When taking stock of my diabetes supplies, I realized there was something pretty important missing from my heaps of test strips, stacks of pods, and (seemingly) thousands upon thousands of lancets…
…syringes. I didn’t have any syringes in sight, save for the ones that come with pods and that are designed exclusively to be used for pod changes. (I only call that out because those syringes are made to hold 3 days’ worth of insulin and should not ever be used for self-injection.)
In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever even had syringes in my possession since moving out of my parents’ house.
Luckily, I’ve never really had a reason to need them – I’ve never had a desire to stop using my insulin pump since I went on it almost 10 years ago – but that doesn’t mean that it’s wise for me to not have a back-up supply on hand. So I decided to do something about it. I told my doctor that I’d like to have some in my reserves, just in case, and she wholeheartedly agreed. I picked them up at no cost and they’ve remained among my supply stash ever since.
Knowing that they’re there and available to me, should I need them, makes me feel that much more equipped to handle any possible diabetes scenario. It’s kind of funny to find comfort in having syringes, of all things, under my roof – but to me and to anyone else with diabetes, it just makes sense to have the most basic of back-ups around.
Traveling with diabetes is stressful enough. Add concerns over taking medical devices (not to mention insulin and other supplies) through TSA security and it can be a downright nightmare, especially when the TSA does something unexpected – as I wrote about here in my blog post describing my worst-ever TSA experience.
That single traumatic incident aside, my travel record consists of positive TSA encounters, most of which I attribute to me getting accustomed to what I should expect each time I’m at the airport. Here’s what’s worked well for me over the years, which I share with the caveat that this is me simply describing my own experience and what I’m most comfortable with – it will vary among people with diabetes:
I have TSA pre-check. Traveling with TSA pre-check means that I spend far less time waiting in line to get my bags and ID checked. Not only do I breeze through to the first security checkpoint, but I also skip the hassle of removing my shoes or my laptop/other possessions from my suitcase, making the whole airport screening process that much smoother and faster. I do believe that, as a person with diabetes, this has helped me deal with the TSA with minimal fuss and without fear of losing any of my diabetes supplies due to removing them from my bags in the hustle and bustle of the security line.
I always communicate with at least one TSA agent that I have diabetes and am wearing two medical devices. This may or may not be necessary, but I feel that it’s best to let the agents know what the bumps under my clothing are in case they notice them and demand that I remove them for inspection. More often than not, TSA agents are pretty understanding and more knowledgeable than I would’ve thought about diabetes devices, likely due to the fact that people with diabetes pass through on a daily basis. (Though there was one time that the TSA agent, who had an insulin pump herself, gave me a bit of a tough time about mine – to this day, I still don’t know if she was attempting to be funny with her snide comment about me asking for a pat-down instead of going through the scanners – see below for more).
I usually request a pat-down rather than walking through full-body scanners or metal detectors. Now, I know what you’re thinking – it’s safe to go through machines with diabetes devices. I agree with that and have definitely gone through them before. But I’ve found that requesting a pat-down is just easier because sometimes the TSA has not allowed me to go through the full-body scanners due to my medical devices. When I used to stay in line and go through scanners like the majority of people around me, TSA agents would almost always pull me aside afterwards and ask me to touch the devices (over my clothing) so they could swab my hands as part of their safety protocol. This was never a big deal to me as it only took an extra minute or two to conduct, but it also seemed to partly defeat the purpose of stepping through the scanners to begin with. Plus, I’ve always been a little paranoid about subjecting my CGM and pod to the technology in those machines – again, I have no real reason other than vague and infrequent word of mouth over the years about diabetes tech getting “screwed up” by the scanners – so I just stick to what I’ve become comfortable with by opting for a pat-down.
My typical TSA protocol may sound over-the-top or even a little ridiculous, but for a nervous traveler like me who relies on a routine in order to feel as prepared as possible when getting from point A to point B, these are the steps that I take that feel good and keep my head level – and hopefully, the kind of person that makes it easy for the TSA to do their job!
This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on June 22, 2022. I’m sharing it again today because I’ve got a trip coming up and definitely need a refresher on best practices that have worked well for me in the past when it comes to traveling with diabetes. Read on for my top tips.
Traveling plus diabetes can equal…a lot of chaos. At least, it does for me when I don’t take the time to properly prepare for a trip.
However, I’m happy to say that my most recent trip to New Orleans was remarkably mayhem-free, thanks to the steps I took in the couple of weeks leading up to the trip (all that covid nonsense aside). In fact, it went so smoothly for me that I decided now would be a great time to document what I did that helped me travel with minimal stress but maximum organization, before I forget everything I did! So here’s what worked for me:
Making a list. Roughly two weeks prior to my trip, I physically wrote out a list of every single item – related and unrelated to my diabetes – that I’d need to pack for my trip. As I packed little by little in that span of time, I checked off items when I added them to my suitcase. It was satisfying to see the number of items dwindle so that by the morning of my trip, I only had a few things left to pack and I wasn’t worried about forgetting anything major.
Having extra snacks on hand. A few days before my trip, I went to the grocery store and bought snacks. Like, a bunch of them. A few boxes of granola bars, some fruit snacks, things that were generally easy to transport and wouldn’t melt in any condition. This ensured that I would have food on hand at all times for any scenario, whether it be a low blood sugar or simply staving off hunger.
Optimizing organization. One of my favorite “tricks” when it comes to packing is utilizing storage cubes! Some people might find them totally unnecessary, but for me, they equate instant organization. When they’re filled completely, they become little rectangles with handles attached to them, so packing my suitcase with the filled cubes is almost like planning a game of Tetris – except it’s even more satisfying because I know I’m doing myself a favor by sorting clothing items away from medical supplies, and keeping things like charging cables separate from my toiletries.
Storing insulin properly. The last thing that I pack for any trip is my insulin. It’s literally the final thing I slip into my backpack before locking up my house. This is to help keep it cold for as long as possible, but then to also prolong the cold temperature of my insulin storage pouch. It does a pretty good job of keeping insulin cool, but on a longer travel day where I’m logging a couple hours of ground transportation, a couple hours of airport waiting, and a few more hours of actually air time, it does lose some of its effectiveness as the ice packs slowly melt. So I like doing what I can to keep the ice packs as cold as possible for as long as possible.
Wandering the airport to keep blood sugar at bay. This might be the one element of my last trip that I would’ve liked to change, because I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to pace around the airport before boarding my flights. I have used this strategy effectively in the past, though – my blood sugar and my restless body have both benefited from a few extra steps prior to a flight.
Keeping all supplies within reach. Any diabetes supply, whether it was as sensitive as my insulin or as mundane as a back-up vial of test strips, stayed secure in my “personal item” – the bag that you can bring on a plane that doesn’t have to be stored in the overhead storage bin, it can actually go under the seat in front of you. For me, it’s not worth running the risk of needing any type of supply in the middle of a flight, only to be unable to reach it because it’s tucked away in storage (or worse, a checked bag that you can’t access at all). Knowing that I can get anything I might need, at any time, goes a long way in curbing my anxiety.
Eating consistent meals. In my humble opinion, I actually think the options at airports are pretty decent these days and that makes it relatively easy to find an option that will work at any given mealtime. For example, I got a Starbucks breakfast sandwich the morning of my trip that helped my blood sugars stay steady, and on my trip back home I found a Caesar salad that was lighter on carbs to eat for lunch, which didn’t spike my already-slightly-high blood sugar further. I was tempted to skip those two particular meals because I was running short on time, but I’m glad I ultimately made eating a priority because I do think it made my numbers more stable.
Staying hydrated. Last but certainly not least, I always have a bottle of water on hand when traveling. Always! I make it a mission to down at least one full bottle before going through security (that way I don’t have to waste it by chucking it), and then one of my first tasks post-security is to find either a water bottle refill station (most airports have these now and they’re awesome) or a store selling water bottles. It’s important to stay hydrated everyday, not just travel days, but there’s something about the stress of travel that makes me extra keen to keep drinking water. Plus, high blood sugars are already a nuisance to deal with – without water, they’d be even more insufferable and tricky to deal with when also trying to get from point A to point B!
So those are the things that I did to make this last round of travel go so well. What about you? Do you do anything special to prep for a trip that wasn’t featured on my list? Let me know in the comments!
I’m not kidding when I say I think I’ve definitively identified the worst possible time to change a CGM sensor or pod – of course, I can only speak to a Dexcom CGM sensor and an Omnipod, so it’s probable that the worst time to do a site change may vary depending on the specific piece of equipment being used.
But I’ve learned from my own experiences that the worst time to do a site change is within a one-hour window of taking a shower.
This is because I’ve found that the sensor or pod adhesive needs a solid block of time to firmly adhere to my skin. If I shower soon after completing a site change, I can almost guarantee that the heat and steam from the shower will be enough to dissolve the adhesive and cause the sensor or pod to fall off.
I’ve played around with the timing, too, and I’ve discovered that the more time I put in between a site change and shower, the better – an hour seems to be the absolute minimum. It can be a little inconvenient in the times that I have to forgo my CGM data for a longer period than I’d like, but my goodness, is it wonderful when the stars align and I can take a completely device-free shower. This doesn’t happen often as my sensor and pod change days don’t usually happen on the same day, but it’s undeniably a nice break when it does.
So, there you have it – a word of caution from me, a semi-pro CGM and pod wearer with about a decade’s worth of experience wearing both devices – the worst time to undergo a site change. A pod or CGM failure almost always can’t be helped, but I think it’s worth knowing how to prevent the likelihood of one or both of them needing to be replaced sooner than expected.
This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on May 8, 2020. I’m sharing it again today because had I known these 3 tips when I first got my own health insurance plan, I would’ve saved myself from a whole lot of trouble – and headaches. Read on to learn more…
Just over 365 days ago, I made the switch from my parents’ health insurance plan to my own plan, provided by my employer.
In the last year, I’ve learned some important lessons about being responsible for my own healthcare coverage. Some lessons were easier to learn than others. I figured it might be helpful to others who just made the switch themselves (or who will be doing so in the near future) for me to sum up three big takeaways I’ve discovered along the way in the hopes that it makes the transition a little easier for those individuals, or at least saves them some time down the road.
Take advantage of a flexible spending account (FSA), if the option is available. I grew up knowing that FSAs exist – my parents would always bring their FSA account cards to all my doctor’s appointments and pay for all of my supplies using those cards – but I had no idea what the big deal was about them until I switched to my own health insurance plan. Basically, FSAs are a great employer-sponsored benefit because they allow account holders to pay for eligible medical expenses on a pre-tax basis. So those who have an FSA are able to pay for things they need tax-free, and the money is typically available to account holders on the first day of the health insurance plan year. My current health insurance plan allows a maximum contribution of $2,300, so I was able to put up to that amount on my account for 2020. It really comes in handy because my wallet doesn’t take as much of a beating from all of my necessary (and very expensive) diabetes supplies, and unlike the last half of 2019, I’m not paying as much out of pocket after my deductible is met.
Keep records of everything. It might seem fussy to hold onto any and all receipts or transaction records, but there might come a day when one is needed. Case in point? At the end of 2019, my company announced during open enrollment that our FSA administrator was changing…which, at the time, I didn’t think was a big deal. I knew what the maximum contribution was, and I figured I’d only need to log into my FSA account sporadically to see how much money I had left for the year. Well…I was wrong about that. Back in February, I got a notification that I needed to submit verification of purchases of my regular OmniPod shipment, Dexcom sensors and transmitters, and my Humalog prescription. And you can bet your bottom dollar I didn’t have receipts for all three of those transactions because, well, my old FSA provider never once asked for receipts. As silly as it sounds now, I guess the thought never crossed my mind that my new FSA administrator would need purchase records. Long story short, I was able to submit an explanation of benefits in lieu of the receipts, but it would’ve been easier just to hold onto the original records (and I can assure you I’ve done that since this whole incident).
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when things don’t add up. I had my annual physical in January and I had quite the shock when I was billed over $300 for all of the lab work that my primary care physician had me do. The moment I got that charge, I knew something wasn’t right – never before in my life have I been charged that much for a standard battery of tests that I take for my physical. So I wrote in to my PCP’s billing department and asked about the charges. That’s when I learned that I was mistakenly charged this amount and that I needed to reach out to my health insurance provider to re-run the charges. Although it was a little annoying to have to go back and forth between my health insurance provider and my PCP’s office, it was worth it because I saved myself $300 that I never actually owed in the first place. This taught me the importance of asking questions and following up with people until I understand, well, anything that’s confusing to me when it comes to my health insurance.
Up until last weekend, the closest I’d ever come to going on a camping trip was that time I “camped out” in my parents’ backyard when I was 5 or 6 years old. (And that barely counts because I only stayed outside long enough to roast marshmallows before I decided I hated the idea of sleeping in a tent and ran back inside, leaving my dad and my brother to fend for themselves in our suburban wilderness).
Fast-forward 22 years later to when a real camping opportunity presented itself to me: I decided I should give it a real try and guess what? I had a great time!
But also guess what? Beyond thinking about how I might keep my insulin cool, I put very little thought into my diabetes before going on this camping trip. There was no logic behind this decision other than I decided to just wing it; after all, I’d only be gone for 2 nights.
My lack of careful planning caused me to experience a crash course in camping with diabetes. Here’s what I learned (and wished I’d considered before I left for the trip):
Keeping insulin cool isn’t as simple as tossing it into a cooler filled with ice packs. The one part of my trip I assumed I didn’t have to overthink turned out to be not so simple. I thought ice packs would do a good job of keeping my insulin at the right temperature. What I did not think about was all the other food (raw meat, veggies, etc.) that had to stay cool, too – which meant that the ice packs were pulling double duty and not staying as cold as I thought they would. This problem was easily solved with the addition of bagged ice to our cooler, but that, in turn, created a smaller issue by getting my insulin carton wet (meaning I had to throw the packaging away when we returned home). Not a big deal, but next time I’ll definitely bring an extra plastic bag or something else to help keep my insulin vial and its protective carton dry in addition to cool.
Setting up a campsite lowers blood sugar just as quickly as any other type of exercise. When we arrived to our campsite, it was around dinnertime on Friday evening, which meant we only had about an hour and a half before the sun started setting – so it was important that we prioritize setting up our tent instead of eating food. Hauling all of our stuff from the car, moving things around, blowing up our air mattress, and other steps taken in order to set up a cozy campsite meant a lot of physical steps taken, which lowered my blood sugar pretty quickly. Fortunately, I had plenty of snacks on hand, which leads to my next point…
Bringing tons of extra low snacks is a wise decision. I have my partner to thank for thinking to buy a package of gummies at the store (on top of s’more supplies and trail mix) that would help supplement the snacks that I’d already put in my backpack before we left for the trip. These gummies proved to be one of the best purchases of the weekend considering I had to eat three packs of them in the middle of the first night of our trip! It just goes to show that there’s no such thing as too many low blood sugar supplies.
Pre-bolusing isn’t conducive to cooking over a campfire. I’ve gotten into the habit of pre-bolusing for my meals, which means that I take insulin somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes before I actually start eating. This was not something that would work out well when my meals were being cooked over a campfire because we had no clue when our food would be ready. Turns out, it takes a lot longer to cook a single burger over a fire than it does to cook a whole package of them on the grill! This wasn’t a huge deal – it really just meant that I experienced a couple more immediate blood sugar jumps than usual.
All in all, camping with diabetes turns out to be something that really doesn’t require that much extra prep or special considerations. While it undoubtedly would’ve made it easier to know these things beforehand, they’re also things that I only could’ve learned from going camping for real – not just out in the backyard.
If you regularly read this blog, then you know that I’m not a strict person with diabetes, in the sense that I don’t really restrict the foods that I include in my diet.
I’ve always been of the mindset that my diabetes can’t dictate what I choose to consume, though it might limit the actual quantity of a given food type that I eat.
So while my fridge and freezer is almost always stocked with fresh and frozen fruits/veggies/proteins, my pantry often stores more shelf-stable (and usually less healthy) things like crackers, cookies, and even candy. In fact, a full week post-Easter, my cabinets contain 3 bags of jellybeans, a chocolate bunny, and several Reese’s eggs. And it’s very tempting to reach into the cupboards and help myself to as much sugary sweetness as I can stomach in one sitting – screw my diabetes/blood sugar, I’ve got delectable confections to consume!
But of course, I know that indulging my cravings will only wreak havoc on my blood sugar levels, so I’ve found a few ways to curb temptation but still keep tasty treats in my home. Here’s 4 things that have worked for me:
Only eat these treats when my blood sugar is low. I call this “medically necessary” candy consumption, and let me tell you, it makes low blood sugars a whole lot more tolerable when they’re treated with something that’s more fun and yummier than chalky glucose tablets or juice boxes.
Keep them out of sight. I do my best to shove bags of treats in the very back of my top cabinets. That way, if I’m tempted to dig into them, I remember that I won’t be able to reach them unless I get a chair and rummage through the contents of the top shelves…and usually, that’s enough to take away my desire to snack on something sugary. I’m not saying it always happens, but laziness will typically beat my sweet tooth.
Pre-portion single servings of treats. I have a real problem with snacks that come in bottomless bags – it’s hard to know when to stop and my blood sugar always suffers the consequences. So I like to study the serving size on bags and use it as a guide to portion out single servings of treats. It’s much easier to bolus for whatever it may be (or treat a low blood sugar as described in tip #1) when I know the exact carbohydrate count; after all, a few handfuls of an unknown number of Skittles have far more carbs than a single serving of 15 Skittles.
Be picky about the types of treats kept in the house. My kryptonite is most definitely Reese’s cups…I love the salty/sweet combination of peanut butter and chocolate almost as much as I love my dog. So I recognized that a bad habit was forming when I kept a little bowl out in my living room filled to the brim with mini cups. I was breaking every single one of the above rules with this practice! After I realized this, I put the bowl away and stopped buying Reese’s every time I went to the grocery store. I still have other things around the house that will satisfy my sweet tooth (before Easter, I bought a package of dark chocolate Oreos that I’ve easily kept around for the last 6 weeks because they don’t tempt me in the same way that Reese’s cups do), so I’m really not depriving myself at all.
Temptation can be tricky to navigate when you have T1Ds and love sugary treats as much as I do…but as long as you can come up with ways to cope with temptation like I did, then you don’t have to feel guilty for giving in to your cravings every now and then. I sure don’t!
Something that all people with diabetes that I know – myself included – struggle with from time to time is the adhesive that keeps our diabetes devices stuck to our bodies.
Real talk? Both the adhesives for my pods and my Dexcom sensors can be lackluster. About half the time, the adhesives that secure them to my body begin to peel around the edges when I’m only partway through the wear time of both devices. And another (much smaller, though far more infuriating) part of the time, the adhesives lose their stickiness entirely, causing the device to fall off my body.
When the adhesive is the reason why a sensor or a pod doesn’t last the full 10 and 7 days, respectively, it’s practically like experiencing a slap in the face because at least a technology error or failure feels more out of my control…the adhesive, though, feels like something that should never be a real issue, and I can’t help but blame myself for not making a pod or sensor more secure when the glue completely fades.
On the bright side, my experience with less-than-sticky pods and sensors forced me to think of ways to get them to last their full lifecycles on my body. Here’s how I make them last as long as possible:
Protective barrier wipes: I use these wipes each time I do a pod change. When my new pod is priming, I wipe whichever site I’m about to place it on with a protective barrier wipe. (I use an alcohol wipe earlier on in my pod change process.) These seem to help with adhesion without adding a ton of stickiness like regular SkinTac wipes tend to do. They literally do what they say they’ll do, which is make a protective barrier for a piece of medical equipment to stick to easily.
Dry my skin: This seems incredibly obvious, but I make sure that new pod and sensor sites are as dry as possible before I apply a device. This is much more of a problem for me in the summertime when weather causes me to sweat more, but I’ve been able to navigate that by wiping my skin with a clean towel and making sure air is circulating well in the room in which I’m applying the pod or sensor so any excess moisture evaporates off my skin.
Specially designed stickers: Both Dexcom and OmniPod produce stickers that customers can request for free. I get them mailed straight to me and I find that they are most useful when a pod or a sensor is hanging precariously off my body. The stickers are shaped exactly to fit around both, so I never have to worry about missing a spot, and they’ve definitely helped me save more than one pod and sensor in the past. I don’t like wearing them unless I have to, though, because sometimes the extra adhesive seems to make the underlying adhesive weaker (not sure how that’s possible, but I’ve always had more luck waiting to add a sticker on top of a loose pod/sensor that’s in its last couple days of wear than adding the sticker on top in the beginning).
The “circle and press” technique: Most people probably already do this, but I actively have to remind myself that when I apply a new pod or sensor, I need to take my finger and circle it around the adhesive firmly three times in order to make sure it’s pressing up against my skin as securely as possible. This method also sort of irons out any wrinkles that might have appeared when the pod or sensor was initially stuck on, so it’s a simple yet effective thing to do…which is absolutely something we could all use more of when it comes to handling diabetes.
For the first time in my entire life, I’m living alone. (Well, I have my puppy Violet to keep me company, but no other humans.)
The prospect of living by myself always freaked me out a little bit, mainly because of the fears I have about diabetes and the “what ifs”: What if my blood sugar goes too low and I can’t get help? What if I’m sick or spilling ketones and need someone to assist me? What if “something bad” (pick any bad scenario here that you can think of) happens, and because I live alone, I can’t take care of myself?
With these questions lurking in the back of my mind, I decided to do something about my worries. I moved into my new place a couple of months ago and since then, I’ve come up with some strategies on how to manage my concerns about living alone with diabetes that have provided both peace of mind and confidence in my ability to thrive in my new home.
Tip #1: Utilize the Dexcom Share feature. This is the best thing that I have done since moving out of my parents’ home. I had a conversation with them after a particularly frightening middle-of-the-night low, and we all agreed that it would be wise for me to invite my dad to follow my blood sugars using Dexcom Share. My favorite part about this arrangement is that my dad and I discussed what we were both comfortable with in terms of data sharing – we decided that it wasn’t necessary for him to view my blood sugar graph at all times, but that he should get alerted when I’m below 50 or above 400. It makes me feel so much safer knowing that he will know if and when those situations should happen, and that he will be able to help me (albeit, from a slight distance) if I can’t help myself.
Tip #2: Keep low snacks all over the place. I keep low snacks on every floor of my condo (the main floor, upstairs, and in my basement) and right next to my bed on my nightstand. It might seem like overkill to have juice boxes, gummy snacks, and glucose tablets all over the place, but the point of that is I never know when a bad low blood sugar will strike, and it’s much easier to walk a few steps to get a low treatment than to walk up or down a set of stairs. I’m able to treat lows very quickly using this method, and since my fear of low blood sugars is one of my biggest concerns about living alone, this helps me make sure that I can handle them efficiently when they occur.
Tip #3: Stay organized. It might sound strange that staying organized is a big help when it comes to living alone with diabetes, but I’ve found that it ensures that I’m able to access any of my supplies within seconds, if needed. I don’t have to rifle through drawers or cabinets to find out how many pods I have left, I simply have to walk into my bedroom closet and look at my shelf to see. I also have all of my medical paperwork – receipts, prescriptions, health plan information, etc. – stashed away in a clearly labeled folder in the filing cabinet by my desk, which again makes my life much easier when I need to find particular documentation at a moment’s notice.
Tip #4: Have emergency contacts identified and readily available. Nobody likes to think about something bad happening…least of all me. But I give myself peace of mind by having emergency contacts labeled in my iPhone using the Medical ID feature. If I needed to call one of them, it would simply take the push of a button (and a quick swipe).
Tip #5: Seek support over social media. When in doubt, I’ve had great success turning to my different social media platforms and chatting with others about issues surrounding living alone. Whether I add a story to my IG profile or send out a tweet when I have blood sugar concerns, I know that the diabetes online community will respond with guidance and insight to help me through whatever issue I may be experiencing. There’s something extraordinarily comforting about knowing that even though I’m living alone, I’m never truly alone because of the support I have.
Diabetes can interfere with so many aspects of daily life…including friendships and relationships with others.
I’m an extremely fortunate person: I’ve never had my diabetes be a “deal-breaker” for a friendship or a relationship. I’ve never had much difficulty in explaining it to others or receiving support from friends when I’ve needed it. Of course, the level of support that I get from people in my life with T1D is much different compared to the support I get from people in my life without it, but both types of support are invaluable.
Recently, I had an Instagram follower ask me for my advice on how to help friends understand T1D: what it’s like and what’s appropriate to do/say to a person with diabetes. She expressed her frustration with a friend who doesn’t seem to understand that just because she has diabetes it doesn’t mean that she can’t enjoy sugary treats from time to time. So in response to her anecdote, I decided to round up my five best tips on how to navigate T1D and friendships/relationships in which there’s a lack of understanding and a little too much judgment.
#1: Be open, honest, and willing to answer questions. In almost two-and-a-half decades of life with diabetes, I’ve learned that this is the most important thing I can do when meeting new people and forging friendships/relationships. It’s not like my diabetes is the very first thing I say to people (“Hi, I’m Molly and I have diabetes” sounds like a South Park gag)…but it is something that I make sure to casually cover early on in the relationship. Opening the door to communication about diabetes from the get-go seems to have helped me avoid tricky situations in which I have to spend too much time correcting misunderstandings about life with diabetes and not enough time on fostering my connection with an individual.
#2: Show all aspects of life with T1D. My philosophy is to never hide any part of my diabetes from friends. I let them watch me when I do fingerstick checks, site changes, and more. I involve them when I need help correcting a low blood sugar or need to take a moment to do a bolus calculation. I’ve found that this really helps my friends feel included and they tend to show more interest and genuine curiosity when I do my “diabetes stuff” around them. It creates natural learning experiences for my friends and they get to see firsthand just how much work it can be to take care of my diabetes.
#3: Tag along to endocrinologist appointments. I understand that this might not be possible right now in this “new normal”, but in the past, I’ve had my significant other come with me to endocrinology appointments. The most memorable experience was seeing a diabetes educator with my significant other so I could be retrained on how to use an emergency glucagon kit, and so he could learn for the first time. It was really eye-opening for my partner, and ever since then, I’ve encouraged others to invite their loved ones or the person/people they live with to attend appointments every now and then. And hey, since so many doctors’ visits are virtual these days, maybe it’ll be even easier for more people to tag along to these appointments than before.
#4: Make an introduction to the DOC. Some of my friends are more social media savvy than others, so for those who have shown interest, I’ve introduced them to the diabetes online community on Instagram. There are sooooo many profiles there ALONE – forget Facebook/Twitter/other diabetes blogs – that do an incredible job of shedding light on the significant and mundane (and everything in between) parts about daily life with diabetes. These accounts have helped them truly get diabetes in a way they hadn’t previously and I think it’s made my friendships stronger, healthier, and judgment-free.
#5: Correct misconceptions – gently. Even my closest friends, or the ones with the best of intentions, have slipped up now and then and said something to my face that is simply not true about diabetes. And that’s okay, they’re not perfect (and they certainly know that I am not). When this happens, I use it as a teaching opportunity and let them know why what they said is wrong or factually incorrect. I find that the gentle, patient approach helps to reinforce whatever it is that I’m telling them, so at the end of the day, it’s a win-win for all parties.