After diagnosis, I started taking a minimum of two injections per day. During every visit to my endocrinologist, our conversation went something like this:
her: ready for a pump yet?
her: have you given it any thought?
her: what are your thoughts?
me: that I don’t want one.
It went like that for about 18 years! I don’t like change, and I just wasn’t ready. I can’t even say why I wasn’t ready, maybe because I had my own ideas, right or wrong, of what it would be like to have a pump. It just seemed so permanent to me. To have something attached to my body at all times just didn’t appeal to me, so I put her off for as long as I could. My A1C’s were always somewhere in the stratosphere, ranging between 9 and 11! When you are young with diabetes, you feel like complications will never happen to you because you are invincible. I guess even young people without diabetes feel that way 😉
When I was first diagnosed (see post titled After Diagnosis), my diet was very strict. I followed every rule, went to every appointment, joined a support group, and tried my best to be a good diabetic and a normal kid. I was 12 at that time, so I was just coming up on being a teenager, going to high school, and the dreaded teenage rebellion. It didn’t take long once I got to high school to tell myself, “Screw you diabetes, I’m not going to follow your stupid rules anymore.”
I started sneaking sugar at school during lunch (big chocolate chip cookie for 40 cents, anyone?). I was rigging my glucometer to show a lower blood sugar than what it was (you could do that in 1988) so my mom wouldn’t know I was cheating. I did everything a diabetic should not do, and I did those things for a very long time. All the years of nothing is going to happen to me finally caught up. I was at work one day, bent over to reach some files from a bottom drawer. I looked up and saw a wave of red covering my right eye. My blood vessels were leaking blood into the back of my retinas, and a trip to the ophthalmologist confirmed that I had severe retinopathy in both eyes. In fact, my doctor told me he had never seen such progression of the disease in someone so young. I was 27.
Each of my eyes now has around 1000 laser burns from several PRP surgeries (panretinal photocoagulation). I thought it was about time to finally start taking care myself. And, I knew that one day soon I wanted to have kids. I knew it was very risky, but I really wanted to have a baby on my own. Maybe I had something to prove to myself, like the fact that I finally started putting myself first instead of living in denial that I had a disease that required meticulous care and knowledge. I spent too many years letting diabetes rule my life thinking I was the one in charge, but the fact was, diabetes was kicking my butt, and I wanted my life back.
My endocrinologist would always tell me that once I got a pump, I could never imagine my life without one. I thought this was hilarious, because I was so far from feeling like that could ever be true. It only took about a week after starting the pump for me to call her and say that she was right. I could hear her grinning through the phone, and I’m not going to say that she didn’t gloat just a little 🙂
Life with a pump, wow! My A1C’s were now in the 5’s and 6’s, and my sugar was more tightly controlled than ever before. I can’t say the transition was simple, like anything it takes time, patience, and a ton of practice, but just running on regular insulin all day rather than a shot of NPH plus regular multiple times a day was unbelievable. My mom used to call taking injections “a shot in the dark,” pun intended, but that’s exactly what it was. It was taking a shot in the morning hoping that the long-acting insulin would kick in exactly when you needed it to and was based on eating on a very strict schedule. Being on an insulin pump, you take a base rate that runs 24 hours a day, and then you take insulin when your blood sugar is high and when you eat, it’s all in your control, and so is your schedule. It was freeing, and after really getting the hang of it, I started to feel more normal than I had in years! I was so mad at myself for having waited so long, and it never entered my mind that I had something attached to me all the time. It just became part of me, and now I feel bare without it.
If you are thinking about getting an insulin pump and have any doubts or questions, I am happy to talk with you. Please go to my contact page and send me a message. I will do my best to get back to you within 48 hours.