Health — December 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Keeping Life Sweet: A Series on Getting Healthy with Diabetes, Part 5

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This is the 3rd installment in a 6-part series by Staff Writer, Maegan Carrasquillo, on living with diabetes.

The final phase of this journey to a healthier me was to start transitioning toward using a Constant Glucose Monitor (CGM). A CGM is a small device that can test blood sugar levels frequently without the need to prick a finger. The CGM model I have can be worn for a week at a time and sends blood sugar readings to my insulin pump every five minutes.

It works on a three-part system, using a sensor that you insert beneath your skin that tests the amount of glucose in the fluid found around your cells, or interstitial fluid in doctor speak. The sensor then sends the results to the receiver (my insulin pump) by way of the transmitter. The transmitter is a small device attached above where the sensor is located and wirelessly sends information from the sensor to my insulin pump.

A wonderful thing about using a CGM is that after a period of about a month or so, I can set it to auto-mode, so it uses the information from my blood sugar readings to deliver or inhibit insulin as needed. This feature is a life saver for those who’ve had diabetes for a long time, as the awareness of low blood sugar decreases with time.

I wanted to employ my CGM toward the beginning of this year, but it required user training that I found it difficult to schedule. Once I finally was trained a new problem arose; I was too nervous to get started. The thought of having to insert another device into my skin scared me and made me feel like I was more machine than human. In August, after a week with a couple extreme low blood sugars, the need became clear, so I pushed past my insecurities and started using the CGM.

As with most things there were pros and cons. I loved having so much information at my fingertips and found that since my CGM only needed to be changed weekly, it wouldn’t be as much of a hassle as changing my insulin pump site every three days. I didn’t love that it needed to be calibrated regularly, meaning I still had to test my blood sugar at times to ensure the sensor numbers were close to those off my glucose monitor.

It also has an alarm feature that will sound to make you aware of low or high blood sugar readings. Though I theoretically liked the idea of being alerted before my levels got too high or low, it was much more of an annoyance in reality. And you know what they say about knowing too much? Another unexpected issue I found with constantly knowing my blood sugar levels was it created an overcompensation nightmare. If my pump level was at 320 (high), I would correct it by giving myself insulin without really thinking about how much I might already have in use. With slightly low readings I would take a preemptive drink of juice before it got too low but would forget to check it again so my blood sugar would increase an hour or so later because I didn’t keep an eye on it.

This was my life for two weeks using the CGM before I put everything on hold for a friend’s wedding with thoughts of alarms going off when the officiant asks to speak now or forever hold your peace. Once I returned, I decided to take a longer break from the CGM until I felt fully ready for the system. Now that it has been a few months I’ve put the CGM back on and I’ve been using it for a little over a month. I’m still not ready for auto mode but I’m learning to adjust the alerts and not over correct when I see blood sugar levels that aren’t perfect. I’m pretty sure that just like me, this process will be a work in progress, so I invite you to please continue to follow my journey and see how it all unfolds at the end of the one-year mark in January of 2020.

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. None of the information presented is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. This is a personal account and individual experiences may vary. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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