Skincare: 60 Can Be the New 40, by Deb Schaefer

It is an undeniable truth – we are all getting older. But, that doesn’t mean we have to look our age. After all, they say 60 is the new 40, right? As I rapidly approach the 60’s club, I find that taking better care of my skin is crucial. Not only does our skin lose elasticity as we age, it’s also quite challenging to bring it back to its normal state once the aging process has started.

As we mature, our skin loses proteins called ‘elastin and collagen’, which are found in the dermis layer of the skin. These proteins allow the skin to stretch and bounce back. In addition, we also lose fat below the layers of skin, which causes the outer layer to thin, droop and form wrinkles.

Younger-Older Skin

Courtesy of: Consumer Health Digest

In some cases, genetics will determine whether or not wrinkles will be in your future. However, there are many factors that aid in the early onset of dry skin that leads to wrinkles, such as sun damage, poor skin care, diet and even the use of some medications. Unfortunately for me, I fell into three of the four categories listed above. I had to change my ways!

Aging is a part of life, but you do have some control over how you’ll look as you go through the process. What you do or don’t do for your skin on a daily basis affects what you look like and how people see you. Below are some ideas that I found helpful for protecting my skin:

Sun exposure: We all know it’s not possible to avoid the sun completely, but you can preserve your skin by applying face and body lotions with a 15 or higher SPF sunblock. It’s best to choose sunscreens with ‘broad spectrum’ on the label and reapply every two hours if you’re planning to be outside all day. For women, applying a tinted moisturizer or foundation with the same SPF parameters on top of the lotion is a dual benefit. This routine works well for me. I do this every day. The chart below is a great guideline for the best protection from the sun’s rays.

SPF Guide

Courtesy of: Banana Boat

All-Over Skin Care: In my younger days, I never paid much attention to my skin below the neck, other than simply applying lotion (any kind of lotion) now and then. Now, I find that showering in warm water (rather than hot steamy water) and using a gentle, soap-free body wash followed by a hydrating lotion is a must! Any cleanser with added moisturizers will help to avoid stripping your skin of its natural oils – especially areas like the elbows, knees and heels. While face and body lotions work best when applied to moist skin, reapplying throughout the day is beneficial. The more you do this, the better the results!

Benefits of Exfoliation: Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer protective layer of your skin. Our skin is constantly repairing and replacing itself, leaving layers and layers of dead skin behind. Removing these dead skin cells will reveal healthier, brighter skin – immediately. While there’s no rule to how often exfoliating should be done, I do it once a week to keep my skin as radiant as possible. For the body, use a loofah or body sponge with a hydrating body scrub applied in a circular motion – leave on for a couple of minutes, then rinse. The same process can be used for the face and neck; however, using a washcloth for a gentler approach is recommended along with products specifically meant for the face. And of course, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize afterward.

Healthy Diet: Believe it or not, the health of your skin can improve from the inside out – another lesson I’ve recently learned. Eating foods that are rich in healthy oils and antioxidants, such as fish and leafy greens, can supplement the skin in so many positive ways. Drinking plenty of water (eight 8-oz. glasses daily) will also keep the insides and outsides of our bodies well-hydrated. On the flip side, caffeine and alcohol can dry the skin from the inside. Cutting back on your daily caffeine intake or incorporating a glass of water in between cocktails can make a big difference.

Taking care of your skin at every age is vital to looking and feeling your best. I learned that just a little extra TLC every day can protect my skin from dryness and help it glow.


What would make a person send a stool sample through the mail? By Traci Rogers

I admit it – I mailed poop. Now before you judge too harshly, let me explain.

Around the time that Jamie Lee Curtis started selling yogurt, terms like ‘gut health’ and ‘probiotic’ were starting to make the rounds on the health blogs. Of course, today ‘gut health’ is a buzzword and everyone is drinking Kombucha or eating Kimchi. I didn’t pay much attention to any of it until I heard a dietitian talk about a study that linked gut health with weight issues. My ears perked right up when I heard that. But what did ‘gut health’ even mean and how could I know if my gut was healthy or not? I immediately went to Google for the answers and what I found – well, it wasn’t all that clear.

Now, you may be wondering why I didn’t just ask my doctor about this. I did ask – and was told that there wasn’t enough research yet to answer all my questions. I respect my doctor’s need to be cautious, but that answer didn’t satisfy, so I went looking for more.

What is gut health?
Gut health, from a scientific point of view, isn’t clearly defined. Typically, when gut health is discussed in non-medical blogs or publications it is referring to the absence of GI complaints. To oversimplify – someone with a healthy gut doesn’t have stomach issues or “bathroom problems”. But if you look deeper, the health of your gut affects so much more than that.

A person’s gut is made up of a group of organs. Together, they play a large role in keeping the digestive system running smoothly, supporting a strong immune system, and balancing hormone levels. This is accomplished by the gut’s ability to communicate with the brain and act as a home for beneficial bacteria. I could fill pages and pages with information about how the gut functions, but for this blog post I’m going to focus on the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut – mostly because it relates to why I mailed poop.

The gut is teeming with beneficial bacteria that support the immune system by preventing pathogenic organisms from affecting the body. Beneficial gut bacteria can even help improve mental health by regulating our hormones. Did you know that depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders have all been linked to intestinal problems? I didn’t. 90% of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate our mood or emotions, is produced in the gut. Researchers in France have even shown that mood disorders may be controlled by a “bottom-up” approach using two strains of probiotic bacteria. The gut also reactivates estrogen so that it can be reabsorbed by the body. Low estrogen levels have been linked to osteoporosis, PMS, water retention, severe menstrual cramps and heavy flow. Finally, studies show that when the wrong bacteria have control of the gut it can influence the foods we crave and by doing so, function as an underlying cause of obesity and heart disease.

How do you know if your gut is healthy?
This is another area where Google wasn’t clear. There are various articles about what to watch for: a change in bathroom behaviors, being overly gassy, unexplained bloating, reflux or a white tongue are the most common signs of an unhealthy gut. There are also less obvious signs like low energy, dark circles under your eyes, blotchy skin or restless sleep. However, none of this answered my original question: is MY gut healthy?

It turns out that all the Googling unexpectedly worked to my advantage. Facebook’s algorithm started showing me promotional posts for UBiome, a company that sequences gut bacteria. I was all in! A collection kit was mailed to me after I completed an online questionnaire. From there, I registered my kit online and followed simple instructions to easily and cleanly collect a stool sample. I mailed my sample to UBiome in a prepaid padded envelope and waited for my results. A few weeks later I received an email alerting me that my 10-page personal analysis was available.

The results are in
I finally had my answer; my gut was normal, but I have areas that could be better. UBiome provided lots of detail that took time to review and understand. Two examples are below.



This example shows that at the time of collection, the bacteria commonly associated with IBS issues weren’t present (“Associated” section).  However, one of the bacteria strains that is commonly present for someone who doesn’t have IBS (“Inversely associated” section) is low.




In this example, several of the bacteria strains in my gut that are commonly present in people who don’t have weight issues are below the normal averages (“Inversely associated”).


What now?
Armed with information, where to go from here? First, keep perspective. The results were based on one sample, and they shouldn’t replace the guidance of a medical professional. From there, adjustments to your lifestyle might be beneficial. I’ve listed a few suggestions below, but you should research what is best for you.

• Avoid over-using antibiotics
• Consume probiotic foods like yogurt, sauerkraut or kimchi
• Take a high-quality probiotic supplement
• Avoid over-using antibacterial cleansers
• Avoid increased consumption of carbohydrates

Note about probiotics: In the past few years, the probiotic market has exploded with options and there are some duds out there. When you are shopping for a probiotic, consider the price, the potency (make sure they have live cultures), the total count of bacteria present and the strains of bacteria. The top 5 brands as tested by Consumer Health Report are listed below.
1. BlueBiotics Ultimate Care
2. Ultimate Flora Critical Care
3. Garden of Life RAW Probiotics
4. InnovixLabs Multi-Strain Probiotic
5. Vitamin Bounty Pro 25

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that mailing poop was a good idea! I know I don’t regret it. Just remember, everyone is different and it’s important to work with a healthcare provider before making major lifestyle changes. Best of luck to you all.

So Much More Than Live, By Rachel Sexton

Typically, when a prospective client reaches out to us, it’s to talk about the value of “patient programs”. It just makes sense: it’s the most familiar form of patient outreach, it’s literally in our name and – most importantly – it works. But while VPR Patient Outreach Program will manage more than 4,000 live patient-to-patient programs in 2018, traditional programming is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging the “power of peer”.

Our patient advocates would agree; once they have become part of the family and invested their time in our training, they want to share their message in any way that will make a difference.

Let’s take a look at a handful of the other channels we use and how they stack up:

1) Webinars – We all know the downsides of this common platform: accountability (“Eh, I’ll sign up for the next one”), distraction (so many browsers, so little time), and the horror of seeing yourself in webcam lighting. No, webinars are not a perfect substitute for live programming, but they do have their place. For patients in rural areas, those who are homebound or who work long hours, and those desiring anonymity, a webinar may be the only opportunity for true peer-to-peer interaction.

2) Phone Programs – Two patients sharing a branded conversation over the phone? Until a few years ago this seemed as risky as a tightrope act without a net, but with the right training and proper safety measures like an optional warm transfer to an HCP, this is one of the most powerful, organic ways to foster patient dialogue.

3) Patient Thought Leaders – one of our favorite sayings at VPR POP is “the patient is the greatest resource we have in healthcare”. We can learn as much from those who walk-the-walk as their peers can. Internal meetings – town halls or annual sales meetings – are great venues for sharing a patient’s journey. These vocal, passionate advocates also make great market research participants. And, when a new executive joins the team, what better embodiment of patient centricity than a phone call or meeting with those who are at the ultimate end of everything you do?

4) External PR/Marketing – Picture it: you’re watching a beautiful DTC ad, inspired by the powerful voice of the patient on the screen when your eyes are drawn to the little caption in the corner: Not An Actual Patient. You can almost hear the record scratch; the connection is lost. We pride ourselves on providing real people who are making a real difference. These external opportunities are ideal for those who may not meet all patient speaker criteria but are still excellent representatives of those living with the disease.

5) Social Media – On one hand, it’s a no-brainer: we know patients and care partners turn to the Internet to find those who have experienced what they’re going through and as good healthcare stewards, we love being able to provide them with useful, responsible information. On the other hand, we know how challenging it is to go through the internal efforts of message approval to only yield a half-percent engagement response. We’ve learned that content is key to social media success. Making every message count is what helps VPR POP achieve an average engagement rate of more than 10%. It may mean putting the branded message aside to focus on education and advocacy, but it comes with the high reward of increasing the number of people who look to you as a disease state expert and resource.

Supporting Someone with Chronic Illness, by Traci Rogers

Chronic Illness can’t always be seen, but to the person living with it – it’s always there. Unfortunately, sometimes good intentioned words like, “But you look so good,” or “You’re so lucky to have the good parking space,” do more harm than realized.

Here are a few things that may be more effective to show your support to someone living with a chronic illness.

  1. Learn about their illness: Be informed! The expectation isn’t that you will become the subject matter expert on their illness, but rather understand the symptoms and triggers of a person’s condition.
  2. Don’t police behavior: As you learn more about a person’s chronic illness, you may be tempted to offer unsolicited advice about their activities or nutrition. DON’T DO THAT! It may be well-intentioned, but it probably isn’t welcome.
  3. Just be there: Simply letting the person know that while you don’t fully understand what they are experiencing, you are there for them can sometimes be enough. It isn’t necessary, or even possible, for you to ‘fix it’. Your willingness to listen is invaluable.
  4. Be a sounding board: Some chronic illnesses can cause cognitive issues or ‘foggy’ brain. Help your friend or family member make sense of complicated paperwork or tasks. BUT – and this is important – offer to help, and then wait for your offer to be accepted; don’t just take over.
  5. Be flexible: Understand that a person’s chronic illness may force a last-minute change of plans. Trust me – he/she feels bad that they had to make the change.
  6. Offer to help with errands or household tasks: If you are going to the grocery store, check-in to see if they need anything. Have a recent snowstorm? Check-in to make sure they can get out of their driveway.
  7. Keep connected: A chronic illness isn’t going away and you might feel yourself developing friend fatigue where it’s easier to stay away than to deal with the illness. Stay connected – your friend or family member needs you!

What are some of the ways you’ve shown support to someone living with a chronic illness?


My Pathway Through Soy Intolerance, by Diane Spitz

First, it was an itchy scalp and then the red rashes appeared. Although I did not know it at the time, my immune system was reacting to one of the many proteins found in soybeans. Rather than an actual soy allergy, it was explained that I have a soy intolerance. While some people can eat trace amounts of soy without a problem, I react almost immediately to any type of soy ingestion.

My initial thought was this isn’t that big of a deal. I would just stay away from soy sauce, edamame (immature soybeans in the pod) and tofu – never a favorite of mine. I learned through trial and error that my biggest soy triggers were products with soybean oil, soy flour and soy grits. Thank goodness, I can tolerate the small amounts of soy lecithin found in chocolate products. I do however have to be disciplined and only eat a few bites.

So, the journey to eliminate as many soy products from my diet as possible started with food labels. I pay careful attention and you would be surprised to see how much soy can be found in packaged foods. During some recent air travel, I checked the ingredient list of those little cookies the airlines pass out and found even they had soy flour. For me, there was enough soy in those two little cookies to cause my scalp to start itching before the plane would land.


I next focused on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh produce, meats, seafood and dairy are located as well as taking time to read the food labels on canned and packaged products located in the interior aisle of the store. I began cooking with more fresh ingredients using fresh herbs for flavoring rather than bottled sauces. I stopped buying salad dressing and started using flavored vinegars and a little olive oil and my salads. Salads taste better now because I can taste the flavors of the fresh vegetables.

My family is enjoying these new healthier habits. The scalp itching and rashes have subsided and we all eat better with the healthier food choices. I have become more focused and motivated to eat clean or whole or “real” foods that are minimally processed. Our grocery cart is usually filled with foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats (avocados are a personal favorite).

I am also learning that the shorter the ingredient list on food labels, the better and closer to real food that product will be. Here is a great example of the ingredient list on a protein bar I discovered in our local natural food store and they are delicious.  Picture2

I leave you with a few tips about having a soy allergy or intolerance:

  1. Read labels.  If soy is an ingredient, it will be listed on the label.
  2. Eating away from home can be a challenge.  If you are unsure if your entree choice contains soy, ask!  I have found restaurants to be straightforward when asked and if they don’t know, they will make that extra effort to ask the chef.
  3. Consult with your healthcare provider about your symptoms not only regarding soy but other legumes you might need to avoid.


I truly believe that my soy intolerance has been a blessing in disguise for me as well as my family. We have changed our eating habits and are reaping the benefits of simpler, cleaner eating.

Lessons Learned from a Less than Perfect Whole30, by Rachel Woods

In January, I hosted an office Whole30 challenge. It was the 3rd Whole30 we’ve done as a group, and – as we’ve come to learn – we were each presented with our own unique set of challenges throughout the month.

For those who are unfamiliar with Whole30, it is not some crazy diet; it is a nutritional reset. Grains, sugars, dairy, legumes, and alcohol are eliminated for 30 days because they have been shown to cause inflammation in the body. After the 30 days are over, each food group is slowly re-introduced so that you can note your body’s reactions. For example, you may find that dairy causes break-outs or bread gives you a wicked stomach IMG_3875ache, but rice and beans are no issue. Each person has a different experience. Armed with new information, you can adjust your diet to keep those problematic food groups out, and only bring them back in when it’s really worth it to you.

When I heard about Whole30, I started my research by reading, “It Starts With Food” by co-creators Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig, and everything made sense. The book summarized the science behind the program and showed how certain foods, like sugar and grains, can have a negative effect on your body. As I read through it, I thought, “I get it! This is why no other diets have ever worked for me!” I did my first round by myself and, in addition to the clearer skin, deeper sleep and less achy joints, I lost 12lbs. I was floored! But let’s be clear, Whole30 does not tout itself as a weight loss program; it just happens to be a nice side effect for some people.

After doing my first round, I became a Whole30 fangirl. I introduced it to family, friends and colleagues. There were even people at the office who wanted to try it, so we went through our first office Whole30 in January 2016. My group has had such success over the past two years that we have made it a tradition. Five of us started on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. I created a private Facebook group and posted daily encouragement and recipes. We all had fairly similar reasons to go on this journey, and going through it together is a lot easier than going it alone.

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 3.54.26 PM

Before you begin this process, you have to ask yourself why you want to do it and what you hope to gain. The main component (and the hardest part) of doing a Whole30 is meal planning and preparation. When I started this round, I’ll admit I was not fully prepared. My heart wasn’t in it and my pantry was not prepped. I figured that I had done this enough times, I could just wing it. I have meat, fruit and vegetables, it’ll be fine. Unfortunately, winging it doesn’t work. To be successful, you must not only plan out your meals for the week but also plan for unexpected situations, like when you have to stay late at the office and you need something compliant to get you through until dinner. But there I was, getting ready to lead a group through a Whole30 with very little enthusiasm. Then I told myself, “Suck it up, Buttercup!” I knew I had to put my big girl pants on and persevere.

After the holidays, I felt awful, both physically and mentally. I was at the heaviest I’d ever been, my knees hurt, and I had stomach cramps after almost every meal. Knowing a Whole30 was coming up, I took it upon myself to eat all the Christmas chocolates, just to “get them out of the house”. I told myself I was getting my pantry ready when, in actuality, I was placating my Sugar Dragon. I have a major sweet tooth, and my eating habits had really deteriorated over the several preceding months. I had trained myself to need a sweet treat after every meal. The thing with sugar is that it never satiates you; I was literally always hungry, but couldn’t figure out why. I wanted to achieve “Food Freedom”, that place where you have control over the food you eat and it doesn’t control you.

As we went through the first two weeks, which are the hardest, we experienced the common Whole30 phases – the hangover, the hunger, the anger, the exhaustion, and the despair. Unfortunately, it broke some of the group, and they were not able to continue being 100% compliant. One person was in the process of moving and had to tap out. I couldn’t blame her; trying to do a Whole30 during a major life event is too stressful. Another person was out for a week with bronchitis. A third person decided that she would prefer to do a Whole30 80/20 split. That worked better for her lifestyle and family. The last person continued to eliminate bread from her diet because she knew it was a trigger.

I knew I would be traveling twice during the 30 days and I was a little apprehensive about staying compliant. I went to Las Vegas, and while there may have been a little cream in the coffee or some cheese in the salad, I stayed as compliant as I possibly could. I did not have any desserts, bread, beer, or wine (I know, right?!). I stayed strong, because I wanted to set a good example and prove to myself that I could travel and still make good food choices. The trip to Atlanta was little tougher because it was at the end of the Whole30 and I was over it. Even through the celebratory dinner that included an open bar and chocolate mousse dessert, I stuck to my guns. I had to prove to myself that I could get through this and defeat my Sugar Dragon.

What did I achieve for all of my efforts? I lost 9 lbs, but the non-scale victories are more Rachel_before_after_finalimportant. My skin cleared up (and it’s so soft!), my knees don’t hurt as much, and no more stomach cramps or cravings! But most importantly, I can open my pantry and look that chocolate Santa in the face and say, “I don’t need you!” It takes practice and discipline, but it’s amazing what 30 days can do for you.

After past rounds of Whole30, I have gone straight back to eating pizza, ice cream and beer. This time around something actually clicked and I thought, I don’t want any more digestive troubles, it’s not worth it. At some point along the way, it will become worth it and I’ll eat the pizza, but with the discipline to say, “you don’t need the whole pizza.”

Melissa Hartwig is the co-creator of the Whole30, and she has provided all the information you need to know about Whole30 is on the website at for free. If you would like more in-depth information, Melissa has written a total of 6 books that are all fantastic Whole30 resources for recipes, tips, tricks, and moral support.

Before embarking on any health, fitness or medication regimen, it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare professional.

Top Five Tips for Staying Relevant when Life Requires a Priority Shift by Rachel Sexton

One of the most common questions I am asked in business is “What advice do you have for stay-at-home moms who want to go back to work eventually?” I can understand why women ask me that – as a soon-to-be mother of five who has been with VPR for nearly 20 years, I do have a lot of experience with maternity leave. But while I could probably write a manual on “how to pump on a plane” or “the best snacks to keep a toddler quiet during a conference call”, my experiences as a stay-at-home mom have been limited to six-week stints. As I began to gather advice from my tribe of mom friends who have taken much longer career breaks, I realized how much of their insight was equally applicable for those who have taken a career break to manage a healthcare crisis or care for a loved one.

Here are my top five tips for staying relevant when life requires a priority shift:

Stay Up to Speed on the Industry – If I think back to 12-years ago when I had my first son, Will, had I taken a break to stay home with him, the pharmaceutical industry I supported when I left would not be the one I returned to today, or even just a few years later. Undoubtedly, there have been equally dramatic shifts in every field from advertising to finance. Subscribe to industry publications and blogs to stay on top of them. Do you have friends in the business? Make a point to take them to a “business lunch” periodically or jump on the phone for a scheduled call once a quarter: ask them what’s going on in the field, what their recent projects looked like and what trends


or changes they’re seeing. Come prepared with a list of things they can easily research for you (maybe you’re curious about what their benefits package looks like this year or what software is most popular now).

Network – It’s a no-brainer, but it’s also not easy to make time to connect with total strangers. If you feel a little silly going on your own, grab a friend to accompany you the first time you venture out. Invest in a supply of business cards – you don’t have to be linked to a company to share your skills and contact information – and check your local business publications for a list of events. If your town or your industry isn’t big on networking, research professionals in your field who are leading the way and reach out to them. You don’t have to request a formal mentorship if you don’t have the bandwidth or desire; simply tell them that you’re inspired by their work and that you want to get their advice for being successful in the field. You’ll not only have a great new connection but also the inside scoop.

LinkedIn & Resume Building – No matter if you’re taking two years off or your break has an indefinite duration, you are technically “between jobs”, so do what any other person in that position would do: keep your resume polished and your LinkedIn profile up-to-date…and then get active. Make a goal to post one LinkedIn update each month and add one new person to your LinkedIn profile each week. You can do it! Watch a TedX talk online or read an industry-relevant article and then post it on LinkedIn with a few sentences about what you think of it.


Transitioning back to work with a 4-week old and a 4-year-old on a plane to New Jersey (oh yeah…and one very patient Nana whose age will not be mentioned – I never could have done it without her)

Volunteer – Get involved in a local disease support group – you will make great connections, learn new perspectives and have new accomplishments to add to your resume. Take the opportunities that you can fit into your busy lifestyle: does your neighborhood association have a board opening? Does your church need someone to help plan a retreat? These are all things you can add to your resume to show your depth, charity and talents.

Hone Your Skills – Some people have mere hours to prepare for a job interview; you have time on your side! Think about areas you’d like to improve upon to prepare you for it: do you need to learn PowerPoint or Excel? Could your portfolio be expanded with some hand lettering classes? Do you want to work on your writing? Check your local universities and community colleges for classes. Do you want to become a better public speaker? You can do something as elaborate as joining Toastmasters or as simple as signing up to do the readings at church.

Do you have other suggestions for staying relevant and building your skills during an unexpected break?  Share your tips with us at

Managing Diabetes Through College by Tyler Kramer

College can be challenging for many reasons.  From balancing time between classes, reading textbooks, & studying for exams to participating in clubs, sporting events and post morning lecture naps. And of course, trying to have a social life. Adding the rollercoaster ride of type 1 diabetes to your daily college life can bring unwanted frustrations and emotions – plus having to make decisions like whether or not to eat ice cream at the cafe or have a drink from the mystery bowl of punch at a party. So follow me as I take you on my journey of managing my diabetes during 4 unforgettable years of college.

The first thing I did (diabetes related) when I moved in freshman year was to tell my roommate about my type 1 diabetes. Luckily for the both of us, we knew each other, which made the “in case of an emergency” talk a little easier. However, if you don’t know your roommate before move-in, I believe it can only help to tell them about basic symptoms of low-blood sugar.  Most people can handle dialing 911 if needed. I had also asked him to wake me if it looked like I was sleeping too late – which saved me once.  My roommate woke me one morning and I found that my blood sugar reading was 55 (heading down) following a late night.

Sophomore year I moved to an off-campus apartment.  The 45-minute walk to class every other day had my blood sugar acting up.   So I always packed snacks, a juice or even sugar tabs just in case I went low. As my class load got harder and I became more involved in clubs and intermural sports, it was challenging to always sit down and eat a decent meal. My meal plan helped but I also planned my meals ahead of time and packed my lunch when needed because I knew that I would be caught up in class until late afternoon.


By junior year, I would try to wake up earlier to eat a protein and fiber filled breakfast that kept me going through back-to-back lectures. I was playing intermural soccer every semester which helped me get my dose of intense sweat and exercise. I also had smaller classes so I made sure my professors knew about my diabetes just in case I would go low during an exam or if my pump would go off during a lecture.

Finally, senior year – let’s not forget the elephant in the blog: drinking alcohol with type 1 diabetes. I spoke with my doctor about drinking with diabetes all throughout college.  I was also using a continuous glucose monitor which helped me monitor my blood sugars. I found the best practice for me was to eat a meal beforehand, drink lots of water between drinks, keep sugar tabs handy and test before falling asleep.

I wasn’t perfect in managing my diabetes, no one can be, but sometimes being away from the people who have helped me since day 1 was a challenge itself. Throughout college, I met 3 other people living with type 1 diabetes and we would share experiences. However, the best thing I did from the start was to proactively inform my roommates and friends of my diabetes and keep in touch with my healthcare team about my blood sugar numbers.   So even when it seemed like I was the only one battling my blood sugar, I was able to find support while attending college.

As always, since I was diagnosed, I would continue to embrace my situation, educate those around me and not let type 1 diabetes stop me from doing the things I love to do.

NOTE:  This is one person’s personal experience and you should check with your health care provider before choosing to drink alcohol or make changes to your diet, exercise or treatment regimen.

Diabetes Together by Brian Butler

In team sports like football, baseball or basketball or in individual sports like tennis, boxing or golf, every athlete depends on coaches and trainers to support them to reach their fullest potential.

Living with diabetes is no different. We need the support of our healthcare team and an important member of that team for me is my wife, Sheila, who is my care partner.  She shares my good days as well as my bad days. Sheila understands my goals for managing my diabetes and encourages me when my blood sugar numbers are not where I would like them to be.


I was diagnosed with diabetes over 25 years ago and together Sheila and I began our diabetes journey learning what worked best for me. Together we shopped for groceries, read food labels and began understanding the importance of portion control.

Traveling has been a major part of my life, usually with no problem. However recently returning home from a trip we had a short layover and upon de-boarding the plane, I found myself experiencing a low blood sugar.  Luckily for me, my care partner was by my side. Sheila recognized something was off in my walking gait and I was not responding as I normally would. Sheila sat me down to test and then treat my low blood sugar.  Knowing I was not yet 100% and our connecting flight was to begin boarding within the next 45 minutes, Sheila contacted the airlines and was able to change our flight to a later time when she felt more comfortable with us flying.

The importance of having a care partner cannot be stressed enough. Without Sheila, I’m sure the outcome of this trip would have been totally different.  Care partners are an important part of your team. If you do not currently have a care partner, I encourage you to seek one out. A care partner can be a spouse, friend, family member or anyone you feel comfortable sharing your diabetes journey with.

Looking back, when Sheila and I returned home on the later flight, it dawned on why even though she got us a later flight she was adamant about us getting home that same day. It was the next day that we renewed our wedding vows, and I must say after 36 years, we both looked at each other and said lovingly, “I Still Do”.

Is living with diabetes easy for us? No, but I honestly believe that together with my care partner, we are managing my diabetes. It is possible for us to continue to take steps towards better health outcomes so tell the coach to put you back in the game and get out there and enjoy your life.

It’s not the time you put in your life that makes a difference, it’s the life that you put in your time.


My Travel Partner, Diabetes by Lynda Sardeson

Thirty years is significant for me – it’s the length of the time I’ve shared my life with Type 2 diabetes and the number of years I’ve been a part-time international medical missionary requiring a significant amount of air travel. With both diabetes and air travel – and often both –  I have learned over the years to be prepared for the unexpected.

My routine is anything but normal when I travel so I plan, plan, plan and test my blood glucose frequently to monitor my blood glucose levels. I pack twice as much medication and diabetes supplies as I think I’ll need as well as extra blood glucose meters, extra batteries, snacks and glucose tabs which don’t melt, leak, get sticky or explode in the heat. Everything goes into my carry-on bag and stays with me. I never place my diabetes medications and supplies in a checked bag for fear the bag is lost or is exposed to extreme temperatures. I also keep a medical ID on the watch band I’ll be wearing.

I’ve figured how to get through airport security a little quicker and recommend visiting the TSA website for changes or updates for traveling with medicines before any trip. I first let the TSA representative know I have diabetes. Then I place one quart-size bag with my diabetes supplies and a separate quart-size with my non-diabetes liquids on top of my carry-on bag for screening. It helps to carry a letter from my physician stating I have diabetes and listing the medication I’m carrying. When I’m traveling to foreign countries, I make sure I “Google” the diabetes translation for the country I’m visiting and print it at the top of the physician’s letter. Did you know the diabetes translation in Swahili is “kisukari”?


Traveling with others, I let them know that I have diabetes and what to do in an emergency. I give each traveler a sealed envelope with my name printed on the front which includes a copy of my physician’s letter, medical history, emergency contact information and passport copy with instruction to open only if necessary. They do the same with their medical information and we exchange envelopes keeping them in our carry-on bags. At the end of the trip, we give each other back our respective sealed envelopes.


As a medical missionary, I have served in Russia, Boznia, Serbia and Macedonia with the last 10 years focused in Tanzania, East Africa. I have dealt with insulin storage challenges with extreme temperatures ranging from minus 30° in Russia to the sweltering temperatures of sub-Saharan Africa. In the desert, I’ve learned to carry my insulin and a cold pack in a zip-lock bag, keeping them separated so the insulin doesn’t freeze. Time zone changes can also be a challenge with diabetes so I developed a plan with my doctor that works for me.


No matter how well I might plan, things happen. I’ve found it’s important to be flexible, do the best I can and enjoy the journey. Wishing you safe and happy travels.