True Confessions of a Serial Case Changer
“Um,” my coworker Alexi said as she watched me tap the screen of my t:slim insulin pump, “didn’t I see you post a photo with an orange case like, an hour ago?”
“Ha ha … yes …” I laughed sheepishly as I clipped my pump, now enclosed in a pink case, back to the waistband of my jeans, “I’m what I like to call a serial case changer.”
“A what?” someone else chimed in among giggles.
“A serial case changer. I think I change my pump case with more regularity that I do my infusion sites or lancets. I like to match them to my outfit and how I feel.” I explained.
This might seem silly to some. Why should I be so concerned if my pump case or dexcom sticker matches my outfit? Shouldn’t I be paying more attention to dutifully changing the aforementioned infusion sites and lancets? Shouldn’t I be busy figuring out carb and insulin calculations instead of trying to decide between one diabetes supply case or another? I mean come on, it’s not like the pretty sparkly accessories for diabetes are keeping me alive.
But in a way, they are. They are how I make some normalcy out of this disease. They are how I can still feel like myself. They are how I can make myself feel better about having this shitty disease and having to deal with it every. Single. Day. Because at least if I can concentrate on making my devices look good, I can feel a little better about myself and my disease, and I can keep on going.
I got my first pump, a Medtronic MiniMed, in 6th grade. I was starting at a new school and was both nervous about my appearance but confident. Sixth grade was when my love of fashion really started to develop and solidify, as it was the first time I had ever been allowed to wear whatever I wanted to school. And so I did. I wore bright pink angora cropped sweaters, fingerless gloves, colored hair clip-ins, top hats, and more. But through it all I also wore my insulin pump, encased in an infuriatingly boring red neoprene case, and struggled to hide both my device and the cord that seemed to always be finding its way to make itself shown no matter how many times I shoved it back into my pocket.
Throughout high school and college I hid my devices. My pump, now an Animas Ping, was always clipped snugly to the middle of my bra. Now, I am not the most well-endowed in that area, so an outline of the small rectangular box was nearly always visible. My friends and I would sometimes laugh at how I looked like Iron Man when the pump was lit up, but other than that we didn’t talk about it. My Dexcom sensor, when I decided to wear it, was always on my stomach, just like my pump sites. The thought of putting it anywhere else or having it in the open was unthinkable. Why would I show off my machines? I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to blend in with everyone else.
After college I switched to an OmniPod pump. I moved to LA and the beachy lifestyle required skimpier clothing, and I found myself increasingly hating my attempts in vain to conceal my pump in tiny shorts and tank tops. The first time I wore my OmniPod on my arm was a nerve-wracking experience. People could see it! What would they think? Would I get weird looks? Why did the Pod have to be such a bland color, such a medical-looking color. At least my pump before had been pink; at least it could have passed off as a pager. Would people think less of me because they could see what was so obviously a medical device? I soon found out I didn’t care as much as I thought I would.
I attribute a lot of this to discovering the magical world of decorating my pods after seeing others post pictures of theirs on social media. Pump Peelz entered my life. The first peel I ever put on my Pod was a ladybug, probably a design meant more for a child than for a young adult, but I could not have been more excited to stick that little vinyl sticker on the machine that I had to stick on myself. Suddenly, the pod was not just a pod. It was an accessory. It was a part of my outfit and a part of me. I didn’t have a medical device on me, I had a cute ladybug! Suddenly I was okay with all my coworkers and customers noticing it; suddenly I wanted to show it off.
The trend of decoration continued. Sometimes I wanted a plain pod, other times I would stick a cute sticker on it. I had dozens of colors and designs and had way too much fun designing my own custom Pump Peelz with photos of my French bulldog and the Beyond Type 1 Drop. I started wearing my Dexcom on my arm and soon after discovered the equally magical world of Grif Grips. What do you mean I can wear a heart/bear/present/flower/unicorn patch over my sites to help them stay on?! Where have these been all my life! Yes, the colorful patches in various shapes actually draw more attention to the Dexcom attached to my upper arm, but they also make me feel better about wearing it. Now it’s not just an ugly medical device but a cute accessory that allows me to express myself.
I recently switched to a t:slim insulin pump, and I credit that switch with really evolving my love of diabetes accessories to a full blown obsession. Do you know how many case colors there are for the t:slim?! How many colors and designs of Pump Peelz?! The possibilities of combinations are endless! I started changing my cases daily to match my outfits. So what if no one saw my pump because it was hidden in my bra that day? I knew my blue case matched my blue sweater, and that made me happy. The black, white and red sticker that made my pump look like a PokéBall matched my red and white shirt, black pants, and bright yellow nails (painted yellow for Pikachu, because I had to continue the Pokemon theme obviously). Yes, my Dexcom has a unicorn on it! Isn’t that sweet?
Don’t think the obsession stops with my pump and Dexcom, though. I have a few different medical alert IDs to go with different outfits and styles, and you better believe I stuck unicorn, hearts, stars and rainbow stickers on my Genteel Lancing Device.
My world completely changed when I found Myabetic (and helped them design a line of kids cases!) Getting my first Banting Wallet, (in bright pink of course,) was like Christmas day. After carrying ugly black nylon cases for almost 17 years of my life, getting a pretty case was literally life-changing. Suddenly I didn’t mind whipping out my kit to test myself in front of other people; in fact, I would do it right there at the table in the open, not afraid for anyone to see. Because it doesn’t look like a medical kit. It doesn’t scream, “Hey, there is something wrong with my body” the same way the black nylon cases do. Since then I’ve managed to amass a small collection of bags that I rotate based on a few things, including what I need to carry that day, where I’m going, etc. I take my big Banting Wallet around with me every day, I keep a glittery case with extra supplies in my car at all times, and when I go out on a date or to a more formal event, I carry my Marie Crossbody bag. Side note – finding that bag was also life-changing, as I had struggled for literally years to find an evening bag big enough and chic enough to hold all my supplies and then some.
I know being able to decorate my devices, switch pumps and cases is a luxury. I know some people might think it’s silly; that it isn’t necessary. But to me, it is necessary. To me, it’s an integral part of how I manage my disease. It makes me happy, and happiness is not always easy to come by after 18 years of diabetes. When I’m feeling unhappy, depressed or burnt out I don’t take care of myself as well as I do when I keep myself positive and happy. If I can stay positive and happy about having to wear my machines or carry a BG meter, I can take care of myself better, and I can live beyond my Type 1 diabetes!
Read A Diabetes Makeover by Kyrra Richards.