New Pump, New Life
My new life began at 8 a.m., July 9, 2007. After 34 years of daily insulin shots, I was switching to an insulin pump.
I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 3 years old. At first, that meant one insulin shot a day; when I turned 14, it was twice daily; and when I became an adult, it turned into three, sometimes four shots every day. In total, I calculate that I've had approximately 27,740 injections of insulin in my lifetime.
One would think that with all those injections, I would welcome the idea of the insulin pump, which administers insulin as needed through a catheter under my skin—meaning no shots. And yet, when it was suggested to me years ago, I bristled at the mere thought.
I was afraid. Part of my concern was cosmetic: I didn't want to have an instrument physically attached to me. I didn't want this device to detract from the physique I was proud of and worked so hard for. A pump would be visible evidence of my disease. I wasn't embarrassed or ashamed of my diabetes, but I also didn't want to receive looks of sympathy from people who saw the pump. I was proud, and afraid, and I didn't want to give up any control I thought I had to some mechanical device. What's more, I was comfortable with syringes. The bruises were, to me, personal evidence of private wars conquered.
But I took a second look at these fears and hesitations after I talked to someone who uses a pump—not a family member, friend, or nurse, but a 5-year-old boy I met at my doctor's office.
He was waiting for his appointment, playing in the waiting room. I saw that he was on an insulin pump. I asked him how he liked it. He looked at me, shrugged, and said, "It's really no big deal," and went back to his toy.
And I realized that this boy would not know daily shots, and his parents would probably never know what it's like to constantly revive their child from severe lows—something my parents knew all too well. And I realized that a lot has changed since 1973, and that I didn't need to be afraid.
Today, I have no regrets. My insulin pump has made it possible for me to have more control over my life, not less. Making this decision was a very personal journey, and fortunately my choice to use a pump was the right one for me. I'll always remember July 9, 2007: a day of victory over my disease and, more important, my fears.
Jennifer Seager-Dones lives in Westchester, N.Y., and is the director of early childhood programs at a nonprofit agency in New York City.