I have learned a lot about insulin pumps over the past 15 years since I first became a pumper. Some things I learned right away, some things took a little longer to catch on. Here are a few insights that I hope will help:
1.) The insulin pump is not a fix-all panacea.
Being a pumper does not make you a perfect PWD (person with diabetes). Although it can have great health and lifestyle benefits, it isn’t a cure. Using an insulin pump is still hard work, involving regular blood sugar checks, counting carbohydrates and tweaking insulin doses. Occasionally I hear comments from people who think the insulin pump will do all the work, but we’re still in charge.
2.) There is a learning curve with the pump.
The first few months on an insulin pump will involve getting adjusted to the new way you get insulin. For others, it might feel like your control is better when you first start, because you’re so focused on the task of adjusting your basal rate and bolus ratios. In addition to your diabetes team and your pump representative, resources like “Think Like a Pancreas” by Gary Scheiner or “Pumping Insulin” by John Walsh can help fill in the gaps in your pump education.
3.) You think about your pump more than other people.
One common worry I hear about starting an insulin pump is that people will ask incessant questions about it. It is true that it may happen more than if you weren’t wearing one, but that doesn’t mean it will happen all the time. Most people won’t see it, and if they see it, they’ll make up something in their head about what it is. Sometimes someone will actually recognize your insulin pump, and if you’re lucky, you’ll make a new D-friend because of it!
4.) But you won’t think about it nearly as much as you think you will.
Before I went on the pump, I thought it was going to be this constant reminder that I have diabetes. After going on it, I realized I didn’t think about my diabetes any more than usual. When I’m not actively managing my diabetes, the insulin pump just hangs out. Staying active, traveling, even those romantic moments are still possible and won’t be ruined by an insulin pump. If anything, those moments may be even more possible with a pump. Diabetes is most disruptive when I’m high or low - and wearing a pump has minimized those moments, because I’m able to tailor my basal rate and take more precise correction doses when I need to.
5.) Pumping can actually help make you feel more normal.
I went on the pump in high school and I firmly believe it has helped me have a more normal life. The freedom and flexibility to eat what I want, and also change how much insulin I get when I exercise (I’m training for a half-marathon), has been really beneficial.
Check out the first three parts of Allison’s series on her journey to starting an insulin pump with type 1 diabetes.