On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the Australia Diabetes Society’s (ADS) annual Insulin Pump and CGM Workshop. I’d been invited along another ten or so people with diabetes who already wear CGM or Libre to share our insights into living with and wearing sensing devices.

(Quick shout out to the ADS. For those who don’t know, the ADS is the professional body for endos in Australia. Over the last few years, their leadership team has been absolutely instrumental in finding ways to better include PWD in what they are doing. As an organisation, they have been innovative, and responsible for ground-breaking initiatives such as the Enhancing Consulting Skills resource. We need our professional bodies to be like this. And we need them to work with us so that we can provide our perspective to the work they are doing.)

The idea of the workshop is for endocrinologists to have hands on experience of the technology rather than just what they see and are taught at industry events. (For the record, the industry events are super important because they are an opportunity to learn about the shiny technical side of things. And get branded pens. Pens are awesome.)

Discussion was the focus of this session. There was no long presentation with people taking notes. Instead, we were asked to sit at tables with endocrinologists, and encouraged to share our the real life experience of wearing the technology.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this is always the way I want to learn and to share information. I seem to get annoyed at sessions when I have someone speaking at me for ages, telling me what they think I need to know. I much prefer to have discussions and watch conversations go off on tangents, providing attendees with the details and information that is relevant to them; that they will be able to take home with them and put into practise.

The thing about having PWD in the room is that we have a tendency to hold little back. My friend Jodie and I were at the same table. We both wear Dexcom, but our experiences are quite different. (Or as I put it: ‘She does what she’s meant to. I don’t’.) This was actually a master stroke, because it showed the endos just how varied our experiences can be. And that while what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, there really may not be a ‘right’ way to do things.

Jodie and I demonstrated putting in new sensors so that the endos could see how the actual insertion works. We talked about using an alcohol swab where we were about to site our sensor (in this case, I was the one following the instructions I’d been taught when I first started using CGM. ‘ Yeah…I can’t be bothered,’ said Jodie and I wanted to high five her and welcome her to the dark side of non-compliance.)

There was one endo at our table who was pressing every single one of my ‘OH-YES-LET’S-TALK-ABOUT-THAT’ buttons, and the first thing she said when we removed the sensor from the packaging was ‘Why is there so much waste in there?

We spoke about the fact that current Dex sensors don’t have reusable inserting devices and that really, the companies could perhaps do a little more to find ways to reduce waste, while continuing to produce a sterile product. (The G6 apparently has addressed this…)

At one point, the Dexcom rep. mentioned the share function on the G5, and as if by magic, my new favourite endo jumped in with ‘Who makes the decision as to whether or not their data is shared.’ I wanted to hug her, but it was the first time we’d met and I thought that might be a little creepy. But yes; oh yes! We were going to talk about consent.

The absolute best thing for me was that not once as I shared by clearly (and absolutely owned) deliberately non-compliant CGM existence, did one of the endos look at me with disdain, shake their head, raise an eyebrow or tut tut. They asked how what I did made things better for me.

Some examples of questions and my answers:

Why do you wear the sensor on your arm and not your stomach?

I find it more comfortable and it reads more accurately. Plus, it lasts longer there than on my tummy.

Why do you restart the sensor?

Because I’m frugal and don’t want to fork out $90 every seven days when I know it works perfectly well for me still at 21 days 

Look, the Dex reps should turn away right now, block their ears and pretend that they don’t understand me, because I am going to be really candid about this. Firstly, I am going to say that I adore this product. I would say that no matter who is in the room – I’m not sucking up to the AMSL reps because I’m hoping they’ll throw some free product my way. They don’t and that’s fine. I mean it. This is a brilliant product that I literally trust with my life. But there are some things that piss me off…

Sensors are around the $90 mark. They are approved for use for seven days. But at the end of those seven days, the sensor is still working perfectly. In fact, many people report that it works even better after the first week. Why should I throw out a perfectly good, working product if it is still doing what it says on the box? 

I know the risks. I am choosing to do this myself and I am more than happy to own it.

But while we’re on this topic. The transmitter is AUD$540 every three months. That’s right, after three months, it stops working. The batteries are still good to go for a couple of months, but the device is factory set to stop working. Now, this has been done with a whole lot of safety considerations in mind and I understand those. But again, a device that is not rechargeable and still has some use in it has to be thrown out.

So, I don’t really have any qualms about using all sorts of DIY solutions that allow for the transmitter life to be extended.

I’ll say it again – I know the risks. This is about me and no one else. I am happy to take those risks.

So, you don’t calibrate it as recommended. Why?

Because sometimes, stopping whatever I am doing to calibrate is not something I want to do. Plus I’ve been wearing this for over 2 years now and I’ve learnt what to trust and what not to trust and how to use it safely. I have set my own boundaries that I feel are acceptable and perfectly safe.  

Do the alarms bother you?

They used to. But now I’ve managed to customise them to a way that works for me. I have all the alarms on now, but in the past, I had all the high alerts and alarms disabled because they pissed me off so much. But the predictability of Loop means that the alarms are rare and I generally I have the headspace to respond to them as they happen. (Although the please calibrate one can drive me nuts sometimes.) 

Do you share your CGM data?

I have in the past, but I don’t these days. As an adult with diabetes, I make that decision and there have been times when I’ve liked the idea of someone having my back – usually when I’ve been travelling solo. But since I’ve been looping there has been no need.  

What’s Loop?

Um…we’re going to need a longer session… Here’s the address to my blog. Sorry for all the swearing.

After the event, the event organiser sent me a lovely text message, thanking me for my time and for speaking at the Workshop. She said that the CGM session was a highlight for many of the attendees. ‘People with diabetes make the best teachers,’ she added. And she’s right. When we are talking about what it’s like to actually live with these device on our bodies and in our everyday life, we really are the best people to talk about it! HCPs are great at talking about the science and the clinical side of things. But we make diabetes real because we are living it. You can only get that when you go straight to the source. And yes; we’re the source.

Disclosure

The ADS provided me with a $50 gift voucher to thank me for my time on Saturday. I was also given one Dexcom sensor to insert at the Workshop which I am still wearing. (And will do so for the next three weeks or so…)

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