Thankful for the Bubble
Coming to the understanding that not everyone understands.
By Kerri Sparling
June 2008 — I wore a brown dress from Anne Taylor. It was sleeveless and had a pretty neckline, perfect for showing off my necklace. It was flowing and cotton and just right for a hot summer day in New York City.
My husband and I were heading to Radio City Music Hall to see Eddie Izzard perform, and I was so excited for our night out.
Walking towards the entrance, I felt this strange feeling, like someone was watching me. I turned around and saw two women talking behind their hands, gesturing towards my shoulder. They looked like they had just stepped in something disagreeable and their noses were wrinkled.
I realized they were staring at me. At the Dexcom sensor I was wearing on my arm.
For the last few months, I have been experimenting with wearing a continuous glucose monitoring system to help me tighten up my diabetes control. Now that my wedding is behind me, motherhood is ahead. Even though my husband and I are not planning to have children for another year or so, I'm already thinking about preparing my body for baby. The Dexcom system proved to be my CGM of choice, so I've been wearing the sensors sporadically as I muck through the insurance coverage process.
Getting insurance to cover a CGM device is a process altogether. Insurance companies most often don't want to cover these devices, deeming them "not medically necessary." Letters of medical necessity are written, claims are denied, and the cycle continues – with the patient paying out of pocket for these expenses if they chose to move forward with making them part of their management plan. Adding insult to injury, the devices and their sensor counterparts are not cheap and they are not small.
However, for my health and the health of my future child, I've decided to use one to protect me from chronic highs and sneaky, devastatingly low blood sugars. Using a CGM is an expensive, sometimes uncomfortable, and occasionally frustrating decision. But I'm trying to make the best decisions for my diabetes life.
And these women were staring at my arm, looking at me like I was some kind of freak.
I tried to shake it off. I shot them a pointed look to let them know I noticed their stares, squared my shoulders, and continued to walk into the building.
"What is it, Kerri?"
"Nothing. Actually, those ladies outside were burning holes in the back of my arm with their stares. But whatever."
We moved through the lobby, pushing past throngs of people. But as we passed, I noticed that more and more people were staring. A man tapped his wife on the shoulder and pointed, then they both made a disagreeable face. Another woman laughed and gestured at me. And one man said to his friend, "What the f@*% does that girl have on her arm? That is disgusting."
My face was hot and I felt so angry. Don't these people know that I'm trying to be healthy? I'm not doing this so they can stare and point. I'm not happy that this device is attracting their stares. I just want a healthy body, and eventually, a healthy baby.
"Did you hear that guy? He said I was disgusting." I was furious, my face flushed with rage. "They just stared at me and made faces and didn't their mother tell them not to stare, I mean really!" I was rambling. I was mad. How dare they make me feel stupid for making this decision? How dare they point and laugh and make me feel like less of a person for choosing this device?
Then my high horse came galloping to a stop. I forget how good I have it sometimes. I forget that my husband completely accepts and understands all aspects of diabetes. I forget that my friends and family do, too. I also forget that my office culture is one of diabetes education and empowerment.
I forget that my world understands, but outside of my bubble, people aren't familiar with this technology. They don't see a woman who is taking care of herself. Instead, they see a girl in a brown dress who had a black box stuck to the back of her arm with a white circle of gauze. They stared because they didn't understand. Because they don't have to understand.
In one swift moment, I was thankful for my bubble. And I was thankful for having access to a whole community of people who understand. This realization quieted my anger and made me care less about the looks I was getting.
We sat down in our seats and the woman next to me took a quick glance at my arm. I smiled at her. She smiled back.
"Diabetes," I said, gesturing towards the Dexcom and offering another grin. "It's for my diabetes."
She leaned in and turned up her hearing aid. "Diabetes? My nephew's wife has diabetes. Haven't they come a long way with all that technology? It's amazing."
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.
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