Bad Signs of Good Habits

Proper diabetes management may require sharpening of disposal skills.

Kerri SparlingBy

March 2006 — I used to bite my nails. Right down to the proverbial quick, which is an expression I don't entirely understand. (What exactly is "the quick"?) I bit them to the point where it hurt to turn on the shower in the morning because something about that cold metal dial against mangled fingertips gave me a quick shock of pain up my hand. But I quit cold turkey. (Again, another expression that troubles me. I would never quit cold turkey. I find it to be delicious.) I just stopped one day. And now my nails look lovely and clean and painted with a clear polish.

Other habits are a bit tougher to quit. Like not changing my lancet. I'll leave that pokey thing in the harpoonish gun until the point feels like it's grappling on to the tip of my finger when I test. Even then, I might just inspect the lancet tip, give it a wipe down, and continue on. I know other people with diabetes who change their lancets when they change the batteries in their smoke detectors. And then I know some who use a new lancet every time. But I can't stop myself. Despite the horde of lancets I have stashed in my bathroom cabinet, I change that thing every time someone mentions the word "tetanus shot." Bad habit for someone who is told that her risk of infection can be higher than most.

Then there's the test strip issue, in that they are everywhere. Some people with diabetes horde them, stashing them in the drawer of a bedside table. Others are fastidious about throwing them into the garbage.

Me? I leave a trail like breadcrumbs.

If I've ridden in your car more than once, I've definitely left a test strip behind. The floor by my bedside table has at least one skimming around. My boyfriend woke up with one stuck to his face one morning. The curious cat sometimes chews on one for sport. My purse has a thin layer of them in the front pocket. Testing upwards of 12 times per day, I generate a lot of used test strips. I do my best to keep them contained in my testing kit, to be dumped out at the end of each day, but the elusive escapee happens on occasion.

What I need to keep in mind, though it is all such familiar hardware to me, is that my supplies truly are medical waste. They have my blood on them. These needles have been pushed through my skin. The proper disposal of these items is crucial. I see syringes every day, but to have the kitchen garbage ripped open by the neighbor's dog and spot an Ultra-Fine on the front lawn is bona fide medical waste.

Opening the fridge and seeing bottles of insulin stacked as neatly as the eggs in their carton? Normal to me, not so much to others. A coffee can filled with clipped syringes nested underneath the sink next to the Brillo pads? Looks fine to me. Realizing that the irritating little thing in my shoe is actually the extra cap to my infusion set? It's all habitual for me. Caring for my diabetes is woven into the very fabric of my daily life. They are habits that I don't want to quit; habits that I've worked hard to claim. Scattered test strips and stale lancets are just remnants of my attempts to control my diabetes.

Last night at the gym, I had my headphones in and I was working through my 33 minutes (homage to Larry Bird) on the elliptical machine. When I am working out, I am locked and loaded with a water bottle, bottle of juice, magazine, iPod, and glucose meter. It looks like I'm aiming to stay on the elliptical machine for three days. And during the course of my workout, I test pretty often. A thirty- to fifty-minute cardio workout can lend itself to four bloodsugar checks. Usually, I test discretely and then put the used strip back in the black zipper case.

But last night, music blaring in my ear and sweat on my brow, I looked down for a moment to see a small white stick on the floor. My test strip from a night prior. Ew. Did anyone else see it? Could anyone else see this evidence of testing my blood sugar (good habit) but leaving behind the strip (not so good habit)?

I picked it up. The person next to me smiled. He thought I was just being nice, picking up random garbage to keep the gym clean.

I was content to let him think that.

Good thing he hasn't seen my bedside table.
Visit Kerri's website.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 14, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...
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