During my senior year in high school, I once made the tragic mistake of leaving my purse on my car while I drove out of the campus parking lot. Whoever found that purse and turned it into lost and found (thank you, former classmate!) uncovered a satchel filled with loose insulin syringes and half-full tubes of cake icing, my preferred low treatment at the time.
I still think about it a lot: how strange the contents of a diabetic’s purse or bag might look to an onlooker who’s not familiar with diabetes.
From the moment we start managing diabetes, we’re not just human pancreases – we’re pack mules, too. The responsible diabetic always carries a form of fast-acting carbohydrate, a blood glucose meter (or two), at least a dozen test strips, a lancing device (complete with spare lancets, right?), and some insulin.
But that’s never it. As anyone with an unnecessarily huge bag can attest, things just accumulate. Things like:
- No fewer than 237 used test strips. No matter how much you concentrate on throwing the things away, they have a way of sticking around. For me, they leak from my meter case, or just end up in there when a garbage can isn’t handy. At least I’m checking, right?
- Batteries of assorted sizes. When you’re part robot, you need back-up. Some meters take those batteries that look like nickels, but your pump takes a AAA. And your Dexcom is rechargeable, so don’t forget the plug!
- Prescription boxes and labels for test strips and insulin. “I’ll just take this with me so I have the number,” you think, “and call in the prescription when I get to work.” And then you leave it in your bag to hang out with stray pennies and Target receipts for the next six months.
- Liquefied granola bars. As far as I know, no one has yet invented a hard-sided granola bar case, so my bag is full of pulverized snacks. I can’t bring myself to throw them away, though, because what if? Instead, I pretend I’m helping those bars get back to their roots: loose, free-spirited granola that’s easier to pour into my face when I need it most.
- Makeshift pump accessories. A friend reports that she keeps a Pampered Chef pan scraper on hand to dislodge the cartridges from her t-slim insulin pump. Likewise, I keep one of my two-year-old’s barrettes in my meter case to unlock the battery compartment of my Minimed pump. And if we ever come across pans that need scraping or toddlers who need their hair styled, we’ll be in good shape.
- Stray alcohol swabs. Like used test strips, they tend to tumble out of my test kit when I’m not looking. Unlike used test strips, they remain useful. I can always find one when I need it – even if it’s covered with eye shadow dust.
- Insurance paperwork. Because really, you never know when you’ll get the urge to call your insurance company and chat about which payments apply toward your deductible. See also: prescription boxes.
- Unconventional meter cases. While I do adore the nondescript black nylon zipper cases that come with most blood glucose meters, a girl’s got to test in style. Most of my friends (and I) swear by Fossil cosmetic cases, and I even know a certain man with diabetes who carries a coach clutch for his supplies.
- Candy that you kind of hate. Because if you carry delicious candy to treat a low, you’ll just gobble it down when the mood strikes – depleting your emergency stash and giving yourself a nice guilt trip at the same time.
Perhaps one day they’ll cook up an episode of Let’s Make a Deal that’s devoted exclusively to people with diabetes and the trinkets they drag around all day. Until then, I’m prepared for preparedness sake. Hit me up if you need a piece of granola.