Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

I know I’m late to the game on this one. About eight years late, in fact. But no new, trending novel has compelled me to write a review as strongly as this one has.

a thousand splendid suns

As I read Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, one word kept repeating itself in my brain:

Perspective.

We all need it, and Hosseini knows how to supply it.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we’ve all prejudged something we know little about. It doesn’t necessarily make us bad people; it’s just inherent in human nature. Usually, it comes from a fear of the unknown.

That’s why I’ve recommended A Thousand Splendid Suns to everyone I’ve spoken to lately. Not only is the novel eloquently written, up-all-night suspenseful, and historically informative, it is, above all, eye opening.

The novel follows two Afghani women with very different lives – or so it seems. It spans thirty years in the war-torn country and leads us to the ultimate collision of the two women’s stories.

Hosseini, the Kabul-born author, flawlessly takes on the perspective of women in his home country. He expertly incorporates historical facts and information about the turbulent journey of the nation with the raw emotion of the women’s personal stories.

Although the main characters are fictional, it is obvious that Hosseini’s portrayal of the treatment of Afghani women throughout the years is ever-too real.

“Mariam remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how people like us suffer, she’d said. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.” –Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

The details are jaw dropping and heart wrenching, from domestic abuse to atrocious medical care and everything in between.

The tumultuous relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan may have colored your perspective of the country’s inhabitants, but this novel will remind you that we all have something in common: we are all human.

A Thousand Splendid Suns reminds readers that regardless of our location or circumstances, three things remain strong: the resilience of the human spirit, the importance of hope, and the power of love.

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Type One Diabetes: My Story

Eight years ago on this very day, my life changed forever.

I got in the passenger’s seat of my mom’s car in the carpool line after school. As always, she asked how my day was. And as always, I gave the standard response of any angsty almost-sixteen-year-old: “Not very good.”

“Well, it’s about to get worse,” she told me with a sympathetic smile. Her voice sounded shaky.

“The doctor called today. You have diabetes. The insulin kind.”

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I had gone to my pediatrician the previous day for my yearly school-required check-up. I didn’t think there was anything worth mentioning, but my mom did.

She explained to my doctor that I had been filling our recycling bin to the brim every day with bottles of water. I had countered that it was because I was spending the dog days of summer lying on my deck, tanning.

The sun makes you thirsty.

She continued that I had been getting up several times each night to go to the bathroom.

That’s from all that water I’ve been drinking.

She explained that I had been getting up from the dinner table each night and heading immediately for the snack pantry. My hunger was never satisfied.

It’s just my sweet tooth.

 Well, something was sweet alright – my blood sugar.

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While I was at school, finally getting into the swing of my sophomore year in high school, my mom had received a call from the doctor, explaining that my blood sugar was in the high 400s. It should have been no more than 100.

In the carpool line, my mom explained over my tears that I had an appointment that very afternoon with a specialist.

“It can’t wait until tomorrow?” I sobbed. “No, the doctor said it couldn’t wait.”

The thing that frustrates me the most when I look back on that initial memory of the worst day of my life is how naïve I was. I was crying over something I knew nothing about. I was crying because I thought I’d have to give myself a shot once a day.

Little did I know that giving shots would be the easiest part of the rest of my life.

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My mom and I spent the next five or so hours in a doctor’s office. We received a crash course in Type 1 Diabetes – and crash is exactly what I did. I sobbed. I yelled at the nurse.

She had forced me to practice my first injection right then and there – on my mom. (It was just salt water.) I screamed at that poor woman in refusal, but she wouldn’t let up.

On the way home that night, I told my mom I didn’t want to live anymore.

To think how heartbreaking that must have been for her to hear makes me want to go back in time. But in that moment, after being pelted with hour’s worth of instructions and details of how my life would never be the same, I truly thought it would be easier not to live one at all.

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Although my diabetes diagnosis seemingly came out of the clear blue, medical problems were not so new to me.

From first grade until about fourth grade, I spent more time in hospitals and doctor’s offices than most people will in a lifetime. My hair was falling out in clumps, I was constantly sick, I would get spontaneous rashes, and I had the energy of an 80-year-old. I was six.

I was constantly at the Boston Floating Hospital for Children. I was so unbelievably terrified of needles (how ironic!) that my poor father had to take the day off of work whenever I needed a blood test and he and my poor mother had to take me into Boston for the day, hold me down while my blood was taken, listen to my screams, revive me when I passed out, and buy me a toy afterwards as bribery.

It was believed that I had lupus – I had 10 of the 11 criteria – but a concrete diagnosis was never reached. In hindsight, all signs point to my illness during that time being linked to diabetes.

_________________________________________________________________

My mom’s phone had been ringing off the hook from my father, away on a business trip, and my brothers, away at school. They had no idea what had happened. We drove to CVS in the dark, silently sobbing along the way. In the parking lot, we tried to test my blood sugar with the meter that I was given.

It wasn’t working. We both sat there panicking, until my mom ran inside to cut the line and ask for help from the pharmacist. Turns out we had the test strip in upside down. Oops!

We then had to get me something to eat, because from this point forward, I’d have to eat on a schedule. Whether I was hungry or not, I’d have to eat to balance out the insulin I’d constantly be taking. This early in the game, every minute counted. But if I was starving and it wasn’t a meal time…tough. I’d have to watch my friends eat what they wanted, when they wanted. You don’t know how painful that is – especially as a kid – until it’s life or death. Also, if I was full midway through my meal, it didn’t matter. I’d have to force that food down, because I had already accounted for the carbs and given myself a certain amount of insulin based on the algorithm given to me. I weighed every single morsel of food that went into my body on an advanced food scale in order to calculate the exact number of carbs.

Thankfully, the aforementioned rigidity has loosened a lot over the years, now that I know the signs of my body and how to treat it. However, I still have to account for every carb I eat.

__________________________________________________________________

From that nightmarish doctor’s visit on, my nurse practitioner became like my prison warden. Except the prison was my body. My mom had to call her at every single meal time, and my nurse would tell her what she could cook for me – including how and in what portions. If I wanted a snack, I could only eat sugar-free Jello. Man, those first few weeks were bland.

I wasn’t allowed to go to school because it was too dangerous to be there while my body adjusted to its new regimen. You don’t realize how much you love school until you aren’t allowed to go. After a few days, the warden let me go to driver’s ed class.

My new diagnosis gave me some serious perspective. I realized that I had really been starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. I was more social and relaxed in school and driver’s ed. I was making friends outside of my usual group. I felt like a part of something.

That all seemed to come crashing down so quickly. I didn’t even feel comfortable in my own body anymore – how could I feel comfortable around anyone else? My peers weren’t sure how to treat me. That first day back at driver’s ed, we all went to Bertucci’s to get rolls of bread – random, but our group tradition during our break nonetheless. I couldn’t eat one. It sounds so silly, but that absolutely killed me. It wasn’t about the roll, obviously. It was about the fact that I knew I would never be a normal teenager again. I would never be carefree and spontaneous. And I may never be understood.

I got in the car when my mom picked me up, and I bawled the whole way home.

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Over the years, I’ve gotten so much more comfortable with myself and my disease. I’m not ashamed of it, and I am generally pretty open about it.

I shocked everyone – myself included – when I went off to the University of Miami for college. It was the only school I applied to that wasn’t a car ride away from home, and I didn’t know a soul there.

I had never been away from the cocoon of my parents. I had never been far from my doctor. I had never had to worry about keeping stock of my crazy amount of medical supplies and figuring out how they would get to me. I had never had to introduce my disease to a new group of people, because my existing friends had watched the diagnosis happen.

Honestly, it was the greatest decision I’ve ever made.

I am so lucky to have been welcomed into the most kind-hearted group of girls, my DPhiE sorority sisters at Miami. They helped me embrace who I am. Another thing that having Type 1 diabetes has taught me is to appreciate the little things. My friends may never realize how much it means to me when they carry an extra snack around in case I go low, or when they ask for detailed information of my medical needs to keep in a note on their iPhone, or when they stay sober once in a while so they can worry about my blood sugar while I get to drink.

I showed up to a 6am tailgate (no, not a typo) one morning to find that my friend Ally had made me a PB&J sandwich so that I wouldn’t go low before the game. Some friends even gave me my shots when I broke my wrist – they offered! A few friends have simply asked for my finger and proceeded to test my blood without me asking when I’ve been too ‘under the weather’ to do it myself. Now that is love.

During sorority recruitment my senior year, I was asked to write a letter about how my sisters had helped me overcome my struggles, and read it in a room full of potential new members. My sisters cried with me as my voice cracked and held my hand while it shook. I honestly don’t remember a time when I was so emotional, and of course it had to be in a room full of people. But I am so thankful for that experience. It was extremely draining but even more therapeutic. And it just solidified how much a group of good people can change your life. On bid day that year, several new members came up to me and told me my story was the reason they joined.

I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of ignorant people throughout my time with this disease. But you know what? It just makes me appreciate the good ones so much more. I won’t spend my time – or yours – telling you stories about mean things people have said to me along the way, but I will tell you that every caring comment, every question of interest about my disease, and every “I’m proud of you” trump those tenfold.

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I like to think that everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure what the reason is for the existence of debilitating diseases, but if they have to affect people, I understand why I’m one of them.

I have the most amazing family you will ever meet. They are so supportive of me, and I know that each of them would walk to the ends of the earth to take this disease away from me.

The night I was diagnosed, my brother Matt borrowed a textbook about Type 1 diabetes from his school library. He read it in one night. My brother Colin offered to fly home from Florida to occupy my days off from school.

My parents…I’m not even sure where to begin. If anyone understands the weight of this burden, it’s them. They’re the ones who stay up at night worrying about me. They’re the ones who have to call for backup from thousands of miles away, panic eating away at them, when I don’t answer my phone in the morning. The ones wondering if I’ll wake up.

They also carry the financial burden of this disease. Too many people die because they can’t afford the insanely expensive medical supplies needed to stay alive with diabetes. I lose sleep thinking about the not-too-far-off day that I turn 26 and can no longer be covered under my parents’ health insurance. Even on my parents’ quality insurance plan, my medications and doctors’ visits cost an arm and a leg. Just today, my insurance company told my mom they weren’t sure my long-acting insulin would be covered. This is a drug I would die without.

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As much as I try not to, I worry a lot about the future.

If I’m being completely honest with you, it’s not death that I worry about. I worry so much more about living in pain. As you age, blood sugar control only gets tougher. Even though I do my absolute best, complications may still arise.

I worry about job security. It may shock you in this day and age, but discrimination against diabetics is rampant in the workforce. Before one of my first interviews, I had to Google the federal laws regarding employees with chronic illness so that I could be prepared.

I worry about finding someone that loves me enough to outweigh the emotional and financial burden I will bring to the relationship. I worry about my ability to have healthy children.

I will never be able to be completely spontaneous. Every single day of my life must be planned to some degree. I must have food and medical tools at an arms length at all times. I must know when my next meal is coming. I must know whether I’m going to be exercising at any point during the day so that I can adjust the entire day’s insulin. I can’t get behind the wheel of a car without making sure my blood sugar is stable. I can’t pack up and move to Europe like I want to, at least until I figure out insurance and doctors and access to supplies. The list of things I can’t do is pretty damn long.

But you know what? The list of things I can do is longer.

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Since my diagnosis, I finished high school with an excellent GPA. I received academic scholarships to all but one school…which is the one I happened to choose. Sorry, Mom and Dad! I attended the University of Miami. I completed an internship as well as held a position in my sorority each semester. I went off to a foreign country by myself for a semester abroad. I was tapped into two prestigious honor societies at UM. I started this blog from the ground up.

And I did all of that while fighting for my life.

It may seem strange to many of you that I commemorate the day of my life-altering diagnosis. I decided two years ago that since the date is always going to stick with me, I might as well celebrate it. No, I’m not celebrating diabetes. I’m celebrating the fact that for some reason, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have woken up every morning for twenty-three years despite my immune system’s mission to prevent that.

And if I do say so myself, I’ve kicked some serious butt along the way.

I can’t thank you all enough for reading this series. It was extremely difficult but rewarding for me to write. Now that I have a platform to express myself, I thought it was only right that I use it to educate others about one of the most important causes in my life. I hope I was able to enlighten even just a few of you. Always remember – you were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.

Colorfully Yours,

Haley

Type One Diabetes: It Weighs Heavily

After giving you guys a glimpse into life with diabetes, and listing all of the graphic complications that can accompany it, it may seem silly to write this post.

But this series is about being honest and informative. So here goes.

One of the biggest struggles I deal with in regards to diabetes is body image.

Prior to my diagnosis, I weighed just over 100 pounds. Granted, I was in high school, and those bodies don’t last forever for anyone. But insulin makes you gain lots of weight, and it feels nearly impossible to take off. My diabetes-related thyroid disorder doesn’t help matters, either.

Exercise makes your blood sugar crash, so trying to keep up with a healthy regimen of working out leads to unbearable frustration. I have to eat tons of food to bring my blood sugar up from a workout – so sometimes it’s hard not to ask myself why I even bother. The same goes for dieting – less food means more low blood sugars.

In the months after my diagnosis, I gained a decent amount of weight, but luckily I could afford to do so at the time. I remember the picture that was taken of me on my 16th birthday, one month after my diagnosis. It was before my Facebook days (guess I’m old!) so I can’t pull it up, but my face looks puffy and swollen.

I stressed over my weight a bit as high school continued, but I don’t remember anything too out of the ordinary for a teenage girl. It wasn’t until college that it really took a toll on me.

As you know, many college freshmen gain the Freshman 15 – too many beers, late night pizzas, lack of exercise.

Well, I gained the Freshman 15 plus the Diabetic 15.

I’ve never been a big drinker, so I can’t really contribute my weight gain to that. I’ve always hated pizza, so it wasn’t that, either. 😉 But seriously, I tried to make healthy choices in the dining hall for the most part. As for exercise, I was hitting the gym and even got a personal trainer to help me. But the weight kept coming on.

As I said, insulin makes you gain weight. Dining hall food, no matter how ‘healthy’ your choices, contains more carbohydrates, which means more insulin. So it’s a double whammy – I had the effects of a normal college freshman, compounded with my body essentially rejecting this foreign food. I was so used to weighing everything I ate, but I didn’t exactly want to bring a Salter scale to the dining hall.

I cried a lot about my weight that year. It didn’t help matters that someone had posted about my weight on the gossip site “College ACB.” (Remember that evil thing?!)

Getting into one of the best sororities on campus should have boosted my confidence. I was surrounded by amazing girls who clearly loved me for me. But as much as that brought me out of my shell, I also had a new group of gorgeous ladies to compare myself to. Miami (both the city and the school) is a mecca of toned, tan, model-like specimens. Talk about throwing yourself into the fire!

Throughout my years at Miami, I battled with my confidence. My weight fluctuated often. When I look back, I kick myself thinking of all of the fun I missed out on by being worried about my body. I skipped a majority of the pool parties – and in Miami, there were a lot. What I’d give to be day drinking by the pool with my friends and cute boys, now!

My stomach is still pudgy and oddly shaped from my insulin injections. I have pads of scar tissue beneath my bellybutton that stick out. I have extra layers of fat build up near my injection sites. My thighs, arms and butt are starting to become padded with scar tissue as well. My skin is perpetually bruised from needles.

Sometimes I stand in the mirror and push away those bumps and layers, admiring what I would look like without them. For a few minutes, I pretend I’m not chronically ill – that I’m just a twenty-something girl with a flat stomach and a carefree life ahead.

Chances are, other people don’t see these imperfections like I do. Yet I sometimes wish I could just post a sign somewhere to explain to people that my body is the way it is because of medical issues. But why do I feel like I owe anybody an explanation?

I am currently at the lowest weight I’ve been in a while, but I’m still not really satisfied. As unhealthy as it is, I’m always wondering what I would look like if I didn’t have diabetes. I torture myself thinking about how I would probably be stick thin like both of my parents were at my age. I fantasize about how my life would have been different if I were skinny.

But at the end of the day, I know confidence doesn’t come from the scale. It comes from within. And even if I were a size zero, these problems wouldn’t miraculously disappear. I try to remind myself that the things I hate about my body are the result of the hard work it does to keep me alive, day after day. I should be proud of these imperfections, not ashamed. Because without them, I wouldn’t be here today writing this post.

Unfortunately, many diabetics don’t get these moments of clarity. Adolescent girls with Type 1 diabetes are 2.4 times as likely as their non-diabetic peers to develop an eating disorder. The most common eating disorder found in diabetics is diabulimia, which is when a person cuts back on or skips their insulin in order to lose weight – and it is extremely deadly.

My diabetes has made me more resilient, empathetic, determined, and independent. I have accomplished so much in spite of it – or maybe even because of it. If people choose to focus on some extra flab instead of that, then they aren’t the type of people I want in my life. And if “fat” is the worst thing you can call me, I’d say I’m doing pretty damn well for myself.

Colorfully (and sometimes pudgily) yours,

Haley

 

Type 1 Diabetes: Q&A

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, but I do get some pretty silly ones. Here are the most common questions and comments I hear regarding my diabetes:

1: Ohmygod, I could never give myself a shot!

I don’t recall signing up to give myself shots…an average of six times a day, every day, for the rest of my life. In fact, I used to be petrified of needles! But I would die if I didn’t inject. It’s not a choice.

2: My grandmother has diabetes, so I know all about it.untitled-infographic2

Chances are that your grandmother has Type 2 diabetes. If she has Type 1, I’m sorry – I’m just going

off of statistics and experience here. Only 5% of diabetics are Type 1. Yup, I’m one of the chosen ones! Ha.

The main difference that I’d like to note is that Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or reversed, while Type 2 often can be with proper diet and exercise. I’ve included a handy little infographic to
further explain the differences between the types.

The types are so different, in fact, that many type ones want the name of our disease to be changed. They are not the same disease. They do not arise the same way, nor are they medically treated the same way.

Another version of this comment I’ve gotten many times is ‘my dog/cat/bunny has diabetes.’ Come on people!

3: Does that hurt?

No, it feels great! You should try it sometime! JK. I mean, stabbing yourself with a needle isn’t exactly therapeutic. But you get used to it. Sometimes it hurts more than others, like when you hit a nerve or a muscle. Appetizing, huh?

Same goes for the finger pricking. It isn’t pleasant, especially since my fingers are callused over from the abuse, so I often have to give it a few tries. But I’m used to it by now, and I’ve found techniques to make it hurt less.

4: What can you eat? (and/or ‘can you eat that?’)

I can eat anything my little heart desires! I just have to calculate it and cover for it with enough insulin.

There are certain foods and beverages that don’t agree with my pancreatically challenged body, but every diabetic has different trigger foods. For example, no matter how much extra insulin I inject, my blood sugar is always crazy high after eating Chinese food. So I generally try to avoid that.

I also don’t see the point in drinking real soda or lemonade or any of that when there are so many carb-free drink options on the market. It’s a waste of insulin, in my opinion!

5: #diabetes!

I honestly hope the Instagram/Twitter/Facebook gods exact some sort of painful (but not life-threatening) revenge on you for hashtagging “diabetes” on a picture of unhealthy food.

That is not how you get diabetes. Even Type 2 diabetics didn’t get their disease from eating a piece of chocolate cake.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, none of us asked for this disease. There is absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent it. We were simply dealt a crappy hand. I think our life-threatening, chronic illness is painful enough without you mocking it. Would you hashtag cancer, MS, or ALS? Didn’t think so.

In my experience, the stigma surrounding diabetes is one of the hardest parts of dealing with this disease. As if the constant worry about both the present and future in terms of our health isn’t enough, we often get blamed or made fun of for our disease when it is completely out of our control. Listening to and reading ignorant comments and misconceptions day after day is extremely hurtful – not to mention exhausting.

Mind you, I don’t necessarily blame individuals for their lack of understanding of Type 1 diabetes. I blame our entire society for the lack of education surrounding a disease that takes the lives of so many of our people – and makes those lives so hard along the way. Personally, I never knew a thing about diabetes before I was diagnosed. I thought it just meant you had to give yourself a shot sometimes.

That being said, please make sure to educate yourselves before making comments about any disease. And next time you take to Instagram to show your unhealthy dessert, please keep my chronic illness out of it.

6: My brother’s ex-girlfriend’s cousin has diabetes, but she has it really bad.

Type 1 diabetes is type 1 diabetes. Yes, every single diabetic has a very different experience with the disease, but we do have the same disease. Our pancreases are equally defective. Our immune systems are equally as vicious. So while someone may, at the moment, have better blood sugar control than another, no one’s diabetes is “bad” or “good.”

7: But you’re not fat!

If you don’t understand this by this point in my post, I’m worried.

8: You’re lucky you have an excuse to eat dessert!

Hey, guess what?! You have an even better excuse to eat dessert! Do you know what it’s called? A functioning pancreas!

Yes, I have to eat something before I go to bed every night so that I can sleep without dying. No, it isn’t awesome. Seventy-five percent of the time, I just want to go to bed. I don’t want to shove empty calories into my mouth and give myself a second wind.

Yes, I have to treat every single low blood sugar with food or a carby beverage. This is much less fun. Lows always come at an inconvenient time, which means that not only is eating a pain in my butt, but the pickings are usually extremely slim. Second of all, my taste buds don’t really function when I’m low, so I don’t even get to enjoy the food. And lastly, it’s unbelievably frustrating when you’re trying to be healthy (to offset your type-one-induced weight gain) and have to keep eating things you don’t even want.

9: You shouldn’t eat that stuff.

When I broke my wrist last year, I had to be transported by ambulance. The EMTs had to test my blood sugar, and it was very high. Probably because having a bone poking out of your arm is just a little bit stressful/painful. Regardless, I humored them when they asked what I had eaten for dinner. It happened to be Shake Shack. They then lectured me about how if I continued to eat like that I would lose my limbs.

Listen up, you so-called medical professionals – and everyone else. I could eat a bowl of quinoa and kale and have a horrible blood sugar. In fact, it happened last week! And I could eat a burger and a milkshake and have a perfect blood sugar. That’s how this disease works.

Should I eat fast food every day? No. Should ‘normal people’ eat fast food everyday? No.

10: Splenda gives you cancer.

I don’t know how long I’m going to live. In fact, no one does. So I’m going to enjoy my food. If that means putting a Splenda in my coffee or having a Diet Coke with dinner, then I’ll do exactly that.

When I’m at home, I do try to use Stevia, as it’s said to be more pure. However, I have to deal with the realities of daily life. Coffee shops don’t carry the natural, more expensive sweeteners.

If I listened to every news report about what causes cancer, I’d have to live in a bubble and consume/touch/wear nothing. So would you. So if I don’t want to drink my coffee bitter, I won’t. Everything in moderation!

11: Are you still on insulin?

Um, yes. And I always will be. You are too, actually, you just don’t take it out of the fridge!

12: But you can grow out of that, right?

Nope. Type 1 diabetes has no known cure. Hopefully that will change someday!

13: Well, it could be worse.

Trust me, I know that. I am unbelievably lucky. But how about you make a mental list about all of the things you’ve complained or vented about today? Could it be worse? Always. Does that make your problems insignificant? No.

14: You’re doing that at the table?

Sometimes I go to the bathroom to do my insulin. But more often than not, I slyly slide my shirt up and give myself a shot under the table. Usually, no one notices. In fact, friends and family have told me I’m so sneaky about it that they never know it’s happening.

But guess what? I don’t even owe it to anyone to be sneaky. Unless you want to excuse yourself from the table every time you eat or drink to go secrete your insulin from your working pancreas in private, I don’t owe it to you to do the same.

15: You’re too young to have diabetes.

Again, while age is a prominent factor in Type 2 diabetes, that does not apply to Type 1. Ironically enough, Type 1 diabetes was formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes. It can happen to people of any age, which is why they tried to drop the “juvenile.” But yes, the majority of Type 1 diabetics are diagnosed early in life.

(Sidenote: I’ve had multiple “medical professionals” say this to me before, too. All I can say is: WTF?!)

I hope this post was informative and that my sarcasm wasn’t too harsh for anyone! Stay tuned for a personal essay tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Type 1 Diabetes: A Series

September 26th marks eight years since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In honor of my diaversary, I will be sharing a series of blog posts prior to that day. These posts will be personal, emotional, sarcastic…and lengthy. But most of all, I hope they will be informative.

Please give these posts a read and comment if you have any questions! If I can educate just one person about this disease, it will have been worth annoying the rest of you. Thanks for reading!

xo,

Haley

type 1 diabetes

Let’s get the sciencey stuff out of the way:

 Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes, is when the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed in order to convert food into the energy that is needed to survive.

It is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body literally attacks itself. The immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes. There is nothing that can be done to prevent it, either. Type 1 diabetics are born with the gene inside of them, and something along the way triggers the immune attack. It is believed that the gene is triggered by environmental factors such as viruses or toxins. However, the specific cause has not yet been determined.

Type 1 diabetics must inject synthetic human insulin under the skin. In my case, I inject insulin an average of six times per day – a long-lasting insulin in the morning and at night to keep me relatively stable, and a fast-acting insulin each time I consume food or a drink with carbohydrates. I also test my blood sugar with a prick of my finger about six times a day.

Insulin lowers blood sugar, which is naturally high in Type 1 diabetics.

However, we must balance out that insulin with food. Food raises the blood sugar.

Finding the right balance between insulin and food is like walking a tightrope with a blindfold on. I could do the exact same thing every single day, eat the exact same foods at the exact same times, inject the same amount of insulin, and still see a different result.

There are also about a bazillion and one (totally scientific estimate) other factors that influence blood sugar. That’s the thing – it’s not just about food and insulin.

Some factors that affect my blood sugar include: exercise, stress, my period, allergies, a cold, other medicines, my mood, too little sleep, too much sleep, alcohol, caffeine, the heat, a shower, excitement, shopping (more on that another time), an injury…in the interest of time, I’ll stop here.

Extremely high or extremely low blood sugar can lead to coma or death.

Now for some math:

You know how you joked in school that you’d never use math again? Foot, meet mouth. Diabetics have to follow an algorithm to determine how many units of insulin to inject. Every diabetic has a different one. Here’s mine:

Breakfast: 42 Carbs

Lunch: 35 Carbs

Dinner: 67 Carbs

Bedtime snack: 30 Carbs

Upon diagnosis, I started with a base amount of insulin for each of those meals. I’m on a sliding scale, which means that I must adjust those base amounts every so often, by trial and error. Again, there are so many factors going on in my body – one month certain numbers may work, and then they suddenly may not.

For each additional 15 carbohydrates consumed, I do an extra unit of insulin. For each 15 less carbs, one less unit.

Certain foods don’t like to follow my rules, though. Chinese food, for example, wreaks absolute havoc on my blood sugar, no matter how much extra insulin I do. Fats like cream cheese don’t have carbs, but they cause some sort of weird reaction that raises my blood sugar anyway.

And finally, the not-so-fun facts:

  • 1.25 million Americans are living with T1D
  • 40,000 people are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
  • Between 2001 and 2009, there was a 21% increase in the prevalence of T1D in people under age 20
  • $14 billion is the T1D-associated annual healthcare cost in the U.S.
  • Less than 1/3 of people with T1D in the U.S. are achieving target blood glucose level
  • T1D is associated with an estimated loss of life expectancy of 13 years
  • The risk of death for people with diabetes is double that of non-diabetics of the same age
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputation, and new cases of blindness among adults in the U.S.
  • Two-thirds of diabetics will die of heart disease or stroke
  • 60-70% of people with diabetes experience nervous system damage
  • Healthcare costs for children with diabetes are six times higher than those of non-diabetic children
  • Since Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, diabetics are often plagued with several autoimmune diseases at once
  • People with diabetes are 50% more likely to suffer from depression than people without diabetes
  • Diabetes causes more deaths per year than AIDS and breast cancer combined

Don’t you feel smarter already? Check in tomorrow for Part 2 of this series! You will be quizzed. (JK.)

Book Review: The One and Only

the one and only emily giffin
As I sit down to write a review of Emily Giffin’s The One and Only, I’m realizing how conflicted I feel about it.

Let me start with a brief synopsis. The story follows 33-year-old Shea Rigsby from Walker, a small town in Texas. The town takes a Friday Night Lights-esque approach to football – they live, eat, and breathe it. Shea is no exception. In fact, she loves football arguably more than anyone in town. She idolizes the local coach, who also happens to be her best friend’s father. Shea finally decides to step out of the Walker football cocoon career-wise, but soon learns that the obsession follows her everywhere.

I did finish this 400+ page book in two days. Then again, that probably doesn’t hold much weight considering I’ve said similar things about my last several reads. Being a bookworm and a night owl is a deadly combination!

Now let me follow up by saying how uneasy this novel made me feel. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like reading it – it just means that the storyline wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Frankly, it made me feel pretty weird.

It’s hard to explain that without giving away any spoilers. But I will say that based on the book description you’ll find on the inside cover, you’re going to assume this is your standard chick-lit. I sure did.

However, the novel covers some intense topics. And I can’t say I loved how Giffin addressed them.

In my opinion, though, some of the best books I’ve read present a sort-of moral dilemma to the reader. You keep changing your mind about whose side you’re on.

The One and Only certainly kept my interest, as I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. It was one of those “I’ll sleep after this chapter…no wait, after this one!” situations. So the entertainment value was certainly there.

At the same time, it seemed a little like Giffin went in so many different directions in the first three-quarters of the book that she ran out of steam in the last quarter. (See my little football reference?! I can be sporty!) Many of the topics that had been brought up felt undeveloped in the end.

You’re probably sitting behind your computer screen thinking about how completely unhelpful this review was, but I’m just going to have to let you find out for yourself.

Give it a read and let me know in the comments whether you loved it, hated it, or felt a little of both. Happy reading!

The LC Runway Collection

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It’s no secret that I adore Lauren Conrad. In fact, I wrote all about my love for her a month or two ago on this very blog. I entered (and won!) a contest on her site. And when my friend referred to LC as my “spirit animal” just the other day, I basically squealed.

So it comes as no surprise that I was psyched to find out that Lauren was premiering her newest Kohl’s collection on the runway at New York Fashion Week. However, I’ll admit to being a bit underwhelmed by the LC/Kohl’s collabs in the past, so I didn’t get my hopes up too high.

Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.

I am in love with the LC Runway Collection. It is ethereal, soft, feminine, and reminiscent of a woodland fairytale. The color palette is full of toned down neutrals and pastels. This is definitely outside of my comfort zone, as I tend to go for bold, bright colors, (duh) but it works so well here. The photos of Lauren herself in the collection actually glow. I’ve never had such a desire to be outdoors! Ha.

After making a mental ‘favorites’ list on the Kohl’s website, I couldn’t wait to get to my local store and see the items in the flesh.

Unfortunately, but not shockingly, my local Kohl’s had an extremely limited selection of LC Runway items. Regardless, it was nice to see the items in person – I was very impressed with the quality of each one I tried on.

LCRunway

But…

I hate that there’s a but. Lauren is my girl. BUT I promised that my reviews would be honest and uncolored.

First of all, the price point is a little wacko for Kohl’s. I understand that Lauren is a legitimate designer and this is an awesome collaboration, but at the end of the day, we’re still talking about Kohl’s. The store needs to pander to its demographic. Full disclosure: if I’m going to spend $230 on a backpack or $120 on a little jacket, it’s probably not going to be at Kohl’s.

Secondly, the sizing was bizarre. I had to keep grabbing larger and larger sizes of the faux-suede motorcycle jacket – the item I wanted to see most. I finally felt comfortable in the size 12 – WTF? But although the body fit in that size, the arms were much too loose. Ugh. Next, I tried the scuba skirt in a size bigger than my usual. Still too small! The bow sweater that I tried was a cute and normal fit, but I’d be reticent when ordering online. I’m so tempted to order some of the items that I couldn’t find in stores, but I’m not sure how far up to go in size.

Anyway, odd sizing aside, the collection is just as gorgeous in person as it is on the website – and that’s not something you run into often. Hopefully I can get to another (fully stocked) location and try on some of the other items I’m lusting after.

Speaking of lust, I’ve chosen my favorite items from the LC Runway Collection below:

  1. Faux-suede motorcycle jacketI wish this had fit my body type better, because I’m obsessed. Girly and edgy – my two personalities in one item. The pale pink was amazing, but I’d love to see the deep green in person too!
  2. High Waist Soft Pants: I think I need these in my life. I’m not sure what I like best. That crepe? That blush tone? That sash? Ahhhh!
  3. Floral Scuba Skirt:  This skirt is thick and flattering. The sweet, feminine style and print would pair perfectly with the edginess of the motorcycle jacket, in either color!
  4. Tiered Fringe Crop Top: Daisy Buchanan, is that you? Oh, no – it’s just me looking fierce and flappery in my [currently imaginary] fringe crop.
  5. Tulle Maxi Skirt:  I’ve been hunting for the perfect tulle skirt for so long. Now someone invite me somewhere so I can buy this!
  6. Sequin Ombre Midi Skirt: Sequins + ombre + pink = a dream come true.
  7. Faux-Fur Collar Peacoat:  Don’t ask me how it even got into my head, but I’ve been wanting a pastel winter coat for the past couple of years. Hello, beautiful.
  8. Lace-Up High Heels: These are the ideal mix of classy and sexy. They’re so versatile, yet they’re reminiscent of a fairy princess. The perfect tie-in to the rest of the collection!

You may think I just listed most of the collection, but I promise this is an extremely narrowed down list. The collection is BIG. So much to choose from…so few money trees in my backyard. 😉

Keep my sizing comments in mind, but don’t let that stop you from shopping!

Support my spirit animal Lauren Conrad and channel your inner woodland fashionista while you’re at it. Time for your very own fairy tale!