Kris Freeman, cross-country skier, is competing with the US Ski Team in this year’s Olympic Games. He is a serious medal contender in all three cross-country skiing distance events. Kris has type 1 diabetes and like Caleb, uses the OmniPod insulin management system.
We will be watching and rooting! Good luck Kris! To say that you are an inspiration is an understatement. I am simply in awe of you, your attitude and what you are able to accomplish. You have my utmost respect and then some.
We first learned of Nick at our OmniPod training in April 2007. Caleb was diagnosed only months earlier and one of the things that provided me great comfort was learning about people living full, enriching lives with diabetes. I heard of everyday people – someone’s friend’s daughter or other patients of Caleb’s endo. There weren’t too many public figures living with diabetes that I found relatable. So when I heard of a young man who was diagnosed shortly before Caleb, using the same pump as Caleb, and was continuing with his career in the public eye, I was intrigued.
Since then, Caleb has become a true Nick fan. He owns his music, has been to his concerts, and has various books, magazines and paraphernalia featuring Nick and his brothers. Caleb enjoys singing, plays the piano, is learning the guitar and recently acquired a set of drums which he practices daily – sound familiar?
When I saw the tweet from Amy about Bayer’s Express Your Simple Win contest last spring, Caleb and I got to work. In October he found out he was one of three grand prize winners and would be meeting Nick in Orlando.
Caleb, his brother Colin and I had the privilege of meeting Kevin, Joe and Nick at their concert in Bethel Woods in August 2008. It was a fantastic experience. We waited two hours to meet them for about 2 minutes. As soon as Nick heard that Caleb also has diabetes, his focus was 100% on Caleb. There were high fives, fist bumps, some words exchanged, a picture taken and huge smiles. Caleb’s reaction was priceless. He skipped out of there declaring, “that was totally worth the wait!!” I saw firsthand the real, tangible influence that Nick has. Two minutes was a thrill; I couldn’t imagine what an intimate meeting would be like.
Here’s how it went:
Upon checking in at the hotel, we heard, “Are you here for the Simple Wins contest? Is that Caleb?” It was Bradley, one of the other winners, and his mom. Caleb was so excited to meet them. That night, Caleb and I stepped out on the balcony of our room and heard, “Oh my goodness – is that Caleb? We’ve been looking for you all day!” It was Lauren, the other winner, with her mom and sister on the balcony next to us. Another great thrill. Meeting Bradley and Lauren was a prize in and of itself to Caleb. They were able to talk amongst themselves, whether about baseball, singing, helping the community, or about diabetes, and feel connected. There was an instant bond.
On the day of the meet, the winners were brought to a grand conference room. Inside they chatted, took pictures and waited. First came Big Rob. He greeted everyone (or perhaps scoped out the room for Nick’s safety) and took pictures. Caleb was on top on the world. Rob left and while everyone talked about what fun that was, Nick nonchalantly entered.
The first thing I remember him saying was to Caleb: “I know that YOU are a Yankees fan. You’re a good man.” I didn’t think it could get better than that moment. The four of them spoke of their interests, their stay in Orlando, the music they liked and they talked about diabetes too. He asked Caleb if he ever went low while he was playing baseball. It was nice. It was comfortable. It was exciting.
They took some pictures, Nick autographed Caleb’s Burning Up book on the page where Nick talks about his diabetes (Caleb proudly declaring, “I read the whole thing”). Then they sat down and chatted some more. Caleb talked about the concerts he attended. Nick recalled being under the weather at one of them. They talked more about the Yankees and the World Series. Nick described how he watched the series on a laptop in Italy at six in the morning. Then “Bounce” became a topic of conversation and Caleb was invited to perform his version of Bog Rob’s “chicken wing” and “ham and cheese”. Big Rob came back in to watch. It was a reserved performance on Caleb’s part, but still great to see it bring smiles to everyone’s faces.
I spoke with Nick’s father, another kind and gracious man. Upon thanking him, he responded, “we understand”. It’s true. They know. He explained that Nick does this because when he was diagnosed, he wanted to know of the athletes and musicians and other public figures who were living with diabetes. The list was short. Nick understands the comfort it brings, and his ability to provide it. So he does.
I spoke to Nick. I took the chance to explain why what he does is important to us. Caleb doesn’t wonder if diabetes will limit him. He has virtually always had Nick as a point of reference to know that it won’t. I don’t think Caleb has yet to even consider if diabetes could be an obstacle to anything he wants to do. I credit Nick a great deal for giving that to him and I told him so.
As things were wrapping up, Caleb mentioned to Nick that they used the same insulin pump. They took turns pulling up their shirts showing each other their Pods.
I have never seen Caleb smile so big or for so long. Ever.
Thank you Nick. Thank you Bayer. You have created meaningful, lifelong memories. The day itself was a thrill, but what I hope is that at least one day in Caleb’s future, when diabetes is proving difficult, he will think back to this meeting in Orlando. He will remember a young man that was not all that different from himself: a young gentleman, with a curl to his hair, a love of music, a charming smile and the same daily challenges to manage his blood sugar.
I hope he will think of Nick and remember that diabetes didn’t slow him down and it doesn’t have to slow Caleb down either.
I am a little of both. I am cautiously optimistic. That’s how I am in general, and I am the same as it relates developments in diabetes research and potential advances.
A friend blogged about her sadness regarding the outlook for a cure for diabetes after hearing the reactions from others to this week’s news. The fact that a time frame of five to ten years for a cure has been given to people diagnosed with diabetes for tens of years was a little more than discouraging. I understand and relate to this.
I don’t think people are made much more skeptical than I am. I have this book which dedicates a page to every day of the year and describes what people are like based upon the day of the year they were born. My day is called “The day of the hard look”. It defines me perfectly – anyone who knows me is fascinated at the eeriness of the accuracy of this book as it relates to me.
That being said, I have hope.
I don’t really understand why people (doctors) need to define a time frame to this. I suppose it’s because it’s something we all want to hear. Giving it definition when it is IMPOSSIBLE to define is what makes this situation that we are in. Once the measurement is defined, we have something to look at and say, “well that didn’t work – they were wrong – they lied – it WON’T happen.”
But I haven’t given up. The time frame may be wrong, but the theory, I believe, is right.
There ARE resources – many resources – tasked to tackle this. I don’t have the slightest clue when their efforts will be realized, but I truly believe they will be. It may be 100 years from now, it may be 10. But I believe this puzzle will be solved.
None of us are sitting around waiting for a cure. We are all doing everything we can to keep ourselves or our kids healthy now.
Now I am NOT saying that insulin is a cure, because I know darn well that it is not. But for these people it might as well have been. From their perspective it was.
I hate what diabetes does and makes us all do as much as anyone. But, I am so very, very thankful (ok, I’m choking up now) that Caleb has the benefit of the advancements that exist today. Even on the worst of days, when I don’t think I can take another second of the crap that diabetes presents us, I remind myself it could be so much worse.
I don’t know when there will be a cure, but I am still hopeful.
More than that, I am hopeful that along the way there will be many more advancements that will make living with diabetes easier and safer. If there are as many in the next 10 years as there were in the last 10 years, living with diabetes in 2020, when Caleb is just 17, will be a very different thing than it is today.
I have read a lot of the responses to Wednesday’s news and appreciate the varying perspectives that have been shared. Although different, and at times at opposite ends of the spectrum, I am able to relate to most of them.
I am “the day of the hard look”. No one who knows me would argue this. But I am still optimistic. Cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nevertheless.
Caleb started using the DexCom Seven Plus continuous glucose system in September. This week was his first endo appointment since starting, a tidy three months later. I had no apprehensions about this appointment. In fact, I expected us to be in and out quickly. We just needed an update to Caleb’s prescriptions in addition to the normal routine.
I was however curious to see what impact using DexCom had on Caleb’s A1C. His A1C results have always been strong and we seem to keep chugging along.
This quarter’s results were no different. His A1C was unchanged. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a change, but I am a numbers and measurements kind of person. Even if it went up, I could say we were dealing with lows better. We had introduced a significant enhancement to his diabetes care. It seemed odd not to have it reflected in “the number”. If there had been any measurable difference, then I could attribute it to CGM and thus justify its use. His A1C was not giving me that justification.
So why are we doing this?
My biggest reluctance to starting CGM was asking Caleb to endure more discomfort without realizing a tangible benefit. He would have to be poked. He would have to wear the transmitter and carry the receiver. He would be the one who would be interrupted by all the beeps and alarms. Of course this is all to improve his glucose control, but that’s not measurable to him. I would be able to rest a little easier at night. I would be less stressed when separated from him. I would be less anxious between finger sticks wondering what was going on inside him. It seemed he was making all the sacrifices and I was getting all the benefit. So it would be nice to have something to point to to say yes indeedy, this is worth it – look, your A1C shows it. There’s no doubt about it. This was the right thing to do. It’s all here in black and white.
That is not the case.
Caleb’s doctor explained that when you already have tight glucose control, CGM typically will not change your A1C result. However, the quality of that result is often improved. In other words, the average of your blood glucose is still the same, but you are avoiding the high highs and the low lows that cancel each other out. The peaks and valleys are more subtle. The A1C remains unchanged, but it’s still a “better” A1c.
Hm. Okay. So do I believe that is the case with Caleb? It may be. I feel like we have caught things quicker and there are less surprises. We still have highs and lows, but they seem less severe. I don’t tend to go on feelings though. I like hard facts. Embracing this concept, although perfectly logical, isn’t all that easy for me.
After tweeting my concern (and doing a poor job of it because I led people to believe that I was a bit of a lunatic and wanted Caleb’s A1C lower and truly that was not my objective at all) I believe I got the justification that I was looking for. My wise friend, Melinda, helped me get there. She has a teenage son who has lived with diabetes since he was just younger than Caleb is now. Talking to her is like taking a magical trip into the future and getting a flavor of what it might hold for us.
I realized, with Melinda’s help, that an A1C isn’t the only way to measure the success of CGM. From the beginning I have stated that DexCom provided me some relief. I could see things before my eyes instead of worrying and wondering. I think I got so used to that so quickly, that I didn’t realize how much of an impact it has. I know that I am generally less anxious about Caleb’s BGs. I am wound pretty tightly to begin with, so it doesn’t take much to get me excited. There is a true, tangible value in decreasing the stress factor. It’s one that is very important to me. I know that Caleb has a lifetime of this management in front of him and how I handle it today will impact how he handles it tomorrow.
These are Melinda’s words that eased my worries:
“But HE benefits from having a less stressed-out parent. They certainly pick up on our cues. There’s a lot of value in that too.”
I know I do a good job of keeping Caleb’s blood sugars in tight control. I also know I do a poor job of hiding the impact the out of range numbers have on my psyche. That is where I need help and DexCom has provided it.
The answer is no, A1C impact is not all there is to CGM. There is much more. Thank you Melinda and all my Twitter friends for helping me understand that.
A little over a year after Caleb was diagnosed, when the fog had cleared, we had experienced all our “firsts” and things were more or less chugging along, my attentions shifted. The present was under control, now what about the future?
I made my first video. The intent was to bring attention to work being done to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. It turned into so much more than that. It entered me into a world I hadn’t realized existed, or at least one that I could be so much a part of.
Caleb, his face, his story, his personality, have all stretched across the world and brought me, and him, within reach of a support system that we would not otherwise have. I am so grateful for this unexpected byproduct.
This is my first work. When I made it, I could not watch it without crying. No matter how many times I watched it, I would choke up. Now when I watch it, there are two things that I note: (1) how much more effective my message could have been had I made it more succinctly (yes, it’s long – sorry), and (2) how my perspective has changed. The story is still true. The spirit of the message still resounds. But now I know the Caleb who has been living with diabetes for almost three years. He has adapted. He has flourished. He has shown me what perseverance is. Diabetes does not define Caleb. He just happens to be living with it. I can watch the video now without tears because I know that Caleb.
So, as this and other videos I have made begin, This is Caleb…
We could not have done it without all of you who watched his video! Thank you so much!! In addition to our “offline” friends and family, our Facebook and Twitter friends came through with force and helped him win! Thank you for watching and posting and retweeting!!
If you didn’t catch the contest video, you can watch it by clicking on the above link (he sounds so funny without his front teeth – a lot happens in six months!).
Here’s the original version we did not submit because the rules strictly prohibited logo usage, but since we are in the middle of the World Series I thought it would be fun to include. And if you haven’t seen enough of Caleb (which I know you have – sorry) here’s another entry he did just because he’s a crazy nut.
Caleb is very excited. Thank you for giving this gift to him. I have no doubt this will be an experience that he will treasure always.
It’s been almost two months since Caleb had his first DexCom insertion. Thankfully, the learning curve of CGM is not nearly as great as that of pumping. Plus, if something goes wrong with the transmitter or sensor or even receiver, there is not as much panic as when something goes wrong with an insulin pump (like ripping it off the first night because you completely forgot about it). You’re not cutting off life support after all.
So the transition to CGM is much more subtle than the transition to pumping. That was a relief.
We have had a couple of bumps. For nights on end, it would just not work. It literally seemed to go to sleep when Caleb went to sleep and wake up when Caleb woke up. With some help from fellow DexCom users, that was resolved. The receiver works great when it’s in the bed with Caleb. Not so great on the nightstand or windowsill. We had a receiver go kaput. We’ve had a couple of off sensors – one just complete fail. DexCom replaced them.
But otherwise. No real issues. It’s kind of “plug and go”. Our training consisted of watching the nurse do Caleb’s first insertion. Oh, and I read the manual.
CGM has had an immediate impact in several ways.
I was instantly more relaxed. We had pizza that first night and I wasn’t on edge wondering if I got the initial bolus right or if the extended bolus would cause him to go low. I could watch the changes in Caleb’s BG as they occurred. But on the flip side, I get stressed as I watch the BG rise. And when it continues to rise despite corrections, it’s downright maddening.
Because the blindfold is off, I could see for certain what I always suspected. Caleb’s blood sugar was often rising significantly within the first hour after he ate. It came back down at the two hour mark and I saw the happy in-range BG we typically see with fingersticks, but now I knew for sure what was happening in between. Frankly, it was depressing. His graphs looked like the lie detector charts of a big fat liar. I mean, serious pants on fire. It wasn’t surprising, but there had been comfort in dealing with the ten or twelve points in time and just ignoring the rest.
This new knowledge is power. I was able to make basal changes or adjust the time of a prebolus making immediate impacts. Caleb’s chart looked more truthful right away.
CGM provides another form of relief – during the times when I, his diabetes manager, am separated from him. Caleb has a great support system at school, but now there is an added safety net. Should he not feel a low coming on, there is a plan B. Another voice buzzing from his hip that might notice a low before he does. This applies to other times too – like after-school activities or the rigors of Walking Club before school on Wednesdays. We have a little more freedom; a little less stress.
In general, there are times where we simply have information that we would not otherwise have; times when we do not have to stop, open up his PDM case and go through the whole exercise of a fingerstick. A quick peek and we have a sense of what to do. We’ve either eliminated the wonder or saved the inconvenience of an extra BG check.
And here is my favorite thing about CGM: I love, love, love the directional arrows.
Directional arrows make all the difference in the world to me. If a regular blood sugar meter could tell the direction of blood sugar levels, even with just 10 points in time each day, that would be a huge improvement. If Caleb is at school and the nurse calls me with an unusual situation, she will tell me his BG from the finger stick and the direction of the CGM. This can change the course of action from that if only the BG was available. If I had known the direction of Caleb’s BG that night after eating pasta at the restaurant, I KNOW we would have avoided that low. I would have seen “121” and double arrows down. That is so much more meaningful than just “121”.
The last enhancement worthy of mention is nighttime. It’s a little less grueling. Looking at the CGM is significantly easier in the middle of the night than inserting a test strip into the PDM, poking a hole in Caleb’s toe and (often pop-eyed) trying to align that little half circle with the drop of blood. Some nights I am so out of it, with little depth perception, that I am dabbing a blood-free part of his toe waiting for it to register. I still have to do all that when there are out of range BGs, but the “just make sure” checks are much more seamless.
So here we are. We were reluctant to start. Underwhelmed when we began. We are starting to adapt.
Lila is four. Caleb was just shy of his fourth birthday when he was diagnosed. In both appearance and personality, Lila tends to be more like Caleb than older brother Colin. For some reason that has always made me think that if either Lila or Colin were to develop D, it would more likely be Lila. Not logical, but it’s what I have always thought.
Driving home from preschool the other day, out of the blue Lila says, “Mom, can I have some milk?” Lila has always enjoyed milk, but with her meals. She has never been one to drink much beyond that, and if she does, it’s water. For about a month before the light bulb went on that something might be up with Caleb, he requested milk. It should have been a reg flag, but I was clueless. “Icy, icy cold milk,” he wanted. Visions of him asking for it are etched in my memory because at the time, I just thought he was growing. But it was a telltale sign of diabetes that I completely missed.
So when Lila repeated Caleb’s request, a pit formed in my stomach. I started to think about the other symptoms. Frequent urination – nope, not at all. Lethargy – no way. Weight loss – I really don’t think so.
We arrived home, unpacked her backpack as usual, and sat down at the kitchen table. We’ve done it before, so it’s not a big deal – I ask Lila if I can check her sugar. “Sure Mom.” I prick her finger, the test strip soaks up the blood and the five seconds of wait, which seem like an eternity, begin. I’m telling myself this is not a big deal. She’s just thirsty. She has no other signs.
Then the number pops up. 257.
Well that was not what I was expecting. “Lila, let’s wash your hands.” “Okay mom.”
Another prick, another blood soak – error. Another prick, another blood soak – error. I’m trying not to panic. But I am now thinking of the logistics of calling my husband to come home. Do we go straight to the hospital or call Caleb’s endo? Who’s going to get the boys from the bus stop? Can we get her pumping right now? Will insurance drop us with two diabetics? And most of all, the flood of memories of Caleb’s diagnosis comes back to me in a wave. Lila is starting to get anxious with the pokes and now they hurt. How am I going to to get her through what lies ahead – shots, insertions, more finger sticks. I’m looking at her in the eyes, trying to stay calm, but my heart is breaking.
Another poke, another soak. 168. Not what I was hoping for.
I finally give her the milk she requested and the cookies from lunch she didn’t finish at school. We go about our normal routine although I have little ability to process thought. We are communicating, but I have no clue what I am saying because I’m still thinking about the hours and days and weeks and years ahead. I give it about fifteen minutes, pull out a completely different meter, and we do another poke and another soak.
That’s more like it.
Just like that, life resumes to normal. My shoulders drop a little from the relief. I give Lila a big hug and she is oblivious to the future I envisioned for her over the last twenty minutes.
Just to be sure, I checked her sugar later that day, 84 and the following morning, 82.
We walked to raise diabetes awareness and funds for a cure. We were overwhelmed by the generous response from our friends and family. We set out with a total goal of $1,000, hoping for perhaps $500 of contributions that we would match. You met that challenge and more than doubled it. Thank you so much for all your support!
I’ve seen so many pictures of walk teams with blue skies, colorful t-shirts and well, sun and warmth. Our pictures are a little different. But that’s okay. We walked in honor of Caleb and all PWD because we want better for them.
I’m so proud of my family. It was pouring on us, forty degrees, strong winds whipping our faces and our path was riddled with puddles. Lila was “bubble girl”, essentially wrapped in plastic. Not a single complaint from anyone. Caleb, Colin and David were the last walkers there – still trudging through the mud and puddles while others were packing their vehicles or were long gone.
Then we returned to our vehicle, took off our soaking layers and headed home, stopping for a well deserved treat of Dunkin’ Donuts on the way (I’m happy to report BG has been hovering between 80 and 100, with a nice flat arrow).
I knew we would create a memory today. I had pictured it differently, but it’s a great memory nonetheless!
I admit it – I resisted. Mostly because I could not bear to think of having to pierce Caleb’s skin for yet another reason. Finger sticks and pump insertions seemed like quite enough. Adding a CGM – another poke, another pain, another apparatus strapped to him – seemed too much to ask.
But it remained in the back of my mind always. Every time we waited for the blood drop to register – that little game of roulette we play ten to twelve times a day – what number would pop up? It’s part gamble.
Caleb and I talked about it. He bravely agreed to try it. I nonchalantly started the insurance process expecting it to be a long series of rejections and appeals. I was still reluctant and took every step with much more time than was necessary.
Then we went out to eat for grandma’s birthday. Caleb chose his favorite – pasta. I will not allow diabetes to make more choices for him than necessary. So even though I hadn’t dosed him for regular pasta in a long, long time, I gave it a try. I weighed his portion and bolused him reducing it by an amount I remembered working back when we weren’t eating new pastas.
We were off to a good start. Blood sugars were behaving nicely. But then shortly after he went to bed he yelled saying he felt low. He was 22 and he got there within minutes. We’ve never seen 22 before. More alarming was his reaction: “Mom, why does everything look so small?” “Mom, I feel like I’m gonna die.”
He was back in range quickly. But I don’t want him to ever experience that again. I couldn’t help but think CGM would help. So I stepped up the insurance process and within a week I got the call that he was approved.
Fast forward to the first insertion:
So how is it working?
I made the mistake of expecting miracles when Caleb started pumping. I didn’t make that mistake with CGM.
It is helpful. It is informative. I appreciate having to play roulette less. I felt a sense of relief immediately being able to watch Caleb’s blood sugar change rather than get slapped in the face every two hours or so.
But, like pumping, it’s far from perfect. Glucose readings must be verified before acting, so we have yet to reduce finger sticks. In fact, we’ve done more than ever to verify all the ups and downs within those ten to twelve times a day we traditionally check. It’s not always accurate. Sometimes it’s WAY off. But much of the time it is meaningful. And it’s true what everyone says: the trends are the real value, not necessarily the numbers. But, when it does work and work well, it’s actually pretty fabulous.
I really want the theory behind CGM to be the true reality of CGM. I want it to tell me what his sugar levels are 24 hours a day. It doesn’t. It doesn’t “catch” his lows and highs. It alerts us to the possibility or even likelihood of lows and highs – but sometimes not even that accurately because there is a lag between its readings and his actual blood sugar. Compound that issue with its readings being off maybe ten to twenty points and it’s easy to miss lows. So it can catch his highs and lows, but it doesn’t do that as a rule.
So far CGM has softened the extremes in Caleb’s blood sugar readings. It is a step forward in Caleb’s care regimen. I am glad to have it. It is, however, a much smaller step than I would have liked.
In all fairness though, we are still new to it, and I am optimistic that our learning curve will improve and the small step will become at least a little bit bigger.