As I told you on Friday, we went to a wedding over the weekend in Ohio. It took us about 8 hours after getting snarled in traffic in Philly, stopping for lunch, and a couple of other pit stops. If you follow me on Twitter, you likely noticed I entertained myself by tweeting a good portion of the way, which was really nice because my twitter activity has been a little spotty lately. My blog reading has been even more lax, so I tried to read a few blogs, but didn’t make a lot of headway with that because I started feeling a wee queasy.
One of the posts that I caught was Amy’s thoughts on the complications of being a chick and having diabetes. Now, I know there are some things about being a dude and having diabetes that are comparably craptacular. For all of the men who don’t tote a murse of some kind, it amazes me that any guy can keep all of his pre-requisite diabetes supplies in addition to basic necessities like a wallet and keys in nothing more than his pockets. I don’t even like putting my pump in my pocket because I think it looks lumpy, so the idea of cramming my meter, strips, lancing device, candy or glucose tabs, and a pump or pen or insulin bottle with syringe in my pockets is unthinkable. My point though is that I know men have their own set of issues in managing life with diabetes, so it’s not my intention to suggest that’s not the case. I’m not a dude though, so I can only speak about the troubles of being a woman with diabetes with any degree of authority, and as an authority on the matter, Amy’s post elicited lots of nods and that face I make when I agree with an unfortunate and inescapable truth. DiabetesMine is in fact a gold mine of straight talk and encouragement – and accurate accounts of how frustrating life can be with diabetes when you have two X chromosomes.
When we were about an hour from our destination, it suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten to bring a critical undergarment to wear under my dress – a pump accessory. I have several different accessories I use when I wear dresses: a couple of different garter pouches, a leg thing, a couple of thigh things, one of which is beat to heck and I keep meaning to replace. They’ve served me well, and while I hate wearing them, I love wearing my pump enough that I tolerate it. While I don’t wear dresses as often as I did once upon a time, partly because wearing a pump with them is a hassle, I’ve had marginal luck with some other solutions, so I’ve stuck with the pump accessories because they generally work.
When I realized I had left this necessary item at home, my mind started spinning, trying to figure out a solution. It’s not like you can just run to Target and pick up a spare pump garter the way I would if I had forgotten to bring extra underwear or something. Pump accessories are made by small companies. Some of the ones I’ve gotten over the last 5 years are clearly handmade. All have been ordered online. I needed something the very next day, so I was going to have to make do without a garment specifically designed for concealing a pump. Quicker than you can say, “Diabetes sucks,” I whipped out my crackberry and fired up Twitter, Amy’s post ringing oh-too-true, but also holding the key to a possible solution. I’m an authority on being a woman with diabetes, but I’m far from the only one. I have countless DOC female friends who are also authorities, and surely one of them would have a suggestion.
So I tweeted, and the responses started to pile up. Several people suggested I stash it in my bra, which I know is a very popular, easy and common solution for pump-wearing ladies who want a discreet place for their plastic pancreas. If only. I am not, um, gifted in that area. I have stood in front of the full length mirror on numerous occasions, as if performing this ritual would somehow be different from the last time I did it. I’ve tried on bras with and without wires, with spaghetti straps, with wide straps, bras with front hooks, bras with back hooks, pullover bras with no hooks at all, and bras with and without padding. I’ve turned my pump up, down, sideways, frontwards and backwards, on my left side, on my right side, and right in the place where the powers that be didn’t give me cleavage. I either have a mutant rectangular lump under my armpit, or I have a mutant rectangular third boob in the middle of my chest. After much experimenting, I can assure you that the bra trick only works if you are of a certain size, and I am not that size. My chest is what it is. It’s mostly proportionate to the rest of me, and it does have its advantages, or so I convince myself since I don’t have $25K to get bigger ones, but it is not, and will never be an insulin pump depository.
Of course, I initially had no intention of wearing a bra at all because one of those aforementioned advantages of being as I am is that I can get away with such a wardrobe omission. As it turned out, I did end up wearing one because I had one that didn’t peek out from under my dress, and I was worried about being freezing so I was looking for extra layers wherever I could get them. Bra or not though, I needed another solution.
There was the suggestion to make one, but that wasn’t a practical solution as (a) I was in a hotel room in (b) an unfamiliar town with (c) limited time, and (d) not enough skill constructing anything with elastic in it to buy the best materials and make something that would serve its purpose without either cutting off the circulation to my foot or being so loose, I’d end up having to hike it up every time I took a step.
A couple of other friends suggested stockings, one specified thigh highs. Now, I have to say that thigh highs are fabulous for keeping a pump under a dress if they’re the stay-up kind with the rubber strips to keep them in place. As long as they have wide bands (I prefer the ones from Victoria’s Secret, personally), put the pump on your leg under the band, and it should pretty much stay put. Once I did that, and I found it slipping down, but I was walking around in Philly, and it was a warm day so I think the movement and the sweat thwarted me. I have also tucked my pump into the top of control top stockings, to the inside of my hip bone, and that’s been an effective solution too. However, the problem was that I was planning to wear open-toed shoes with my dress, and stockings with open-toed shoes looks funny, so that wasn’t going to work either.
Allison suggested a girdle. At first, I wasn’t warming up to the idea. I knew I was going to have to buy something, but I was looking to do it on the cheap, and girdles can be pricey. I also cringed at the idea of something binding like that around me. However, it was the most feasible of suggestion given the circumstances, so I didn’t dismiss it. I also wondered if I might be able to do something with a ace bandage, so that also got on my list of possible solutions.
We checked into the hotel, chilled for a bit, then went to do some other shopping, and grab dinner before we hit Target, where I figured I’d find something to use, even if it was Allison’s first suggestion of duct tape. The women’s underwear section was our first stop. I was glad to have had Twitter to gather ideas from my lady friends in the DOC, and wished I’d had one or two of them with me as I compared various girdle type garments, and stupidly tried to elicit some opinion or response from Jason who looked at me like I had just started speaking Latin. As I expected, even though we were looking at Target where clothing is affordable, the underthings I was inspecting ran a little more than I wanted to spend for something I would rarely, if ever wear again. Some of them definitely had the look and feel of a straightjacket for one’s crotch, so I decided to keep going and hope for something that suited me better.
We then came across the Assets brand of underthings. I don’t know if the brand is exclusively Target’s, but that’s the only place I’ve ever noticed it. I always laugh to myself when I see it because the double entendre is not lost on me, and I’m not ashamed to say that sometimes I have the sense of humor of a 12-year old. I knew they had more than just regular stockings, so we started looking at them. I pulled one thing off the rack that was footless so would work with my shoes. Since there was an open package already, I took enough of it out to examine the waist, and after pulling on it to determine how constricting it felt, I put it back. It seemed like it would dig right into me and cut me clear in half. Jason asked what size I needed, and when I said I didn’t know, he logically suggested we figure that out, find one that was the right size, and then I could more accurately determine if it was going to meet my needs. He couldn’t offer much of an opinion about which product might work, but at least he could look through the racks to find the style and size I wanted.
I finally opted for one that more or less fit like bike shorts, sitting lower on the waist than the first style I’d pulled from the rack, and going down to mid-thigh or so. I wasn’t feeling so confident though having spent too much money on undergarments that ended up being enormous failures in the past, so after grabbing a couple of other things, we stopped to pick up an ace bandage before heading to the cashier. Once back in the hotel room, I took out the article of clothing to inspect all of its unsexy glory, and then give it a trial run. There’s nothing quite as ungraceful, or ironically enough, unladylike as putting on stockings, despite what you may have observed in movies or on TV, but I got it on, fussed to untwist it and get it in place. I slid the pump into the left leg, and walked around the room to see if it felt like it was going to budge, and it seemed completely stable. I sat down to see if it was going to cut into me, and it wasn’t too binding, so I stood up, and declared it the official solution.
Saturday, I wore it without any issues, even when we danced. It was actually easier to get to it than it would have been had I worn one of my pump garters, which is what I had intended to bring with me to wear. Although in the end, hiking up a dress and reaching up between one’s legs to grab a pump always looks pretty questionable. Overall, I was happy with it. I don’t think I’d wear it unless I was without any other options if it were a hot day, which is when I actually prefer to wear dresses, but on a day that’s only slightly warm or even cool, as it was Saturday, it totally worked. Now, if only they’d make test strip bottles a little less bulky so I wouldn’t have to play Tetris to cram my diabetes stuff into my evening bag with my lipstick.
Amy, I’m so on the same page with you. Having diabetes when you’re a girl is awfully complicated.