At this point in my diabetic career, there’s not much about living with diabetes that embarrasses me. I’m happy to pull my pump out of my cleavage at a dinner party, or excuse myself from a meeting to drink an emergency coke — even wipe the residual blood from my fingers all over the cloth of my test kit.
But there’s a certain self-consciousness that overcomes me when I realize I’ve been mindlessly scratching the hell out of a sensor that’s taped to my upper arm — or worse, my side-butt.
From afar, my Minimed CGM could easily be mistaken for a symptom of a communicable disease. It bulges out beneath t-shirts and pants (depending on where it is), and is just about the size and shape of a cyst or enormous bug bite. And when I’m reaching my hand up a sleeve or down a neckline to claw at that bulge, I can only imagine what onlookers must think. It’s bad enough that some people look at my pump and see a phone; do others look at my CGM transmitter and see a tumor?
The degree of adhesive-induced itch varies, but it’s always there. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a tickle; a reminder that I’ve got thousands of dollars of high-tech devices clipped, taped and tubed to my person. Other times, it’s enough to cut short a relationship with that rare, super-accurate sensor. Just last week, I parted with a near-perfect sensor after just four days. I couldn’t take the itch any longer.
Not long after I started wearing the CGM (and all of the accompanying tape and liquid adhesive stuff), I stopped by my dermatologists’ office for an unrelated visit. I showed her the rash from the sensor I’d just removed, and she gasped audibly. “Wow,” she said. “That’s really going to kill your skin.” (I’m not sure if that was an official diagnosis, but it didn’t make me feel better.) She sent me off with a tube of Aquaphor, which has proven miraculous for soothing the post-rip-off itch. I’ve yet to find a remedy for the irritation that begins before the very first calibration.
In the grand scheme of all things diabetes, it’s not that much to freak out about. But it’s one more little thing to add to all the other little things: another little mystery to try to figure out; another little issue to explain away or apologize for.
Most of the time I’m incredibly grateful for the constant stream of information my CGM provides. But sometimes, I think I’d rather have scabies.