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  1. We all love a good Blog Carnival! I've been very proud to have been involved with several Carnivals over at Chronic Babe, and to have done Grand Rounds twice.

    What I've noticed though, is that most of the major Carnivals tend to be heavily dominated by, if not exclusively made up of submissions from US blogs. Now, please don't get me wrong - I love reading these blogs, and I have not a single thing against them. America's a big place, so it makes absolute sense that lots of posts would come from bloggers in the US. 

    But what about Europe? Europe's a big place to - we're ethnically and culturally diverse, and we manage as many different health conditions as our brothers and sisters over the pond!

    So, whilst talking to Sam, over at Talking Blood Glucose, I hit upon this idea: why not have a Carnival that showcases all the best health blogs that Europe has to offer?

    So we will! I'm inviting you to be part of the very first volume of the Bureaux Carnival (Blog Euro - Bureaux! Get it? I'm funny, me!), which I will be hosting here at INI on Monday 10th May.

    If you're a health blogger, whether you're a patient, a doctor, nurse, or carer, and you'd like to be involved, the Bureaux Carnival is for you!

    Our first volume will be looking for posts on the theme of friendship. That's nice and broad, so should give you a lot to talk about.

    If you want to submit an entry, email us at bureauxcarnival @ googlemail dot com. Put "Volume One" in the subject line. Send your name as you'd like it to appear, the name/URL of your blog, the name/URL of your post, and 1-2 sentences of description. Deadline: Saturday, 8th May at midnight GMT.

    If you'd also be interested in being a future host, email and let us know! Do spread the word to any amazing bloggers you know who you think should be involved and aware that this is happening.

    The Bureaux is open for business!

  2. I tried to be like Grace Kelly

    Sunday, 25 April 2010

    If you took a poll of my friends and family, I'm sure general opinion would be much of the same. I'm not ladylike. Now, to be clear, it's not that I'm a ladette, or a lout of some sort. It's just that by obvious definition, I don't exactly embody the innate qualities of grace and elegance.

    When I was in my teenage years, I can remember the shouts of 'spacial awareness!' from my Dad on a daily basis, as I would once again walk into the coffee table. Oh how that would annoy me. To be fair though, I do have the tendency to be a bit of a klutz. I have several different laughs. One of which sounds like I've swallowed a seal, and the other sounds like I'm a wounded moose. 

    But just because I'm not pretty, don't wear make-up, or style my hair beyond drying and brushing, and I prefer jeans and trainers to pearls and heels, does that really make me un-ladylike? What makes a lady ladylike in the first place?

    I had a quick google for 'how to be lady-like', and found a very helpful wikiHow, which gave me some food for thought. A huge part of being a lady has absolutely nothing to do with appearance. 

    Choose your words wisely. I do believe that this is very important. There are a lot of things that I would like to say, but since I'm trying to regulate the frequent absence of a brain to mouth filter, I am practising the art of biting my tongue (or fingers) more these days. There are a lot of people online in the d-world. I don't necessarily agree with everything that's said. I'm very opinionated in a lot of matters, but I try to be respectful, even if I completely disagree with what a person says. If I can't phrase it properly, I often steer clear. Not because I'm not interested, but I think it's probably better to say nothing than to begin a tirade against a person or an idea that looks like bullying. I hate bullies, and I've vowed never to be one. I've always wanted to be someone that younger people can look up to. There is no way that I could ever be considered a decent role model if I blurted out things without thinking about the consequences.

    Sharpen your mind. If it's all about the knowledge, then I think that I must be a lady in training. I don't think I've absorbed as much information as I have in the last year in a really long time. I think the first year with anything as life altering and new is a very steep learning curve. I think being pro-active has really helped with this. I read articles, I read books. I'm happy to talk with people, and educate when I can, and where it's appropriate. I think even writing this blog has been useful in helping me keep things together.

    Having read through a few different articles, and looking through any comments about grooming, I see 'stand up tall to face the world'. That, I absolutely agree with. Everyone should try to do that - it's all about the confidence. If you don't feel it, at least try to pretend you do until you can get back up again. All of us, ladies or gentlemen, need to walk tall and proud - I think that's how you get people to take you seriously. I think as well, it's how you get people to believe that diabetes isn't going to stop us doing anything. That it's nothing to hide and be ashamed of. Doing so could go a long way to changing some of the public misconceptions about this disease. Misconceptions that I, for one, am getting tired of seeing.

    So what do you think, ladies and gents? Could I be a lady-in-waiting? And would a pair of heels help me stand up a little taller?

  3. Standing in the Corner - Looking Out

    Saturday, 24 April 2010

    I've been spotting a bit of a trend lately. I've been seeing people in all different places online who are, for various reasons, starting using insulin. Some are newly diagnosed Type 1's. More are Type 2's who have progressed onto requiring insulin. This isn't the trend I'm referring to though. What I have spotted is that there seems to be a lot of negative feelings associated with this.

    I hear 'failure', 'guilt', 'my fault', and 'bad'. It seems that insulin has acquired a stigma. As though it is some sort of punishment for misbehaving. This makes me really very sad. 

    Starting using insulin can be scary. It can be frightening, especially if you're not sure what to expect. I can appreciate that, I really, can. I remember how unnatural it felt to insert a needle into my arm for the very first time, all the while thinking 'I'm sure my parents, countless teachers, and 'special' episodes of TV shows told me that this sort of thing was a bad idea'. I remember sitting on the floor of my living room the first evening after being discharged from hospital, and having to do my first completely solo injection. I believe I even said aloud 'I'm not sure that I can do this'. 

    But do you know what? You do it. Some people might cry, some might shout and rage, but the world will keep on turning, and the second time simply can't be as bad as the first. You've done it once before - there's no reason that you can't do it again. It will never be fun. There won't be a full musical number, or kittens and rainbows. I'd love it if there was. I'm a big musical nerd, adore kittens, and everyone likes a rainbow. But there won't be. At the end of the day, you're putting a needle into yourself. However, there is a positive to all this. It's what you're injecting in.

    It's not made of gold, or starlight, or pixie dust, but insulin is a little bit magic, when you get down to the nitty gritty. We didn't always have this option - the simple fact that we do have the ability to inject, and control the way we do is close to a miracle in my eyes. All you need to do is think for a moment about the time before insulin, and then, for an instant, it does take on the qualities of pixie dust.

    I know the journey for Type 2, and I suppose that of people with LADA as well, onto insulin is bound to be different to mine. I didn't really have that delay, that time of building up the event in my mind to be this huge thing. It was either have insulin there and then, or wait a day (it seemed as thought it only would have been one day more, from the way they talked to me about it), come in unconscious in a coma and have insulin then. It was as blunt as that.

    But if you've got a longer journey, possibly starting with diet and exercise, then medication, then finally to be told that insulin is what's needed?  I can see how one could try blaming themselves. The thoughts of 'I mustn't have tried hard enough', 'I've done something wrong', or 'this is my fault'? Very understandable, but if you're thinking that, do you want to know a dirty little secret?

    It's not your fault, and you're not to blame. Some things just don't work for some people, and you've got to look down a different road for the control. It's nothing shameful, injecting is nothing to be embarrassed about, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

    Otherwise let me at them, and I'll set them straight.

  4. Burn, baby, burn

    Tuesday, 20 April 2010

    Wow, I went quiet there for a while. Sorry about that. I would say that I've had no excuse, but that wouldn't be the entire truth. I've had a fair bit to deal with over this last week. 

    So last Sunday, I was all set to write about all the fun I'd been having riding around on the back of Andrew's motorbike. I've no licence of my own to speak of, but have been enjoying riding pillion as of late. 

    We rode out to Rievaux Abbey, which is absolutely gorgeous, and a really lovely ride.

    I was borrowing Andrew's trousers. These are made for a slim man with no hips. I am not a slim man with no hips. Rather I am a woman with a fair amount of curves. However, I do not normally look as big as I do in this picture. Unless you are naturally extremely slim, biking gear has the tendency to make you look like the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. So wearing trousers that were a real struggle to get in did not make for the most comfortable of rides. I got fairly horrendous cramp down my legs about forty minutes in. I was also finding it increasingly hard to concentrate. 

    Now, the observant amongst you might have noticed several items that feature in the above photograph. Points if you noticed what I'm holding in my right hand. More points, however, if you noticed the slightly harder to spot open meter case on the tank. Yes, it would appear that riding pillion burns a lot of carbs, as what I am holding in my hand (and was halfway through consuming by that point) is a fun-size Mars Bar. So I spent some of Sunday afternoon going hypo in a field!

    After we got home, we set to work on a joint of beef that we'd been planning to roast. A few things ended up happening (which it turns out weren't entirely user error), and later that evening, we ended up with a kitchen fire. Complete with two fire engines. Thankfully, Andrew had managed to put the fire out before I'd even got off the phone with 999, but there was a LOT of smoke damage to the kitchen. Which meant we were up till gone 3am cleaning, and spent the next two nights doing much of the same.

    You can't see quite how soot-covered the walls were in this picture of Andrew cleaning the ceiling, because my camera wouldn't pick it up. But have a look at that bowl of water. That was barely a couple of minutes out of the tap. That might give you a bit more of an idea of how much damage we were dealing with.  And by the way, the motorbike helmet is to stop whatever cleaning product was dripping down as we were trying to clean the ceiling.

    Having no oven, and for several days, nothing other than the microwave and the kettle to cook with meant getting slightly inventive with food. Oven was out of action for quite a few days, and though it was fixed, it's now out of action again because the rubber seal has now come apart. It's getting rather annoying.

    But the seemingly endless cycle of work, home, food, cleaning, bed (and repeat!) was starting to get to me. So I'm glad the cleaning has more or less finished.

    In numbers news, I seem to have temporarily banished the highs, so I'm back to handling the lows again. Most of them are explainable - my mental clock seems to be out by about an hour, so I keep losing track of time. But there are some that seem to be coming out of no-where. It's the stealth-hypo effect. I know I'm not the only one dealing with these ninja episodes as well. Maybe there's something in the water?

    Or perhaps it's not the water, but rather the air? I know all this volcanic ash is causing a huge variety of types of mayhem. I hope no-one out there has been too badly affected by the chaos.

    All I know is that it gives you one beautiful sunset.

    Volcanic Ash Sunset

  5. All change!

    Friday, 9 April 2010

    Things are changing over in pancreas land. Up until now, I have been living in a state well known to many as the Honeymoon Period. To those not in the know, it means my poor wheezing pancreas is having one long swan song before it retires permanently. Which everyone keeps telling me is a good thing. I'm sure that they're right. Of course there are pros to not using as much insulin. On the flip side, however, it makes carb-counting virtually impossible. 

    I've been working on the ratio of 1 unit of NovoRapid to every 35g of carb up until now, with 2u of Lantus.  This is where I pause for a moment, whilst there is a strong chance that you just went (mentally or out loud) 'Whoa, those are tiny amounts of insulin!'. Why do I think you probably said that? That would be because, making a rough guess, maybe one in two or three people that I talk to about my doses has that exact reaction. Even when I went on a carb counting skills workshop, my (otherwise wonderful) dietician said pretty much that. Just to rant for a moment, yes, I know those are small amounts of insulin. I'm very much aware of it. I'm always rather surprised when people tell you something that it should be pretty clear that you already know. OK, rant done.

    Over the past week or so, that ratio hasn't really been working for me any more. I began scoring lots of double figures, and couldn't get myself below 8mmol/l some days. Further maths means I am currently working with three different ratios. A breakfast one of 1:20, a lunchtime of 1:25, and an evening of 1:35. I've also added an extra unit on my Lantus. So far, this seems to be working without too many errors. Only had the one hypo recently, and again this is good. 

    But it looks like the Honeymoon could be coming to an end. Or so it seems. But it's been all I've known so far, rocky as it has been. I'd be curious to know how anyone else out there  coped with this. Was it gradual or sudden for you? Enquiring minds want to know...

  6. Review: Contour USB (update)

    Monday, 5 April 2010

    Just to show that we can all be proved wrong, I must stand corrected. In my earlier review, I said that the Contour USB didn't have the function of lighting up where you insert the strips. Turns out that it does, and I'd just been doing it wrong. I had assumed that it would turn on automatically. What you need to do, whilst the meter is turned off, is press once, wait a second, then press again. Two quick presses will turn the light back off again. 

    So that's another feature! Thanks for those who pointed out what I was doing wrong. Always glad to learn something new.

  7. I've been holding off on this a little while, because I wanted to give it my full attention. I didn't want to rush into a review without considering what I was going to say.

    Overall, I'm impressed with all the great features that the meter offers, and I'm going to try and be pretty thorough in this review! You might want to grab yourself a drink before you start reading.

    I have been extremely excited about the release of this meter. From everything I'd heard from those in the US, and those who had seen advance versions, I was expecting great things. So when Bayer contacted me and asked me if I would like a complimentary one in exchange for an unbiased review, I jumped at the chance.

    I will say that I haven't been using the meter long, and that my opinion might change as I use it long term, but these are my impressions at the present time.

    Blood Glucose Meter
    Opening the box, I will admit that I was expecting the meter itself to be smaller. Possibly because I hadn't really seen it pictured in relation to anything. Yet, it's still markedly smaller than my Contour, which love it as I may, I have always found to be a touch on the bulky side.

    Appearance wise, it's very sleek, and if you were conscious of bringing out your meter in public, this would be a very sensible choice of kit for you. Streamline and smart, you could easily mistake it for an MP3 player or similar. I would have liked the option of a covering film for the screen, to prevent scratches, or a silicone 'skin' to protect it in a similar vein to what I use on my MP3 player. It's not a drawback to the meter, but perhaps it is something Bayer could think about offering further down the line - I'm sure that there would be a market for it - everyone likes the option of making thing customisable.

    Along with the meter, you get a case, which looks as though it will be hard-wearing. I have found it difficult to zip up without the meter popping out, but that could just be me, more than a fault in design! Along with the case, you get a pot of strips, testing solution, a USB extension lead, which is a nice extra touch (you can also register for a free wall charger), and the Microlet 2 lancing device. It also comes with multicoloured lancets, which excited me more than should be appropriate for a twenty-five year old woman!

    I've not exactly been shy of complaining about having difficulties with my lancing devices as of late. When I upgraded my old Contour to a newer version, I got a Microlet 2 lancer. At first I was extremely impressed with it, but it got more and more painful to use as time went on. I think the spring action it broke down, and lost the initial power that it had. Perhaps I have a faulty unit, because this new one has been excellent so far. It's not painless - I don't think lancing ever will be. However, it has been pretty consistent in getting blood. If this continues, I can keep this as my primary lancing device, and keep the One Touch Comfort in reserve for lancing emergencies.

    One thing you can't say is that you're not provided with enough literature. I was slightly overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork that there was included. If I had been someone else, I might have found that a touch intimidating, I think. However, if you're fazed by the amount of potential reading, there is the option of a 'Quick Reference Guide', which is mostly one sentence style instructions, each illustrated. If you're just wanting to get started before delving any deeper, or just want to test with no other features, then this is really helpful. Yet, I have to feel that if all you wanted to do was just test and turn off again, then this is a huge waste of such an intelligent meter.

    Testing is pretty straightforward. Insert the strip, and follow the instructions on the screen. There's a backlight function, which will inevitably be very useful. I haven't tried testing in the dark yet, so I'm not sure whether the point of strip insertion lights up as well. If it doesn't, I may well find putting strips in when it's dim quite difficult, because I've missed a couple of times in broad daylight. That's more to do with rubbish hand-eye co-ordination than anything else though.

    The meter is notably polite! It explains everything in a nice manner, even if you're doing something wrong. I'm also impressed with the ability to 'mark' your results, not just with pre and post meal markers, but with options such as 'don't feel right', 'stress', and 'activity'. The number of times I've tried to scribble notes like that against my logbooks in the past make that a very attractive feature.

    The instruction manual lets you know that if you get an error code whilst testing, you'll still get the error code on the screen, but you'll also get an explanation of what the code means, rather than having to go look it up. What a fantastic idea! The only ones I can ever remember are that I've put the strip in the wrong way, or that I've not given enough blood, so anything other than those completely stump me. Should you also get a particularly high or low reading, the meter tells you to wash your hands and retest, and then should you get a similar result, it will tell you that you need to follow medical advice. I really like this, as it gives room for error. You can also delete any false readings, which is great for not messing around with your averages.

    It comes pre-set with standard targets for pre and post meal levels. Personally, I found the levels to be on the high side of where I'm comfortable. Not a problem though, as I can change them quite easily. Alarm wise, you can customise your post meal testing alarm. What's really great about this is that you can set the alarm per test, in increments of fifteen minutes. I love that, I really do. The alarm also repeats itself in a kind of 'snooze function' - great for when I'm at work and I frequently don't hear the alarm going off.

    You can see trends on the meter, which is useful for a quick view, but you're far, far better off taking advantage of one of the meter's biggest selling points - Glucofacts Deluxe.

    The press release I was sent describes how the software 'translates up to 2,000 individual blood glucose readings into meaningful trends and patterns, giving users an unprecedented level of access into their own unique diabetic profiles and empowering them to become 'experts' in their diabetes'.

    I'm not suddenly wowed by the figure of 2,000 results being so huge. Actually I'm more curious at what happens with result 2,001 - I'd really like an answer over that. Perhaps someone from Bayer can enlighten me? Yet I would say that even with limited data uploaded onto the software, I can definitely see that having my results translated into graphs and trends automatically is a going to be a huge help. I've been doing this up til now with my logbooks and spreadsheets. Having this done by the meter as standard is a huge time saver, and takes the pain out of it for me!

    The software lets you see standard days, weeks and months. You can customise your 'time periods' in the day, which is great for me, as I'm much more nocturnal, so my morning starts later than the standard settings, and I can change that (although it is rather frustratingly fiddly!) to reflect how I actually live, rather than how the default person does.

    Charts also show you your percentages of time spent within your chosen targets, and on either side of the boundaries. By hovering over results on the logbook, you can also see any notes you made on the individual result, as well as the time and date. I haven't found a way of making more than one note against each result, which would be a great feature - if I don't feel right, and it's also before a meal, the ability to mark both would be great.

    There are also features I haven't explored yet, such as the ability to send results to my team. I think the trends and graphs will also become a lot more useful once I have more results stored.

    So on balance, what's my verdict? I like it an awful lot. For me, I think it is as close to a perfect meter as I can expect from what's on the market today. There are some features that I would like to see expanded on: multiple markers for results, a light on the point of strip insertion, but these are mostly minor gripes that I can see being ironed out for the mark two of this model. The only major downside I could see would be for someone for whom this much information would just be 'overload'. For those easily 'blinded by science', this might be terrifying. For those people, I'd point them towards the earlier Asencia Contour, because it has some customisable features, but not as many as to be off-putting.

    Personally, I think this will revolutionise the way I manage my blood sugars. I like to know what's going on, and this shows me in a way that I can digest. If you're not sure whether this meter would be for you, I'd seriously think about giving it a try, but only if you're planning to use the features, otherwise you might be better off with a simpler meter. I do agree that this has the potential to help people by 'empowering them to become 'experts' in their diabetes'. If it does, then that can only be a good thing. We all need a bit more empowerment sometimes. So all in all, I say well done Bayer. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

  8. Hurry up and wait

    Friday, 2 April 2010

    First things first - a big thank you to all of you who commented on my post about my problems lancing my fingers. Got a few good suggestions there. An even bigger thank you goes to Lou from One Size Doesn't Fit All, who sent out a One Touch Comfort lancing device the very next day. I'm trying it at the moment, and whilst I'm not finding it less painful to use, it does seem to get blood on the first go, and always by the second. As I said to Lou, this is a distinct improvement.

    A while back, I mentioned that I had received a Contour USB meter to review. I tried my first few tests today, and had a play around with the logbook and the settings. At the moment? I am extremely impressed. I'm trying to reserve judgement until I write my full review, but I will say that it has an awful lot of features that I'm loving.

    I'm currently waiting on an important piece of post. If you know me off the blog, you're fairly likely to know what I'm on about. If not, I'm afraid I can't say just yet. I have found though, that it's pretty much a universal truth that the moment you start waiting on something specific, it won't turn up. However, everything else that you'd been waiting for does start turning up, and at first sight, start looking like the thing you actually want.

    Which is how I found myself with a letter from the DSN's at the hospital, inviting me to a course called 'Living with Type 1 Diabetes'. Four sessions at two hours each, over the month of May. That will be a year since I was diagnosed. Should be interesting. It says in the letter that it will be a chance to meet 'other diabetics your age', and discuss things tailored to the group. I'd been told that I would get an invitation to this a while ago.

    I'm not someone blessed with patience. It would help me a lot if I had more. But as I've been told before, if you ask God for patience, you'll be given a chance to use it. So, I better hurry up and wait!