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Last week, I spent three and a half days in Paris at the Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD) international conference. It was the 10th ATTD meeting, and the first that I had attended. I have been to my fair share of diabetes conferences both here and around the world, but this one was definitely different. The narrow focus on technology meant that most of the attendees shared an affinity for tech-geekiness.
I was there as part of the Roche Blogger Networking #DiabetesMeetup event, (my disclosures are at the end of this post), which was a remarkable day with about 40 bloggers from across Europe. Lots more about that in coming days.
As I sat in sessions and wandered around the exhibition hall, I found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable. The combination of being enthused, enthralled and excited (alliteration!!) at new tech and treatment advances sat trickily alongside nagging and constant reflection about the categorically un-level playing field that is diabetes around the world.
How could I happily be sitting there, hearing about automated insulin delivery devices, the value of CGM use, implantable CGM sensors that last for 90 days and big data when I had just spent weeks imploring people to donate to Spare a Rose, Save a Child? I am an ambassador for Insulin for Life Global and despair at the thought that people are dying because they can’t access insulin. And even in first world countries, access to insulin is, for some, not a given, and the thought of accessing the sorts of technologies I was hearing about may as well be a fairy-tale.
The divide between those of us in the room – those able to use the technology – and those for whom access to any sort of diabetes tech was gaping and seems to be getting bigger by the minute.
I walked out of a brilliant session about automated clinical decision support systems. It was morning tea time, so there was a break in sessions and I thought I’d find a quiet corner to try to get my head straight about how I was feeling. I looked up and there was Professor Alicia Jenkins. I knew that she was just the person to help me sort myself out!
Alicia is an Australian endocrinologist. She is a remarkable clinician, researcher and one of the best presenters on diabetes I have ever heard. Plus, she is a lovely, lovely person. Alicia is also the President of Insulin for Life Global.
I mentioned to her how uneasy I was feeling and she agreed, but with typical (and welcome) Alicia reflection, she helped me find some perspective. She reminded me that most people at the conference are very conscious of the divide, and that even while talking about the latest advances, there was still a lot of talk about access and reimbursement. There was acknowledgement that the divide is real and needs to be addressed. I looked at her – someone who is such a huge advocate for, and expert in, technology and new treatments – and realised that, actually, we can be across both aspects of diabetes care; that just because we are excited about the latest (and expensive) technologies doesn’t mean we don’t care and want to do something to help improve access of basic diabetes supplies.
By the end of the conference, on the very long trip home, I kept thinking back to our conversation. I realised that as much as it would make things simpler, I just can’t compartmentalise my own diabetes situation and how I feel about access for others. I struggle with this, because one of the really important things for me to have done all the time I’ve worked in the diabetes space has been to separate my own experience from others’.
But in this instance I can’t just leave it at ‘this is my experience and this is someone else’s’ and I think that may actually be a positive. I do find it uncomfortable. I feel guilty that I can afford and access whatever I need when so many cannot. I feel it in Australia amongst my peers and I feel it when I read about those in other countries. (Really, you should read the brilliant profiles T1 International are sharing at the moment, which give a beautifully (and sometimes harsh) personal perspective to access issues.)
I struggle with my privilege and have a constant feeling that I am not doing enough. But these feelings are a good thing. Because I can always do more. I SHOULD always do more.
I will never stop writing about these issues here and elsewhere, or talking about them. I will keep putting my money where my mouth is, because words are not enough. And I will keep advocating, using my voice and working with people trying to make a difference, until there is no difference at all between what we can all access.
Because it’s still February, I would like to urge you again to please, if you can, make a donation to the Spare a Rose campaign. For the cost of one rose (about AUD$6), you can provide insulin for a month to a child in a developing country. (Also, I should mention that last week, I was invited to join the Spare a Rose, Save a Child team; an invitation I accepted immediately.)
My flights and accommodation costs to attend the Roche Blogger #DiabetesMeetUp were covered by Roche Diabetes Care (Global). They also provided me with press registration to attend ATTD. My agreement to attend their blogger day did not include any commitment from me, or expectation from them, to write about the day or their products, however I will be sharing my thoughts on the event here. Plus, you can read my live tweets from the event via my Twitter stream.
Last week, my Timehop app reminded me of this snapshot in time.
This photo was taken at the 2013 International Diabetes Federation’s World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne, and that look on my face is of pure anger. I was listening to a speaker – a doctor – referring to ‘non-compliant diabetics’ as he was telling of the ‘poor outcomes’ of ‘patients’ in his practise.
The old language chestnut came up again on the second day of the #MayoInOZ conference during the innovation showcase was held. In this session, nine speakers were each given five minutes to present how they are using social and digital tools to improve healthcare. (This is where Kim spoke about #OzDOC and how healthcare professionals use the hourly tweetchat as an opportunity to engage and learn from people with diabetes.)
The final speaker in the innovation sessions was a late addition and it was great to see diabetes again being represented. I know I am biased, but I do always get excited when I see diabetes on the program!
Andy Benson from Coffs Endocrine and Diabetes Centre presented on the project she has been working on: telling the story of diabetes in a series of documentaries to be screened on the BBC.
So, first things first. I love this idea. I am a huge fan of having diabetes out in the ‘public’ space, pulling it out from diabetes groups and diabetes-specific forums, because in most of these cases, we’re preaching to the converted. It’s one of the reasons I love writing for Mamamia Women’s Network where I know that most of the readers probably don’t already have a connection to diabetes.
If these documentaries are screened on the BBC, imagine the audience! It is so refreshing to see people thinking outside the box and looking for ways to present to a new audience – and to tell stories, real stories of real people who actually live each day with diabetes.
Andy showed two short video clips from the still-in-development documentaries. As healthcare professionals on screen spoke about diabetes, I automatically prickled, my language and stigma sensors being alerted straight away.
I wasn’t the only one. In a room with two other diabetes advocates – Kim, Melinda Seed (Once Diabetes), as well as several very vocal health advocates and activists, there was a sense of discomfort at what we were seeing.
I inhaled – maybe ‘gasped’ is a better word – when one of the HCPs used the words ‘diabetes plague’ in his introductory words. There was an undeniable sense of blaming the person with diabetes in the words being used and the sentiments being expressed.
The Twitter conversation from both people in the room and those following along was honest and candid. And, quite frankly, it was uncomfortable too. Andy had disclosed that she has type 1 diabetes, and I didn’t want to be actively criticising the work of a fellow PWD.
However, I could not keep quiet either. When Andy came over to chat after her talk, we had a very open discussion. I was probably quite blunt in my comments.
It is not okay to use language that is stigmatising. The format of the information being presented (i.e. unscripted interviews) doesn’t preclude anyone from being courteous and respectful, and I don’t believe that PWD were being treated either courteously or respectfully in the way about which we were being spoken.
I understand that there is a desire for authenticity and genuineness when interviewing documentary ‘talent’, however it is possible to be clear from the outset that language needs to be respectful at all times. Not sure where to begin with this? How about the Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement which actually provides suggestions for inclusive, non-stigmatising language?
I think it is really important to acknowledge that the road to satisfaction in the way we use language that is inclusive and non-stigmatising is a very, very long one. Also, I genuinely don’t believe that there was any malice intended on the part of the film makers or the interviewees.
We also need to acknowledge that the language used in what has been (and many would argue continues to be) a patriarchal health system is entrenched in the thinking of many – it was part of their training and is a habit that will take time to break. But by acknowledging it, we are not saying it is okay.
As I said, I love the idea that diabetes is a topic for a documentary that is being made for a non-diabetes-specific audience. However, if those people walk away thinking that my healthcare condition is a burden to society (and therefore I am too!) or that they believe it is okay to continue to use words that stigmatise, then there is the potential for this work to do more harm than good.
And finally, a call to not only the coordinators and owners of this work, but to all who are developing any sort of health information using any sort of platform: talk to people with the condition. Lots of them. It is not okay to have one token consumer representative; there should be many – as many as (if not more than) any other expert being consulted.
Twelve hours after arriving in Munich, I found myself in a beautiful tree-lined side street of the city at a diabetes bloggers event coordinated by Roche Diabetes Care. Fuelled by nothing more than coffee and jet lag, I walked into a beautiful building and found myself surrounded by diabetes advocates from around Europe who were probably trying to work out why an Australian had crashed their meeting.
Firstly, a little about this group. Roche convened the blogger group a few years ago as a channel to build a relationship with PWD in Europe. (Roche has had a long history of working with consumers. I remember back in 2012 watching the Roche Diabetes Summit in awe and then trying to replicate it here with Australia’s first and only SoMe Summit.) In a very smart move, they engaged DEDOC leader and nice-guy extraordinaire Bastian Hauck to be the liaison between Roche and the community. Bastian has done a stellar job bringing together some absolutely amazing and influential advocates to be part of this work.
The group has now met a few times, and at this year’s EASD, they opened the door to an Australian (slightly less weird now that Australia is part of Eurovision, which, obviously, is the new gold standard measure of inclusiveness. First Eurovision digression.)
The first part of the afternoon session was a demonstration of the yet-to-be-released Roche CGM. A short presentation showed how the device works, with an explanation of the technology. The timeline for release of the product is later this year with launch markets being Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark.
We were then able to have a play with the device, inserting sensors into ‘fake’ skin pads and just getting an idea of the feel, size and look of it. The CGM app is completely customisable. It looks great – super clean and easy to use.
In a room of generally tech-savvy folk, you can imagine that there were a lot of opinions and feedback about the device. Most, if not all, of the participants were wearing at least one medical device – whether that be a pump, CGM or flash GM (and the slightly OTT Aussie who was wearing all three). We are obviously not the norm, but given our knowledge and experience with diabetes tech, we certainly did have a lot to say.
There were some things that people really liked about the product. Accuracy was outstanding with MARD being comparable to Dex G5. The profile of the sensor was good – about the same as – maybe slightly lower than – the G5 on my arm when compared side by side. Insertion was super-easy and definitely doable with one hand. And the tape holding the sensor in tape is, apparently, better for people with skin allergies.
But as a first generation CGM, there were some limitations that people felt would frustrate them. The lack of integration with the Roche pump, for example, was of concern – however, this will be remedied with future generations. The first gen will only be compatible with an HTC phone (in a room full of very pro-Apple people, this was not particularly well-received) but, again, this will be addressed with future releases.
Also most unwelcome was the factory-set sensor life. Seven days without the possible of restarting is very surprising. There were some murmurings in the room about this setting a new precedent that other sensor makers would follow. Given that I am currently on day 18 of my sensor and the accuracy is spot on, I’d be bloody furious if I’d had to bin it 11 days ago!
Many of us frequently complain about the waste produced with all our device consumables, and there was some concern that the single-use sensor applicator contained a lot of plastic. Look, this is something that I personally struggle with. Every time I change my Dex sensor, or put in a new pump line or cartridge, I look at what needs to go in the bin and wince. It frustrates me each time I rip open the packaging for a new Medtronic Quickset (my preferred line), a bloody little cap falls out, usually to the floor. I have been using these sets since they first were released (maybe eight or ten years?) and never – not once – have I used the cap.
I get it – we need these consumables to be sterile. And safety and avoiding infection is paramount. But still, some of us are very concerned at the landfill we are contributing to!
This discussion was very open. We were welcome to tweet, Instagram, Facebook (and blog) everything that we saw in the room, sharing it with the world. Following the demonstration, we all participated in real-time online feedback, where we commented on what we liked and disliked about the device. Our results and remarks were then shared on a screen for all to see.
Can we, for a moment, just consider how novel and out of character this is? Here is a company talking about a device that has not been released yet. And they are talking about it with a room full of over-sharers who all had screens open to various social media platforms ready to tweet, photograph and provide personal commentary. I have never seen such an open and transparent way to get feedback on a diabetes product, and the team from Roche should be absolutely commended on this approach. More please from more companies!
For the second half of the meeting we spent a most fun couple of hours where we played around with app development. My group – obviously the best – created an app that linked our CGM app with a juice machine to respond to low glucose levels. It also turned on bedroom lights if we were low overnight, to help wake us up. And if the wailing alarms of the app were not cancelled within 15 minutes, an ambulance was called to come and make sure we were okay. I know! Brilliant, right?!
Overall, this was definitely a valuable afternoon learning about new product and also being given the opportunity to meet with some very smart and active diabetes advocates. You bet we were there to be told about Roche’s new CGM, but that was only part of the event and no one in the room is so naïve they don’t know it. But the chance to share ideas and projects and plan for truly global work together outside the device company space was also achieved.
POSTSCRIPT and DISCLOSURES
I’m going to ignore the online discussions that seem to pop up at any conference where PWD manage to score an invite…. Actually, who am I kidding, I’m not. Because I am a little sick and tired of the inevitable complaining and suspicion and passive aggressive comments. I’m a huge advocate for PWD being invited to HCP conferences (I may have written about it once or twice here). For us to get here, we need financial assistance because travel is expensive as is conference registration. So when pharma or device companies offer to bring PWD together to engage in a session they are running – and also provide us with access to the conference, then you bet I am going to think it’s a great idea.
Transparency is important and on this little blog, I will always disclose any arrangements, support, funding or product in place with any company.
So…my disclosures? Well in regard to Roche, none really. I don’t use any Roche products at the moment. I have in the past used their meters, which I have funded myself. I have been an invited speaker at the Roche Educators Day at the ADS-ADEA conference two years running now. And I wrote and disclosed all about that at the time here and here.
Roche did not contribute to my travel or accommodation costs at all to attend EASD this year. They did provide me with press registration, but I had already organised my own, as I do for all conferences I attend. Oh – and they did invite me to a dinner after the blogger event, but jet lag had kicked in so I politely declined. There was no expectation from Roche that I would write about the event (or comment during it). They don’t own my words, I do. But I am incredibly grateful that they are engaging consumers in this way. So thank you to Ute and the team so very much!
As for my disclosures for attending EASD? For the third time, they are all here.
Some more snapshots from this year’s EASD meeting in Munich.
Juvenile no more
All over the internet last week was Miriam E Tucker’s piece for Medscape about the age of diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Data presented at the meeting suggested that fifty per cent of type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in people older than thirty years of age.
I know a couple of commercial pilots who were forced to give up their careers when they were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (and a few kids who had to give up their dreams of ever becoming a commercial pilot). A new study out of the UK gives hope for a change to the blanket ban found in many countries. Read all about it.
Afternoon naps and type 2 diabetes
I’m a big fan of a power nap, but a new study suggests that long afternoon napping is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. More here.
MySugr announcements at EASD
The uber-cool team from MySugr keep kicking goals and taming monsters. Two announcements at EASD which further enhance the MySugr app.
Firstly, this: the integration of MySugr with the Abbott Freestyle Libre app (LibreLink, currently not available in Australia)
And this: MySugr now offers live diabetes coaching, working with diabetes educator and author of ‘Think Like a Pancreas’
Also from MySugr is their terrific take on diabetes and language – specifically, writing about diabetes. This was shared by Ilka at one of the DOC satellite events. Love it, love it, love it!
Brilliant to see the EASD meeting embracing technology to bring sessions throughout the conference into anyone and everyone’s screen through their virtual EASD platform. This does a couple of things. Obviously, it means that those unable to attend the conference can see what is being presented. But more than that; it allows those people to engage in online discussions. Many were commenting on twitter and joining the dialogue with those actually in the room.
Well done – would love to see this used more widely at more conferences.
Oh, hey again Kaleido!
Once again, it was the Kaleido stand at EASD that stole the show with sheer colour and cheekiness.
It was great to reconnect with the team and chat about what has happened since I first met them all at least year’s EASD in Stockholm. There was much excitement as they now have CE mark which means they are almost ready to launch.
Most pleasing was to see that their pump now includes a bolus calculator, an addition made after feedback from people with diabetes. (Nice engagement, folks!) It is still a no-frills pump – there is no integration with CGM and none planned. And that is fine. It really is.
Launch details are getting close. Unfortunately, no plans to launch here in Australia straight away, but apparently we are on their radar. (In the meantime, I’ll keep hassling them to come here and colour our world!)
(The Kaleido stand also had a very cool interactive wall asking all about the people visiting. This was the (almost) final product.)
Absolutely none for the things I’ve written about here.
If you have not caught up with what happened in the opioid session at MedX this week, please do. ePatient, Britt Johnson, who blogs at Hurt Blogger wrote this outstanding piece about her experience on the panel in a session titled ‘The Opioid Crisis’ where she was pretty much ignored by the moderator of the panel. I read her piece in dismay because Britt’s experience is all too common.
As I wrote on Facebook yesterday, it is these twelve words of Britt’s post that are, for me, most telling:
‘The plan had been to feature me in the final five minutes.’
This was the response from the moderator of the panel when she was challenged as to why Britt has been ignored whilst on stage.
The final five minutes.
That’s right. After the healthcare professional experts got to say what they wanted; after the moderator directed the discussion in a direction to get what she wanted; after everyone but the patient was given an opportunity to speak. Then, and only then, would Britt have been given the opportunity to say what she wanted.
The final five minutes.
It’s the equivalent of being given a completed resource, almost ready to go to print and being asked to provide feedback. It’s the same as being a perfunctory consumer on an advisory board, often added at the last minute to tick a box.
This token and downright insulting attitude about where ‘patients’ fit into the healthcare puzzle is toxic.
We have become accustomed and too accepting of the status quo. We feel humbled when we are added to a panel discussion when, really, we should be the main event. We are honoured to be asked to provide feedback on an already developed service that we are meant to use because we mistakenly believe our opinion is being sought and matters even though it’s too late for our feedback to be taken on board. We believe we are doing well when a consumer is added to an advisory board made up predominantly of clinicians and researchers because, hey, it’s a start.
A start is not good enough anymore.
I am angry. I am so angry about this. I am angry about what happened to Britt at MedX. I am angry that there was not a single person with diabetes on the program at this year’s ADS ADEA conference. I am angry that it is 2016 and we still have to beg for a place at the table, on the panel, on the Board. I am angry that conversations ABOUT us are happening AROUND us. I am angry because there’s never a hesitation then it comes to convening a clinical advisory group, but a struggle with how and where to engage and appoint a consumer advisory group. I am angry because too many think ‘focus testing’ means engaging at the end, and that it is enough.
But mostly, I am angry at myself. I am angry for this post I wrote last year where I pathetically felt grateful because people with diabetes were quoted at a conference – not actually handed a microphone, not actually invited to sit on a panel, not given an opportunity to lead the discussion. We were quoted and I thought that was enough.
It was our final five minutes. And, actually, it wasn’t enough.
We are more than the final five minutes.
We are more than that; we are so, so very much more.
Apparently, I went to Munich. I was away for 6 days, and 60 hours of those days were spent in transit. I believe that, (as I deal with jet lag, hypoglycaemia, and mainlining caffeine), it is fair and accurate to say that I am too old for this shit.
I am also incapable of forming paragraphs. But dot points are fun! Here are some observations and a few silly thoughts from last week. (I’ll write some sensible things when my brain is back in the same country as the rest of me.)
- I am told by people Munich is a lovely city. I will have to take these people’s word for it, ‘cause I saw very little of the city.
- I did not buy a dirndl and for this, I will be eternally sorry. As will my husband.
- The EASD conference itself was, as predicted, very rats and mice-y. I sat in a number of sessions and wished I was a mouse (while wishing my diabetes away). Alas, I am not a mouse. And I still have diabetes. Damn.
- I did not get sick of laughing at the fact that one of the halls at ICM Messe München is called Langerhan Hall. Also, I did not get sick of saying ‘I wonder if my islet cells are in there’ – to everyone within earshot. Even if I didn’t know them.
- Obviously, Grumps was not as amused by this as me.
- As was the case at ADA, my arm is more recognisable and famous than me. A barista at one of the exhibition hall stands said, as making me a decent coffee, ‘Oh – I know you. I saw your arm the other day near the station.’ I am a walking billboard for Rockadex! (I am not sponsored by Rockadex and purchase my own patches.)
- Dr Kevin Lee from Queensland is a tweeting machine! In fact, I think the thing I was proudest of at EASD was seeing him tweet! (Actually, probably should say that Professor Mark Cooper’s giving the Claude Bernard Lecture was also a moment of national pride, but Kevin’s tweeting was on another level!)
- One of my favourite talks was about diabetes, cardiac health and exercise (go on, laugh….), but that was mostly because presenter Dr Nikolaus Marx, finished up with a discussion about passive exercise and cardiovascular events during the World Cup. If you were in the room, it was me who cheered when he mentioned the increase of cardiac events after Italy beat Germany. (#VivaItalia!). For clarification, I was cheering at Gli Azzuri’s victory, not the number of Germans having heart attacks. (By the way, this was a real study. Published here.)
- A HUGE shout out to these three women. AADE presidents elect, past and present, Nancy D’Hondt, Deb Greenwood and Hope Warsaw are absolute advocates for and champions of people with daibetes, and peer support. This is them at the docday blogger and advocate event. This level of commitment by HCPs to consumer engagement is enlightening, and a lot could be learnt from their example here. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
- It was wonderful to see quite a lot of discussion about AP. Anytime someone wants to actually get these into market and into the hands of people with diabetes, that would be just great! Thank you.
- I may have screamed a little when I wandered through the Association Village to the excellent historical display of diabetes by the German diabetes Association. Terrifying might be the word for these needles. I said a little prayer of thanks to the diabetes angels for modern day tech, and for being diagnosed in 1998.
- I need to take a break from twitter. This was the state of play when I said good bye to the conference.
And finally, a word about language, because I am unable to attend a conference and not talk and write about it. (I think it’s actually become a law somewhere.) This probably deserves a post of its own and that may happen, but here we go anyway.
This is the fifth EASD conference I have attended, and going in, I know that it is going to be challenging, language-wise. There often appears to be very little consideration that there could be PWD in the room listening in to how HCPs are speaking of us. In the opening ceremony, I tweeted this at EASD president, Professor Juleen Zierath:
I was a little disappointed at Professor Mark Cooper’s constant use of ‘diabetic’, but it was by no means any more than most of the other speakers. I suppose I just hold Australian speakers to higher account given the work we have been doing here around language and diabetes.
This tweet generated quite a lot of discussion, and came about after I was exhausted and annoyed and mostly frustrated by the way speakers were referring to people with diabetes.
Perhaps the best response was from Nick Oliver:
Here’s the thing – and it is something I spoke about during my talk at the DOCDAY event. Language DOES matter. We all know that. It’s completely and utterly disingenuous to say it doesn’t. For some people, it doesn’t bother them and that’s terrific. For others, though, it really does. So why would anyone do something that may offend when it is so easy to avoid that?
DISCLOSE DISCLOSE DISCLOSE
My (economy fare) flights and accommodation expenses were covered by AMSL and J&J. I was attending the EASD conference mainly to attend the J&J DOC exchange meeting which I was involved in preparing and presenting. No one ever expects me to write anything. These are my words and observations only. (And seriously, have you seen what I have just written? No one wants to be associated with that!)
We watched the movie Looking for Alibrandi with the kidlet the other night. I remember when the book came out. I’d left school, was in first year at Uni, and still trying to work out who the hell I was. My mum, sister and I all read the book and couldn’t stop talking about it.
That book was one of the most important things I read when I was younger, because it resonated so much. The idea of not understanding where I belonged had shaped a lot of my adolescence, and was continuing to confuse me as a young adult. I know I wasn’t the only one feeling like that – many kids of post-war migrants felt the same way. Not that we really spoke about it, which was why Looking for Alibrandi was so important. It put into words the jumbled thoughts in my head.
My parents moved from Italy to Australia in the late 1940s (my dad) and early 1950s (my mum). They both grew up here – all their schooling was in Australian schools. They speak English perfectly without a hint of an Italian accent.
We didn’t speak Italian at home, and weren’t particularly involved in the Melbourne Italian Community. Most of my parents’ friends were not Italian, and I only had very, very few Italian friends. At secondary school, there were a number of Italian girls whose families would have been similar to mine, and yet they weren’t the girls I hung out with.
I wasn’t really sure where I fit. I didn’t belong with the Italian girls, because their parents were all a lot stricter than my kinda strict parents; they all spoke fluent Italian – often to each other – and were more involved in the Italian community. Equally, I didn’t really feel that I belonged with my ‘Aussie’ friends because they totally didn’t get the overprotective Italian father thing I had going on at home. Or my love of Fiats. (Or that we had Nutella in the cupboard at home!)
I was in this kind of middle ground that left me wondering where I belonged. And it is a position in which I find myself again today in the diabetes world.
I am a person with diabetes. But for the last 15 years (so, for all but 3 of my diabetes life) I have worked for a diabetes organisation. It leaves me in a unique position that brings great opportunities and privilege, but also makes me feel like a complete outsider at times.
HCPs are confused by me and sometimes suspicious of my vocal advocacy on engagement and the power of peer support; others with diabetes are sometimes wary because they wonder just how free I am to be open and honest about my diabetes; within diabetes organisations I am seen as someone who has fingers in many, many pies; global advocates are curious about how I manage to write this blog while still being in paid employment with a diabetes organisation. To avoid confusion (frequently my own), I speak differently depending on the audiences I stand before, and adapt my tone and language and stories slightly to suit HCPs, PWDs, industry reps or government people.
But essentially the stories are all the same and it is my voice telling the stories.
Next week, I’ll be in Munich at the European Association for the Science of Diabetes (EASD) Annual meeting. The EASD conference is an interesting one. It is very ‘rats and mice-y’ – the term I use for conferences where I look confused in most of the sessions because I have pretty much no idea what is being said, however understand enough to know that someone, somewhere has managed to cure diabetes. In mice.
Despite it’s very science-focused content which attracts very science-focused folk, I feel very ‘right’ at this particular conference, because there is a wonderful advocate, blogger and consumer satellite program that means the city is full of ‘my people’. And that is why I am there – for those events.
If I feel as though I don’t belong at EASD, it’s because I am the only Australian advocate there. I have travelled the furthest distance, I am jet lagged for most of the time and people have trouble understanding my accent. But the Italian contingent at the advocate events claim me as one of their own (albeit one of their own who doesn’t speak the language), so at least I feel that I fit somewhere.
So at least for next week, I’ll know my place. And it will be alongside some of the most dynamic, clever, passionate and dedicated people I know. My people. They will teach me a lot as I learn what they’ve all been up to since we last met and I’ll clumsily share what’s been going on here in Australia. That’s where you will find me.
(And you’ll also find me sitting down the back of science-y sessions looking confused. And wishing I was a mouse.)