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Finding Confidence: Not Letting Diabetes Hold Me Back

I tend to play it safe a lot. But lately, I’ve been trying new things and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

It’s not because of some new-found motivation or inspiration, nor is it because I’m trying to prove something to myself. It’s for my son. I strive to be the best dad I can be, which means not letting diabetes hold me back, and not allowing myself to use diabetes as an excuse.

It started even before he was born. The reality set in that, before I can take care of someone else, I need to take better care of myself. That’s when I finally put years of excuses aside, and decided to give insulin pump therapy a try.

Now, my son turning eight years-old this month, he’s turned into quite the athletic type. On the soccer field in the summer and hockey rink in the winter, he’s always looking to play and get Dad (me) involved. We’ve had street-hockey shootout competitions in the driveway, and one-on-one soccer matches in the backyard.

I’d expected that’s where my athletic participation would end. I’m hardly the athletic type, and the exercise would cause my blood sugars to drop, predictably, every time. Though I hated to have to call time-out during the father-son scrimmage so I could recover, I was OK with doing it if I needed to.

But when our town recreation soccer program was short on coaches, I felt an obligation to step-up. The thought of chasing after a bunch of elementary-school kids (teaching a sport that I’m no good at) for an hour terrified me. Still, I took the required training and jumped through all the legal and logistical hoops to become a certified township recreational sports coach. Over time, I developed a routine where I would get my blood sugar to a comfortable level before running out on the field, with my temporary basal [1] and CGM at my left hip and my tube of glucose tablets in my right pocket (meter on the sidelines). Somehow, I made it through the season with no ill effects – I even impressed myself!

My son is also involved in our county’s youth ice hockey league. His coaches from last year moved up (with their own kids) to the next age-group, leaving vacancies at the “Mites” (age 8 and under) level, where my son still plays. I’d played a bit of beginner “D-league” hockey in my 20s, but was far from a strong player and miles away from being a strong teacher. But my son and the team needed someone, so I threw my hat in the ring. This was a much more arduous process, but I am now certified by USA Hockey (the same entity that oversees our nation’s Olympic teams) to coach Mites hockey.

This year, I built a backyard ice rink for my son. Building it was much more difficult than I had anticipated, and the entire project probably earned me a total of 50 glucose tablets. Every time I go out there with him, it seems it’s another four or five.

I’m trying. I’m getting more exercise than ever before – especially considering that it’s wintertime. I’m (still) learning how to better use temporary basals and my pump’s predictive alerts [2]. Though I haven’t managed to avoid lows altogether, they don’t come on so suddenly and without warning.

But still, I’m having tons of fun through it all.

I’m also becoming so much more confident. More confident in venturing into athletic pursuits; more confident in my DIY “handyman” work around the house; and more confident in teaching young, impressionable kids. And perhaps most importantly, I’m not letting diabetes hold me back from trying new things than I once was.

Sure, diabetes gets in the way sometimes. I can be caught dumping a partial tube of glucose tabs in my mouth while on-ice for practice. One time, I had my ungloved hand checking on a vibrating pump as an errant pass came my way. Extending my other arm to stop it led to a comedic, not to mention slightly embarrassing, fall flat on my butt.

Having young ones at home has forced me to face my fears head-on, whether diabetes-related or otherwise. The key take-away from all of these experiences is this: I find that worrying about these commitments and possibilities is a lot harder than actually dealing with them. The largest obstacle isn’t in my lazy pancreas or in my uncoordinated muscles – it’s in my mind. And I’m learning if I can get over that initial hump and get started, I know I can finish.

I’m learning that confidence isn’t about one particular part of life. It’s about a holistic outlook on life, and over the past few months, I’ve gained confidence in so many ways:

Maybe someday, a child-athlete or a parent will see me with my diabetes paraphernalia and recognize its striking similarity to the child’s own gear. Maybe I’ll be allowed the privilege to talk to the family and instill some confidence into the next generation of people living with diabetes.

To tell the truth, while it was my son who gave me a reason to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, it was a video [4] of (now-retired) National Hockey League player and insulin pumper Toby Peterson that gave me the inspiration.

When I opened my own mind and overcame my inhibitions, I surprised myself with what I could do.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

– Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.

– Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps

– Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day.

– Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems

– The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment.

– Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.

For more information, please visit http://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/important-safety-information [5].