Managing Type 1 Diabetes: The Dexcom G6 has given me back peace of mind

Like many, I used to wrongly think that diabetes was a disease of the unhealthy, the obese, and the inactive. I had no idea about the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2. All that changed in an instant eleven years ago when as a fourteen-year-old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. My life took a different turn on that day and I have been navigating and managing my diabetes ever since.

Diabetes is a serious medical condition requiring constant monitoring. I recall when I was in the hospital after the  diagnosis, and later in the diabetes education clinic as I was trying to come to terms with the seriousness of  it all, the doctors and nurses went to great lengths to reassure me that as time passed managing my diabetes would get easier due to medical and technological advances. I didn’t think much about it at the time but compared to 40 years earlier when testing blood sugar was impossible without a urine glucose stick, which was impractical, a glucometer did make it much easier to manage the disease. Blood glucometers, (where you poke your finger), have been the standard since the 1980s but they have their problems: hand sanitizer or traces of food can get on your fingers and throw your blood sugar reading higher or, if you are mid-activity and the batteries die, it can become a very stressful situation.

The cost of testing blood sugar is crazy-expensive. For a non-insured person, a box of 100 test strips cost about $90, which is nearly a dollar each time you test. When travelling abroad, I have had to limit the number of glucose checks in a day because I cannot purchase Canadian diabetes test strips in the United States or in Europe. Even when you leave home with enough, things can go wrong, like your bag being stolen, leaving you with an inadequate supply. The added mental stress of not knowing where my blood sugar is and feeling it off  is not only but nerve wracking, it is dangerous.

Three weeks ago, my life improved dramatically. I received a Dexcom G6 blood glucose sensor.

I participated in a clinical trial for a sensor ten years ago. I didn’t have a great experience, so I admit, I was skeptical when I learned of this new technology. Right off, you cannot help but notice how ‘hi tech’ the sensor is. I downloaded the Dexcom app, scanned a bar code with my phone, then I placed the sensor on my left side stomach. The installation was easy (and did not hurt like an insulin needle), and two hours later (the sensor takes two hours to set up) I was able to get minute-by-minute updates on blood glucose through my phone.

To be doubly sure everything was working well, I checked the accuracy next to my glucometer with a clean lancet. Surely enough, both the sensor and glucometer came back with the same reading of 7.1. The sensor charts your blood glucose and logs it for you in the Dexcom G6 app. It also gives you daily trends through a line chart and the directional arrows on the readings show if your blood glucose is going higher or lower, or staying steady.

The sensor has made it easy to check my blood glucose on the go. I simply pull out my phone.

The Dexcom is making my life so much better in managing my diabetes. If I am trending high, I can see whether I should take insulin or if I’m about to go low, but not quite there yet, it will give a twenty-minute warning alarm so I know in advance that I should eat something. If my blood glucose goes low in the middle of the night, the app sets the alarm off on my phone, which wakes me up.

For parents of children with type 1 diabetes, the Dexcom G6  is a tremendous help as the app can be shared with a trusted person like a parent or spouse. My dad gets the alerts on his phone, and if something happens like a severe low or high, he knows right away. Being able to check a child’s blood glucose on your phone at any time without having to ask will give even the most worried parent (like my dad) peace of mind. Not having the hassle of writing down blood glucose in a logbook is the icing on the cake — which is now also easier to enjoy if you fancy a piece.

Last week I went to a walk-in clinic. The doctor was amazed when I showed him my blood sugar levels on my phone screen. He was also surprised at the small size and compactness of the device, which he didn’t notice until I pointed it out. If I ever passed out on the street from hypoglycemia, an alarm would sound, saving medical professionals or paramedics’ time trying to make a prognosis. If my diabetes outpatient clinic wants my blood sugar levels for the last several months, they are also right there on my phone.

Seeing trends and upcoming highs and lows through the trends has helped me keep my blood glucose in check. I feel as though my life has become much easier and less stressful. I haven't had to wake up and look for my kit or poke myself at 2 a.m. to check my blood since getting a Dexcom G6.

Although I have always been good at managing life with diabetes, this device makes it seem like I’ve conquered it. The most important thing though, the Dexcom G6 sensor has given me peace of mind that I’ve never had as a type 1 diabetic. I cannot put a price on that feeling.