I frequently give talks about how to get the most of our healthcare professionals. One of the things I talk about is making sure that we find the HCPs that work best with us. I talk about interviewing doctors – something that I did years ago when I was looking for the right endo. It’s a two way street. One doctor told me that he didn’t think that we would work well together. He was completely right and I walked out of that appointment rather quickly!

I also talk about being really clear and upfront about things – what we need from our HCP, what we expect. And then give them the opportunity to do the same thing.

This is pretty much what I want to say to every HCP when I meet them for the first time.  

Dear Doctor

Hi. You and I are on the same side. My side. We are both championing for me to be the best I can be with the cards I’ve been dealt.

I thought that we would start out by me telling you what I need from you and I would love it if you did the same. This is a relationship that works two ways. You need things from me and I need things from you. Let’s get all that out on the table from the beginning.

Mutual respect is really important. I come with mine ready to give to you. I won’t, however, be quite so generous if you don’t demonstrate the same thing.

Judgement is not welcome in our consultations. That message is actually for me as much as it is for you, because I am totally judging you. I expect you to be judgemental and not understand me or my condition. Show me that I’m wrong. And then don’t judge me for being such a pain in the arse!

My health condition is one that you know a great deal about. That is why I am coming to see you. I want to know everything thing you know that is relevant. But I need you to remember that I have a unique expertise in the field of Renza’s Diabetes. I am the world expert in this field and I will impart everything I have learnt and continue to learn about it to you. If you could then help me make sense of that, I’d really, really appreciate it.

I am not stupid. I have a really good understanding of the health system of which I am, unfortunately, a user. I also know a lot about the technical sides of my condition. I totally get that you need to make sure that I am clear about what you are saying, but please don’t dumb it down too much for me. I promise that I don’t care about looking stupid. I’ll ask if I don’t understand.

I use humour a lot to try to deal with what is, at times, a really scary thing to live with. Sometimes you may think that my humour is not particularly appropriate. A lot of the time you won’t find me funny (but for both of our sake, please pretend; I promise to ignore your fake laugh). I don’t make fun of the situation because I am making light of it. Or because I don’t care. I always care a great deal. But sometimes, it’s what I need to get me through.

I’m really not good at asking for help. But I am coming to see you because I need it. I may seem to be going the long way around getting to actually ask for what I need. Feel free to ask and prompt and even push a little.

I’ll say it again. I care a great deal about my health. I want to be healthy and well and on top of everything. There will be times – and they may be extended times – where it seems that I don’t care. The important word there is ‘seems’. I do care. Really. Sometimes though, it is just overwhelming and exhausting. But I really, really do care.

I have a beautiful family and a great job and a shoe collection that may make you jealous and really like to drink coffee. I bake a lot and love old black and white films. I have wonderful friends I spend time with – frequently over a meal somewhere.  Exercise and I are not mates.  I read voraciously and should probably seek some sort of therapy for my inability to stop buying books. I have a thing for bright red lipstick and have too many handbags. I love Nutella. And bacon. And doughnuts. You may wonder why I am telling you this. It’s because all of these things are part of my life. Just like diabetes. And it goes to explain why diabetes is not the most important thing in my life or the thing that I focus on all the time.

I’m terrified about my future. I am scared about diabetes complications, I lie awake at night worrying about the chance of my daughter getting diabetes and I fear becoming a burden on my loved ones. Diabetes is scary. It is not just a condition of numbers and lab results. It is (an unwelcome) part of my present and my future.

I solemnly swear that I will never, ever walk into your office asking you about some ridiculous cure I read about on the internet. Remember that bit about me not being stupid? But equally, the internet is where I get a lot of my support and information about living with diabetes. I have a support network of people living with diabetes from all around the globe. They build me up, tell me about new things, help me work through tough times. They are, to me, as important a part of my diabetes management as you are. Don’t treat them with suspicion.

So, did you know that cinnamon can cure diabetes? I’m disconnecting my pump and eating cinnamon doughnuts and nothing more for a week to see how it goes. Just kidding. (Pretend laugh. Now.)

And finally. I want you to remember all the time that I am doing the best I can at that very moment. It may not be as much as you would like, but this isn’t about you. It’s probably not as much as I would like either. Acknowledging what I am doing makes me feel really great. And frequently then makes me want to do better.

Thanks for reading. I really do hope this is the beginning of a beautiful doctor-PWD friendship.

Best

Renza

Friday tunes. Oh, Vinnie Barbarino! 

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