When I first got my CGM about a year ago, I struggled to embrace yet another doodad clinging to my skin to me to keep me alive. I felt so vulnerable, yet so addicted to it, that I slowly devolved into misery. For the next few months, I fell into a little dark hole of self-loathing, panic, and obsessiveness over my numbers. Suddenly I was so exposed to and aware of what had been invisibly going on in my body for the last 11 years without my constant knowledge, that I was completely overwhelmed by the CONTINUOUSNESS of the continuous. I really did have diabetes, and I had had it all along. But after a meltdown on vacation with my boyfriend’s family, I realized that I was letting all of this get in the way of my fundamental ability to be happy or relax. Not only that, but with time I would come to realize that the CGM was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me.
I wasn’t present, I was pouting.
It was time to stop being such an emo little baby. So, I looked myself in the mirror and made a proclamation that I needed to start putting myself first again. That just because I have a higher level of exposure to my diabetes (and responsibility for tiny, expensive devices), I was still me. I still had a lot of shit to do in my life. I still had a lot of goals and aspirations. I still had trips to go on, and friends to party with. There was absolutely no reason why I needed to surrender to this thing as if the fun police had stormed my body, and shut the scene down with a vengeance. And thus, the #MeFirst movement was born.
With this hashtag, I started to raise awareness for the burnout, lack of focus, and unhealthy distance we create between ourselves and ourselves when diabetes gets in the way, and how to tell that ugly energy to fuck off. I even rambled about it on a Podcast with another diabuddy, Craig Stubing, who runs Beta Cell.
But I am not the only person making a conceded effort to live this way. In fact, most people are doing a hell of a lot better job than I am. So, I’ve decided to dedicate Mondays to these people. Diabetic or not. Maybe they have a different chronic illness, or an injury, or have a unique challenge that as people with diabetes, we can relate to on a very intimate level. I want to share their stories, and help spread the message that no matter who you are, or what hand of cards you’ve been dealt, you can’t just mope your way through life. It’s time to start treating yourself like the queen that you are.
Everyone, I’d like you to meet Liz.
Liz is the person who made me want to commit to a CGM. Actually, her words were, “Don’t walk, run, to your doctor right now, sleep on their doorstep, and first thing in the morning, beg for a Dexcom.” I was like, “K.” And here we are today.
I met Liz at my favorite spin studio in NYC, The Monster Cycle. She is an instructor there, and after class one day, I noticed that the thing clipped to her pants wasn’t her microphone, it was an insulin pump. I nearly choked on my $4 NYC fitness water/fell off my bike simultaneously. As you all know, spotting another diabetic in the wild is a rare, and exhilarating experience. Let alone someone that was being super public about it, and that had just literally twerked to 90’s hip hop in front of a room of 30+ sweaty people.
I turned into a very bashful, blubbering idiot that had no clue how to handle the situation. What do I do with my face? Do I say hello? What are my hands doing right now?
Fast forward 8 months, and now we’re pals. I finally got over my near crippling social anxiety about speaking to a real live person with diabetes, and am so incredibly glad I did. This woman has a hell of a story. She’s been through more than most of us will ever go through, but it almost seems like she was born with the perfect wiring to turn adversity into something to positive, productive, and outwardly inspiring. She’s a firecracker. She’s the hardest worker I’ve ever met. And she is so madly in love with herself that she is the literal perfect human to dedicate my first #MeFirstMonday to.
Sooooo, Liz, how do you describe yourself to someone you’ve never met?
Small girl, big personality, memorable laugh. I’ve lived life with a focus on loving as much as possible, taking risks at every opportunity, keeping good health a top priority and using happiness as a filter for every decision. I’m Operations/Marketing exec by day, Cycling instructor by night. Free time is equal parts fitness and fried chicken.
(^ This last bit is the most true thing of all time.)
What do you do for a living? Since, ya know, a girls gotta get that money.
I’m the head of operations and Master Instructor for The Monster Cycle which is a growing Cycling Studio. We’re opening our second location in NYC and then moving outside of the city for the first time in the next few months! I spent the first 15 years of my career in Retail Operations and Experiential Marketing. I’ve always been a fitness instructor on the side. In 2015 I made the decision to quit my comfortable agency executive position to pursue what I am meant to be on this planet for! Helping evangelize and bring fitness experiences to more people. This fall I’ll begin teaching a Social Commerce class at Parsons to fashion students.
Ok, welllll, the professional living you’re making is my actual dream life. But is there anything else you do you for fun outside of work?
Luckily I’ve found a way to merge my career with my passion. When not on the bike I’m taking other fitness classes such as Barry’s Bootcamp, yoga and boxing. But let’s be honest, I do this all to compensate for my other hobby, eating. I love food so much! Eating out, cooking, reading about food, you name it! Other activities that take up my time are spending time with friends and family, travel, art/design and when my vocal cords are not strained due to teaching, you’ll find me on the karaoke mic. This white girl can rap!
(^A girl after my own heart. EATING IS LYYYYFE.)
You obviously have a lot going on. You live in the most intense city on earth, and you have a very active, high-energy lifestyle. What’s one thing you do for yourself to keep yourself sane in this loony toon world?
Lists, lists, lists. I have to be able to be highly productive to be able to find time for relaxation. You will always find me working on my lists to keep organized and in control.
Okay, now to the juicy questions…
What do you love the most about yourself?
Only one thing? Lol…Fine…
I love my body. My body has been through a lot. Broken pancreas, massive hip surgery, removed gallbladder, hemorrhaging vocal cords and recently, a partial mastectomy to remove a tumor from my breasts. Yet no matter what, it keeps going.
This is part of why fitness is so important to me and what I try to impart in my students. We are building strength on the bike (both physical and mental) to then take into the rest of our lives. Without my physical and mental strength, it would have been very difficult to get through the challenges my body has experienced let alone the daily demands of life (living in NYC, work travel, etc.).
My goal is to live my best life every day and having a strong body and soul has allowed me to do that.
So with all of that in mind, how big of a role does having Type 1 diabetes play in your day to day life?
Recently I had an epiphany as I was trying to explain this to a friend who does not have diabetes.
I don’t go 10 minutes in a day without thinking about and worrying about my health. It really is a unique aspect to the disease. And it’s very hard for anyone who doesn’t have diabetes to understand that. Every decision, every move, is put through the diabetes filter. What I eat. What I pack in my bag. Do I need to adjust my basal due to anticipated activities? Why isn’t the number I’m getting matching with my expectation? And there is always a baseline of fear that never quite goes away. I live by myself, and although I’ve never had a severe situation where I couldn’t take care of myself, it’s always in the back of my mind.
Regarding teaching cycling classes, there’s a lot of preparation and equal parts just hoping and wishing the numbers will be where I need them to be when class starts.
My livelihood depends on being able to exercise in front of a crowd which can be daunting when you rely on your blood sugar to be close to perfection to achieve that.
I literally could not function at the level I need to without my Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). Any type 1 diabetic who does NOT have one of these should (1) immediately go get one and (2) switch endocrinologists if their doctor had not yet recommended this as part of their treatment because they clearly are not as cutting edge as they need to be. I could live without my pump if I had to but I cannot live without my CGM. And Dexcom is the best! During classes my monitor is always in front of me so I can keep an eye on both my number and the trending direction. I play with adjusting down my basal rates before class to come into the workout around 140-150. For me that’s ideal. I also try to not have active insulin onboard when I teach, meaning in the mornings I don’t eat anything before class and in the evenings I try to eat at least 3 hours before so my bolus has already run its course. I always keep pineapple aloe juice with me in class. I find that this will combat a low sugar but without the spiking that occurs with other types of juice.
Keeping diabetes top of mind with such a demanding fitness schedule can be totally exhausting. What do you do to keep a healthy relationship with yourself and your diabetes when things start to get a lil’ cray cray?
It’s like any long-term relationship. Sometimes we have our good days and sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes I get angry at it and just wish I could have some alone time. But I also recognize the character it has built within me and the attributes it has developed.
(^Always finding the lesson in the mess. Preach, sister.)
I am incredibly responsible and disciplined which has served me well in other aspects of my life.
Health is my number one priority and has led me to create a lifestyle that will extend my time on this planet and benefit my overall quality of life. I acknowledge that it’s ok to at times have a bit of a pity party for yourself but then I’m provided perspective.
My mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 54, and lived just over a year. I am grateful and lucky for every day spent healthy.
You’re an insanely tough cookie and have been through a serious range of challenges. So if you could impart your wisdom on a newly diagnosed person, what is ONE piece of advice you’d give about punching diabetes in the face, what would it be?
Accept and adjust versus rebel. You don’t have a choice, make the best of it.
And go to diabetes camp. Whether you are a child or an adult. Soon after my diagnosis I went to diabetes camp as a counselor in training. I can’t recommend it strongly enough! Type 1 is not only a physical disease, but it is so mental and emotional. Having a community of people who understand and can relate to your experiences and share their methods and tactics is truly life-changing. Especially for children. Diabetic parents are SO overprotective! Rightly so, but these kids need a break from that in a safe environment. It also helps kids learn how to be physical. That’s one of the great irony I see with type 1. Parents are afraid to let their kids by physical and participate in sports and fitness when truly it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and your health!
I’ve only known Liz for about a year, but her twerking technique, tenacity, honesty, and willingness to reach out to me when she noticed I, too, had a lil’ ole’ Minimed tucked into my Luluemons has made a massive impact on me. Without her, I wouldn’t have even discovered what #MeFirst even is! You are a fuckin’ trooper, Liz, and thank you for being the first #MeFirst Monday rep. Never stop being so fierce, and as you would say, “HELL YEAH.”