Sticking Point: Getting to the Tip of the Problem

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After I bought my first blood glucose meter, it took me a week to get up the nerve to stick my finger. Years of having medical professionals drive a lancet halfway through my finger when they stuck me did not bring back happy memories.

But I found out that doing my own was better. So much better, in fact, that it took me more than a decade after I started checking my own blood glucose to let anybody else stick my finger. After all, I do carry a “stabber” with me.

On the other hand, checking my blood glucose several times a day initially led to more pain than having somebody else drive a spear…er, lancet…through my finger.

Take the drawers in my kitchen, for example. They don’t have knobs. I think there’s an indentation on the bottom, but I generally just put my fingers on the top of the drawer front and pull back to open.

After several weeks of checking my blood glucose, however, I stopped doing that. It hurt! Traumatizing my fingertips several times a day was not something they liked. I knew I needed to check my blood glucose levels, but dreaded sticking myself.

I got over that years ago, however. Why? Continuing to stick myself eventually toughened up my fingertips so that it doesn’t hurt any more. The only thing I can liken it to is breast-feeding a baby. Shortly after I started breast-feeding, it hurt like the dickens. However, I gritted my teeth and kept on doing it because it was good for the baby—and the pain ceased after a while.

It’s kind of the same thing with sticking your fingers: The pain will cease; you just won’t have a baby to make it worth (ahem) sticking it out.

Home blood glucose checking has given us the freedom to live “normal” lives. Before that, people on insulin were forced to eat certain quantities at certain times and take static amounts of insulin. Insulin dosing was based on whatever your fasting blood glucose was when you went to the doctor every three months or so. Home testing consisted of peeing on a piece of paper—or operating a “chemistry set”—to find out what your blood glucose was three hours or so ago.

Today, we can check our blood glucose, adjust medicines or activity levels to allow for food consumption and high or low blood glucose, and go our merry ways. We can use our meters to see what an unfamiliar food, different activities or activity levels, illness, or other stress factors do to us, and correct out-of-range results. Home monitoring has given us freedom that people with diabetes didn’t have back in the day.

By the time alternate-site testing came around, my fingers were accustomed to being stuck several times a day, so I never tried it. I did, however, submit myself to it at a diabetes conference one year. The person from the meter company rubbed and rubbed and rubbed my arm to get the blood flow going before sticking me. It seemed like a lot of trouble to me.

At least one person I know checks using the tops of his fingers—on the “puffy” area between his first and second knuckles.

I make sure I use the sides of my fingers and I’m picky about my fingers. Just the idea of sticking my index fingers make me shudder, but any of the others are OK, including my thumbs. I like my pinkies best: They bleed better than the others.

Some lancing devices hurt more than others. I like the ones where you can dial a depth and, of those, I prefer the one that has several lancets in a cartridge. That way, I always have a fresh lancet when I want one. No matter which brand of meter I use, I always use the lancing device of my choosing, which isn’t necessarily the one that came with the meter.

I’ve gone from procrastination in the beginning, to getting through the pain, to trying out different lancing devices to find the best one for me, to where I am today: Not giving it a second thought for me, but wondering how in the world all those people out there can walk around not knowing what their blood glucose is! So it’s a bit boring if you don’t have diabetes, but still…

It seems to me that I’m healthier and have more freedom because I can check my own blood glucose levels. I’m glad I stuck with it.

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