Life Personal Update

An interesting year in the rear view mirror.

Hey, folks. Welcome to 2020, and all the insights that come with being in the rear view mirror. As the sun sets on 2019, I’m looking back at things I have learned, and realizations that are taking me full speed into a year with an extra day under its hood.

Last year, I learned how broken the idea of a pharmacy benefit management company has become in the United States. I had my go-around with Express Scripts, in which my glucometer sensors arrived several days late, and it was as if I were pulling teeth to get an urgent fill at my local pharmacy so I could keep an eye on my blood sugar.

I never did replace the electric bicycle that broke in December 2018, but that’s okay. I spent more time on the manual transmission bike, and also started going to the gym. The exercise proved beneficial, even though my commute ability decreased by a range of a few miles. Going to the gym net me a few hundred dollars from my employer through their fitness benefit program, and for half the year, I felt inspired enough to complete the goals. This year, I’ll punch higher.

I relearned that there are terrible folks when it comes to hosting, in the form of paying the folk at Bigfoot Servers for a second year of service, and having them close shop in December. May they date a horny cactus for the rest of their lives. I’m over on Namecheap now; I’d post an affiliate link, but their new affiliate program is a bit of a headache to sign up for.

I finally replaced my ebook reader with a used early generation Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight. If I could reclaim the internal storage space to have more storage for my books, I’d be happier. Been reading a bunch of fan fiction in my evenings after work, and maybe I’ll actually get around to reading some stuff from my public library again. Repositories of free science fiction epubs are always welcome, by the by.

I got my blog to announce its presence via ActivityPub, thanks to a couple of WordPress plugins, making me readable and followable via Mastodon and similar suites as I post (Hi,!), and can still tweet my new posts.

Speaking of tweeting, it seems my post on my ordeal with Express Scripts was definitely my most read and circulated post of 2019, and drew a lot of traction via Twitter, Facebook, and even was shared via LinkedIn. I’m flattered, amused, and slightly spooked at the same time.

But, enough of this for now; I must actually go eat to fix a number that I wouldn’t have been able to see without my replacement glucose sensor. Thanks again to my local FredMeyer Pharmacy for throwing hammers to help. 💙

Life Update

Two weeks with the FreeStyle Libre.

Hey, folks. I’ve had my continuous glucose meter for a little over two weeks now; just installed a new sensor puck on my right arm after two on the left.

I have to say that this is definitely an experience that has been worth it. Knowing that I can wave a piece of hardware at my arm and get a number that has minimal lag compared to a capillary stick has been enlightening, and honestly, helpful for me to work on managing my diabetes.

Before I pucked up (ha!), I would take my meds if I thought about them, and felt like I probably needed them. This is bad: we’re not always the best judges of our own health. Thinking Gee, I’m tired. Well I didn’t sleep a lot, have an energy drink to compensate. isn’t as good as checking, and seeing that my blood sugar has been high for hours, days, longer. OF COURSE I’m tired! My body’s fighting to process all the carbohydrate shit I’m giving it and not paying attention to what it NEEDS.

I’m now that much more accountable for my health, and maybe one day, I’ll really get my diet dialed in to keep things in check along with the medicines.

As it stands, I can now take my meds, and get the better idea of what dose I need for insulin instead of just guessing at it. This is producing fewer swings from low to high, which makes me frankly feel much nicer.

That leads me to thinking, “Why is it that CGMs aren’t standard issue for type 2 diabetics at this point?”

Thinking about it, if you have a newly diagnosed diabetic that you’re getting into the flow of what to do, make it easier for them to understand their health. Telling someone that they have to stab a finger FOUR TIMES A DAY for the rest of their life on a new diagnosis can put them in a bad head space. Are they going to do all those finger sticks? Yes, for the first week or so. Then they’ll grow quickly weary of it because the sticks hurt, or because they aren’t seeing changes, or any number of reasons.

Lessen the pain that comes with their new burden, and they’re more likely to be compliant diabetics, compared to non-compliant diabetics. Yes, this means the doctor’s office might not see them quite as often, but it also improves the continuity and quality of care: you might see the person because they got very sick from something else, and it threw them out of sorts. You’re then treating an illness, instead of constantly triaging a badly managed permanent issue.

The sad, but true bit of this? I’m saying that last chunk from personal experience as a diabetic for over a decade.

I knew what diabetes was. I helped my mother and my father with their treatment in the 1990s and 2000s. I knew about the fingersticks. I knew about the insulin injections, the pills that gave you the trots, the exhaustion, the thirst. All of the woes that came with having a problem processing your own insulin, or not producing enough of it, I was familiar with it.

It’s just one of those diagnoses that you wouldn’t wish on another soul. It’s a lifelong illness that doesn’t necessarily make you look sick on the outside, but is shredding you to bits on the inside. So when you hear the ER doctor tell you, “Your blood glucose is 610 mg/dL. Congratulations, you’re diabetic. Please tell me you did not drive yourself here…”

The world drops away, and all you can hear is the rattling of chains as you’re tethered to a permanent diagnosis. We don’t have a 100% end all, be all cure for diabetes available to us.

What we do have, though, is a beneficial technological advance, making it much easier to monitor and treat a lifelong disease, and I am thankful for it.

Life Update

Of continuous glucose monitors and increased health insights.

This week was a big week for me. I acquired my first continuous glucose monitor, a FreeStyle Libre 14 Day system. I received a standalone meter along with a puck that gets attached to my arm. The meter also has a standard blood draw glucometer attached to it, so that I can do a regular draw if necessary.

I was a little leery when I first unpacked everything, because there’s all these parts — a glucometer that charges via MicroUSB, a charger and cable for that, and then this big box that contains a sensor that you’ll attach to your arm. The sensor puck kit seems large, but it’s because it’s shipped in two parts. You’ll combine the two parts after verifying numbers on each half, and then this gets pressed against your arm. There IS a needle in the sensor kit, but the needle isn’t left behind — it’s used to break the skin for the sensor filament to go in.

This is my arm with a CGM sensor attached.

No, I didn’t feel much at all when I applied the sensor to the back of my left arm. I jumped mostly because of the sudden ‘pop’ sound from the spring-loaded mechanism that I wasn’t fully expecting. If anything, it’s like someone poking you with a pencil lightly, which is a far cry better than the constant fingersticks I’ve been asked to do.

I’m horrible with the fingersticks, because I just cannot abide by the concept of jabbing my poor fingers with a specially designed knife to draw blood multiple times a day, even though it’s beneficial to my health to ACTUALLY DO THAT, according to my doctor. They need to know what my numbers look like, and if they’re just raging away at 300 mg/dl with no data, they can’t help me.

This meter is game changing in that I can wake up at four in the morning for no reason whatsoever, and without leaving bed, check my blood glucose levels since my meters are at bedside.

Yes, meters plural: The FreeStyle Libre 14 day sensors are NFC compatible, and this means I can read them with the LibreLink app on my Android phone. All I have to do is unlock my phone with a fingerprint, and point the tip of my phone to the side of the sensor. I’ll have a reading in seconds, and don’t have to go find the app and open it first. Or, I can grab the meter actual, press a button on the lower front, and wave it at the puck.

This process removes the internal (and external) whining about having to always stick my damn fingers, and how much this hurts, and how much it sucks, etc etc. Sure, I’ll still have to occasionally stick my fingers, but it’ll be a case of “Hey, Xial. Something’s fishy with this number, can you get me a different number?” instead of “You have to.” It transforms the plain demand into a reasonable insistence, which I’m more likely to comply with.

This just gives me a sense of clarity in data, and a better way to really try to keep an eye on my health.