I don’t want people to feel sorry for me because I have diabetes

Photo of a man reading (PantherMedia / Robert Byron)

Harold, 49 years old

Being able to fine-tune my therapy is especially important to me. That’s why I feel an insulin pump is the best option for me.

I was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago. I was 34 at the time. I had noticed that I often felt lethargic, tired and thirsty, which bothered me. So I went to see my doctor and asked him to find out what was wrong. The priority for me was to stop feeling so tired.

My doctor discovered that I had very high blood sugar levels and sent me straight to the hospital, where I was examined in the internal medicine ward. They confirmed my doctor’s findings and tried to stabilize my blood sugar levels. They told me that my pancreas was pretty much dead and that I would have to inject insulin. The diabetologist who treated me was very understanding and explained things very clearly to me.

The doctor managed to calm my fears

I had always had a fear of needles. That was my main problem at the time. The doctors gave me an insulin pen right away. It worked out really well. The doctor managed to calm my fears, which was really important for me.

My diabetes has changed over time and I now have high blood sugar levels in the early hours of the morning. To manage this problem better, I followed my doctors’ advice and switched to using an insulin pump. My blood sugar levels are now well controlled with the insulin from the pump. The good thing about the pump is that it can be very finely tuned according to your needs. It releases a steady supply of insulin throughout the day, almost like in people who don’t have diabetes. Depending on what I eat, I sometimes pump more insulin. It allows me to be completely flexible.

First of all I was trained in how to use the pump. It took me two days just to figure out the pump device itself, without even looking at how to adjust the insulin delivery. I always want to know how a device and its technology work. A pump has to be reliable – that is an absolute must.

My pump has a clip. I usually clip it to my shirt under my arm. But there are other options. With the right pump accessories you can wear it almost anywhere on your body. I personally find it most comfortable under my arm. Life is really easy with this pump. It tells you everything, like if the battery is empty or the insulin is running out. It warns you if no more insulin is being pumped. I can take the pump off when I take a shower or go in the sauna. It’s not a problem at all, and it makes life easier. It’s very easy to forget to use insulin pens sometimes. Being able to fine-tune my therapy is especially important to me. That’s why I feel an insulin pump is the best option for me. Although, having said that, I used a pen for years and that was great too.

I do get a bit nervous when my pump warns me that the battery is low. Experience has shown me that I then have about 24 hours to change them. Then I change the batteries. I always carry batteries on me. Every night before going to sleep I also check how much insulin is still in the pump.

Some of the signs are pretty clear to me

I notice that I have low blood sugar because I tend to get shaky hands, break out in a cold sweat and feel pretty restless. I hardly ever fail to notice it myself. But if I don't notice it, other people point it out, and say things like "You're looking pretty pale! Do you need sugar?" I don’t necessarily notice when I have high blood sugar. If it’s very high I tend to feel tired, thirsty and listless.

After my diagnosis there was a lot I had to learn about nutrition. This was also a big concern for my wife, who was afraid of doing things wrong when cooking for me. We then tried to find as much information as possible, through self-help, we bought books and kitchen scales... I wanted to find out the basics about food, like what amount of rice or potatoes is equal to one carbohydrate unit. We then used the kitchen scales to practice and get a better feel for it.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I can do everything a person without diabetes can. You just have to get to know your own body and how it reacts to physical exertion, like gardening or vacuum cleaning. That’s something I also had to find out for myself.

Some people are very sensitive to pain. I use a lancing device to measure my blood sugar levels. I usually prick my finger, others prefer to prick their ear lobes. Pricking your finger on a thorn hurts more. You can adjust the pressure of the lancing device depending on how sensitive you are to pain. You have to find that out for yourself.

A friend of mine also has to take insulin. At first, if she was in a restaurant she always used to go to the bathroom to measure her blood sugar and take insulin. But I never saw any reason to do that. I normally just ask if anyone has a problem with seeing blood. If not, I just measure my blood sugar at the table, which normally takes about 30 seconds with my device.

I'm not missing out on anything

I can do whatever I want to in life. I wouldn’t say that I am missing out on anything. If I used an insulin pen then I could always take a back-up when I go on holiday. But what would happen if my pump stopped working? I always make sure that I have disposable syringes with me just in case. And I could always start using the pen again too.

Understanding nutrition and knowing my body well is very important. And preventive measures shouldn't be forgotten either. It's essential that I can talk to my doctor about everything. After all, it’s my body, my future, and my life.

Life isn’t always pleasant, but at the end of the day it’s worth living, and I would like to carry on enjoying it for as long as possible.


Acknowledgment

Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.