In April of 2018, Colleen and I (pronouncing ourselves as the “Sugar Babies”) had a blast working together on a presentation for the local Columbus, OH JDRF chapter for the annual Type One Summit. Our talk was a true success (in my opinion!) and a true friendship had begun. Colleen is refreshing and an inspiration and I can’t wait to share her story and tips with you.

Tell us a little about yourself? 

I grew up in Boston Massachusetts and indulged in the life of living close to the shore. I attended Boston College and graduated with my BSN.  I am a die-hard Red Sox, Patriots, and Boston College fan! I moved to Ohio in 2004 after meeting my now husband, Todd.  He was working for the Red Sox during a summer internship.  We met during a harbor cruise and the rest is history!  We were married in 2006 and now have 2 spunky little boys.  Landon who is 7 and Nolan who is 3.  They are a genuine mix of the both of us.  I work as a CDE for The Ohio State University Medical Center and learn daily to balance the joys and hardships of home and work life (when someone finds out the key to this, I’ll pay you in gluten-free baked goods for the rest of your life).

I LOVE LOVE  LOVE to throw down in the kitchen with my boys and also it’s a place of solitude when I just want to see what I can create with random ingredients.  I became a runner after college and started working it into my daily regimen when I became pregnant with our first son.  It helped me stay active, healthy, and sustain uncomplicated pregnancies.

How long have you had diabetes?

I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 8 and will celebrate 30 years this October.  My mother is a sleuth when it came to picking out and tracking symptoms.  I was incredibly thirsty, increased urination, and was close to being 10 lbs underweight for my age.  Since I was not feeling well I was sleeping in my parent’s room. This is when my mom could smell acetone on my breath and took me in to see multiple doctors before insisting a blood sugar was checked.  My initial blood sugar was in the 500’s and I was admitted to The Massachusetts General Hospital.  Days later I became a type 1 warrior.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats and shaking and eating at 2am.  My body would always wake me up. I have had good and bad days with diabetes.  I had a poor relationship with it during my late teen years and fortunately realized what I was putting my body through in my early 20’s.  My husband is the reason I started being a T1D champion.

I choose daily to make it a positive part of my life.  Why not?  Choices I make regularly set me down a path of wellness.  I know that maybe one day my metabolic memory will rear its ugly head, however, today I’m going to be a wife, mom, friend, nurse/CDE, runner, and foodie.

What eating style have you found to be most helpful in managing blood sugars? What hasn’t worked?

My eating styles have shifted.  Being aware of the effect certain foods can have on my BG and attitude have been a game changer.  My brother lives with Celiac disease and I know living as a T1D I am predisposed.  My style is definitely just what works for me.  I have been very rigid and content and then have been less strict and happy also.  I do identify changes with foods and when I find what works best I tend to stick with it.  I feel best gluten and dairy free.  My blood sugars also love me when I tend to eat lower carb or mainly stay away from processed foods.

CRAVINGS!!! We have all been here before.  When my 3 year old offers me a taste of his ice cream, what should I do? I have a taste and then move on.  I cannot consistently beat myself up about food choices.  I do try to have healthy good tasting food at my disposal to avoid the food trap my mind can play on me.

What type of insulin do you use and what insulin dosage method works best for you and your lifestyle? 

I have used MDI’s/shots in the past and I now wear a T-Slim insulin pump and it helps me run my busy life.  Using temporary basal rates has helped me run better without interruption, have a water balloon fight with my husband and sons without missing a step (we are a bit competitive), and also indulge in a glass of wine or two without becoming hypoglycemic.

How do you treat a low blood sugar?

The elusive low BS ( I call it BS for a reason)! I keep fruit snacks with me during the day or I will have juice available at home.  Glucose tabs are also a mainstay.  They are affordable and effective.  I also temp basal (50%) for at least 15 minutes if I am hypo.

Do you exercise? What do you like to do for exercise? How do you handle activity with controlling your blood sugar? 

Exercise is just as important to me as insulin and my CGM.  It sets my mind right, improves my mood, and I crave it!  I try to run at least 5 days per week and incorporate in cycling and a barbell strength class in at my local gym.

Running with my insulin pump.  My formula is: if my BG is close to 100 then I temp basal at 40% for an hour before my run.  When I start my run I turn my pump down to 30% temp basal during the first 30 minutes and then typically it goes back to 100% for the last 15-30 minutes.  I keep glucose tabs with me in case and will have one tab (4g carb) every 15 minutes if needed but often times I don’t need them.

What tips would you rattle off for someone who is trying to improve their blood sugar control? Or even for someone who is newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?

Tips: Diabetes is manageable!!! I was given something I can control as long as I’m conscious of my choices.  We are constantly aware of numbers, dings, bells, whistles, packing food, preparing, etc—burn out is REAL!! Talk to people, anyone you trust.  If it is your Endo, spouse, best friend, or T1D confidant please talk about it.  If you have a bad day just put it to bed and kick it’s ass tomorrow.  You’re unique and diabetes is a condition, not a disease or disorder.  Take it easy on yourself.  You are now the owner of a sleeping pancreas.

Social Media: I love this for the huge community available and we all can relate.  Saying that, there are many many people who can reflect a perfect life with diabetes and this can cause comparison.  Stick to YOUR guns! Know what works for you and then incorporate or experiment with a lifestyle you are interested in learning more about.  For example, if you haven’t tried to eliminate gluten from your diet and want to see how it might work for you…seek good resources and give it a  go! Try for 3 weeks to one month.

What does a typical day of food look like to you? 

Breakfast: coffee made in a French press with truvia and some organic soy milk, egg white omelet or a blueberry Vans gluten-free waffle with PB.  Or I skip breakfast and might eat this same meal around 10 or 11am

Lunch: protein, veggies, and a carb such as half a Lara Bar or Luna Bar if I have exercised in the am.  Water or flavored water

Dinner: tacos are a focus at our house. My kids and husband love them and they can be FULLLLLL of delicious options.  I sometimes have a taco salad or two corn tacos.  I add in avocado, tomatoes, sour cream (dairy free), lettuce, etc.  and I can’t have a taco without mild taco bell sauce (I find this at Walmart).

Lots of water and then I do drink wine.  Rose is a favorite in the summer months.

What is the hardest part of being diabetic? What is the best part?

Hard?  I think losing a family member/friend is hard.  Giving birth is hard.
Diabetes is mine and I’m thankful for the challenge.  The best part is that I can do this and succeed!  I am a messenger and I try to live by what I teach, believe, and speak. Do your best every single day! Not merely with the BS levels but with what means the most to you.

Any closing thoughts?

Positive reinforcement! Reward yourself! Be your BEST SELF ADVOCATE! No one knows you like you do.  Be relentless at seeking ways to be your best self, be happy, show constant kindness and reflect that.   Accept help! Believe in your ability.

Find someone like Kelly Schmidt to roll with.  She’s my homie and I adore her.  You’ll soar high and be an advocate and mentor.