Last year Manny Hernandez founder of Diabetes Hands Foundation, David Edelman founder of DiabetesDaily.com and me, along with venerable producer Sean Ross, created the Big Blue Test video which was awarded the 2011 silver (the highest honor) and bronze Telly awards - respectively in the online programs regarding social issues and health and wellness categories.
If you were one of the 133,674 views the video received, you know the video promoted the benefit of exercise to manage blood sugar. Specifically, taking the Big Blue Test - doing just 14 minutes of an activity and seeing your blood sugar come down. Thousands of people saw their blood sugar lowered on average 20 points. Each view of the video also made possible a donation of $75,000 from Roche to two diabetes charities that sent life-saving insulin and supplies to children in need around the world.
This year Manny, David, Sean and I are back in the saddle, as is Roche, to create another big blue test video. Look for it this November, diabetes month.
By the way, you don't have to wait till November to see the benefit of 14 minutes of activity. Why not do it today? Then come November, join the thousands who will record their 14 minutes of activity on the Big Blue Test site (which I'll be sure to tell you about) and work toward saving your own life, and that of a child in need.
"Be brave with your life, so that others can be brave with theirs." That's a quote I read recently. Unfortunately I can't remember where, but I do remember it, because I love it.
It means stick your neck out, follow your dream, sing your song and know that you're not being pushy, but a role model inspiring others to do the same.
While I don't make New Year's resolutions, I did assume a mantra last year, "Be bold." And it moved me to do things, and risk rejection, I wouldn't have otherwise. And that stretched me and brought me wonderful new things, and projects, like writing for the Huffington Post and speaking at numerous conferences to both patients and providers.
This year my mantra is, "Be bolder." And, I now find myself repeating often in my head, "Be brave with your life, so that others can be brave with theirs." Being brave with your life is not about ego, it is about dropping your ego; it is about putting yourself out there, and as an example leading others to follow. It is a selfless act not a selfish one.
Ginger Vieira, 25 years old, has lived with type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease for almost 12 years and is creating a large footprint in the DOC (diabetes online community). Ginger is a champion-winning power lifter, personal trainer, yoga instructor and inspirational video blogger, recently adding dLife to her credits.
Her young life and work speak to building a life of accomplishment, regardless of and in many ways due to diabetes, and using it to help others.
I also interviewed Ginger specifically about her book, "Your Diabetes Science Experiment" for the Huffington Post: "A Diabetic Athlete Shares How To Minimize High And Low Blood Sugar."
Q: Do you remember your reaction when you got diabetes 12 years ago, at the age of 13?
Yes, crystal clear! After bursting into tears I asked the doctor if I was going to die. I had absolutely no idea what diabetes was. I spent three days in the hospital, and at first I felt really sorry for myself. Why me? But I started thinking about all my friends and some of the tremendous things they’d been through already - brain tumors, losing parents to cancer, hemophilia, depression, leukemia - and I realized that everybody has at least one kind of immense challenge in their life, and diabetes is one of my challenges. I left the hospital with that attitude and I still carry it with me. Nobody has it easy! So I don’t deserve to feel sorry for myself just because I have type 1 diabetes.
Q: Had you a plan for your future already at age 13 and did you wonder if you could still do it?
Well, I have always, always been a writer. Even in the second grade I was in love with writing. I wrote two different series, one was about my pets and their adventures, and the other was about a girl who grew up in a big family with too many boys in it (my real life!) and they were always getting in her way and screwing things up.
Q: What don’t most people understand about diabetes?
That taking shots and pricking your finger is actually the easiest part. People always say, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you do that every day.” It’s really everything else that makes this disease so incredibly complicated. Seemingly simple things like going for a long walk, sleeping in and missing breakfast, trying to concentrate when your blood sugar is too high, trying to have energy at work as a personal trainer when your blood sugar is recovering from being too low!
And the way this disease weighs on your emotions. It impacts how you think about exercise, food, friends, relationships, etc. It impacts literally every single part of your life and I will never expect a non-diabetic to truly understand that because it is so immense.
Q: You’ve set 15 records in power lifting. Did having diabetes motivate you to become a power lifter?
They were really separate goals at first. I joined a gym originally because I wanted to get in better shape and after a year of basic weight-training I’d gotten pretty strong! But when I told my doctor that I was thinking about going into powerlifting, he rolled his eyes. I wanted to prove him wrong and show other people with diabetes that anything is possible. I’ve never been much of an athlete when I was younger, so you can’t chalk it up to incredible genes or something. It is pure determination and persistence.
Q: You’ve done a number of YouTube videos and what’s apparent is your optimism. Do you have difficult days with diabetes and if so how do you get through them?
To be honest I don’t have days where I hate diabetes. Ever. It doesn’t occur to me to get mad at something that is simply part of my life, but that’s because I’ve developed and strengthened the attitude I have towards this disease. I can’t make it go away, so why am I going to waste energy hating it? That would feel like a waste of energy to me.
I also really don’t expect myself to do this perfectly. I don’t beat myself for having high blood sugars sometimes. I’m human, I absolutely cannot attain perfect blood sugars 24/7. So I give myself room to make mistakes, while also expecting myself to give my best effort.
Q: Your business is called “Living in Progress.” Tell me about that and why you call it that?
Coming up with the name was easy because I really believe that we are all constantly evolving. Wherever you are in your life, in how you think about your health and yourself right now, does not and will not be how you think about it even just a year from now. If you want to change something about your life and your health, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. It can be a very gradual progress and sometimes it happens without you even realizing! I’ve seen these evolutions in my own life many, many times.
I work with people one-on-one across the country, over the phone, on goals like making exercise a regular part of your life, improving your nutrition habits, rebuilding self-esteem, developing healthy coping habits, diabetes life management, and emotional eating. Everyone comes with their own specific goals.
Q: How can people shift their view to get away from being so fault-finding and being impatient with themselves and see their life more as a “work in progress?”
Well, that change won’t happen overnight, and it’s a process, but I believe the first and most important step is to really acknowledge where you are right now. To really describe and dig into how you are treating yourself, how you are talking to yourself, what kinds of limiting beliefs you have about yourself.
What has helped me the most in my own evolution is giving myself room to fail, room to be imperfect, and I really, really believe in gradual steps. When I started weightlifting, for example, I had no intentions of becoming a competitor. I grew into that place because I just focused on doing the best I could in the things I enjoyed the most.
Q: You’ve just begun working with dLife as the “Community Leader & Social Media Manager.” What does that involve and what do you hope to create for others?
For starters I’m going to be making video blogs for them with the same energy you’ll find in my own YouTube Channel video blogs. But I’ll also be connecting with people, talking about diabetes in a real way because I live with it in my real life, and providing support, knowledge and encouragement through dLife’s outreach and the many, many resources and information. It’s about support and empowerment.
Q: Who is your book, “Your Diabetes Science Experiment” meant for and what is it you want most for people to take away from it?
The book is for anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes who wants to learn more about insulin sensitivity, insulin resistance, how proteins, fats and carbs impact the human body with diabetes, and how to adjust your insulin doses for meals and exercise. I also help people understand how to make changes in their diet while adjusting insulin needs to prevent low blood sugars, and I break down how different types of exercise impact a body with diabetes.
The biggest thing I want people to take from this book is that when your blood sugars are high or low, there is a logical reason. And in many cases there really is something you can do to prevent those fluctuations from happening again. You just need more information than what you’re usually getting from the hospital or your doctor.
Q: You say in the beginning of your book that you could probably fill another 500 pages with how much diabetes impacts your thoughts and emotions. Can you give us a little preview of that here?
This disease is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no way that it isn’t going to affect the way you think. My next book will really bring to light the many aspects of life that diabetes impacts, to help people not only become aware of them in their own life, but also how to work through them. I believe we control how we think. Just as we control whether or not we choose to be offended when someone says something unkind to us, we control how diabetes impacts the way we think about food, exercise, and ourselves. But you have to really become aware of what’s going on before you can do anything about it!
Q: What’s the most fun or fulfilling part of what you do?
The Diabetes Online Community (“DOC”) community is incredible and I’m thankful to be part of that community. They are so supportive of each other! I know if I ever needed anything, really needed help, there are so many people in that community who would be there for me in a flash.
On the other side, I get messages and comments from people every week thanking me for some of the work I do, because of how it’s impacted their lives with diabetes, how they think about diabetes. I’ve gotten messages from people saying my video blogs, as silly as they are sometimes, actually inspired them to start taking better care of their diabetes. Messages like that are gold to me.
Yesterday the CURE banner was unfurled in the lobby of Miami's Diabetes Research Institute (DRI). $63,000 was raised from people like you and me pledging as little as $10 and submitting their photo that's now part of the banner. This includes a matching gift of $25,000 from campaign sponsors Animas and LifeScan. Monies raised goes to DRI's singular mission - research for a cure.
CEO Robert Pearlman said the banner stands as a visible testament to DRI's mission, a reminder to all the scientists who go to their research laboratories every day how important their work truly is toward finding a cure.
Right now in fact, Scientific Director, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, has teamed with New Jersey's Hackensack University Medical Center to test implanting insulin-producing islet cells in monkeys' abdomens rather than the liver. The hope is this will avoid the need for auto-immune suppression drugs.
You can make a contribution to DRI either through email@example.com or on the cure site, including raising your cure contribution to $50 to receive a mouse pad with the CURE image.
How can you resist? After all I'm somewhere among those 1,300 photos - just on the right side of the 'R' ;-)
The CURE banner will remain at BePartoftheCure.org.
OK, I think I’ve never, ever traveled this much but Friday - just as I’m getting on East Coast time back from Asia - I’m off to Albuquerque, New Mexico to talk at a Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) event!
If you attend please do join Kim Lyons, fabulous fitness expert and former trainer on TV’s “The Biggest Loser,” and me at our workshop, “Take the Next Step: Get Motivated,” to learn more about painful Diabetes Peripheral Neuropathy (pDPN).
This diabetes complication results from nerve damage and causes burning, tingling, stabbing and throbbing pain most often in the feet and/or hands - or it can leave you without any sensation at all. At worst without feeling in your feet, you can injure your foot and not know it, which can lead to a foot ulcer and amputation. pDPN affects more than 20% of people with diabetes.
While pDPN can interfere with every day activities, sleep and being active, there is help - simple exercises, medication if necessary, and discussing how to treat the condition with your doctor. You'll find more information here.
In our workshop I'll be sharing stories of some amazing people who live a full and active life with pDPN - like Tom who rode 70 miles on his bicycle to celebrate his 70th birthday and retired schoolteacher, Arlene, an active DESA member, who's climbed all 46 Adirondack peaks and leads hiking tours. Kim will demonstrate exercises that can help one live more comfortably with pDPN.
If you can't make it to Albuquerque, you can find Kim's exercise videos, management tips and guidance on how to speak with your doctor on the Take the Next Step web site.
If you miss this opportunity in Albuquerque, Kim and I will also be at TCOYD in Tampa, October 1 and San Diego, November 12th. We'd love to shake your hand if you attend. TCOYD events are a great one day health event all across the country for patients to learn more about taking care of their diabetes, and all for a very small fee.
I'm really excited to be part of this effort and hope to meet you somewhere along the way. “Take the Next Step: Get Motivated” was developed and supported through a collaboration with Pfizer Inc.
I landed back on New York soil Friday night from almost two weeks traveling in Singapore and Tokyo. I was invited to speak to medical and diabetes professionals at two major hospitals in Singapore - National University Hospital of Singapore and the ground-breaking Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, the manifestation of innovative CEO, Teng Liak, who believes a hospital should be a place of healing in all respects.
I was given a personal tour of the hospital by Mr. Liak and include pictures here. Throughout the hospital are bright bold colors to find wards easily and lift your spirit. Each building contains learning centers where I consistently saw staff in workshops. Learning displays are mounted in almost every hallway.
Each patient room has an intentional view of greenery for its calming effect. And each patient has a remote control to open and close the blinds in their room, increasing their overall sense of control. Rooms are equipped with coffee and tea service for family and visitors.
The hospital was built in the north of Singapore because that is where the population is growing - bring the hospital to the people. Clinics contain no more than 5 doctors to keep the feeling personal and collaborative. Patients' information is captured, not only in electronic records, but in a way that promotes health and healing. It is organized around: 1) Know Me 2) Identify Me 3) Direct Me 4) Track Me 5) Clear the Way For Me 6) Close the Encounter With Me and 7) Stay in Touch With Me.
Singapore's technological achievements are not widely known in the U.S., but they are on display everywhere: waiting times are posted, computers are front and center in each clinic for patient feedback and patient facial recognition is becoming standard.
Wards are clearly marked from both inside the hospital and out and names are clearly displayed for all staff. The hospital grounds contain several restaurants that not only serve healthy food, but it is priced lower than unhealthy food.
On the rooftops are organic farms where volunteers from the surrounding communities come to work together growing food for the hospital and socialize. Mr. Liak husked an ear of corn which we ate right off the tree, sweet to the taste.
The hospital also serves Singapore by helping to maintain its eco system and rain forest. 29 species of butterflies exist on the hospital grounds, as well as a sanctuary for exotic birds, indigenous plants and ponds for thousands of fish.
The mission of Khoo Tech Puat Hospital is to, "Provide good quality affordable and hassle-free healthcare with science, love and wisdom." In the words of Mr. Liak, "We are trying to build a village." To say I was duly impressed is an understatement.
I was also impressed that 200 doctors, educators, students and staff came to hear me speak. I shared with them what it's like to live with diabetes; that they lead patients on a journey and their expectations are critical to that journey; that hope is a powerful force and that it is possible for us to not just cope with diabetes but flourish with it.
I was rewarded with their deep appreciation, respect for my knowledge and wisdom, and I learned that these clinicians face the same growing epidemic of diabetes that we do and the same struggles to help patients change behavior.
After my four whirlwind days in Singapore, I dropped down to Tokyo to visit friends. I lived and worked in Tokyo from 1986 to 1992 and every few years take a trip back to see friends and get my dose of a place that has become a second home.
This time I saw small signs of the recent earthquake - Ginza, usually lit like Times Square, was not nearly as bright, less busses and elevators were running and less air conditioning, all in an effort to conserve energy. Also my hotel had some cracks that ran through the walls, but I was told no major damage.
Otherwise the only sign in the city that a major quake had occurred was the scarcity of foreigners. "Gaijin," the name for foreigners in Japan, has been newly expanded to "Flyjin" and "Byejin" commemorating how many foreigners have left. But if you're planning a trip, there's no reason not to go.
So I return fresh with professional and personal satisfaction, and the hope that my next trip to Tokyo might just be for the Japanese launch of my book, "The ABC's Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes." A friend of mine is translating it into Japanese ;-)