I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 1982. I was six. That was thirty years, or for the pumpers out there, hovering around 3,650 infusion set changes. It’s crazy to think about. (And not just because I’m bad at math.)
Most of the time, I’m too busy to keep score. With two young boys, ages 2 and 5, I don’t have much time to. My eldest started kindergarten last fall, so these days we’re packing one more thing into our schedule: organized sports.
My son has been equally enjoying soccer and hockey. Growing up, my husband played both. Maybe it’s genetic.
There are big differences between the two sports, of course. They’re set apart by distinct sets of rules and, well, ice. There’s also the fact that soccer is pretty light on equipment. Cleats, a ball, and shin guards and you’re ready. You don’t even need socks since you can get shin guard socks. Awesome.
Dressing for hockey is another story. The first time I had to suit up my son for practice without my husband, I was clueless about which Velcro piece strapped where and what protective thingy goes on first. I’m fairly certain he wore his shoulder pads backwards that day.
Learning the ins and outs of his equipment reminded me a lot of getting up and running on my insulin pump. Its puzzle piece-like components and rules for using them aren’t exactly straightforward. No wonder pump trainers exist.
And, like a hockey player, having type 1 means toting around a big bag of equipment. On any given day, I’ve got my pump, CGM and their pieces, as well as IV prep wipes, IV 3000, alcohol swabs, test strips, a BG meter, lancets, and insulin. If I’m being particularly thoughtful (or paranoid), I bring some spares. Plus, glucose tabs. Fruit punch flavor is my favorite.
Want to run out for coffee? Just let me grab my bag.
Sometimes I don’t think twice about lugging it all around. Other times, the realization that I’ve forgotten just one piece can send me into a panic. After all, supplies are hard to come by at the movies or the zoo. Some of them aren’t even at the pharmacy. (By the way, if you’re ever on vacation in Florida and need IV 3000 so your setting doesn’t fall off in the pool, save yourself the hunt. Just buy a big box of band-aids.)
Whether you’re on a pump or MDI, it’s not easy being thrown into the game of Type 1 diabetes. You’re focused on goals that nobody around you can possibly see. And it can feel as if everyone around you gets to bound across the sunny field after a ball, while you’re suited up for full contact, simply trying to keep up.
But those are the bad days. When they happen, I have to give myself a pep talk that’s remarkably similar to the one my husband gives our son. It goes something like this:
Don’t give up.
Try your best.
Don’t give up.
And shoulder pads say “front” on the front.
Lisa Taylor is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two. For thirty years (and counting) she’s been living with Type 1.