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Question and Answer with the lovely Sysy Morales:

You created, A Girl’s Guide to Diabetes several years ago. Tell me about where and why you came up with the idea for this website and how it has evolved over the years. 

Many years ago I remember wanting a fun, inspiring, and encouraging book on diabetes that included topics specific to females.  I never found quite what I was looking for (this was before your great book for women “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes”!) so I resolved to write the book myself.  Just as I started to do that, I unexpectedly got pregnant with twins and felt consumed by the experience because of the worry and challenge of it all.  Just then a colleague from work mentioned starting a blog by the same title as my book.  I thought, “hey, I could do that!”  My head still wasn’t it in though, because all I focused on was making healthy babies and by that I mean keeping very tight glucose control. 

The week after we brought our healthy twins home from the hospital, I started the blog while pumping breast milk in front of the computer.  It was the most inconvenient time in my life to do this, but I felt extremely motivated to tell others about how I spent years with uncontrolled diabetes and slowly turned things around and finally, ended up with healthy twins, which was a double high risk pregnancy.  I wanted others to know that it was not too late for them to take care of their health and make their dreams come true, as well.  It took me a long time to realize that diabetics could do anything and once I did, I was eager to spread the word.

I didn’t know about the DOC when I started blogging, so most of the evolution of the blog has simply been the DOC becoming an integral part of it.  I’ve come to realize how valuable diabetes blogs are and how the varied styles, voices, and personality types all wonderfully accommodate different people.  I think it’s been enlightening for me to be aware of many of the bloggers out there.  They’ve helped me develop my opinions, my way of thinking about people with diabetes, and even impacted my diabetes management.

Your sister Ana is the co-author of this website and she also has type 1 diabetes. What has it been like to share the diabetes experience between siblings and what is it like working together? Has sharing the disease brought you closer or changed your relationship in any way?

I guess it feels utterly natural to share the diabetes experience with Ana.  We were diagnosed the same year in childhood so I don’t remember what it’s like to relate to Ana without us both being diabetic.  If I imagine never having developed diabetes, I instantly get sick to my stomach to imagine my sister doing it alone.  We’re one of five kids and I think it would have been harder on either of us to have been the only one in the family dealing with this.  I remember eating sugar free jello together while our siblings had cake.  I remember telling her that I knew what she felt like when she was low or high and that I understood that it was really tough.  I praised her more than a sister normally would when she graduated high school valedictorian because I knew better than anyone else how much of an extra challenge she had to deal with to achieve that honor.  More than anything we share an understanding that isn’t even expressed with words.  That may be because I best express myself in written form and she with her paintings but it works for us.

You are a mover and shaker in the DOC and have also recently started a health coaching site, can you tell me what you offer on this site?

I am?  Why, thanks!  I work with people with diabetes who want support with any aspect of their health, typically in a 6 month program.  We do this in hour long sessions over the phone twice a month and then I’m available any time through email or text.  Soon I’ll be integrating the health coaching site with the blog so that the blog posts, recipes, and info is all in one place.  I’m really excited about health coaching.  It feels like a job that was made for me and it feels great to finally be able to use what I’m good at and do what I’m passionate about, which is listen to and encourage others to be the healthiest version of themselves.

You have applied to be an A1C champion, can you tell me what your responsibilities will be and what its like to be a role model for people with diabetes?

I’m happy to report I am going to train next month for this new role.  Basically, I’ll be doing presentations to groups of people with diabetes as their peer.  We’ll discuss the importance of the A1c test and other aspects of diabetes management.  I will also be sharing my story in hopes people will get something from it.  I have a history of very uncontrolled diabetes and serious issues like depression and anxiety and for the past few years I’ve been in a tremendously better place.  I know what it’s like to feel really down and out and stuck and I want to let others know that their health is in their hands and they do have the power to improve it.  I wish this program had been around when I was a kid.

What advice would you offer on managing motherhood and diabetes?

You know what, I’m still figuring this one out.  I’m still a relatively new mom, but I’ve found that most days, since my kids keep me pretty busy my blood sugars do better if I monitor and limit my carbs carefully.  I have the mentality that if I have to skip a meal every now and then in order to keep my blood sugars in place, then so be it.  I think it’s healthier to do that than suffer high blood sugars.  I think that almost anything is healthier than high and low blood sugars so I am creative about how I eat and work out during the day while wrangling twin two year olds.  I also try to stay logical about things.  Being a mom causes such emotional turmoil sometimes and this can cause me to actually hesitate handling a low blood sugar right away or checking when I think I need to because in my mind my kids need me.  So I try to remember that we need to take care of ourselves because our kids need us to be well and then I just go with the flow.  Life with diabetes requires lots of forgiveness, patience, and changing of plans.  Just go with it while respecting yourself.

Fun questions:

What is a must have item in your fridge/pantry?

Coconut oil, because I’ve found that it helps me keep my cholesterol levels healthy and it’s great on skin and it stays healthy when cooking with it in high heat.  (Or so I hear.)

What is the last book you read? 

So glad you asked!  Steve of the diabetes blog Without Envy writes about his daughter’s diabetes.  He recently published his first novel called “A Lovely, Indecent Departure”.  I purchased it to support a fellow person touched by diabetes but found the book to be truly wonderful.  It’s exciting, emotional, and written very beautifully.

I have to say, I reread your book the other day because I have been feeling kind of isolated from other women with diabetes and my sister has been away at college.  It helped remind me that I’m not the only woman juggling diabetes with everything else we do.

What music are you listening to now?

I was actually just listening to my 13 year old brother who sings and plays electric guitar.  Here he is rocking out to Voodoo Child!

Where and when was your last vacation?

Almost four years ago when Alex and I went on our honeymoon to Cancun.  He’s coming with me to the DiabetesSister’s Conference and it will be the first time we both leave the kids so we’ll count that a vacation!

What is your favorite app?

Honestly, I own an ancient cell phone and have never used an app in my life.  I’m pretty bad about technology sometimes.  It’s a miracle I run a blog.  Then again, I have friends in “techie” places 🙂