Vacation’s End.

When my Lantus pen finally neared empty after my evening dose on Wednesday, I knew that I was just about ready to reconnect to my insulin pump.

Its been almost a month since I started this pump break, and it’s been just what I’ve needed to clear my head and feel a little more ‘free’ from my diabetes.

But I’m also beginning to feel a little over the effort required to physically inject my insulin, moreso at this time of the year.

When I was in the comfort of my own home with all the time in the world to spare, injecting wasn’t really a big deal. But when I was on the go and short of time, i was really starting to miss the convenience that wearing an insulin pump allowed me.

I really had to make a big point of injecting before I could go and have my morning tea or lunch. Which meant finding a place where I wouldn’t be disturbed, pulling out my iPhone, opening up the RapidCalc app, calculating my insulin dose and then concentrating on actually injecting it.

Concentrating?

Yep, concentrating.

If I didn’t put all of my focus towards the task of actual injecting, I ended up with those annoying little drops that manifested on the end of my insulin pen. I was left wondering how much insulin actually went in, shooting out half a unit to compare while deliberating over whether or not I should top up.

In case you’re wondering, there is a technique to avoid this. Gently lift the skin beneath your injection site (don’t pinch), inject your insulin, hold the pen in for 15 seconds after the injection, release the skin and then pull the needle out. I’m not sure I’ve quite mastered it yet, but I have successfully revealed a few clean needles by using this technique.

Then there was the effort required to swap out blunt needles. Because they sure did hurt when I forgot to change them.

Injecting is a lot of effort to put in during my break when I really want to be savouring my coffee and Walkers Shortbread. Or when I’m in the car, trying to give a quick correction inbetween traffic light changes. Also in the middle of the night, when I actually have to switch on my lamp and physically get up out of bed to make sure I properly administer my correction dose.

I fully get that these are all first world problems, and I’m super grateful that I have the luxury and choice to choose the style of management that suits my needs.

On Wednesday evening before bed, I inserted a fresh pump site on my left side and loaded a fresh insulin cartridge. When I woke up on Thursday morning, I skipped my morning dose of Lantus and clipped my pump line into the clean infusion site on my hip. I rode out the day as the rest of my Lantus tapered off. By 3.30pm I thought I could safely switch my basal rate back on, and I was pumping insulin once again.

Pump Break: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As I enter the fourth week of my pump break, I’m slowly beginning to remember some of the reasons why I abandoned Multiple Daily Injections in the first place. But if there’s one thing that’s keeping me from reconnecting right now, it’s the thought of attachment and doing those daily maintenance tasks once again.

This pump break has definitely made me more disciplined with my insulin dosing. Having to physically inject forces me to be more meticulous with my insulin decisions, rather than just lazily dosing another unit to counteract a rising BG. I am using less insulin on Multiple Daily Injections today compared with recent pump history and my initial six year tenure on Multiple Daily Injections.

RapidCalc, the app I am using as my bolus calculator, is telling me that my average bolus insulin is sitting at 19 units per day. I feel that those 19 units reflect most of my days, rather than being an average of variable numbers. Scrolling through my more recent pump history, boluses have become very variable, with most days ranging between 20 and 30 units.

Thinking back to those first six years on Multiple Daily Injections, I also remember lots of wild guesstimates, corrections and big mealtime insulin doses of 5-10 units at a time. Nothing seemed to be able to get the job done. With a much smoother Lantus regimen and a newfound dedication to carb counting today, I can give those small insulin doses of 1-3 units and actually get the job done.

Then there was Lantus. My number one reason for ditching the shots was Lantus. I could never seem to get the dose right at night, while during the day blood sugars felt unmanageable.

Today, my 66/33% split seems to be giving me the best coverage I could ask for from a basal insulin. Six units keeps me fairly steady overnight, with no significant effects of dawn phenomenon while I sleep. A further three units in the morning helps to combat morning insulin resistance, and makes the remainder of my day much more manageable as my nighttime insulin tapers off.

It’s not perfect. Just this weekend I’ve re-learned that skipping a meal will send me low. I also went low one night last week, after skipping my afternoon coffee and then eating a fairly low carb dinner. So yes, Lantus does like it’s routine. But what I am achieving today is more than I ever expected I could get from Lantus, so I’ll take it as a win.

Some aspects of my diabetes management are exactly the same as when I was pumping. Like the delayed bedtime spikes from afternoon snacking that need a correction at midnight. And the weekend blood sugars that tend to cruise a little higher than their weekday counterparts. As much as I’d like to blame my pen or my pump here, I only have myself to blame!

I really miss having my pump on me to conveniently bolus or correct a high blood sugar when I’m out and about. Just last week, I was interrupted mid-injection at work. Which is frustrating, because I really need to focus while I’m injecting to make sure that it all goes in. Which brings me to my next point.

The drops. Those bloody drops of insulin that manifest on the end of my pen needle when I pull out too quickly after an injection. I’m left wondering whether all of the insulin went in, or whether I need to give another shot. There is a technique, by the way. Gently lift the skin beneath your injection site (don’t pinch), inject your insulin, hold the pen in for 15 seconds post injection, release the skin and then pull the needle out.

I’m also finding it harder to rotate injection sites, as they are less visible than pump sites and I do several of them each day. I find myself continually going back to the usual suspect areas, which i know I shouldn’t be doing.

The most enjoyable thing about my pump break is being able to go for a walk in the afternoons and not worry about rapid acting insulin sending me low. Getting changed without having to accommodate a pump in the process. Laying in bed and not having to feel that chunk in my pocket. In fact, I think that this is the least I’ve thought about diabetes in several weeks.

I still remember some wise words from fellow d-blogger Ginger Viera. She says that both methods of insulin delivery have flaws, and that it’s up to us to choose the flaws that bother us the least.

With the Festive Season well and truly upon us and my first Lantus pen nearing empty, I’m wondering just how much longer this pump break will last me. I guess time will tell…

Pump Break II

My current pump break is surprisingly different to the one that I took a year ago.

At the time, I was feeling full of anxiety over all of the lows I was having from physical activity. I was still relatively new to insulin pumping, and felt a little overwhelmed at my failure to get everything right. I wasn’t missing my pump one bit, and if it weren’t for the Christmas smorgasbord around the corner I’m not sure that I would have ended up reconnecting.

This time round I’m feeling purely fatigued from the device that I’m using. I’m fatigued from being connected all of the time, and from staring at basal rates and insulin on board all of the time. I find myself getting a little slack with my management, and not getting the most out of my pump. I’m already missing the convenience after just a week, so I’m not confident how long this break will last.

I was deliberating over whether to start my pump break in the morning or evening. I’d read elsewhere that 1) morning would make it easier to monitor my blood sugar in those initial hours, and 2) the effects of Lantus tapering off at the 18-24 hour mark are felt the least. However, I’ve only ever known giving Lantus in the evening. I was also hesitant to have insulin tapering off in the early hours of the morning while I was experiencing dawn phenomenon. So, I stuck with dinner time.

I started with 10 units, the sum of my total daily basal given by my pump. That night, I had about two helpings of Skittles to ward my way out of lows. Residual rapid acting basal insulin from my pump was also very noticeable in those first few hours before bed, and I’d probably create some lag time between disconnecting my pump and giving Lantus if I were to do this again.

The following morning I woke up with terrible insulin resistance, which carried on through much of the day. In the morning it was obviously dawn phenomenon to blame, while in the afternoon my Lantus was likely tapering off.

On night two, I dialled my Lantus dose back to 9 units and added an injection of 3 units the following morning. The evening lows continued, and boy did those Lantus lows feel different. Heavier? Deeper? More intense? It’s hard to describe.

From there my evening Lantus dose went from 7 units to 5 units to 6 units, while my morning dose has remained at 3. That gives me a total daily dose of 9, which is pretty close to the 9.7 units I was giving via my pump. It seems to be keeping me fairly steady while I sleep, so I’m really pleased with that.

My biggest challenge is the moment I get out of bed in the morning. I’ve doubled my insulin to carb ratios at breakfast to combat the insulin resistance. Just don’t make my mistake of putting off brekky for 2 hours and still using double the insulin dose! For the remainder of the day, my regular carb ratio of 1:8 and correction factor of 1:2.6 seem to do their job as per normal.

I’ve been doing all of this blind, aka without the help of a FreeStyle Libre sensor, which means that I’m really feeling the brunt of the pricks on my fingers. BGs have probably suffered in the first week – Lantus was causing some lows in the beginning, while high blood sugars aren’t as easy to manage without a pump. However, I’m looking forward to seeing how this week treats me now that the dust has settled.

At the moment, I’m absolutely loving the freedom from attachment and not staring at my pump every hour. Bolus insulin also just seems to be “working” better. During those last few weeks on the pump, I definitely felt like I was correcting high blood sugars after meals all the time. Having the same kind of insuin for bolus and basal on the pump felt “blurry” at times, if that makes any sense at all.

When I made my decision to start pumping two years ago, I told myself that injections were too clunky and simply didn’t work for me. But after 18 months on an insulin pump, I know that this is not true. So long as I’m prepared to make the commitment to learn and take responsibility for my decisions, I can make any method of insulin delivery work for me.

How long do I think I will stay off the pump? I am missing it already. But I’d like to think I’ll give it until the end of the month, at least.

Pump Fatigue.

Not tonight, I thought to myself as I paced back and forth in my room on Thursday night.

It’s too late now anyway, reassuring myself of what I’d just decided against, knowing that I would be ready for bed in a little over an hour.

Friday evening rolled around, and I knew that I was ready to do this. But after a plate of Pasta for dinner, I knew I would need a combination bolus to cover it and decided against it.

Saturday evening rolled around, and I couldn’t think of a better day to finally do this. I grabbed a Lantus pen from the bar fridge, stuck a needle on, dialled up 10 units and injected it into my stomach.

I disconnected my insulin pump, ripped the infusion site from my stomach, and tried to remember the best way to tell my pump to stop screaming no insulin delivery every 5 minutes (answer: program an empty basal pattern).

I have grown tired of my pump in recent weeks.

The weather has quickly warmed up since November rolled around, and having a pump attached to me really adds to the discomfort while I’m sweating it out on a hot day. Which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, being under the pump at work and racing around like a lunatic all day. When my clothes are sticking to me, the last thing I need is an annoying pump line there too.

I can’t remember the last time I went for a walk in the afternoon where I didn’t think that I’d done more damage to my blood sugars than if I’d stayed at home. Pumped insulin is so much more sensitive than the injected kind. Yes, I know how to use temporary basal rates and consume carbs, but can’t a guy just go for a walk without it being some big orchestrated chaos? 

Infusion sites are beginning to feel like a real chore. They haven’t felt particularly comfy of late, and sometimes I can really feel the insulin sting on the way in. I find myself putting off changing a perfectly good site because I can’t be bothered dealing with a new one.

I guess my self care has also slipped in recent weeks. I haven’t been eating too well (translate: lots of trips down the chocolate aisle at Woolies), there’s been lots of slack guesstimates and my BGs haven’t been as great as they could be. I guess this lack of effort, combined with being overworked, has left me feeling exhausted at the end of the day. But I’m working on that. I also took it hard when I found out that I was unsuccessful at a job that I thought I would be perfect for.

At the moment, I don’t really want to be thinking about basal rates, insulin on board, infusion sites and the sense of urgency that comes with it all. I don’t need to be reminded of my diabetes every time I pull out my pump to deal with it.

I really think a change is what I need to clear my head and help me to feel a bit more excited about my diabetes management. Which sounds weird, I know, but doing the same thing every day feels absolutely monotonous. I’m also super grateful that I have the luxury of choices in my management, because not everyone in the world can afford insulin and basic supplies. Sidenote: check out T1International, who are working towards a world of #Insulin4All.

Also, I’m dying to go to the beach. Not that I can’t, but no pump sure does make it a hell of a lot easier…

Throwback Thursday: Thinking About An Insulin Pump

Almost two years ago, I attended an insulin pump information evening. Today I’m looking back at that evening, and some of the reasons why I began thinking about pumping.

***

Last night, I attended an information session on insulin pumping.

I’ve been on Multiple Daily Injections since I was diagnosed five years ago. I’ve never seriously considered an insulin pump, and I can’t say that I know too much about them. I’ve thought about going to one of these information sessions over the years, but it was just one of those things that I never got around to. Okay, truth be told I procratinated on RSVPing to those events until it was too late. Over and over.

I guess what motivated me this year was the fact that I am now a part of the Diabetes Online Community. I think, talk and write about diabetes every day. I feel more motivated towards my diabetes managment, just from interacting with you. I see so many of you blogging, tweeting, screenshotting and instagramming pump stuff each day. I want to understand it. And I want to seriously consider it as an option going forward.

Representatives from a few of the insulin pump companies were there to chat to before and after the session. I’ve never seen such eager salespeople out there in full force, desperately wanting our business. When our fantastic host asked for some sample tubing to show us, it literally seemed like a race to see which rep could get to her first. As I asked one of the reps if a meal bolus was as simple as inputting the number of carbs into the device, she began hurriedly cramming in as much information as she could before the talk resumed. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The topic of Continuous Glucose Monitors came up briefly. As I have written in recent days, Continuous Glucose Monitors aren’t subsidised by the government here in Australia. The cost of purchasing a CGM device and its operating consumables is excessive. While having a CGM may not matter to myself, I know that it could make a world of difference to young children and parents out there.

I thought it was rather interesting to hear the representatives in the room quickly removing themselves of any responsibility for those excessive costs. They urged us to write to our Members of Parliament. They urged us to lobby the government for subsidies towards CGMs and diabetes devices. As though it’s out of their hands.

These companies are responsible for the excessive costs of these devices. I hardly got the feeling that these people genuinely wanted to help me make my diabetes management easier. I so badly wanted to know if they even had diabetes themselves!

***

Excuse ranty, 2015 Frank. In hindsight, that evening probably could have been designed a little bit better. The good news is that on Thursday October 12, Perth Diabetes Care will be hosting a tech evening, designed by people with diabetes. I’ll be speaking about my own journey with technology, all of the highs, lows and everything I wish I was told on that evening. If you’re in Perth I highly recommend you come along, have a play with the tech and meet other people with diabetes. Details below.