What’s in Your Purse/Handbag? Diabetes Supplies and More….

My sister and I used to laugh about our “high maintenance” handbags. We could never go anywhere without a bag full of diabetes supplies, and I think it only got worse with motherhood. Even after I realized I didn’t need to carry diapers and wipes with me everywhere I went, I could never scale back in size. Today I look at my friends with envy as they effortlessly sling their slim bags over their shoulder, or carry their cute clutches under their arms while my straps dig into my shoulder.

I blame it all on diabetes.

While some of the things in my bag are not related to diabetes, what makes my bag big are the following:

Test Strips.

Glucose Tabs.

Glucose Monitor.

Finger Pricker (Lancet).

Omnipod Remote Control.

Almonds (for a low carb snack).




Pens…lots of pens. I hate to be without a pen when I need it.

Without the diabetes stuff I might be a more low maintenance kind of girl carrying a cute clutch, but instead, I’ll always be a big bag girl.




Hypoglycemia Unawareness and shaking hands

I remember when I was diagnosed in 1985 at 14 years old my doctor told me that I could tell I was low when my hands were shaking. “You won’t be able to use that forever, but for now, when your hands start to shake, get some sugar. Eat a candy bar,” he said.

Wow. Candy was medicine and I could predict the weather of my body by studying my limbs. I looked at my hands then, held them out in front of my face in a straight line, as if I was a mime, and squinted. Were my hands steady or were they shaking?

I got into the habit of staring at my hands, much in the same way my classmates checked their watches to see how much time was left before class was over. I’d hold them up when I felt funny-forget pricking my finger, at 14 years old I hated blood-and if I could read my sugars by the shaking in my hands, why would I subject myself to pain? I began to almost hope for shaking hands because it was my excuse to eat skittles or starbursts or sugar babies (do they even make those anymore?). But I was also afraid. I was afraid that the shaking would stop and then how would I know I was low?

You have to understand to a 14 year old girl, testing my blood sugar was  something I did maybe 2x a day. 3x at the most. I depended on the shaking to offer me clues about what was going on inside this suddenly unpredictable, alien body of mine. And of course the shaking did stop. I don’t remember when, but I remember having to guess at other bodily signals.

Yawning was one. Yawning for no reason-in the middle of the day when I wasn’t tired and I began to realize that this was another clue.

Blurry vision was another. For example, when I was sitting in class and staring at the board, no matter how hard I rubbed my eyes the words wouldn’t come clear. These were signals, and I had to pay close attention to my body because if I didn’t, if I ignored those signals because I was too busy and didn’t want to stop whatever I was doing to eat candy, I was in trouble.

I don’t trust my body’s signals anymore. I’ve had diabetes for 26 years and now, if I want to know what my blood sugar is I prick my finger. The tips of my fingers are hard and calloused and proof that my body can no longer communicate with me. I don’t think I have Hypoglycemia Unawareness (people who are unable to recognize a low blood sugar), but sometimes I just don’t notice. That’s why I test at least 10 times a day. That’s why I need better coverage from my insurance. That’s why companies like Lifescan need to figure out a way to make test strips more affordable. Because it’s scary not knowing.

Why My Wardrobe is Limited by Diabetes

My parents always told me that diabetes was not going to hold me back from doing what my friends were doing, and I believed them. Their can do attitude shaped the way I faced my life with chronic illness. I took on a lot of challenges and had a lot of adventures that looking back, I can’t imagine doing now 26 years later! And now, as a 41 year old woman, most of the time (especially now that I am wearing the Omnipod) diabetes still doesn’t hold me back, except when it comes to buying clothes. Damn that big pod!

I had to return a dress the other day, a gorgeous, sleeveless, chocolate brown dress that would have been comfortable and perfect for running around town and going to art walks this spring, because it didn’t work with my omnipod.

I’d been admiring the dress for weeks, maybe even longer, and after the holidays, when I saw the tell-tale “Sale” sign go up in the window of one of my favorite boutiques, I hurried in, hoping to find the dress on sale. And it was! Almost 50% off! I was so excited I bought it without trying it on and stuck in my closet at home, waiting for the next art walk to come around.

The next art walk came around 2 weeks later and when I pulled out the dress and slipped it on my pump stood out through the thin, body hugging material like a brick. This was not an empire waist kind of dress, this was a hip hugging dress, the kind that made me look like I had hips and actually, with the pump made me look like I had some kind of deformed hips. Not cool. I could have worn the dress with the pump on my arm if, and only if, I was willing to wear a wrap to cover my arms. The pump would have been obvious on my legs too…there was no place to hide so sadly (and feeling guilty and making up excuses about it not fitting right), I returned the dress.

I constantly struggle to accept the visibility of wearing the pump, after living “invisibally” with diabetes for most of my life. I want to wear my pump with pride because I am not ashamed of having diabetes (and because it makes my life so much easier!) but still. I can’t help being vain and the pump looks funny. Plain and simple. It can be disguised, especially in the winter, with sweaters and under jackets, but I live in the south and winter doesn’t last long. I’ve written before about my desire to get over my vanity, especially during swim suit season, but I’d like to meet someone who doesn’t feel self conscious walking down the beach with the pump stuck on your body.

I’m thankful that my parents instilled in me that understanding that diabetes wasn’t going to define or hold me back and maybe one day I’ll get over this self consciousness, but for now, I will remember to try clothes on before I take them home. Until Omnipod comes up with a smaller design that is….come on already!