Many people with diabetes who have ditched multiple daily injections in exchange for an insulin pump regret not doing so sooner. Ask them why they didn’t, and arguably the most common answer has something to do with vanity. Still, while many might feel overjoyed by their optimum blood sugar control, they’re not in love with their new appendage and may struggle with self-image as a result.
“I had a woman whispering to me about her insulin pump,” said Catherine Schuller, recalling a recent Divabetic event where she offered diabetic women fashion and style tips. “She was so embarrassed. She was wearing big fleece jogging pants and a big fleece pullover. She looked like she belonged in Alaska. I told her she had a beautiful hourglass shape, and she welled up and said ‘I don’t even think about the fact that I have a beautiful body anymore.'”
Creative fashion and myriad techniques for wearing a pump can change one’s perspective. And sometimes, the issue is more practical than psychological. Several products from pump companies and third party retailers (such as Pump Wear) are designed to conveniently hide a pump or simply dress it up.
“I don’t like when the pump is exposed,” writes Kerri Morrone Sparling on Six Until Me. “Not that it’s something I consider to be shameful…but I don’t want tubing and pump bulges as part of my daily look. I always tuck the tubing away, and I keep the pump as tucked away as possible.”
Products such as the “Leg Cuff” from MiniMed help Sparling achieve the look that makes her feel confident. She uses a little of her own creativity and sewing skills, too. She writes: “I add a little internal pocket just as swiftly as I hem the pants before I wear them. (I’m sort of short, so the hemming was just as necessary a skill to learn as pocket creating.)”
When clothes aren’t part of the equation, feeling confident and sexy with an insulin pump can be challenging. In another post, Sparling has written about how she makes diabetes take a back seat in the bedroom: “I wear my infusion set on my thigh specifically to keep it out of my way – away from the waistbands of pants and skirts, away from the abdominal muscles I am working furiously to uncover, and away from my fiancé’s hugging arms. … I feel sexier when my infusion set is safely adhered, working flawlessly, and out of my sight.
She continues: “Sure, there have been awkward moments where I’ve felt self-conscious about my ‘hardware.’ I’ve also felt self-conscious about my fingernails-it all depends on how the proverbial wind is blowing. Sex is a normal part of my life. So is diabetes.”