Feeling guilty I let Jake sniff every single good smell for the rest of the walk. And now I make it a point to take him every day on a longer smelling walk where he gets to stop as much as he wants, and I stand there and wait. It's become my favorite part of the day and taught me how to be more patient.
4. You can over come the odds. I didn't believe my dear friend Mary when she told me he would be OK if we took off his leg. But he has proven her right. So far he has been able to learn how to do just about everything he did with 4 legs. A feat I would have said was impossible he is determined to make reality.

Jake is an inspiration to me each day, that no matter what life hands you, you have to keep trying.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hair on the pillow...and out the window!

As I mentioned, the nurses told me when my hair would fall out. Of course I had to travel for work the same week (just my luck). I was worried but determined not to let it change the way I lived my life. So I travelled to Atlanta to do some training, each morning checking my pillow for all my hair to be laying there instead of on my head. But nothing happened. When the dreaded date came I didn't wash my hair for fear it would all just magically fall out and down the drain. The date was October 25th. (Yes of course I still remember!) I made it home from Atlanta with hair, although I did start to notice some hair here and there. But in general it was nothing like you see on TV where huge chunks fall out.
The next day I went with my husband, Brad, down to Smith Mountain Lake. I had plans to go with my good friend M (Marianne) to a huge Halloween party. I had bought a costume of a rag doll. Luckily it came with a bright red yarn wig. That Saturday my hair really started coming out more. You still couldn't tell by looking at me, but I knew, and I was so worried. That night I slept over at M's house and luckily for me she is the kind of friend that did not at all mind that when I got up the next morning her sheets were covered with my hair. Just like on TV. (So bitter!) Luckily I had a ball cap, so I put it on, cleaned up the sheets as best I could, smiled and went outside to Brad waiting in the car to pick me up.
After that was maybe one of my happiest cancer days. It was a beautiful fall day in Southern Virginia. It was warm and sunny, and the leaves were just gorgeous. We took back roads home for the 4 hour drive back from the lake, and for most of them Brad had the radio up loud and all of the windows down. And I spent most of the trip on my knees with my head out the window. As he sped down Rt 29 at 55 miles per hour, my hair flew off my head, down the road, and out of my life! It was fantastic!!
By the time I got home I looked exactly like Doc on Back to the Future. So the next day I took Brad's razor and shaved the rest off myself.
I really thought loosing my hair would be the worst moment of cancer. I thought I would cry and stay in bed. But with Brad's support and sense of humor I found that each step of this thing is a choice. I didn't always pick the right choice, but life is only what we make it, and it is our choice to LIVE it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Haircut Party!

My second visit to the oncologist the head nurse gave me the exact date she was pretty sure all of my hair would fall out. Up until this point I was ok with loosing my hair, but when she did that it freaked me out a little. I had long hair and she suggested I cut it before that date "so I wouldn't make a mess". LOL. I hadn't cut my hair short in over 10 years, so I was equally nervous to get it all cut off. So for one of the first times in my life, I asked for help. I asked Shelley if she'd go with me to get my haircut. I was not prepared for what happened next. :0)
Shelley organized a huge "Haircut Party" for me with printed invitations! Adrea volunteered to come to Judy's house and cut my hair at the party, while all of my friends and family ate great food and watched. That night I was overwhelmed with all of the love and support I didn't realize I had in my life. They all drove out on a cold October night in the middle of the week to support me in getting all my hair cut off. They also brought me gifts - hats, lotions, pink ribbon shirts, breast cancer bracelets, warm jackets, books, and necklaces. And each and every person there offered more help, everything from food to rides to chemo to help taking care of Jake. It was incredible, and a night I will never ever forget.
Adrea also did a wonderful job giving me a cute short cut, and lots of tips on what to do as it started to fall out and when to expect it to grow back (it took a long time to grow back).
That night taught me an important lesson in life. Ask for help. And then let people help you. I am blessed with an incredible support system, one that I hope to never take for granted.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wigs are Itchy!

A few weeks after my surgery I decided I should get a wig. A few people had told me to do it before my hair fell out, and this is good advise! So let me suggest that as the #1 tip for getting a wig, go shopping before your hair is gone. (For one thing you order it and it takes a few weeks to come in.) My #2 tip is to take a friend with you that you are 100% comfortable with, that has a great sense of humor, so she is not sitting there crying that you are going to loose your hair, but that is still honest enough with you to tell you "that looks fake".
I went to a great wig shop in Winchester with my long life friend Melissa. And we captured it all on film! Each one I modelled she gave feedback then took pictures. Then once home I looked at them all and showed them to family and friends to get some feedback. I enjoyed hearing what others had to say about them, and people loved seeing them all. As you can see, a haircut can really shape (or not shape!) your face.
I ended up buying two wigs from this shop about 2 weeks later. It was a month before I needed them, but I felt better knowing they were there. My insurance paid for one wig, and I paid for the other one. They cost about $100 each. I can recommend you do not get the cheaper ones. I never had any issues with movement or slippage, and I didn't find them very hot, but boy oh boy are they itchy!!
Enjoy the photo's courtesy of Melissa!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Healthier Comfort Foods

I think in general, most people crave comfort foods. Especially when they are not feeling so great, a big bowl of mac & cheese, or some mashed potato's with butter on them sound better then anything healthy. But every body is made up of cells and these cells needs nutrients to survive. Chemo kills cancer cells as well as healthy cells. So now more then ever it's important to give your body what it needs to grow new healthy cells. The best way to do this is with whole wheat carbs and protein. So much of our body - from the cell level to your organs and your skin are directly impacted by what you eat. Even if it's just 90% of the time, if you can eat healthy foods your body will be better able to heal, and repair itself. Some easy changes you can make and still feel like you are getting somewhat of a comfort food - change to whole wheat bread, with fiber. You could also change out white pastas or white rice for whole wheat rossito or couscous. Some of the flavored rossito's and couscous's are very tasty and so much better for you. One of my go to meals during chemo was Parmesan rossito, grilled asparagus, and a grilled chicken breast. It has protein, fiber, vitamin's, and whole wheat carbs. If the mac and cheese really does make you feel better, then eat it. But if you still feel like crap after you eat it, then give some healthy dishes a chance and see the difference food can make!

Monday, March 1, 2010


The line I heard the most during chemo was "don't worry, it will get better". Oh boy did I get tired of hearing this! After so much time on chemo, and radiation I had gotten kinda used to the fatigue. The fatigue you have when you are going through this is like no other tiredness that I have felt, you sleep and you wake up just as tired. You eat and feel no more energy. You drink diet coke, and your alertness doesn't change.
But let me tell ya, now I feel like I have more energy then anyone else in the world! I feel so much better! Now that I know what really being worn out and tired feels like, I know that I feel fantastic! I can run 8 miles, then work a full day, walk to the grocery, and do some yoga, and still not feel close to as tired as I was every single day on chemo.
So, for all of you who told me it would get better, I'm here to report back that you were right. Now I have energy, and I know what it's like not to have it, which makes me both thankful for it as well as unwilling to take it for granted.