Last month I blogged about personally trying out James' continuous glucose monitoring system in order to better learn its quirks and so that I could harness its potential as a tool. What an instructive experience! While I learned a lot about interstitial signal (ISIG) and sensor insertion angles, it also gave me a window into diabetes that I really hadn't had before. I feel like I "get it" better than I have previously. There were a couple of really awesome lessons.
First, testing hurts. I knew that it smarted when the finger was pricked, but sometimes I'd have a stick that I could still feel hours later. Kids with type 1 who are reading, I salute you. You are brave, and I'm a wimp. I hope this is one of those things where the pain decreases over time! An interesting side note: Despite the pain of testing, I was so interested in comparing my blood sugar to the reading the sensor gave that I found myself testing a LOT. So despite the pain, the experiment was so very fascinating.
Second, the sensor insertion DIDN'T hurt nearly as much as I had supposed. Maybe because I have plenty of fat (whereas James really does not!). I did the insertion on myself without numbing cream, and it was pretty undetectable throughout the day. On the other hand, I found carrying the device around with me to be very inconvenient. I kept forgetting my receiver in the other room and coming back to find that my readings were lost. I'm sure that in some ways, this is one of those "you get used to it" issues, but it was instructive to me, a person without type 1 diabetes, to realize how dependent my James is on devices, meters, strips, etc., and what it feels like to carry them around.
Finally, my biggest lesson was really about guilt and numbers. Remember, I don't have diabetes (either type) right now, so really, all my blood sugar readings were in range. The sensor proved that my body's ability to manage insulin (via my own functioning pancreas) is really fantastic. That said, when I found that two hours after eating pizza I was elevated above 120, I felt guilty. I felt like, "If only I hadn't had that pizza I would still be sub 100." Aside from my total lack of understanding about how blood sugar for a person without diabetes should be after a large and very carb-heavy meal (I really have no training or experience there), where are these feelings coming from?
I've always tried to say, both to myself and to James, that blood sugar readings are just diagnostic tools to help make good decisions about care. I suppose my guilty feelings were upsetting because it made me wonder if I really believed that. I felt like I did. I'm an expert at running down a list of reasons why a number might be out of range -- growth spurt, excitement, impending illness, physical activity, etc. -- and absolving myself of any personal responsibility. Yet here, I felt worried, concerned that even though my numbers weren't bad, they could be better, and like I was somehow failing.
How can I keep James from feeling guilty about his numbers? How can I adequately express to him that numbers are never "bad" or "good" but simply informative, if I don't in my heart of hearts truly believe it? I think as a mom I'm just starting to come to terms with a truth in diabetes management that is difficult to understand.
Click here for part two of my eye-opening CGM experience...
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.