One of the first things I had to get used to when I was diagnosed with Type 1, 13 years ago, was how much “stuff” came along with it. It was a bit overwhelming, but over time, I learned how to manage it all. I want share about that journey in hopes that you might find some encouragement and inspiration knowing that you’re not alone.
I started my insulin therapy with injections of both Lantus and Humalog, using syringes for Lantus and pens for Humalog. That meant I had to start keeping a stash of BD Ultra Fine Short Pen Needles (5/16 inch) and BD Ultra Fine Insulin Syringe Needles (3/10cc) on hand. Not to mention, the insulin vials and pens, alcohol swabs, test strips, control solution, lancets, etc. Basically, I had to devote a section of my closet to storing the many different types of supplies I would need from then on. I also had to learn how to use a new gadget, my One Touch Ultra glucometer. It was a basic meter that would check my blood sugar and keep a memory of the readings. For the first 8 or so years of being diagnosed, I had to maintain a log book as well, writing down all my blood sugar readings, carbohydrate intake, insulin doses, activity…you name it! I’ll be honest, after the first two years, I was terrible at keeping that up to date…I would find myself cramming the day before a doctor appointment, trying to remember all those details from the last 10 days. But, that’s the technology that I had available to me at the time. The other major thing I had to get used to was being involved in a constant struggle with pharmacies, insurance companies and employers always trying to sort out prescriptions, refills and coverage. I can’t tell you how many times I was given the wrong syringes and needles…how many times I ran out of them and had to reuse needles until my insurance would cover the next order… or how many times I’ve had to buy test strips out of pocket until insurance would cover my next order…it’s a never ending process. On top of that, if you have mail order prescriptions and you’re sent the wrong ones, you don’t really have much choice but to try and make them work or buy out of pocket until you can send them back and get the right ones delivered. Some of my biggest frustrations and struggles with diabetes have come from arguing with pharmacies and insurance companies…I don’t know why that is, but it doesn’t seem right.
After 10 years of injection therapy, I finally made the switch to a pump…mostly because Steph pretty much forced me to. I was so nervous to change because for 10 years I had relied completely on myself for calculating all my insulin needs and now I would have to rely on a machine to make those calculations for me. Not to mention that I have always loved sports and any kind of physical activity and having a pump would be a bit more restrictive in that arena. But, I decided the benefits of better control and more management options outweighed the drawbacks and made the switch. Now, I have a whole new set of supplies to keep on hand, in addition to a stash of injection therapy stuff (such as emergency back-ups). I now have infusion sets, reservoirs, CGM sensors and transmitter, alcohol swabs, insulin vials, test strips, triple antibiotic ointment, IV tape (for holding CGM in place), and BARD protective barrier (protects my skin from irritation caused by the adhesive tape). In making the switch, I had to learn how to use a few new gadgets, too. My Medtronic MiniMed Paradigm Revel insulin pump has a lot of management features that took some time to learn. From having varying basal and bolus rates throughout the day, to being able to set temporary basal rates, using dual and square wave boluses and even being able to shut the pump off, if needed, to help correct a low. Throw in the Enlite Sensor and CGM Transmitter and the pump has even more management features. I think Steph’s favorite feature is the “Threshold Suspend” that allows you to set a low limit that, if reached, will automatically suspend the pump from delivering any more insulin until you tell it to do so. I know she sleeps much better at night when I have my CGM on and that feature turned on. This pump even allows my new Bayer Contour Next glucometer to transmit wirelessly to it so I don’t have to enter my blood sugars manually. The cherry on top of this diabetic sundae of supplies and gadgets, is the ability to upload my CGM data to Medtronic’s Carelink network and look at reports, graphs and stats of my blood sugars. This is probably my most favorite feature, being that I’m a data freak and love graphs and numbers…I know, my nerd is showing. But it really is awesome being able to see graphs of my blood sugar trends, I love it. Ok, putting the nerd away… There is one thing that stayed constant when I transitioned to the pump, the pharmacy and insurance woes. Unfortunately, I don’t think those will ever go away, so I’ve just accepted it as something I have to live with.
Either way you manage Type 1 Diabetes, whether through injection or pump therapy, there is so much to think about beyond just carbs, insulin and blood sugars. It’s a blend of those things plus constantly managing an inventory of supplies, staying up to speed on new technology and dealing with pharmacies and insurance companies non-stop. I feel like this could be someone’s job or like there should be a college degree in diabetes management that would include all these areas…if there was such a thing, I think I’d be pretty good at it by now. Lol!
I’d love to hear from you on what type of therapy you use and what your favorite feature is, feel free to leave a comment! Did I miss anything on the supplies list?