Need help navigating life with diabetes? You can always Ask D’Mine!

Welcome back to our weekly Q&A column, hosted by veteran type 1 and diabetes author Wil Dubois. This week, Wil has a Special Edition addressing the big Fall feast day that’s almost upon us, and the huge diabetes challenges it brings.

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Many PWDs (people with diabetes) have a hard time being thankful about much of anything when it comes to their diabetes. I get that. Diabetes is hard work. Diabetes is expensive. Diabetes is frustrating. Diabetes is scary. But compared to times past, we have much to be thankful for as people with diabetes.

For perspective, consider that just 100 years ago, simply eating Thanksgiving dinner would’ve killed you. Seventy-five years ago, while the family was carving the turkey, you would’ve been sharpening your one needle on a kitchen whetstone while your one glass syringe boiled in a pot of water on the stove. Fifty years ago, the food placed in front of you at the Thanksgiving table would’ve looked quite different from what the rest of the family was eating because you would’ve been on a strict “diabetic diet.” Twenty-five years ago, you would’ve had to excuse yourself from the T-day table to go pee on a strip to find out what your blood sugar was hours before, so you could figure out how much insulin to take.

Today, well… this coming Thursday, all you’ll have to do is pull up your chair, count your carbs, press a few buttons on your pump or whip out your insulin pen for a quick shot, and you’ll be free to enjoy the company of friends and family.

Thank goodness for modern diabetes care.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying anyone should be thankful for having diabetes, although it does have its dark blessings—such as a razor-sharp focus on healthy eating that makes many of us actually healthier than sugar-normals, a powerful sense of community, an awareness of mortality, and the superior ability to divide by 15. But overall, we have much to be thankful for when it comes to changes in the diabetes ecosystem in which we live. The changes in medicine, technology, treatment, and even in how society treats us and views us.

Beyond just being thankful for this overall historic trend of diabetes care, meds, tech, and social acceptance, I have a short list of recent changes in the diabetes universe that I am thankful for:

  • Medicare covering CGM. I can vividly recall the stress of some of my peers just a few short years ago as they approached Medicare age. They each used a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), counted on it, and had it covered by their commercial health insurance. But they were about to lose coverage because, for many years, Medicare refused to even consider covering these life-saving and care-improving devices.
  • Better CGM. Speaking of CGM, my first one had sensors that could only be worn for three days, and had to be kept refrigerated. And don’t even get me started on the accuracy. Now my 10-day-wear sensors sit happily on a shelf in my closet and they’re accurate enough to make treatment decisions with. We’ve come a long way, baby. Oh, and I’m also thankful for Abbott’s Libre Flash CGM for my type 2 cousins.
  • Connected insulin pumps. I don’t personally use one, but the first couple of these pump-CGM combo devices to hit the market are pretty impressive. Can you imagine what they will be like in a decade?
  • New Insulin. Granted, most of us can’t afford some of the latest joy juices—and can barely afford the older ones, for that matter—but I’m glad research and development continues. It wasn’t that long ago that our life-sustaining compound was produced by grinding up discarded animal organs from slaughterhouse floors.
  • The Affordable Care Act. I’m thankful for the health insurance we have at the moment, as screwed up and cruel and expensive as it is, because I can remember worse times (and I fear that we might be headed down that black road again).

And it’s not all tech, meds, and law. Eight years ago, when this Ask D’Mine column was brand-spanking new, I answered a question from a young type 1 wondering what her career options as a PWD were. Needless to say, I couldn’t tell her—as we tell sugar-normal children—you can grow up to be anything you want to be. I had to say, ‘Well you can be anything you want to be except a cop, fireman, pilot, truck driver, soldier, scuba diver, blah blah, blah…” That was then. Just a few short weeks ago I had a similar question. The list was down to just one thing: No soldiering. And I wonder how much longer it will be before that last door opens to PWDs as well. I’m thankful for this universe of possibilities for all PWDs.

Of course, I’m also thankful that I’m a PWD at a time when all the things I’m thankful for keep me healthy enough to be thankful for the bigger things in life: Family, friends, beautiful sunrises, and holidays that focus our thoughts on what we have to be thankful for.

That’s my short list of things to be thankful for, when it comes to diabetes. What’s yours?

Oh, right. I almost forgot. There’s one last thing that I’m thankful for: the fact that it’s possible to handle Thanksgiving in a low-carb and blood sugar-friendly way. Focus on heaps of turkey for the protein. Then try keto cornbread stuffing, pan juice gravy, mashed cauliflower with as much butter as you like, green beans with slivered almonds, cream cheese-filled celery sticks, and homemade sugar-free cranberry sauce. Yum!

And for dessert? Why not try a low-carb pumpkin pie martini this year?

You can thank me later.

Wil Dubois lives with type 1 diabetes and is the author of five books on the illness, including “Taming The Tiger” and “Beyond Fingersticks.” He spent many years helping treat patients at a rural medical center in New Mexico. An aviation enthusiast, Wil lives in Las Vegas, NM, with his wife and son, and one too many cats.

This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. Bottom Line: You still need the guidance and care of a licensed medical professional.