Diabetes Dialogue: Talking with Glucolift Founder Chris Angell
In our continuing quest to find new blogs within the DOC and find other interesting people to share stories about living with diabetes, we reached out to Chris Angell who runs Glucolift – a maker of glucose tablets made from natural ingredients and flavors. Here’s what Chris had to say about how we was diagnosed and what his biggest challenges are with managing his T1D.
When and how were you diagnosed with T1D?
I was somewhat self-diagnosed, based partly on information from the internet, as well as on recollections of my grandfather’s diagnosis with Type 2 (by my uncle who has Type 1) 4 years prior. I was 30 years old, and had recently left a job based in Moscow that had me working long hours, traveling to a different country at least every few days.
When I became sure that something was wrong, I was in Wyoming skiing. I had been losing weight, and getting progressively weaker. My vision was often blurry, and I had an insatiable thirst. I remember one day when I was lapping a run that had a bathroom and a small snack shack near the bottom of the chair lift. I would use the bathroom, guzzle a Gatorade, then ride the lift back up. By the time I reached the top of the lift, my mouth would be so dry it would be sticking together, and I would have to pee again. I would race down the hill and repeat the process.
After returning home from that trip, to my parents’ house in Maryland (I hadn’t settled on a new residence after returning to the US), I scheduled an appointment with my family GP. I told the woman who answered the phone that I suspected I had diabetes. She told me lots of people thought that, and they could see me in a few weeks. I insisted, listed my symptoms (at this point, at 6’6″, I had dropped from 185 lbs to around 160) and mentioned that I had diabetes in my family. She agreed to get me in the next day.
They performed a finger stick at the doctor’s office, and I was somewhere in the mid-high 300s. They confirmed that I had diabetes, but did not take any additional blood to perform more sophisticated tests. My doctor decided to send me home with a prescription for Metformin and an Accu-Check Aviva meter. I was told to avoid candy or sugar, but not told anything about carbohydrates.
None of my symptoms went away, and I continued to lose weight. I called my doctor to report this, and was instructed to increase my dosage of Metformin.
This, too, soon showed itself to be unsuccessful, so about two weeks after my initial “diagnosis” I returned to my doctor’s office to try something else- that something else being insulin. I know that I was given Lantus first, and that’s what they used to teach me how to give myself an injection (the refillable pen that Sanofi no longer makes) but I don’t remember if they gave me Humalog the same day or a few days later. It’s possible they kept me on Lantus and Metformin for a little while longer.
I never had a real breakdown about my diagnosis, I mostly took it in stride, because it never really occurred to me that I had other options. I’ve had many moments of frustration as a result of having diabetes, but I’ve never been angry or depressed about it. I think I must have been lucky in my timing- I just happened to be able to deal with it when I got it. I can think of many times in my life when I wouldn’t have been able to react the same way.
What’s your favorite blog within the DOC?
I tend to gravitate towards blogs that have a strong voice, that really show me the entire person behind them. That said, I do feel like there is always something satisfying and valuable reading about shared diabetes experiences, and pretty much anyone can write about a bad low, and I will relate to it. But in order for a blog to really set itself apart, I want to be able to really connect with the author. I also have to say that things like spelling, punctuation, and grammar matter to me as a reader. That’s not to say that I don’t often find value in posts that are hastily written or contain mistakes, but I find well structured, edited blogs tend to carry more weight and convey a more serious purpose, and that draws me in. If the author is willing to put the extra time and effort into polishing their product, I respond to that.
So, that being said, here are some of my favorite blogs (or, really I should say online writers, as some of these are more online publications than blogs).
For daily life with/observations about diabetes, I like Kerri Sparling’s “Six Until Me” [www.sixuntilme.com]. I will add a disclaimer that I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with Kerri as a result of us attending many of the same diabetes events over the past year or so, but I was a fan of her blog long before I was a fan of her personally. A close second in this category is George Simmons’ “Ninjabetic. [www.ninjabetic.com]” George writes in such a direct, matter of fact, and open way, it’s hard not to be drawn in.
For product reviews, my favorite writer is Mike Hoskins at Diabetes Mine [www.diabetesmine.com]. I think he brings a journalistic integrity and skepticism to his reviews that is lacking overall in the blogosphere. Which is not to say that I always agree with his opinions, but I respect his approach and his writing.
If I could only choose one source of information about diabetes, it would without a doubt be diaTribe [www.diatribe.com]. They work so hard and have access to so much information (and so many industry leaders). Every issue is incredibly rich, yet pleasantly accessible for something so scientific and complex. The fact that something that well researched and edited and is available for free is really a gift.
What was your inspiration for creating Glucolift?
It was really very simple- I experienced a lot of lows, and wasn’t happy with any of the options available for treating them. I wanted something that was designed from the perspective of the person who actually had to use it. I liked the idea of tablets, but the only ones available tasted bad, were made with poor ingredients, and didn’t dissolve well. When I tried using sweet food/candy, I had trouble keeping myself from over-treating (or eating it when I wasn’t low). Liquids don’t travel well, and it’s also hard to limit yourself to the right amount. I wanted something that was convenient, portable, stable, and not awful. It took a while to find the right balance, but it’s been worth it, and I keep looking for ways of improving our product.
Glucolift recently sponsored Insulindependence’s teams for the SoCal Ragnar, which you participated in. Tell us about that experience.
I’ve always felt lucky to live in San Diego because otherwise I wouldn’t have forged such a great relationship with Insulindependence, and by that I really mean all of the individuals that comprise Insulindependence: staff, volunteers, members. It’s had a profound impact on my personal fitness. Their work is so empowering, and I support them personally as well as through GlucoLift.
I participated in that race as part of a 6-person “ultra” team, which means that instead of the normal 12 person team, where each runner does 3 legs, covering between around 12-18 total miles, we had half as many people, so we had to run twice as much. I was without a doubt the least accomplished runner in my van, which I shared with some serious diabetes legends, Bill King and Bill Carlson. My total mileage over 24-hours was around 24 and change.
It’s a really challenging race, and very difficult to prepare for, but it’s a tremendous bonding and learning experience, as well as an extremely satisfying feeling of accomplishment when it’s all over. I’ll definitely do another one when I get the chance. Ironically, it’s not something I ever would have considered doing before I had diabetes.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far with managing your diabetes and how have you overcome it?
Ask me this question five times and you’ll probably get five different answers depending on the day. Probably the biggest challenge is the fact that whatever works today won’t always work. Diabetes is chronic, but it’s not static. I’ve had phases where I feel like I’ve got things pretty dialed in- basals, i/c ratio, correction factor, diet, etc. All the biggies. And I can keep myself in range a good chunk of the day, the week, maybe even the month. But then all of a sudden I can’t, and I don’t necessarily know why. And then I have to throw out everything I think I know about my body and start over. And that usually happens at a time when I’m counting on the fact that I have everything worked out. Playing with insulin boluses/basal rates etc while I’m traveling and working is really hard, but if all of a sudden I find myself over 200 for 24-48 hours straight, I don’t have a choice.