When something unexpected happens adjustments are necessary. Sometimes an entire revamp needs to happen. Other times the slightest shift in a new direction is all it takes to find your footing again.
My diagnosis took me by surprise and threw me for a loop. It forced me to reimagine my post-secondary plans and that left me flattened. Then my attempts to raise my spirits through advocacy were grounded, never once given the chance to take flight.
The moment I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes came a strong desire to help. To use this new found position of mine to do some good. No scientist, I could not continue the amazing work of my cousin, but as a passionate writer with the ability to articulate in front of large crowds I could surely be of use…right?
For years doors slammed in my face. Until I finally stopped knocking. After a negative encounter in an online T1D forum, I completely withdrew from the community.
And resigned myself to going it alone. With no need for comradery.
And that was crippling. I mean, here I am related to the man who co-discovered insulin now diagnosed with the very illness/disease in need of that drug. He was a great man, he did great things. And here I was, seemingly destined for a life of solitude, isolated from the community I so desperately wanted and needed to be part of. A community I wanted to help.
After years of suffering from needle phobia, my mental and physical health were done tolerating the vicious cycle of injections and anxiety attacks. I was nearing complete burn out on every level. And I had no more reserves.
My life with diabetes took another turn in 2018 when I finally switched from MDI to an insulin pump. Instantly, and without question, my life improved. And it continues to grow and evolve (mostly) positively.
All thanks to a tiny little pod.
We make choices. Those choices create paths. Paths we walk.
I have always had an aversion to needles. I look away whenever I get a shot or have bloodwork done, I can’t watch other people give or take an injection. It makes me sweat. It makes me nauseous.
So you can imagine my horror when the doctor slid the needle across his desk, alongside a vial of insulin, and told me to inject myself or I would die.
For years people laughed it off, they didn’t believe me. Needle phobia isn’t really a thing! They couldn’t believe me…”but you have all those tattoos, you have such a high tolerance for pain, you’re a Type 1 and you inject yourself multiple times a day!”
But needle phobia IS a thing.
And I was eventually diagnosed, by a psychologist, in a hospital.
But a diagnosis isn’t a cure. Regular therapy isn’t a cure. Relearning behaviour and coping mechanisms did not eliminate my fear.
And I’m talking a real, deep down fear – like being terrorized by your own mind and, well, when it comes to self terrorization of the mental kind, I know all about that…
I was thankful for the diagnosis. It gave me more solid ground to walk on, because while it was in my mind it wasn’t in my mind. And that meant a lot. But it didn’t mean I would get back all the time I had lost nor would it stop me from watching more sands slip through the hourglass.
(Another) Diagnosis in hand, I made the decision to move forward, to carry on as I had been. And I did. For several more years.
I think I always knew I would end up on the Omnipod System. It’s tubeless design was so seductive. In fact, it was the only pump company booth I visited on my first-ever pump info night, many years ago.
Before my pump plans were derailed, and I was left disappointed and unmotivated, thanks to some missed tests and overlooked opportunities during a dance with the big C.
When the time came around again, and I was in a more receptive position, I once more explored the Omnipod. And I was 98% sold, but there were some lingering worries that I couldn’t shake. No matter how much I read or Googled.
Attending Slipstream 2018 forever changed my path. Not just diabetically speaking, though it all really does stem from there, doesn’t it? There I was one of a handful (literally, I think there were 5 of us) not on an insulin pump. It was such an eye-opening moment for me, and provided the opportunity to ask questions.
And I asked a lot of people a lot of questions. One camper even graciously offered to let me watch him do a pod change in the middle of the lodge! And the Omnipod rep (what a gem!) was a wealth of information, and another path changer…
Returning home from that first-ever diabetes camp experience was unlike anything I had previously experienced. The very next day I was due at my clinic for an appointment. I had made a decision too. I was going to transition to an insulin pump. And it was going to be that tubeless wonder, the Omnipod.
The journey to Pumpdom had been initiated.
And for once this gal – the one who resides in the grey zone – was excited. Sure, there was the usual excessive dose of worry and anxiety, but little bits of excitement too.
Things went off without a hitch! Phew! My first few months with Otis were incredible. Luxurious even. I had gained so much time and freedom of mind. I no longer had anxiety attacks when it came time to administer my insulin. I no longer skipped doses or missed chunks of the day, panicking in the bathroom.
I no longer had my mind consumed.
I quite literally got back a part of my life I thought to be lost forever.
I have stayed in touch with that lovely human, the rep who gave me so much of her time that weekend, and was thrilled to report my triumphant transition from terrified MDI-er to proud Podder. Later on she got in touch and told me there was someone interested in meeting with me. Someone, in the company, who was excited about my connection to Banting.
Wait, what? I couldn’t believe it. After all these years, countless letters and messages sent to various organizations, and it was an insulin pump company who saw value in my connection to that incredible man.
I met up with and had several (email) chats with that person. She was certain that my story had value. And not just my family ties, but my (an adult living with T1D who transitioned to a pump after decades on MDI) story. I was offered the opportunity to team up with Omnipod and I jumped at the chance.
They were genuinely interested in using my successful transition to help other people. That’s right, I was finally going to have the opportunity to use my voice, my experience to help people. I couldn’t believe it.
And the disbelief just kept on coming. Like when I got the call regarding Barcelona. They wanted to me to represent Canada and share my story. At their International Sales Meeting Kick Off. Things unfolded quickly and the next thing I knew I was on my first-ever flight to Europe, with a chance to finally make a difference in the community.
Now, I’m no dumb cluck. And I know there are folks that see an alliance with a big company as shady business. But I don’t. Especially when that company wholeheartedly aims to make people’s lives better. When that company offers a product that made MY life better.
Yes, I know. Those companies make a lot of money. It’s the pharmaceutical industry. I totally get that. But I also feel it was an opportunity to help them continue to help people living with Type 1 Diabetes, and the chance for me to put myself out there…
Like I said, sharing my story, my struggles and experiences, is my end goal. I want people to know that there is another way to manage your T1D. Especially if they suffer with needle phobia and anxiety like I do.
Because no one deserves to lose time like I did. Because no one deserves to have their life completely upended by the very thing meant to make their life better. Because everyone should have the chance to be more present in their life.
Especially those employed full-time (in addition to all other life things and employment) as a stand in pancreas, managing an illness like Type 1 Diabetes.
Those who know me know it is in my nature to help. Those who really know me know that I want to make a difference in the Type 1 Community and end the stigma surrounding mental illness. And they all know how difficult making that trip was for me.
Those who don’t know me criticized my attendance in Barcelona. They accused me of teaming up with Big Pharma. And told me I should be ashamed of myself. Especially given my family history.
Unfortunately for them, I have a relatively thick skin, great support system, and previous experience with online (and real life) bullies.
When you are reliant on a machine (a product) to help administer your life-sustaining drug, you form an intensely intimate bond with it. Even if you do not realize you have. There is a connection (both literally and figuratively).
And deciding to have something attached to your body at all times is not an easy hurdle to hoist yourself over, trust me. Even if it will fulfill the promise of improving your life.
So, yeah. I fucking love my Omnipod.
And I will tell anyone who will listen!
I am no longer tortured by injections 5-6 times a day. Now, I get three whole days of worry-free insulin delivery. And pod changes are a breeze!
I have the freedom to move my body doing yoga (doing anything!), to talk wildly with my hands, play with my kid, dance around my kitchen while cooking up a storm, be intensely creative, be intimate with my husband, and swim/bathe without disconnecting (the idea of which caused me serious anxiety!).
I can do my life unencumbered by tubes.
I take better care of myself, and have better management, because of the mental freedom Omnipod offers me. My insulin pump saved me from a major episode of diabetes burn out. And likely from a lot worse too. I am forever grateful.
My name is Rebecca, I have had Type 1 Diabetes since 1999, I am Frederick Banting’s cousin and I have been a Podder since November 26, 2018.