Finding Freedom with the Medtronic 670G
I didn’t know what to expect when I got word that I was eligible for Medtronic’s trial priority access program for their closed-loop insulin system, the MiniMed 670G. I was nervous, and I was excited. But after having type 1 diabetes (T1D) for 33 years (I was diagnosed at age 3), I have in the last few weeks found new levels of freedom.
The science behind Medtronic’s “artificial pancreas” is remarkable, but, like any new best friend, it takes time to build trust and confidence.
During the past few weeks, I have faced many emotional highs and lows. The highs and lows of my blood sugars, however, are starting to stabilize. At first, I was very uncertain. I believed that I was more in tune with my body than most people. I believed the equations I had used to survive for the past 33 years were irreplaceable. But now I’ve reached a place where I can honestly say (and it’s strange to think this) that the scientific algorithm used by my artificial pancreas may have me beat.
Here are my reflections after my first month with an “artificial pancreas.” I hope you can learn from my journey.
Un-learn bad habits.
Being on a new medication or new medical device requires evaluating and changing what you have always done. I realized during my first few weeks with the 670g that I had some bad habits that had always worked but no longer would. For instance, before I wasn’t completely accurate with my carb counting, relying on the correction factor throughout the day. I was also padding with larger basal rates so I didn’t have to bolus that much. I now need to un-learn these habits for the 670G’s algorithm to work best.
I want everything to be fixed now. That’s partly what the 670G advertising made me believe would happen. I have come to realize that patience is key. After un-learning my bad habits, I had to have the patience to let the system get to know my body. I also needed the patience to check in with my Medtronic trainer, upload my data and deal with all of the administrative hassles of dealing with insurance companies when changing medical companies and devices.
Learn to trust and hope.
Trusting a machine to take over something your body is supposed to do is a hard concept to grasp. I struggled so much with this at first. But with each passing day, I gain more and more trust, and I have greater hope that this is a life-changing invention for people like me. My numbers don’t lie: my diabetes is gradually getting much better with the 670g.
Have realistic expectations.
With any new, life-changing, health-related intervention, one can get his or her hopes up. I thought for a moment that I might even forget I had diabetes and not have to do anything. After 33 years, it would have been a beautiful relief. But I have accepted that the 670G is not a cure, though it will make my life easier.
While I will still have low days, I always try to be grateful for what I’ve been able to accomplish in life. I am thankful to all involved for making the 670g a reality for me. It will enable me to spend more present and energetic time with my kids, get a better night’s sleep and have more stable blood sugars and a more stable mood. Once things get even more stable for me, I plan to raise money and run a half-marathon to show my gratefulness for my health and to give back.
Be open with others.
Most people don’t want to be identified with their disease. It’s better to say she has diabetes versus she is diabetic. I have never made my condition a primary trait of my person. I have even hid it from many people because I wanted to be seen as a totally normal friend, mother, community member and employee. However, this new experience has made me want to share all of the aforementioned insights in order to be supportive of others who might be going through something similar.
This past month has changed my life, and I know it will only get better with time. But this morning was difficult. For the past week, my 6-year-old daughter has been playing “family” but adding in a dimension of “having diabetes.” She made a pretend insulin pump. While I’ve come understand it’s normal for kids to use “play” to understand things in and around their lives, I hope still that my condition hasn’t permeated my family to the point that it’s now part of her normal play. I want my children to see me as a normal, healthy mother. I also pray they do not get diagnosed with T1D. However, knowing that the 670G is on the market, I take peace understanding that life with diabetes for all will be more manageable and filled with far more freedom than when I was diagnosed.
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