From Syringes to Insulin Pens: Making Type 2 Diabetes Life Easier
Editor’s Note: People who take insulin require consistently affordable and predictable sources of insulin at all times. If you or a loved one are struggling to afford or access insulin, you can build custom plans based on your personal circumstances through our tool, GetInsulin.org.
Katie Saucedo is a member of the ADA x BT2 Community, where she shares her experiences with others who aim to connect with people with type 2. Connect with people like Katie and join the community by clicking here.
BT2: Hi Katie, please tell us about your type 2 diabetes (T2D) diagnosis story.
Katie: I was diagnosed in September of 2012. I had a feeling I was diabetic because it runs in my family. But leading up to my diagnosis, I was constantly having to use the bathroom and no matter what I had to drink, I was still thirsty. Nothing could quench my thirst. My blood pressure was high too. I went to the doctor and they checked my sugar. It was so high it wouldn’t register on the meter. When I had my A1C done, it was over 12 percent. I remember calling my mom and I was just in tears. I was in my late 20s at the time and this wasn’t how I wanted to usher into my 30s.
What recommendations did your doctor make for you? Did they start you on insulin right away?
No, they did not. I was on, and forgive me because it’s been such a while, but I was on three or four, I think three pills. If I’m not mistaken. I know they started me off with metformin, which I still take to this day. I started eating a low-carb diet, walking. I lost a significant amount of weight. Then that, I mean, getting on that medication and sticking to that medication while making a change is so important because my A1C went down big time to the 5s.
Part of my whole message to people with type 2 is, it’s going to be ups and downs. Literally. I have gained weight. COVID. I’ve gained some weight back. It’s not always going to be the straight and narrow path. I’ve gotten off track. My A1C has gone up to the 9s, but it’s slowly coming down to the 8s. I’m heading back in the right direction.
When did your doctors initially put you on insulin?
I just started on insulin in December 2020. They started by giving me a syringe and vial to use. Over the years, I’d been able to manage diabetes with different medication changes. But last year, it was tough. I was going through a lot of stress and lost my mother last November. I couldn’t get my blood sugar down for anything. They actually tested me to see if I had late onset type 1. That came back negative that I, it is type 2. It was just uncontrolled. They started me on insulin. I did start with syringes at first and then just ended up switching over to pens. I’m taking rapid-acting and long-acting insulin. The other medication, other than metformin, that I take is a GLP-1
When you moved to pens, what was that process like? What are some of the changes you’ve noticed? Was it easier to use a syringe or was it easier to use a pen?
I think it’s easier to use a pen, but I honestly don’t mind the syringes. I didn’t mind, but I think pens are better for modern times and when you’re on the go and want to be active, and be able to easily to pack your insulin. I have a little travel case with ice packs in it. It’s discreet and makes it easier for me to carry my insulin, more so than having to carry vials and syringes. It’s the ease of comfort for me. I think we all know diabetes can be a lot to handle. Literally, any change that can make living with this even just a little bit more convenient can go a long way.
I keep my insulin with me as I go out and about. Not having to draw out the syringe, the vial and having to go through the process of pulling insulin into the syringe has made a difference for me. With the pen, I can just screw on the needle, inject my insulin and that’s it. I’m not ashamed of having diabetes, but I like the extra discretion of not having to carry more supplies with me. I don’t think you realize how much you were handling until you find an easier solution. A small, but significant change from using a syringe to a pen was like that for me. It became easier for me to track how much insulin I was using, too. With the insulin pen, you easily see how much you’re taking on the dial. It helps me keep be more accurate when I need to take it for meals or when I need to make other adjustments according to whatever my blood sugar is at the time. That, along with the health changes I’ve been making to get back on track with my diabetes, is helping me bring my A1C down to where I need it to be.
You mentioned other members of your family have type 2 diabetes, as well. What conversations about insulin do you have with them?
It’s been a great learning opportunity for us. I don’t mind having to take my insulin in front of my family or friends. I’ve never been embarrassed by being a diabetic. I was upset when I was diagnosed because I know there’s a lot that goes into managing it, but I’ve never been embarrassed about it.
With my stepdad and brother, I talk to them all the time about my blood sugar. My brother supports me by buying me low-carb and other healthy snacks. They’re very active in supporting me in my effort to get healthier. They know I’ve been trying to get back on track. Even with my niece, she’s 10 years old and I tell her when I’m taking my insulin shots. She understands what I’m supposed to have and not have.
Finally, I have to mention how incredibly supportive my husband has been. He has been with me through it all and it shows how important it is to have an understanding, supportive loved one there for you through the highs and lows of diabetes.
As I said, these interactions are great learning opportunities for the people around me. It’s great to be able to support each other as we do.
What are your thoughts about insulin stigma overall, especially when it comes to type 2 diabetes?
I definitely think the stigma exists because I think I went through it too. I mean, I went through it myself thinking, “Oh my gosh. My blood sugars are getting, they’re creeping up. I don’t want to go on insulin. Oh my God, I got to go on insulin. I have to do these shots.” I was freaking out but my dad actually told me it wasn’t that bad, but he understood where I was coming from. He said I might’ve needed to go on insulin, but if that’s what I gotta do to get my blood sugars in-line, then that’s what I gotta do.
It is such a stigma and it’s not that you failed. Our bodies change, our lives change. Things aren’t always going to be a straight path. There are going to be ups and downs and sometimes you got to adjust. It’s okay if you have to take insulin. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Do you know how much I’ve been through in the past 10 years since I was diagnosed? In my life, health-wise, how can I possibly expect it to be perfect all the time? It’s not going to be. Life isn’t perfect all the time and my diabetes isn’t going to be perfect all the time.
As a type 2 advocate, what are some other words of inspiration that you would have for people with type 2 who need it, especially those who may be fearful of insulin?
When I was first diagnosed, I thought, how am I going to live with this? I couldn’t stand needles nor could I stand the sight of blood. It was my stepdad who helped me check my blood sugar and made me see using a lancet device wasn’t that bad. His doing that relaxed me and I carried that same mindset when I started to take insulin.
I’m still not a fan of needles, but here’s the thing I hope people in my community remember: you will get over that initial fear. You can do this. It’s something that your body needs and again, there’s nothing wrong with needing insulin.
This content was made possible with support from Lilly Diabetes, a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2.