Last Sunday my mom and I went to a Type 1 Diabetes Expo sponsored by JDRF. This was the first time either one of us had attended an event like this, and I was completely overwhelmed. There was a vendor fair, where there was information about support groups, nutrition, pumps, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), fundraising walks. There were also 2 hours of break-out sessions, for a total of 6 sessions. There were multiple sessions going on simultaneously, so I was disappointed to have to pick two. We went to “Type 1 in the Professional Setting” and “Preventing the Complications of Type 1.”
One reason I was so overwhelmed at the event was the amount of information about pumps and CGMs. I don’t think I’ve talked about these in previous posts, so I’ll briefly explain for those who may not know what they are. A pump is an alternate method to administer insulin. Instead of having 6 shots a day, a sensor is inserted into the skin and changed every 3 days. A pager-looking device is used to set the insulin doses which are administered continuously. A CGM also has a sensor inserted into the skin and continually monitors the blood glucose, eliminating the 8 or more finger pricks a day. However, the CGM may not be very accurate, and finger pricks would still be done at least 2-4 times a day.
I use neither device nor do I really have the desire to. However, this was the first time I had really seen these devices in person and had someone explain them to me. Add in the fact that it seemed that EVERYONE who was type 1 at the event was using these devices, I suddenly began questioning my decisions.
I don’t want a pump for many reasons (some of these go for the CGM also):
- They are VERY expensive. An insulin pump costs between $4,500-$6,500.
- It’s attached to me 24/7. A constant reminder of diabetes. Not that it’s constantly there anyway, but when I’m home, my supplies aren’t right at my side and I can somewhat forget for a little while.
- I don’t trust technology. I feel I have more control giving myself shots than trusting a pump to not malfunction. People have been hospitalized, or at least suffered extremely high blood sugar, from the pump malfunctioning or the sensor bending. I haven’t been hospitalized for diabetes-related problems since my diagnosis (hopefully I won’t jinx myself).
- I would have TOO much freedom to eat when and what I want. There are times now that I’m just slightly hungry or I get a sudden craving for something but refrain from eating so that I don’t have to do a shot. I would probably snack more frequently and eat less healthy foods while on a pump.
- Most importantly: I have good control over my diabetes as it is, with an A1C of 7.2%. Why change something that’s already working?
Another reason I was overwhelmed was the information provided in the break-out sessions. Those in the professional setting session discussed the working environment and diabetes. They talked about being discrete when testing blood sugar, and most didn’t even tell their employers or co-workers about having diabetes. The topic just comes up when someone sees their medical bracelet or sees them test their blood sugar.
All this made me think a lot about how I handle having diabetes. I’m very open about it and tell people so that 1) I can educate them about diabetes and 2) they are aware in case of a medical emergency. I can’t imagine not telling an employer or my co-workers. I had job interviews this past week, and I suddenly began questioning what I should say, or if I should say anything, about diabetes. Most advice recommends not saying anything about it. But for me, if certain questions are asked, such as why I want to go into healthcare, I’m going to tell. However, last week’s interviews didn’t provide the right opportunity for me to say anything.
The last session about preventing complications was a good session to end on. I suddenly went from questioning my decisions about everything I’m doing with diabetes to saying to myself, “I’m doing a really great job, and what works for them, doesn’t necessarily work for me.” Statistics were provided on the reduced risk of getting complications from type 1 with an A1C close to 7%. Information was also provided about the need to not let diabetes control every aspect of one’s life and the need for a strong support system. With that information, I’d say I’m doing a pretty good job!