Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
“A medical contraption attached to my body 24 hours, 7 days a week? No, thanks!”
This is an extremely common reaction to the prospect of wearing a pump. In fact, it’s probably the biggest hurdle for most people. But once people get over this hump, they realize that the advantages of pumping far outweigh the inconveniences.
So how can being tethered to a device make you feel “free”?
Great question. First off, how free do you feel on injections?
Yes, wearing a device attached to your body via plastic tubing is an inconvenience. But the real inconvenience is being dependent on insulin in order to stay healthy. That’s diabetes. Injections are one way to get the insulin in, but they can be painful and require a lot of preparation and handling of syringes or an insulin pen. Everything in life is a trade-off. With a pump, you trade the multiple needle pokes every day (and relatively poor glucose control) for just one poke every three days and much-improved results. The only downside is wearing this little device.
There’s nothing “surgical” about it
People who are unfamiliar with pumps often think they require some surgical procedure. “How often do you have to go to the hospital to have that replaced?” they might ask. You can smile and confidently answer, “Never!” You can insert the pump yourself within minutes, and just as easily remove it. Most pumps can even be temporarily detached, if you need to be “untethered” for a short period of time.
Will it hurt, or hamper my active lifestyle?
No and no. If you’re used to taking multiple injections throughout the day, you can kiss that pain goodbye. A pump requires just one skin prick two or three times PER WEEK, when you change the “infusion site” or little adhesive spot where the pump is attached.
Small children, professional athletes, mechanics, and rock stars all wear pumps. They all have extremely active lifestyles. Sometimes you might need to secure the pump with an adhesive, or wear a special pouch to keep it in place, but you can do anything—from swimming to kayaking to skiing.
Will it look weird or embarrassing?
We all want to look our best, and not be pegged for appearing disabled or “sick.”
Here’s the good news, in two parts:
1) Today’s pumps are more discreet than ever.
Most pumps are about the size of a deck of cards, and new models are getting even smaller. They’re easily worn under your clothing, often with the help of specially designed pockets and “pump packs” that allow the ladies to hide theirs in a fitted dress, for example. You can even purchase a garter belt holster for your pump if you like!
2) In the era of MP3 players and so many other consumer gadgets, your pump won’t stand out.
Look around. People are marching around these days with all sorts of gear hanging off their waistlines: pagers, cell phones, PDAs, music players, techno-designed fanny packs and purses, etc. So you’re pushing buttons on a little handheld gadget? So what? People are unlikely to ask too many questions unless you call attention to it. (And those who do ask intelligent questions will generally be people who care about you and your diabetes—so it’s all good!)