3 Things I Want the World to Know About Insulin

See that tiny glass vial in the below image? Can you believe that the contents of it are extremely precious?

Can you believe that, at approximately $9,400 per gallon, insulin is ranked as the sixth most expensive liquid in the world?

It’s kind of crazy, right? But besides knowing that insulin is priced outrageously, there’s actually a few other things that I think the world should know about insulin.

Ethan Zohn_ A Survivor Contestant Who Inspires-2

  1. Not all insulin is created equal. Just like diabetes, insulin exists in various forms. Besides liquid insulin, there’s also inhaled insulin (Afrezza). And some people with diabetes may even take oral medications that are designed to help increase the effectiveness of insulin that they either receive via injection or produce on their own. There’s brand-name insulin produced by several drug manufacturers (the big three being Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi) as well as generic versions of the drug…but that doesn’t mean that generic insulin works just the same as brand-name insulin for all people with diabetes. Insulin is complicated and different types work better for different people.
  2. Insulin is incredibly sensitive. Take one look at the vial in the above photo and tell me that the insulin inside it is safe at all times. Nope, it sure isn’t! Besides the packaging being super fragile, people who rely on insulin must also be careful to keep it at the proper temperature at all times. All it takes is dropping the vial once or leaving it in an unstable environment for the insulin to be rendered useless, potentially wasting a few hundred dollars. It’s as volatile as it sounds.’
  3. Taking too much or too little insulin is dangerous and life-threatening. For some people, there can literally be a life-or-death difference between one unit of insulin. Too much can cause blood sugar to plummet and a person can experience severe hypoglycemia that may result in shock. Too little insulin has the opposite effect: A person will experience hyperglycemia that can have ranging consequences, some that are minimal/temporary, others that are very serious. That’s why precision is so important when dosing for insulin; on top of that, nobody wants to waste a single drop of the stuff because it is so expensive. But this is what many people with diabetes need in order to survive.

So when you see the hashtag #Insulin4All or hear someone talking about how overpriced it is, you’ll know some of the basic characteristics about insulin that make it invaluable to people with diabetes. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to join the fight to make insulin affordable and available to all – as it should’ve been to begin with.

Spare a Rose this Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day in a couple of days. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I’d like to make you think about something that represents the day well: a bouquet of a dozen roses.

A dozen roses is a classic Valentine’s gift, right? But what if you received 11 roses in your bouquet, instead of 12? What if you knew that a rose was spared because the value of that flower helped support a child living with diabetes in a less-resourced country?

I bet you wouldn’t mind getting one less rose in that case.

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Who knew that the value of a dozen roses could pay for a child with diabetes to live another year of life?

This Valentine’s Day, please consider sparing a rose. Life for a Child is a nonprofit charity that created the Spare a Rose campaign. They’re able to support nearly 20,000 young people living with diabetes by using donations to buy them insulin, syringes, clinical care, diabetes education, and more. Anyone who’s familiar with diabetes realizes that access to care, education, and resources is critical to living a healthy and normal life. No one would want to deny another, especially a child, from having to forgo these resources because of the financial burden associated with them.

I’ve written about the Spare a Rose campaign for the last few years because I think it’s a beautiful way to celebrate a day that makes some swoon and others sick to their stomachs. A common complaint among people in this day and age is that too many holidays are all about raking in the dough for companies like Hallmark; in other words, most holidays have lost their original meaning and have become too commercialized.

So here’s your chance to bring back some significance to Valentine’s Day, whether you’re single, partnered, or married.

Spare a rose and save child this Valentine’s Day.

Metformin Update #5: Calling it Quits

Well, well, well…looks like I’ve got another Metformin update for you all.

You’ve probably lost track of where I am in this long, twisting journey with the pill. (If you need a refresher, all you need to do is click here, here, here, here, and here.)

All caught up? Great. Now you really understand how complex my relationship with Metformin is.

There were times that I loved it. There were times that I hated it. And there were times when I simply couldn’t be sure if it was working for me the way that I’d hoped and needed it to.

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I thought Metformin was right for me, but it turns out it definitely is not.

This last go-round represented the latter thought: Metformin simply wasn’t cutting it for me.

I’d been taking one pill daily for about a month when I decided to quit. The reason why I stopped taking it is simple: I wasn’t noticing a dramatic reduction in how much insulin I take each day. It was maybe a one or two unit drop, and that just doesn’t justify me taking a pill like this on a daily basis.

Now, you might be wondering why I didn’t amp up my dose. After all, it says right on the bottle that I can take up to four pills daily. Well, I chose not to take more for a few reasons: 1) I’m in between endocrinologists right now, and don’t really have anyone to consult regarding dosage, 2) At one point in time, I thought I noticed side effects of taking Metformin, and I’ve convinced myself that any possible side effects would intensify with a higher dose, 3) I wasn’t sure whether the higher blood sugars I was dealing with in the fall were due to stress or permanent changes that my body was experiencing.

So yeah, as you can see, it’s not a cut-and-dry answer when it comes to me increasing my Metformin dose.

I feel like I’m in a better place now with my blood sugars and daily insulin intake. Certainly, things have improved compared to how they were in September and much of October. Rather than fret over taking “too much” insulin every day, I’m going to focus on things that I have greater ability to control, such as the foods I choose to eat (that may or may not impact how much insulin I need) and the levels of exercise I get each week. I feel like that’s a healthier, better way to take care of myself.

So…farewell, Metformin. I won’t miss you. I know you do great things for other people with diabetes, but I’m not sure that you and I are a good match.

 

My Diabetes Woke Up When September Ended

Apparently my diabetes has a theme song.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day is the song in question.

The entire month of September, I felt like my diabetes was asleep or something: It didn’t respond the way it should have to my regular dosages of insulin. 

It was truly maddening. I did everything I could to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Why You Should Get a Flu Shot (If You Haven't Gotten One Already) (1)
It’s like my diabetes had it penciled in on its own calendar to get its act together starting on October 1st. 

I thought it was rotten insulin. Nope. I thought it was maybe a bad batch of pods. Nah. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me (well, yes, I’m definitely a weirdo but for real, there was nothing out of the ordinary going on).

I thought I was going to go nuts, trying to get to the root of the problem and coming up with potential causes only for each one of them to be shot down.

I was not happy to be taking higher doses of insulin than needed, and I wanted answers. Luckily for me, I had an appointment scheduled with my endocrinologist (my last one with her, for now, I hope) at the end of the month, so you can bet it was a major topic of conversation.

We came up with a plan for me to resume Metformin. I didn’t really want to, and there’s certainly more on my feelings about that to come in a future post, but I was desperate to reduce my daily insulin intake and find some sort of stability in my CGM graphs between meals.

So I started Metformin…again. And the difference was noticeable within days.

My diabetes woke up to the insulin doses I was taking, and I felt such an immense relief that I can’t really even describe.

Oh, and you’re welcome for getting that Green Day song stuck in your head.

 

The Curious Case of Rotten Insulin

I spent half of the month of August high.

NOT THAT KIND OF HIGH.

I’m talking about blood sugar here, people.

And I’m not talking about scary-high levels. I’m just referring to levels that are higher than I’d like – between 160 and 200. And I’d stay stuck right in that range, even after bolusing quite aggressively.

I chalked it up to stress – life has been a little unkind to me this summer. I also blamed it on making less-than-healthy food choices, and questioned whether I needed to seriously start thinking about taking Metformin again (even though I had a shitty experience on it).

In other words, I took the brunt of responsibility for my highs. I was angry with myself for letting my diabetes get out of my control, and was just starting to accept responsibility when it hit me that it might be something other than my body rebelling against me at play here.

As it turns out, I should’ve suspected an outside factor from the beginning. That’s because my insulin had, somehow, gone bad.

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The vial in question…it caused me a boatload of stress.

I’m still very confused about how or why it happened. My insulin had an expiration date that was like, 2 years from now. The contents within the vial were totally clear – discoloration would’ve indicated an issue – and everything about this vial of insulin looked completely fine.

It was, and still is, an utter mystery to me as to how or why the insulin spoiled.

If nothing else, the case of the rotten insulin made me wonder…why hasn’t anyone developed strips that can check the effectiveness of insulin yet?

Can somebody please get on that (and give me partial credit for helping to spark this genius idea)?

Why Waiting for Prescription Refills Feels Like a Pending Punishment

I’ve been waiting.

I’m waiting, impatiently, to learn just how much I’m going to have to pay for a 90 day supply of insulin.

I’ve been waiting for what will inevitably feel like a punishment.

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It’ll feel like a punishment because it will feel harsh and unavoidable. And it’ll be more intense than is fair because my only offense is having a pancreas that doesn’t work the way that it should.

Every time I log into the Express Scripts website, I feel a sense of dread sweep my body. I anxiously click around the portal until I get to the recent order screen (see above image). My eyes immediately flock to the blue box that will eventually display how much money I owe for my insulin.

It’s a process that reminds me of checking my grades when I was in college: After I took an exam, I’d enter my username and password into the student portal to find out whether grades were posted. I’d repeat this process multiple times a day until I found out how I scored. It was a nerve-wracking routine back then, but I wish I could tell my younger self that that was NOTHING compared to looking up the cost of my insulin.

 

Favorite Things Friday: Vial Safe Insulin Protector

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

Okay, so it’s DEFINITELY been a few months since I last wrote about a favorite thing of mine. I admit that I started running out of things that I deemed worthy enough of sharing with my readers! It felt silly to continue doing it on a monthly basis if I didn’t have anything particularly great to write about, so I stopped, promising myself that I’d pick it up again the next time I got excited about a product.

Enter the Vial Safe insulin protector sleeves that I just ordered.

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I’d seen posts about these little insulin vial jackets before on Instagram, and I always had them bookmarked in the back of my mind as something I should order. After all, I’ve felt the agony of a shattered insulin vial before, and let me tell you: It’s awful. I was somewhat young when I broke my first (and hopefully only) vial and basically brushed the whole thing off because I assumed that it would be easy (i.e., free) to get a replacement. But now, at age 26 and in my first few months of being on my own health insurance plan, I know better. Accidentally breaking an insulin vial in this day in age seems like the equivalent to setting a stack of hundred dollar bills on fire – completely pointless, unnecessary, and wasteful.

So I’m betting that my two new Vial Safe sleeves will help protect me from ever experiencing a shattered vial again. I’m especially looking forward to bringing them with me on my next trip, as they’ll surely keep my vials more secure as I have the tendency to shove them wherever I can find space in my luggage.

I bought my Vial Safe insulin protectors on Amazon, but there also available for purchase here. And no, I wasn’t asked (and I’m definitely not being paid) to write about these or any other products I’ve ever mentioned on Hugging the Cactus – I simply believe in spreading the word about a quality item if it has helped make diabetes management easier for me in some way.