The DL on living with the D.

If you read my “about me” you know I’ve only¬† had Type 1 diabetes since September 2011. The first few months or so after diagnosis, health-care professionals and diabetics alike refer to your diabetes as “the honeymoon stage.” I am only a few months past this, but let me tell you, it has been a crazy journey.

I, unlike most other diabetics that I have spoken to, was on an insulin pump within the first month of diagnosis. I attribute this largely to two reasons. The first being that my friend and mentor Janeli visited me in the hospital and showed off her stylish Medtronic Paradigm pump. She’s had diabetes for over five years and has provided me with tons of information, as well as showing me where she injects herself and describing the benefits of pump-therapy. The second being my boyfriend, who was…serious about me getting on a pump ASAP. I am sure that many pumpers can relate to the feelings of hesitation I had when I considered the prospect of wearing an artificial external organ everywhere I went for the rest of my life. And…yes, its true, most of my concerns were highly superficial. (i.e. What about when I am wearing a skin-tight dress? Where will I put it?) And to these concerns, my boyfriend’s response (while I was still in the hospital with 400 tubes hanging out of me, mind you) was, “Cara, you are being a diva.” Shocked, and mildly offended that he should tell me this since I’d been in the ICU since my 21st birthday, was on bed rest, had an IV in each hand and 4 EKG hook-ups on my chest, was getting blood drawn every four hours, and had to drink repulsive pink potassium supplement stuff (never mind the emotional impact of learning that you will have a chronic disease for the rest of your life) I just looked at him and said, “Seriously?” And so, like partners should, Nick talked some sense into me, “Cara, some people get diagnosed when they are babies. The only way their parents even know when their sugar is low is by the color of their face. You got to live in Paris and go 21 years with out worrying about this, and if the pump can give you the best control for your health and body and you’re worried about dresses…well, yeah…you’re being a diva.” I’ll never forget that Nick said that to me because it really convinced me to give the pump a chance. And though I spend too-many-minutes wishing I didn’t have to wear it, when I take it off now I have a little separation anxiety.

Right now I’m on a “pump holiday.” This is the first time that I’ve done this, but I am going on a cruise next week for spring break, and I was nervous about leaving my pump on a chair in a beach bag or getting it accidentally wet. So I gave injections a test run this week, and its going surprisingly well. Its nice to not think about hiding the pump in my clothes or what side I can lay on when my boyfriend and I cuddle based on where my pump is at the moment.

So yea, the pump….I recommend it. Most companies will mail you sample infusion sets and pumps so you can try them out before you make a couple thousand dollar investment.

There’s a test called A1C which diabetics take every 3 months. It measures your average blood glucose level for the past 3 months.¬† A non-diabetic will usually score a 4.8, which means an average blood glucose of 90. Normal range for a diabetic is ideally between 80-120, with an A1C of under 7. When I was in the hospital in a state that is called Diabeticketoacidosis, which means that Ketones from sugars that have built up due to lack of insulin to help with digestion, my A1C was 12. My sugar in the Emergency Room was 691. Since being on the pump my last A1C was 6.6, with an average BG of 138. This test includes the weeks I was in the hospital with sky high sugars, so I attribute this immediate control largely to the pump. However, there are upsides to injections too. Maybe I will make a pro and cons post in the future…

But yes, that was how I decided to try the pump, and I don’t have any regrets. I truly feel that all Type 1 diabetics should at least give it a go. But besides that, life with diabetes has changed me as a person in so many ways. Before, I was needle phobic with a prescription for xanex every time I got my blood drawn. Now I can stick needles in myself like nobody’s business. I count carbs in everything I eat and carry 9,000 diabetes supplies everywhere I go. I work out about 5 days a week, which not all diabetics have to do, but insulin makes me gain weight and I find working out helps lower my blood sugar. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with low blood sugar from too much insulin and I scarf down glucose tabs in a haze before I can drift back to sleep. The biggest issue I have had is the accumulation of scar tissue around my midsection where I insert my pump. I don’t have a lot of body fat, and the pump can only be inserted into fatty tissue for comfort and insulin absorption. Because my fattiest area is on my lower belly (and putting the pump on my butt or sides makes sitting/wearing pants/ cuddling uncomfortable) I would ALWAYS put my pump there and now I have so much scar tissue that insulin is not being absorbed there and my pump therapist informed me that I should not inject there for at least six months!!!! You can also put the pump in your upper thigh (mine are wayyy to muscular for that) or your upper arm (which I don’t really get cuz I clip the pump to my pants so you can’t lift your arms when the cite is there). So my options were pretty slim, which is why I decided to take a pump break and give myself shots in less used areas.

Otherwise, diabetes is a chronic, tedious, ridiculous illness that millions are faced with every day. So I try to keep it in perspective that I have the easiest, smallest, least painful devices to use, whereas people who are in less developed areas die everyday from diabetes and have much less access to reliable forms of insulin delivery. I also know that diabetic care has come so far in the past few decades so as my endocrinologist said, “It sucks to have diabetes but its a great time to have it.” We are all waiting for a cure, but in the mean time, I’m here on this blog hoping to provide resources, advice, and my own experience to help others like me.