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How I Learned To Be Proud Of My Medical Devices

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When you spend a huge chunk of your life living as an able-bodied person, it can be hard to adjust to using medical devices. But following a life-changing diagnosis, I’ve learned to love them.

A year and a half ago, at age 22, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

Suddenly, my body became a math problem with a constantly-changing equation. Type 1 Diabetes is a constant balancing act: Too much insulin can kill you, but not enough insulin can kill you too.

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For the first few months as a diabetic, I used insulin pens to inject myself. I also pricked my fingers to check my blood sugar levels.

As someone who had a needle phobia for most of my life, this was insanely hard to deal with. It took a long time to be able to inject myself without my boyfriend’s help and/or without bursting into tears.

Also, testing your blood sugar by pricking your fingers is like driving a car blindfolded, and you only get to take off the blindfold once every few hours. This is because a diabetic’s blood sugar is constantly in flux. One finger prick only gives you a brief glimpse into what’s going on inside your body, and not knowing where your blood sugar is can be dangerous. 

Those first months without medical devices were absolute hell. 

I was constantly worrying about my numbers. People have died because their blood sugar went too low while they were asleep. Because of that, I didn’t sleep through a single night for almost four months.

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My saving grace is called the “continuous glucose monitor.” This device constantly reads your sugar levels, giving you a real-time graph of your readings. You can also set up alarms that will go off if your number is too low or high.

My first night after finally getting a CGM, I slept like a baby.

Shortly after getting the CGM, I also got an insulin pump, which attaches to me, does my insulin calculations, and pumps the required insulin straight into my body. This means that instead of doing at least five injections a day, I only have to do one every three days when I need to change out my pump’s infusion site!

Words cannot express how much my insulin pump and CGM have made my life easier.

In those months before getting the devices, I was an anxiety-ridden mess. After I got them, I started to feel like a person again.

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I didn’t have any qualms about the devices until I went to the beach for the first time with them. It made me feel like a robot lady, with a sensor stuck to me and a tube coming out of my infusion site and into my pump. Most of the children stared at me, and even a few adults gave me looks.

I hated that my body could no longer be enough and that I needed these robot parts to live just like everybody else. 

After getting back from the beach, I looked in the mirror. That made me realize that I wasn’t “Lora plus robot parts.” These devices are my parts. As much as I wish I didn’t need them, I am so lucky to have them.

I was miserable for months without them. I wasn’t myself anymore. Now, I can live like my normal self with my medical devices without thinking about my diabetes every few minutes.

And while I enjoy the privilege of deciding how visible I want my disability to be, I never bother to hide my medical devices. In fact, I wear them proudly.

When I was working a customer service job last year, I wore my CGM on the back of my arm at work. One day, a woman came up and asked me to tell her about it because she was a diabetic who wanted to get one herself! We compared insulin pumps, and I talked up my CGM to her. 

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It made me happy to be able to connect with someone about our disability. I was also happy to advertise that I was part of the Type 1 community on my arm, opening me up to interactions like that.

So while I can be resentful of my medical devices sometimes, I also love them as a part of my body. 

This National Diabetes Awareness Month, remember that medical devices are beautiful, not shameful. Technology and medicine have come so far to make previously fatal illnesses manageable. And I can’t wait to see what other kinds of medical devices I can proudly wear in the future.

Feature Image courtesy of the author.

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Why It’s Important To Get Tested & Know Your HIV Status

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This year has already shaped up to be a wild ride. Recently, one of my best friend’s husband has been very sick, experiencing symptoms including fatigue, weight loss, confusion, and memory loss. At surface level, it seemed bad but manageable. But once he started having other symptoms like incontinence and could no longer form coherent sentences, she decided to bring him to a local hospital. Once admitted, they began running tests right away. Before the hospital visit, they did find out he had a small cyst on his brain, so the assumption when he was admitted was that it was the cyst causing these issues. 

The doctors quickly told my best friend that it was not the cyst causing these symptoms but pneumonia. They mentioned walking pneumonia, and they hoped his symptoms would improve with antibiotics. Several days went by with doctors calling her, asking unusual questions, but she thought nothing of it. Everything seemed okay, but she felt like she wasn’t getting all the answers from his doctor. Finally, after consenting to multiple MRIs, CT scans, a spinal tap, and many other rigorous tests, they eventually dropped a giant bombshell of diagnosis. 

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He was diagnosed with HIV, which developed into AIDS. He also had developed encephalitis and dementia due to it being untreated for so long. He also was also suffering from Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP), which develops from an everyday fungus in the air that most people can fight off. Unfortunately, it can be life-threatening if left untreated for those with compromised immune systems from disorders such as AIDS. 

Also, just for kicks, he had a tapeworm as well. This tapeworm has become the running joke of his diagnoses: It’s the tapeworm’s fault. 

No one knew he was HIV positive, including him. He had been tested in the past, but it always came back negative. He had contracted HIV anywhere from 8 to 15 years prior to this day, and he could not come up with a single incident as to where he could have contracted it. His diagnosis begged another more serious question. Were his wife and kids positive as well?

After 11 years of being together and four children, I think we all expected her test to come back positive as well. It turned out that she had been tested during all four pregnancies, and all four tests were negative, so the kids were negative for HIV as well. She decided to get retested since her last test was three years ago, and once again, she was negative. 

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Now, you might be thinking what I am thinking: How on earth did she go this long without contracting HIV, and how on earth did he go 8 to 15 years without knowing he had HIV? It turns out that you only present symptoms of HIV when you first contract it, and it shows up similar to a cold. Once past this initial stage, there are generally no symptoms until it turns into late-stage HIV or AIDS. 

It also turns out it’s not that easy to catch HIV. Do not get me wrong: There is always a risk with sexual activity, and it’s never a good idea to risk it. But out of every 10,000 exposures to HIV during penetrative penis-vaginal sex, only between 4 to 8 people will actually contract it per the CDC. Anal sex does increase your odds at 11 out of every 10,000 exposures.

Surprisingly, HIV is not on any routine STD screening or bloodwork. The only time it’s routinely tested is during pregnancy. Testing for HIV comes in a couple of different ways. Testing at home is an option, using a saliva swab, and results come in about 20 minutes. You can also request an HIV test from Quest Diagnostics (blood test) or wherever you get your routine blood work done without any referrals from your doctor’s office. It’s also important to note that it could take up to 3 months after exposure to test positive for HIV. But if you have any known exposures, consult with your healthcare provider for treatment options. 

So while it is important to always practice safe sex (using condoms and barriers), HIV isn’t that easy to catch. So if you do have an unexpected exposure, I hope this helps bring you peace of mind, but please do not forget or avoid getting tested. If you avoid getting tested and do contract HIV, you very well could end up in a life-threatening position later on in life while also exposing others. HIV awareness is extremely important, and I hope no one else ever has to face the same situation my best friend had this past week. Stay safe. Get tested. And practice safe sex. 

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Featured Image by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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Female Entrepreneur: How A Young Woman Turned Her Love For Crystals Into A Career

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You can’t underestimate the power of becoming a female entrepreneur. Instead of working for “the man,” I want other young women to know that they have the power to turn their passions into successful careers by becoming their own boss. So when I find someone like Skyler W., who was able to launch her own business selling crystals on Etsy and social media in the middle of a global pandemic and while earning her master’s degree, I have to tell her story. 

Skyler W. has been the proud owner of BlondeBeeCreates on Etsy since July of 2020. Skyler has found tremendous success selling jewelry, crystals, and spell jars online despite facing many challenges. Today, she is ranked as a Star Seller on Etsy, meaning she has earned a reputation for high-quality items, excellent reviews, and outstanding customer service. In addition, the BlondeBeeCreates TikTok account now sits at over 900K views and has even had a video go viral! 

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Skyler was kind enough to allow me to interview her about beginning BlondeBeeCreates and the challenges she’s overcome. If you are on the fence about turning your passions into a career or even a side hustle, let Skyler’s story be your inspiration to show you that it’s possible. 

CK: Why did you decide to open an online store devoted to crystals and jewelry? 

SW: At first, I actually thought it would be cool to make and sell stickers. It all started with the stickers I made with my printer, and I posted them on Etsy. I don’t think I sold more than two or three stickers before shifting to jewelry and, ultimately, crystals. 

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This sticker is Skyler’s very first product sold on Etsy.  

I have always been drawn to crystals, but I rekindled my interest in 2020. The love for crystals has always been there, but with BlondeBeeCreates, I could own some amazing pieces and spend a lot of time around crystals than I could ever imagine. 

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These moon earrings were one of the first crystal jewelry products Skyler ever sold. 

CK: Why did you decide to open your store on Etsy? 

SW: The decision to sell on Etsy was straightforward. If you plan on doing Etsy as a hobby, you do not need a business license. I have a business license now, but I was just looking for something fun at that point. Etsy makes it super easy to sell things.  You don’t need to make a website or set up shipping, and making a listing is simple. Etsy also offsets all carbon emissions created by shipments, making me feel better about using their platform.

CK: What is your process for finding new products to sell? 

SW: I used to make all my own jewelry. But one day, I was at a local pharmacy, looking at some crystals they sold. I looked up the business name where they sourced their crystals, and I found out this company sold wholesale. So I quickly booked an appointment. I originally intended to go and buy some pre-made jewelry but left with more crystals than anything else. I have been going to that specific wholesaler ever since! Honestly, my process is to buy things that I feel match my shop’s vibe. That being said, about 90% of what I purchase are my crystal cardholders since they are my bestsellers.

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This Crystal Card Holder is one of Skyler’s best-selling items.

CK: What have you learned from running your own business? 

SW: The most important thing I’ve learned is to be patient. It took a few weeks to get my first sale. The first six months my shop was open, I think I had less than 20 sales. At first, I was discouraged since so many small businesses, especially on TikTok, were thriving. Meanwhile, mine wasn’t getting any recognition. But I had a consistent 43 followers on my business’s TikTok for over a year. Then, two weeks after my viral TikTok video, I had over 1,000 followers (now over 3,000). It took over a year to hit the point where I was getting views and more sales, but I am glad that I didn’t stop.

CK: What advice would you give someone who is debating starting their own Etsy shop or small business?


SW: There is no better time to start a small business than right now, especially given the amount of younger people that are looking to support small businesses over larger corporations. Do not be afraid to reach out to other owners in the field you are interested in. They will have a lot of advice to offer. 

If you do decide to start your own business, some advice I can pass along that I hope will be helpful is this: When you’re listing items on Etsy, add a video as well. This is a newer Etsy feature, but listings with videos get more attention. The only other advice I have is to work on packaging early on. I wish I would have figured out packaging at the beginning, and I highly recommend you figure it out, at least to some extent, before you start making listings.

CK: What’s coming next for BlondeBeeCreates? 

SW: I am working on creating mystery bundles that will be intuitively chosen. It will be challenging to arrange my inventory manually, but this is a trending concept right now, and one I have always wanted to do. I’ve also been doing a few flea markets, and I am hoping to do the Pasadena Flea Market at some point in 2022. 

I also do custom orders, which include making jewelry or buying crystals and other spiritual items in bulk. If you are ever interested in this, please let me know at [email protected], and I will help!

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*Some answers have been edited for length and clarity*

Connect with Skyler and shop BlondeBeeCreates on Etsy or visit her Instagram and TikTok!

Featured image via BlondeBeeCreates on Instagram

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