This Friday night, I was lucky enough to spend the evening meeting the lovely Philippa and Liz, along with some other great T1’s. I’d got chatting to Philippa over Twitter after we both realised we’d be attending the DUK Professional Conference in March together, and she kindly invited me to pop along to a ‘London Pumpers’ meet-up evening that’s held every few months (I’ll link to the website with more details about this below as everyone was SO lovely, and it was a great chance to meet some T1 faces). Gladly agreeing, I nervously (!) approached a table of around a dozen people (luckily all the blood sugar meters scattered over the table helped point me in the right direction…), plucked up the courage to ask if Philippa was around – and that was that!
I haven’t met many other Type 1’s over the years, so being at a table full of us was a bit surreal at first – it was almost strange for me at first to see other people test their blood sugars before eating – but mainly is was just really, really nice. Even, for example, just being able to complain that my blood sugar was sitting at 17mmol/l after HORRIFICALLY over-treating my hypo earlier (opps) without people looking at me like I’m speaking another language – or frankly just without the standard ‘oh wow that’s high isn’t that bad why did you get it so wrong?’ kind of response – was just REALLY really nice.
But what I realised as I was walking home that evening, and was feeling pretty damn thankful for – was truly how important peer support is. Now I’ll admit straight up – the idea of an insulin pump has never really been a popular one for me. As a teenage girl who didn’t really want diabetes, and frankly didn’t really want other people focusing on my diabetes, I think it’s fair to say that the thought of having my disease physically attached to me, on show to the world in the form of a plastic box, wasn’t one I embraced over the last few years.
But, now on the verge of turning 25, and finally caring more now about my long-term wellbeing than giving a crap about being asking ‘what’s that attached to your stomach?’, I’m starting to come round to the idea of an insulin pump – the problem is, I just don’t know that much about it. Queue the experts – the real-life pumpers.
I spent over an hour tonight chatting to a table full of pumpers all about pumping – and I asked them EVERYTHING. And they told me EVERYTHING. What is a suspended bolus? How can the pump help my dawn phenomenon? What is a SUPER bolus (true story – that’s a real thing!)? What types of pumps are there? And of course – the more practical issues that I worry about whenever I think about life with a pump – like where do you hold it (the bra seems like a stellar option ladies – I’m digging that)? How do you sleep with it? How do you sleep with someone ELSE with it (come on – we’ve all wondered about it, don’t be shy)? What pump site is your favourite?
We covered it all. Every question, worry or misconception I’d had before was answered, corrected and reassured by a pump-pro, and suddenly, the idea of a pump didn’t seem so scary – because suddenly, I wasn’t doing it alone. Meeting people going through the same ride as you is important in any aspect of life, but when you’re making a decision that will realistically change your daily routine and lifestyle for the rest of your life in a way that other people probably just won’t ‘get’, I think peer support like this is vital. Sure – you can Google pumps, chat to you diabetic nurse, ask your family for their thoughts – and that’s all very important and great – but they’re not the ones who’ve gotta take this new piece of kit and try and turn it into a fully functioning pancreas – every day. For the rest of their life. By themselves. And actually – at first thought, that’s pretty daunting.
Chatting to other T1’s has been one of the best changes I’ve made to my health this year. Whether through Instagram, Twitter, or meet-ups like this – I’ve learnt LOADS. More than ever, in fact, and feel so much more positive about T1D compared to myself this time a year ago. After chatting to all the pumpers, I’ve come away feeling that when the day comes and I do want to try a pump – that’ll it be OK – maybe it’ll even be great. Yes, it will be a big change, and yes it’ll take a lot of work, patience, and probably frustration when it doesn’t ‘do what I want it to’ straight away – but it will be OK. And although having something attached to me will be different at first, Philippa gave me a great analogy – moving to a pump is like wearing glasses. Yeh, it’s a bit strange at first, and it takes a while to get used to – but once you’ve had glasses for a while, they’re just glasses – they’re normal, you don’t even notice them. What a great way to put it. I think when the day comes, me and my new glasses will be just fine.
The ‘London Pump Club’, is run by Input Diabetes, and meet up every 3 months in a bar for a meal, a couple of drinks, and a general catch-up – take a look at the link below. Input is a fantastic charity which aims to help anyone who could benefit from insulin pump therapy, and to increase access through the NHS for those who need it. Honestly – they’re really great. If you’re interested in learning more about insulin pumps, or feel like you’re struggling to get access to one, have a look at their website – it’s full of advice, tips and info all about it.