San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
Not Yet on Needles or Pens
I went to my insulin management class this morning. It lasted 90 minutes and was an eye opener. The instructor, a certified diabetes educator, surprised me when she said that my recent experiment to try lowering my blood sugar averages with stepped-up exercise and a low-carb diet was producing good results.
Her verdict: “Keep working on lowering your figures and hold off taking insulin until you see if you can maintain control without it.”
I wasn’t expecting that kind of response. I thought that once I showed up for the class, I would be automatically enrolled in the Legion of Type 2s Who Must Take Insulin Forever and Ever.
Not so. She explained that insulin is something you take as long as you need to gain control over your blood sugars. If you’re able to stabilize them without insulin, great. You go off it until whenever you need it again.
Even better, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Everybody has a different sensitivity to and need for the drug. Some people can take tiny daily doses and control their sugars, while others may need much larger doses. But given how easy the syringes she showed us work, I don’t see how larger doses would involve more than taking a few extra seconds to complete the process.
There were two of us in the class, and we both practiced injecting ourselves with small doses of saline solution. If I were a pagan, I’d be bowing right now to the gods who make modern syringe needles. Shooting myself was absolutely painless. There was not even a pinch or slight burn plunging the needle in. Compared to pricking my fingers to take a blood sugar reading, this was a cakewalk.
As we talked, we discussed how at some point the drugs we all start on—metformin, sulfonylureas like glipizide, DPP-4s, GLP-1s—lose their clout. They can work well for a long time, even years, but at some point our bodies become indifferent to them.
So the best eye opener of all was the realization that after “slogging through the medications” since 2003, my reluctance at finally having to seriously consider insulin was misguided. Because here, at last, is the one drug that works powerfully well and that the body always respond to. The hardest thing I can foresee about it will be learning how to fine-tune its presence in my life.
It was also a pleasure to learn that at this point in my life with diabetes, insulin would be a once-a-day thing. Knowing that injecting it is neither painful nor time-consuming, there’s really little left for me to be wary about.
Though I now know how to fix and take an insulin dose, I’m still going to hold off on starting it as long as there’s a reasonable prospect of getting along without it. But if and when I do start injecting insulin, I’ll have shed the idea that taking it is some sort of failure, or that my life will undergo some terrible disruption.
Learn and live.