Leggings became popular when I was a junior in high school. Not only were they comfortable, but they were considered stylish with a long top. I had an issue with leggings, though: my insulin pump. When I started wearing leggings as pants (against my mother’s wishes), my pump would drag them down and I’d have to pull them up all day. This might sound like a little thing to you, but it drove me absolutely insane. True, there was the bra alternative for my pump, but it always felt weird and embarrassing to shove my hand down my shirt whenever I had to bolus.
That was the beginning of my disdain for wearing medical devices. I hated the way my pump interfered with my outfits. I hated the middle of the night beeping. And I really hated changing the reservoir. Yet, since I’d been pumping since I was eight years old, by the time I was in my freshman year of college, being on a pump was all I knew. I lived with the feeling that I’d have to always have to wear something that made me unhappy. I went to my endocrinologist and told him how I couldn’t stand pumping any longer and I didn’t know what to do.
His simple response stunned me.
“Lauren, you can go back on shots. You know that right?”
Honestly, hadn’t ever thought it was an option.
With my endo’s blessing and to my mother’s horror, I made the decision to go on a “pumpcation” and switched over to Lantus/Humolog injections. I felt tremendous freedom when I took off my pump. And very quickly my control improved. Being off of the pump made me resent diabetes much less. Treating with MDI (multiple daily injections), at that point in my life, was a more reasonable way to fit diabetes into my life.
When I began to tell people that I was among the fortunate people who have the opportunity to pump but I don’t, they’d tell me I was crazy. Why would I neglect my care that way?
My junior year of college, I interned at JDRF’s Government Relations office. For their annual Government Day, hundreds of volunteers flew in from across the nation to meet members of Congress and discuss the need for continued diabetes research. As an intern, I was sent to various different meetings. Since it was Capitol Hill, there was a lot of waiting in security lines. I was hanging out with a few volunteers when a man in line started chatting with us. We told him why we were on the Hill and out of nowhere he said, “anyone who isn’t on an insulin pump is purposely neglecting their care.” I let him know that I was using shots and that I was perfectly healthy. The two volunteers I was standing with backed me up; one of their children was also using shots.
While data do show that insulin pumping can improve health outcomes, and a recent study in BMJ concluded, “Among people with type 1 diabetes use of insulin pump therapy is associated with lower cardiovascular mortality than treatment with multiple daily insulin injections,” quality of life also needs to be taken into consideration. My endocrinologist and I work hard together to make sure that my diabetes management is successful. He told me that there is no reason whatsoever for me to be on a pump if I don’t want to be. One of the “good” things about diabetes is that – if you have good health care –you have options.
It has been almost five years since the appointment that I had with my endocrinologist about my “pumpcation” and I am still doing well. (And even my mother is no longer horrified). I’ve gone back on my pump for a few weeks at a time, but I always end up taking it off again. I am happier with less attached to me. The burden of diabetes is more than enough to carry around.