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It seems that every now and then there is a splattering of blog posts about people’s involvement in the DOC (this by Frank at Type 1 Writes just yesterday is a lovely example) and how the community operates. Mel Seed at Twice Diabetes shared her thoughts on community here, and I recently this about outrage from within the DOC.  

Communities ebb and flow. For some people, there may be times that the community feels more welcoming and supportive than at other times. Sometimes we need our community more, sometimes we need it less. And sometimes…sometimes we step away because we realise that the community – or at least the way we have been using it…is no longer what we need at that moment, and we reevaluate how we intend to engage (or not). 

But these discussions are not new. It seems they happen in fits and spurts. A couple of years ago, it seemed to be one of those bursts of activity, and at that time I wrote this…

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I’ve been interested to read a few things lately on Twitter about the DOC not being a particularly welcoming environment. I am both saddened and surprised to hear that some feel that way, because I have always found the community to be very, very supportive and welcoming. Perhaps I am fortunate, or perhaps I have just found – and engage with – people who are friendly and happy to embrace new people in the community.

I’m unsure if feeling unwelcome is because there is a sense that the community may be a little like a high school clique. There are people who have known each other many years in this space, so they have a comfortable and easy banter as they share stories and inside jokes. I know that when I started, I was worried about that, but anytime I tried to engage, I found nothing other than friendly responses.

When I first walked into the DOC playground a few years ago now, I was considering starting a blog after years of reading what others were saying about their lives with diabetes. I’d lurked around a few online platforms to see how people interacted and what people said.

Then, one day, I decided I would join a tweet chat, and I tentatively said ‘hello’ to the #DSMA world. The rest is history and now I am a regular contributor and participant – both online and off – in the community.

But it did take me a while to understand the lay of the land and to get a handle on online communication. Trying to adequately put across a point in 140 characters or fewer leaves little room for qualifying comments, so often it’s only the bare bones that can be offered. This can sometimes leave people feeling a little taken aback at the directness of discussions.

I am, by nature, very direct. I take the ‘tell-me-what-I-need-to-know-and-leave-it-at-that’ approach, so Twitter is a perfect platform for me. Say what I want and get out! But I know that sometimes, I come across as being very direct; some may even say confrontational. People who meet me after having only engaged on Twitter say they are surprised that I am a lot warmer in real life that online. (I never know whether to apologise or say thanks to that…)

I had to learn that just because people had differing opinions didn’t mean that they were attacking me, or that I wasn’t welcome in the discussion. In fact, some of the people I respect most in this community are people who I don’t usually agree with. They challenge me to think about things differently and to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve engaged in some really robust and heated discussions about different aspects of diabetes. As long as it is done with respect, (and an understanding that an opposing opinion isn’t a character flaw!), I’m happy to not agree.

And, possibly most importantly, I learnt that I didn’t need to love everyone in the community. I’ve written about that before, and how it came as a huge relief when I realised that I wasn’t going to be friends with everyone; there would be some people I just didn’t really feel any connection to – just as there are many who don’t gel with me.

The DOC is a big community; there are many of us. And when there is a community, there will always be people who are more vocal and more active. But they are not the only people in the community. It really does come down to finding people where there is some sort of synergy, or some way to connect. Just like in real life!

So what’s the take away from this? I hate for people to feel that they can’t be part of the community because they have a different view to others. I have not come across another person in the DOC who I agree with all the time.  But equally, I’ve not ever had someone attack me for having a different opinion to them. (Trolls excluded in that last comment, because trolling is attacking and just not necessary.)

I guess the struggle is that when you have a lot of very passionate people given a microphone and a stage, we get very, very worked up at times and defend our position fervently, challenging those who don’t agree, building alliances with those who do. We can be a vocal bunch, we like to be heard and listened to, and we want to defend, defend, defend what we say. I am guilty – if that is the right word – of being and doing all these things.

But I genuinely do want to hear from everyone. I don’t have to agree, or even like, what you are saying, but I want to hear it. Any community is stronger with diversity of opinion, experience and outlook. And the community is weaker when people do not feel that they are free to share their thoughts.

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I have a very scientific way of collecting info to share in these Internet Jumbles. I make weird notes on my phone that absolutely make sense when I note them down, and then make absolutely no sense when I revisit them to put together the latest edition. (Case in point: ‘DMK mine’ had me stumped for a few hours until I realised that was shorthand for the HypoRESOLVE piece on Diabetes Mine. The DMK is because the meeting was in Copenhagen. Of course it makes sense. Perfect sense.)

Half the time, even after trying to work it out, I still can’t understand my notes, so there is a shedload of stuff I wanted to share that is still a mystery trapped in my iPhone.

But! Here are the ones I was able to decipher. Buckle up…it’s a long one. 

Ask patients? That’s novel

Results of a review of international literature examining patient involvement in the design of healthcare services showed that patient engagement can inform education (peer and HCP) and policies and improve delivery and governance.

I am always interested to read these sorts of articles, but must say, my response is often an eye roll and the words ‘No shit, Sherlock’ muttered under my breath.

More here.

Research and people with health conditions

What is the role of people with health conditions when it comes to research? This editorial from BMJ suggests that full partnership is the best way. 

And this infographic from Public Health Research and Practice about how to involve consumers in health research is also useful.

Thanks for listening

It’s so nice when people actually take home some tips and tricks from presentations I’ve been involved in. This tweet over the weekend from diabetes educator Belinda Moore (referring to a symposium at last year’s ADS ADEA meeting in Perth in which I was fortunate enough to be involved) was gratifying.

Peer support remains an absolute cornerstone of how I manage my diabetes as effectively as I possibly can. It is those others walking the same road who help me make sense of a health condition which takes delight in confusing the hell out of me!

The driver’s seat

This post from Melinda Seed underlines why she believes that the idea of diabetes being a ‘team sport’ is not especially accurate.

More here.

Complications and language

The awesome PLAID Journal (which you really should bookmark and read) published a piece just as ADA kicked off about why we need to change the way we speak about diabetes complications.

The piece was written by me and Chris Aldred (AKA The Grumpy Pumper), bringing together Grumps’ #TalkAboutComplications initiative and my constant banging on about language. (I first wrote about needing to reframe the way we talk about complications five years ago in this piece. Every word still holds true.)

You can reads the PLAID Journal piece here. And please share. This is a message that we need to get out.

Wellness is not the same as medicine

My huge crush on OB/GYN Dr Jen Gunter only increased after she published this piece in the NY Times last week.

I have written before about how damaging the ‘wellness industry’ can be in diabetes, including this piece on the language of wellness.

Diabetes Voice reboot

The IDF’s magazine has had a reboot and is not delivered in a digital format. Check it out here.

Well, that’s candid…

This photo of Cherise and me snapped at Diabetes Mine’s DData Exchange is hilarious in itself, but Amy Tenderich’s caption is gold!

(Click for source)

Right device, right person, right time

Dr Kath Barnard’s piece in Diabetes Medicine Matters reiterates her message from the 2017 ATTD meeting (I wrote about it here) about the importance of matching the right device at the right time for the right person.

More here.

What are the barriers to preconception care ?

This piece was just published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice looking at the reason women with diabetes may or may not attend pre-pregnancy care. (I was a co-author on this piece.)

‘If only there was a….online community for people with diabetes’

That comment came from a HCP at a diabetes conference a few years ago – just after someone (maybe me? I can’t remember…?) had literally just given a talk about the diabetes online community.

The DOC is not new – it’s been around for some time – and this great piece from Kerri Sparling gives a history of the DOC.

HypoRESOLVE on Diabetes mine

I was interviewed by Dan Fleshler from Diabetes Mine about HypoRESOLVE. You can read his piece here – it gives a great overview of the project.

On a break

I’m going to be taking a little Diabetogenic break for the next couple of weeks. The rest of the year is shaping up to be super busy, so I thought I’d use the next fortnight to get myself organised.

I’ll be sharing some old posts from the Diabetogenic archives and expect to be back just in time for the Australasian Diabetes Congress which kicks off in Adelaide on 22 August.

In the meantime, be well and be kind to yourself.

Part of my work involves attending diabetes conferences both here and around the world. Sometimes I have a speaking gig, other times I’m there for meetings, and always I’m there to learn as much as I can about the latest in diabetes.

I love this part of my job in equal measure with not loving it. The ‘love it’ part is because I get to meet with and hear from some absolute superstars in diabetes research and get front row preview seats to what they’re working on. And I love it because I get to see other advocates who are there for the same reasons I am.

The ‘not love it’ part is because I spend a lot of time away from my family and ‘real life’. I feel enormous mother guilt (this time I missed the kidlet’s Winter Music Concert) and feel lousy for leaving lists of plans and schedules for people other than me to manage. Plus jet lag. I talk about jet lag so much because these days it is absolutely kicking my arse as it turns me upside down and into a bumbling, confused, unintelligible mess.

I realised when I was at ADA in Orlando that all my overseas DOC friends have only ever seen me at my jet lagged, time-travelling worst. They get exhausted, grumpy, vague, annoyed me. And they get me doing weird things like falling asleep in front of them only to suddenly get a second wind and become almost hyperactive where I speak a lot – and really quickly – about weird things such as Australian-isms that I believe they absolutely must start to use in their day to day vernacular. (Only click on this tweet if the eff word and spiders don’t offend you…)

And then, I reach a point where I abruptly stand up and say ‘That’s it!’and just leave and head to bed, often mid-conversation.  Why they still want to talk and hang out with me is actually a mystery!

But I am glad they do want to spend time with me, because sometimes, being at a diabetes conference is really hard going emotionally.

We sit there listening to some pretty tough stuff; scary stuff. We hear ourselves being spoken about as ‘subjects’ in research which takes away our ‘human-ness’ and makes us sound like rats in a lab.

We are referred to with words that make us sound like petulant children (‘non-compliant/non-adherent/failed’ etc.) and all we can do is tweet our frustration (and language positions statements) begging that presenters be considerate in the words they use.

We hear scary, scary tales of all the things that can go wrong with diabetes in a variety of different situations. I reluctantly walked into an 8am session on diabetes and pregnancy, and even though that ship sailed a few years ago for me now, I still brace myself for the research showing that diabetes can and will impact on our developing babies, and children once they are born. That mother guilt I spoke of early is gets turned into mother-with-diabetes guilt which is a monster of proportions all to itself. (Of course, the wonderful Helen Murphy’s talk at 8am was not scary or mother-with-diabetes-guilt-inducing. Instead it was full of interesting facts about how APS impacts positively on diabetes pregnancies. Hurrah!)

Diabetes-related complications are spoken about in matter-of-fact ways that zone in on specific parts of our body and suddenly we stop being whole. ‘The diabetic foot/eye/kidney’ is still attached the rest of us, and yet whole sessions dissect them from our bodies and focus solely on that part of us, forgetting how connected we are to them (literally and figuratively!)

We are told about how diabetes increases the risks of so many, seemingly unrelated problems that can only make me feel as though the cards are stacked so against us that, sometimes, diabetes just isn’t fair. (See also – or maybe don’t – this released today…)

We sit there listening to advice on how things could be improved and sometimes, shake our heads at the disconnect between what is reality to those of us actually living diabetes and the ideas from researchers and clinicians. We wonder what – if any – engagement there has been with the people this advice is meant to serve.

It can be – it is– emotionally draining, exhausting, frustrating.

Those moments when a friend’s sideway glance, or eye roll, or a snarky comment in response to yet another kick in the gut because diabetes is all bad news, is a reprieve from feeling a little shaken. (Of course, it’s not all like this. Often we sit in sessions and feel that those presenting are truly championing our efforts and we do high five through those presentations.)

And those evenings when the sessions have finished, and the official dinners are over and we simply sit together, debrief, refocus and put diabetes back in perspective, make me whole again. It’s the same at every conference. The people may change depending on the location of the conference, but there are always people there. And I’m grateful for that, because I may return home exhausted and jet lagged, but I’m not overwhelmed at what I have seen and heard. Which I fear is how I would be if it wasn’t for the caring, smart, understanding, wonderful people in this tribe .

Tribe at ADA

Without fail, the first thing I put into my schedule when I am attending either ADA or EASD is the update from Life for a Child (LFAC). It’s usually held on the first day of the conference, bright and early in the morning and, for me, it sets the scene for the conference. It anchors me, so that throughout the remainder of the meeting, while I am wandering around a fancy exhibition hall, or listening to talks about the latest in technology (usually what I am drawn to), I must never forget that for some, access to insulin, diabetes supplies, education and support is incredibly difficult.

At ADA this year, there was no update session. Instead, the LFAC team gathered some of the advocates who were there so we could meet to discuss how we could continue to work together, through initiatives such as Spare a Rose, to raise funds for, and awareness of, the program.

L-R Dr Graham Ogle (General Manager LFAC), Grumps, Emma Klatman (Health System Reform Specialist LFAC), me, Angie Middlehurst (Deputy Manager & Education Director LFAC) and Manny Hernandez.

When I am writing and talking about LFAC, I usually do it in the context of asking – urging – people to consider making a donation. Around Valentine’s Day, the one rose = one month of insulin equation is repeated over and over again to highlight just how little it takes to make a difference to a young person with diabetes in a developing country.

But I’m not sure that everyone knows just how far reaching and important the work carried out by LFAC actually is, or how donations are used. Recently, they released their annual report, highlighting just some of their successes, and I thought I’d share some of them here.

To start with, last year LFAC helped over 18,500 young people from 40 countries.

Support offered by LFAC goes beyond just providing life-saving insulin for young people with type 1 diabetes. Other diabetes consumables, such as syringes and blood glucose monitoring kit is available. A1c checks are provided, providing baselines and ongoing data for centres in developing countries. Services such as education, workshop and resources are developed, translated and distributed, and support for healthcare professionals is offered.

In Haiti last year, 51 children attended a camp for children with diabetes – the first of its kind ever held in that country. (As someone who frequently speaks about the benefit of peer support, I know how amazing this would have been for the children who attended. Meeting other kids who instinctively ‘get it’ would be the same as the feeling I get when I meet and speak with others who are living with diabetes.)

LFAC also has an active research focus which is critically important in highlights aspects of diabetes, (including incidence, prevalence and mortality; cost of, and access to care; success of intervention and care-giving approaches; psychological impacts of diabetes), in young people in less-resourced countries. This research is vital in informing future programs, activities and services. LFAC research can be accessed here.

Life for a Child does all this and more, working towards their vision of a world where no child should die of diabetes. The fact that this should be their (or any organisation’s) vision – 97 years after the discovery of insulin – is heartbreaking.

Being a part of the extended Life for a Child family is one of the most important things in which I am involved. Writing blog posts and talking about the program sometimes seems like such a small thing to do, but I am committed to raising awareness of the issues faced by the young people the program helps, and raising funds so they can do more.

I have only touched on their important work, and despite the great achievements I’ve mentioned here and the number of young people benefiting from the program, there is still a waiting list for support.

Go here for details of how you can make a donation. Please. 

Pumps. Pens. Syringes.

Patch pump. Pod.

Share your data. Don’t share your data.

Blood glucose monitors. Continuous glucose monitors. Flash glucose monitors.

Low carb. High carb. Low(er) carb. No carb. ALL the carbs.

Private diabetes team. Public clinic.

#WeAreNotWaiting. #WeAreWaiting.

Apps for recording data. Scribbling down numbers on the back of an envelope. Making up numbers as you go along.

Online peer support. Face to face peer support. No peer support.

How fortunate we are to have choices – to have choices we can make for ourselves for our own brand of diabetes.

I’m feeling a little burnt out at the moment by the zealots online who think it’s their way or the highway. Do what works for you and share it, by all means. But attacking someone else for doing something different is just being a dick. Don’t be a dick. There’s really no need.

I’m in London for a couple of days of meetings before flying to Copenhagen….for another couple of days of more meetings. But I was smart this time, managing to set aside a whole day before the meetings start to do this:

These three women – these wonderful women – are part of the lifeline I have to help me manage diabetes. It may have been faulty pancreaes that brought us together, but what ties us together is support, friendship and love.

Thank you Annie, Georgie and Izzy for coming to meet me in my jet-lagged state in London. Thank you for building me up, and filling my jar. I couldn’t do this diabetes shit without you all.

The three most important women in my life are forces of nature: My mother, president of union, has instilled in me a desire to do work that helps others. My sister, the fiercest, feistiest, smartest person I know, who constantly challenges me to think outside my comfort zone. And my daughter – my amazing, miracle kid, (and kids like her) – is why I feel that the world is actually going to be okay.

The supporting cast of close family – mother-in-law who just happens to be an Australian aviation pioneer, my sister-in-law, aunts, cousins – and friends means that I am constantly surrounded by brilliant women doing brilliant things. I am astounded, daily, at the challenges they overcome, their triumphs, the lives they change, the impact they are making.

And in my diabetes life it is women – the incredible women – who keep me going and keep me motivated. My diabetes healthcare team is made up exclusively of women who truly breathe the whole person-centred care belief system, building me up and then supporting me as I do the best I can with diabetes. The women I have worked with, and continue to work with, in diabetes organisations who champion those who would otherwise be forgotten have become friends, mentors and daily cheerleaders.

It is people like Cherise Shockley, founder of DSMA; Dana Lewis, creator of Open APS; Susan Alberti, philanthropist; Jane Speight, diabetes language forerunner; Taryn Black, Diabetes Australia policy director and champion for having the voice of PWD heard; Riva Greenburg, journalist, changing the way we see people living with diabetes; Annie Astle, advocate and speaker, and the person I am most grateful to have come to know because of diabetes; Monique Hanley, cycling legend; Christel Marchand Aprigliano, advocate leader; Cheryl Steele, CDE extraordinaire and leader in diabetes technology education; Kerri Sparling, author, blogger and incredible advocate; Anna Norton, Sarah Mart and Karen Graffeo, the women behind Diabetes Sisters; Melissa Lee, incredible communicator, singer, former leader of DHF and now at Bigfoot Biomedical; Kelly Close, founder of diaTribe and Close Concerns; Georgie Peters, speaker, blogger, diabetes and eating disorders advocate…

And you know what? I haven’t even scratched the surface. The diabetes world is shaped by women, built by women, sustained by women. Advocacy efforts are often the brainchild and then led through the blood sweat and tears of women. And how lucky the world is!

 

I celebrate these women today and every day!

More writing about women and diabetes, and women’s health.

Hear Me Roar

This is what Diabetes Privilege Looks Like

The F Word

One Foot in Front of the Other

My Fantastic Frankie

A New Diabetes Superhero

The Sex Talk

Pink Elephants

The D Girls

Healthy Babies

 

 

Have you been thinking about making a donation to Spare a Rose; Save a Child, but just haven’t managed to do it yet? Did you think that because Valentine’s Day is over that it’s too late? Watch this and find out why your donation is still greatly needed.

Donate now to have your donation added to the 2018 Spare a Rose tally. Just click on the image below.

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.

Here I am speaking too fast, hands waving erratically (#TooMuchCoffee), with an idea about how we can get Spare a Rose, Save a Child better known outside the diabetes community…

 

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