Having Type-1 Diabetes involves a lot of preparation and planning ahead. Even simple trips out of the house or a full 8-hour work shift requires good memory on my part, including blood testing equipment, fast-acting carbohydrates and extra equipment in the event my pump’s infusion set fails. It can be arduous, especially if you’re dashing out in a hurry. Light knows, I’ve had many times in my life were I’ve gotten to where I’m going and suddenly remembered, “Damn, I forgot to bring an insulin vial!”
For someone who isn’t QUITE as ancient as I am, and hasn’t had the opportunity to go through the ups and downs of Type-1, the task can seem daunting. What’s worse is that to some, the task can even be overwhelming or frightening, as some Type-1’s may believe that they face serious complications or death if they forget something, leading to self-isolation in the face of that belief. Although this is certainly a possibility, life for a Diabetic becomes much easier once you realize that it’s also the extreme. And a rare one, at that.
Essentially, almost everything you need for proper Diabetes therapy can be purchased over-the-counter. Even insulin. It’s been this way for years, and there’s even been a growing trend of Americans crossing the Canadian border to purchase insulin, as our prices seem to be significantly better than theirs. My point is that depending on one’s financial situation, running out of insulin is pretty much the worst thing that can happen, and even THAT has some solutions.
You can walk into any pharmacy and buy a vial of insulin without a prescription. That’s one of the nice things. Blood testing strips, lancets and devices for injecting insulin are all available over-the-counter, making for a certain level of safe comfort if you should happen to be travelling and forgot some of your supplies. Obviously, you’ll have to deal with retail cost if you don’t have a prescription or coverage. And pump supplies will usually cost you your first born, as well as a pint of your blood.
One good example would be my trip to New Brunswick in September of 2019. I was only there for a few days for a job interview. I was contacted by a different agency in New Brunswick and a second interview was scheduled for the following week. I now found myself in a situation where my pump supplies would run out, right around the time I’d be trying to board a plane home. I couldn’t chance it, so I walked into a local pharmacy and purchased a vial of Lantus, which I hadn’t used since getting on the pump. I had no issues walking into a pharmacy and simply buying the vial, out of pocket.
Because this is me, and life likes to see how much I can handle, there’s an aspect of over-the-counter purchases that tend to be a rather burly thorn in my posterior. In Canada, insulin is in the Schedule 2 drug class. This means that not only is it meant to be kept behind the counter and can’t be accessed without speaking to a pharmacist, they require your full profile in order to ascertain if you’re getting the “correct” insulin in the “correct” doses. As if the person buying the insulin WOULDN’T know that…
If you’re ever-so-slightly paranoid like I am, you’re not a fan of giving out your name, date of birth and home address to every random pharmacy that you may need to buy insulin from. And to be quite honest, one could argue that it should be their right to purchase an over-the-counter item without having to share a bunch of personal information. Right? Maybe? Or is that only me? It’s caused me some difficulty, in the past.
A few years ago, my wife and I had travelled to visit her parents. I ran out of Humalog towards the end of our trip, and I decided that rather than packing us up and heading home a couple of days early that I’d simply go purchase a bottle. I walked into the local Walmart and asked the pharmacist for a vial of Humalog. She then proceeded to start asking for all my personal info, which had never happened to me on previous attempts to purchase insulin.
I explained to her that I had no desire to provide my personal information as I didn’t live in the area and simply wanted to buy a vial of insulin. She made a big production in saying that she had no way to sell it to me without entering my information. I explained that I’ve managed pharmacies in the past, and since the insulin box has a barcode like every other item, all she needed to do was scan it and charge me the price. She refused service. I was taken aback. Rather that “Karen” out on her, I left and took my business elsewhere
Despite the fact that there can be obstacles, what did you notice from those two examples? The end result is that there were always options. And there always will be. In the first example, I had access to plenty of pharmacies and resources. Even in the second example, we could have simply driven home, which would have ultimately solved the crisis, had I not been able to secure insulin elsewhere. I used insulin as my examples because let’s agree that you can likely get by without testing your blood for a couple of days, if need be. You shouldn’t but it won’t cause the damage that being out of insulin will.
Over almost the past four decades of having Type-1 Diabetes, I’ve known doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, police officers, olympic athletes and even professional football players who have Type-1 Diabetes. The take-home lesson is that our condition doesn’t prevent us from enjoying any aspect of life that we may be seeking out. And it SHOULDN’T. Yes, there’s a lot to think about. Yes, there’s a lot you have to drag around. But none of that should prevent you from doing the things you want to do. You can’t let Diabetes force you to live in fear. ☯