We don’t pat ourselves on the back enough when it comes to diabetes. There’s lots of ‘I should be doing this more’ and ‘I need to do that more’. But not much, ‘Hey! Well done, me!’ or acknowledging that ‘that’ll do’ is actually, ‘that’s brilliant!’

So, today, I’m thinking about what it is that I am most proud when it comes to diabetes.  And I realise that it’s not really the management stuff that makes me puff up with pride. It’s the advocacy stuff.

Perhaps I’m feeling this way after yesterday. It was an important day for diabetes in Australia with the launch of the results from the Diabetes MILES – Australia* study. I was lucky enough to be invited to Sydney to take part in the launch, speaking as a participant in the study.

The launch was held in a diabetes clinic at a Sydney hospital. There was hope that the Minister from the Department of Health and Ageing would be there and the thinking was that launching this report in the ‘real world’ would make it all the more meaningful.

We walked into the clinic and the first thing that drew my attention was a huge poster on the wall about foot care. And there across the top of the poster were graphic photos of feet missing toes, with gangrene and in other states of disrepair. Instinctively, I looked away. And wanted to vomit. Then I got angry.

This is the room that people with diabetes waiting to see a doctor sit – possibly for hours until their name is called. There’s not much else to look at.

My speech was short – only three minutes or so – and really was all about my excitement about MILES and the importance of this research. But, as I stood up to talk, I realised that I couldn’t let the opportunity pass and not mention the horrific images on the wall and how inappropriate they are in this setting.

After the official launch, we had a lovely morning tea. I was chatting to the Director of the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes when a woman from the clinic came up to us. ‘You don’t like our posters?’ She asked me. I was surprised that this is what she wanted to discuss the day that we were launching such an important piece of diabetes research. ‘No. Not at all.’ I said. I wasn’t rude; I was just backing what I’d said earlier. I went on to explain how I felt that scare tactics don’t work, that people with diabetes are aware of our risks of complications and that being hit over the head with graphic images does nothing for us.

‘Oh, that may be the case for some people – particularly people with type 1 diabetes – but people with type 2 diabetes who are not looking after themselves need reminders.’ I gulped back my response (I actually do try to keep myself nice!) and repeated that I really don’t think that scare tactics work for anyone and suggested that they only encourage people to bury their heads in the sand.  

It’s not the first time that I’ve found myself in an argument with a health professional about this issue. And it certainly won’t be the last.  We need to stand up and say when things are not helping us, and I’m fully aware that not everyone has the ability or the desire to do that. But if I see an opportunity, I will always take it. And I’m pretty proud of myself for doing that!

What’s Diabetes MILES – Australia? I’m glad you asked! MILES stands for Management and Impact for Long-term Empowerment and Success and it’s Australia’s first study to assess the psychological AND physical health of people with Australia. The study was conducted by the  Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes. You can read the full study report here and you can read my blog post about it on the Diabetes Australia – Vic blog here.

This is my Tuesday entry into this year’s Diabetes Blog Week. For information, click here. And I really recommend you do. Around 150 diabetes bloggers from all over the world are participating and it’s a great way to see what others with diabetes are talking about. Come back tomorrow for Wednesday’s entry.