Being fiercely independent about my health is something that I cherish. I have a strong need to own my own health and well-being and direct the course taken to manage my diabetes as best as I possibly can. I do this with full disclosure that the mess ups are mine as much as the successes. The buck starts and stops with me.
But sometimes – always, actually – it helps to know that there is support at hand when needed.
That help might be in the form of someone to accompany me to appointments (thanks dad, who has chauffeured me to almost every single ophthalmologist appointment I have been to in the last 17 years), someone to meet me afterwards over coffee so I can debrief and share what happened, or someone to actually sit alongside me whilst in the consulting room, taking note of what is being said. Having a second set of ears is always a great idea, especially if what is being covered off is challenging in any way.
I usually attend appointments with my endo alone, although sometimes, my mum may be with me to keep my company. We use it as an excuse to then catch up for coffee and cake. Other times, when there has been something ‘big’ to discuss, Aaron comes along and listens intently, rarely commenting unless he can see that I am uncertain about something. And then we go for coffee and cake.
I pretty much always see the GP alone, but truly, my GP appointments are always super quick and about something so specific – and usually simple – that I don’t need to take someone along for the ride.
Most of the time, I am happy to be on my own. I relish the time in the waiting room – all alone, nice and quiet, and usually a trashy mag or two to catch up on.
The day I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was squeezed into an end of day appointment with an endocrinologist. I asked Aaron and my mum to come along to help me understand what was happening. The next day, as I saw the dietitian and diabetes educator and endo again, they were there, and together we took in all the new information, letting it swirl around us and settle uncomfortably. A new health reality that involved needles and numbers and thinking about food in a different way. This needed a team approach.
It was incredibly useful to be able to ask them questions about things I had only half heard or half understood as my mind tried to take in all I was being told. I found myself turning to mum for suggestions around food, and to Aaron about how I was feeling and what I was worried about.
As I got used to ‘having diabetes’ I asked fewer questions and learnt to focus on what I needed to know. These became the things that we would discuss in appointments and afterwards, blocking out the ‘white noise’ of the things we didn’t need to know.
I have people around me who know a great deal about diabetes; people I can call on when I need to for advice and company and a friendly face in the waiting room. Someone on my side; someone by my side. My own personal wingmen.