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Step right this way for some diabetes snapshots, information, and inspiration.

URGENT REQUEST TO PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIA FROM INSULIN FOR LIFE 

Insulin for Life Australia is in urgent need of Lantus insulin. If you have any no longer needed Lantus (or any other insulin, but Lantus is the priority right now), please consider sending it to Insulin for Life, Australia. More information available here. (If you are not in Australia, please use the same link and request information about where you may be able to send your donated insulin.)

Women’s work

International Women’s Day may have been a couple of weeks ago, but I loved this piece from the Diabetes Mine team paying tribute to women in diabetes.

Researching DIYPS

While we’re talking women in diabetes, this wonderful profile of Dana Lewis showcases not only her trailblazing work in DIYPS, but also how she has moved into researching the technology.

Diabetes devices overview

KQED Science ran this great overview of diabetes devices, including a well-balanced summary of current sensor-based glucose monitors. The piece features another legendary woman in diabetes, Melissa Lee.

Diabetes UK Conference wrap up

Last week, Diabetes UK held their diabetes professional conference in London. They extended the conference by as day to host the Diabetes UK Insider event for people with diabetes which provided a summary of some of the sessions from earlier in the week. (You can catch up on twitter by checking out #DUKPC and #DUKPCInsider tags.)

There was some stellar tweeting from both events from a few twitter stars and the blog posts are trickling through now.

You can read this one from Ros at Type 1 Adventures.

And Ascensia smartly engaged Grumpy Pumper once again to write updates for them, and you can find them here.

Four years

Kim Hislop is a pretty cool woman and recently she wrote a beautiful piece about the last sixth months, which she says have been some of the most difficult times of her life. Four years ago, Kim received a kidney transplant from her mother-in-law and, unfortunately, in September last year, the transplanted kidney was rejected.

Read Kim’s story, including how she is feeling about starting dialysis and what she hopes for her future. She is a truly wonderful person and has been such a wonderful advocate for sharing stories about living with diabetes complications. I really hope she keeps writing.

Please, if you are not already an organ donor, please consider becoming one. Information about becoming an organ and tissue donor in Australia is available here.

Pre-pregnancy planning study

Are you a woman with either type 1 or 2 diabetes aged between 18 and 40 years of age living in Australia? Then Helen Edwards wants to hear from you!

As part of her PhD research, Helen is developing a tool to determine how prepared women with diabetes are for pregnancy. The idea is for the tool to be used by diabetes HCPs working with women with diabetes contemplating pregnancy.

If you are interested in participating, please get in touch with Helen at helen.edwards@adelaide.edu.au.

Just Talking

Last month, I sat down with Christopher Snider and had a chat for his Just Talking podcast. By ‘sit down’, I mean that I was at home in Australia and it was the weekend and I was drinking coffee because it was crazy early, and he was at home in the US and it was … well, who knows when it was – I’m not got at time zones.

We chatted about weird accents (I think we were referring to mine), the Hemsworths and Nicole Kidman, #LanguageMatters (because it does) and other diabetes stuff too.

You can listen to it here.

#GBDOC

I’ve been given the keys to the GBDOC tweetchat bus for this week. I’m talking about including people with diabetes in … well … everything to do with diabetes. I suspect the #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs hashtag might get a bit of a run alongside the #GBDOC tag. Please join me at (UK time) Wednesday at 9pm (which is Thursday at 8am AEDT, because we are the future).

Aims for the chat: don’t use too much Australian slang; limit swearing. I should be right about not using slang…

Spare a Rose wrap up

In case you missed it, the final tally for this year’s Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign is in!

Thanks to everyone who donated and shared information about the campaign.

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I wrote a piece last week about how nervous I was about a talk I was giving at the Victorian ADEA Branch Conference about my personal Loop experience. The conference was held on Saturday, and I did my talk and escaped unscathed. It’s a good news story!

Thanks to everyone who encouraged and sent me words of support before my talk. I decided that I’d come clean before starting and admit to the audience that I was feeling a little nervous because I understood just how contentious many may consider what I was about to say.

Having legendary CDE Cheryl Steele share the stage with me – and her story with the audience – certainly helped!

Here are my and Cheryl’s talks.

A reminder – I am not recommending using Loop. This is my personal story and my personal experience. If you would like more information, please search ‘Loop’ on the blog. (There’s lots here because I keep banging on and won’t shut up about it!)

Curled up in the comfort of my bed in Melbourne on Saturday night, I was transported to London where I was watching the live stream and live tweets of the Type 1 Diabetes Rise of the Machines event. (You can read details of that here, or by checking out the #T1DRoM Twitter stream.)

When you are not actually there and able to see and gauge the reaction of the audience, it can be easy to misinterpret the vibe of the room. I couldn’t see the faces or body language of the people in the audience, so I wasn’t sure if my response was the same as theirs.

But there are somethings that can’t be missed – especially with a live Twitter feed!

A representative from one of the device companies was speaking about their range of products, one of which is a blinded CGM device*. Immediately, I bristled. His words celebrating the ‘blinded’ nature of the device, ‘There’s no way for you to interfere with it’,  did nothing to make me feel more reassured at what he was saying.

The tweet I sent out pretty much sums up how I felt about his comments:

And this one from Dana Lewis, who was a guest speaker at the event, was bang on:

Yeah – clearly I was not the only one who had that reaction!

I remember a number of years ago wearing a blinded CGM. It was actually the first CGM here in Australia and I was on a trial for something (I actually can’t remember what the trial was for…) and wearing the clunky CGM was part of the study.

But I certainly do remember demanding that once I returned the CGM (after about 3 or 4 days), I was given a print out of my data. ‘Why would you want that?’ the trial nurse asked me. I imagine that the look I gave her could only be described as ‘withering’.

‘Um…so I can see what is going on with my glucose levels throughout the day. That data is gold – there is no way I will ever have seen anything like it before and the insights will be incredibly useful.’

‘But you probably won’t be able to interpret it all. And what are you going to do with the data?’ That question was asked with an element of suspicion.

I don’t suffer fools and was about to yell loudly at the trial nurse who needed some lessons in ‘patient empowerment’, so I decided to take my questions elsewhere, asking to see the trial supervisor who had enrolled me in the study. The result was a crisp envelope with my name neatly printed across the front handed to me at the end of my next visit to the centre.

Fast forward – probably about 17 years – and I wear CGM all the time and use the data to make daily adjustments to my insulin doses. (Well I did until Loop took over that for me. Reason #124978 I love Loop. Have I mentioned that before?)

I can’t imagine having something connected to me that is collecting information that I could use in real time to improve my diabetes management and not be able to access that data. How frustrating it would be to have something attached to me that could tell me when I was going out of range, but not letting me know it at the time so I could actually do something about it!

Today, if a healthcare professional suggested I wear a device for any period of time where I could not access the data there is no way I would agree.

If you think that it is a good idea because not all PWD could understand the information, then that is a shortcoming of the education process – not a shortcoming of the person with diabetes. And, yes, of course not everyone wants to see all their data, but they should certainly have it offered to them if it is out there!

Denying us access to our own data is simply another way of trying to control the narrative of our health condition and our health education. Not arming us with the information – especially if it is readily available – serves no one.

*Blinded devices are often referred to as the ‘Pro’ version which makes me a little annoyed. Pretty sure the ‘Pros’ here are the ones wearing the devices and analysing and acting on the data 24/7…

There is an indescribable feeling I have following a diabetes conference. Swirled in amongst the exhaustion, information overload, jet lag (because conferences are always in ridiculous time zones that are not AET), and memories, I come back galvanised in a way that can only happen when spending time with those in my tribe: others living with diabetes.

I returned from three days in Vienna bone-achingly exhausted. After being reunited with my family and not being able to stop hugging them, a few days of not-great-but-okay sleep and bucket-loads of Melbourne coffee under my belt, and time to process and write about what I learnt, I find myself recalibrated and ready for what’s next.

The hours of travel is a memory, the conference sits comfortably alongside all the others I’ve been too, my conference name badge is hanging in my office with all the others, and I’ve plans already underway from successful meetings.

In a lot of ways, the status quo has been restored and I am back to my real life after a few days of conference life.

But what is not the same is the level of vitality I now have, my veins pounding with the vigour that comes only from spending time with the people who are working to and for the same things because they get it at a personal level that is only apparent to those of us whose very DNA is affected by this condition.

I came to realise a few years ago that I have an invisible jar in my mind, and how empty or full that jar is depends on the time I’ve spent with likeminded diabetes friends. When the jar is nearing empty, I find it difficult to focus my energies on the advocacy and support issues that often are front and centre of my mind. I feel myself flailing and falling short because I don’t have the support of those I need to boost me up.

Of course, I am lucky enough to have others with diabetes around me even when I am in Melbourne (hello neighbour!), but it is those I see at these sorts of conferences – the ones whose minds and hearts are full of similar ideas, similar frustrations and find similar reasons to celebrate– that fill that jar right up. It is when I can simply turn to someone because they are sitting right there, have an animated conversation and high five each other with our enthusiasm that I feel capable and able to take on the world.

Those people who share my pancreatically-challenged existence, who breathe the same health condition, and struggle, celebrate and despair in similar ways to me, are the ones who fill up the jar ways to sustain me until the next time. My motivation is high, the momentum fast, my mind is working overtime. And my jar is overflowing right now with those people who may have beta cells that don’t work, but they make up for it in ways you couldn’t even begin to imagine.

Tine – who inspires me every time we speak.

I was very lucky to be invited to attend the Roche #DiabetesMeetup held at ATTD in Vienna. About 60 advocates were brought together on the thirty-fifth floor of a building high above Vienna. I reconnected with friends and fellow advocates from Italy, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and welcomed UK advocates for the first time to the blogger group. The dynamic in this room is electrifying – these are smart, passionate, funny, outspoken, opinionated people with high expectations when it comes to their diabetes management experience – exactly the sort of people you want around you when you are developing diabetes technology solutions.

Elena from Italy.

I remain fascinated – and impressed – by these Roche events, even though this is the fourth one I’ve attended. I have a level of frustration at times when attending similar events because instead of them being used as an opportunity for engagement and interaction, they become sales pitches, with attendees being spoken at. I have sat in other events feeling as though I am being told what and how I should feel about my own diabetes with those speaking at me making all sorts of assumptions based on some ridiculous market research that involved anyone other than real people with real diabetes!

By and large, these #DiabetesMeetup events are the very opposite of that.

As I have said before, I am not naïve. I am fully aware that we as bloggers and patient advocates are worth a lot to industry. We blog, we Instagram, we Tweet, we Facebook. We  have a voice and we use it. We have a platform – however big – that means we are very privileged to be able to speak about our experiences and have people listen.

By engaging with us in this way, we have become part of Roche’s – a very big drug and device company – 21st century marketing and communications plan. We are part of their PR machine. And I am absolutely okay with that. I can leave at any time. I can not write about what goes on at these events if I don’t want to.

I have also said before that it would be worse for us to not be part of their plan – or if they were stuck in the 20th century and refusing to actually work with people with diabetes.

Ute Volkmann from Roche Global doing a stellar job running the day.

The reason these events continue to leave an impression is because they are absolutely not an opportunity for Roche to lecture us and do a big whizz bang display of their technologies. Of course we see what they’re up to. But then we tell them what we think. (At the first Roche #DiabetesMeetup I attended in Munich, we were shown their in-development CGM device. The feedback wasn’t all that favourable. I have not seen or heard anything more about this product, and can only imagine that their R&D team had a lot to think about after rather negative reviews from the people who were hoped to be using the device.)

Previously, I have refused to attend advocate sessions in the past because there was an expectation that all attendees would be using the company’s product, and if not, we were expected to hide away any competing devices . Not once at these events has anyone asked me what I use, tried to give me a Roche product or suggested I use one of their devices. (For the record and full transparency, the only Roche product I use is my lancing device which I paid for myself and the lancets that come with it. I’ve not needed to buy more lancets because I think the lancet device came with about 10 of them, so I’m good until about the middle of the century.)

The big ticket item in Roche’s diabetes tech bag at present is the Eversense XL. The announcement at #DibetesMeetup that the implantable sensor now has a lifespan of 180 days. To illustrate the point, we heard that if you inserted a sensor while there was snow on the ground, you would need to replace it in the height of Summer.

Annie and I can always be trusted to bring down the overall tone of an event.

I am all for continued innovation in sensor development, and I can certainly see the appeal of the Eversense. I spoke with a couple of people at the event who were wearing them and their experience had been super positive. I’ve not worn the device and am most interested in the real life experience: how does it feel on?; how annoying is the transmitter and does it fall off?; the tape required for the transmitter to adhere to the skin – does it irritate?  I am also keen to see how Eversense will be able to integrate with existing diabetes tech. And, I’m ever mindful of expected cost to the person with diabetes because I want to know if this is something that will be available and accessible to many people, or just a lucky few.

Roche followed up the blogger event with a symposium on the Friday of ATTD. It was here they announced they would be supporting JDRF’s Open Protocol proposal (which I discussed in yesterday’s post.)

While the formalities are all interesting, it is often the discussions that happen outside the official program that have real impact. I had a couple of very robust conversations about the role PWD have when working with industry. We know there are people in the diabetes community who have a complete and utter aversion to any interaction with device and drug companies.

My position on this is and has always been clear: our role is to be part of every single discussion about diabetes and every level and every step of the way. My only insistence is that there is transparency. I always disclose when I have been funded to attend an event, if I have been given product or working with any company on a project.

I was also involved in a brilliant conversation about the whole idea of sharing CGM data with loved ones. Some people were completely against the idea, unable to consider a single time when they would ever want anyone else to see their CGM numbers or find it useful. Others are big fans of share capabilities, because it makes their families feel safe when they are away. I see both sides to this story.

I had lots of chances to hear what people had been up to and how their advocacy efforts were playing out. One of the wonderful things about coming together every six months or so is that there has been time for projects to grow, blossom and show results. It is always great to hear people doing so well in their endeavours to provide support to others with diabetes.

In a connected world where I see most of these European diabetes advocates online at least every week, it is undeniable that these face-to-face opportunities provide an extra level of support and engagement. I am extraordinarily grateful to have that opportunity – to see, learn from and work with such a dynamic group of people I am fortunate to call friends.

What’s the collective noun for a group of dynamic diabetes advocates?

DISCLOSURE

Roche Diabetes Care (Global) covered my travel and accommodation costs to attend their #DiabetesMeetup Blogger event at #ATTD2018. They also assisted with providing me press registration to attend all areas of ATTD2018. As always, my agreement to attend their blogger day does not include any commitment from me, or expectation from them, to write about them, the event or their products. 

Three days in Vienna is never going to be enough, and neither were three days at ATTD. But mother guilt is a very strong motivator for getting back home as quickly as possible.

This is the second ATTD conference I attended. Last year, I returned a little bewildered because it was such a different diabetes conference to what I was used to. But this year, knowing what to expect, I was ready and hit the ground running.

There will be more to come – this is the initial brain dump! But come back from more in coming weeks. Also, if you emailed me, shot me a text, Facebooked me, Tweeted me or sent me a owl last week, I’ll get back to you soon. I promise. Long days, and long nights made me a little inaccessible last week, but the 3am wake up thanks to jet lag is certainly helping me catch up!

So, some standouts for me:

DIY

The conversation shift in 12 months around DIY systems was significant. While last year it was mentioned occasionally, 2018 could have been called the ATTD of DIY APS! Which means that clearly, HCPs cannot afford to think about DIY systems as simply a fringe idea being considered by only a few.

And if anyone thinks the whole DIY thing is a passing phase and will soon go away, the announcement from Roche that they would support JDRF’s call for open protocols should set in stone that it’s not. DANA has already made this call. And smaller pump developers such as Ypsomed are making noises about doing the same. So surely, this begs to the question: Medtronic, as market leaders, where are you in this?

It was fantastic to see true patient-led innovation so firmly planted on the program  over and over and over again at ATTD. After my talk at ADATS last year – and the way it was received – it’s clear that it’s time for Australian HCPs to step up and start to speak about this sensibly instead of with fear.

Nasal glucagon

Possibly one of the most brilliant things I attended was a talk about nasal glucagon, and if diabetes was a game, this would be a game changer! Alas, diabetes is not a game, but nasal glucagon is going to be huge. And long overdue.

Some things to consider here: Current glucagon ‘rescue therapy’ involves 8 steps before deliver. Not only that, but there are a lot of limitations to injectable glucagon.

Nasal glucagon takes about 30 seconds to deliver and is far easier to administer and most hypos resolved within 30 minutes of administration. There have been pivotal and real world studies and both show similar results and safety. Watch this space!

Time in Range

Another significant shift in focus is the move towards time in range as a measure of glucose management rather than just A1c. Alleluia that this is being acknowledged more and more as a useful tool, and the limitations of A1c recognised. Of course, increasing CGM availability is critical if more people are going to be able to tap into this data – this was certainly conceded as an issue.

I think that it’s really important to credit the diaTribe team for continuing to push the TIR agenda. Well done, folks!

BITS AND PIECES

MedAngel again reminded us how their simple sensor product really should become a part of everyone’s kit if they take insulin. This little slide shows the invisible problem within our invisible illness

Affordability was not left out of the discussion and thank goodness because as we were sitting there hearing about the absolute latest and greatest tech advantages, we must never forget that there are still people not able to afford the basics to keep them alive. This was a real challenge for me at ATTD last year, and as technologies become better and better that gap between those able to access emerging technology and those unable to afford insulin seems to widening. We cannot allow that to happen.

Hello T-Slim! The rumours are true – Tandem is heading outside the US with official announcements at ATTD that they will be supplying to Scandinavia and Italy in coming months. There are very, very, very loud rumours about an Australian launch soon but as my source on this is unofficial, best not to add to the conjecture.

How’s this for a soundbite:

GOLD STARS GO TO….

Massive congrats to the ATTD team on their outstanding SoMe engagement throughout the conference. Not a single ‘No cameras’ sign to be seen, instead attendees were encouraged to share information in every space at the meeting.

Aaron Kowalski from JDRF gave an inspired and inspiring talk in the Access to Novel Technologies session where he focused on the significant role PWD have in increasing access to new treatments and his absolute focus on the person with diabetes had me fist pumping with glee!

Ascensia Diabetes packed away The Grumpy Pumper into their conference bag and sent him into the conference to write and share what he learnt. Great to see another group stepping into this space and providing the means for an advocate and writer to attend the meetings and report back. You can read Grumps’ stream of consciousness here.

Dr Pratik Choudhary from the UK was my favourite HCP at ATTD with this little gem of #LangaugeMatters. Nice work, Pratik!

ANY DISAPPOINTMENTS?

Well, yes. I am still disappointed that there were no PWD speaking as PWD on the program. This is a continued source of frustration for me, especially in sessions that claim to be about ‘patient empowerment’. Also, considering that there was so much talk about ‘patient-led innovation’, it may be useful to have some of those ‘patient leaders’ on the stage talking about their motivations for the whole #WeAreNotWaiting business and where we feel we’re being let down.

I will not stop saying #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs until I feel that we are well and truly part of the planning, coordination and delivery of conferences about the health condition that affects us far more personally that any HCP, industry rep or other organisation.

DISCLOSURE

Roche Diabetes Care (Global) covered my travel and accommodation costs to attend their #DiabetesMeetup Blogger event at #ATTD2018 (more to come on that). They also assisted with providing me press registration to attend all areas of ATTD2018. As always, my agreement to attend their blogger day does not include any commitment from me, or expectation from them, to write about them, the event or their products. It is, however, worth noting that they are doing a stellar job engaging with people with diabetes, and you bet I want to say thank you to them and acknowledge them for doing so in such a meaningful way.

New year, new jumble. And lots of saved links from the last few weeks to share.

#OzDOC 2.0

Did you know that after OzDOC had it’s ‘final’ tweetchat at the beginning of December last year, it’s had a reboot and is now continuing to go at a great rate. David Burren (AKA Bionic Wookiee) kicked off the chat but is looking for people to volunteer to the moderators’ roster. There’s a brand new Twitter account to follow (@OzDOC_host), but the #OzDOC hashtag continues to shine brightly.

Same #OzDOC time, same #OzDOC channel. (i.e. Tuesdays at 8.30pm AEDT)

And while we’re talking tweetchats…

…make sure you keep an eye out on the #GBDOC tweetchats, which also had a bit of a restart last year and are going absolutely brilliantly. Follow @GbdocTChost for topics and moderators.

Now is a great time for Aussies to participate in #GBDOC because with the time zone difference, the chat is on Thursday 8am AEDT…which is actually quite pleasant. (It all goes to pot and becomes more difficult when daylight saving kicks in/out in respective hemispheres in coming months, but for now, it’s certainly manageable!)

Jane’s profile

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Professor Jane Speight and I make no apologies for mentioning her so frequently on this blog. She is truly a champion for and of people with diabetes and her pioneering work on diabetes and #LanguageMatters, and social stigma are changing the landscape for those of us living with diabetes.

Last week, a profile of Jane and her work was published in The Lancet. Congrats, Jane. I can’t imagine a more worthy recipient of this attention. Please keep on keeping on. I for one am very grateful to have you on our side!

Read the article here – it’s free, but you will need to register/log in to access it.

(Click photo for source)

Dear ‘patient’

I was really interested to read this BMJ Opinion piece about medical letters, with the writers suggesting that instead of addressing ‘report letters’ to referring (and other) doctors and HCPs, that they should be addressed directly to the person, CCing in the doctor who would ordinarily have been sent the letter.

I love that idea! My endo generally copies me in on anything she sends out to my other HCPs to keep me in the loop, but I think that actually writing directly to me is even better.

HCPs would need to completely reconsider the language they adopt, the terminology they use and the overall tone of the communication, and I believe that there is nothing that should be shared with another HCP about me that shouldn’t be shared directly with me.

Interesting idea. And interesting to see if it has legs…

Writing for Grumps

After writing for me a few weeks ago, I returned the favour and wrote a post for The Grumpy Pumper. (I think the deal he made was something like ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’, so I had to come up with the goods.)

This is all part of Grumps’ attempts to get people with diabetes speaking about #TalkAboutComplications in an open and honest way to help reduce the shame that seem to go hand in hand with a complications diagnosis.

Get ready for Spare a Rose spam

This year’s campaign is about to kick off. And if you want to know why I support this campaign, here’s just one reason.

Hospital admissions and T1D study

Rebecca Munt from Flinders University is currently enrolled in a PhD at Flinders University and is looking for participants in her research.

The focus of her study is to explore the experiences of self-management for adults with type 1 diabetes in the hospital setting (when T1D is not the primary admission diagnosis). If you’re interested in participating in Rebecca’s study, have type 1 diabetes, are over 18 years of age and have been admitted to hospital within the last two to five years (not for diabetes), please call Rebecca on (08) 8201 5749 or email rebecca.munt@flinders.edu.au

(The project has Social Behavioural Research Ethics Committee approval from Flinders University.)

Future of medical conferences

I have been very vocal in recent years about the shortcomings of diabetes conferences, specifically the lack of involvement and engagement of people with diabetes as part of the planning, running and presenting of the conference. So this piece really resonated about why medical meetings need a revamp, and some ideas for what could be done differently.

(Click for original tweet)

Because #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs.

Does the story we know and love about Banting need a rewrite?

I was fascinated to watch the short documentary shared in this story which suggests that the frequently-told story of the discovery of insulin is missing out a critical part.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

This blog post by Sue Robins detailing two vastly different medical appointments is compelling – and quite heartbreaking –reading.

More D Merch

Totally true!

Click image to get your own!

 

After lunch on the first day of the Congress, the Living with Diabetes stream got all technical with a couple of sessions on diabetes tech.

The first was billed as a debate: #WeAreWaiting versus #WeAreNotWaiting, and the speakers in the session were Annie Astle (found on the interwebs as Understudy Pancreas) and Dana Lewis (found on the interwebs as Dana Lewis, because everyone knows Dana).

I loved this idea of this session, which was to give different perspectives about how people with diabetes are making decisions about the technology the choose – or choose not – to use.

I was acting as Chair and used my time when introducing the session and the speakers to highlight that the ‘My Diabetes, My Rules’ idea was going to be really emphasised in the next hour or so.

It’s hard not to get swept up in a movement as exciting, interesting and ground-breaking as the #WeAreNotWaiting movement. There are a lot of people speaking about it, and a lot of people extolling the benefits of using their DIY system. I know I need to rein in just how evangelical I am at times about my Looping experience, because I am so effusive about how transformative it has been for me.

And when Dana speaks, it’s even more apparent just how revolutionary the technology is, and how remarkable the evolution of diabetes DIY is in such a regulated and conservative ‘industry’.

But it’s not for everyone. And we need to hear from those people too.

Annie shared the story of her teenage daughter living with type 1 diabetes, Pumplette, and explained why her family is waiting and not jumping on board the DIY APS bandwagon. Let’s be clear here, this is not because they are luddites; they actually do embrace technology. Pumplette starting on a pump at the tiny age of one-year-old. (Annie showed a photo of baby Pumplette with her pump which was more than half the length of her leg.) Plus, Pumplette uses CGM with share capabilities, allowing Annie to stay connected to what’s going on with her daughter even while eight hours away. (Or, as my daughter and Pumplette like to say during their regular conversations ‘While our mothers abandon us’. Digression, but Annie, introducing these girls has paid dividends for our mother guilt, hasn’t it?)

While embracing commercially available technologies, Pumplette has chosen to not use Loop or Open APS.

And that sentence I have just written says it all. The decision to not use a DIY system is fundamentally Pumplette’s decision. What Annie wants is not relevant. Pumplette’s diabetes; Pumplette’s rules.

I have long admired Annie’s parenting approach. She has three daughters who are the most delightful, considerate, smart, sassy, talented, funny girls I’ve had the good fortune to get to know. I shouldn’t have been surprised when we met on the streets of NYC last year that they would be like this – I’d been reading Annie’s blog and had met her a number of times, and these great girls are the result of having been given freedom and independence while being supported, loved and nurtured. And this approach extends to Pumplette’s diabetes.

It’s really hard as a parent not to push what we want onto our kids. I know that I catch myself all the time from steering my kid in a particular direction because I think it’s the right one (or it’s what I want), when I know that really, she needs to make the decisions herself and the best thing I can do is step back, watch, support and encourage, stepping in when asked. I can only imagine how much more difficult this would be if with kids with diabetes.

Annie’s talk at the Congress showed me once again that she continues to parent at expert level. Her girls are so lucky.

Annie’s talk can be heard here (you’ll need to have a Facebook account to view it).

Disclosure

 

I was the Deputy Lead for the Living with Diabetes Stream, and an invited speaker at the 2017 IDF Congress. The International Diabetes Federation covered my travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress.

…And this disclosure too

Annie is one of my dearest friends. I love her to pieces. But even though she is one of my favourite people in the world, everything I have written here is true and I am certainly not the only person to feel this way about her!

 

I was thrilled and honoured to speak in the symposium at #IDF2017 all about peer support. I shared the program with Chris Aldred, better known to all as The Grumpy Pumper, and advocate Dr Phylissa Deroze (you can – and should – find her as @not_defeated on Twitter).

Speakers in the peer support symposium at #IDF2017

When we were putting together the program for the symposium, the idea was that it would offer an overview of what peer support can look like, beginning with how diabetes organisations and community health groups can facilitate and offer a variety of peer support options, and rounding up with the perspectives of people with diabetes who provide and participate in peer support.

I spoke about how diabetes organisations in Australia, through the NDSS, offer a suite of peer support choices, urging the audience to think beyond the usual face-to-face or, increasingly, online peer support group. Activities such as camps for children and adolescents with diabetes, information events, education sessions (such as DAFNE) are all avenues for peer support. Peer support need not only take the form of a group of people sitting in a (real or virtual) room talking about diabetes in a structured or unstructured way. It can happen just by putting people with diabetes in the same space.

I’d never met Phylissa before, but I quickly learnt she is the definition of the word determined. She spoke eloquently about her own type 2 diabetes diagnosis which was anything but ideal. Instead of feeling beaten and overcome by how she had been let down by the healthcare system, she turned to her peers, finding a group that not only helped her diabetes management, but also gave her confidence to live well with diabetes.

Phylissa now facilitates an in-person support group for women with diabetes in Al Ain in the UAE, and is a huge supporter of, and believer in, the power and importance of peer to peer engagement and support in diabetes management. You can read more about Phylissa’s work on her website here.

Grumps, in true Grumps style, gave a talk about how his approach to peer support is more organic and certainly not especially structured. Although involved in some more planned peer support, he believes the most effective way he can support others with diabetes is on an individual, more informal way. Kind of like this:

Click image to see tweet.

And as if putting into practise his talk at the Congress, last week he started a conversation on Twitter about his own recent experiences of being diagnosed with an ulcer in his foot opening the door for people to speak about diabetes complications.

Click image to see tweet.

The way we speak about diabetes-related complications is often flawed. The first we hear of them is around diagnosis and they are held over us as a threat of the bad things to come if we don’t do as we are told. They are also presented to us with the equation of: Well-managed-diabetes + doing-what-the-doctors-say = no complications.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

From then on, complications are spoken of in hushed-voices or accusations. Blame is apportioned to those who develop them: obviously, they failed to take care of themselves.

And because of this, for many people, the diagnosis of a diabetes-related complication is accompanied by guilt, shame and feelings of failure when really, the response should be offers of support, the best care possible and links to others going through the same thing. Peer support.

Back to Grumps’ raising diabetes complications on Twitter. After sharing his own story, suggested that we should not be ashamed to talk about complications.

That was the catalyst others needed to begin volunteering their own stories of complications diagnoses. Suddenly, people were openly speaking about diabetes complications in a matter-of-fact, open way – almost as if speaking about the weather. Some offered heartfelt sympathies, others shared tips and tricks that help them. But the overall sentiments were those of support and camaraderie.

The recurring theme of the peer support symposium at the Congress was that we need to find others we can connect with in a safe space so we can speak about the things that matter to us. It’s not the role of any organisation or HCP to set the agenda – the agenda needs to be fluid and follow whatever people with diabetes need.

END NOTE

While we’re talking peer support, how great is it to see that the weekly OzDOC tweetchat is getting a reprise this week, with Bionic Wookiee, David Burren at the helm. Drop by if you are free at the usual time: Tuesday evening at 8.30pm (AEDT). I’ll be there!

Disclosure

I was the Deputy Lead for the Living with Diabetes Stream, and an invited speaker at the 2017 IDF Congress. The International Diabetes Federation covered my travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress.

This week has been brutal. I arrived home from the IDF Congress very late on Saturday night after a very long journey from Abu Dhabi and since then, my body clock has had no idea where I am, despite my actual body being very much in the midst of Melbourne’s sometimes sweltering summer. My mind is all over the shop, sleep is something that happens if it wants (which it doesn’t really) and, for some inexplicable reason, I’m off coffee.

So, yes, I am a delight to be around right now. Want to hang out?

My time at the Congress, however, was one of those weeks that makes me feel so fortunate and privileged to do the job I do and have afforded to me the opportunities that come with it. Apart from a very full schedule of outstanding talks from leaders in the diabetes world, the congress was packed with advocates from around the world. I was totally with my tribe.

That’s me talking about diabetes and peer support!

There is lots to write about the Congress and I’ll do so in bits and pieces over the coming few weeks, but there were some stand out moments that I wanted to touch on and thought I’d try to do that now. (I’ve already started this blog post about four thousand, three hundred and twenty-eight times, so who knows how we’ll go here…)

Dot points – because they seem to take less energy and mental bandwidth…

  • This is the only diabetes conference primarily aimed at healthcare professionals that has a stream completely and utterly dedicated to ‘living with diabetes’ (LWD). This is, in equal measure, brilliant and problematic. It’s brilliant because it means that there is a real opportunity for people with diabetes to be on the speaker program, have their accommodation, travel and registration funded, and be part of the conversation at the actual meeting. But it can be problematic because it means that often, there are not all that many HCPs in attendance at the LWD sessions. I believe that one way to improve this situation is to include PWD in other sessions as well as have an exclusive stream. More on that another time, perhaps.

Click image to see tweet.

  • So with that in mind, if your HCP was at the Congress, I’d be asking them which LWD stream sessions they saw and have a stern talking to them if they reply with ‘not a one…’ Hopefully they will be more like UK Consultant Diabetologist, Reza Zaidi who not only attended a number of the LWD sessions, but also tweeted throughout them and asked questions.

(Click image to see tweet)

  • I patted a falcon (not a euphemism). There were falcons at the Congress. I am not sure why they were there. But obviously, I was terrified. I tried to overcome my fear of birds by being brave and patting one. I am still scared of birds.

  • There was a language session in the LWD stream (of course), but it was clear that a few of the exhibitors, presenters and those putting together posters for presentation could do with a refresher course on not using the word ‘compliant’. Call me, folks. I can help.
  • There was a fascinating discussion during the language session when it was explained by someone asking a question that the word for ‘diabetes’ in Japanese is literally translated as Sugar Urine Disease. And yes – you bet that adds to the stigma of diabetes…
  • And one final language point. There was a lot of talk about needing to ‘battle’, ‘fight’, ‘combat’ and ‘challenge’ diabetes as though this is a war. I’m not sure that this is a particularly useful way to think about it all.

Click image to see tweet.

  • Getting a break from the Congress proved almost impossible. So I was so grateful to the diaTribe Foundation for forcing us out of the conference centre and into an Art Gallery with one of their Art Walk series events. We got a guided tour of the brand new (as in, open for less than a month) Abu Dhabi Louvre. Stunning!

The amazing Abu Dhabi Louvre at sunset

  • For some reason, the IDF put me up in the middle of nowhere on a golf course. Perhaps they were hoping I would take walks. Or improve my swing. I did neither of these things.
  • I am more than used to getting asked about the ‘thing’ on my arm. My Dexcom sensor and transmitter are quite obvious and people are curious. I almost have come to expect it and I am happy to answer questions as long as they are asked respectfully. I don’t, however, expect this at at a diabetes conference. And yet, that happened over a dozen times. But possibly, the most surreal experience was stepping onto the Dexcom stand in the exhibition hall and having a few of the sales reps nearly tripping over themselves to ask what it was, how it worked, what it felt like and why it was on my arm. And then they wanted to see the iPhone and Apple Watch app and ask more questions, suggesting that Congress attendees visiting the stand ask questions of me and another person sporting one of their devices. Obviously, I should be on commission…
  • Diabetes conference exhibition halls can be confusing places. There are stands offering products that seem to be so far removed from diabetes that surely the exhibitors have accidentally turned up the wrong week for the wrong conference. I’m still confused by what the fluffy dolphin (pictured here with Annie, Georgie, Grumps and me) has to do with diabetes or what was happening on this stand.

Dolphins and diabetes… join the dots.

  • The Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) might look like pretty much every other conference and exhibition centre I’ve ever been to (they all do), but jeez, it was certainly the largest I’ve ever been to. It was, in fact, quite cavernous and a lot of the time seemed quite empty, despite there being over 8,000 attendees. All that space, and still nowhere to get a decent coffee.
  • I chaired a really important session about diabetes complications. It was great to have an open, frank and honest discussion about living with complications and how they impact on the lives of people with diabetes. (Although, I could have done without the clip from Steel Magnolias to introduce the session on complications in pregnancy.)
  • Finally, it was so lovely to see the wonderful Wim Wienjen’s legacy on show during the hypoglycaemia talk. The book he authored alongside Daniela Rojas Jimenez is due for publication soon.

That’s it in dot points for today. I’ll be back soon writing more about the Congress. (I guess four thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine is a charm….)

Disclosure

I was the Deputy Lead for the Living with Diabetes Stream, and an invited speaker at the 2017 IDF Congress. The International Diabetes Federation covered by travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress. 

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