Tag Archives: CGM

The mundane, unrelenting details.

Injections. Meter checks. Pump site changes.

And CGM sensor changes.

When you live with diabetes every day for the rest of your life, these things can become quite mundane. Oh, time for another change… it’s just what I need to do, no big deal. Done it thousands of times.

But when I think of the entirety of it all, mundane is not exactly the word I would use. The word I would use would be somewhat more colorful than that.

Especially when performing one of these tasks is more difficult than usual, I begin to feel it. I remember the last task I performed, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one coming up after this one and the one after that. Before long, I start to wish for the days before these things became a part of my life.

Today, my CGM sensor change was a tough one. I took great care to get everything placed on the back of my arm. As I inserted the sensor this time, I had the plunger pointed downward, which is opposite of how I like to have the sensor pointed. But hey, I can’t insert it into the same place every time, and doing this ensures that I move the sensor to a different place from where it was the last time I had it on this arm.

But the plunger needs to move forward to come off, and I had to get my opposite hand onto the plastic in front of the plunger anyway to release it. That made getting the plunger released, usually a job taking seconds, take a couple of minutes. More time to think.

Then, I had to insert the transmitter. Again, my opposite hand needs to put it in the right spot so I can snap it into place. But because I can’t really see because my hand is in the way, I try to do it all by feel and it just didn’t feel right.

Eventually, I had to go upstairs in front of a mirror so I could see where it was going and snap it in. More time to think about this crazy stuff we do to care for ourselves that not many people ever have to think about. I want to be one of those people again.

In the end, it all worked out, the sensor is doing its thing, and I’m back to tracking my BG trends on a 24-hour basis. Until the next time. Ugh.

This is where I often just try to forget about it. Amnesia works to keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all the crap. Right now, forgetting it is a little more difficult. But… for today… success. And that’s got to count for something.

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Advocacy Works.

I suppose we’ve all become jaded a bit over the years. When you ask for intelligent changes to policy or rules, you get used to having your concerns ignored, sometimes validated, and mostly not acted upon.

But a recent announcement flies in the face of that argument, and before any more time goes by, I think it’s important to talk about it.

The news, which you may have heard: the U.S. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has agreed to allow seniors on Medicare to view CGM data on their smartphones.

As Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition noted, this is pretty big news, and it’s thanks to advocacy of this organization and others, as well as individual advocates across the country, that this injustice has been righted.

There are a couple of reasons why I wanted to talk about this.

To begin with, this is how advocacy is supposed to work. In this instance, people saw that seniors on Medicare were being denied the right to use their smartphones as a medical device. Those advocates banded together and took their message to CMS, who were empowered to consider the advocacy message and act on it. And they did.

Second, I wanted to talk about this win because it’s a win. So often, we advocate for causes, and our causes remain causes for years until some movement happens on them (and that’s the most times I’ve written “causes” in one sentence in my life). Once our cause is helped along by a decision or a product launch or something else, we move on to the next cause so quickly that we almost forget the fact that real progress was actually made.

I don’t want that to happen here. Let’s stop and smell the lithium ion of our cell phone batteries and recognize that something pretty great happened here. And you and I had a hand in making it happen.

Let’s take a moment and remember that advocacy works. And let’s remember to thank all those responsible for making it work.

This is my diabetes.


This is my insulin pump. It is my lifeline of sorts, in that it allows a steady rate of insulin to be infused into my body throughout the day. Also, it lets me add extra insulin to cover the carbohydrates I eat, and to correct any high blood sugar numbers that might happen from time to time.

If you’ve never lived with diabetes… imagine this external device as part of your life 24 hours a day, seven days a week, forever. The only time it comes off is when you swim or take a shower. It can also add a level of concern about what might happen in the future, should something break, or should insurance stop covering some or all aspects of this therapy.

It will also be the subject of additional scrutiny from TSA agents when you go through security screening at the airport. As I’ve found out firsthand, that’s including when you go through the TSA Pre-Check line.

This is my diabetes.

Here’s a Dexcom Clarity report. It gives me valuable information on glucose trending for the past seven days. Among other things, it helps me to know if I need to consider changes to the basal rates on my insulin pump.

If you’ve never lived with diabetes… imagine an extra level of concern about what might happen in the future, should the report not be as well as expected. Imagine living with concern over just the anticipation of a report or a simple lab test. Concern about the future is something I try to put in a box, safely stored away until the time when I might have to address it.

Frankly, I don’t know if I could handle it if I started to worry about potential complications all the time.

This is my diabetes.

I have a quarterly appointment with my endocrinologist next month. I have a meeting with my primary physician a month after that. I’ve already been to the ophthalmologist this year. And I have to schedule time with a podiatrist and my dermatologist too.

Meanwhile, there are prescriptions to fill. I have a couple of everyday medications that are refilled every 90 days. Add in the insulin I need, which I need to have refilled every 90 days too. Then there are strips for my glucose meter, sensors for my CGM, infusion sets and reservoirs for my insulin pump.

My out of pocket expense for all of this, the amount that insurance does not cover, has passed $3,500 per year.

If you’ve never lived with diabetes… imagine spending the price of a European or a Caribbean vacation every year just to stay healthy. Think about not finishing college, just so you can afford your medication and supplies.

And that’s not counting the cost of the time it takes for all of those things mentioned above.

This is my diabetes.

If we handle all of this well (and who can do that all the time?), we’re considered obsessive about our disease, making it a bigger part of life than it should be. If we don’t handle it well, we’re considered “non-compliant”, or worse. And that’s without any outside influences like stress at home or in our careers.

In addition to a constantly vacationing pancreas, we go through these internal struggles too, all the time, every day.

This is my diabetes.

This is my diabetes.



This is the most recent infusion set I used to pump insulin into my body. You know, the thing I need to do 24 hours a day, every day, or else I die.

When you inject insulin, either by syringe or by insulin pump, you run the risk of drawing some blood out at the same time. It’s just part of the landscape. You learn to live with the possibility of blood coming out while you’re trying to get insulin into your body.

If you’ve never lived with diabetes… imagine pulling an infusion set from your body and small (and sometimes, large) amounts of blood comes from the site. Imagine having to pull a set early because you can see that blood is on the outer portion of the adhesive used to hold the cannula (the small plastic tube that winds up inside your body, through which insulin is pumped) in place.

Then imagine the idea that this will happen many times if you’re lucky enough to live many years with this condition.

This is my diabetes.


This is the site on my leg where that infusion set was placed. I took this photo within five minutes after pulling the set. My leg will look like this for a couple of days, at least. I need to be careful not to use that site again for as long as I can, because the scarring that has gone on under the skin could keep me from being able to pump insulin through that spot for some time. If I overuse that site, repeated scarring could make it impossible to pump insulin through there permanently.

If you’ve never lived with diabetes… imagine looking at a site like that after three days (or less). Imagine knowing you’ll have another site just like it to look at in three more days (or less). Do the math and imagine how many of these wounds you’d willingly give yourself over the years just to keep from dying.


This is my Dexcom sensor site after two weeks. The sensor sits under the skin and measures glucose in the interstitial fluid between your skin and your blood vessels.

After about a week or so, the adhesive around the sensor starts to pull away from the skin. To continue to hold the sensor in place, I add something called KT tape. It’s the tape you see beach volleyball players wear. It’s flexible and stays in place and is fairly water resistant.

Using the tape allows me to get an extra week or two worth of wear from a sensor. Sensors are expensive, and they’re just one of the many things we’re required to purchase if we want to manage our diabetes as well as possible.

If you’ve never lived with diabetes… imagine getting out the tape every couple of weeks and carefully cutting a hole (hopefully better than the one above) and even more carefully placing the tape over the sensor, placing it so it will hold the sensor and surrounding adhesive in place for a little while longer, so you can afford to purchase something else you really need.

This is my diabetes.

The crazy thing about all of this is that I’m one of the lucky ones living with this disease. I actually have access to an insulin pump and supplies, a continuous glucose monitor, and other tools of diabetes management.

But I’ll never outlive the scars. I’ll never get a chance to rest. There will always be one more thing that needs attention. Every day of my life. It is never ending.

This is my diabetes.

Prickless.

No, this is not a story about removing the president of the United States from office.

Instead, this is about something I did recently.

I went a full day without doing any fingersticks. Twice.

I got the idea when a Dexcom sensor ended, and I still had about four days left in my trial of the Freestyle Libre (Disclosure: Abbott paid for the reader and two sensors. Opinions are my own).

At first, I wasn’t sure about only wearing a CGM that I didn’t have a lot of experience with. But during the trial, it had been pretty reliable. Then I thought, “the Libre doesn’t require fingersticks, even for calibration… what if someone didn’t want to do one?”. So I spent an entire day, a Sunday, not using my meter even once.

Then, once I got through a day using only the Libre, I knew I had to do the same thing with my Dexcom G5. The Dexcom only requires fingersticks for calibration, so in theory at least, after calibration, I could go quite a long time managing my diabetes with only the Dex. Dexcom’s turn came earlier this week.

I don’t know a single person using either of these systems who ever actually does this. I’m sure there are, but I haven’t seen anything about it anywhere. How was my experience?

In a word, I was terrified. When you rely on pricking your finger with a sharp (okay, blunt) object multiple times per day for years on end, drawing blood and using that blood to give you a handle on your diabetes, you get used to it enough to rely on it first. For me, my meter is my truth teller.

Occasionally, my CGM will give me a weird reading I just can’t believe. When it does, it’s important, even comforting, to know that I can grab my meter and trust what it tells me. But the thing is… more often than ever before, even in these moments, the meter and the CGM are very close.

I didn’t have any notable moments during the two days. No big highs, no major lows. I just lived my life, checking my BGs only via my CGM display. Managing insulin dosing and carb intake accordingly. Out of sheer instinct, I took out the meter a couple of times each day, nearly checked, but then put it back in the drawer with a laugh.

Since things worked so well over these two days, you may be wondering if I might want to ditch the meter entirely. The answer is No. As I said, when it comes to blood sugar, I’ve come to rely on my meter as the one bastion of truth above all others.

But… I could see backing off on glucose checks in my future. Maybe I won’t check seven to ten times each day. Maybe four or five, or even three or four might do the job. Maybe it’s time to think of my CGM as more than just an emergency alert system.

What this experience has done is give me the feeling that I can step back and reassess whether I need to give my continuous glucose monitor more of a place at my diabetes table. I would have never guessed that I might do that. I’ll still keep my meter handy. But going forward, I’ll be just as likely to rely on my CGM.

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