Friday, May 12, 2017

Dear Legislator

Recent developments in the healthcare debate in our country have left me feeling powerless. I have tried, for many years, to advocate for people with diabetes and have focused a lot on stigma. Today I heard what a White House official said about people with diabetes. When the stigma is perpetuated by my own government… well it has left me quite deflated. Then I remembered something: I have a voice and it can be heard by my elected officials, but only if I reach out to them. The following is a letter that I will send to my elected officials in Washington, D.C. I urge you to do the same. You can use this link to find the address for your Congressmen/women. Let our voices be heard!

Dear Legislator,

I am writing to express my concerns regarding the healthcare debate ongoing in our country as well to inform you of my wishes as one of your constituents.
Healthcare in the United States is in a shambles and I do not blame that on the Affordable Care Act. Yes, the ACA is imperfect and needs to be fixed, but the thought of the Republican led Congress axing it and replacing it with the travesty you call the American Health Care Act frankly scares me to death. I speak as someone who has a pre-existing condition; two, in fact. I speak as an American who is over 55 but not yet old enough for Medicare. I am among those Americans who will be hardest hit by the provisions in the healthcare act you seek to pass. Not only will older, sicker people be unfairly affected, but millions of people with pre-existing conditions will find it nearly impossible to buy insurance.

The Republican answer to this issue is the use of high-risk pools. Let’s talk about that. According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation27% of adults under the age of 65 have pre-existing conditions.  This includes pregnant women! People in this group will find it nearly impossible to purchase health insurance unless they are lucky enough to be covered under a group plan (ie: through their employment). These people would be subjected to higher premiums and lesser coverage than other Americans. These are the people who desperately need health coverage! The Republican plan says that these people would be allowed to participate in high-risk pools to assist them in being able to afford their higher insurance premiums. I’m sorry, but I find it ludicrous to think that the government, state or federal, has enough money to fund insurance assistance for 52 million people. High-risk pools have been tried in the past and have most often failed. Also, the idea that yearly and lifetime spending limits would be reinstated is the same as telling people with major illnesses that the government is ok with them dying if their care becomes too expensive.

Another subject that I feel needs to be addressed is the idea that some health issues are the patient’s fault and those people don’t deserve assistance. The stigma that follows people with chronic illnesses is a very serious problem. According to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, people who develop certain diseases don’t deserve the same level of health care as others. He said, That doesn’t mean we should take care of the person who sits at home, eats poorly and gets diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes did not cause their disease nor do they deserve to be looked down upon by condescending asshats anyone. (I’ll probably take that out when I write to my Senators. Well, maybe). Gluttony and sloth do not cause type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a very complicated disease but it does have a genetic component and you cannot blame someone for the genes they are born with. Please see this press release by the American Diabetes Association that explains this quite well. Living with a chronic illness is hard enough without having to battle the stigma and when that stigma is perpetuated by our White House it leaves me feeling hopeless.

The bottom line is that too many people in this country will be detrimentally affected should the American Health Care Act, or something similar, move forward. They will suffer if any change to healthcare includes punishment for pre-existing conditions or caps on benefits. We no longer live in a society where the country doctor makes house calls and is willing to take a chicken for payment. Medicine has come a long way and absolutely every American deserves the same level of affordable healthcare despite where they live, their income level or current health. I ask that you take these issues into consideration when voting/debating healthcare in our nation. You are my elected official and I am counting on you to be my voice.

Kate Cornell

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Life with Type 2 Diabetes: It’s getting better

I haven’t felt compelled to write much lately. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve said it all, numerous times. Other times I feel as if I don’t have anything of value to say. Sometimes I’m just tired, you know? Another reason that I haven’t written too much lately is that there doesn’t seem to be anything new to add. My life with diabetes isn’t dramatic these days or noteworthy at all. I could tell you about what I ate for lunch or I could talk about how I feel about my latest A1c or fasting blood sugars but… meh. It occurred to me recently that my life with type 2 diabetes is pretty boring lately and then I realized that that in itself is newsworthy! (And two consecutive “thats” in a sentence is weird.)

It’s getting better.

I remember back when I was first diagnosed and how freaked out I was every time my blood sugar was “out of range”. I recall when I realized that potatoes and my blood sugar could no longer be roommates, or even friends and how that reality was devastating to me. I remember all the holidays when all I wanted to do was sit down and eat like everyone else instead of using a smaller plate and only having a bite of the foods I adored. Those things rarely happen these days. How strange is that?

I decided that someone out there might benefit from hearing that eventually it gets better. Eventually you can live your life with finger sticks, medications and carb awareness and not even bat an eye. Do you know that I had a fasting reading of 160 this morning and all I thought was “Huh. Well that’s dumb.” Early in my diagnosis I would have been in tears wondering what I did wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong, my body doesn't always work correctly. That's all. I was just living my life and watching my blood glucose so I could make adjustments and move on.

I’m extremely proud of the lifestyle changes that I’ve made over the 11+ years I’ve been at this circus. It’s been a lot of hard work with a lot of research, experimentation, tears and soul searching. Decisions are constantly made about what is most important to me: mashed potatoes or better health? Lounging in the recliner with a book or going for a walk? Guess what? Sometimes it’s mashed potatoes while reading a book in the recliner, but that’s extremely rare. Most times it’s real food that I know is better for my blood sugar and a walk.

I don’t want to give you the false impression that I’m somehow ok with my diabetes now; that I don’t care that I have a chronic illness (two, maybe three actually). HA! Of course I care! Of course I wish it could be otherwise! I also don’t want you to think that I have it all figured out and that I never stray from the better path. Double HA! If only. I still binge on occasion (just this afternoon, in fact). I still sometimes long for foods I no longer eat. I still feel sorry for myself now and then. But the reality is that my new lifestyle is satisfying. I LIKE going for walks and look forward to getting back to the gym once Ray’s recuperation allows him to go too. I LIKE eating healthier foods. I don’t even care for horribly sweet foods any longer, now that I make my own less-sweet treats.

It’s getting better.

Better doesn’t mean perfect or always right. Better doesn’t mean that my emotions don’t sometimes rear their ugly head and cause me to be depressed. Better means that my diabetes isn’t front and center most of the time. Better means that I’ve figured out the best way for me to eat and exercise and I do those things now, most of the time, without much thought. It’s my new normal. (Let me insert here that I’m rarely normal and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ve probably figured that out for yourself.)

Someday my blood sugars could go south (north?) and my current plan may not work as well. Maybe. If that happens I feel like I’m prepared to deal with it. I feel like I can make adjustments because I already have. I’ve already proven to myself that I can do this.

So can you.

If you’re newly diagnosed, I want this post to be a beacon of hope that you can get here too.

If you’ve been at this awhile and are currently having a difficult time, I want this post to show you that that is normal and you can get through it. (More double that’s!)

Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Life is good, despite diabetes. I’ve said it before, don’t let diabetes rule your life or steer your ship. You are the one who can make a difference. Educate yourself, adjust when necessary and above all, give yourself a break. It gets better.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Let’s Talk About Prevention

When I was a little kid, Smokey the Bear would come on TV and say, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” I’m here to tell you that that’s some heavy responsibility to put on a 9 year-old. Really? I’m the only one who can prevent a forest fire? Bambi’s well-being is squarely on MY shoulders? Yikes! In reality there are lots of reasons for forest fires other than idiots who don’t pay attention including lightening caused fires. It’s certainly important to pay attention with fire while in the forest (says one who happens to have a national forest in her back yard) but no one has control over lightening. No one can prevent that type of forest fire.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook these days. I lurk and rarely interact. Today my eye was caught by a post from my friend Cherise. In the post she was calling out a reputable organization for posting the idea that type 2 diabetes can be prevented. She called BS (in the nicest of ways. It’s Cherise, after all.). There was a healthy back and forth among some of her FB friends discussing whether or not it is fair to say that type 2 is preventable. There was the discussion of genetics as well as the thought that many people could “prevent” their diagnosis if they would “simply” make some lifestyle changes. There were some “damn straights” and “preach it Brothers” coming from my lips as I read the exchange. It also led me here to write about my thoughts on the subject.

I’m not going to talk about the genetics or science behind this argument that too often pops up on the internet. Although science is very important, I want to talk about the people who are affected by the word “preventable”. People like me. People who have developed type 2 diabetes.

I was privileged to attend the HealtheVoices 2016 Conference this past spring in Chicago. It was a gathering of health advocates/bloggers across all diseases, not just people with diabetes. There was a good showing of folks from the DOC there and it was a rewarding, fun and educational weekend. The conference was kicked off on Friday evening with a banquet and keynote speaker. This gentleman, who collects data about all types of diseases, was going through his presentation, showing us slides of his data, when he said something that caused those of us with knowledge of life with diabetes to gasp. He said that 80+ percent of cases of type 2 diabetes were preventable. Wow. I could barely breathe. Here was someone who ought to know telling 100+ people that I could have prevented my diabetes. We were all shocked. My dear friend Bea said to me, “you have to say something!” Ohhhhh but I don’t wanna. I can’t stand up in front of all these people and confront this man! But I did. With my voice quavering I called him out. I told him that those types of statements do nothing but increase the stigma that those of us with diabetes face every day. Words matter (although I’m not exactly sure what words I used because DANG I was nervous!).

What does it feel like to hear that you have a disease that you could have prevented? It feels pretty crappy, let me tell you. Those of us who advocate for people with diabetes rail against the accusation that people with type 2 did this to themselves; that we somehow deserve what we got. Quit blaming the patient! There are many ways to develop type 2 diabetes that have nothing to do with diet, like gestational diabetes or coming in contact with some type of environmental goop. But the reality is that the majority of cases of type 2 are developed due to lifestyle. Ugh, did I just type that? I did, but let me explain further.

I have said all along that I would have eventually developed type 2 in my elder years, regardless of my lifestyle but my lifestyle probably hastened my development of the disease. That’s not an easy pill to swallow. But hey! I didn’t eat dozens of donuts or vats of chili cheese fries! I ate like everyone else ate. That’s the key: the Standard American Diet SUCKS!

My friend Mike Lawson said it so well in his comment on this FB thread: “and if some all-encompassing study proves that Type 2 is caused entirely by the food we eat, it isn't accurate to say that people that develop type 2 diabetes have done anything except eat the food that we have access to.” Bingo! (I love you Mike!)

THAT is the key! People who develop type 2 diabetes are those who most likely have a genetic predisposition and their lifestyle of too many processed carbs and not enough daily exercise have caused their bodies to cease to be able to process glucose effectively. They aren’t any different than anyone else, they just got the booby prize in the lottery of life.

So back to prevention. Don’t tell the world that type 2 diabetes is preventable unless you’re willing to back that statement with proper education for the masses on how processed food is vile and over consumption of processed carbs is taxing your pancreas and liver and preventing your cells from getting the energy they need. The way the majority of Americans eat is causing over production of insulin which turns to fat which increases insulin resistance which makes it difficult for our bodies to process glucose which causes your pancreas to release more insulin; rinse, repeat. Don’t say it’s preventable unless you’re willing to make whole, real foods readily available to the majority of people in a way that’s affordable. Don’t say it’s preventable unless you teach people how to cook and eat healthy, whole foods. Don’t say it’s preventable unless you go about making exercise easier to achieve in our hectic lives. Don’t say it’s preventable when I know damn well that there was nothing I could have done, knowing what I did at that time. No way could I have fed my family any better on the few dollars I had at my disposal, not to mention that the dreaded food pyramid was telling me to eat 6-12 servings of carbohydrates per day!

Words matter and the people who have developed type 2 diabetes because they have just been living their lives like everyone else deserve better than to be accused of developing a disease that dramatically, painfully affects them for the rest of their lives. Think before you point a finger: can you say that you eat any differently? Are you perfect?

Type 2 diabetes may someday be a disease that can be delayed if the people in our society are given the tools they need to make “better” choices. When our society lifts up real food and shuns fast and convenient crap then maybe fewer people will develop type 2, at least not until they’re old and gray.

When you tell me that my disease was preventable you’re telling me that I failed. You’re telling me that I failed the test when I wasn’t given a chance to study. I failed when fast, convenient tasty foods are priced in a way that makes them an easy choice for people who don’t have much money? When I was just living life like everyone else, I failed. Don’t tell me that I could have prevented it, help me to show my kids and grandkids a better way.

Just like Smokey the Bear, the media is pointing its finger at me and saying that “only YOU can prevent type 2 diabetes!” I call bullshit.

Monday, October 3, 2016


*As I began to write this post, I realized that I had never mentioned here that my mother passed away on August 6th. She made it past her 98th birthday and had a good life. This hasn’t been an easy summer but I’m doing ok (and so is Ray).

I had a rather unusual conversation the other day while I was waiting to see my new doctor. The person offered his condolences on the passing of my mother and then went on to comment on how amazing it is that she lived to be 98. Many people have mentioned her age so I wasn’t all that surprised, however, he added that it was especially amazing due to her size. Interesting comment. (My mother was a large woman and had been most of her adult life. She was only 5’4” tall and weighed roughly 220 lbs during the last year of her life.) The conversation continued and I happened to mention that my oldest son is now 40. “Really! And how old was his dad when he died?” 42. “And two of his sisters died young too. One of them drank a lot, didn’t she? Your son should be fine as long as he doesn’t abuse alcohol or drugs.”


In case you’re wondering, the man is still standing and didn’t require any medical intervention after our conversation ended. I wasn’t offended by anything he said because I’ve known this guy for decades and he’s… different. He meant no offense and none was taken. I’d like to clarify that my dear sister-in-law did enjoy her beer but that is not what killed her. All 3 of those siblings died of massive heart attacks out of the blue at a relatively young age. They had bum tickers, they weren’t overweight and were fairly active people.

It wasn’t until later in the day that I began to think about what was said and what was implied:

My mother lived to a ripe old age, despite the fact that she was overweight, which this person felt was unusual. My first husband and his sisters died at a young age and appeared to be healthy humans so there must have been something they did to hurry their deaths.


Our society spends SO much time worrying/obsessing about what someone looks like and makes assumptions based on those looks as to what that person’s health might be. (Appearances also cause people to make assumptions about someone’s moral fiber and whether or not they are “worthy”, but this is about health and you don’t want to get me started on that other can of worms.) Just because my mother was heavy, this person assumed that it was a miracle that she lived so long. He knew nothing about her health. He assumed, based on her appearance, that she was an unhealthy individual. Mom suffered with bad knees, which was definitely exacerbated by her weight, and couldn’t see due to macular degeneration, but her overall health was fine. Her heart was strong. She survived lung cancer (never smoked) and other various things throughout her life but she was damn healthy! Heck, she still had all her own teeth! My first husband, on the other hand, was a healthy-looking man. He had developed a bit of a gut but he was active and didn’t appear to be ill, and yet he died so young. This just threw my acquaintance. He couldn’t comprehend how this could be! So unless my son abuses drugs or alcohol, he should be fine. What???

I’m so tired of how people are judged because of how they look. Fat-shaming is a perfectly acceptable form of bullying that is getting worse as the people in our society get larger. I have learned that weight loss is not as simple as calories in/calories out. I have learned that exercise can be difficult when you’re dealing with pain. I have learned that dealing with diabetes/elevated blood sugar is different for each individual. I have learned that “doing what I’m supposed to do” isn’t always easy when a low mood hits.

Fact: There are overweight people who run marathons and/or work out regularly.

Fact: There are overweight people who eat very healthy diets and thin people who eat nothing but crap food.

Fact: There are skinny people who are in horrible health.

Fact: Overweight/obese does not equal “unhealthy’ and thin does not equal “healthy”.

I am certainly not suggesting that people not worry about carrying excess weight. I feel that everyone, size aside, should do their best to improve their diet and add regular exercise to their lives. The point of this post is to, hopefully, have people stop and think before they judge. I’m most likely speaking to the choir, since if you’re reading this you are already well aware of how much stigma there is in the world and how important it is for us to take care of ourselves regardless of our size, but I simply had to get this off my chest!

The next time you see someone who is overweight and eating dessert, don’t judge! How is it your business what that person eats? Just maybe they have been rocking a new food plan and are simply having a treat! Maybe it’s their birthday. The point is: don’t judge. You have no idea what their life is like.

If you see someone in the grocery store who has a basketful of processed carbs, don’t judge. Maybe they just need some education about how to improve their diet. It’s not your job to correct them or look down on them.

The next time you see some thin person rocking some yoga pants, don’t assume they are healthy. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they are “better” than you just because they look like something the media has made us believe is the ideal.

To all the haters out there: Just. Stop. Who the F*** do you think you are?

Regardless of my size, or my health or the fact that I choose to go without makeup and fancy hair, I walk with my head held high because I know that I’m a good person. I’m someone who is kind. I do what I can to be as healthy as possible. How I look, what I believe or what food plan I choose to follow doesn’t make me any better or worse than the next person.

Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Your Illness is Not Your Fault.


Your illness is not your fault.

Shared Medical Appointments

Doctor appointments are not something that most of us look forward to attending. We’re poked, prodded, weighed and asked lots of questions that we might not feel like answering. The idea of doing any of that in the presence of others doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy, so explain to me why I signed up to participate in a Shared Medical Appointment!

What the heck is a shared medical appointment? Visions of sitting in a room full of people wearing those horrid gowns, swinging their legs over the edge of the table…waiting, pop into my head. (shudder) Rest assured, that’s not what it is. It’s my understanding that the Cleveland Clinic started shared medical appointments as a way to work with larger groups of patients for their follow-up appointments. These patients all have the same condition/disease and could benefit from a group setting. Think support group/education. Here in Podunk, AZ, where we don’t even have a stop light, we have shared medical appointments! Just like in Cleveland but with more pine trees and less traffic!

Back in December, my HCP approached me about participating in their new type 2 diabetes shared medical appointments. It would start out small (6 participants) and would, hopefully, grow. She explained that each patient would have approx. 10 minutes with her to check our labs, weight and meds, etc. and the rest of the time we would be in a support group setting. Since I had tried to run a support group in our town, and failed, I was pretty excited to hear that they were going to do this. The biggest problem I had with my group was getting people to come and speak to us. Here was an opportunity to have professionals come and impart their wisdom upon our heads! I said, sign me up! I attended my third shared appointment this week and I figured it was time to tell you about the experience. It’s been a mixed bag.

The first appointment was just a chance to tell us what to expect and to ask us what we wanted to talk about. We filled out a survey and just generally chatted. We had our time with the doctor and got to know each other. There was horrid coffee available.

Second visit, 3 months later, we had a session with the dietitian. Ugh. Because I follow a lower carb diet, I knew that she would say things I didn’t agree with but she was also kinda pissy. I tried to keep my mouth shut and succeeded, mostly. She was actually spending a lot of time telling us what we can eat at fast food restaurants and which frozen meals are “good”! Thankfully, another participant spoke up and said, “I want to know what I should eat at home!” The doctor asked me what I thought and I shrugged.

This last appointment was conducted by a pharmacist and she went over the A,B,Cs of diabetes: A1c, blood pressure and cholesterol. She’s good and gave us a lot of good information. There were also lots of new people, which was encouraging. I also found out that they now have three groups! I think this is great and a much needed service.

The bad:
  • They push carbohydrates.
  • Not much time with the doctor. (I’m used to using my check-up appointments for everything and now I will have to have another visit to discuss lady stuff, my thyroid and fibro.) It feels rushed. 

The not great: 
  • I see lightbulbs go off over some heads during the conversations (which is good) but there isn’t always time to adequately explain things and they often end up looking confused.
  • While you are having your time with the doctor, the discussion continues in your absence and you might miss stuff.

The good:
  • Some of the people in my town who desperately need to take charge of their diabetes are getting needed education in a group setting.

Although I feel that this is a great service that my clinic is providing, I don’t know that I’ll continue attending. It’s not really something I need any longer. My HCP wanted me to participate because I’m a well-informed PWD and I could “share my wisdom” with the others. But, my “wisdom” often flies in the face of the usual diabetes education and I have no desire to be “that woman” who argues and confuses. Even though I feel that what I’ve learned about diet and my diabetes is valuable information, I can’t exactly stand up and contradict the dietitian. Who are the others going to believe? Answer: not me. I’ve reached a point in my life with diabetes where I have learned what works for me and that just doesn’t jive with the conventional wisdom. It seems that the best place for me to advocate is right here, and not in a support group setting. Unless I could help encourage those others to take charge, check their blood sugar before and after those carby meals and see what it does to their blood sugar. I don’t hear that advice being given. Hmm, maybe I’ll go one more time.

All in all, I think that shared medical appointments are a good thing, something that’s needed. It’s a beginning. Whether or not I continue to attend doesn’t matter, what matters is that it’s happening and it may help some lost souls find their way. I give it a thumbs-up (especially since we don’t have to wear those gowns!)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Numbers: They Lie

People with diabetes live their lives with numbers; HbA1c, glucose meter readings, weight, lab results, etc. It sucks, to be honest. But I noticed something this morning that made me stop and think, that in a way, those numbers can lie to us.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “thin”? I am far from thin, but sometimes I just feel skinny. I’m not bloated, I have energy, my clothes aren’t tight and I just feel good! One of the worst things I can do on those days is to step on the scale, but I often do. If the number on that scale doesn’t jive with how I’m feeling then I can begin to feel bad. My mind tells me, “Who are you fooling? You’re not thin!” Well, duh, I thought we’d already established the fact that I’m not thin! But that darn number can begin to niggle at my good mood and bring me down.

This morning I feel thin and I didn’t step on the scale! (Yeah me!) I started my coffee and stumbled into my office to check my blood glucose, like I always do. 151 WHA??? I ate reasonably last night, my fasting numbers have been slightly better than my normal lately and now this? My good mood from feeling thin today vanished when I saw that number.

“I guess I’m not doing as well as I thought. Maybe I should step on the scale and see for myself. Maybe I’ll eat ice cream and potato chips today. Why not?”

Those may not be the actual thoughts I had this morning but I’ve definitely had them before. One stupid, unexpected number on my meter or the scale or a lab report can cause me to doubt my ability to deal with this frickin disease.


I’ve been reading a bit about depression and anxiety lately and one of the things I’ve seen over and over again from people who live with those conditions is that they lie. Depression lies (not the people who have it). It tells your brain things that just aren’t true and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. I feel as if the numbers we live with as people with diabetes lie to us as well.

These numbers are important and we need to pay attention to them, but we shouldn’t let them control how we feel about our progress. Our numbers are signposts. (Here’s where I shout out to Christel . She used this idea of numbers as signposts at the Las Vegas UnConference this past spring. Brilliant.) What does that mean? It means that the number on your meter is just a sign of how things are going this minute. It’s not a judgement. It’s not any indication that you’ve done something “wrong”. It’s just a number that helps you make decisions about your diabetes care moving forward. The 151 on my meter this morning shouldn’t taunt me and make me feel as if I’ve screwed up. It just tells me to eat low carb today and drink lots of water and go for a walk. That’s all. I still feel “skinny” and I won’t step on that scale!!

Think about this scenario: A newly diagnosed PWD has an HbA1c of 10. Three months later that number has gone down to 8. Wow! That’s wonderful news! However, if someone who knew nothing about that person’s journey saw an 8 they might think that person wasn’t doing very well. That 8 was lying to that outsider but it’s a great signpost for the patient. They’re doing a great job!

They’re just numbers; numbers on a scale or glucose meter, it doesn’t matter. Just. Numbers. Don’t let them lie to you and cause you to feel any differently about how you’re doing. Go ahead; feel skinny!