Diabetic & Me

Christel Oerum

Christel Oerum

Hello! Who are you? And tell us a little bit more about your diabetes.

Hey everyone! My name is Christel Oerum. I’m 41 years old and currently living in Santa Monica, CA, USA. I have Type 1 diabetes for a total of 23 years.

I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997. I was born and raised in Denmark but moved to the United States in 2009 with my husband. Today we run www.diabetesstrong.com from our home in Santa Monica, CA where we enjoy hiking and hanging out with our fur-baby, Zoe.

I didn’t grow up with diabetes. I was not diagnosed until I turned 19.

Christel Oerum
Christel Oerum

“Don’t accept daily lows, adjust your insulin!”

Your treatment

How do you treat your diabetes, did a lot change over the past years and are you able to manage it well?

I manage my diabetes, I don’t think it’s anybody else’s responsibility. I get great support from my husband and have a great endocrinologist but I’m the one managing everything. I’m very happy on multiple daily injections in combination with my Dexcom G6. I use Humalog and Levemir insulin. Humalog when needed (~7-8 times daily) and Levemir (split morning and evening)

I’ve been on Novolog and other long acting insulin before. I don’t remember the name but it was the cloudy basal that you had to mix before injecting.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen diabetes as a burden. It can be annoying and time consuming but I’ve always just rolled with it. Planning for vacations/travel did certainly become more of an ordeal.

I did have to take my diabetes into consideration when considering leaving my corporate job and working on Diabetes Strong full time since I’d have to buy my own health insurance. I’m lucky that California has a pretty good healthcare exchange and I’ve managed to find good (although not cheap) healthcare to cover my diabetes management and whatever other health issues might arise. I think my understanding of diabetes and how most things will potentially impact blood sugars helps me manage. I tweak frequently and am really happy with my care.

Christel Oerum

Can you recognize the symptoms of a low/high blood sugar? Do you test often and can you tell a bit more about your experiences with low blood sugar?

Yes, I can recognize them. It really depends. One of my “newer” symptoms is a tingling in my mouth/lips. Almost like your foot is tingling when you sit in an awkward position for too long. I can get really tired, low on energy and when I get a really low blood sugar I’ll sweat and shake.

Since I have a CGM I usually check in with my blood sugar pretty frequently. I’ll also do finger sticks if my blood sugar is high, low or in the first 24-hours during the sensor life when it’s often inaccurate.

To treat my low blood sugar, I prefer glucose tabs. I really like the Chocolate Marshmallow tabs I can get at CVS. And other times I’ll drink juice.

Food and diet

How does your diabetes affect your eating and do you find being on a diet restrictive?

It 100% depends on the day.

Today I ate:

  • Breakfast: Biscuit, egg, turkey
  • Lunch: Mixed salad with vinaigrette, toast and brie
  • Snack: Almond scone and a lemon bar
  • Dinner: Broccoli rice with meat sauce and lots of cheese
  • Snack: Low carb ice cream

I sometimes skip meals but usually if I’m hungry I eat snacks. I’ve been baking these almond scones that I really enjoy with a cup of tea. My favorite food is cake … and cheese!

I 100% adjust my insulin based on; the day, my activity, hormone cycle and what I eat.

I’ve been in a weird situation where I drank too much water (+10 liters) so I have to take care not to drink more than 3-4 liters per day.

I stopped dieting a while ago. I might vary my caloric intake at times but for me being restrictive is triggering and I’ll end up mentally “rebelling” against the diet. And really I don’t think there’s any need to be restrictive, if you can do moderation.

When somebody asks me about food I can or can’t eat I don’t get irritated. But, people should stay in their lane. If it’s out of curiosity they ask I usually explain and if I don’t know them or I don’t like the tone I’ll just ignore it.

Do you believe that a plant based diet can improve diabetes? Did you ever experiment with this?

I enjoy dairy and meat too much. I think it’s great for some people while keto is great for others. I personally do best on a varied diet.

Do you have a hard time eating out in a restaurant? And what are you thoughts on making this easier?

No, I love eating out. I rely pretty heavily on MyFitnessPal and Google for estimating the carbs so I can dose appropriately.

My husband and I most often go out for lunch. We have a few favorite restaurants where we know the menu and that’s it’s worth paying for.

“Most don’t understand the basics of diabetes or that it’s a 24 hour job.”

Exercise and work

Does your diabetes restrict you from exercise or your daily job?

Before COVID-19 I was at the gym doing resistance training 5 to 6 times a week, plus the occasional cardio. Now I try to stay active at home. It’s not the same and I miss lifting heavy weights. Most likely gyms will continue to be closed for a while so I do what I can at home. I have dumbbells at home as well as resistance bands.I’ll go for bike rides or hikes as my cardio whenever I can.

I run www.diabetesstrong.com. I’m my own boss so that’s pretty amazing. I do sit a lot when writing or editing so that’s not optimal when it comes to my diabetes. I try to move around and do some stretches to manage.

Christel Oerum
Christel Oerum
Christel Oerum

Final

Do you have any positive or negative effects because of your diabetes?

To manage my diabetes better I pay attention and I make frequent changes. I’ll assess my basal needs daily and dial it up or down depending on activity, my cycle, stress, sleep pattern and other. I also check in with my blood sugars frequently throughout the day and make corrections whenever is needed. I don’t care how many times I have to inject, I do what my body needs.

The hardest part of having diabetes is that it can end up taking a lot of mind space. And some days I can get alarm fatigue from my CGM or become irritated when my blood sugars don’t act as I’d expect. But I refuse to let this condition dictate my life. So I get irritated, accept it and then I move on.

But the best part is connecting with so many great people also living with diabetes, online and in person. Diabetes is not something you have to do alone, unless you want to. It has also allowed me to have an exceptional understanding of my body, which is kinda cool.

So far diabetes did not cause any other problems.

I live in Santa Monica and everyone is very active here so that makes me want to stay active too. I do get a lot of questions when I wear my CGM on my arm, but that’s OK. I see it as a learning opportunity. People generally ask because they are curious.

Christel Oerum

What is the best advice that you can give to non-diabetics, new diagnosed diabetics and diabetics?

Most don’t understand the basics or that it’s a 24 hour job. It’s not just taking a shot or a pill and then off to the races. But I don’t think we can expect everyone to know the condition either. I knew nothing about diabetes when I was diagnosed and thought it was a death sentence. Luckily I know better now

It’s going to be OK. You can live a normal (or extraordinary), happy and healthy life with diabetes. At diagnosis it might be overwhelming and confusing. I do find that with time and understand it becomes easier, never easy, but easier.

You have to be in charge of your own care. Learn how to adjust your care, even without your medical team. I don’t think adjustments every 3 to4 months are frequent enough.

Don’t accept daily lows, adjust your insulin!

And if diabetes starts to get you down seek out support and get the help that’s right for you.

What would you ask the other diabetics?

What are your hopes for the future of managing diabetes? Technologic and medication wise.

Feel free to answer in the comments below.

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