Your true love with diabetes

A love story that gets better with time

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When I got engaged at the ripe old age of 47 in the year 2000, I said to my husband-to-be, who knew I had diabetes but more in the figurative sense than actually seeing it close-up and on the ground, “If you want to rethink this, I won’t hold it against you. I don’t know what’s in store for my future and I would never want to be a burden to you.” 

He wrapped his arms around me, just as I’d hoped, and said, “You’re with me now and I’m with you and we will do this together.” 

And we have. He’s my partner in life and in my diabetes and at times in my work. He’s prouder of me than anyone has a right to be and I don’t know where I’d be without him. 

I’m reminded of that early moment in our history because in the current American Diabetes Association’s Forecast magazine, March 2011, the reflection column brought it all back. “A Life Together” expresses very much the same sentiments of a husband who married a woman with type 1 diabetes and took it on. And that was back in 1951. He’s now 80 and they’ve been married 57 years. She is blessedly complication-free, and yes she’s worked at it, and he says “our love is far stronger today than it was when we got married.”

Remember, when they got married meters didn’t exist, which came out in the early 1980’s, no insulin pumps, and a guaranteed uncertain future.

But here’s to love! I found myself tearing up reading the article and want to thank the author, Myron Schultz, for drawing such a beautifully woven and warm wrap around us all while baring his soul. May a thousand mitzvahs land on your doorstep Myron.

The fear of nighttime lows, including mine

2 yrs old heh heh hehMe at three years old

I serve as a communications advisor to Dex4, maker of glucose products, lending them my patient perspective and expertise. 

I’ve also done a number of writing/editing projects for their “situational lows:” web and print information on “managing weight and lows,” “exercise and hypoglycemia,” “safe driving and hypoglycemia,” and “school days and hypoglycemia.” They’re all under the Learning Center tab on their web site. Great information about correcting and preventing low blood sugar.

So how uncanny that just as I’m working on another situational about nighttime lows, the most dreaded of all, my mother just spent the last two days thinking I had suffered one. Luckily as of this morning she knows I’m not sprawled in my bed or on the floor unconscious.

This is what happened. Every time my mother called my landline she got a busy signal because the last time I used the phone I had used my earpiece and hadn’t properly hung it up. So she’s hearing the phone ringing and ringing when, for me, the phone isn’t ringing at all. 

Meanwhile my cell phone was in my coat pocket for two days because I had put it there when I walked my husband down to the car service to take him to the airport Tuesday night (just in case they didn’t show) and completely forgot to take it out of my pocket. So, even though my mother left three messages on my cell phone, my phone battery was dead. Only last night did I look for my cell phone, realize it needed to be charged and it spent the night on the charger.

When I pulled my cell phone off the charger this morning I saw I had three messages, two from my mother and one from a friend she had called in Florida to see if she knew where I was or if something had happened to me. 

I called my mother right away and her relief was palpable. I can only imagine her picturing that little girl up there in the photo in dire trouble. I’m not usually a ditz. Actually, never. But I have had a horrendous body (and obviously mind) numbing cold/flu where all I can do is walk myself from my bed to read and doze to the couch to watch some TV and doze to the kitchen to make some soup, to barely lifting my ipad to check my emails. Work has largely gone by the wayside so I didn’t even realize the phone hadn’t been ringing.

All to say, I’m really sorry mom and we really do have to teach you how to email! But I also want to use this as an opportunity to remind you that if you suffer from lows and are alone, it’s wise to have a plan so you can get help if you need it, and assure your loved ones if you don’t. 

My current plan is if my mother experiences the same again, she is to call my brother and have him email me. Yes, even in a stupor, I check email. If I really had had a devastating low, (which in 39 years I never have thankfully) I have glucose tablets several places in the house. I also know I should have a better plan. All I can say is I’m working on it.


NYC’s “Pouring on the Pounds” campaign is a scare tactic

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I just wrote on the Huffington Postabout the public service announcement NYC’s Health Department is running. It ends tomorrow. 

If you live in the city you’ve probably seen it on TV or in a subway poster. The city is trying to get New Yorkers to give up their sugary sodas and other sugar-laced drinks in an attempt to cut down on obesity and diabetes. 

You’ll see in my article, while I don’t fault their intent, I take issue with their tactics – fear. And fear unfortunately does not motivate behavior change.

As if eliminating sweetened drinks isn’t enough, a week ago we learned we’re not even safe drinking diet soda. Diet soda has now been linked to greater risk of stroke and other heart problems. 

People who drank diet soda daily were 48% more likely to have a vascular event during the nine years in which they were followed. Well maybe we have a short reprieve as the study lead, Hannah Gardener, said the findings are “too preliminary to suggest any dietary advice.”

Then, two days ago on the morning news I heard the caramel coloring in sodas (and other products) may cause cancer. Get the picture? We’re all drinking at our own risk, unless you’re guzzling water. 

Of course my credo is to stick to foods mostly recognizable in nature and, as Michael Pollan says, ones where you can pronounce the ingredients. 

Leave your vote on HuffPost as to what you think.

This Valentine’s Day raise your love quotient!

NewImage.pngGive Yourself a Hug 

Funny, today as I did yesterday just by coincidence, I’m going to redirect you to my friend Amy Tenderich’s blog, DiabetesMine, for a guest post she asked me to write. It’s called“Loving Yourself with Diabetes.” 

It’s a bit about me, and likely a few things you don’t know. There’s also  a tip for upping your self-love quotient. I think you’ll like it. 

While we can’t guarantee anyone else is going to shower us with a dozen long stemmed red roses, we can and should, make sure we shower ourselves with love – especially on Valentine’s Day!


The Ricordi Chamber stars on “Grey’s Anatomy”!

I thought it was way cool while zoning out last night in front of prime time’s soap, “Grey’s Anatomy” to hear the words the “Ricordi chamber.” 

There I was wondering would Meredith make Mr. Dreamy realize she’s not just his wife but a fine resident? Would Calli ever stop screaming about her pregnancy? Would Mark ever tell Lexie about the baby he’s fathering? Then while Dr. Bailey’s performing surgery that Lexie’s twittering about in the background – much to the consternation of the Chief – someone either in the operating room or via twitter says they need a “Ricordi chamber.” The Chief looks doubtful but a twitterer (I think, because now I’m leaping over to my computer to send a fast email about this) helps them realize the viability and that there’s one down the road at a nearby hospital.

The Ricordi chamber is the creation of Dr. Camillo Ricordi, Scientific Director at the cure-focused premiere Diabetes Research Institute. The Ricordi chamber extracts healthy beta (insulin-producing) cells from a damaged pancreas that can be used for islet infusion. 

I interviewed Dr. Ricordi a few months ago on the Huffington Post, where he spoke about the Ricordi chamber, and much to his dismay having it named after him.

Dr. Ricordi: One night they were discarding a pancreas at the university. I waited for everybody to leave the lab and did a secret experiment. I thought if it doesn’t work I won’t tell anyone. If it does I’ll tell my boss. It worked, and within a few weeks all the engineers at the lab switched to this new procedure I’d tried. It’s based on a chamber.

Riva: This is the Ricordi Chamber?

Dr. Ricordi: Yes, but it was not my idea to call it that. I had called it the Automated Method.

Riva: How did you come up with it?

Dr. Ricordi: Truly, I was inspired watching a log burning in a fireplace. I thought you could develop a process where the pancreas would sit inside a chamber and like the slow, continuous process of disassembling a log in a fireplace, we could disassemble a pancreas and liberate insulin-producing islet cells. At the time it was very tough to break down an organ and get the islets out. They used a very heavy mechanical device not unlike a kitchen grinder. So my idea was quite radical. People laughed, “Sure you want to put a whole organ into a chamber and have things coming out the other side!” But it worked.

My leap to my computer was to email Tom Karlya, Vice President at DRI, whom I’d recently lunched with, and Lori Weintraub, VP of Marketing and Communications. Tom emailed right back, “Cool, huh?” Lori wrote back, “Thanks Riva!”

Yes, it’s ever so cool seeing a conversation about our lives coming out of the mouths of Dr. Bailey and her team over at Seattle Grace Hospital.

“Eat less!” says the government


It makes you wonder why it’s taken the government so long to say the obvious to a nation of people two-thirds of whom are obese, “Eat less!” Finally they’ve said it in their latest nutrition guidelines that came out on Monday.

Along with those blunt words come equally blunt words naming names – drink “water” instead of “soda.” Oh, my.

Of course I wonder what finally got the government to get with the program given the entrenched powerful food lobbyists in Washington who cannot be pleased. Not when the government says eat more nutritionally dense foods.

As for general dietary recommendations regarding what to eat, those haven’t changed: eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and less salt and saturated fat. 

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest remarks how much more valuable these guidelines are than the “big vague messages” of, well, …hmmm…only last year. She cites before these new guidelines just issued that the message was to eat more vegetables which could have meant adding a slice of tomato to your hamburger. Now the recommendation is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Of course I know a lot of diabetes educators and dietitians who’ve been saying that for years. It’s called the “Plate Method” and is an easy way to create a healthy meal.

Many food manufacturers have recently begun reconfiguring their recipes to cut down on added sodium. Will restaurants now cut down on portions? When I eat out, I typically share an appetizer and take half my dinner home. 

As obvious as the government’s recommendation is, equally obvious, at least to me, is it will not be easy to do this unless everything around us supports eating less. For instance, government farm policies need to be overhauled to provide incentives for farmers to plant more fruits and vegetables. Prices for them need to drop and access to them needs to rise. School cafeteria food needs to change, airport kiosks need to have healthier options etcetera, etcetera.

But I’m pleased. After decades of the government, like in the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, saying what beautiful clothes the naked Emperor is wearing, federal regulators have finally put on their glasses and declared,  “hmmm…you look a little naked there Emperor.” 

You can read more in, “Government’s Dietary Advice: Eat Less,” in the NY Times.