Dexpiration (let the puns continue!)

2011 February 7
tags: , ,
by christopher

Yes, another post, another Dexcom-inspired word coinage.

It seems that perhaps I was too rash in my judgement (and subsequent dismantling) of MechaDexcom.  It’s quite possible that the transmission errors I was dealing with were in fact coming from the other side of the equation, ie the transmitter.

a dexcom seven plus transmitter with a beard

get it? it's old?

While I was on my second Dexcom Seven receiver, this was still my original transmitter.  We’ve been through a lot together.  Well, more specifically, I had to go through a lot as a result of a time that we weren’t together.  But Dexcom transmitters don’t age like you and me.  In fact, one Dexcom transmitter year is like 76 human years (give or take).  Which is to say, after about a year, their average lifetime is up.  So when MechaDexcom wasn’t doing a good job of picking up a signal, it turns out it was because the signal being sent was very weak.  I discovered this after the transformation back to regular Dexcom, when I was still getting regular errors/out of range messages.

So now I have a new kit- new transmitter, new receiver (though my old one is perfectly fine, and will be nice to have as a backup for the inevitable next…incident.).  It also means that I have another receiver to experiment on in my quest for [drum rolllll] RexCom, king of the continuous glucose monitoring systems!

OK, I’ll stop now.

Another Failed Dexperiment

2011 January 25
by christopher

Before I go any further, I’m laying claim to the word “Dexperiment” (meaning, of course, inapprpriately futzing with your Dexcom contunuous glucose monitoring system).

I’ve always wanted to coin a word.  The only person who I can name in connection with the word they coined is Lewis Carroll and “chortle”.  Why?  Because I learned it in 5th grade.  Why?  I have no idea.  Why do I remember it (as opposed to the countless other pieces oif information I was exposed to in 5th grade that I couldn’t recall to save my life)?  I don’t know.  If I did know, I’d somehow use that information to develop in iPad app for SAT Prep and retire a happy billionaire in Sardinia.

Anyway, back to reality, and my failure.

Some of you may remember my attempt at creating Super Dexcom.  The main problem with Super Dexcom was that it wasn’t super in any way.  It was just regular Dexcom with some white electrical tape around the seam.  Worse, the tape somehow kept shifting (I guess due to friction from the silicone case) and blocking the charging port.  Which ulitmately made Super Dexcom worse than regular Dexcom.

So I decided to replace Super Dexcom with MechaDexcom.  MechaDexcom was basically the same as Super Dexcom, except instead of white electrical tape, it was covered with shiny foil tape.

a poorly modified Dexcom seven plus receiver

a poorly modified Dexcom seven plus receiver

a poorly modified Dexcom seven plus receiver

Now, in order for the Dexcom sensor to work, it has to do a couple of things, one of them being receive tranmissions from the transmitter.  My first clue that MechaDexcom may have some flaws (beyond the lack of any clear benefit beyond looking mildly badass) was that, even in an armband less than four inches away from the transmitter (currently on the back of my arm) I was getting “Out of Range” errors.  Now, anyone who knows their Superman knows that metal can interfere with even x-ray vision, much less a little Dexcom transmitter.  So, almost as soon as it was born, MechaDexcom died an unceremonious death.

As Wile E. Coyote would say, back to the drawing board.

Crazy Dexcom Needle Photos

2010 December 24
by christopher

Since I’m in holiday super-diabetic mode (the most wonderful mode there is!) I decided what everyone really needs are close-up photos of the Dexcom insertion needle/tube.  Don;t ask how I ended up being able to get it back out (it was an accident) and don’t try it yourself (because it’s not nearly as interesting in real life as it is in these photos) just look at it and pat yourself on the back for all the crap you deal with all year long (like big hollow needles) and suffer with a smile, and then go off and enjoy the food, friends, and family that make all that effort worthwhile.

Click on any photo to view it larger.  Oh, and if you want to share these, please link back to this post.

close-up of dexcom seven plus inserion device needle

close-up of dexcom seven plus insertion device needle

close-up of dexcom seven plus insertion device needle

close-up of dexcom seven plus insertion device needle

close-up of dexcom seven plus insertion device needle

close-up of dexcom seven plus insertion device needle

A Measured Approach

2010 December 16
by christopher

I’ve been extremely backed up on both reading and writing.  Work has been more or less consuming every waking second, except of course for eating and getting lost on the way to the gym.  But every once and a while, I manage to chip away at my RSS depository and learn a thing or two about everything I’m missing (apparently there was a diabetes month?).

Recently, I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers (and now that I’ve finished one of her novels, favorite authors as well) Elizabeth Arnold, at Pieces of My Life.  It was titled simply “Scared” and as soon as I saw that in my queue, it knew it was going to be something fairly serious, since she can (and regularly does) make light of just about anything.  Any, you can read it yourselves (if you haven’t already) but the gist of it is that she’s gotten some scary test results back recently, that sent her mind to whirring about the possibility of all the plans she’s made for herself and, even more so, her family, getting terrifically derailed.

I happened to read it on the same day (monday) that I also got some test results that sent me scrambling for answers (answers that will hopefully come in a couple weeks after all the analysis comes back on the 9 tubes of blood – a new personal best! – that I surrendered today at a follow-up lab session).

There’s an old saying in business that I believe is attributed to Peter Drucker (but a quick Googling didn’t confirm that) which says You Manage What You Measure.  It is of course gospel for diabetics too. Certainly every increase in data that I’ve received, beginning in the days when I rarely tested (I know, shame on me), to then getting on a proper testing schedule, and then adding a CGM, has brought with it noticeable improvements in blood sugar levels and control.  Ditto with my diet, as I paid more attention to measuring the effect of carbohydrates, I exerted more control on my intake, and that, too, had positive effects.  Ditto with cholesterol.  In fact, one way of summarizing my life with diabetes thus far is a continuous exercise in refining a new lifestyle, based on feedback from my personal testing routines and quarterly labs.  In a nutshell, trying to continually improve my measurement, and hence my management.  And, until this week, basically, so far so good.

But sooner or later, we’re all faced with the reality that while it’s difficult to manage that which you don’t measure, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the inverse is going to be true.  In business or in health.  Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t go as planned.  Sometimes in small ways, but, at least once for all of us, also in big ones.  A lot of what we do together online here is distract ourselves with the small stuff: decrying the ignorance of the general public about diabetes, venting about insurance companies, confiding (to the whole world) about a guilty indulgence, or sharing a little triumph, such as an exercise goal reached, or a lab target beaten.  But in the back of our minds, we all know that there are other forces at work, and that it’s not all small stuff.  In many ways, part of what diabetes forces us to do, more so than 99% of the rest of the world, is measure our own mortality.  And that, ultimately, is something that no one can truly manage.

As Luck Would Have It…

2010 December 7
by christopher

You ever have one of those days when you just feel lucky? You know the sort of day I mean: productive, happy, energetic? You’re crossing things off your list, having a good time, you just know that the world is on your side. Then, to reward yourself for a day like that, you decide to stop working a little early, and cook a nice big dinner. You get out your ingredients, plan the meal, and dive right in. Then, being very careful to avoid the knives you stick your hand into a drawer. And nearly slice the tip of your finger off on the ceramic blade of a vegetable peeler. At first, you think “Wait a minute, this is supposed to be my lucky day.” But then you think a little bit harder, and realize that it’s still 2010 for another few weeks, and you already met your deductible (and thennnnnn some) during your three day hospital stay in July. Now you feel lucky all the way to the emergency room. I had one of those days on Sunday. Lucky me.

An Auspicious Beginning

2010 December 4
by christopher

After my surgery in July, I was not allowed any exercise, other than walking, for about 2 months.  During that time, my insulin sensitivity steadily dropped off, and my basal needs crept up to 50% higher than before (9 units instead of 6).  I kept telling myself that as soon as I could, I was going to get back into the gym and start working myself back into shape, and hopefully put on some weight in the process (I know that’s not why everyone goes to the gym, but we’re all trying to change something).  But two months came and went, and, apart from sneaking in a couple of surf sessions here and there, I never really got back on the exercise horse, so to speak.  I’ve been working long days and nights, traveling basically weekly, and trying to find a little bit of time to unwind here and there.  Usually by the time I feel ready to hit the gym, it’s been closed for hours.

But today, I just decided enough was enough.  I wanted to get my body on the path to becoming more insulin effecient, I want to get stronger, and I’m hoping that getting my body tuned up will do the same for my mind (oh how it needs a tune up…).  So after dropping some things off at the post office, I headed off to spend an hour at the gym.

How did it go?

I got lost on the way there.  Guess it really HAS been a while.

More Diabetes DIY

2010 December 3
by christopher

Maybe it’s because I spent my early 30s during the Great Recession, but I find it harder and harder to throw things away that seem to have some value, and I’ve become more and more enamored of homemade/one-off solutions and just kind of fed up with mass-produced, imported stuff.

So, to that end, two insulin travel cases from common[ly discarded] items.

Diabetes travel cases from upcycled household objects

On the left, a case I use to hold standard 10ml insulin vials.  I made it by cutting some chunks a little bigger than the diameter of a glucose tablet tube and gluing one to the bottom and one to the top.  It holds the bottle very securely, and it would be quite the adventure that would break a bottle inside this thing.

A case for a 10ml insulin vial made from an old glucose tube

The other case is for a 3ml cartridge for a reusable insulin pen (I use the Luxura HD for Humalog).  I like having the case, because when I know I’m getting low on Humalog, I can pop a fresh one in this thing and it easily fits in my supply case and is ready when I need to switch.  Then I put the empty one on until I get home and don’t have to worry about it breaking.  I made mine with a tin that used to hold cocoa nibs, but I’m sure there are others that would be a good size.  You could even go crazy and make all kinds of different configurations (maybe 3 in an Altoids tin?).

So there you have it.  Perfectly good trash finding a second life in the service of diabetes.  Could be worse.

Happy Thanksgiving!

2010 November 27
by christopher

Last year, my Dexcom sensor died the morning of Thanksgiving, so i was flying blind for the biggest eating day of the year. I was hoping for a little bit better luck.  Yep, that looks about right….

6 is the Magic Number: D blog Day

2010 November 9
by christopher

Today is DBlog Day, started by Gina at Diabetes Talk Fest, and like the rest of the d-blogalaxy, I’m going to add my 2 cents to the conversation (so basically 1/3 of a cent per thought.  Less than the penny I’m used too, but I know times are tough).  So, without any further ado, here is my list of 6 things I wish that people knew about diabetes.

1. How to cure it.  As far as I can tell, nobody’s figured that one out yet, but if I’m, wrong, and anybody reading this DOES in fact know how to cure it, please leave it in the comments section.  In fact, the first person to leave a [viable] cure in the comments section will win a box of alcohol swaps and a copy of the the Calorie King’s Fat & Carbohydrate Counter (2009 edition. VERY lightly used).  Anybody who knows a cure and doesn’t leave it in the comments is just a jerk.

2.  How you get it. I know some people have some ideas, and I feel pretty safe laying a decent amount of the blame on my parents’ DNA, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more speceficity than that.  Like, could I have avoided it, even with the genes that I have if I’d done things differently?  Is there anything to that whole vitamin D thing?  What if I’d slept more, or maybe slept less?  What if I didn’t lie about getting a little misty at the end of Titanic?  Or was it a done deal from the moment I was born?

3.  When you ask me how my diabetes is going, and I say “pretty well”, that’s a relative “pretty well”, on a continuum that starts at “It sucks, I wish I didn’t have it, and there are few things I wouldn’t do to get rid of it” on the positive side, to “I’m dead” on the negative side.

4.  Just because you heard something about diabetes, doesn’t mean it’s true, even if you heard it from a diabetic or a member of their family.  This isn’t really something just about diabetes, it could be applied to pretty much anything.  So, I’m taking that liberty and applying it to diabetes.  For example, to the woman who told me that whenever her friend’s blood sugar gets low, she has to run home and take insulin:  that is not true.

5. The human body and the FDA do not agree on what constitutes “sugar”. There is virtually no difference to my (or your, for that matter) body between the sugar in a potato and the sugar in candy/cake/ice cream/etc.  It’s the carbohydrates that matter.  So if one label says “50g total carbohydrate, 6g sugar” and another says “11g total carbohydrate, 10g sugar” the first one is WAY worse for me than the second, all else being equal.  Not that I can’t eat either one, just that the likelihood that I will be able to administer the right amount of insulin to a) keep me from spiking out of my desired range and b) not then send me dropping below my desired range is much greater with the first.

6. You might get it. I don’t say this to be mean or threatening. I say it because it really is worth learning about diabetes, even if no one you know has it, because chances are either you or someone close to you is going to get it.  So the better informed/more compassionate you are now, the better off you’ll be when that day comes.  It’s a life-changer no matter what, but as with anything else, knowledge is power.

Ch Ch Ch Changes

2010 November 3
by christopher

Some news, read about it in my guest post at This is Caleb…

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