“How I realized that even the sky is not the limit with Type 1 diabetes”

Kristina Loskarjova (above) sent me an email about her book, Yes, You Can! In it she shares a multitude of stories and strategies from people she interviewed around the world who are living well with type 1 diabetes. Below is a peek into her personal story.

Kristina Loskarjova: “I still remember my 20-year-old self standing on stage and thinking, ‘Is this really what I am destined for?’

I was pitching my start‐up to a jury in a competition in London, and I was experiencing a severe hypo. Back then, while still a student, I was devoting all my efforts to building a start‐up called E77. I was extremely proud of it and had invested all my work and free time into making it a success. I had experienced the side effects of low blood sugar in pressured situations before – in golf and dance competitions, while doing my daily exercise, in school during exams – but it had never occurred to me that it would happen during a truly significant event in my life.

When I finished my presentation, I patiently listened to the feedback I was given, then managed to elegantly (I would like to believe) walk out of the room and rush to my hypo kit. My caring friends kept asking, ‘How did it go?!’ But all I could focus on was getting my blood glucose level up in time. In the end, of course, I didn’t win the competition – but by that point my prize was a steady and safe blood sugar level. 

This was the first time in my life I had truly felt beaten by diabetes. It was the first time I realized that diabetes is not just a convenient excuse that I can childishly use every time I make a mistake on an exam or play a bad golf shot. It could also become an obstacle between myself and my dream life, preventing me from doing things that truly matter to me. 

Nevertheless, I refused to accept that this was the only way it could be, so I devoted time to exploring ways to work with, and not against, my diabetes. I know that I learn best from good examples, so I embarked on a mission to find out how other Type 1 diabetics tackle their blood sugar while performing and excelling in their daily life.

As someone who comes from Hungary, where diabetes is barely discussed, I discovered the inspiring online diabetes community only when I started searching for advice. And I was wowed! Actors, singers, TV presenters, professional sportspeople and those who have no fame– so many role models, so many individuals who could tell me how they managed to handle diabetes while pursuing their goals. And I reached out to them, trying my luck and not quite believing that they would respond to requests from an unknown person like myself. 

But guess what… they did! And their advice was full of stories and life events that reassured me: if they can, I can!

The more individuals got back to me, the more I realized that every story was unique in content yet similar in advice. I immediately started to apply the best practices to my own life. Some of them worked immediately while others took time to master. However, overall, I now find it much easier to give presentations as I know the dos and don’ts that the ‘best of the best’ apply.

Today, every time I’m about to step onto the stage to present, I find a silent space, remember the strong individuals who shared their advice with me and tell myself loudly, ‘Yes, you can!’ I then confidently head onto the stage knowing that I will not find myself in a hypo during this significant moment in my life. 

The more I applied the best practices to my own life, the more confident I became. With time, my diabetes and I became great friends. Today I know – I can! And, in fact, I know that everyone can! 

I wanted to share the advice I had received from professionals, knowing that I couldn’t keep it to myself. I wanted to share it with the wider Type 1 diabetes community. So I classified all the best practices into life events (e.g. careers, activities, nights out, interactions with friends) and turned them into a book called Yes, You Can! This book contains interviews with people from various professions across Australia, Brazil, several European countries (including the UK), Russia and the USA. Among them are champion sportspeople, astronauts, celebrities, actors and everyday individuals who all live happy lives and teach us that even the sky is not the limit with Type 1 diabetes!

The lesson I have learned from this experience is that if you ever doubt yourself – whether due to diabetes or something else – sometimes all it takes to believe in yourself and achieve the life you want is to explore the wider community, find your role models, get inspired and, most importantly, keep on believing that ‘Yes, you can!’”

Note: You can purchase Yes, you can! on Amazon. If you wish to find out more about the book, you can follow @yesyoucan_t1d on Instagram or send an email to Kristina@loskarjova.com.

My note: When Kristina began writing her book at the age of 18, she wanted to inspire those newly diagnosed with T1D to feel anything in life is possible. We also agree that all our situations are unique, so never feel you are a failure if/when your road becomes bumpy. We hope you find ways to achieve your personal best whatever that is, and we know too, in time and often with hindsight, we discover the bumps were exactly what helped us find our way forward.

The TCOYD boys are back Saturday with their enormously fun diabetes show & tell

Yes, endocrinologists Stephen Edelman and his sidekick Jeremy Pittus, bring another virtual day of diabetes education that is as entertaining as it is educational. In all, life-enhancing. It seems these boys are running their educational events about once a month. Very much a silver lining during our pandemic hiatus.

I’ve already learned from these two how to dose if you want to eat three donuts (sort of) and how alcohol affects blood sugar. And both lessons had me howling. Yes, yes, there’s the regular stuff too, but TCOYDs conferences are the only place you’ll actually have fun learning how to deal with your diabetes.

Get all the details and register here. Then join me, I’ll be tuning in too.

A loving note to all our type 3s

When I got my Dexcom CGM, the idea of sharing my numbers wasn’t difficult. I like the idea of someone else looking out for me. But he knew it was an adjustment. So the first time he saw on his watch that I was low, he quickly said, “Your blood sugar’s 63!” Then he paused and added, “Does it bother you that I tell you that?” I paused and said, “Not yet!” We laughed, and frankly no it’s never bothered me, whether he catches it before me, or not.

I took this photo just now while we were chatting. If you look closely you’ll notice a small bright blue something with white letters on it in his pocket. I took this photo because I realized that little something is a plastic container that holds four glucose tablets.

Several years ago, the husband decided whenever we went out that he would carry that container of glucose tablets. He told me, “I know there’s not much I can do to help you, but this is one thing I can do.” When I took this photo I realized that he carries that container around in our small one bedroom apartment too.

Thank you husband. And thank you all our type 3s (loved ones) out there who love and support us. There isn’t a type 3 day that I know of but maybe there should be. Those of us who have them know how lucky we are.

CGM supplied for virtual clinical trial aimed at improving time in range

I read this in diaTribe this morning so wanted to share. A clinical trial, that will be done remotely, is recruiting 300 people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and supplying them with continuous glucose monitors (CGM) for free.

The trial will last six months. Its aim is to see whether using a CGM, with personal support, helps people stay in target range more of the time.

I can, and do when asked, say a CGM is life-changing; its the most critical offering in devices since syringes.

Think about it, a glucometer tells you your blood sugar when you check; for most people a few times a day or week. A CGM tells you your blood sugar every 5 minutes, 24/7, and whether it’s stable, going up or down and how quickly. Being able to take action based on this data, already has shown to help many people with diabetes have better management.

The trial is taking place in several states and you must be 18 or older. For other conditions and more information I direct you to the article, “Can A Virtual Diabetes Clinic Improve Time in Range?”

Those with type 1 diabetes in U.S. now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has finally recognized the elevated risk of COVID-19 to people with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

This recognition now officially moves people with T1D into the 1c priority group, nationally.

The JDRF deserves credit in being part of this victory. Organizational leaders, representing JDRF research and advocacy, engaged extensively with the CDC, sharing the growing body of scientific evidence that adults with T1D are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, similar to adults with type 2 diabetes (T2D).

I contributed an article myself on this on a study held in the U.K. that found people with T1D, if hospitalized, were even more at risk of death than people with T2D.

This new prioritized access to vaccines will save lives and reduce the risks of additional COVID-19 complications for those of us with T1D. No matter what state you live in, it’s my understanding that you are now eligible for a vaccine regardless of your age. Hallelujah, and thanks to everyone who fought to make this happen!

Almost 50 years with type 1 diabetes. What’s next?

Next February will be my 50 year anniversary with T1D. Certainly I am proud of having made it this far. Proud of all the hard work I’ve done. But this is not a rah-rah, ain’t it great post. Because I am a bit fearful when I think of what may befall me as I live more and more years with this condition.

Right now I’ve got a sprained thumb. A connective tissue issue. Makes typing an odious task I can tell you. Since my diagnosis I am prone to getting cramps in my calves, especially at night, I have had numerous sprained ankles and I have already had two frozen shoulders. One was worked out over three months by a chiropractor using heat and manipulation. The other required surgery. And my surgeon, who perfected the technique, told me I may get more on a timeline of 15 years apart. Thankfully, more than 15 years have passed since my last episode, but never say never.

But the truth is a truth we rarely speak about, hear or read about. Living with type 1 diabetes a long time, even with well-managed blood sugar, makes you prone to various conditions involving your body’s tissues, nerves, bones etc. Many people will have eye issues like retinopathy, others neuropathy, others trigger fingers.

This paper, The Musculoskeletal Effects of Diabetes Mellitus is 15 years old, but I just read it today. I can’t say whether any of the information in here no longer applies, or if we have better treatments than we did 15 years ago. But I can say, I think it’s worth a read. Even though I’m feeling a little sorry for myself at the moment, it helps just a bit to know if you run into an issue, you know it’s not your fault, it’s not necessarily that you didn’t work hard enough at this, and you know you’re not alone.

WHO’s new Global Diabetes Compact includes people with diabetes

Last week I was honored to be part of a 3 day conference run by the World Health Organization. The aim of the three days was to glean from almost 100 people living with diabetes-participants how to, through our expertise and partnership, form, structure, govern and implement this new Compact. The mission of the Compact is to bring diabetes treatment to all who need it around the world. That includes: Prevention (focusing on the reduction of obesity in young people); Improved access to medicine and technology; Set global targets for diabetes to improve monitoring/accountability of progress.

If it seemed a bit obscure above, people living with diabetes will be actively involved in the development and implementation of the Compact. Our conference was abuzz with its participants’ expertise and it was especially lovely to be locked up in a room (okay zoom room) with some of the best and brightest diabetes activists and advocates whom I sorely miss.

The Global Diabetes Compact will be launched on April 14th in honor of this 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. That miracle, by the way, was performed by medical scientist Frederick Banting. So that no one would have to go without insulin, Banting then sold insulin’s patient to the University of Toronto for a mere $1.00. Well, we know how that worked out.

At its launch next month, WHO will bring together leaders in government, business and society to make commitments to people living with diabetes having access to affordable health services, medicine, treatment and also to deliver on the political commitments they made at the 2018 and 2019 United Nations General Assembly on Non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

After its launch the Compact will be focused on accomplishments it hopes to share at the second high-level meeting at the United Nations on Universal Health Coverage in 2023, and the fourth high-level meeting on NCDs in 2025. The number of people around the world who are expected to have diabetes in 2030, only nine years from now, is 366 million. That’s more than twice as many as today, 171 million.

A teen’s desire to “fit in” turned into a company mission

Above one of the many carry bags from Sugar Medical Diabetes Accessories. This post was written by Carolyn Jäger, President of the company, whose fun, fashionable bags and accessories make living with diabetes a little easier – and a lot more organized.

Carolyn: “While I got type 1 diabetes at 13, it was when a friend was having a pancreas transplant, that I turned my once childhood insecurities into a company. 

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age 13, but I had been living in a household with T1D since I was eight, when my sister was diagnosed. My family was familiar with all the needles (and tears) and glucose monitors, which only made the news of my diagnosis more devastating. I knew enough to be scared and upset that I too would now have to give myself shots for the rest of my life. 

Particularly, I hated carrying all my diabetes supplies in “that black medical bag” that comes with every glucometer. It made me stand out but NOT in the way a 13-year-old wants. I carried that bag with me every day, and everywhere – going to the nurse’s office to check my blood sugar, to sports practice, to a friends’ house – and I kept it hidden. It seriously clashed with my 13-year-old fashionista style! (Well, at least I thought I had style back then.) More than anything, I wanted to fit in. Forget it! I began to resent having type 1 diabetes.  

Sensing my insecurity, my mother handmade a special bag for my supplies. It was stylish; it had pink fabric and green turtle patches sewn on it. The bag not only suited my presumed sassy style, but it made my life easier. The bag grew my confidence, I even grew comfortable enough to check my blood sugar in front of other people. My mother’s gift also started something I would continue: through the years I sewed my own fun diabetes supply bags for myself.

Then, after I had my first son, a close family friend who had serious complications from diabetes had a pancreas transplant. It rattled and changed me. I became over diligent about testing and tried to prevent myself from ever having a high blood sugar. I constantly corrected my insulin pump in fear of what complications could someday come my way. 

I knew how important good glucose was in controlling diabetes and in preventing complications, and I fiercely wanted to encourage others to check their blood sugar more often. I never wanted to see anyone else suffer as my friend had. 

When I shared my desire with my doctor, he explained that many people put themselves at risk because they don’t carry their supplies with them. They feel it’s “too hard to carry everything” or they’re embarrassed by the “medical” looking bag. I realized I wasn’t the only person with diabetes who felt self-conscious about carrying “that black nylon bag!” So I couldn’t be the only person who wanted something better than what was offered free with every glucose meter. 

That’s when it dawned on me that I could help others take better care of themselves. I could encourage them to have their supplies close at hand by doing what I did growing up: create a line of bags that look the opposite of “medical” bags, that are fun, stylish and functional. And that’s how Sugar Medical began. Having had a career in retail, and as a buyer for a department store, it turned out I had good training to launch this company, in addition to my childhood bag making career.

Today, 32 years after my diagnosis, I am much more confident about living with type 1 diabetes.  I grew to understand that I do not need to hide my illness from others: it is a part of me. I wear my pump proudly on my hip and I have no problem checking my blood sugar in front of people. 

I wish I had been this confident as a teenager, but if I had, Sugar Medical probably never would have happened, and I’m glad it did. I, and all who work with me, want to make life a little easier for those of us who live with type 1 diabetes. I won’t be embarrassed to say, take a look at our bags and see if one doesn’t seem perfect for you. It just may be your inspiration to take your management to the next level.”

Carolyn Jäger, President

Our Mission

Sugar Medical encourages more frequent blood glucose checking with diabetes supply bags you will not feel embarrassed to carry – or show off! Sugar Medical gives back to the diabetes community donating yearly to the JDRF, Beyond Type 1 and the College Diabetes Network. We also participate in the walks and events hosted by the JDRF and ADA and support our own community in Midlothian, VA: last year we donated $1.5K to Chesterfield County Food Bank and plan to continue to support this charity. 

The syringe that missed the mark (and quality check)

Judging from the left side of this syringe, I’d get 1 unit of insulin. Judging from the right, more like 2 units. Yes, somehow the stopper was misshapen.

You can imagine my surprise, so here’s a word to the wise: when preparing your shot don’t multi-task. Keep your eye on what you’re doing, well both eyes, and you may avoid an unpleasant mistake.

Cartoon by the enormously gifted Haidee Soule Merritt