Diabetes Is No Joke—Except When It’s Funny
I once had a doctor tell me, “Anne-Marie, having diabetes is not something to laugh at. This is serious!” Hmmm. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure, the seventh leading cause of death, and affects 25.8 million people in the United States. Nope, won’t get far on the comedy circuit with that material. However, I have found that, like dealing with the bogeyman under the bed, laughing at diabetes is better than hiding under the covers. Like it or not, some diabetic situations are just hilarious.
Like many PWDs (people with diabetes), I get irritable and cranky when my blood sugar is out of whack, whether high or low. One piece of advice I was given was to make sure my colleagues knew I had diabetes and what to do in case of emergency. Some days at work, I have friends asking, “Do you need juice?” “Maybe you should check your sugar?” “Should I call 911?” Now, if I can just figure out how they can tell when it is a diabetic emergency or just a bad-temper day. I often have to just fess up: “My blood sugar is fine! I am just highly ticked off right now!”
I have answered my insulin pump rather than my cell phone when the phone rang and vice versa. While the call may be long distance, the tubing on my pump is not. By the time I get the pump up to my ear and realize it is not a cell phone, I look as if I am doing the Macarena, trying to keep from yanking out my infusion set as well as answering the still ringing cell phone in my other pocket.
One well-meaning friend sent me an insulin pump bra pocket. For the guys out there, the pocket fits between the cups of a gal’s bra in the front and the pump should “nestle” in the cleavage. Sigh. Sure. One thing they overlooked: I am not well-endowed enough, and the pump has no place to “nestle.” Another clever idea: the “thigh thing” that I can use to strap the pump to my thigh. Between its sliding down to my ankle or getting turned in an awkward and painful direction, I just gave up and wear my pump clipped to a pocket (which leads to the confusion with the cell phone, above).
I have used my “blood sugar check alarm” to escape long meetings. “Sorry! I have to go!” When the meeting reaches the “Charlie Brown’s teacher stage” where everything starts to sound like “wah wah wah,” I will set my insulin pump alarm to go off and make a dash for the door. Yeah, yeah, yeah—I realize this is unfair to the folks stuck in the meeting, but I look at it as one of the very few advantages of having diabetes.
I am also trying to come up with a creative use for test strips. After decades of testing, I could have built a mansion with all of mine. I do know that I could not be a criminal because I seem to leave strips everywhere I go—home, work, car, friends’ places. I would not present much of a challenge to crime scene investigators. All the CSI would have to do is follow the trail of strips right to me.
I have caught my insulin pump infusion cord on doorknobs. Have you seen those shows where the expert tries to teach a dog to walk on a leash? I know how the dog feels. I don’t “heel” well either.
|Anne-Marie Mills’s T-shirt raises the humor level, but don’t try this to raise a low blood sugar—the fat in chocolate slows the absorption of the carbohydrate.|
Before my insulin pump, syringes were a fact of life. I really did not think how they looked to others. Once, at an alcohol checkpoint, the officer looking in my window thought he had hit the jackpot with all the syringes littering my ashtray. (For the kids out there: Back in the dark ages, cars used to have ashtrays for folks who smoked, and syringes were the only way to deliver insulin. I used my ashtray for old syringes, gum, and test strips.) Apparently, “I am a diabetic” is code that, loosely translated, means “Yes, officer, I do have dope in my car.” It doesn’t help that neuropathy has caused me balance problems. When the officer asked me to walk a straight line, I laughed. Yeah, right. In my dreams, buddy. If you can help me do that, my neurologist would love to talk to you. A friend bought me a T-shirt that says “I’m not drunk, I’m a diabetic!” My mother countered with a shirt printed upside down: “I’m a diabetic. If you can read this, please pick me up and feed me chocolate.”
Hitting a blood vessel with an infusion set can make it look like you enjoy dismembering bodies in your spare time. Remember the CSI team following my test-strip trail? Once they saw the wall near where I do my insertions, I’d be in prison for sure. I tried to paint over the blood spray one time. Sigh. It looked like Charles Manson had a redesign show on HGTV.
I once asked to have my apartment sprayed with bug killer to dispatch the pests crawling up the wall. Turns out, I did not need pest control to get rid of the dark spots on the wall. I needed an eye doctor who could treat retinopathy. Who knew?
I have grown accustomed to looking like a Sherpa climbing Mount Everest every time I leave the house. Meter, test strips, lancets, glucose tablets, ID bracelet, insurance card, extra insulin pump supplies, syringes, insulin, alcohol pads, money for snacks and water, enough meds to start my own pharmacy, in case of emergency (ICE) card, cell phone with 911 and my ICE contact automatically programmed in, my current list of medications with another list of medications I am allergic to, and a list of doctors that resembles a “who’s who” of the medical community. Nope, having diabetes is not for the weak—because you have to carry all that stuff.
And diabetes is not for people who can’t see the humor in difficult situations. I may have diabetes, but it doesn’t have me.
Anne-Marie Mills has had type 1 diabetes for 41 years and uses an insulin pump. She is a business services coordinator at UNC Charlotte Urban Institute in Charlotte, N.C.