Last month, I clicked over eighteen years of wearing an insulin pump. Every day in those 18 years – that’s over 6,500 days – there has been a cannula inserted into the skin on my stomach, sides or thighs. And for pretty much all of those days, a pump has been housed down my bra. (When I first started pumping I used to wear it on my waistband, but tired of the attention that drew so shoved it away. Out of others’ sight; out of others’ minds.)

Add to that there is the CGM I have worn on and off for the last eleven or so years – and for the last five, it’s been there pretty much every day. Oh – and about 18 months ago, a RileyLink also became a permanent fixture, also shoved down my bra. It’s an out-and-out diabetes tech party down there.

So you would think that after all this time, it is no big deal seeing, feeling, or acknowledging these devices and how they are housed on this body of mine. You would expect that I would be completely and utterly accepting of the devices by now, and how to accommodate them on my body.

And yet, I’m not.

Now, I need to say that I love my diabetes technology. I understand that it makes my life with diabetes much easier. I also understand – and never forget for a moment – just how lucky I am to have it. I absolutely wouldn’t be without it and I know that for me it is the best possible way to manage my own diabetes.

But thinking for a moment that I forget that I’m wearing these devices is wrong.

I find it fascinating when I hear people say that for their child/partner/friend (or for HCPs, PWD they see) that their diabetes device is just part of their life, it’s normal, it’s just part of them.

No. It’s not. My devices are additions because a bit of my body is broken and doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. We may not make a fuss about it or just seem to tuck them away (or leave them out on show), but do we really consider them just ‘part of our body’?

I don’t think I will ever be fully comfortable with how they feel or look on me. There is some serious body image stuff going on when I see the tape gripping these devices on to me. When I throw on a bathing suit for a day at the beach, the devices I need to consider and the way they are on show make me feel painfully awkward.

They are a reminder every time I see them – every time the tubing nearly gets ripped out when I go to the loo or catch it on a doorknob; every time I get too close to the doorframe and knock my CGM; every time I’ve put on a bra that doesn’t really work and my RL falls out; every time my pump and RL shift a little and become starkly obvious – that it is not normal to wear a pancreas on the outside of one’s body.

It’s a reminder every time my kid snuggles into me when she is sitting on my left side and leans her head on my arm. ‘Your diabetes is sharp’, she says to me and we have a little giggle as she wriggles around until her head finds real estate not taken up by Dexcom. Or in bed at night, as I go to roll over and find I can’t move because my pump has found its way under my husband. It turns out that it’s not just me needing to accommodate my external pancreas, making me even more conscious of its presence.

The beeps and buzzes and vibrations that these devices emit means I make noises different to others. The way that sometimes it’s just impossible to ignore the constant reminders and just accept it all as ‘part of me’.

Perhaps the only time I get close to not feeling the constant reminders of my tech is when the people around me are also wearing these devices. We spy a CGM on someone’s arm, pump tubing winding its way out from under someone’s top or hear the tell-tale beep of some sort of diabetes technology and we can ignore it because it’s not our own and everyone else is doing it too!

We do a lot to normalise the realities of diabetes. We do that for our own benefit, but I know that I also do it a lot to limit concern of those around me. This is one of those things I do to minimalism how diabetes affects me and to normalise something that is…well, not normal. I would never make a big deal about how I feel about wearing this technology because I sound whingy and precious, (possibly the alternate title for this blog post). But don’t for a minute think that you can dismiss it as not a big deal or just part of us. Because it’s not and never will be.

Devices on the beach.