Deliberation, Decision, Determination

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Boats at sunset copy (1)(Note: Rachel Hemond, an 18-year-old from Acton, MA with Type 1 diabetes, spent five months in the Vermont wilderness, managing her blood sugar using the OmniPod System and with the support from a network of doctors, family, and friends. This is the third of a 10-part series of blogs Rachel wrote about her experiences.)

The second summer of my apprenticeship at the Kroka outdoor education program wound to a close and I returned to the everyday life of a high school senior: applying to colleges, looking for scholarships, balancing mountains of schoolwork with spending time with friends.

But I couldn’t seem to settle back into my life fully. Surrounded by good friends, challenging classes and good stable blood sugars thanks to the OmniPod System, I had grown comfortable. This very sense of ease left me, well, uneasy – and unwilling to resign my senior year to dullness.

In October, a close friend of mine mentioned that he had signed up for Kroka’s Vermont semester. Jokingly, I suggested that I do the program as well to keep an eye on him. We both laughed it off, and I returned to tests and homework and long nights in the library.

But the idea of a semester in Vermont with Kroka stuck in my mind. I’d drift off in the middle of physics class, imagining skiing down a craggy mountain and feeling the formula for acceleration rather than solving endless equations. In calculus I doodled hillsides covered in sketched-out spruce trees. Even in English, one of my favorite subjects, I would lose track of a lecture on Siddhartha because it reminded me of a discussion I’d had over the summer at Kroka.

So only a few weeks after the seed was planted into my mind, I knew I had to try to make the Vermont Semester possible. I set up a meeting with my guidance counselor, laid out a plan, and hoped for the best.

I was told no. No way could I get out of classes after only half a year and still graduate, no way could I skip the AP exams to go whitewater canoeing, no way could I be out in the wilderness when I should be deciding on colleges. No. Absolutely not.

Before getting rejected, I had treated the idea of semester as abstract, a sort of diversion from my more mundane concerns. But being shut down made me realize that Semester was more to me than skiing and heart-stopping, breath-stealing adventures; it represented a freedom that I had tasted in my summers with Kroka. It is the freedom of living simply but well, away from the constant background buzz of media and the superficial concerns that high school often includes. Being told ‘no’ only made the truth clearer to me: I needed this semester, needed fresh air and clean snow and the bite of winter to bring me back to life

But how to move forward? Well, in my case, it was a combination of determination, pig-headed stubbornness, and the hard work of an incredible group of people.

My counselor, seeing how important the winter semester was for me, rallied and convinced the higher-ups to hear me out, accept Kroka’s credits, and let me graduate. I talked to each of my teachers and received responses ranging from questions of my sanity to desire to join me, but all were enthusiastic.

School squared away at last, I filled out my paperwork and began the somewhat insane task of packing out everything that I would need for five months away from civilization.

(Next: Preparations and packing. How to keep insulin from freezing? Packing, preparing, and planning: Freezing insulin, resupply boxes, and Sharpie galore)


Confidence: The Courage of Starting Down the Road Less Traveled

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(Note: Rachel Hemond, an 18-year-old from Acton, MA with Type 1 diabetes, spent five months in the Vermont wilderness, managing her blood sugar using the OmniPod System and with the support from a network of doctors, family, and friends. This is the second of a 10-part series of blogs Rachel wrote about her experiences.)

Since doing a Kroka summer program just after my diagnosis with diabetes, the idea of a Semester-long program with Kroka lodged itself in my mind. After completing the two-week summer program and thriving despite my diabetes, the adventure of a five-month winter expedition seemed daunting yet also appealed to my thirst for challenge.

There was just one problem. In my mind, there was no way that I could ever get out of high school for an entire semester. I had my sights set high, filling my schedule with honors classes and AP exams and a good college so that I could one day pursue a career as a doctor. How could I possibly justify abandoning school for five months to go live in the woods? Moreover, how could I convince my school to let me? But worse than all those logistical questions was that, in the back of my mind, there was a voice whispering that being a Type 1 diabetic in extreme winter conditions would make such an adventure impossible.

For a long time I listened to those doubts and never seriously considered the semester program. Instead I simply returned to Kroka for one more year as a student, this time using the OmniPod System, which made a significant difference in my performance. My teachers, some of whom had seen my entire transition to diabetic life, noticed.

I didn’t go low in the middle of our long hikes because I created a basal program tailored to my activity. If I knew we were in for an especially intense day, I could set a temp basal, ensuring that I would run a little above my 100-120 target for a few hours. No more calculators and Post-it notes to lose and leave littered in every camp, since everything I needed was contained within my PDM device (or Personal Diabetes Manager.)

I didn’t have to rattle around with a sharps container for my discarded needles. This might seem like a small detail – nothing as important as keeping my blood sugars in control – but there is something so disheartening about feeling like a walking biohazard and expecting guys with hazmat suits to drop in on you every time you forget to close it properly. I was free, free to experience the trip without fear or nagging in the back of my mind.

The next two summers found me working as an apprentice at Kroka – a sort of teacher in training. This exposed me to something I’d never expected: questions about diabetes from my students.

For me, testing my blood sugars and changing my pod site and using my PDM were second nature. To them, it seemed foreign, confusing, and a little frightening. I found myself bombarded with questions, especially from the younger students: What are you doing? What’s wrong with you? Why? How does it work? And of course, the innocent yet always somewhat uncomfortable, if you’re diabetic, why aren’t you fat? Or, did you just eat too much sugar when you were little?

Somehow I’d forgotten that when I was diagnosed, I had the exact same misconceptions about Type 1 diabetes, the same biases and judgements. So instead of being upset, I took the opportunity to show my students what being diabetic really means, so that when they returned to their lives they could teach others what they learned.

I decided to just be open about being diabetic, as I was at home and with my friends. I never hid myself away while testing my blood sugars or counting carbs. I had my kit (my lancet, test strips, and PDM) out on my lap during mealtimes. Since we sit in a circle, this meant everyone could see what I was doing. I made it as casual as I could; nah, testing my blood sugar doesn’t hurt. Yeah, 180 is a little high but look, this is what I do to fix it, this is what I do when I eat and yes, I can eat that.

The dialogue varied among age groups. My 11-13 year olds were more immediate with their questions while the older students, 13-15 or 15-18, would watch me for a while before deciding that I wouldn’t be offended by whatever they asked. I was rewarded by their curiosity, the casual way that they’d ask how my blood sugars were that day, and how they explained me and my insulin pump to their parents at the end of the trip.

In hindsight, these informal lectures gave me confidence to talk freely about my diabetes so that I could feel comfortable sharing my experience. That comfort would become more and more important over the coming months as I set my sights on the five-month semester program in the winter woods of Vermont.

(Next: Rachel makes her decision about the winter semester and scrambles to figure out how to make it happen.)


Married with Type 1 Diabetes

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Getting married is a big deal to everyone. But getting married, balancing life as a married couple, and living with type 1 diabetes is even more difficult. We argue about things most newly married couples don’t even have to think about, let alone have to worry about.

I have been a type 1 diabetic since I was 9 years old. I claim to know how to control my blood sugar levels. My husband understands the frustrations I go through on a daily basis. Because he is fortunate enough to live without this disease, it is hard for him to completely comprehend what makes my blood sugars spike and drop so rapidly and so unpredictable.

My husband has always been very supportive in helping to manage my diabetes. When we first started dating, and before I got a CGM, I scared him half to death when I didn’t wake up one morning because of low blood sugar. He had to rush home from work, give me some juice and wait for my sugars to go back up. Ever since then, he has woken me up every morning before leaving for work to make sure I check my blood sugar level in front of him. We also mutually decided that it made sense to set an alarm at 3:00am to check my blood sugar. This way, we could both avoid further frustrations that type 1 diabetes has to offer.

Recently we got into an argument because of my OmniPod meter vibrating. I have an alert set to check my blood sugar for dinner at 6:30pm. By that point, I had already checked my blood sugar, bolused and we had already ate. My meter was tucked away in my purse, and I was in the other room completely oblivious to the vibrating noise. He kept hearing it. He was annoyed, and I told him to just turn it off. He refused.

He didn’t think its ‘right’ to go into a woman’s purse. I told him he had my permission to do so, and being that I am now his wife, he shouldn’t feel that way. Yet he still refused and continued to complain for me to turn it off. Annoyed and irritated, I dropped everything else I was working on and turned off the alert.

Since we are newlyweds, a lot of people surrounding us have asked when we are going to start a family. Neither of us is ready for the full time commitment of a baby right now, but we also know it is going to take a lot extra planning before we can even start trying. I have been trying to get my a1c number down significantly so I can get the green light from my endocrinologist and OBGYN. I have read up on what it takes to plan accordingly. With that being said, I have been testing my blood sugars more often and set the high & low limits on my CGM in tighter control. We have worked together to start eating better and more balanced food. We have worked together to get better blood sugar levels, and he has been on my butt even more about giving myself more insulin to avoid a high blood sugar.

In the last 3 months, my a1c has come down .6% (from a 7.4 to a 6.8). We both know it needs to be even lower before I can even think about stopping my birth control. For now, I am working on getting tighter control of my daily blood sugar levels, while he has become a great assistant in managing them. Without him yelling at me to “turn off my CGM” or to “check my blood sugar,” my blood sugars would still be as bad as they were when I was in college! Being newlyweds while trying to keep a much tighter control of my diabetes has been a positive learning curve for the both of us.


Learning to Accept Diabetes

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Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” –Michael J. Fox

Hello. Just to give you a quick background my name is Nicole Gabriela Scola and I am 19 years old. I am from Rhode Island (fun fact: it is the smallest state and has the longest name). I am currently a sophomore at Quinnipiac University where I play Division 1 Women’s golf and am pursuing a Finance degree in the School of Businesses 3+1 MBA program. Some of my favorite hobbies are golf, swimming, hiking, anything adventurous, goofy or fun, and hanging out with friends. Oh and I have type 1 diabetes.

This blog entry has been, I guess, six years in the making, which is about the same amount of time that I have had diabetes. Honestly I delayed writing because I still haven’t figured out how diabetes works in my life, it just appeared one day and I’ve been finding ways to deal with it ever since.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu

I was diagnosed during a golf tournament when I was 13 years old. I remember sitting with my babysitter at the doctor’s office when my doctor came out and told me that the tests showed I have diabetes. The first year with diabetes was the worst I have experienced. I withdrew from friends, family, and activities that I enjoyed. I began to feel like an outcast and was labeled as the “sick kid” in school because of my daily trips to the nurse’s office. I began to resent diabetes, and constantly asked myself “Why me?”

Instead of asking the question why me, ask yourself instead why NOT me?” – Dad

When I got my first AIC tested and it came back at a 13 my doctor decided it was time for me to get my priorities in check. She scared me so much that I began checking my blood sugars 6-8 times a day, made anyone I came in contact with aware that I had this disease, and began living my life again.

Beginning high school was nerve wracking because it was the first time I was going to such a big school, with kids that could potentially bully me about my disease. I was pleasantly surprised with the amazing group of friends, faculty members, and nursing staff that surrounded me. Everyone was really accepting and treated me like a normal kid.

Going into the spring I decided to join the men’s golf team. I made it through try-outs and started playing as the number one spot on the team, from the boy’s tees. Boy did some of those guys get jealous! Again I worried about dealing with lows, or ketones, or insulin failure while being on the course. Again I was amazed with the community of people who surrounded and supported me. I created a routine of checking my blood sugar on course, always had tons of snacks (which made me popular with my playing partners), and drank plenty of water. I had not only a great experience on the golf team, but I played varsity all four years, was made captain by my sophomore year, and won girls states four years in a row. With a diligent work ethic to constantly make my health a priority, as well as alerting my parents or coaches if I needed anything, I was very easily able to adjust to the demands of high school.

One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole is, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity”- Nick Saban

Going off to college to play a Division 1 sport also faced its own challenges. A new environment, being away from home and parents, with different living and working schedules all posed their own unique challenges. And honestly freshman year I struggled to keep it all together. As I began playing for the team my game was probably the best it has ever been. I broke school records and was named the conference rookie of the year. At the same time I also had gained twenty pounds, was struggling to keep up with the nineteen credits I was taking, and wasn’t taking care of my diabetes. I constantly felt that wherever I succeeded in my life, there was another part of my life struggling to stay afloat.

I began seeing a therapist to help cope with all of the demands I was under. Working with her has changed my outlook on the obstacles that have formed in my life, and what outlook I should have on them. This year as a sophomore I have learned from my mistakes as a freshman. Shockingly, we cannot do it all! It is not possible to be superhuman! Some of the best advice I was given is that it is not necessary to be better than everyone else, but it is important to be YOUR best. This summer I dropped the weight I had gained. I now have all A’s. My golf game is going well, but will always be a work in progress-just like me! Importantly, my diabetes is back under control. It is amazing when I began to redirect my focus on the things that matter (health, happiness and school) how much better I felt.

Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one’s journey is easy. It’s how they handle it that makes people unique”- Kevin Conroy


Fashion Week with Diabetes

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Attending New York Fashion Week is a completely crazy experience by itself. Add diabetes into the mix, and things get just a little more complicated. But just like managing diabetes in any situation, I had to find a way to work around any potential obstacles while covering several shows for my fashion blog, The Aisle of Style.  The more things you experience with diabetes, the more knowledge you gain to help with future endeavors. My big concerns for this new adventure included when I would be eating, bringing food into venues that didn’t allow it, and of course, storing all my medical supplies in a fashionable bag!

Katie at Fashion Week_Small

A lot of venues don’t allow “outside food and drinks,” which as a diabetic, just isn’t reasonable.  I have found through past experiences that having a note from your doctor is very helpful in this situation.  If there is any hesitation at the door about whether or not you can bring in orange juice or snacks, just ask to speak to a manager. They are usually pretty good about it, and sometimes they have an employee who is a diabetic, so they get it. Honestly, there were no issues at Fashion Week and it was all smooth sailing, thankfully!

Another funny, but important concern to me was fashion and what I would be wearing. Fashion is obviously a huge part of the seven-day event, and I didn’t want to compromise that because I had a bag stuffed full of diabetes supplies and an insulin pump under my clothing.  Thankfully with the OmniPod’s small size, it was not even detectable underneath my sweater and coat, or any of the outfits that I wore inside the venues.

When it came to all of my testing supplies, emergency shots, and orange juice, I specifically picked out a cute and appropriate-sized bag for all of my stuff. I was carrying around a lot of things like passes, a notebook, and business cards, so my bag was fuller and more crowded than usual. I made sure everything I had was organized in my bag before going to each show, so I had a mental note of where my orange juice was located, along with anything else that I might need to find in a hurry.

Speaking of having to do things quickly, another advantage of the OmniPod was that I could test my blood sugar and give myself a bolus with just one device.  I didn’t have to dig a meter out of my bag to test, and then find a syringe to fill and inject my insulin. That would have been much too cumbersome and time-consuming for me.

I have to say that Fashion Week was not only a great experience, but it was an experience that went almost flawlessly, with no major “diabetes issues.” I really believe that you learn different things from every experience you have with diabetes, and my past trips had helped this one go smoothly. This time around I learned to keep higher carb snacks and more orange juice with me, because my blood sugar went low a few times due to all the running around.  Next time I will also cut my insulin ratio to prevent any unwanted lows. When it comes to supplies, I will carry a plastic bag with me to temporarily store test strips, trash, etc. so I can find things in my bag much quicker without granola bar wrappers getting in my way!




True North: Navigating the Diabetes Path

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Note: For a newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic, learning to manage the disease is a seemingly endless loop of needles, measurements and dietary adjustments. Unwilling to mold her life around her diabetes, Rachel Hemond, now an 18-year-old Acton, MA resident, forged ahead with her dream to spend five months in the Vermont wilderness. Using the OmniPod System, and with the support from a network of doctors, family, and friends, she was able to manage her diabetes despite record low temperatures and a serious dislike of downhill skiing. But even more than that, she was able to strike a balance between accommodating rogue blood sugars and living an adventurous, fast-paced life. This is the first of a 10-part series of blogs Rachel wrote about her experiences with the Kroka Expedition Program. 

Sitting on a bench overlooking the Kroka Expeditions School campus, I tried to focus on the light filtering through the crabapple branches above me, the students moving through the fields, and the feeling of shaded grass against my bare soles. But none of that could untie the knot that had been growing in my stomach over the past few hours.

It was June 2011. Just a little more than a month earlier, I had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 14. And ever since then, a terrifying question occupied my mind: can I continue with everything I loved to do, from lacrosse to theatre, if I was always preoccupied with carbs and calculations, shots and sugars? I thought I would have to give up, that my life as I’d known it was over.

But, in the midst of my fear, I recalled something one of my endocrinologists told me: “Don’t let diabetes take over; you still choose the direction of your life.”

A few short weeks after hearing those words, I waited in the early summer heat to talk to my trip leader, to convince her that diabetes wouldn’t be a problem on the expedition. But my words would seem like lies, sour in my mouth; keeping diabetes from interfering with my life seemed like an impossible task. How could I not let diabetes dictate my choices? Especially about Kroka, an intense wilderness summer camp and school. I had gone to Kroka for two years prior to my diagnosis, and I clung to it as a thread of continuity and a source of strength.

The woman who would lead my trip that summer arrived and we started to talk. She listened as I explained my diabetes and the shots and tedious calculations that went with it. When I left a few hours later, my guts had untied themselves and we had a plan for my return a few weeks later on a program called Wild Girls.

The trip went smoothly, with 12 girls and three teachers spending two weeks among trees and rivers, laughing and singing. I thrived, but my diabetes was always in the background. I gave myself shots in the meal circles, pulled out my calculator and Post-it notes to estimate my insulin intake. The long-term insulin’s inflexibility made it challenging to be active –paddling or hiking up to six hours per day – and I was always struggling to keep my blood sugars from dropping.

But the other students didn’t care that I had a broken pancreas, or that my fingers were covered in needle marks. We shared a grounded sense of solidity that comes from living in the woods.

It was on that trip that I heard of Kroka’s five month semester program. The teachers talked about traversing mountains on skis carrying heavy backpacks in the winter and floating home on spring-swollen rivers. My fellow Wild Girls talked about students becoming hypothermic and eating frozen sticks of butter to stay alive in the dead of winter.

It sounded perfect; I was hooked. Many obstacles lay before me, ranging from grades to managing my diabetes. But in the coming years, I pushed forward, finding technology and resources that allowed me to conquer the other peaks that lay between me and five months in the wilderness.

(Next: As Rachel grows more comfortable with her diabetes, the path to further adventures begins to clear.)



OmniPod Welcomes Asante Snap Patients

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Scott Benner, diabetes advocate and author of Arden’s Day, provides coverage of the OmniPod Welcome Program available to Asante Snap insulin pump users. See below for more information on the program.

Asante 1

The recent and unexpected closing of insulin pump manufacturer Asante has left users of their Snap insulin pump in search of a new way to deliver insulin.

In response to the news the makers of OmniPod have announced a welcome program for Snap users that includes a no-cost PDM and ten free pods.

If you are a Snap user who thinks that OmniPod may be the right choice there is no better time to make the move. If you meet the simple requirements listed in the image below, call 888-6-GETPOD to get started.

 Asante 2












Check out Scott’s original post here.

My Journey to Pump Therapy Part 6: The Benefits of Exercising with an Insulin Pump

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Check out the first five parts of Allison Nimlos’ series on her journey to starting on an insulin pump with type 1 diabetes.

Exercising-with-an-Insulin-PumpOne of the most noticeable benefits of using an insulin pump is when I’m exercising. Exercising is not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve never been an athletic person! So it’s easy to want to give up when it’s both hard on the body and hard on the diabetes. Luckily I’ve found that using an insulin pump has helped in many different ways as I try to stay active. Continue reading

Diabetes FingerPricks™: Diabetes Burnout

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Believe me, I’m no stranger to diabetes burnout. I get as tired of counting carbs, calibrating machines, testing blood sugars and evaluating situations as the next person. This is why it’s so strange to admit the following: the smell of insulin has never tired me. Getting sick on cotton candy or candy corn can give a lifelong aversion to even the smell of such foods; too much of a good thing – or bad thing – often puts a negative footprint on our mind. With all the ups and downs I’ve had as a person with diabetes, you’d think smelling insulin would be a gloomy trigger. Instead, the scent of insulin recalls sweet yet medicinal properties – like Band-Aids® – of which I have never wearied. Sure, it’s the associative hallmark of hospitals in general, but instead of making me anxious or panicky as you might expect, it actually soothes me somewhat, as though help is on the way. Funny how the brain works…

The Importance of the Diabetes Community Part 3: Teaching Possibilities

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Join Scott Benner, author of the award-winning parenting memoir, “Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Dad,” for a five-part series on how the diabetes community can help save, support, teach, improve and transform lives.

Scott-Benner-DOC-2Without the support and know-how of the people in the diabetes community, I may never have found OmniPod (the insulin pump my daughter uses), our ketone meter or the courage to best use them.

I look back now and wonder why I couldn’t see it sooner. I thought that the fear I was experiencing in the early days of my daughter’s diagnosis was from the diabetes, but it wasn’t. It was the uncertainty that scared me. Not knowing if I was about to inject too much insulin, count carbs incorrectly or any of the seemingly endless things that I didn’t feel I properly understood. The inability to have confidence in my actions made me afraid. Too many what ifs…

Meeting people who live with diabetes in their lives changed all of that for me. Being able to see others make choices that worked out was a huge relief, but when I saw that they were just as unsure as I was at some point, that was a game changer. I didn’t just not have to be perfect; it was okay not to be. Tomorrow would still come – the community was a glance at our future and our future was bright!

Educating Ourselves on Diabetes Management Options

The possibility that we were going to live well again opened my eyes to all other kinds of new and hopeful considerations. Continue reading

Cooking Diabetes-Friendly Meals

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The paleo recipe I am sharing today, as with most of my recipes, has evolved to include fresh fruits/vegetables, meats, eggs, herbs and spices, and oils in an attempt to replace the standard processed ingredients I used to cook with. Switching everything to almost entirely fresh ingredients has had an eye-opening effect on my blood sugar, lessening the drastic spikes and dips I saw before.

This has also brought a new appreciation of what consuming different foods and ingredients does to my blood sugar. The more I’ve cleaned the ingredients, the more I’ve been able to make a direct connection between the psychological impact of food consumption related to diabetes and blood sugar management.

The following recipe came together upon returning from a long vacation over the holidays to food that needed to be used (and without having to make a trip to buy groceries). The recipe is very comfort-food-like, easy and makes a home smell absolutely wonderful! It also reheated very well throughout the next couple of days. Continue reading

A Mother and Daughter’s Experience at the JDRF’s Children’s Congress

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You may think of the JDRF for their research for a cure for type 1 diabetes, their work with the artificial pancreas and their annual fundraising walks throughout the country. However, they also focus efforts on advocacy in the form of their Promise to Remember Me meetings with congressmen and women and their bi-annual Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C.

According to the JDRF website, “Every two years, more than 150 children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) gather in Washington, D.C., to meet face-to-face with some of the top decision-makers in the U.S. government. The children, ages 4 to 17, represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The delegates in JDRF’s Children’s Congress enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help Members of Congress understand what life with T1D is like and why research to fund life-changing therapies until a cure can be found is so critical. They speak up on behalf of the millions of people living with T1D and the families and friends who love them.”

Hallie-and-AveryAvery Addington and her mom Hallie, author of the website The Princess and the Pump, were chosen to attend JDRF’s Children’s Congress a few years ago when Avery was seven years old. They share their experience with us below. First we hear from Hallie.

 Leighann:  In what ways, if any, are you active with your local JDRF chapter?

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Hallie:  I am a board member for our local JDRF. In the past, I was the Government Relations person for our chapter. I’m now on our advisory council and am involved in lots of different events like the walks, galas and other outreach events. I’m also a mentor and Avery is a youth ambassador.

Leighann:  What made you and Avery interested in applying for the Children’s Congress?

Hallie:  Avery fell in love with Washington, D.C. when she went to Government Day with me when I was the Government Relations person for our chapter. Continue reading

Sean Busby’s Diabetes Heroes Series: Todd Melinn

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In a series of 12 episodes, Suite D is featuring interviews between professional snowboarder Sean Busby and inspirational people in the diabetes community. In the twelfth episode, Sean interviews Todd Melinn, Sean’s former snowboarding coach who has had diabetes for the last 28 years. If you have a diabetes hero you’d like us to spotlight, please e-mail

Todd Melinn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1984 and started snowboarding that same year. For 30 years, snowboarding has been connected to Todd’s life in some way. Whether that was moving his way up from working at the first snowboard shop in Wrightwood, California, to being a snow maker, a lift operator, a lift mechanic, the founder/original designer of the Faultine Terrain Parks at Mountain High Ski/Snowboard Resort, co-founder of Active Mail Order and then a coach, Todd has found a way to incorporate snowboarding into his daily routine and job for many years.

The story of Todd comes full circle with Sean Busby. Todd happened to be Sean’s first snowboard coach years before Sean was ever diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Sean credits Todd and Todd’s friend and co-coach, John, for enabling him to become a professional snowboarder. Continue reading

Things to Consider when Upgrading your Insulin Pump

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- Lisa Foster-McNulty, RN, MSN, CDE

Every four years, we are asked to vote on who will become the next president.  If you wear an insulin pump, every four years your warranty will run. You get to exercise your right to continue with what is familiar – or jump over to something that is different and potentially a better choice for you! Either way, it’s not a decision to be made lightly. You’ll want to start thinking about this at least a few months before your warranty ends so that you have time to do your research. It can be helpful to have some idea of what points you’ll need to consider.

Do your Research

If you are very satisfied with your current pump, it may be a no-brainer to simply continue to use the same product. But what if you think that there may be something else out there that you’d prefer over your current pump? Continue reading

Diabetes and Special Occasions: The Gift of Technology

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Check out 14-year-old Summer Asman’s experiences managing diabetes during special occasions. Do you have an interesting experience you would like to share with Suite D? Reach out to us at

Diabetes-and-Special-OccasionsBefore diabetes, I used to love all of the desserts provided at special occasions, but now I dread eating dessert with people who don’t understand type 1 diabetes. It is hard to eat with people without diabetes. I try not to be jealous when I watch them stuff their faces with hundreds of delicious, sugary carbs (like I used to do) and I have to sit there and refrain from eating as many as them.

Celebrating events with my family is especially hard, because my cousins, uncles and aunts don’t understand. They bake pies and cookies, and they eat with ice cream and pudding. It takes a lot of will power for me to only eat my “sensible” portion of cake! Sometimes I wish my relatives wouldn’t bring so many different kinds of cakes and pies, and eat a little bit of each. They don’t understand how I feel watching them eat. How do I feel? Jealous, frustrated, hurt – and then guilty that I feel that way! Continue reading

Diabetes FingerPricks™: Love for your Insulin Pump

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If only diabetes technology could save us from those awkward situations such as unrequited love! I’ll give credit where credit is due, by all means, but I don’t think we’re there just yet. On this Valentine’s Day let us be thankful for the love we give and love we get (or hope to give or want to get), including that little bundle of parts and batteries that keeps us going.

Click here to try a free Demo of the OmniPod insulin pump.

The Importance of the Diabetes Community Part 2: Finding Support

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Join Scott Benner, author of the award-winning parenting memoir, “Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Dad,” for a five-part series on how the diabetes community can help save, support, teach, improve and transform lives. Check out the first entry here.

My bedroom was pitch black and the house completely silent. It was well after three in the morning and I hadn’t been to sleep. My belief that my daughter Arden’s blood sugar would rise to a safe level was tenuous that evening so I was watching over her even more than usual.

When I fall asleep the likelihood of me waking up when I need to is slim. So on nights like this one I tend to just stay up. This night happened before we became continuous glucose monitor users and I would periodically walk from my room to hers to check her blood sugar. Each time I climbed back into bed, I became a little less certain that I could stay awake. Because my wife was sleeping I was trying to stay still, my eyes were sore from a long day that was getting longer. I had to stop watching television on my laptop, because it felt like there was sand in my eyes. I was exhausted, bleary-eyed and pretty sure that I was about to nod off – so I opened my Twitter app and, perhaps out of desperation to stay awake or maybe in an effort to not fall apart, I told who ever may be out there what was happening.






A few silent minutes later, I received a response from a woman whom I’d never met. Continue reading

My Journey to Pump Therapy Part 5: Why OmniPod?

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Check out the first four parts of Allison Nimlos’ series on her journey to starting on an insulin pump with type 1 diabetes.

The OmniPod was not my first insulin pump. When I first went on a pump in 2000, there were only two options. I was using another pump for about 12 years when I decided to take an impromptu pump vacation. It ended up lasting about 16 months, so perhaps it was more like a pump sabbatical.

I eventually decided to resume life as a pumper, because I knew that my diabetes management would be better and easier for me. I loathed taking frequent insulin injections and I didn’t have the flexibility to increase my background insulin when I needed it, leaving me too high or too low too often. I thought about returning to the original pump I had been on, but I decided to do some investigating into the other pumps that had since come to the market. There were now several popular insulin pumps to choose from. Which one was going to be right for me? Continue reading

Sisterly Support for Women with Diabetes

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When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, they get directives from their endocrinologist and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) on how to manage their diabetes. But successfully managing diabetes goes way beyond insulin-to-carb ratios, basal rates and carb counting. Finding support from others who “get it” can help us on levels far beyond what a medical professional can offer. One organization that is helping women of all ages with all types of diabetes find support is DiabetesSisters. Brandy Barnes is the founder of DiabetesSisters and author of the book  A Woman’s Guide to Diabetes: A Path to Wellness, which she co-wrote with Suite D contributor Natalie Strand. Check out my Q&A with Brandy below, as she shares more about DiabetesSisters and how women can find support.

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Leighann:  Why did you start DiabetesSisters and how has it grown?

Brandy-BarnesBrandy:  I started DiabetesSisters in January of 2008 after my own unsuccessful experiences in trying to find other women with diabetes to talk through problems and share life with. Throughout college and early adulthood, I dreamt of a friendship with another female who understood what life was like with diabetes. Unfortunately, I was not able to find it. Continue reading

Sean Busby’s Diabetes Heroes Series: Gavin Deutscher

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In a series of 12 episodes, Suite D is featuring interviews between professional snowboarder Sean Busby and inspirational people in the diabetes community. In the eleventh episode, Sean interviews Gavin Deutscher, an 18-year-old volunteer with Riding On Insulin. If you have a diabetes hero you’d like us to spotlight, please email

Gavin Deutscher is 18 years old and has had type 1 diabetes for seven years. Sean first met Gavin many years ago when he was giving a diabetes presentation in Canada. During that presentation, Gavin recalls Sean speaking about not allowing type 1 diabetes to hold you back and the importance of following your passions and goals. Gavin took that advice and turned his passion for snowboarding into a career. Gavin has now been a snowboarder for 12 years and is going into his fourth year as a snowboard instructor (Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors Level 2 and Park 1). When not on the mountain, Gavin can also be found studying Information Technology and living in Ontario, Canada.

Since being diagnosed with diabetes, he has never let it hinder or limit him. Continue reading

A Look into the Diabetes Dark Ages

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I’m incredibly grateful to have access to diabetes technology and my current and future health has directly benefited from said technology. Diabetes technology isn’t always perfect and there are moments that I complain about it, LOUDLY, and there have been moments where I’ve come close to throwing my D-technology against the wall or out the window! Do I want quicker turnaround times for diabetes technologies and scientific breakthroughs?  You bet I do and I’ll absolutely fight for those technologies and scientific breakthroughs! BUT, I’ll never take diabetes-related technology/breakthroughs for granted, because I remember when diabetes technology (if you can even call it that) was downright archaic.

I was diagnosed with diabetes 37 years ago, at the tail end of the Diabetes Dark Ages, and it wasn’t easy. Continue reading

Thriving with Diabetes: Synchronized Swimming

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In Suite D, we like to share inspirational stories of people who are not only living well with diabetes, but also thriving with it. In a “Thriving with Diabetes” series, we will be showcasing people who have turned their diabetes diagnosis into a strength and form of motivation. If you, or someone you know, fit that description, please e-mail to share your story.

My name is Gabriella Sajedi. I am 12 years old and I am in 7th grade. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just three days after my fifth birthday. I wasn’t feeling well for a couple of days and my mom thought I had a virus until she found me asleep on my family room floor. She brought me in to see my pediatrician and he immediately told my mom I had diabetes and that I needed to get to an emergency room as soon as possible.

After being stabilized at our local hospital, I was sent by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Boston where I fought for my life for six days. I was really sick and in diabetic ketoacidosis. My body was shutting down and I remember being really scared. I didn’t understand what was happening to me and why everyone was so worried about me. In the hospital, my parents learned how to take care of me, how to give me insulin injections, how to count carbohydrates, how to use emergency glucagon and how to check my blood sugars. They told me this would be forever. I remember thinking, “Wow, forever!” I quickly adjusted to my “new life and my new normal.”

Synchronized Swimming with Diabetes

Gabriella-SajediI have been doing synchronized swimming since I was seven years old. I got started with the sport, because my mom was a synchronized swimmer when she was a kid. I like the sport, because I get to be with all my friends and I lose myself in my music. I like the competitions, especially trying out for the 11/12 Age Group National Team. In phase 1 of this competition, I scored 6th in the country for my age group!

Because I have diabetes, I always try to be prepared in case my blood sugar goes too low while I am swimming and competing, which could be very dangerous for me. My mom usually tells the lifeguards about my diabetes. Continue reading

Diabetes FingerPricks™: Keeping your Resolutions throughout the New Year

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You hear from various sources that resolutions at New Years are too difficult to keep. Such resolutions should therefore be avoided, as should all risk of failure, or potential achievement, this time of year. Therefore, these sources are saying, be noncommittal in self improvements and avoid exposure of weaknesses – if only to yourself – in the event something unpleasant should occur. So you don’t follow through.

I say what’s the harm in embracing the possibility of disappointment when the possibility of success (even in its simplest form, perhaps, like walking up a few flights of stairs) is also likely? If it takes a date on the calendar to make a few positive lifestyle changes then friggin’ go for it.

A few of my resolutions from recent years are listed below; I think my success rate on most was about 75%. Continue reading

The Importance of the Diabetes Community Part 1: How it Saved Our Family

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Join Scott Benner, author of the award-winning parenting memoir, “Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Dad,” for a five-part series on how the diabetes community can help save, support, teach, improve and transform lives.

Arden, with her mother Kelly, shortly after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age two.

When my daughter Arden was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2006, our family was violently thrown into a world that we didn’t understand. The days, weeks and months that followed were full of endless sadness, fear and moments that hindsight would later tell us we could have handled much better.

I’m choosing to share my largest diabetes misstep from that time in our lives, because it led me to what may be the most valuable discovery of my adult life. This is part one of my five-part series about community and how it will save, support, teach, improve and transform your life with diabetes. Continue reading

Helpful Tips for Wearing an Insulin Pump

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- Jennifer Smith, RD, LD, CDE

You’ve decided an insulin pump is the best option for precision in your diabetes management. The next big question that virtually every person with diabetes considers once you’ve decided to start pumping is, “How do I wear this thing?” This is of course specific to each and every person with diabetes.

Regardless of the brand of pump you’ve decided to use – one with tubing or a tubeless design – you still need to find that “sweet spot” for wearing it comfortably and possibly discreetly, depending on how comfortable you are showing the pump or wanting to conceal it for safety or personal reasons.

The following is a list of tips on how to wear, where to wear and what to do with a pump once you’ve got it on your body! Continue reading

Ask Tony and Diane Series: A Familiar Diagnosis

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In a series of 12 episodes, diabetes community leaders and husband and wife Tony and Diane Cervati are addressing various topics focusing on relationship and family dynamics with diabetes. Tony, founder of the Type1Rider organization, has been living with type 1 diabetes for 37 years. Diane, founder of the Blue Heel Society, met Tony shortly after her son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2010.

In the 12th episode, Tony and Diane discuss Tony’s six-year-old son recently being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Tune in to learn how the family reacted to the diagnosis and how Tony’s son has been handling his diabetes early on with the help of his family.

Continue reading

A Caregiver’s Journey to Pump Therapy Part 6: Experiences Starting the Pump and How Life Has Changed

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How is the type 1 diabetes journey – from diagnosis, through starting on multiple daily injections, to beginning on an insulin pump and other milestones – viewed and managed from the caregiver perspective? Join D-Mom Leighann Calentine in this 6-part series as she discusses her experiences navigating the diabetes journey as a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes. If you’d like to comment or submit a story, please e-mail

OmniPod-PDMAfter our week-long saline trial with the OmniPod insulin pump, with the help of our endocrinologist, we asked our insurance for approval. The saline trial solidified our decision to begin pumping and we couldn’t wait to go live with actual insulin in the pump. It would be a few more weeks before we could begin pumping, because we had to wait on insurance approval and then we couldn’t schedule our start date until we had her actual pump in hand. Continue reading

My Journey to Pump Therapy Part 4: What I Wish I’d Known about Pumping

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I have learned a lot about insulin pumps over the past 15 years since I first became a pumper. Some things I learned right away, some things took a little longer to catch on. Here are a few insights that I hope will help: Continue reading

FingerPricks™ Cartoons: Sensible Stocking Stuffers from Diabetic Santa

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When I was younger, getting socks as a Christmas present was a total bummer. I wanted – and thought I deserved – gifts I considered fun. The purpose of these gifts was to entertain me and, since it was Christmas, no other purpose was even sought. (I remember the years when Santa wrapped toothbrushes and deodorant for my bothers and me. We reacted as if he’d actually stolen gifts, so unappreciative were we.) As I continue to get older I actually want sensible things – items I can use or actually need. If someone (Santa?) wants to fill my stocking with insulin vials and test strips then – HO! HO! HO! – please do!

Want a free stocking stuffer of your own from Diabetic Santa? Click here to order an OmniPod Demo Kit.

Slam Dunk for Diabetes Basketball Camps Make a Huge Difference

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Joey Balistrieri and friend Jack Borck.

“My daughter cried when we left, because she didn’t want the camp to end!” was how one mom described her daughter’s experience at the Slam Dunk for Diabetes Basketball Camp.

This three-day free camp is offered to any child with diabetes ages 5-18. It’s the only free, not-for-profit basketball camp and relies solely on donations. So a huge “thank you” to all of those companies that helped! My son Joey loves his OmniPod insulin pump, so we were thrilled to learn that the OmniPod was a new sponsor this year.

Monica Joyce, the founder of the not-for-profit camp, is a diabetes educator who had a dream – and thankfully it came true. Monica says: “Slam Dunk for Diabetes is the place where kids with diabetes come for free to have fun and to learn that they’re not alone, how to manage their disease through food, insulin or medication and exercise, and make new friends on and off the basketball court!” Continue reading

What I Learned from Adults with Diabetes at the JDRF Bike Ride

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I really wanted to participate in the Burlington, VT JDRF Bike Ride, because, as a father of a child with diabetes, I usually meet only kids with diabetes. I rarely get the opportunity to meet adults with diabetes. Even when I do, it’s a little uncomfortable to just go up to them and say, “How’s your blood glucose?” So, the ride gave me the opportunity to get in shape, raise some money for the JDRF and meet some people who have lived through life with diabetes for a lot longer than my son Davis has.

As a biker, I’m in pretty good shape, but my single summary impression of adults with diabetes is that they can kick my butt! Boy, are they in good shape! Continue reading

Benched for Diabetes: Trying to Educate Others on Diabetes Management

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Kayley-Field-Hockey-with-DiabetesI just finished up my third year of Varsity field hockey and found this past season to be a giant personal challenge. The coach I had is the same coach that I have had for the past two years and I have struggled with trying to get her to understand diabetes.  This season we started an intense conditioning process before practice with a trainer. I found that I was going low – very low – during practice on the days that I had conditioning.

My mom was in contact with the nurse after a number of times when my blood sugars were dangerously low. The coaching staff really did not seem to understand exactly how low my numbers were. Continue reading

Sean Busby’s Diabetes Heroes Series: Charlie Rabe

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In a series of 12 episodes, Suite D is featuring interviews between professional snowboarder Sean Busby and inspirational people in the diabetes community. In the tenth episode, Sean interviews Charlie Rabe, coach of the Boston University Snowboard Team and a 17-year veteran of type 1 diabetes. If you have a diabetes hero you’d like us to spotlight, please e-mail

Charlie Rabe was born, raised and still resides in Massachusetts. He just passed the 17-year-mark living with type 1 diabetes and still considers himself to be constantly learning and striving to improve his understanding, treatment and control of the disease. Charlie recently switched from multiple daily injections to pump therapy, using the OmniPod, and loves the freedom it has allowed him.

Charlie has been snowboarding for 18 years and still strives to learn something new every time he steps onto his board. Continue reading

A Caregiver’s Journey to Pump Therapy Part 5: Working with your Healthcare Professionals to Prep for an Insulin Pump

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How is the type 1 diabetes journey – from diagnosis, through starting on multiple daily injections, to beginning on an insulin pump and other milestones – viewed and managed from the caregiver perspective? Join D-Mom Leighann Calentine in this 6-part series as she discusses her experiences navigating the diabetes journey as a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes. If you’d like to comment or submit a story, please e-mail

Working-with-HCP-for-Insulin-PumpOnce we made the decision to start using an insulin pump and chose the OmniPod for our daughter, we began the process of working with healthcare professionals to make the transition from multiple daily injections. Continue reading

Tips for Managing Diabetes with a Busy Work Schedule

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Managing-Diabetes-with-Busy-Work-ScheduleIt’s been one crazy year – and a very different kind of crazy than 2013 was. Since January of this year, I’ve been working a new job in the medical device industry and it has re-defined “busy” for me. My work hours are nuts. I can have meetings scheduled for 8:00 AM – on the other side of the state. I cover Oregon, Washington and Alaska, so some days can include commute times of 5+ hours by car or plane – and that’s before the workday even gets started! I’m all over the map (literally), often working early mornings, late evenings and sometimes weekends – wherever patients and doctors need me.

I love the job and the company, but it’s easily the most challenging job I’ve ever had and the long hours can make taking care of my diabetes extra difficult. But if my husband and I want to start a family soon, I need a lower A1C than I’ve ever had, so my diabetes management can’t go out the window just because I’m busy. So how do I stay on top of things when I don’t even know what state I’ll be in the next day? Read on for some of my personal tips. Continue reading

Ask Tony and Diane Series: Benefits of Having Loved Ones at Endocrinologist Appointments

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In a series of 12 episodes, diabetes community leaders and husband and wife Tony and Diane Cervati are addressing various topics focusing on relationship and family dynamics with diabetes. Tony, founder of the Type1Rider organization, has been living with type 1 diabetes for 37 years. Diane, founder of the Blue Heel Society, met Tony shortly after her son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2010.

In the 11th episode, Tony and Diane discuss endocrinologist appointments. Should significant others and parents join their loved ones with diabetes to their visits to the doctor? What are the benefits of having a loved one come along for the appointment?

What are your experiences with endo appointments? Share with Continue reading

Trying to See the Positive Side of Diabetes

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- Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE
Clinical Psychologist and Certified Diabetes Educator

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In 2000, Betty Rollin published a book entitled “First You Cry” after she received her diagnosis of breast cancer. I would say that’s not unusual for any devastating diagnosis – including a diagnosis of diabetes. Nobody would be happy to receive a diagnosis of a chronic illness. I know it sounds odd, but it didn’t take me long to be happy with my diagnosis of “Juvenile Diabetes” (better known as type 1 diabetes now) in 1975. Please don’t misunderstand, I was not happy about living with this disease 24/7/365, but I was happy that I wasn’t diagnosed with a terminal illness. Continue reading

Why I Pump with the OmniPod: A Personal Choice

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- Jennifer Smith, RD, LD, CDE

“For me it has been nice to see that the OmniPod really works well in all aspects of my life – work, exercise and family life!”

Living with diabetes means we make a million choices about things on a daily basis. What to eat, where to get information to count carbs accurately, how/when to bolus, when to exercise, when to check blood glucose and what to do with all this information. A choice we make every four years can help with each of these things we do daily. What is it? The choice about which insulin pump is best for your personal diabetes management strategy of course!!

Thank goodness there are so many choices on the market right now – we can each choose what works best for us in our daily life. Continue reading

Six Ways to Wear Blue to Raise Diabetes Awareness

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November may be Diabetes Awareness Month annually, but some people are raising awareness all year long by wearing blue on Fridays. Cherise Shockley, the founder of Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA), was diagnosed with LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) at the age of 23. In addition to DSMA Live and DSMA tweetchats, the WDD (World Diabetes Day) Blue Fridays Initiative was begun by Cherise.

Cherise was kind enough to share why she wears blue each Friday.

Leighann:  What inspired you to start the Blue Friday’s campaign?
Cherise:  I was inspired to start the Blue Friday’s initiative in November of 2010, because of the amazing work that the International Diabetes Federation does year round for the global diabetes community. The Blue Circle unites and raises awareness for people with diabetes. I believe in them and their mission. I wanted to help spread the word about the blue circle and World Diabetes Day so I created Blue Fridays. Continue reading

Volunteering in the Diabetes Community

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Summer volunteering for the JDRF.

I am a teenager who never lets type 1 diabetes (T1D) slow me down, I love a challenge, I manage my blood glucose, etc. However, there are days when diabetes gets me down despite my best efforts to stay positive. Let’s face it, diabetes can be a drag and sometimes I feel a little bitter looking at all of my non-T1D friends eat what they want, exercise whenever they feel like it and never consider all of the decisions that go into those simple activities when I do them.

I do not want to have a pity party or dwell on the negative aspects of diabetes. What I find picks me up and keeps me energized in the face of challenges is not what you would expect (although I will admit that a shopping day with my mom does wonders!). What gives me energy and keeps me motivated to control my diabetes, and not have it control me, is helping others. The more I give, the more I seem to get back.

I started to really get involved with JDRF last year. Continue reading