Got questions about navigating life with diabetes? You came to the right place! Welcome to our weekly advice column, Ask D'Mine, where veteran T1D and diabetes author Wil Dubois answers all the questions you may not know who else to ask.

This week, Wil's confronting that never-ending issue of what to do with all those leftover diabetes supplies.

{Got your own questions? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}

 

 

Jennifer, type 1 from Connecticut, writes:My spring cleaning binge hit the rocks when I got to my diabetes closet. The crazy clean genes I inherited from my mother ran head-on into my Diabetes Squirrel nature, which requires me to save any and all diabetes acorns for unexpected cold spells, if you know what I mean. What the heck should I do about all these surplus D-supplies I’ll probably never use? Throwing them out seems a sin, but some are actually expired, so I can’t donate them to one of those send-to-Africa type charities. And what about those diabetes cook books my friends keep giving me that I never open? Any advice to give me, Wil?  

Wil@Ask D’Mine answers: I know what you mean about saving diabetes acorns for unexpected cold spells. Anyone who’s been in this game for any length of time has been screwed over by their health insurance more than once, leaving them without the supplies they need to thrive and survive. Sometimes it’s only for a few days, sometimes it’s for a few weeks. But other times it’s months, or longer. You never know when a supply cold snap will turn into a full-fledged ice age, so most of us feel more secure with a healthy inventory of supplies.

Which begs the question: Do you even need to clean out that healthy inventory of D-supplies? Not necessarily, but you should definitely organize it. I was aghast a couple of years ago to find some boxes of expired test strips in our diabetes closet. I felt awful about it. I mean, there are people out there in desperate need of strips, and I just let some die on the shelf?

That probably was a sin.

So organizational item number one is: Keep supplies that expire in a separate place in your closet and rotate your stock as new supplies come in. That simply means placing the newest stuff at the bottom of the pile so that the supplies on the top are the oldest and get used up first. 

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Oh. Right. But everything expires doesn’t it? Even canned beer and petroleum jelly have expiration dates nowadays. Well, what I’m talking about here is stuff that really expires. Like test strips, CGM sensors, and liquid medicines. As an aside, you should know that medications that come in pill form are practically eternal, as are plastic medical supplies such as infusion sets and the like.

But of course, at some point, your cache of eternal supplies will exceed any need you’re likely to develop for them. There are only so many lancing needles you will need in your life, even if you suffer a health insurance ice age. And there’s another category of supplies that you should pass on to others quickly, or pitch if you miss the boat, and that’s support equipment and supplies for an insulin pump model that you no longer use. Trust me, these are things you really don’t need anymore. Of course, I’m not the best role model for my advice here, because I still have a few boxes of CoZmo pump cartridges. I doubt that there’s a CoZmo pump left pumping on the planet. I think advocate Scott Johnson wore the last one until it dissolved into dust and duct tape residue, so I should really dump those, but I got a bigger closet instead. Clearly, I don’t have any of those crazy clean genes you got from your mother. 

Still, I can pretty much guarantee that whatever you have and no longer need—beyond CoZmo stuff—someone else out there needs and wants, and they don’t care if it’s “expired.” So how do you find that person? How do you pass on excess inventory and/or realistically un-needed inventory to others—especially items that are “expired” and can’t be given to charity even though they’re still perfectly good? Well, this is where social media is perhaps the best thing that ever happened to people with diabetes, especially we type 1s who are geographically dispersed as a tribe simply because we're more rare. With social media, it’s easy to put the word out about what you have.

For example, I had a very cold start to the year. My health insurance company and Dexcom got into some sort of a pissing match over a new contract and I was left in limbo without CGM supplies. I was fine on sensors, as I was rockin’ G5s and doubling down on them, but my transmitter picked that particular time to crap out, so I was CGM-less and one unhappy little squirrel. I put the word out that I was in trouble, and a fellow PWD (person with diabetes) was able to provide me with a transmitter.

I’ll pay that forward in the future. Actually, I paid it forward in the past, so maybe it was just my turn to cash in. It’s organic but it works, although sometimes I wish someone would create a master D-supplies exchange site where we could barter more efficiently. 

Oh. Speaking of barter, a word of warning. Don’t try to monetize your excess inventory that you paid so dearly for. I learned that the hard way, nearly being banned for life from eBay. In dire financial circumstances a few years ago, I decided to list some excess pump supplies for sale on eBay. As soon as they were listed, the auction caught on fire! Bids were really racking up. I was thrilled. I’d get some much-needed cold hard cash, and folks who needed the supplies and clearly didn’t have insurance would get what they needed for a price they could afford. Everyone would win.

Everyone, that is, except big Pharma.

Those Big Guys knew how to protect their interests and market dominance. Suddenly, the auction giant pulled the plug on my listing and sent me a stern warning. Apparently, I was trying to sell a prescription product. Which is true, but it’s not like I was hawking oxytocin, it’s just plastic. But it’s prescription plastic. Even though I paid for it, I didn’t really own it. My garage sale was a black market as far as eBay and the Feds were concerned. 

So much for recouping some lost dollars. But at least I was able to add “Back Marketeer” to my Banned Book Author resume, so there’s that. 

Now, moving on to the cook books, that’s another matter. I know for many people ditching a gift seems somehow wrong, but I disagree. Hey, gift giving is hard work, and it’s easy as the giver to get it wrong. As the receiver you have no obligation to the giver other than to be grateful for the thought, be kind, and recognize the good intent, even if the gift itself is a major flop.

So what to do with an unwanted book? As an author, I can’t stand the thought of a book being thrown away. Now that is a sin. In fact, I’m quite sure that while throwing away some old CoZmo sets isn’t really a sin, throwing away a book is absolutely a sin, one that will land you in Dante’s Ninth Ring of Hell -- unless of course it’s a really bad book that should never have been written in the first place. Then you only end up in the Sixth Circle, where people who abandon puppies on the roadside go.

Luckily for you, however, it’s much easier to find a home for an unwanted book than an unwanted puppy. Just take that pile of books to your doc’s waiting room. Or wherever it is that you get your hair cut, get your oil changed, or any other place where people need to sit and wait on others. Or drop them in one of those neighborhood "Little Free Library" book exchange boxes. Trust me, PWDs are everywhere. And that cook book you never cracked open may just be packed full of ideas someone else needs.

So instead of spring cleaning, do a spring organizing of your diabetes closet. And organize anything you don’t need anymore straight into someone else’s diabetes closet, using the power of social media as your dust mop and vacuum.

 

This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. Bottom Line: You still need the guidance and care of a licensed medical professional.