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Strip!

Eric Lagergren

April 14, 2011

Blood glucose test strips are a wonderful thing, until they’re not. Maybe you love your strips. Maybe you long for more strips. Maybe you see them, use them, and feel a sense of calm, knowing that good or bad, your strips provide you with necessary information to help you manage your illness.

Right now, though, I don’t like my strips.

Oh, I admit they’re fantastic, a groundbreaking medical invention for those of us with diabetes. Strips provide us snapshots of our blood glucose readings at any particular moment. Too high? Too low? You don’t really know for sure unless you check. And if you use a test strip prior to eating or drinking anything with carbohydrates, it’s so much easier to make an informed decision about your insulin bolus.

Test-strip technology is another positive: it just keeps getting better all the time. Used to be it took a huge drop of blood to set the strips off on their calculating way, and then you’d have to wait forever, like, more than five seconds, for your blood glucose reading to appear. These days a less-than-pinhead-sized drop (if you could even call it a drop) and the strip is happy, which makes the meter happy, which makes me happy.

Usually.

I’ve come to realize that my test strips annoy me. There’s nothing terribly rational about these feelings toward my strips — and I’m sure I’ll come around and enjoy their company again soon — it’s just that, well, they’ve taken on a life of their own.

I’m well aware that a good diabetes self-management routine relies on these little, plastic, electronic strips. I know I’m fortunate, because when it comes to the cost of test strips (which can be around a dollar per strip), my supplies are fully covered by my medical insurance. The thing is, test strips — my used test strips — are everywhere, and despite the innumerable daily reminders, apart from blood glucose test strips, that I live with an incurable chronic illness, it’s the test strips — those innocuous, tapered tabs with a spot of blood on them — that have become an unwelcome reminder that I have an illness, a reminder when I don’t want to be pulled back from whatever it is I’m doing to make me say, “Oh, yes. That’s from you. It’s because you have diabetes.”

If you have diabetes, and if you monitor more than a couple of times a day (and unless you’re meticulous in your disposal of your strips), then do I really need to go into what I mean by used test strips being everywhere? Do I need to list where I find them, describe how annoying they can be when I turn on the light in the laundry room and there are two or three on the floor, rectangular insects who’ve come into the open to die in the night? Should I describe how frustrating it is to try and pick one up off of the floor, in my office, a strip that didn’t make it to the trash can. I can’t get a purchase on it. My fingers fumble. It just sits there, fast to its home, me without fingernails enough to get a hold.

There’s the vacuum attachment they get stuck in. There’s the sheets on the bed they get caught between (and in the morning, the parts of exposed skin they stick to). There’s the garden where I find them, the driveway cracks where they lurk, the front porch crevices they creep into, the spot at the curb where we set out our trash bins.

My work bag? My office desk? My car’s footwells, cup holders, and seat cracks? Yes, yes, yes.

And many more places than these, yes.



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