t:slim X2 Insulin Pump user Christopher Wilson is behind the scenes of 84 chapters of the Surfrider Foundation. He enables supporters, volunteer activists, and chapter leaders to focus on what they do best - protecting the ocean, waves, and beaches. He's here to remind us that every day is Earth Day.
When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
I was diagnosed in 1997 at age 18.
What is your role at Surfrider Foundation?
I work as the Systems Administrator. I’m behind-the-scenes making sure that all of the technology that everyone else needs to do their jobs is working. It's stuff like email, web servers, databases, and the office network. We have 84 chapters across the U.S. and Canada, and every one of them has a website. I work hard to allow our activists, volunteers, chapter leaders, and supporters to focus on what they do best- protecting the ocean, waves, and beaches. We're making sure that they remain accessible to the public and healthy for future generations to enjoy.
How is Surfrider recognizing Earth Day this year?
Throughout April, Surfrider is encouraging people to think of every day as earth day and to be conscious of how everyday actions can affect the environment. Reducing plastic use by bringing their own bags when shopping, not using plastic straws, and using reusable water bottles.
What do you think is the most important environmental issue right now?
Climate Change - It’s one of those things that happens so gradually, many people aren’t aware of it. Then they turn around and realize that plants are blooming a month early, or the beach they go to has gotten smaller, or that the fish they used to see at a certain spot have moved, because the water has become too warm, too cold, or too acidic for the plants and animals they need to eat to survive.
How can others be involved to help solve it?
On a small scale: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Drive less. If you have to drive, plan ahead and consolidate trips. Walk or ride a bike. On a larger scale: Encourage the companies you interact with to be more environmentally responsible, and choose to patronize those who are better stewards of the environment.
Efficiency is a big goal for me - I’m always looking for ways to do more with less. It saves money, making the dollars that people contribute to the foundation go farther, and saves resources. If we run fewer servers, we use less electricity, and our carbon footprint shrinks.
In what way does diabetes affect your daily life?
I’m always thinking about it, even when I don’t consciously realize it. I probably glanced at the continuous glucose monitor readout on my watch, looked at the insulin on board on my t:slim Pump, and did the math to double-check my dosing ten times today.
What aspects of pump therapy were appealing to you when you made the switch?
I used multiple daily injections for most of my diabetes Life. I switched to a pump because-my basal requirements varied too much throughout the day. At times, my blood sugar was plummeting or rising as those needs shifted throughout the day. Pump therapy allows me to adjust on-the-fly if I’m going to be more active, or if I find myself in a situation where the food provided is more or less carb-heavy than expected. When I made the decision to change to pump therapy, I started researching options. The diabetes educator in my endocrinologist’s office has demonstration units, and I was immediately drawn to the t:slim Pump. After doing additional reading, I became even more impressed with the design, features, and the modern user interface.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Bowling is a big one. I also play the saxophone once a month with a local band, and volunteer with several non-profit organizations - both diabetes-related and not.
It’s something I grew up doing. My family participated in adult-junior leagues when I was a kid. Now, I’ve developed a new appreciation for it as an almost Zen activity. You have to focus on the present moment and exclude everything else. It provides low-impact exercise. I walk a third of a mile every game. It also provides great camaraderie and friendships, and is a vehicle to meet and interact with people from all walks of life: from corporate executives and entrepreneurs to electricians, salespeople, accountants, and members of the military.
Do you feel supported in your journey with diabetes?
Absolutely! I’ve had great support from family and friends. Also, the #DOC (Diabetes Online Community) who are willing to share their own experiences and results of having tried different things. My pump trainer from Tandem, Veronica Diaz Lode, has also been fantastic - suggesting solutions and work-arounds for minor problems, and providing encouragement as I progressed, tried new things, and figured out what worked for me.
What do your colleagues at Surfrider Foundation know about your diabetes?
Everyone is aware of it, but different people know different levels of detail. My immediate boss is constantly interested in new tech developments, and we share and discuss articles all the time.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in yourself since your diagnosis?
I’ve learned to plan ahead better. All the “what-if” thinking that goes along with having diabetes is useful professionally, too. Contingency planning is a highly marketable skill.
Do you have any diabetes gear you’d like to recommend?
There are lots of diabetes friendly clothing for women out there, but I haven’t seen nearly as much for men. One item that I’ve found to be useful is a brand of underwear that has a pocket just the right size to hold an insulin pump. They’re called HoldUps, and they’re great for sleeping. They’re also useful for situations like the gym where you may not have pockets, and don’t want to clip the pump to a waistband.
If you met someone newly diagnosed with diabetes, what would be your advice to them?
Learn everything you can about diabetes. Yes, the learning curve is steep, but it’s going to play a role in your life from this day forward. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there are things you don’t understand, and listen to your body. If you’re doing it right, you’ll have a lot of questions. You’ll also become an expert on YOUR own diabetes. Everyone is different, and the more you can refine and adjust your understanding of how things affect you and your blood sugars, the more successful you will be at managing them.
If you could have a song written about you, what musician would compose it and what would the song be called?
I’d write it myself. I’d call it “still figuring it out (after all these years)”.
(Photo courtesy of Christopher Wilson)
Interview and photos by Blair Ryan.
From time to time, we may pass along: suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem Insulin Pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. However, please note individual symptoms, situations, circumstances and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified health care provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information linked below before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.