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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.

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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…

 

Click image to donate

 

 

 

 

 

It’s that time again. Supermarkets are covered in red heart-shaped foil balloons, fluffy heart-shaped pillows and velvet heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Florists are about to hike up the price of roses by three or four hundred percent. And the sex shop in my neighbourhood has an odd display of edible underwear in the front window, surely begging the question: who the hell actually thinks that is a good idea as a gift for any occasion? Anyway, I digress..

It must be Valentine’s Day.

We don’t do Valentine’s Day in our place. It is a Hallmark occasion if ever there was one and quite frankly, the idea of being loving and affectionate and amorous one day a year is ridiculous and would leave me feeling very short-changed.

But despite my complete and utter aversion to organised romance, I have, for the last few years, thrown my weight behind Spare a Rose, Save a Child. And today, with two weeks until Valentine’s Day, it’s time for me to start talking about it again…A reminder of how the whole Spare a Rose thing works:

Instead of giving your Valentine twelve (overpriced) roses, give them 11, saving yourself about AUD$6. Donate that six bucks you’ve saved to Spare a Rose.

All funds raised by Spare a Rose go directly to the Life for a Child program which provides insulin and diabetes supplies for kids in need and your six dollar donation is enough to provide a month’s worth of insulin to a kid who might otherwise not have any.

It’s pretty easy and you don’t need to be good at maths to work out how much to donate to actually make a difference.

Of course you can give more – you can forgo the flower thing altogether, donating the cost of the whole dozen (meaning you’ve just provided a full year’s worth of insulin for a child). Aaron knows my favourite sort of vase on Valentine’s Day is an empty one, with the cost of the whole bunch going to Spare a Rose.

You know, here in Australia it the most it will cost to buy insulin is $39.50. If you have a healthcare card it’s $6.40. We really are so fortunate that the vast majority of Aussies don’t have to worry about insulin prices increasing at terrifying rates or insulin not actually getting into the country. I don’t for a moment think our healthcare system is perfect.

But it is a far cry from places where children and adults are dying because they cannot access insulin. That is the reality for a lot of people, and we can do something about it.

Six dollars. That’s all it takes. And it is as easy as clicking here. Please donate.

DISCLOSURE

Spare a Rose Save a Child is an initiative of a few well known advocates from the DOC in the US. In the last couple of years, they’ve invited me and advocates from the UK to be involve in the campaign. (Obviously, I receive no funding to work on this, and am doing it because I believe in it.)

Towards the end of last year, I wrote about some things happening online trying to encourage people to openly and freely speak about being diagnosed and living with diabetes-related complications.

When conversations about diabetes complications are brought into the public domain, often two things happen.

Firstly, people start to talk. That whole cornerstone of peer support – reducing isolation and sharing stories – flings doors and windows wide open, and people, often gingerly at first, start to offer their own experiences. Inevitably, someone will say that they don’t speak about their complications because they fear the judgement that will follow. Or that they believe they are the only one their age facing complications because they have never met another person, or read a blog post from another person sharing a similar experience.

Secondly – and most damagingly – there is judgement. And it comes in spades, often sending some of those who had started to open up retreating back into the depths of diabetes taboos. This is not helpful for anyone.

So I wasn’t surprised when, during a useful discussion starting online about living with diabetes related complications – which resulted in some people willingly talking about their own experiences – the horribly judgemental comments started infiltrating the conversation.

I shared this post that I wrote almost five years ago about why we need to reconsider the way we speak about diabetes complications as I thought it was relevant to the current online conversation. In fact, everything I wrote in that post was still true because diabetes continues to be a terribly stigmatised condition and, within that, those of us living with complications seem to face additional stigma and judgement.

If for one second anyone doesn’t believe that statement, here are just some of the comments that I received (on LinkedIn and Twitter) after sharing the post:

‘If considering that many people who are type 2 diabetic quite simply exercise too little and eat too much fat…… which has immense financial consequences for the provision of healthcare…….. how else do you propose to get these people to lose weight and stop emburdening (sic) themselves on our NHS? If you take away the need to shame them you take away the most powerful way of making them take responsibility for their health.’

‘Sorry Renza but if we get complications of diabetes then we have failed. We are each responsible for own health and must try to maintain it at all cost.’

‘Diabetic complications do not happen with ‘perfect’ blood sugars. I agree that we must be supportive and sympathetic and the insulins available don’t help but it’s still the patient’s responsibility and not the doctors. Sorry if this doesn’t bode well with you.’

Is it any wonder that people are reticent to speak about developing complications if people are thinking like this?

I have written before that I believe diabetes has an image problem, because I can’t think of any other health condition that, if a treatment does not get the desired outcome, the person living with that condition is blamed. I have never heard someone being blamed if the cancer for which they are being treated does not end up in remission. I don’t know of anyone with rheumatoid arthritis who is blamed if their pain increases or their mobility decreases. I’ve not heard of someone with psoriasis being accused of not caring for themselves if their skin flares up.

But all bets are off when it comes to diabetes and fingers are pointed fairly and squarely in the face of the person living with diabetes if they develop complications.

Diabetes complications happen. It is, unfortunately, a reality for many people living with diabetes. I’m not trying to be negative or scare people, but we know that the longer we live with diabetes, the more likely we are to develop complications.

In this post, The Grumpy Pumper says: ‘Complications are a hazard of what we have. Not a failing of what we do.’ Maybe if we take that as the starting point we can take away the blame. And maybe if we take away the blame, we break down the stigma. And maybe if we break down the stigma, we can start having a real discussion about how we treat complications if they develop, and get to treating them.

And maybe if we stop thinking that developing diabetes and anything that happens after living with it is a shortcoming we can stop feeling so judged and shamed, because others will stop judging and shaming us.More to read on this topic:

Melissa Lee wrote this piece.

Riva Greenberg shared this one.

Sarah K from Sugarbetic wrote this. 

And this from Mel Seed.

 

It’s 42 degrees Celsius today – or about a million and a half degrees Fahrenheit. We can all agree that it is hot.

So, obviously, it’s a great day to move offices.

As I have unpacked and started to set up my new space I’ve been piling together bits and pieces collected from DOC get togethers. Which means that as I sit here in my office overlooking the city skyline, I actually have around me friends from all over the globe.

And my world once again feels that little bit smaller. And I, in my corner of Melbourne, feel part of something so much bigger.

Last week, I received an email informing me that the weekly #OzDOC tweet chats would be coming to a close. Obviously, I thought of it as a sad announcement, but what a fantastic five years and five months of weekly conversations and support!

It takes a lot of dedication to run a diabetes support group, and the regular tweet chat format of #OzDOC meant that it was a once-a-week commitment, requiring a roster of interesting and engaging topics, and someone to direct the conversation and make sure that there was someone welcoming anyone who wanted to participate each and every week.

It takes work, time and effort, and, in most cases, support groups are run by volunteers who already have jobs and busy lives and families. The support group administration and activities are run in someone’s own time.

But despite what it takes – the planning, the commitment and the energy – there has been someone there since the beginning, taking responsibility to make sure that the #OzDOC tweet chat bus kept going. And that person is Kim Henshaw.

Kim talking #OzDOC at last year’s #MayoInOz meeting.

When the #OzDOC tweet chats started, there were three of us involved: Kim, Simon and me. We took it in turns each week to moderate the chat, come up with the questions and run ideas by each other. But circumstances change, and first I, then Simon needed to step back from being part of the moderating team.

Kim stayed on and has been the one responsible for herding the #OzDOC kittens and creating a safe, fun, supportive, reassuring online space for people in the Australian diabetes community to come together on Twitter each week. With a team of moderators, the chats continued.

Kim’s commitment to #OzDOC could never be questioned. In the very first tweet chat, back in July 2012, she was sent to Twitter jail for tweeting and retweeting too many times in the hour! She wanted to share as widely as she could, acknowledge as many comments from others as possible and encourage conversation at every turn. Until she was cut off from Twitter:

Oops…

Kim never wavered from her pledge to build and support the community. I shared the power of #OzDOC every chance I had – any time I was speaking about diabetes peer support, #OzDOC got a mention; I’ve written about it here over and over and over again. And I defended online channels and Twitter as a support platform, using #OzDOC as an example of just how a community could be developed.

But times change, and with Kim stepping aside and no one else available to take on the coordination of the group, next week will be the final time that the @OzDiabetesOC account is used for the #OzDOC hour of power.

I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in the OzDOC tweet chats for the last (almost) five and a half years. I have met some incredible people through the chats, made some wonderful friends and learnt so, so much.

And mostly, I wanted to say thank you to Kim for delicately, dedicatedly and devotedly running the group. What a wonderful thing you created, Kim. Well done! Enjoy your quiet Tuesday nights – you deserve it!

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