Thursday, May 30, 2013

FAQs re: Sex and my drug problem

I suppose I should be clear about something. There are no frequently asked questions. If you must know, there are no infrequently asked ones either. No one has asked me any questions. But I feel that if I manufacture a din of noise surrounding this blog and my fundraising project, I can project an illusion of legitimacy that will cause bank accounts to magically start leaking in my general direction, to the tune of $10,000. (I must pause here to say that I have been floored, absolutely floored by the generosity of the donations I have received so far. Sometimes people's wonderfulness amazes me, and this is one of those times.)

The other thing I should mention is, this has nothing to do with sex and I don't use drugs (unless you count the ones to treat the SFD). But I know how people are -- who doesn't want to read about someone else's sex and drugs? Most especially the sexiness and drugginess of a suburban mom. I wanted you to click through. It worked. See?

Anyway I fancy myself a psychic and I'm pretty sure I've picked up on some questions that are running through the minds of the kind people who've given any attention at all to my half-marathon challenge and my fundraising efforts. Since everyone is too shy to approach me with them, I'm just going to go ahead and jump to step 2, where I open myself up like a book.

1. Wow, you're going to do a lot of running in the next year. How impressive that you are such an elite and gifted athlete. Tell us when you first realized your gazelle-like build was designed for running, and please explain what tragedy of human error kept you out of the Olympics. 

I am such a gifted athlete that I meticulously avoided nearly all physical exertion for close to the first quarter-century of my life. I didn't want to risk an injury, or maybe a sweat stain, while my physique was still so young and tender. Ok haha funny. The point is, I'm not a naturally athletic person. I have short legs, an impatient mind (my biggest enemy on longer runs is not physical fatigue but rather mental boredom) and blood sugar issues -- cough! -- that can mess with my ability to push myself. Though I've been a pretty active person for most of my truly "adult" life (I lived in California for 13 years; it requires more willpower to sit still there than not), this is still a steep challenge for me. Like a lot of stay-at-home moms (I do still work, but I'm a freelancer so it's all at home), I've turned to exercise to provide me with an escape and a few little slivers of time that are for me and only me, when I can visualize Big Thoughts and wonder what I would do with them if I had the time. I had been wanting to do some diabetes research fundraising, and one of those Big Thoughts came while I was running a month or so ago, and ... I lost sight of rational thought.

2.  What is your least favorite part of running? 

Dead squirrels. I am a new resident of North Carolina, where behemoth, behaviorally challenged squirrels outnumber humans by a factor of 57 to 1. I live in a wooded area where there are no sidewalks, so I run in the street, and I swear on some days it's like a steeplechase event to avoid slipping on the scores of flattened squirrels. I saw one get hit once, too, which was horribly upsetting.

3. Back in 1997-'99, when you lived in Chicago and were broke, it's been rumored that you used to put away a massive box of Hot Tamales on a regular basis, like maybe every day at work. They cost $1 at Walgreen's, it's been said. Also that you used to eat a lot of bagels. Tell the truth: Did you wear out your pancreas?

Thanks so much for asking this. I know it confuses a lot of people. The term "diabetes" gets thrown around a lot in the media and in big pharma ads and in political debates, and in general the implication is that it is a problem caused by Americans' refusal to follow basic guidelines of self-care, such as not sucking on a stick of butter for dinner and washing it down with 64 oz. of high fructose corn syrup.
Unfortunately, the distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is often lost. I know that Type 2 has been linked with certain lifestyle choices, such as a poor diet. That is all I'll say about that, because I'm not an expert on it (visit the website of the American Diabetes Association for a lot of good info on Type 2). What I can tell you is this: I did not wear out my pancreas in order to achieve Type 1 diabetes. It was a victim of SABOTAGE. By whom? Why, by my own body, of course. My immune system went all paranoid schizo and got destructive. It mistook the insulin-producing beta cells in my pancreas as a threat, a virus perhaps, and decided to vanquish them. Most people can eat massive boxes of Hot Tamales all they want; hopefully you are one of them. Go ahead and try it. You won't get Type 1 diabetes ... at least not from that. (Visit the website of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for more details.)

4. Do you ever fantasize about saying, "I used to have diabetes?"

I do. I have lurid fantasies about that. I also fantasize about long and luxurious nights of sleep, during which I am not woken up by my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) buzzing to alert me to hyper- or hypoglycemia, or by a general sense that my brain and body are slipping into a deep dark hole (hyperglycemia, which my CGM sometimes misses -- it's a highly imperfect technology -- and which is the condition that occasionally causes diabetics to expire during the night). I fantasize about being able to wear sundresses without having to strap my insulin pump to my thigh (I believe it looks like I'm carrying; you can detect an outline of it through most fabrics, and I wonder how many people are extra-nice to me because they don't want to become a statistic). I fantasize about pounding an entire huge box of Hot Tamales (see question #3) or a humongous glass of lemonade on a hot day. I fantasize about having a smooth abdomen that is not riddled with scars and scar tissue from all the needles. I fantasize about my grown children having dim, confusing memories of Mommy fiddling around with a lot of syringes when they were younger and wondering how to ask me when I kicked the heroin habit.

5. You mentioned that you're a new resident of North Carolina. What do you think of the way people park their cars there? 

I've been wondering when someone would ask me this. Yo, people here do not know how to park a car. They are completely flummoxed by the mazework of white lines that are all over the place on the pavement in parking lots, and they seem to respond by instantly throwing the car in park and fleeing as soon as they realize they're surrounded by them. A few special people take the time to carefully, oh so carefully make sure their car is squarely straddling a white line before they depart. Others partake in some kind of contest to see how tightly they can get it in, parking as closely as humanly possible to the car in the slot next door (usually mine). They neatly roll their tires on or over the white line on the passenger side and proudly stride away from that 3/4 inch gap that DOES NOT ALLOW ME ENOUGH ROOM TO PUT MY BABY IN HIS CARSEAT. I hasten to say that the people I've actually interacted with in NC have been awesome in nearly all ways. Maybe all these innovative parkers have drifted up from South Carolina or something.

I am certain that as time passes, other questions will be asked more frequently ... or asked. I shall answer them in the order they are received.

Monday, May 27, 2013

And here it goes: The Runs

** If you're already ready to donate, you are (one of) my hero(es). Click here. **

WHO: Me, Alison Aves, mom of two, haver of Type 1 diabetes (T1D, aka juvenile diabetes, aka insulin-dependent diabetes, aka SFD or stupid, um, freaking disease)

WHAT: Raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)

HOW: By running half-marathons*. A lot of them. Twelve over the course of a year**.

WHEN: May 2013–April 2014

WHERE: Mostly in North Carolina, although I won't rule out events more far-flung

The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, it is not associated with obesity or lifestyle factors such as smoking cigarettes or a poor diet. Susceptibility is believed to be rooted in genetics, but scientists have not nailed down the genetic abnormality nor what triggers the immune system to go haywire and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas (why do so many people develop it as children, but my body pulled the trigger at age 29? Big mystery. Why is there such a low coincidence of family members having it? Another big mystery -- no one in my family does). There is nothing I could have done to prevent myself from developing it -- and there is nothing I can do to lessen the probability that my children will develop it.

That is why I'm doing this. I'd love it if someone developed a cure, but I'm far more interested in scientists figuring out how to identify tomorrow's T1 diabetics and prevent them from developing it. I honestly cannot imagine the enormous burden on children and teenagers who have this disease, and on their parents. Once your pancreas has permanently and unapologetically excused itself from duty, managing your blood sugar requires around-the-clock vigilance 365 days a year. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) makes you feel pretty terrible in the short term and can result in seizures, coma and (inconveniently) death. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) slowly and quietly leads your body toward nerve damage (and resultant amputations), blindness, renal failure, heart disease ... and also (still inconvenient) death.

T1D cannot be managed with diet and exercise; that is why it is alternately referred to as insulin-dependent. No matter how religiously you exercise, control your diet, check your blood sugar, meticulously calibrate the amount of insulin you are taking, you are never guaranteed positive outcomes in the short or long term. This disease is deadly. Being responsible for all of that in my own body is troubling, but the specter of assuming responsibility for it in the futures of the people I love more than anything in the world is unimaginable.

1. Donate. Please, please support me by making a contribution to the JDRF on behalf of my campaign Any amount would be incredible. I expect to be doing most of my runs alone, and running 13.1 miles with only your thoughts and possibly a decent playlist to keep you company can be a trifle boring. BUT. If I am running knowing that friends, family, acquaintances, and perhaps also total strangers are behind me, that you think what I am doing is worthwhile, and that if I DON'T run I will be letting down people who coughed up actual cold, hard cash on a bet that I can do this -- I will run. I can do it. I will do it. Because I'll look like a tremendous loser if I don't.

2. Tell people you know about this crazy person who is doing this crazy thing ... Please forward my information -- a link to my donation page on the JDRF website, or a link to this extremely thin-on-content-so-far blog -- to anyone you think might possibly be interested in T1D research. Or anyone who might possibly be interested in watching a suburban, middle-aged mom of two permanently destroy her knees in that pursuit.

3. Cheer me on. I have (just barely) started this blog. It is not going to be exclusively about running or diabetes (two things I personally find uninteresting to write or read about). But I will keep it updated with information about my fundraising and about my runs, and please believe me when I say it will be of immeasurable value to me if you get on there from time to time and say "Woo woo go get 'em!" or "I'll be sleeping while you're running haha!" or "I always knew you weren't playing with a full deck!" or whatever it is you think I should hear.

4. Or join me. Running with a partner is so much more enjoyable. As I choose my events, I'll update the blog, and if you want to outfit yourself with a bib and meet me at the start of any of them I would think it was so wonderful. I don't intend to run super-fast though and if you show up for the exclusive purpose of dusting me I'll think you're kind of mean.

Ok, I have to stop writing and typing and thinking and fretting, and just post this letter and launch this idea and get going on it already. I already ran the first half-marathon on May 19; the next is in five short days. To have a prayer of reaching my fundraising goal ($10,000), I need to push off the dock. Good luck to me.

* I feel the need to provide a two-part disclaimer. The first is that as of this writing, I have already done one of the half-marathons, back on May 19. I had to do one before making my campaign official, just to make sure it wouldn't completely (or at least instantly) kill me. The second part is: If my knees or some other part of my physical being seem to be veering toward a road of permanent malfunction, I reserve the right to revise my goal. I won't do *nothing*, but I may do shorter runs (though more of them).

** See first disclaimer. If something happens (illness? injury? cancelled events?) that makes it impossible to complete all 12 runs in 12 months, I'd ask for an exception to lengthen the duration a bit.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

One down!!

I did it! I ran my first half-marathon. It totally sucked!

I'm only half-kidding. The night started off with my blood sugar refusing to settle down and waking me up a handful of times. The little baby is sick and woke us up on and off through the night fussing. And then the older one, the five-year-old, did something she has not done since infancy (I am not kidding): she woke up at 3:45am and never went back to sleep. So, the upshot is, I had had less than 4 hours of sleep. When the race started at 7:00, I had been awake continuously for over three hours already.

Between that, and no running partner, and no headphones, I was pretty uncomfortable most of the race. The first three miles, my legs were protesting even the *idea* that they might eventually be warmed up. The last five miles, I was experiencing something I've never felt while running before, basically Jell-O legs. In the miles in between, I was just tired and impatient.

But you know what: I still did it. I didn't have to stop, and I achieved my goal of finishing in less than two hours. The rest of the day didn't have much going for it; the baby was really miserably ill and spent the entire day sacked out in a burning little heap on Brandon's chest, waking only occasionally to fuss and gaze glassy-eyed and unseeing at whatever was in front of him. It was so heartbreaking to see a usually chatty, smiley, very active little baby suffer so much.

Anyway, I think I could do my challenge. My knees are pretty pissed tonight, but I've felt decent today all in all, other than worrying.

Twelve half-marathons in one year? Is it just entirely stupid?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bawwwk, bawkbawkbawk

Here I am, hiding behind time.

So I did it. Last night I finally bit the bullet and registered for a half-marathon ... this weekend. Yes, I am that big of a chicken that it took me this long to actually commit, six days before the event. And it was sort of like when you stand at the edge of a freezing cold pool, trying to force your body to hurl itself in, and then you look down and realize that not only is the water freezing cold but has a crust of dead bugs floating on top. I looked down and realized that not only is it a half-marathon that I will be running without a partner, but headphones are not permitted.

WHAT. Why? Something about insurance? Makes exactly not one bit of sense to me. But I will be running my first 13.1 miles with no one to talk to and no tunes to help distract me. It will be between 90 and 120 minutes of me counting the strides until I'm finished. I sure hope there are some people doing this run that have strides worth staring at, or are loudly having conversations about their personal tribulations that I can eavesdrop on, or that it is OK with those around me if I start singing Dead Milkmen songs to myself while I run. Because otherwise this is going to, um, suck. 

I originally was going to start drawing attention to myself and my goal before running any halfs at all. But then (bawk bawk bawk) I decided I should probably at least try running one before asking a lot of people to pay attention and uh, commit money to my goal. I felt fantastic after our 10-miler a few weeks ago, and since then I've done a couple of runs that were over 10 miles and I felt pretty good afterward. But I do need to try doing an event by myself (if I'm doing 12 half-marathons in a year I'm quite sure I'll be doing most of them without a running partner) and make sure it doesn't crush me mentally (bawwwwk bawk bawk), and also just confirm that there is not some magical amount of exertion between 11 and 13.1 miles that renders me a puddle of half-congealed custard for several subsequent days. I'm a mom with a couple of small kids that relentlessly challenge me physically and mentally every single day. I really can't afford (nor can my husband) to choose to do something that will put me on short-term disability for a few days every month. Bawkbawkbawkbawk


Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I am having a post-baby mid-life suspended-career crisis.

There is just a tiny bit of forethought to this, but only a tiny bit. Last year, as I was flailing through my pregnancy, with my hugeness and the baby's hugeness and my constant doctor visits and a bunch of little physiological glitches on top of the ones typically associated with pregnancy and the increasing discomfort of wearing my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and 15 finger sticks a day ... I decided that diabetes is, in fact, a big frigging deal. In the seven years since I'd developed it, I'd mostly adopted an attitude of "it's not that big a deal, you just have to manage it" but this had evolved into a "for the love of god managing it is beyond exhausting and frustrating and discouraging and expensive and time-consuming and frightening (when the well-being of your unborn child hangs in the balance) and imagine if I didn't have insurance? or if I were a child? or I didn't speak English well? or I wasn't bull-headed enough to inspect all my medical bills carefully to uncover those thousands of dollars' worth of incorrectly processed claims and make all the calls to straighten them out? ... or, and I feel I take a risk by even thinking/uttering/writing this thought ... what if my children end up burdened with this?"

I'm not a scientist and there's little chance I will find a cure for diabetes or help figure out how to identify people who are at risk for developing it and stop its onset. The best I can do is try to help the scientists who are doing those things get it done.

I could be an "advocate" or an educator. I've thought about radically switching career paths and becoming a nutritionist to help people with the daunting task of figuring out how to feed themselves after they develop this disease. A few years back I was offered a job with a well-respected diabetes magazine. But there is something in me that shrinks from those possibilities. I think it's that I don't want to have this disease at the center of my universe. It is, regrettably, an incredibly large part of my life, but I don't want it to head the list of things that define me. I don't want to have to think about it more than I already do. I don't want to have to talk and read and obsess about it constantly.

So there is fund-raising, but here's the little snag with that: I'm terrible, absolutely terrible at asking people for money. For anything. Even if I deserve it. Even if they owe it to me. In this case, nobody owes me anything and most of the people I'm asking for money don't stand to benefit directly from handing any over. (And I hope they never will.) I feel like I have to do some sort of something to make it clear that this is a really important commitment to me, and also to prove that I'm not wishing for a cure for diabetes so that I can sit around on the couch and cram marshmallows into my face all day long. I'm living a pretty good life with and despite this disease. But I'm hoping that my little tiny stunt -- 12 half-marathons in one year -- will keep people interested enough that they'll forward my info to a small handful of other people and everyone will give a few dollars and eventually it will not seem as though I am just some crazy broad who is running her joints into a pulp because of some narcissistic conviction that anyone gives a damn.

That was your cue.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Here it is. This blog. Which I am going to do something with, as soon as I have the time. I am going to make it a place that is worth visiting. I am going to use it to document my ill-advised attempt to be a fund-raising diabetic hero. I am going to be funny sometimes. I am going to try but fail to be funny other times. I will not write only about running, or about diabetes, or about my children, or about my neuroses. I will be interesting and urgent and compelling.