They’re on me most of the time. One bulkier than the other, attached to my lower back, on alternating sides every three days. The other is usually found high on the outside of my thigh, switching legs every 7-14 days, depending on what I can squeeze out of the sensor. When I sleep, I know to turn over a little more gently in the middle of the night, so I don’t knock the bigger one off. Doing oblique crunches at the gym, I make sure to put a towel under the smaller one so I don’t squish it. In the shower, I maneuver the washcloth along a track of my body that avoids both spots. I do all of this on autopilot.
I am of course talking about my insulin pump and my CGM sensor, two items that can be found attached to my body about 80% of the time. Both devices have been pivotal and life changing in my diabetes management, and both have taken getting used to. I use the OmniPod insulin pump, which has the tremendous advantage of being tubeless, but has the disadvantage of being a relatively large plastic nodule attached to your body. In September, I began using a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), which communicates to the output device from a small sensor worn with a wire inserted under the skin to read intersticial fluid for blood glucose measurements every 5 minutes. Both devices give me better control of my diabetes, peace of mind (mostly –when everything is working correctly), and more freedom and flexibility in my diabetes management. The “pro” list of pumping and CGM is lengthy and worthy of their high expense and the time commitment it takes to maintain them and use them correctly.
The greatest drawback for me with these amazing machines is the fact that I’m often loaded up with enough devices attached to my body to make the bionic woman jealous. They’re not particularly noticeable unless I’m in a bathing suit, or, uhm, limited clothing shall we say? In fact, I’ve blogged before about how amazingly inconspicuous these devices are. But I always seem to know where they are. I have a spatial awareness of where my devices are located that makes me adjust to protect them almost without thinking. How is it that in the middle of the night, groggy and still halfway inside a dream that I remember to roll back slightly on my hip so I’m not directly on a sensor? Or that when my boyfriend slips his arm around me as we walk that my hand immediately moves up to my pump to ensure he rests his hand elsewhere? It’s almost like a diabetic version of phantom limb syndrome, whereby my device awareness runs in the background of my mind, changing location as pods and sensors are replaced and moved. Since I took an active role in my diabetes management years ago, thoughts about diabetes rarely leave my mind for longer than a few minutes, and it seems my devices have attached themselves to the diabetic matrix that runs my internal programming.
I guess since these devices are literally life support that allow me to live every day, its no wonder I’m so aware of where they are, and that I instinctively protect them as I go about the day. Even when I was on injections, I was always more protective of whatever purse or bag I was carrying that held my insulin. At dinner tables, I’d sling it across my knee instead of on the back of the chair or under a table. I remember studying abroad in Spain and often resting my purse in my lap when on buses or at outdoor bars. I’ve always protected the tools and medicines that keep me alive, without giving it a second thought. It’s amazing how seamless these actions are to my everyday existence. As much as I am aware of when my next meeting is or where cars are on the road ahead of me, my diabetes management is always mapped out in my head. I’m constantly amazed at how integrated my diabetes management is to my overall being, right down to movements and mannerisms. It’s that seamless second nature that makes having diabetes less of a burden though – letting it be part of who I am makes it less of an issue, not more. It allows me to accept that diabetes management is part of what I do every day, instead of being an interruption that needs to be taken care of so I can move on.
Now, if they ever do get an artificial, implantable pancreas up and running, I wonder if I’ll start wearing extra-tough, super-wide belts made our of Kevlar to protect my midsection?