It Took a Pandemic for Me to Switch to an Insulin Pump


 

Editor’s Note: If you’ve been considering an insulin pump, toward the end of the calendar year may be a good time for you to look into getting one, because you may have already hit your health insurance deductible. For more insight into how to navigate health insurance with diabetes, check out our Health Insurance Guide.


For the first 15 years of managing my diabetes, I was doing about 4-6 finger pricks daily. When you do the math, this amounts to be roughly a little over 27,000 finger pricks over the course of my childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood. 

Ouch.

Two years ago, I got my first continuous glucose monitor (CGM) from Dexcom. I quickly fell in love with the relief it provided me. However, I found the costs to be unsustainable with my single person lifestyle and had to switch to the Freestyle Libre if I wanted to keep a CGM and my finances in-tact. I found it to be more affordable as a young professional, though I missed the calibration and alarm options that Dexcom has.

This summer, I upgraded to the Freestyle Libre 2 once it hit the U.S. market, which does have alarms, but still lacks the same calibration and looping abilities a Dexcom provides. I hope that in the future Dexcom becomes more affordable for my lifestyle or the Freestyle Libre becomes even more advanced and expands its capabilities while remaining (somewhat) affordable. 

The results are pending on this, but the lessons from this experience are the same…

At the time I decided to explore a CGM, I had become incredibly tired of finger-pricking. I had no idea about where my blood sugar was headed. I didn’t know if I was rising or falling. I was playing guessing games. I was feeling frustrated. I was crying a lot privately and feeling constantly burnt out. Every blood sugar reading I had looked stagnant, but this was not the case. I was always rising or falling, barely stable with my readings. 

I was afraid of suffering “dead in bed” syndrome. I feared not waking up from a low blood sugar and dying from diabetic complications early in life. 

When I finally got my CGM, it was life-changing. I immediately felt relief that I knew where my blood sugar was headed, that I’d be awoken by an alarm if my blood sugar fell low or went too high in the middle of the night. Thank God for this technology, I thought.

2018 feels like five years ago in 2020. Then again, doesn’t it feel like we’ve been living this year for the same amount of time? Cue the “It’s been 84 years” “Titanic” meme.

This year has tested me mentally. When I first heard about COVID-19, my anxiety was at an all-time high. I feared contracting the virus and suffering severe complications as a result of having an autoimmune disease if I got it. I fed on the media’s panicked headlines. I, like many people, feared the unknowns. I can’t lie about that, as ashamed as I may now feel looking back, that I didn’t give myself the opportunity to decide for myself and fed stress.

COVID-19 was a big question mark and fear at the beginning of this year, and while the statistics remain frightening today, they are becoming more manageable concerns as society gains more knowledge and understanding about how to manage the risk of contracting it. 

Still, 2020 was a big test for me.

As I began to accept the “new normal” as it was so coined, and found my own peace in difficulty, I sought out better ways to manage my health and supplement these newly hopeful vibes. One of the major considerations I had due to COVID-19 and meeting my health insurance deductible this year was re-exploring a pump.

Though my A1Cs were good (in the 6’s), I was going up and down all day. I was suffering from somewhat extreme highs and lows that made me feel fatigued, nauseous, anxious, dizzy, and frankly wiped out. The mountains were exhausting. I longed for rolling hills and straight lines. (If you have a CGM, you know what I mean.)

I found peace of mind in knowing that if I hated the pump, I could always go back to injections. Nothing is permanent. Well, type 1 diabetes sometimes feels permanent despite the rumors that a cure is “5 years away.” But, I digress – let’s stay on a positive note.

When I was younger, probably 11 or 12-years old, I remember being introduced to insulin pumps through my CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator). I cried over the idea. I hated the idea of it being attached to me at all times. I didn’t want the constant reminder that I was a person with type 1 diabetes. I didn’t want other kids asking me why I had that. I didn’t need another reminder. It was already all I could think about. I didn’t want to stand out. And I didn’t want to feel weighed down physically the same way that I felt mentally. Yes, even as a kid, I knew the burden.

This sense of mourning morphed into a feeling of resentment as I got older. (I think it took me until then to be in the “denial” phase of the condition.) In my high school years, I just wasn’t interested in a pump. I still didn’t like the idea of it being attached to me all the time. I didn’t want the reminder. I liked the freedom of not having devices attached to me all day. (I didn’t know what I was missing.) 

Plus, I feared becoming even more of a burden because I knew the cost of a pump was high, higher than my current T1D management method. I felt like a burden because I knew how expensive T1D was for my parents. I loathed the condition. I didn’t accept it or myself in high school. It wasn’t until years later that I turned around and started to find consistent gratitude in my T1D life. I became much happier through a lot of work on my mental health.

I didn’t start looking into a pump until a year after I graduated from college, but I never fulfilled an order. It wasn’t time yet.

It wasn’t until COVID struck that I decided I needed another change. (About five years later now.) I needed to reinvestigate for my health. I didn’t mind a CGM being attached to me 24/7. It brought so much value to my life. Surely, a pump will too. Why should I mind that it’s attached to me too? Who cares? I realized I didn’t anymore.

Still not a fan of the idea of tubing, I pursued an Omnipod tubeless insulin pump. In just three days of wearing it with insulin, I already noticed dramatic changes in my blood sugar stability, anxiety levels, and sleep patterns. I felt more free and hands-off. I felt more like myself than I had in years.

Still, I don’t regret not starting it sooner. And here’s why – 

With anything in life, you have to know when to push yourself and when to pace yourself. While other decisions in my life came more quickly for me in and outside of T1D, the process of getting a pump was always that – a process

Almost 17 years after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I can now proudly recommend Omnipod to any person with type 1 diabetes I know. I can also relate to each and every reservation I hear. I lived every single one of them. I can say with 100% certainty that my life is at least 120% better because I switched to an insulin pump. It still requires interaction from me, but there are so many benefits. It’s not completely hands-off, but there is so much freedom in having a pump.

I encourage everyone with type 1 diabetes reading this now to seriously consider exploring your options. You never know unless you try, and you can always go back to injections. There is a lot of peace of mind with that.

In my place of work, we often hear from our customers, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?” in regard to the services we offer. After implementing the technology we provide, there is a lot of clarity from our customers about what they were missing out on.

Change can be a process sometimes, but I have found that it is usually worthwhile. Much like what we tell our customers, I have found the same clarity in switching from injections to an insulin pump. My process for managing my type 1 diabetes wasn’t broken. It was working, but not as good as it could’ve been. I found the next best solution in a pump. I found the CRM of insulin distribution, so to speak. And I know my return on investment is well worth the learning curve.

I have found Omnipod to be an intuitive, user-friendly machine that works with me much more effectively than injections ever did. This isn’t an ad. This is a real story. This is real life. And while I may joke that it took a pandemic for me to put my T1D care in the right direction, this has been a long-time coming for me.

It’s been a worthwhile journey full of wisdom with each experience. I don’t regret or hold it against myself that I didn’t start a pump sooner. I wasn’t ready. I paced and pushed myself at the right times for me. Your experience may be different, but I hope whatever steps you take in your care, they are positive, COVID-19 or otherwise.

In having type 1 diabetes, there is no mental or physical high or low we can’t overcome so long as we’re willing to work towards it. However long it takes you to make the next best step in your care, just know – you’re worth the journey.

WRITTEN BY Julia Flaherty, POSTED 12/10/20, UPDATED 12/10/20

Digital Marketer, Professional Writer, Type 1 Diabetes Advocate