sisterSTAFF Blog

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Trying something new...

sisterSTAFF Blog

Wow!  It’s hard to believe…after 15 years of using the Medtronic insulin pump, I have been walking around the last two days with an Omnipod stuck to my back!  As women with diabetes, I know you understand how monumental this is for me.  It’s like test driving a new car after driving the same one for 15 years.  But, unfortunately, the only people who can see my new car (understand how “big” this is for me) are those who drive the same kind of car (i.e. have diabetes).  So, while I can’t share my excitement or gripes and complaints with the rest of the world, I CAN share them with you!

In the interst of full disclosure, both Medtronic and Omnipod are sponsors of DiabetesSisters & the Weekend for Women Conference.  As a result of my interaction with Steve McGuinn, our local Omnipod rep in Raleigh, NC, I decided to give the omnipod a “try.”  By that, I mean that I have not switched over, but I am using a loaner omnipod “PDM” and they are “fronting” me a few pods to give it a try.  (I guess that IS a great perk of being immersed in the diabetes world—getting to try the new technology that I am curious about!)

 

On Wednesday afternoon, I met with the Omnipod (local) Clinical Manager and she walked me through the entire setup of the PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager) which wirelessly programs insulin delivery, calculates suggested doses, and also contains a blood sugar meter.  Then, we filled the first “pod” with insulin and applied it to my lower back.

 

My observations, so far:

PROS- 1- it is nice to not have tubing and it does feel “freeing” to not feel the pump in my bra- which is where I have worn it for the majority of the last 15 years.  2- I haven’t really been bothered by the location of the pump and for the most part, I have forgotten it was there—except when I sit in the car.  Then, it is noticeable, but it isn’t uncomfortable.  3- I like the PDM system and how it intuitive it is—such as the graphing of blood sugars for the day, the past 7 days, or the past 14 days; how it asks me if I am getting ready to eat after checking my blood sugar, then calculates my bolus based on the insulin-on-board and the carbs I am eating; how it asks me if I want to set an alarm to check my sugar after eating.  I feel like this provides a great deal of assistance in keeping my blood sugar within my target range; and how it provides a food library to help determine the number of carbs I am eating.

CONS- 1- The PDM being separate means I have something to keep up with.  I misplace my meter at least once a day.  I lose it in my car, under the bed, under the couch, you name it.  So, I am concerned that I will have similar issues with the PDM.  If I do misplace it, the big inconvenience is that I won’t be able to eat or drink until I find it (because I won’t be able to bolus).  Now…it’s one thing to not check your blood sugar before a meal, but it’s an entirely different thing to not take insulin before a meal.  So far, I have been vigilant about keeping my PDM in a certain pocket in my purse.   We’ll see if that continues.   2- The pod can only be used with an “auto inserter.”  Since I was put on an insulin pump since 1996 when auto inserters were not available, I have always inserted the needle myself.  With an auto inserter, I no longer have the control that I am accustomed to.  3- The insertion of the pod is a bit jolting—the sound and the feeling—at least, it is the first time you do it.  Don’t get me wrong it was only a slight sting, but the sound combined with the “slight sting” is what creates the jolting effect.  I’ve been told that this gets better over time.  I am set to change my pod on Saturday night, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

I hope this review is helpful for anyone considering trying or switching to omnipod.  Feel free to email me any questions you have about the Omnipod and I’ll be glad to answer them based on my personal experience.

Tragedy on the Ferry in Morocco

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Wow!  I have so much to tell you about!  Of course, I’d love to go through all of the details of my trip to Spain last week, but there simply is not enough room in one blog!  We saw the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, tasted traditional Spanish food like paella, visited Morocco (Africa) and watched snake charmers with cobra snakes, ate traditional Moroccan food including baklava, rode camels, visited some really important places in US history such as the palace (called AlHambra) where Christopher Columbus was knighted by Queen Isabella before sailing to America in 1492, visited the famous Rock of Gibraltar (United Kingdom) and had the native monkeys jump on our backs….I could go on and on!  If you are a friend on Facebook, you can see the photos on my profile.  If you are not a friend yet, feel free to “friend” me!

 

What I’d really like to share with you is something diabetes-related that happened on the trip that really impacted my mood in a negative way.  To get to Morocco from Spain, you have to take what they call a “fast ferry”.  This ferry travels back and froth from the southern tip of Spain (Tarifa) to the northern tip of Africa (Tangier) in 45 minutes.  The ferry staff is entirely Spanish-speaking and Chris and I know only a small amount of Spanish.   We had no issues on the ferry ride over to Morocco.  However, on the ride back, I was sitting quietly beside my husband reading a book on my Kindle and my husband was taking in the scenery.  All of the sudden, I heard a big thud followed by gasps from women on the ferry.  When I looked up, there was a young woman lying on the floor a few steps away from the café.  I immediately asked my husband what happened.  He said that when the woman came down the stairs she was very unsteady, but he thought it was because the ferry was rocking a bit.  After reaching the bottom of the stairs and taking a few more very unsteady steps, she collapsed.  Naturally, as a woman with diabetes, my first thought was, “Oh no!  I hope she doesn’t have diabetes.  She was headed toward food/drinks.”  The ferry staff immediately scooped her up and laid her on a bench.  Even though my Spanish is not good, my anxiety level continued to rise because I could tell the staff was not trained to handle medical situations like this.  As I tore through my bag and fished out one of my snacks for her (just in case), my husband said, “They’re giving her juice, so she must have diabetes.  She has crackers too.” My husband is very tall so he can see over most people, therefore, he had a good view of what was going on with her.  Ah!  I felt a sense of relief.  But then, I felt anxiety again.  “Is she fighting it?” I asked Chris.  “Yes”, he replied.  Of course, the untrained staff didn’t know that they needed to “make” her drink the juice.  “I need to do something to help her”, I said to Chris.  At the same time, Chris and l looked at my meter and a light bulb went off.  Chris said, “Just go over to her and hold up your meter…that’s a universal sign among people with diabetes, right?”  So, with all eyes on me, I walked to the front of the ferry and held up my meter to her.  She immediately shook her head ‘yes.’  Luckily, the first staff member I walked up to spoke some English.  I explained that if she has diabetes, I can check her blood sugar to see if she is out of the “danger zone”.  (Note: I took appropriate safety precautions and had a new, unused needle in my hand.  I showed the woman that I was changing the needle before I poked her.)  She held her hand up for me to stick her and within 5 seconds, we had a reading.  119 was the number on the meter.  I gave her the universal “thumbs up” sign and she smiled.  Although I couldn’t see her, my husband said that she put her hands together and bowed to show me the universal sign of thank you.  Apparently, the English-speaking staff member thought I was a medical professional (since I had medical equipment!) because he started to tell me the woman’s situation- which absolutely broke my heart.  According to him, the woman, who looked to be in her late 20s or early 30s, had diabetes, was three-months pregnant with her third child, and her husband was dying.  And, she was traveling on this ferry alone.

 

Feeling that this woman was stable (due to her normal blood sugar reading), and my work was done, I returned to my seat.  Unfortunately, about 5-10 minutes later is when the real tragedy occurred.  The woman began to look agitated again and began to rock back and forth.  Then, she fell to the floor, holding her stomach, and screaming out in pains that you normally only hear in a birth room.  The staff did not know what to do and we were still 15- 20 minutes from shore.  Someone came across the loud speaker and began asking for any doctors on board to report to the café.  Unfortunately, no one appeared, and the woman continued to scream in agony every 30 seconds with the group huddled around her rubbing her head and trying to calm her.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  It was obvious that she was losing her baby and there was nothing anyone on the ferry could do to help her.  I kept thinking about how, as a woman with diabetes, that could be me.  I have never witnessed anything so dramatic or tragic for a fellow WWD (woman with diabetes) in my entire life.  The staff eventually put her in a wheelchair and carted her to a secluded part of the ship.  When we arrived at shore, an ambulance was waiting for her.

 

The events on the ferry affected me for the rest of the day.  My husband kept assuring me that “there was nothing else you could have done to help her.  You did everything you could.”  In my mind, all I could think of was that I had seen how chaotic it can become when a person with diabetes passes out and no one knows what to do.  And I had also likely witnessed the child of a woman with diabetes lose its life.  Both are incredibly sad.

Exciting Times!

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Thanksgiving week 2011 will be one for the memory books!  We started out the week with Thanksgiving lunch with my extended family at my parent’s house in Hickory, NC.  On Tuesday, we headed down to  our place at Myrtle Beach to meet my parent’s and my sister, Candace and her boyfriend, Corey.  We had lots of laughs and lots of fun—as usual!  Candace and I hit up all of the stores for Black Friday sales (though we weren’t very lucky).  Spending time together was the best part of shopping together- especially since we shop at the same stores shop in the same manner.  (You know how hard it is to shop with someone who runs through a store and is finished before you walk down the first aisle OR the person who painstakingly looks at every item in a section of the store while you wait “patiently.” But, the highlight of the week took place on Friday afternoon at sunset when Corey proposed to Candace on the beach while we watched from the balcony of the condo.   It was quite beautiful…really!  The sun was going down and the sky was beautiful.   As soon as we saw her hug him, we all started cheering from the balcony and she turned and saw all of us watching (and then she started screaming!) After she said “Yes!”, they enjoyed champagne and chocolate covered strawberries on a beautiful  red blanket with pillows and candles.  Then, we all went to Margaritaville to celebrate.  It was a very memorable night!   (Check out my Facebook page for photos)  As I write this Blog it is Saturday morning and Chris and I are driving back to Durham to catch our evening flight to Spain!  That’s right—we are celebrating our wedding anniversary on the southern tip of Spain.  (We delayed our celebration due to the San Diego Conference.  Our anniversary is actually Sept 7, 2002.)  Bes sure to check out my Facebook page for photos this week.  I’ve heard that Spain is absolutely beautiful !  We are also planning to go to Morocco for a day trip and possibly to Portugal.  Like I said at the beginning--- Exciting times! :-)

SisterMatch is now LIVE!

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In case you haven’t heard---- THE NEW SISTERMATCH PROGRAM is now LIVE!!  I am so pumped about it and I think you will be too-- once you log in and give it a test drive!  The Program is hard to describe in words because it is one of those things that you have to experience to truly understand.  However,  I think Amy Tenderich of Diabetes Mine did a great job describing it in her post yesterday.

 

Just think, for once in your life, being a WOMAN and HAVING DIABETES gives you an All-Access Pass to this cutting edge program.  For once, there’s something cool and hip that you have access and your “normal” friends don’t have access to---all because you have diabetes!  That’s kind of cool!—(at least to me it is!)  In a nutshell,  SisterMatch centers around women earning quilt blocks by participating in knowledge tests and personality quizzes – each woman’s unique quilt is then woven into the intricate Community Quilt.  SisterMatch’s innovation lies in its matchmaking algorithm, which gathers information about members’ attitudes, personalities and preferences, and then delivers each Sister her best “SisterMatches”. Using this matchmaking process, women with diabetes are able  to build a list of compatible peer support friends, and begin new friendships while also learning helpful information about healthy living in a fun, interactive way.

 

DiabetesSisters SisterMatch Introduction from Ayogo Games on Vimeo.

To provide a little history on the SisterMatch Program: When I was pregnant with my daughter Summer in 2004, I desperately longed for a “girlfriend” with diabetes who could walk with me on the pregnancy journey—either someone who had already been through a pregnancy or someone who was going through pregnancy at the same time.  Although I tried to get my Endocrinologist and my High-risk Obstetrician to connect me with someone, it never happened.  It annoyed, and actually angered me, that there was no way for women with diabetes to connect with each other despite the vast number of people with diabetes that the press always talked about!  Fast forward a few years to 2007 when the concept of DiabetesSisters was becoming concrete.  Even then, the foundation of the organization centered around women with diabetes having a central location to connect with each other.   SisterMatch was first initiated on the DiabetesSisters website in 2008.  It was a very basic program in which women would submit some basic information about them and they would be provided with the name and email address of a woman with the same type of diabetes who was close in age.  Unfortunately, we had no program in place to match women on any other factors other than age and type of diabetes.  Based on the high volume of program registrants, it became clear very fast that there were many women with diabetes who, like me, were longing for that one-on-one connection with another women with diabetes.  I continually networked and talked with people about my desire to upgrade the program.  Finally, in the summer of 2010, Manny Hernandez of TuDiabetes.org introduced to Michael Fergusson of Ayogo Games.  We immediately connected on the idea of making SisterMatch more interactive and spent the entire dinner talking about ways to make it happen.  Of course, the big challenge was funding because, as we all know, customized software programs cost A LOT!  It was in early 2011 when the funding was finally confirmed and we (DiabetesSisters) have been working all year with Ayogo Games on the development of this innovative program.  I hope you enjoy this program.  It is something that was truly born out of my desire to make it easier for women with diabetes to connect, support, and educate each other.  ENJOY!

Hilarious Halloween 2011

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Happy Halloween Everyone!  Did you have fun?  I certainly did!  Since it was raining in Durham last night and not so many kids were out, my daughter got more than her fair share of candy from our neighbors who constantly said, "Go ahead!  Take some more.  We're going to have so much candy left over."  So, she was quite proud of her huge bag of candy at the end of the night.  As promised, below is the photo from the Halloween party we attended with my sister and her boyfriend this past weekend.  As you may recall, my sister and I were in a heated competition to see who could come up with the best costume.  It was all a big secret until the BIG REVEAL on Saturday.  My husband, Chris, was Michael Jordan, my daughter Summer was a “hippie chick”, I was “Aunt Gertrude” and my sister, Candace, was “Shanequa”.  To further explain, she was a ghetto hippie with an especially large butt and a gold tooth who loved to dance to music.  The breakout performance came from Candace’s boyfriend, Corey, who got really creative and came as Lil Jon.  (If you are wondering who he is: he is a rapper/singer.  You may remember him from Celebrity Apprentice a few seasons ago.)  I was amazed at how much Corey actually looked and acted like Lil Jon!  We had a great time at the costume party and enjoyed being in character!  All of us were asked to pose for pictures.  (By the way- You know your costume is good if people want to pose with you in pictures!)  So, what are your thoughts?  Who should the award of BEST COSTUME go to this year?  (See picture below).

 

Although I talked about DiabetesSisters’ participation in the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out Walk, I neglected to share an adorable story about my precocious (and protective) daughter, Summer.   Soon after arriving at the walk, she asked me why everyone was wearing red t-shirts.  I explained that red is the color of the ADA just like orange is the color of DiabetesSisters.  Next, she wanted to know why everyone’s shirt said “STOP DIABETES” on it when according to her, “they make it sound like diabetes is mean and bad.  It’s not bad or mean.“  She went on to say, “Anyway, they can’t stop diabetes, only God can do that!  They shouldn’t be saying that….it’s not very nice.”   Ahhh..the innocence and bluntness of children.  It really, truly is priceless.  I am so glad that Summer does not see diabetes as a huge burden in my life.  (I was always concerned that she would grow up thinking of her mom as being sickly).  She doesn’t even seeing diabetes as something slightly negative.  (I guess that explains why she wants to have diabetes so bad when she grows up.)  Now, don’t get me wrong...I don’t hide the bad parts of diabetes from her or show her only certain aspects of the disease.  She is my little shadow, so she sees everything that goes on with me, from checking my blood sugar to changing my site to losing my meter to forgetting my insulin on trips to having to lie down due to a high blood sugar.  She’s seen it all!  I think part of her response is also her protectiveness of me and not wanting anyone to say anything negative about me (or a disease that I have!).  Throughout the walk, she would say, “There’s one of those people with the STOP Diabetes shirts.   I’d rather not walk with them.”

Halloween is almost here! What/who are you dressing up as?

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Hello Sisters!  I know many people love this time of the year…but, for me, it is a bit of a pain! (to be blunt!)  In the mornings, it’s a struggle to get out of bed because I know it will be so cold when I peel off the covers.   So, I bundle up before leaving the house, only to find out a few hours later that I am overdressed for the 75 degree weather outside!  It seems that businesses have a really difficult time figuring out the weather because I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been in lately that were either ice cold (in the morning because they didn’t switch it over from air the following afternoon) or it was burning up in the afternoon (because they forgot to turn off the heat when it warmed up outside).   I miss those mornings when I could jump up out of bed, put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and go for an energizing walk.

 

Halloween is just around the corner and I must admit, that it is my one of my favorite holidays (if not my favorite!).  Now, before you banish me for liking such an evil holiday, I have to say that my liking it has nothing to do with the evil side of Halloween.  In fact, I don’t view Halloween as an evil holiday at all.  I view it as a time to have fun and be creative with a costume.  It’s a time to step outside the grind of everyday living and do something totally different—even be someone totally different!  Then, there’s the fun of seeing everyone else’s costume and trying to figure who they are supposed to be and appreciating how truly creative some people are!  We always go to the big Halloween party at the beach—where they give away a $5,000 prize for the best costume—so you know there are always some awesome costumes to see!  Some are downright hilarious and some are jus t perplexing!  One of the most memorable costumes I saw there was a “Transformer.”  While walking around, it looked like a toy Transformer.  But, every so often, it would stop and in a VERY coordinated manner, fold itself up into a TRUCK!  And to beat it all—It was a GIRL!  The entire costume was handmade, so I know it had to take days to make it!  I love the 70s, so I have gone as a hippie chick (we do not dress up to win the grand prize!) .  My husband, Chris, went as Jimmy Hendrix a couple of years ago and he was a local celebrity at the party!  Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with him!   My daughter went as Supergirl a couple of years ago and my sister was Super woman.  That year, everyone wanted to have their photos taken with them!  Last year, I went as Cleopatra and Chris went as a Roman Warrior.  This year, I am going to be a bit more creative.  (My sister and I are in a heated battle to see who has the best costume this year.  I’ll post pics next week and let you all be the judge!)  We are keeping our costumes a secret until we unveil them on Saturday night for the Halloween party.  It should be a FUN and INTERESTING WEEKEND!    HAPP Y HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

ADA Step Out Walk and Planning Committee

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It was great to see so many of my Sisters at the ADA Step Out Walk last Saturday!    Something special always happens when we get together in person!  Chris and Summer also went with me and we had a great time!  Summer enjoyed working the DiabetesSisters booth with Lesley.  (She kept the fridge magnets in perfect order on the table and carefully watch Lesley tell others about DiabetesSisters!)  She also walked with me and Chris on the 3-mile walk.  It felt really good to be among so many of my friends from various parts of the diabetes community.  You can see the DiabetesSisters’ Team spread across the two photos below:

                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2012 Weekend for Women Planning Committee held its first meeting this past Sunday!  Yay!  I am so pumped about the plans we already have in place and all of the new ideas we’re working on!  Really!  This is going to be one awesome conference!  From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, we have all kinds of fun activities and new session topics planned!  We are even offering a Partner’s Perspective Program—for your husband, partner, significant other.  Not only will YOU connect with women who understand what life is like for you, your partner will find men who understand what life is like for them as the partner of a woman with diabetes.  Has he ever met another partner?  Has he ever vented his frustrations or swapped stories with another spouse?  You have to admit, this is a much needed program and it’s another reason why you CAN’T say no to the 2012 Conference.  You no longer have the excuse that “it’s too much time and money to spend on yourself.”  The orange:will Awareness Walk is going to be especially fun this year because we will have much more involvement from the local community.  And I haven’t even mentioned that Natalie Strand, 2010 Winner of The Amazing Race (half of the first female team to win and also the first woman with diabetes to win!), will be our KEYNOTE SPEAKER.  And we’re just getting started on planning!  Registration will open on January 1, 2012.  There will be very special prizes given to the 1st and the 100th registrant!  Mark your CALENDAR!

San Diego Conference

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Wow!  The San Diego Conference was unbelievable!  You may have read about it in Kerri Sparling’s blog, Six Until Me.  Although it was on a different coast, it was very much like the Conference in Raleigh—only the backdrop was sunny San Diego Bay.  We started the weekend off with Movie Night on Friday night.  Women came in their pjs, ate popcorn, and watched Mama Mia.  On Saturday, Susan (Guzman) and I started off the Conference with some opening remarks about the importance of ALL women with diabetes coming together and the constant juggling act of women with diabetes.  Then, we heard extraordinary speakers talk about topics like the psychology of food and mindfulness.  Although those names sound a bit strange, I was intrigued by the things I learned when I opened my mind.  Now, I understand why it is so hard for me to sit still and focus in silence.  I also learned why it is so important to stick with it—for the sake of my health!  We had a delicious lunch on the patio overlooking the beautiful San Diego Bay.  We also had the Celebration of Strength Dinner Program (complete with entertainment by a fellow DiabetesSister) and each woman was recognized with a pearl charm for the number of years she has lived with diabetes.   The food was scrumptious at dinner too!  Since the theme of the night was “pearls of wisdom,” every woman filled out their own pearls of wisdom learned from living with diabetes on an oyster-shell shaped paper.  These papers were then displayed on a string of pearls on Sunday morning.  On Sunday morning, we started out with various forms of exercise to choose from- Zumba (which is what I did!), walking, or running. I even learned that Zumba is offered sitting for those who are unable to stand!  We had a number of women who took advantage of Zumba while remaining seated!  Then, we were delighted with an awesomely inspiring talk by the one and only Ann Albright, RD, PhD!  She has been through her own set of struggles- including the loss of the love of her life (and husband) to cancer at a very young age.  Despite her hardships, she has kept a very positive outlook on diabetes and remained highly motivated to make a difference in the world of diabetes.  She has also remained very close to her mother and father, whom she spoke of frequently.  Her knowledge about diabetes and her high level of intelligence were further revealed during our Q & A portion.  She was also our honoree-- of the 2011 DiabetesSisters’ Inspiration Award.  Finally, we heard from the always entertaining Bill Polonsky!  I haven’t laughed that much in a while!

 

As further evidence of the truly transformative nature of the Conference, here are some comments from women who attended:

 

“I have heard mindfulness discussed before many times, and this time it clicked.  I do so much ‘checking out’ to cope with life and I hear how much I can gain from being in my present moment.”

 

“I already had my appointment with my endocrinologist and after talking Dr. Tsimikas, have decided to put on my big girl pants, and do the injectable my doctor has been asking me to try.”

 

“For 37 years I thought I was the only one who had these issues around food.  I feel so normal now!”

 

“I finally decided to put on the Dexcom CGM I have had for a while now and was afraid to try.”

 

“I have been in denial about my diabetes for years, well, decades; I now feel like I am finally ready to take it on and know what to start with.”

 

“My meter is my own personal laboratory – that is so cool!”

 

“I have been afraid of lows while exercising. I got some new ideas about what to try.”

 

 

Cold Weather Exercise

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I am writing this blog as I sit in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport awaiting my final flight to San Diego.  It’s almost here!  The San Diego Weekend for Women Conference, that is!  I can feel the excitement building!  Be sure to check back next week for a recap of it—and maybe some photos too!

 

Now that October is here and cool weather is setting in, I am not as motivated to get up in the morning and go for my 3-mile walk/run.  It’s just really hard to get motivated by 48 degree weather!  This puts me in a bit of a quandary.  My dilemma is that I get about six months of good exercise (April-Sept) and then I fall into the winter doldrums and an “exercise slumber” because I can’t stand cold weather.  It’s a shame to let that hard work and the momentum go to waste!  Don’t get me wrong, I do try to do some Exercise on Demand sessions indoors during the cold weather months, but it’s not as invigorating as being outside and it’s not nearly as often either.  Does anyone else feel like this?  If so, what solutions have you employed?  I’d like to go into this Fall/Winter with a plan in place, so your suggestions are much appreciated.

How Diabetes is DIFFERENT for women: Thanks to Diabetes Forecast!!

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This week, rather than reading my blog, I’d like to invite you to read a VERY IMPORTANT article in the October issue of Diabetes Forecast magazine.  “Why?”  you ask.   I, for one, am very excited that people (other than me!) are starting to recognize the fact that diabetes is different for women than for men and they are taking it a step further by shining a light on it.  Obviously, this helps DiabetesSisters gain credibility.  But more importantly, it informs you (women with diabetes!) about these important differences and provides important talking points for conversations with friends and loved ones.  After all, we are our own best advocates!  http://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/features/how-diabetes-differs-men-and-women