Needles are a big part of having diabetes. It’s the emotional side of it all that people seem to talk about being difficult or painful, but you can’t forget about the needles.
- 66,000 finger tests.
- 9,808 insulin injections.
- 1,185 set changes.
- 714 sensor changes.
- 50 blood tests/IVs.
- 16 flu jabs.
- 4 minor operations.
- 3 major operations.
- A multitude of other scans, procedures and tests.
That’s 77,700 needles. Not including the set changes that went wrong, the extra injection of insulin to help a high blood sugar come down. 77,700 needle because of 1 missing pancreas.
As a diabetic, you get asked a lot of questions. For instance:
“Can you eat that?”
“Did you eat too much sugar?”
“Is it contagious?”
When they see your pump – “What is that?”
All of these questions generally come from people you’ve only just met, strangers to the world of type 1. They’re innocent questions that you can explain and that person will walk away knowing more about your condition.
But there is one question that is asked by everyone. Not just the newcomers to your life but your friends, family and loved ones.
“Does it hurt?”
“No,” I say. “I’ve had so many needles that it doesn’t hurt anymore. I can barely feel it at all.”
I’ve grown accustomed to just automatically repeating those exact words! Every time I’m asked, (which is quite frequently) I say my line, I smile and that’s the end of the conversation. But I’m lying.
No, it doesn’t always hurt. It’s also not the worst pain in the world. But type 1 diabetics are not immune to pain. Just because I don’t have a functioning pancreas, or a pancreas at all, it doesn’t mean I have suddenly lost all sensation in my skin, which is why it frustrates me when I’m asked that question.
It hurts. Type 1 diabetes is not only emotionally difficult, it is also physically painful with all the needles.
It’s only a tiny aspect but worth mentioning anyway, I always feel the needle when I prick my finger. That’ll probably be a surprise to most but it’s true, after it is still a needle, however small!
Set changes, sensors, insulin injections – yes, they hurt. Everybody says “Oh it’s fine! I don’t really feel it!”, myself included. I don’t know about anyone else, but I know I’m not being truthful.
It’s a needle. Going into your skin. Sometimes for a short length of time. No, it’s not agony. Yes, all pain is relative. Of course I will get set changes that are fine and I barely feel, but they don’t weigh out the other type. And that makes putting a needle in yourself really, incredibly hard. You know you’ll feel it go in, it will hurt, sometimes a little, sometimes moderately and occasionally severely. But you have to press the button anyway. And you do! You press that button without barely a hesitation because you’ve done it so many times that you just don’t have the time to care about it hurting anymore.
Last but not least, blood tests. IV insertions. Everyone whose had one or the other knows how much they hurt. Whether you’re diabetic or not! I might be sat there smiling and chatting with the nurse, even pointing out a couple of previously good blood test spots (because trust me you get to know where your good veins are and where you prefer them sticking the damn needles over time), but they really, really do hurt. As I said before, all pain is relative and there will always be a worse amount of or type of pain, but needles being shoved into your veins are pretty darn painful (and sets and sensors are a doddle in comparison)!
But, you do it. You do all of it. You put up with all the needles and all the hurting, because you just have to. I don’t spend a whole day dreading a set change, I don’t get all nervous before a blood test. I don’t even know if all of this hurting but ignoring thing is the same for other diabetics, I’ve never asked anyone if they think it hurts. But as a result, personally I’ve found that when a non diabetic tells me about a needle they had or will need, I do often think – really? You had that one bad blood test? I’ve had hundreds. Or you’re panicking about a flu jab in 3 weeks’ time? Pfft. Diabetics aren’t the best people to go to for sympathy with needles because usually I’ll have had the same experience or worse multiple times, but I do try. Because I know what it’s like. Way too well.
So don’t ask me if it hurts. The answer is yes. But I won’t tell you that because I’ve gotten used to dealing with it now and I don’t want your pity. So my answer is no, because I can cope with it.
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