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Yesterday, I caught up with a friend I’ve known for a number of years. Monique and I are diabetes twins, diagnosed within days of each other twenty years ago. (She suggested that we start to plan for a joint 21st next year – an idea that I immediately jumped on and have already been searching for a DJ, light show… and potentially a booze cruise. Aren’t you glad you suggested that, Mon?)

We don’t catch up enough, but when we do, I am always in awe of her. She is one of the most dynamic women I know. Years ago, she founded and ran HypoActive – a peer group for people with type 1 diabetes. She was a member of Team Type 1 (a cycling team made up exclusively of people with type1) and competed in the winning Race Across America team.

She has held a number of board positions, and has worked tirelessly to promote women in sport.

On top of all this she is raising two daughters to be the leaders of the future (her kid dressed as Emmeline Pankhurst for book week this year!).

While our interests (obviously) may not mirror each other, I am constantly astounded by her commitment to the causes she supports, because she does so with the sort of no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is attitude that made her a world-class cyclist.

One of the (many) things we spoke about yesterday was parenting kids and encouraging their independence. Unsurprisingly, Monique’s girls are keen bike riders and this is their preferred mode of transport around their neighbourhood. When Mon’s older daughter started to ride to school on her own, some other local parents weren’t quite so comfortable with the display of independence and made their dissatisfaction known. (You can read Monique’s account of this experience here.)

I spoke about how my kid gets to school (less inclined to get on a bike, more inclined to get on a tram and try to not get stepped on as she has her nose in a book and ignores everyone). I mentioned how I thought that when she started at her new school I’d be driving her most days, but she decided after day one that she wanted to get on the tram with her friends, letting me know loud and clear that her independence was not to be stifled by a mum wanting company on the morning commute.

Teaching our kids independence is a double edged sword for us parents. Of course we know intrinsically that it is important; but we also want to somehow coddle them and protect them from all the real and imaginary threats that are often far larger in our own minds than in reality.

But actually, the two aren’t necessarily at odds with each other. In fact, when we teach our kids independence and allow them freedom, we are actually making great efforts to keep them safe.

It’s not always easy to join those dots, but surely if we are confident with the way that we are parenting, and trust the rules, guidelines and instructions we put in place, we should be able to see how we’ve done everything we can to keep our kids out of harm’s way.

Sure – critics of this thinking may say that it’s not our kids we should be worried about, it’s others who may do them harm. But these worries should be part of the conversations we have in our endeavours to develop their independence.

If we trust ourselves and the job we’ve done, we should feel confident to step back and trust our kids to safely take on more and more responsibility, even if letting go and relinquishing some control can be difficult.

Monique and I then spoke about these same principles in terms of diabetes (and I’m sure healthcare in general) and how some HCPs struggle with losing control of how people with diabetes manage their own diabetes.

In the same way that we need to trust and have confidence our parenting, HCPs need to trust their education efforts, feeling confident that they have set out the principles of effective diabetes management, and providing PWD with the tools to adapt those principles to suit us and our diabetes in the way that works best.

The way we seek our independence in diabetes is to take what we are taught, and adapt it to work the right way for us – even if, sometimes, that is in direct contrast to the way our HCPs have instructed.

Perhaps that’s the real foundation of the whole idea of being ‘deliberately non-compliant’ in diabetes. Sure, we are going against what we have been told and are doing diabetes in ways that our HCPs might never recommend or even understand, but if the results we see are actually as good or even better than what is expected, then those initial teachings set us on the track for success!

My deliberate non-compliance – the very thing that the HCPs at ADATs last year prickled about – has resulted in my diabetes being the most ‘compliant’ it ever has…and, (even more importantly), me feeling better about diabetes than I ever have.

I am fully aware that a big part of my ability to go off label is because I was shown and taught the principles of diabetes by some great HCPs.  To me, this is the perfect marriage of theory and practise. The theory I have been taught has allowed me to break the rules and create ways to practically manage my diabetes that work for me. Independently.

Dinner at our place, (a few years ago now). Kerri, me, Bastian, Kyle and Monique.

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Last week, I spent a busy week at Australasian Diabetes Congress. I spent a lot of time with work colleagues, health professionals, the event organisers and researchers.

And I was fortunate because most of the time, I was around at least one of my peers. Between the #DAPeoplesVoice team, (Mel, Frank and David), other diabetes friends from home, (Ash, Kim, Gordon and Cheryl), and away (Grumps), there was always someone nearby who I could rely on to ‘get’ diabetes. (This is important always, but conferences have their own special challenges where diabetes mates are certainly appreciated to help keep some perspective!)

I have written countless times before about the power of peer support. I have also written that my peers have been the ones to have truly helped me through some of the most difficult diabetes situations I’ve faced – not necessarily with advice, but simply a knowing look, a nod of the head, or the words ‘me too’. Our peers help us make sense of what we are dealing with, provide us with endless support and help make us feel connected to others. And that’s important with a condition such as diabetes, because it is all too easy to feel that we are on our own.

Which is why I was so pleased to learn about ConnecT1ons, a new initiative from Diabetes Vic, which is looking to provide that support to another group within the diabetes world – parents of kids with diabetes.

It is undeniable that parents of children living with diabetes have their own brand of challenges. This was brought home to me again last week during the Diabetes and Schools Forum when parent of three children with type 1 diabetes, Shannon Macpherson, spoke about some of the difficulties she and her family have faced with her children in the school setting.

And again this morning, when I was speaking with a parent who is having a very tough time with her young, kindergarten-aged child. ‘Renza,’ she said to me, as she explained what was going on. ‘You have no idea. Having a child with diabetes is impossible because we cannot be with them when they probably need us the most.’  She’s right – I have no idea.

But other parents of children with diabetes would and do understand. And as they shared their empathy, they would also probably share some of the things they’ve done to help them through similar tricky situations.

Diabetes Victoria is looking to bring parents like this together for an event where they can meet other parents of children with diabetes. Plus, it’s a few days of respite from looking after their child with diabetes, while knowing their kid is safe (and having an absolute ball) at diabetes camp. What a brilliant idea all ‘round!

You can watch a video explaining the project here, and  hear from Jade, the mum of a young boy with diabetes share some of her experiences – and how parents just like her will benefit from ConnecT1ions.

As is always the case, finding funds for initiatives like this is a struggle, so today, Diabetes Victoria launched a crown funding campaign and is seeking to raise $15,000 to run ConnecT1ons. If more is raised, they can run additional events. The crowd funding is only open for a week, so please do consider making a donation – and doing it now! Click here to be taken to the Pozible page.

Congratulations to Diabetes Victoria for acknowledging that parents of kids with diabetes are a specific group that need support amongst their own peers. Extra huge congrats to Kim Henshaw who has spearheaded this project as part of her role as Children and Families Coordinator.

Please do donate. I returned home last week after spending time with my peers feeling refreshed, energised and connected. Parents of kids with diabetes deserve to feel the same by spending time with each other.

Not a functioning beta cell amongst us.

Disclosure

None! I was sent information about ConnecT1ons from the Communications Manager at Diabetes Victoria last week, but she did not ask me to write about it. I don’t work for Diabetes Victoria (I left there back in Jan 2016) and have had nothing to do with this new initiative. But you have to admit it’s a good one. Hence, this post.

It takes effort to look at diabetes in a positive light. And sometimes, we need other people to shine that light for us. My husband changed a negative thought I had about an aspect of diabetes with one comment. And to this day, something that once filled me with sadness and dread, now makes me feel grateful and fortunate. 

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Living well with diabetes. That’s how I like people to think of me. And how I like to think of myself.

But there are occasions – rarely, although sometimes more frequent – where I do feel living with a life-long health condition that is there every minute of every day start to creep over me and a sense of dread and worry plant themselves at the back of my mind. For me, this is part of diabetes burnout. It’s a feeling of being overwhelmed by what diabetes is right now but even more, what diabetes could be in the future. How will my faulty pancreas and my autoimmune problems play out in my life?

And is there any point worrying? At the moment, things seem to be tracking along well. Annual complications screenings tell me that I am doing okay and I’ve read some research that shows people with diabetes are living longer and longer.

So why the dread and anxiety and is there any point? And even more, is it possible to change the way that we think about diabetes?

When I was first diagnosed, the smell of insulin would fill me with dismay. The very scent would remind me of the horrid, scary photos the doctor showed me within the hours of being told I have type 1 diabetes. An invisible force would reshape me from the vibrant 24-year-old I was at the time to a withdrawn, sick, shell of the person I really was. For months I felt this way and every time I gave myself a shot, it was like I was slowly drowning.

But that all changed one day. I drew up two units to squirt through the air before jabbing myself and said ‘Urgh. I hate the smell of insulin. It’s everywhere – I feel like it’s what I smell of now.’ Aaron who was sitting next to me looked up and said simply and matter-of-factly, ‘I don’t hate it. It’s the smell that keeps you alive.’

And just like that, the smell of insulin went from being a death sentence to life saving. It never bothered me again. Keeping the perspective of diabetes in its rightful place is not easy and there will always be times that we feel like it is heading in the wrong direction. We just need to find ways – and people – to say things to help us get back on track.

This is an edited reblog (with a few new bits!) of a post from the old, now defunct, WordPress version of the Diabetes Victoria blog. I may live with diabetes and diabetes may live inside me. But I don’t do diabetes alone and I have always been emphatic about acknowledging the support I am fortunate to have. I couldn’t live with diabetes as well as I do without the people living in the village around me. 

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I have type 1 diabetes… And the people I know with type 1 diabetes – in fact, all types of diabetes – who appear to manage best, do so with the support of many people, a veritable village made up of loved ones, friends, colleagues, extended families, health professionals. And the odd village idiot.

I have type 1 diabetes. Although my husband doesn’t, he knows a terrible lot about it. I’ve never seen anyone fly across a room to grab a jar of jelly beans the way he does when he sees that glazed look come over me. Or when I start to giggle uncontrollably for no apparent reason. Or when I begin to tear up for no apparent reason. Or when I start to act irrationally (he would perhaps suggest more irrationally) for no apparent reason. Aaron not only identifies when I am hypo before my meter has told me, he can also interpret my different hypo personalities, of which there are many. This, quite frankly, makes him brilliant. But the most wonderful thing Aaron does for me and my diabetes is that he recognises how crap it is sometimes. I love how he has learnt that trying to ‘fix’ a diabetes situation isn’t what I need; instead a nod of his head, a hug and the words ‘Diabetes sucks’ will more than suffice.

I have type 1 diabetes. Although my daughter may not, she understands just how it impacts on me. From when she was tiny to now, she has come to know that diabetes does impact on me at times and that will affect her. But she has never complained. Her advocacy efforts make me proud and pain me in equal measure, because diabetes has become her cause in may ways when I really wish it hadn’t.

I have type 1 diabetes. Although my endocrinologist may not, she has an uncanny ability to pinpoint the exact information I am looking for (often before I’ve asked). She knows about the dark side of diabetes and offers help working through it. And she listens, listens, listens.

I have type 1 diabetes. Although most of my friends don’t, (even though I seem to have a statistically significant number of friends with diabetes), they know that diabetes sometimes really pisses me off and that the way to offer help is not with unsolicited advice. However an offer to meet me for coffee, prosecco or chat or walk where I can vent about diabetes – or ignore it – will always be met with gratitude.  And those friends who do share my pancreatically-challenged existence offer support, humour, understanding – often without words.

I have type 1 diabetes and my parents don’t. My mother also lives with a life-long condition and although it’s different to mine, we have an unspoken understanding of the boredom and sheer frustration of such an imposition in our lives. And when she sees that I am going through a difficult period, she helps – but never, ever makes it about her. I was diagnosed as an adult, so my parents were never responsible for making diabetes decisions for me. But I know that they walk alongside me, keenly feeling my frustrations and anger, as well as the moments I celebrate. I’ve come to learn that’s what parents do for their kids – even when their kids are in their 40s.

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to deal with diabetes.  When we try to do it all on our own, it can be overwhelming.  My village supports me, assists me, and reminds me that they are there to help. Not only in the times things are becoming too hard, but also in the times when everything is going well. They are part of the reason that the good times happen. They didn’t choose to live in this village and they could have moved anytime they wanted. But they haven’t. I don’t think they will never know how grateful I am to them, but I will try to tell them and explain how important they are.

Of course, the village idiots will always feature – those who think they found a cure in herbs they picked up in their recent travels. Or those who think that the best way to deal with me having diabetes is to pity me. But the village idiots can be a source of humour too, (see here). And laughing is important, so in their own little way, the village idiot is helping and I say thanks to them, too!

Every second Saturday morning, I can be found at my favourite café having a very important date. Aaron has a rehearsal at that time each fortnight, so it’s become habit for me and the kidlet to traipse to the café for coffee, breakfast and a chat. (Judge me all you like – I gave in to the thirteen year old after a coordinated campaign from a number of people, including one of the owners of this café and the kidlet’s grandparents. Apparently it’s a birthright of kids with Italian heritage to be provided with legal stimulants from when they are children. At least, that’s the story they sold me…while they reminded me that I was drinking the dregs from my dad’s evening espresso before I could talk. Anyway, the outcome of their campaign is the kidlet sits there with her latte feeling all grown up while I silently remind myself caffeine is not crack in an effort to not feel like a completely negligent mother. But I digress…)

The kidlet and I spend quite a bit of time alone together. I often drive her to school or collect her afterwards, as her school is halfway between home and work. And we have a lot of evenings together while Aaron is playing a gig somewhere around town. But those car trips are rushed and usually involve checking off what is happening that day/homework requirements after school and those nights at home usually see us snuggled in front of the TV watching a favourite movie. I love these times, but they’re not really built for detailed conversations.

Our Saturday mornings are leisurely and free of screens. Other than greeting the staff at the café (one who has appointed herself as the kidlet’s ‘other mother’ – something our daughter is more than happy to endorse, because Jo is far cooler and more fun than me!) and said hi to the other regulars, we sit down and focus just on each other.

It is these Saturday morning catch ups that are the most revealing, and provide me with great insight into what ‘s going on in her life. With no need to rush and the comfort of being somewhere safe, she shares things that just wouldn’t be shared in the rushed car trip to school in the morning.

My job on these dates is simple. Listen. Nod my head so she knows that I am paying attention. Don’t impose my ideas on to her. Try not to be shocked when she says anything I wasn’t expecting. And when she asks questions, I try to frame my answers in a way that hopefully helps her feel supported and encouraged to make her own decisions, rather than trying to foist my own onto her.

A few weeks ago when I was seeing my endo, I realised that she takes the same approach with me that I do with the kidlet. I always feel that I have her complete and utter attention and I never feel judged by her. While she may want to just tell me what to do and have me follow it to the letter, she doesn’t do that. When I ask questions, she helps guide me to an answer that I feel comfortable with.

I really believe that my endo’s style has meant that I am far more confident about the diabetes decisions I make each day. Knowing that I have been able to troubleshoot, or make a choice after weighing up all the options gives me conviction and assurance that my decision-making skills are sound, all the time knowing that she is there if I need to ask something.

I am sure it’s no accident that I am this way with my kid. I’ve seen how effective it is in helping me do better with diabetes…and it’s certainly translatable to parenting a teen!

Recently when I was preparing a talk for practise nurses about the way for both HCPs and PWD to get the most out of healthcare appointments, I came across this:

Listening doesn’t seem to come easily or naturally to a lot of us. We want to jump in and interrupt. We want to offer our suggestions (because of course we know best!). We want the person to listen to us and do what we say. And we want to fix things. We so want to fix things!

But the best thing we can do in a lot of cases is to just shut up. I frequently employ the WAIT (WhyAm Talking?) approach as I have found it is the best way to truly gauge what is going on and find out things that are too easily missed.

Those Saturday morning catch ups are illuminating for me. As well as seeing how my daughter is dealing with the sometimes tricky trials and tribulations of teenage-hood, I am being allowed a front row seat to a lot of what is going on in her life – things I may otherwise miss. Most of the time these days, she doesn’t need me to tell her what to do as she is working out stuff. She needs to feel safe, comfortable and not judged as she bounces her ideas off me; and to be given the space to learn how to weigh up options, make errors in judgement and work out what is best for her.

And that sometimes, making a decision that isn’t necessarily the best may not be the worst thing in the world. (At least – that’s what I’m telling myself when I see the look on her face as she takes her first sip of coffee for the day, and I know I have been complicit in her teenage caffeine addiction…)

I may have mentioned before that I use an app called Timehop. It cleverly collects photos and posts from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms, and serves them up to me as an account of what I was up to on this day over the last ten or so years.

Mostly, Timehop is a source of great joy. It shows photos of lovely family and friends moments, exciting things happening at work and our travels. Or it shares tweets that make no sense in isolation, but if I click on link, am taken back to long-forgotten discussions that made complete sense at the time. It’s fun and each day, makes me smile a I remember some pretty great moments.

But around this time each year, I am reminded of what was going on a the end of July 2013. And I don’t smile fondly. Because it remains one of the most difficult times of my life, and remembering it so clearly stirs up a lot of sadness.

This time five years ago, I had miscarried a much-wanted baby. The miscarriage (and D & C) happened while we were on holidays in New York, but I needed another surgery once I returned home.

Had the pregnancy gone to plan, there would be a little four year old in our life. I can’t really imagine it, to be honest. I think of everything that has happened since July 2013 and wonder how different life would be today if there was a little one running around. We’d be thinking about a school start in the new year and all that comes with it.

But, life doesn’t always go to plan. This particular derailment can’t really be explained – it was just one of those things. Twenty years of diabetes has taught me that there will be occasions where I will face curve balls. Sometimes over and over again. But even with the understanding that diabetes brings about expecting the unexpected, there is little solace in dealing with pregnancy loss.

It’s five years ago now. It feels as though a lifetime has passed. And at the same time, it feels no more than a baby’s heartbeat ago.

I like to celebrate anniversaries. Diaversaries are given the fanfare they deserve around our place, with high fives and pats on the back as another year of dealing with diabetes is ticked off an imaginary calendar.

This anniversary doesn’t get celebrated. But it does get acknowledged.  This week, I’ve been imagining four year olds who remind me of our darling girl when she was a cheeky four year old. But I know this one would have had a personality all of its own, and been a force to reckon with in different ways. And I am thinking about what life would like with two kids, and how our daughter would have adjusted having a younger sibling following her around. I wonder how our house would breathe differently, reflecting a little one’s existing, picture books that have been put up on high shelves once again scattered around the floor.

These thoughts do make me smile.

But my smile when I think of these things is not a happy smile. It is a smile of regret, loss and grief.

I will buy some white flowers for the kitchen table today, and watch them as they bloom. And remember. Remember the time when I thought that we would be bringing home the baby growing inside me to add to – and complete – our little family. And how sad I am that we never did get to meet.

A few years ago, I wrote this piece about why I am uncomfortable with the term ‘carer’. (I’m sharing it again below.) I often think about the word around Kellion Medal time, because there is a certificate given to ‘carers’ of medallists.

This is a lovely part of the ceremony, and acknowledges that diabetes can indeed take a village. Usually, the ‘carer’ is the partner of the person receiving the medal. Sometimes, it is a parent, sibling or other close relative. Other times, it is a healthcare professional.

Carer is a word with a broad meaning. It encompasses a wide range of situations and responsibilities.

As I said in the original blog post, I don’t believe that I have a carer. Aaron certainly supports all my efforts with my diabetes, is a wonderful cheer squad and knows when to mutter ‘Diabetes Sucks’ when I am feeling a little over the whole thing. I feel very fortunate to have him do that.

But carer? Nope.

It got me thinking to what I would want if (when?) I stand up to receive my Kellion medal. In thirty years’ time, I hope to proudly stand up there and appreciatively receive my medal. And in the room, I would want those near and dear to me, celebrating the milestone. I would certainly want to thank them for having lived alongside me as I lived with diabetes for so long.

But the word carer does not really adequately describe that role. And yet, I don’t know the word that does – or even if there is a word…

Words matter – so what is the right word?

So, please help me out! If you are an adult with diabetes, do you have a word you use to describe the people who support you? Are you comfortable using the word carer? Do you prefer to use something else? Or nothing at all? (Fifth option: Never even thought of it. Get over yourself with your language palaver, Renza!) 

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I am lucky when it comes to my diabetes support network. I know this and I will say it several times in this post. I also know that I am likely to come off as being ungrateful which is not the case at all. Today, I want to explore the idea of how these support people are identified, either by themselves or by people living with diabetes. Specifically, I want to talk about the term carer.

The Oxford Online Dictionary defines carer as:

a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.

I don’t have a carer. I am the person responsible for living with my diabetes, but I do not have a disability and I certainly don’t consider myself sick. And, although I’m pushing a ‘significant age’ I am not yet elderly.

I understand and completely believe that there are people who are really and truly carers. There are people who are responsible for feeding, toileting, bathing, communicating for another who is unable to do it themselves. I am not referring to instances like this. I am referring to, I guess, diabetes.

I don’t consider my husband, who is involved in my life with diabetes to be my carer. He’s my husband, my partner.

Living with diabetes is not a solo game for most and this is a truly wonderful thing. We get support and help from people and I for one feel very fortunate to know that I have people (family, friends, healthcare professionals), I can rely on if I need them.

But I don’t consider any of them my carer. I would refer to them as my support network. In the case of my HCPs, they’re paid to help me with the things I need.

My husband would never say that ‘we’ are a family with diabetes. He would say that I (his wife) have diabetes. Not for one moment would he consider himself to be living with this condition even though he regularly is part of it. But as far as ‘ownership’ goes, it’s mine. He will step up as much or as little as I ask and in the few times it’s been necessary, he’s taken over, done what’s needed to be done and then, when safe, stepped back.

My independence and confidence in my ability to self-manage comes from being given the space from those around me to do what it is I need to do. I know there have been times when Aaron would like to sit me down and force feed me glucose because he can see that I am low. As I stand at the open fridge and in my hypo-fog state try to calculate the carbs in a cucumber (yes, I know!) he has had to just step back and let me work it out myself, stepping in if asked.

I see this like watching my daughter do something in a way that is frustrating to me. I would love to jump in, show her how to do it far more effectively (or do it myself) and then move on. But her self-confidence and her ability to trust her decision making process needs to be encouraged, not overshadowed by a parent who insists on taking over all the time which suggests that she cannot do anything herself.

To me, the term carer implies helplessness. I get that diabetes is a lifelong condition and that there are stages in a person’s life when they may need extra care. For example, children with diabetes are reliant on their parents for the day-to-day management tasks. But is that being a carer or is that called parenting albeit with an incredibly extra degree of difficulty? Or what about an adult with diabetes who is having a period of hypo unawareness and their partner is required to, at times, inject them with glucagon? Is this being a carer or is this just doing what partners do – look after each other at a time of illness or need?

What about when I am lying in bed, unable to move because my BGL is high, I have mild ketones and am vomiting? As I decide whether or not I need to take myself off to A&E, my husband is holding a bucket in one hand and my hair in the other.  I don’t consider him to be my carer, any more than I considered myself to be his carer when he hurt his back and I was warming up a heat pack and giving him pain killers every four hours.

I don’t in any way want to undermine the importance, help or value of the support I receive. I don’t for a minute want to say that I don’t need it or resent it. But equally, I don’t want to be considered as being helpless. The relationships I have with people where diabetes is sometimes considered are based on incredible respect – from both parties. They respect that I am the one who is living with this and dealing with it and I respect the way they allow me to do that.

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Thanks to Ash for chatting with me over coffee about this today

It takes a village.

How often do we say that about life with diabetes? I know I say it all the time.

It doesn’t matter if you were diagnosed as a child or as an adult, diabetes is rarely a solitary health condition. While those of us whose beta cells actually decided to go AWOL are the ones physically affected by the condition, our loved ones are also part of our diabetes existence.

As someone who is surrounded by a village of loved ones – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues – I can’t ever state enough how important they are in my diabetes wellbeing. I am so grateful for their love and support. I love that they are there for me when it feels like diabetes is kicking my arse. I love how Aaron knows that when things are tough, all I need is him to look at me, nod and say ‘diabetes sucks’, hand me a cup of tea and hold my hand to make me feel better. I love it when our daughter displays her keen advocacy skills by talking about diabetes in the same way I do, using the language I use. And I love it when my loved ones celebrate the wins and successes and diaversaries alongside me.

The Australian Centre for Behavioural research in Diabetes (ACBRD), in collaboration with the NDSS, is currently looking for family members and friends of people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes to participate in some research to help them develop an information resource about how to support people living with diabetes. The resource will also focus on how loved ones can take care of themselves too.

To be eligible to participate you must meet the following criteria:

  • You are 18 years or older
  • You are either a family member or close friend of someone with diabetes (e.g. parent, sibling, spouse, best friend)
  • You live in Australia and are able to partake in a telephone interview, or meet with us in person in either North Melbourne or Geelong
  • You are able to read, write and speak English
  • You are available in early-mid June 2018

You will be thanked for your time and for providing your experiences with a $50 gift voucher.

If you are the loved one of someone with diabetes, thank you! And please consider taking part in the research for the development of this resource by contacting Caitlynn Ashton by email or phone (03) 9244 6668. (Please note, Caitlynn’s days of work are Monday-Wednesday.)

Celebrating my 20th diaversary with some of my village people.

There is something to be said for the comfort of routine. Yesterday, I had my annual eye check. And like clockwork, it played out the same way it always has.

Just like always, the week before my appointment, I received a reminder message from doctor’s office. That cued the call to my dad to lock him in for chauffeuring and morale duties.

Just like always, a little part of the back of my mind was occupied with the upcoming appointment and a series of ‘what if’ scenarios played out.

Just like always, the night before my appointment, my anxiety levels were heightened. I tried to alleviate them with a bit of twitter humour.

Just like always on the day of the appointment, Dad picked me up and just like always, I told him how nervous I was. ‘Twenty years of diabetes now, dad.I’m worried this might be the appointment where the news isn’t all good.’

And just like always, he said ‘Just wait and see. There’s not point worrying before you see your doctor.’ His morale boosting comments, just like always, right on point.

Just like always, I nervously waiting in the second waiting room to be called in to the first appointment.

Just like always, the orthoptist had me read from a chart and put drops in my eyes and sent me on my way to the next waiting room. And just like always, my vision blurred and my heart rate increased.

Drops in; vision blurring. Waiting…

Just like always, my dreamy ophthalmologist called me into his room. (Dreamy because he’s lovely to look at. But more dreamy because he is just so damn kind to me in my ridiculous nervous state). ‘Are you well,’ he asked, just like always asks, and I realised that I have not always answered, ‘Yes. So well…’

Just like always, he said: ‘Your vision and eye pressure look good, Renza. No changes at all since last time.’

Just like always I allowed myself to smile a tiny bit. But no too much. Because the reason we were really there hadn’t happened yet.

Just like always, he turned down the lights in the room and shone an almost painfully bright light into my eyes. He asked me to look this way and then that way. He looked at the front and back of both of my eyes.

And just like always, when he’d looked for all he needed to look for, he turned the lights back on and smiled at me. ‘There is no sign of retinopathy or any other diabetes-related eye problems. Your eyes are great.’

Just like always, I breathed again. I smiled. Really smiled. ‘I’ve had diabetes for twenty years now. Today’s news has made me really happy.’ I said. And I thanked him for giving me such good news.

Just like always I wandered back down the corridor, feeling far lighter. I paid the bill, I found my dad.

And just like always, he looked at my beaming smile and said, ‘I told you so. Just like I always do.’

My sister is pretty cool. She actually got all the cool genes in the family, and I’m okay with that. She also got the biting sense of humour, so I’m a little afraid of her at times. Plus, she got the decent cleavage out of the two of us and, since our teen years, has thought it fitting to bring this up any time she feels like it – no matter who is around.

Toots (her nickname because when she was born I couldn’t say Tonya) is ridiculously successful, has travelled more than anyone else I know, and takes crap from absolutely no one. My kid loves her because Toots does cool things with her, swears like a sailor, and is the embodiment of the inappropriate aunt…and perfect role model for a teenage girl.

A loved one of someone Toots knows was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She messaged me to see if it would be okay for them to contact me if they needed to. ‘Of course, chicken,’ I said to her. She said thanks, and then made some snarky comment about the shoes I was wearing and hung up on me before I had a chance to think of an equally snarky comeback. (And to be honest, there was no way I would have matched hers.)

Anyway. A couple of days later, she called about something completely unrelated – probably to laugh about something one of our parents had said, or threaten to tell dad after I revealed on Facebook that I wagged every single religion class in year 12 – and as she was about to hang up, she said, ‘Oh wait! So, I was asked about what to do at Easter time with diabetes being so new in the family. I suggested that they go and get some really good quality dark chocolate to share so that the newly diagnosed person wouldn’t feel left out. And just to monitor a little more to keep an eye on their glucose levels. That works, right?

Here’s the thing about my sister. We rarely talk about diabetes. I rarely to her about my own diabetes because, quite frankly, we have far more interesting things to talk about. And shopping to do where I boss her around and she resolutely ignores me, while yelling about how bossy I am.

And yet, she would know a shitload more about diabetes – mine and diabetes in general –than almost anyone else I know. Because that’s what she does. She collects information relevant to people around her and files it away for when they need it.

On Easter, she showed up at our place for breakfast and handed me a huge dark chocolate Haigh’s egg. She’s all about the good stuff – and practising what she preaches.

Sisters can be hard going. We have our moments. But even when she wants to push me off the bed and give me concussion (which she did when we were younger, although she will tell you I fell on my own…), and even though she recently threatened to harm me with my new shoes (admittedly, because it was all I spoke to her about for three weeks), she still has my back.

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