Diabetes and Cancer: How One Podder™ Is Forever Bonded With His Late Mom
June 17, 2017 was easily the most heart wrenching and difficult day of my entire life. It was the day I lost my mother to cancer. She was by my side when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nearly five years ago, and held my hand through the first few weeks of learning to live with T1D. The lessons she taught me are irreplaceable and I hold them very closely to me.
My Mom, My Rock
Upon diagnosis, I was so scared to give myself my first injection. I remember sitting up in a hospital bed, giving my first bolus into my quadricep. I definitely hit a muscle, ripped out the pen, chucked it on the floor and cried. My mom, already a survivor of leukemia, wouldn’t let me act out. She was a registered nurse who worked at Boston Children’s Hospital in the children’s psych unit. Her medical experiences, both personal and professional, gave her a mental fortitude that helped me beyond measure in managing my own personal challenge.
When I was scared or angry about seeing new health care providers, she tried her best to calm me down ̶ even when I was in the midst of an adult temper tantrum (yes, this happened out front of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center in Harlem, New York City). When I made the switch from multiple daily injections to the Omnipod System, my parents, Mom especially, were extremely proud of this huge step I had taken, knowing how reluctant I had been to consider pump therapy during the first few years with diabetes. It was the first step I had taken on my own, including attending a pump education class and processing all of the paperwork, to really improving my self-care.
Omnipod System Makes a Hard Situation Easier
When my mom’s cancer returned in 2016, I began traveling frequently from Boston, where I live and work, to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ, where she was being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Being on the Omnipod System made it easier for my diabetes management to take a backseat to taking care of my mom. When I’d have to pack a bag last minute, I’d toss in a bottle of Novolog, a few sealed pods, and make sure I had my PDM. I’d leave a box or two of Pods in my old bedroom at my parents, so I only needed to travel with one pod in case of an emergency.
This is a stark contrast from carrying pens, cooling packs, needles… you get the drill. When you add more pieces to the equation, you’re more likely to forget one of the necessary components in your diabetes kit. The simplicity and ease of management that the Omnipod System gives me is unmatched, and I haven’t even thought for a second about using another pump. I love how easy my life with T1D has been, even with all of the stressors that come along, like caring for or losing a loved one.
Podding with Mom
One interesting coincidence through all of this is that my mom also became a “Podder™” in a sense, wearing another Insulet product used to deliver Neulasta, a drug she was prescribed following chemotherapy. So throughout this latest battle with cancer, we were both wearing Pods simultaneously. She was so happy to share that with me, as we were able to relate to each other more than ever. She felt what I feel every day on my pump, and it definitely was one of the more unique experiences we shared. She had her cancer, I had T1D, and that made our bond infinitely closer. We both had our daily struggles, but kept each other motivated and checked in on each other every single day. When there were questions about the Pod etc., mom called me first. That made me so proud of how I am managing myself.
When mom left us, my family gave her a proper Jewish funeral, which includes sitting Shivah for seven days after the person’s death. During Shivah, all you do is sit, talk, listen and EAT! And I don’t mean eat lightly – bagels and cream cheese, pasta dishes… carbs galore. I could not imagine being there and taking shot after shot after shot to cover all of the food I was eating. Having my Omnipod System made the emotions and the high carb counts less burdensome.
I couldn’t be more thankful for how medical devices serve our population. I just hope and pray that more people can broaden their perspective on using pumps and CGMs, access education that will help with device retention, and most importantly, afford the pump of their choice to live a happy life with diabetes.
Losing my mom has been the hardest situation I’ve ever had to face. One of the thoughts that I have most frequently is that my mom would be very proud that I haven’t given up on managing my diabetes now that she is not here anymore, nor will I. The fact that I was independent, healthy, and successful in my self-management always made her feel at ease. Even on her worst days, her biggest concern was how I was feeling, not herself. Taking care of my health, through the help of devices such as the Omnipod System, is exactly what my mom would want me to be doing right now, and I don’t plan on letting her down.
Written by Alex Rosenblatt, Guest Blogger