Newly diagnosed teen swimmer, too embarrassed to wear Dexcom, Advice?

WE have a local support group and a parent is asking for help with her newly-diagnosed 14-year-old son, who is a competitive swimmer. He’s too embarrassed to be seen wearing the Dexcom and wants to just quit the swim team altogether.
Does anyone out there have any advice or suggestions for how to help him feel less self-conscious? @Kaelan , I thought of you as you are about the same age!

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I anticipate an avalanche of people saying they should wear their device with pride… That said, I think below the waist line should work just fine.


I’m not an expert but those speedos look pretty skimpy to me; I wouldn’t guess there is a lot of fatty real estate below the waistline where a Dex could be placed. But maybe I’m wrong…

K is not online right now, and has very irregular forum attendance :slight_smile: But FYI, when my son started his Dexcom while swimming a lot, he used it on his upper thigh under his tight swimming shorts. He still does when he has a lot of swim practices in a week, because it is a lot less likely to fall off there: swimming has a way to quickly impact the adhesive, even when talking many precautions. And, if it does fall off, it probably gets retained by the shorts so you don’t have to look for the transmitter everywhere at the bottom of the pool.

The primary drawback of the upper thigh is that the signal is quite a bit noisier, and you can’t keep the sensor as long. The sensor can still be seen as a bump underneath the neoprene btw.


Well, we are all wired differently and if he is self conscious, i would go back to sticks and keep him on the swim team if that was an option.

I would also keep in mind that 14-15 is when sport gets quite a bit more committed than before, and when a lot of kids quit one thing and move on to others.

I will offer up my son if talking to another D would help (he is 15).


One of the guys on my team wears his upper butt below waistband when there are meets. Not much room for self-consciousness on swim team… I swam thru high school then just lifeguarded and did triathlons in college because my shoulders hurt and I was burnt out after 15h/week practice in high school.


One thing to consider trying is being more open about his CGM incrementally and perhaps in other situations to test out whether in fact it is weird to have people notice (my guess is, probably not, beyond a question or two—most people just think it’s cool if anything). Also I like having a jokey line about it, like, yep, I’m part robot! because I find almost invariably how I talk about these things sets the tone for how people react to them, and I bet he’d find that too. So I guess that advice falls a little into the fake it until you make it category, but I bet if he could be convinced to try to act like it is not a big deal, it would come to feel that way, even if it doesn’t at first.


Also it’s part of a broader important life lesson—if we wait to feel ready for something, we may miss out. Sometimes we need to do something before our feelings catch up to us, and it’s the very act of doing it that makes the feeling happen. You won’t feel less self-conscious eventually by hiding, even though it certainly would be nice if it worked that way. You have to put yourself out there before you feel ready to have that change. And it’s super ok to feel self-conscious or insecure in the meantime—it’s normal when doing something you’re not yet used to doing, which is another important message to get across. It doesn’t mean it will always feel that way though.


Oh and honestly, swim team locker room as a teenager is embarrassing enough. I wasn’t diabetic then but the CGM would have been the absolute last thing I was embarrassed about. It would have ranked pretty low on the self-consciousness scale. That experience probably helps me now because it doesn’t register at all. I could probably wear it on my forehead and have no shame (well maybe not quite that far, but you get the idea).


I was going to say something much the same. Life patterns get set early. You find yourself anxious or self-conscious about something in your 40s because you were anxious or self-conscious about it as a kid and never got around to dealing with it. If this boy starts out self-conscious about his CGM, he may always be self-conscious about it to some degree. Which puts a crimp in taking his shirt off or even wearing a T-shirt on a hot day, or jumping off the dock with his buddies, or getting intimate with someone.

He is newly diagnosed, so everything D-related is going to be new and alien and feel weird, and he is at that age when people can be mega self-conscious to begin with. When you first start testing in public, you think everyone for miles swings their necks around to stare. (Or I did, anyway, but I was a very self-conscious youngster.) When you first wear a pump, you think it’s so terribly obvious to everyone on the street; they can even hear those really loud bolusing clicks. So of course he will fear that everyone at the pool will be staring at his CGM. It may just be a matter of getting used to it himself, and then what others think doesn’t really matter. As @cardamom says, probably the rest of the team won’t even notice once they get over the novelty (among the teens I know, that would take about 30 seconds).

If not with pride, then with “This is my life.”

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If it saved your life and the forehead was the only option, I’m guessing you would. :slight_smile:

Also, as @cardamom said: jokey line is helpful. I like Bionic Man! And @EricH is always happy to show off his pump, his Dexcom sensor, or his large quantity of melanoma scars to anyone who notices them. Hoping to educate others. Maybe if @TiaG’s friend could meet some other T1D athletes in the flesh it’d help? I assume there are groups of adult T1 athletes in the Bay Area who’d be happy to meet with him. (I am often surprised how rarely people take EH up on his offer to talk to their newly diagnosed PWD.)

And you know, no one ever really fits in. :slight_smile: Better to own the weird. :wink: (Not that diabetes or melanoma or whatever health thing is weird, mostly that EH and I are a little weird!)


And you know, no one ever really fits in.

And that is the secret cheat code that helps people get through adolescence without feeling miserable. Wish I knew this when I was 13!


I will have to use this next time I launch into a lecture with my oldest son. :laughing: He might actually understand what I am going on about.

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@TiaG, I was on swim team when I was diagnosed and I felt the same way. I was also worried of losing my sensor, because it does not stick well on the belly when you swim a lot.

I decided to wear my dexcom on the upper thigh, more than half way up, under my swim jammers:


There is plenty of space under the jammers for a dexcom sensor. You can still see the shape under the jammers but it is almost invisible, and I had no problem wearing it there. The other good thing about it is that it protects the Dexcom from all the shocks when you dive, hit the water etc. And, if you lose the sensor in the water (that happens) it remains in your jammers.

You have to be careful where you place the sensor. For me, I don’t place it right on top of the thigh or all the way to the outside because then it’s really easy to get pressure lows at night.

The other problem is that it does not last as long on the thigh because the signal goes bad faster. There is not much fat there. And it’s a bit noisy. But it works.

Later on he won’t care where he wears it. I don’t. I wear it wherever now when I go to practice. But you should tell him that it’s not bad to be bionic. It’s better. It sure is better for us :smile:

He can talk to me if he wants. I have been in swim team for 3 years, and I am 13 and a half.


I try to share that tidbit with anyone who will listen. I was in my 30s before I figured that out. :blush:


This has been an issue for our teen so many times over last couple of years. (Not swim team specifically but being self conscious, particularly around sports. And not wanting to swim recreationally without a shirt.)

I feel like as a parent of a self conscious teen l had to go from “well, sorry it makes you feel embarrassed when [you need to pre bolus, your Dexcom alarms loudly in class, your principal thinks you’re carrying a phone in school, or whatever the momentary humiliation was] but it’s gotta be done” to “what part of this is really bothersome and let’s come up with ways to make it liveable–would this work? What do you think?”. Eventually they do need to learn to be comfortable in their T1 skin…but that is really hard when they’re at a self-conscious age or it’s all new. We found that many behaviors around age 12-13 that we thought were just irresponsible, turned out to be about feeling embarrassed to take care of diabetes business in front of friends. And at least in our case I feel like it helped to acknowledge the feeling as legit (even if I didn’t really get it) and then involve him in working out a compromise that was safe. Some days when the Dex was driving him nuts, he chose to have a few days off and do frequent fingersticks (including at night) instead. Not ideal but not end of the world.

I also feel like peers helped in ways I couldn’t – one local friend his age diagnosed years earlier, and a bunch of friends from summer diabetes camp whom he stays in touch with by text. It only takes one kid who’s an outgoing confident “in your face” type to make the whole group feel more cool.

Of course all his non-D friends seem equally humiliated about whatever feature makes them “stand out” :blush:. I was a swimmer at that age and was convinced my head looked super weird in a swim cap!


@katiereeder Man, I feel like this reply could be filed under the things that kids say that break your heart thread. Because it broke my heart just a little bit. Although, when I got toward the end and realized that your son has found some friends who also have T1 and who can be “in-your-face” that makes me smile.

As far as the shirts for swimming go, have you thought about rash guards? I don’t know if he’s past that point yet, but they sell some cool longsleeve rash guards. On the plus side, they also offer sun protection!

And cheers to you as a parent for being able to make a course correction on how you interacted with your son. It would be a lot easier to just tell him to suck it up and deal, but it seems like you had some valuable insights that will help him become more comfortable in his own way.


My son might be one of those “in your face” T1s :slight_smile:

Right after he was diagnosed, he wore his Dexcom on his thighs under his swimming briefs. But I read a really obnoxious question on Quora from someone complaining about their coworker injecting in the cafeteria, and had a long discussion with him about how important it be for him to live his life the way he needs and wants to, not the way other people want to tell him to.

Since that time, he has been totally open about his diabetes management. He does not discuss it unless someone asks, but he does everything he needs to do in public, in class, at the table in restaurants etc. Not in a showy manner but not in hiding either, just as he would sneeze or walk.


Michel, it’s great to hear that your son is this open and comfortable, and I bet it derives from what you guys are modeling as parents! My son is also pretty relaxed now about bolusing etc in public, but I remember him struggling at first. I also remember thinking I could never breastfeed in a restaurant…five kids later, we all get more comfortable in our skins, haha!

As the parent of another (non-D) “in your face” child who has a particular talent for being a little TOO comfortable in his own skin (peeing on the playground, anyone?) I try to appreciate and see the plus side of both personalities… and that I don’t have to deal with two of either :grinning:.


“As far as the shirts for swimming go, have you thought about rash guards?”

Oh yeah, we are all about the rash guards…but I make the kids all do that due to being too cheap and lazy to sunscreen five boy torsos and being a paranoid parent trying to prevent melanoma!

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