Artificial Pancreas to Manage Diabetes

Ann Bartlett Health Guide
  • This week at the ADA conference in Orlando, Florida, there was a presentation given concerning the influence of emotions and the success of a patient using a continuous glucose monitor. The study found that those of us who use problem-solving skills were successful at lowering their A1c, and those who exhibited anger and impulsive decisions failed to lower their A1c. 


    My opinion here is...what's the news? I do appreciate the fact that the study embraces the emotional component of diabetes, though. Too many times we are simply looked at as data machines and our balance as a human gets lost. Refreshingly, one of the growing fields relating to diabetes management is psychotherapy and personal coaching. Here, the main challenges tackled are: How do we stay focused and happy? How do we break the cycle of self-sabotage?

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    Two weeks ago, JDRF had a research update on the Artificial Pancreas. The Capitol chapter invited Dr. Mark Breton from UVA and Tom Brobson, who is a participant in the clinical trial to talk about the progress of the Artificial Pancreas. During the discussion, Tom made the comment that it was hard for him to give up control and let the computer algorithms run the show.  He said it was like a ropes course, where you climb up the wall and then you have to let yourself trust that the group will catch you as you fall - the ultimate test of trust! 


    While listening to his presentation, I began to think about the fact that for me, it is more than trusting other people, or machines to operate my daily life. Patterning has been embedded in me as more of a survival skill since I was five years old. When I wake up in the morning, I begin my day with knowing my blood sugar and insulin requirements and counting my carbs. I'm checking my Dexcom and adjusting my short acting needs all day long, and before bed I grab a snack to get me through the night. What if I didn't have to do that anymore?


    All of us have said it, "Wouldn't it be great to have a vacation from it all!" Or the thought of a cure and never have to think about diabetes again!  Ahhh, the luxury of a normal pancreas!  Most of us cuddle those thoughts like a warm blanket, good book and great chocolate!


    Where my diabetes is concerned, my need to be in the driver's seat is so deep that after a rough three years on a pump, I opted to go back to injections stating, "I want one variable in my care and that would be me!"  When I'm in control of my diabetes, the rest of my world feels centered. Thus, 40 years of emotionally balancing my body and mind to accommodate diabetes is deeply ingrained. Some people say it would be so easy to give it all up, but I wonder if, at first, they would make the jump with as little effort as they think.


    In contrast, there are those days when pumps wobble and fail and facing insulin resistance requires twice the amount of your normal dose of insulin, all for no known reason.  You do all of it right and the reward is a negative hit to your A1c! When this happens, it feels like your entire world is out of sync. I often remark, "I feel like I've walked to the end of my driveway, picked the paper and while glancing at the front page I suddenly feel a cool breeze and realize my clothes are still on the bathroom sink!" That's the constant anxiety I'd like to get rid of.


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    How easy do you think it would it be for you to really let go? What if, miraculously, a cure appeared and... poof... no more diabetes! Where would you anchor your psyche that has relied on diabetes for the majority of your life?  For some, it might be a cakewalk, they know exactly what they would do. But, for people like me, it may cause us a visit to the psych ward!



Published On: June 28, 2010