Cover Up or Let It All Hang Out?

WooHOO! Just one more month (from Thursday) and I’ll be cruising. One of the things I’ve been mulling over is how much (prosthetic) leg to show. If any.


Then I remembered: It’s a Disney ship. Captain Hook is in the house. So I bought a pair of capris.

It seems to be easier to let others know about your difficulties when there’s somebody else in the same boat (so to speak). Yes, I know Captain Hook is missing a hand and I’m missing a leg. I’m also aware he’s a fictitious character. Close enough: He’s just like me, only different.

Back in the day, I hid my diabetes paraphernalia and, I suppose, my diabetes along with it when I was out and about. I would check my glucose under the table at restaurants. I’d duck into a stall in the ladies’ room to give myself an injection. And worry that a platoon of cops would burst in and arrest me for doing drugs. Which never happened.

One evening when I was out at a friend’s birthday dinner, I went to the ladies’ to give myself an injection. The food was being brought to the table when I excused myself, so I was in a hurry to get back. When I got to the bathroom, the stalls were full. There was nothing to do but shoot up out in the open area of the room.

I shot through my (denim) dress. The needle bent. Since I tended to load up the syringe before I left the house, it was all the insulin I had on me. I muttered a few words I’d learned from my father the US Navy veteran and straightened out the needle as best I could, unbuttoned my dress, and plunged the needle in…causing a woman standing there to chuckle. Turns out she was a nurse.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I told myself. But, then, a nurse was accustomed to seeing hypodermic syringes plunging into flesh.

Shortly thereafter, I was having lunch with a friend. Although it’s been many years, I can still remember the restaurant, the table, the lace curtains at the windows, and that she was wearing a forest green corduroy dress.

Did she surreptitiously remove a preloaded syringe from her purse and discretely give herself an injection under the table? Heck, no! She took out a vial of insulin and a syringe, stuck the needle in the vial and held them both up in the air while she drew up her dose. Onlookers be darned. Oh, yeah. This was a person who held a very visible position in town.

That was it. That was when I came out of the closet. Well, except for around one friend. I didn’t want to watch him faint. To be honest, however, I don’t believe many — if any — people notice what you’re doing. They’re too busy doing their own thing.

Well, there was one time I allegedly made ’em look. I had my insulin pump in my bra (because it was the only pocket I had, OK?) and was trying to find it to give myself my lunch bolus. My hand was down the front of my shirt, searching, searching… Finally, the friend I was having lunch with said, “I hope you have something in there because everybody’s staring at you.”

There is only one time when I pay attention to others, and that’s when I’m attending a diabetes program that includes a meal. I at least check out the other people at my table and, perhaps, the adjoining ones. To this day, I’ve never seen anybody else check their glucose, even after I very visibly check mine.

Why is that? I mean, people have just been attending meetings that stress the importance of good blood glucose control, which includes checking before at least some meals. And you’d think they’d follow suit if they saw somebody else doing so. It’s a puzzlement.

Although, I’ll admit to having my reasons why I didn’t want anybody to see me check, including being self-conscious about it, afraid I wasn’t doing it right, and who knows what else. It was a long time ago. I’ve found that the older I get, the less I care about what others think. I like being older.

Nowadays, I have a continuous glucose monitor, which involves pushing a button instead of inducing a blood sacrifice. Still, if I’m with a person who checks the “old-fashioned” way I will, too, in hopes that it will make some kind of an impact. Besides, it creates a feeling of solidarity and — oh, yeah — lets me check to see if my continuous monitor is on track.

I also have an insulin pump, which involves pushing a button to give myself insulin. But if I’m with somebody who uses a syringe…I use my pump anyway.

As far as my Symlin pen goes, I have mixed feelings. Pens are handy, but you have to leave them in for a count of 10 after injecting while the pressure inside the cartridge readjusts itself. Otherwise, you might not get the full dose. (Same with insulin pens, by the way.) I don’t mind injecting myself in public, but haven’t yet decided how I feel about holding a pen for 10 seconds or so before removing it.

I mean, do you think that looks weird, or do you believe nobody is paying attention?

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  • jim snell

    Holy Hannah Jan – what a column and what a question.

    In my junior high years in small farming town in interior of BC we were all taking a test in large gymnasim when vice principle was holding a student by the ear and stating very loudly – move and I will rip your ear off.

    Where we paying attention – you bet and immediately it was 3 monkies time – see no evil, hear no evil etc.

    In this day and age of anything goes and Miss Manners under full house arrest, I suspect chance of discerning a reaction/paying attention will be unlikely unless someone is doing live exhibit of Har-Hari or humand ritual sacrafices ripping out hearts/chopping heads off, the likely response is 3 monkies and feign inattention/care.

  • Martha Olsley

    Hey Jan, I have been through many of the episodes that you mentioned in my 53 years of living with Type 1. I remember at one of my first pump support groups that it seemed like people either weren’t testing or weren’t doing bolus doses the way I had just learned. Now I know we are all different. Anyway, I definitely got my laugh for the day since I often store my pump in my bra.

  • Maria

    I’ve tried the pump in bra things but it looks like I have three breasts and one of them is square. Talk about stares! How do you do it?

  • Marlene Whitby

    What fun your cruise will be! I had a great time on the one I took. I did have a couple of moments of angst. I knew unlimited buffets could prove more than I could handle so I was determined to keep up my exercising and was on the track early every morning for cardio. First 2 days fine, I was smug thinking how well I was doing. Along came day 3 with everything seemingly smooth. I get to the ladies’ room and do my post exercise blood sugar testing to find I’m at 79. I wasn’t overly concerned as I was heading directly for food. I called my husband to let him know what was up, took a glucose tablet and headed out the door to the breakfast area. Twenty minutes later I come to in a chair in the hallway with a friend of mine holding an empty bottle of juice that she had just had me drink! sure didn’t see that one coming! Over 50 years with this disease and I still find myself surprised on occasion. I shoot up whenever and wherever. For me, enough light is the biggest issue. So if there’s enough light, it’s generally a go! Take advantage of everything Disney has to offer. Do take a warm jacket or sweats with you. I’ve had friends who were surprised by cold spells! Wear those capris and enjoy!

  • joyce

    A few years ago while on a cruise ship I was getting ready for my breakfast, and I pulled out my pump to bolus. The lady at the next table asked ” “You get a signal out here!?!? What kind of phone is that? ”
    I chuckled and figured it was time to explain what an insulin pump was.
    I have had many times when people ask about my pump when I am dining out, and about 1/2 of the people who ask are diabetics or have a family member who is diabetic and they have never seen someone with a pump in person.
    Enjoy your cruise, and make sure you get a photo with Captain hook!

  • jim snell

    Most gratifying to see the ladies have place to park insulin pump.

    As male and non transvestite cross dresser; little applies to me,

    have great day and good luck with new leg

  • Linda M.

    Jim is right—what a column! Great news for you to be looking forward to the cruise. I wouldn’t worry a bit about if others notice your leg. I think you can explain it very well by telling any kids you are trying to be like Captain Hook, just with your leg. Wear the capris if it’s warm enough but be sure to take some clothes for cooler weather also. And also doubt anyone noticing your checking glucose/injecting. If they do, then there’s a good time to educate them. A good way to make some friends who are interested in learning about health problems.

    A story for you. I had a friend many years ago who had a very rare blood disease and had to have a permanent port with plastic tubing for injections. Her Mom had to inject heparin every few hours. They planned a trip to the beach because she loved the ocean and loved to sunbathe. She wanted to wear a bikini and asked her doctor if if would be OK–he said yes, it was fine, just not to get out in the ocean above her waist so the port wouldn’t be contaminated. She wondered what people would think about the port and tubing. I told her not to worry about it–let them look and tell them if they asked. She went to the beach w/bikini and had came home just bursting with happiness over the trip. She did very well for a good while after the trip, then went downhill. That was her last trip to the beach. The point is to live each day as if it were your last and do what you feel like doing. Wear your capris–or your shorts or bikini if you want. Just enjoy your cruise and laugh as much as you can.