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Getting Teary About Fashion

March 13, 2015

A friend of mine just had a colostomy. As she recovers from surgery, she is also learning how to change her sack, tend to her stoma, and generally navigate life with this drastically new physical apparatus and responsibilities associated with it. The surgery was meant to be temporary – 6 months to a year – but has the potential to be permanent.

Yesterday I visited her in hospital. She said she’s bracing herself for all the learning to come. Not just learning to change the sack, but how to change what she wears. “I keep thinking about the summer, how I’m going to have to dress differently now.”

I showed her my pump infusion site, another recent site that had bled out and left major bruising, and the pump itself and the lump it leaves in my waistline. I said that, while our apparatuses are different in function, size and side-effect, I can empathize to some extent the impact of having a life-sustaining piece of baggage on your person at all times.

I shared how much, even in minor ways, it affects how I think about clothes and fashion too. I shared how I don’t really want to go on a spa-date with some girlfriends later this month, because the mental stress of attaching-detaching-re-attaching my pump every time we get in and out of the therapeutic pools, and leaving my 7-thousand-dollar piece of equipment precariously on the side of the pool, is just not attractive to me. How it’s the little things of living with built-in apparatuses that can wear you down.

But the tears only came when I began empathizing with her about fashion. “I think about my pump all the time when I pick outfits,” I said, and then felt the tears well up. I felt bad, starting to cry. I’m so used to being a bedside therapist in acute care, that crying with a patient feels like bad practice. I’m used to holding others stories without falling apart myself. But then I reminded myself that this is my friend, not my patient (although my own unit was just down the hall), and let myself be me.

When tears sneak up on us like that, it’s usually a sign that we’ve hit on something really important to us that we didn’t even know mattered.

Truth is, I think about the pump all the time when it comes to fashion. I have beautiful new patterned stockings that my mom gave me in January that I haven’t even opened, because I hate clipping my pump to stockings (they run and pull the stockings down), and the sports bras that used to be able to hold the pump without a clip have recently lost their elasticity, making the pump look like a third boob when I tuck it in there. I exclusively wear either pants with pockets, or lululemon leggings in lieu of pretty tights, because lululemon builds in “stash pockets” into all their yoga pants – inlined pockets that are meant for stashing keys or credit cards into the waistline, but are blessedly just big enough to tuck in a medtronic pump.

Summer is a different story, when I don’t want to wear leggings, when the desire to wear slinky breezy clothing is juxtaposed by the lack of places in such outfits to stash a frikkin’ pump. It’s not surprising that the only times I’ve ever taken extended pump “holidays” is in the summer.

I am grateful, and lucky, that pump holidays are an option. But switching from pumping to injections is also stressful. There’s a lot of re-learning, re-adjusting, and gear-changing that sometimes doesn’t feel worth it.

There’s an invisible mental stress of wearing this pump, and living with diabetes in general, that I often forget. Getting teary about summer fashion was a strong indicator. Avoiding plans to go to a spa was another strong indicator. The indication is: diabetes is a nasty, pervasive, activity-limiting, frustrating piece of shit. 

I’m tempted to go home and rip open these awesome patterned stockings, and stuff the pump in my stretchy sportsbra, third-boob be damned. I’m tempted to go to the spa and pay a ton of cash to worry about detaching/reattaching my pump all the time. I’m tempted to go home and take a big phat shot of lantus and be done with it.

But I think I’ll settle with accepting that, no matter how much ass I kick with diabetes, and now matter how awesome my life feels most of the time, I still have a disease, and it fucking sucks.

I think I’ll settle with that.

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