May 4, 2005

Safety and self-worth

Recently this blog has received some anonymous commentary that gives me pause because it reinforces—not merely empathizes with—anxieties I’ve expressed here about body image. I hate to be unaffirming, as such remarks are quite possibly the genuine writings of people in need of support, and I want this blog to be all about support. But I will not be engaging in dialogue with anonymous posters whose contributions aren’t constructive in some way.

The anonymous comment quoted below falls into a different category. It bears discussion because this writer and anyone who follows her practice IS PUTTING HER LIFE AT RISK:

“Everytime I get in a new realtionship I am so terriofied of exposing my pump. I end up ripping out my infusion set and sacraficing my health. Total self image thing. It is a love/hate relationship with the pump.”

No, no, no. Please do not do this. This is a recipe for DKA, which any person with diabetes should know CAN AND DOES KILL. If you remove your infusion set, have sex with someone who doesn’t even know you depend on a medical device for your very life, and then doze off, you could find yourself 6 hours later in need of emergency medical treatment. And unable to get it because you’re exhausted and ill (or already in a coma) and the person lying next to you has no idea you're even diabetic.

This practice is not only dangerous, it’s entirely unnecessary. You can safely disconnect for a romantic day/weekend/whatever if you return to a regimen of injections that includes basal insulin. (I infer that this poster does not do so because she refers to jeopardizing her health.) This regimen could be in the form of Lantus + short-acting insulin, or multiple shots of short-acting insulin. The key is to work with your diabetes team to determine such a regimen.

All my very heartfelt concerns about intimacy and body image notwithstanding, I would never, ever, ever place myself at risk by compromising my diabetes care in the way this poster describes. Indeed, if you’re engaging in intimacy with a person you don’t know well enough to trust with the sight and experience of your pump, you’re placing your life at risk in another way—by becoming physically vulnerable to an essentially unknown partner. And we all deserve better self care than that.


  1. While a person is not defined by diabetes, they are affected by it. And playing by the rules is essential to a productive and healthy life. Friends, family, and lovers need to know about your diabetes. Because they're just that: your friends, your family, and your lover. They are who you will need in any kind of diabetic crisis. How can they fetch you juice if they don't know you need it? How can you let yourself truly love them if you feel like you have to hide? People will not freak out about the pump. Especially new romanctic relationships. They want you. They want all of you. That includes infusion sets, glucose meters, and all the other acoutremounts. Knowing what you require to survive is Power. And that Power is Beautiful.

  2. I want to emphasis that I agree with you 100%!

    Your commenter needs to read and to listen to the guy who has written "He's just not into you."

    He was on Oprah last week and brought up something SO SO important. You should never be intimate with a guy that you want to "keep", sooner than 2 months. He said if you do, then the relationship is all about sex, and guys can't get past that.

    Before you ever get to that point, you need to be in a relationship with someone who knows you and cares about you and knows about your issues. The pump is NOT a big deal nor is diabetes.

    My husband accepts my pump 100%, and doesn't think of it as a big deal. I do disconnect when we are intimate, mainly because it is one more thing to deal with and gets in the way. But I do keep it on the rest of the time.

  3. Great comments, thanks K and K. Kerri, love the notion that Power is Beautiful.

    Realistically, I think, yeah, there actually are some potential partners out there who would be turned off by the pump. They're the exact same people who are having sex just for the sake of sex. If an act of sex is just about the externals, then no, a pump isn't the ideal seductive tool! But I would echo Kathleen's contention that anyone who cares for another person on a truly intimate level isn't going to be swayed by the pump or by diabetes.

  4. I definitely agree with you both. On the concept that a friend or lover won't be "swayed by the pump," I agree completely. Being healthy and feeling good is sexy. So, by transitive qualities, being on the pump is sexy. That doesn't mean that the hardware itself is attractive -- I mean, let's face it, wires and machinery aren't exactly a turn on -- but there is something to be said about a woman who respects herself and her body enough to make those superficial sacrifices.

    Healthy is sexy.

    Power is beautiful.

    Maybe this is my mantra now...