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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 An invisible force would reshape me from the vibrant 24-year-old I was at the time to a withdrawn, sick, shell of the person I really was.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.

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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.

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

 

 

I wrote this post on this day last year and today, when it came up in my TimeHop app reread it and realised it is a good one to consider at the beginning of the year as I’m trying to get myself in order. I’ve made some edits to some of the points due to changes I made last year in the way I manage my diabetes. (The original post can be found here.)

I suppose that I was reminded that being good at diabetes – something I’m afraid I miss the mark on completely quite often – does involve others who sometimes don’t necessarily understand what it is that I really need. And I can’t be annoyed if they don’t intrinsically know what I want and need if I can’t articulate it. This post was my attempt to do just that. 

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Sometimes, I’m a lousy person with diabetes (PWD). I am thoughtless and unclear about what I need, have ridiculous expectations of others – and myself, and am lazy. But I’m not always like that. And I think I know what I need to do to be better.

Being a better PWD is about being true to myself. It is also about reflecting on exactly what I need and I hope to get it.

  • I need to remember that diabetes is not going away
  • I need to remember that the here and now is just as important as the future
  • I need to remember that I don’t have to like diabetes, but I have to do diabetes
  • I need to remember that the diabetes support teams around me really only have my best interest at heart, and to go easy on them when I am feeling crap
  • I need to empty my bag of used glucose strips more frequently to stop the strip glitter effect that follows me wherever I go – edit: while this is true, I do have to admit to having far fewer strips in my bag these days due to my rather lax calibration technique
  • I need to remember that it is not anyone else’s job to understand what living with my brand of diabetes is all about
  • I need to remember that the frustrating and tiresome nature of diabetes is part of the deal
  • I need to be better at changing my pump line regularly – edit: even more so now that I am Looping and think about diabetes less than before.
  • I need my diabetes tasks to be more meaningful – quit the diabetes ennui and make smarter decisions
  • And I need to own those decisions
  • I need to see my endocrinologist – edit: actually, this one I managed to nail last year and even have an appointment booked in for a couple of months’ time!
  • I need to decide what I want to do with my current diabetes technology. There is nothing new coming onto the market that I want, but what about a DIY project to try something new? #OpenAPS anyone…? – edit: oh yeah. I started Looping….
  • Or, I need to work out how to convince the people at TSlim to launch their pump here in Australia – edit: even more relevant now after yesterday’s announcement that Animas is dropping out of the pump market in Australia
  • I need to check and adjust my basal rates
  • I need to do more reading about LCHF and decide if I want to take a more committed approach or continue with the somewhat half-arsed, but manageable and satisfactory way I’m doing it now – edit: sticking totally to the half-arsed way and happy about it!
  • I need to remind myself that my tribe is always there and ask for help when I need it
  • I need to make these!

And being a better PWD is knowing what I need from my HCPs and working out how to be clear about it, rather than expecting them to just know. (I forget that Legilimency is not actually something taught at medical school. #HarryPotterDigression)

So, if I was to sit down with my HCPs (or if they were to read my blog), this is what I would say:

  • I need you to listen
  • I need you to tell me what you need from me as well. Even though this is my diabetes and I am setting the agenda, I do understand that you have some outcomes that you would like to see as well. Talk to me about how they may be relevant to what I am needing and how we can work together to achieve what we both need
  • I need you to be open to new ideas and suggestions. My care is driven by me because, quite simply, I know my diabetes best. I was the one who instigated pump therapy, CGM, changes to my diet and all the other things I do to help live with diabetes – edit: And now, I’m the one who instigated Loop and built my own hybrid closed-loop system that has completely revolutionised by diabetes management. In language that you understand, my A1c is the best it’s ever been. Without lows. Again: without lows! Please come on this journey with me…
  • I need you to understand that you are but one piece of the puzzle that makes up my diabetes. It is certainly an important piece and the puzzle cannot be completed without you, but there are other pieces that are also important
  • I need you to remember that diabetes is not who I am, even though it is the reason you and I have been brought together
  • And to that – I need you to understand that I really wish we hadn’t been brought together because I hate living with diabetes – edit: actually, I don’t hate diabetes anymore. Don’t love it. Wish it would piss off, but as I write this, I’m kinda okay with it
  • I need you to remember that I set the rules to this diabetes game. And also, that there are no rules to this diabetes game – edit: that may be the smartest thing I have ever written. I’d like it on a t-shirt
  • I need you to understand that I feel very fortunate to have you involved in my care. I chose you because you are outstanding at what you, sparked an interest and are able to provide me what I need
  • I need you to know that I really want to please you. I know that is not my job – and I know that you don’t expect it – but I genuinely don’t want to disappoint you and I am sorry when I do
  • I want you to know that I respect and value your expertise and professionalism
  • I need you to know that I hope you respect and value mine too.

And being a better PWD is being clear to my loved ones (who have the unfortunate and unpleasant experience of seeing me all the time – at my diabetes best and my diabetes worst) and helping them understand that:

  • I need you to love me
  • I need you to nod your heads when I say that diabetes sucks
  • I need you to know I don’t need solutions when things are crap. But a back rub, an episode of Gilmore Girls or a trip to Brunetti will definitely make me feel better, even if they don’t actually fix the crapness
  • Kid – I need you to stop borrowing my striped clothes. And make me a cup of tea every morning and keep an endless supply of your awesome chocolate brownies available in the kitchen
  • Aaron – I like sparkly things and books. And somewhere, there is evidence proving that both these things have a positive impact on my diabetes. In lieu of such evidence, trust and indulge me!
  • I need you to know I am sorry I have brought diabetes into our  lives
  • I need you to know how grateful I am to have you, even when I am grumpy and pissed because I am low, or grumpy and pissed because I am high, or grumpy and pissed because I am me.
  • Edit: I need you to keep being the wonderful people you are. Please know that I know I am so lucky to have you supporting me. 
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