Living with type 1 diabetes has never been easy, but it used to be much, much harder. Just ask Juno award-winning country singer George Canyon. His life is far from average, but the demands that his diabetes places on him will be familiar to any Canadian living with the condition.

Canyon was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager and has lived with it for more than thirty years, much of that on the road. He remembers the old days and the challenges that came with them. "When I first started on the road back in '89, we were playing bars six nights a week, five sets a night, and then travelling on the seventh day to the next place and doing it all over again, right across Canada," says Canyon. "I don't even want to think about those days. Diabetes management then was not good."

In talking to Canyon, it’s evident that he’s thrilled about the way that diabetes technology, particularly continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) has changed his life. "Things drastically changed for the better when I went on an insulin pump and the next game-changer was Dexcom CGM," says Canyon. "I tell everybody that I wouldn't trade my Dexcom for anything."

Credit: Neville Palmer

Small device, big difference

The CGM device that Canyon uses is the Dexcom G5® Mobile, a system that measures his glucose levels 24 hours a day using a sensor inserted just under the skin. The device wirelessly transmits his blood sugar readings to his smartphone every five minutes and can alert him before a dangerous rise or fall in blood sugar. The device also allows him to share his blood sugar data in real time with up to five people in his circle – which for Canyon means he no longer needs to do it all on his own. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to really share the management of my diabetes with my wife, my tour manager, and my band.”

With CGM, gone are the days of finger pricking a dozen or more times between waking up and going to sleep, and the mental stress of having only intermittent bits of information while trying to manage an ever-changing and unpredictable condition like type 1 diabetes.

The particulars of Canyon’s life may provide specific challenges, but at the end of the day, they’re not all that different from anyone else trying to manage their diabetes in a high-stress environment. The way the star needs to think about his blood sugar before going on stage is similar to the way a lawyer needs to prepare before going into court or a hockey player before taking the ice. "The G5 is more than a great tool, it's a necessity," says Canyon, "It’s saved my butt many times now, including when I'm on stage or singing the anthem for the Calgary Flames. I check my Dexcom a few minutes before I walk onto the ice and I can know if I have to pound an orange juice to avoid going low in the middle of the national anthem. Having that ability to preemptively strike against your sugar going low is truly unbelievable."



Life-changing for parents and children, too

“CGM has immense benefits for both children and their families. It gives them the ability to see what their blood sugar levels are doing 24 hours a day, instead of the few glimpses in time they get with traditional blood sugar testing,” says Dr. Suzanne Stock, a Pediatric Endocrinologist in North Vancouver, BC. “Children’s insulin requirements are constantly changing as they grow, and parents are responsible for helping them make appropriate adjustments in their insulin in order to keep blood sugar levels in a good range. CGM is an essential tool to help in this process.”

For parents and adults with diabetes alike, the psychological strain of diabetes management definitely takes a toll. Having the tools to lessen that burden is a dramatic improvement. "The psychological side of this disease is huge," says Canyon. "It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't lived with it. We need CGM for our mental health as much as our physical health."

For parents especially, having the ability to follow their child’s blood sugar levels on a mobile app when they’re not with them offers peace of mind and a return to some degree of normalcy. “No longer do parents need to be testing their child’s blood sugar levels in the middle of the night. With CGM, they will be alerted to any changes in sugars overnight with an alarm. Children can now go to their sporting events, school, play dates and sleepovers without parents worrying about what their sugar might do while they are away from them,” says Dr. Stock. “CGM technology has changed how we monitor and manage diabetes.”

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