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A Love Letter To Diabetes

My darling diabetes,

We’ve come a long way, you and I. Can you believe it’s already been 13 years?  Time sure flies. But let’s face it: we were bound to be together. We can say it was all right there in the stars like a predetermined strand of DNA. Or maybe it was just the way the universe always knew it was going to be, like a quickly arranged teenage marriage. But let’s admit it: our relationship was destiny.

Remember how young we were when we began? Though not too young, I suppose. I’ve seen other family members get swept off their feet at a much younger age than I did. And I’ll admit, I tried to play the field a little before you came around. I flirted with the chickenpox and strep throat, even hung out with mononucleosis for a summer. But those others were just passing through; you were in it for the long haul.

I remember the courtship so vividly. You were always so kind—if not persistent—making sure I was drinking glass upon glass of orange juice each night to keep my vitamin c up, and insisting I never pass a restroom without first using it, even if I had just gone. You even made sure I always got a few extra hours of sleep and that I never ate too much.

Some may say we have an unhealthy relationship and that you may be a little too aggressive at times. Like when you violently shake me out of a deep sleep and force me to stick a needle in my finger at 3 a.m. Or when I go for a long run only to have you waiting at the finish line demanding that I eat all the calories I just burned if I want to stay conscious. Your abuse is no secret to others, either. They can see the scars you leave on my fingertips, my abdomen, my hips.

But even certain dark things are worthy of love, don’t you think? It was you, after all, who started to give my life direction. It was you who helped me to love myself and showed me the importance of treating my body like a temple. It was you, with your unwavering determination to keep me down, that awakened the strength within me to keep me getting up. You taught me patience, a great deal of math, and a tolerance for pain. Nobody has quite taken such an intimate interest in my well-being before you.

We’ve had our ups and downs, and I can only hope that we’re only just beginning, that our relationship carries on this way for years and years to come. I promise to keep being respectful of your presence if you promise to keep being respectful of my undying efforts. Because as bad as you may be for me, the truth is that I just can’t quit you—no matter how badly I might want to.

Forever yours,
Bridget

NYC Tour de Cure

Coming from a family of 3 type 1 diabetics and becoming one myself at the age of 15, this is a cause that is very near and dear to me. But instead of riding in this year’s Tour de Cure, I volunteered with the American Diabetes Association on Randall’s Island and did some photos for them. Besides the streets of New York, I’ve never shot photos of complete strangers before, and I was definitely out of my shy little introverted comfort zone. Halfway through though, I was able to muster up enough courage and start asking people for some more staged photos. And I’m so glad I did. Take a look at these heartwarming smiles and see if you don’t get inspired by these badass diabetics.


It was a 4 am morning out on Randall's Island. But somehow cruising down the FDR in the back of an Uber watching the sun come up made it all okay.

It was a 4 am morning out on Randall's Island. But somehow cruising down the FDR in the back of an Uber watching the sun come up made it all okay.

Red Riders are cyclists who ride 30, 60, or even 100 miles with diabetes. I love that instead of embracing unhealthy stereotypes like the media so often does, the ADA makes diabetics feel special on this day.

Red Riders are cyclists who ride 30, 60, or even 100 miles with diabetes. I love that instead of embracing unhealthy stereotypes like the media so often does, the ADA makes diabetics feel special on this day.

Embracing it.

Embracing it.

This woman had the sweetest smile and energy I've come into contact with in a long time.

This woman had the sweetest smile and energy I've come into contact with in a long time.

These guys were having a great time. Their hype re-energized me a bit. Thanks guys!

These guys were having a great time. Their hype re-energized me a bit. Thanks guys!

When the rain started pouring down the volunteers ran for cover. 

When the rain started pouring down the volunteers ran for cover. 

And that's a wrap! 

And that's a wrap! 


You can view more photos on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bridgetwoznicaphotography or on Instagram as @bridgetwoznicaphotography.

Debunking The Myths Of Diabetes

On November 25, 2004, it was confirmed that one of my internal organs was on its way out, and that soon, it would probably stop working altogether. I had spent the few weeks before this in complete agony. I was 15, and instead of feeling invincible and in the prime of my life, I was sleeping all day and losing weight at such a rate that it was obvious to me something wasn’t right. Then came the dead giveaway symptom: the unquenchable thirstone of the first noticeable signs of high blood sugar. I had grown up in a household of three diabetics, so I knew at my core what this all meant. I just didn’t want to admit that it was my time to join their little club.

What are you supposed to do when you’re met with the life-changing diagnosis of being a type 1 diabetic, over the phone, while vacationing with your entire extended family in the Adirondack Mountains on Thanksgiving? Run downstairs to lock yourself in a bathroom stall and cry? Perfect, because that’s what I did. I was feeling anything but thankful that night.

It took me years before I came to accept this new lifestyle, and even longer until I was able to live in harmony with it instead of fear. Sometimes I still get exhausted and overwhelmed with the disease, but every November I figure I can either allow myself to get depressed on my “Dia-versary,” or I can join the thousands of others sharing their stories, support, and knowledge during National Diabetes Awareness Month.

 

Myth: You won’t get diabetes if you just watch your weight and eat fewer sweets.

 

Fact: Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects 29.1 million Americans (2012), none of whom brought the disease upon themselves. There are two different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 accounts for only 5% of people with diabetes and is when the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether, resulting in the individual having to do injections of the hormone to break down glucose from meals. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes isn’t known, but research suggests environmental factors, viruses, or genetics may play a role. As one of four type 1s in my immediate family, I’m going to lean toward the genetics part of things on this one.

  • Type 2 is when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, and/or it can’t use the insulin properly. Those affected can manage their diabetes through diet and exercise, but medication may still be needed. The exact cause of type 2 is also unknown, but again, research suggests the environment, genetics, ethnicity, and yes maybe even excess weight and inactivity may be contributing factors. But again, strictly eating too many sweets does not cause the disease; it may increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, but only if you’re already at risk.

 

Myth: Diabetes isn’t really that big of a deal.

 

Fact: Did you know that diabetes is responsible for more deaths each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined? Despite all of the continued research, nobody knows the exact cause, or has been able to find a cure, and the numbers of diagnoses continue to rise. It is true that if treated and kept under good control, one can live a long, healthy life with diabetes, but that doesn’t make the gravity of the situation any easier to handle. Just because diabetics are able to count carbohydrates and do the calculations to inject the amount of insulin needed for each meal, or just because we know how much exercise we should do and have the devices to test our blood sugars after, it doesn’t make it less of a deal. These things become our daily reminders of just how much of our lives the disease has taken control of.

 

Myth: See! Diabetes is super easy to manage and I’ve even heard these extremes can be avoided altogether with a special restricted, sugar free diet.

 

Fact: Yes, it can be managed. Yes, it can be lived with. But that in no way means it’s easy. Diabetes is like a test every day. And there are no days off. Sometimes you pass, sometimes you fail. Some days you know why your numbers are trending high, other days you’re blindsided by that low. Even if you do every single thing right, and follow all of your doctor's’ orders, sometimes it can still go wrong. There are approximately a billion different things that can affect your blood sugar levels—from how much sleep you get to your menstrual cycle, from traveling through time zones to having an extra cup of coffee—there’s still quite a bit of guesswork to be done, even after a lifetime of having the disease.

As for the special diet you’ve heard about, nutritionists actually recommend that diabetics follow the same healthy diet guidelines as everybody else: plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, with a limited amount of fat and refined sugar. We can even have the occasional alcoholic drink and sweets as a part of that healthy diet and lifestyle.

 

So next time you upload that photo of your cinnamon sugar covered brunch, or your haul of half-off Halloween candy, and use the hashtag “#diabetes,” joking about the causes and ignoring the seriousness of the disease, please remember these facts and those of us who aren’t LOL-ing.


First appeared on Literally, Darling: November 30, 2015.

 

Debunking The Myths Of Diabetes

On November 25, 2004, it was confirmed that one of my internal organs was on its way out, and that soon, it would probably stop working altogether. I had spent the few weeks before this in complete agony. I was 15, and instead of feeling invincible and in the prime of my life, I was sleeping all day and losing weight at such a rate that it was obvious to me something wasn’t right. Then came the dead giveaway symptomthe unquenchable thirstone of the first noticeable signs of high blood sugar. I had grown up in a household of three diabetics, so I knew at my core what this all meant. I just didn’t want to admit that it was my time to join their little club.

What are you supposed to do when you’re met with the life-changing diagnosis of being a type 1 diabetic, over the phone, while vacationing with your entire extended family in the Adirondack Mountains on Thanksgiving? Run downstairs to lock yourself in a bathroom stall and cry? Perfect, because that’s what I did. I was feeling anything but thankful that night.

It took me years before I came to accept this new lifestyle, and even longer until I was able to live in harmony with it instead of fear. Sometimes I still get exhausted and overwhelmed with the disease, but every November I figure I can either allow myself to get depressed on my “Dia-versary,” or I can join the thousands of others sharing their stories, support, and knowledge during National Diabetes Awareness Month.

 

Myth: You won’t get diabetes if you just watch your weight and eat fewer sweets.

Fact: Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects 29.1 million Americans (2012), none of whom brought the disease upon themselves. There are two different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 accounts for only 5% of people with diabetes and is when the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether, resulting in the individual having to do injections of the hormone to break down glucose from meals. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes isn’t known, but research suggests environmental factors, viruses, or genetics may play a role. As one of four type 1s in my immediate family, I’m going to lean toward the genetics part of things on this one.
  • Type 2 is when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, and/or it can’t use the insulin properly. Those affected can manage their diabetes through diet and exercise, but medication may still be needed. The exact cause of type 2 is also unknown, but again, research suggests the environment, genetics, ethnicity, and yes maybe even excess weight and inactivity may be contributing factors. But again, strictly eating too many sweets does not cause the disease; it may increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, but only if you’re already at risk.

 

Myth: Diabetes isn’t really that big of a deal.

Fact: Did you know that diabetes is responsible for more deaths each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined? Despite all of the continued research, nobody knows the exact cause, or has been able to find a cure, and the numbers of diagnoses continue to rise. It is true that if treated and kept under good control, one can live a long, healthy life with diabetes, but that doesn’t make the gravity of the situation any easier to handle. Just because diabetics are able to count carbohydrates and do the calculations to inject the amount of insulin needed for each meal, or just because we know how much exercise we should do and have the devices to test our blood sugars after, it doesn’t make it less of a deal. These things become our daily reminders of just how much of our lives the disease has taken control of.

 

Myth: See! Diabetes is super easy to manage and I’ve even heard these extremes can be avoided altogether with a special restricted, sugar free diet.

 Fact: Yes, it can be managed. Yes, it can be lived with. But that in no way means it’s easy. Diabetes is like a test every day. And there are no days off. Sometimes you pass, sometimes you fail. Some days you know why your numbers are trending high, other days you’re blindsided by that low. Even if you do every single thing right, and follow all of your doctor's’ orders, sometimes it can still go wrong. There are approximately a billion different things that can affect your blood sugar levels—from how much sleep you get to your menstrual cycle, from traveling through time zones to having an extra cup of coffee—there’s still quite a bit of guesswork to be done, even after a lifetime of having the disease.

As for the special diet you’ve heard about, nutritionists actually recommend that diabetics follow the same healthy diet guidelines as everybody else: plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, with a limited amount of fat and refined sugar. We can even have the occasional alcoholic drink and sweets as a part of that healthy diet and lifestyle.

 

So next time you upload that photo of your cinnamon sugar covered brunch, or your haul of half-off Halloween candy, and use the hashtag “#diabetes,” joking about the causes and ignoring the seriousness of the disease, please remember these facts and those of us who aren’t LOL-ing.

Progress: 31 Weeks To Go

New Gear: Running Belt

Running with Diabetes means I also have to run with a lot of extra equipment. We haven't quite made it to the point where we need to start worrying about carrying everything just yet, but I've noticed a significant drop in my blood sugars in any run longer than 2 miles, so I know it's coming.

The other night we went to the gym to hit the treadmills because despite it being spring, it was still too cold for my less than stellar immune system to run outside. The goal was 2 miles. Everyone keeps telling me that it's just a mental thing, that my body only wants to stop and quit because mentally, I don't want to keep going. But at mile 1.6 my legs started to feel weak and I knew I had to stop. I stumbled to the locker room, discretely pricked my finger and pushed out some blood. 61. A mile and a half on a treadmill at a 10:30 pace and I had to quit. I choked down 5 glucose tablets quick and went home frustrated. I'm hoping that my body is still just adjusting and can make it a little longer without needing a boost eventually. 

So instead of quitting, we ordered a couple of these belts off of Amazon so we can double up and divide the luggage. It seems to fit my tester, something in case I get low, possibly my pump on very long runs, and maybe even an emergency syringe of glucagon if I can't calm the girlfriend down enough. 


Stats And Music:

One week later, and I'm able to push myself a mile further and drop my pace a decent amount. I'm still not running longer than a mile without cramping up and having to stop, but my muscles are still building their foundations. I've also started doing this weird sprint thing right before I hit mile 2. I think I might secretly be a sprinter. After we've been running for about 1.75, I get this surge of energy and take off. Aspasia likes to yell at me when this happens, telling me right now I need to focus on distance and not speed. I know she's absolutely right. But these moments I sprint I actually feel that runner's high. I know I'm truly pushing myself to run as fast I possibly can for a quarter mile (6:45 pace yesterday) and I feel amazing. I can hear my feet hit the pavement, my heart beating, faster, faster. Then I quit. I know I know. Distance, not speed.

This week's musical push is a bit of a throwback: Bonnie Tyler - Holding Out for a Hero. I'm working on crafting the perfect list for the marathon. Right now it consists of Eminem, Get Ready for This (I LOVE Job Jams), and Bonnie Tyler. Nothing like keeping it eclectic.


Bucket Lists Are Dumb

Remember that dumb list I started a few years back? 3o Things to Do Before My 30th Birthday? A bucket list of skills to acquire and challenges to put myself and my body through? Sure it sounded great at the time. Already an outdoorsy and adventurous type, half of the list would be no problem. And new skills are great! I’m sure the advertising world isn’t going to care whether or not I can toss “Know How to Milk a Cow” or “Helped to Physically Build a House” under the Additional Skills section of my resume, but my future best-seller will absolutely benefit from it.

The list:

See New York City at Christmastime? Even better: why don’t I just decide to move there? #27: check.

Rock short hair? Easy enough when you grow up hearing all of your friends tell you that you should really do something with it other than just pulling it back. #7: check. Irony here, now they all miss the ponytail. Eff y’all. My hair, my choice.

Drink from a river? Spend a night under the stars? Bathe in a lake? Those can all be checked off with one weekend of camping.

But really, this list was so dumb. 22-year-old Bridget had no idea what she was doing. Stop reading books and getting inspired girl. Of course I’m only saying this now because I have four and a half years left to complete it, and this is the year my best friend and my girlfriend have both convinced me that THIS IS THE YEAR #4 needs to be crossed off.

They signed me up for a goddamn marathon.

On November 8th. 2015.

I’m talking a TWENTY-SIX-POINT-TWO mile RUN. I have 39 weeks to teach my body how to RUN (read: walk (let’s be honest…read: crawl)) for over FOUR HOURS. Now, I like to think I’m not starting from the complete beginning. I’ve run before. I used to run around my neighborhoods in Oswego, then Liverpool, then in Brooklyn. I even ran a 5k last June through Prospect Park. But I also haven’t run since that 5k. So when the girlfriend and I finally went back to the gym this past weekend, my body was saying, “Ha! You fool! You are ABSOLUTELY back at the beginning.”

So far I’ve run two miles this week…over the span of two days. But I have 39 weeks. And my Nike Plus application’s “Coach” tells me I only need 24 weeks to train properly. Why did I put “Complete a Marathon” on the list if I seem this er, excited? about it you may ask? Because to me it is the ultimate challenge I can put my body through. It’s safe to say it’s a pretty massive challenge for even the healthiest and most in shape of us. But 22-year-old Bridget was very Go Big or Go Home. She wanted to finish a marathon with Type 1 Diabetes. And she will. November 8th. 2015.