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Today I’m in Sydney giving a talk to the team at Roche about how I try (and generally fail) to simplify the most complex health condition in the world.

Alas, as I finished prepping my slide deck, I realised I have no real solutions and actually, diabetes remains bloody complex.

As you were…


Three days in Vienna is never going to be enough, and neither were three days at ATTD. But mother guilt is a very strong motivator for getting back home as quickly as possible.

This is the second ATTD conference I attended. Last year, I returned a little bewildered because it was such a different diabetes conference to what I was used to. But this year, knowing what to expect, I was ready and hit the ground running.

There will be more to come – this is the initial brain dump! But come back from more in coming weeks. Also, if you emailed me, shot me a text, Facebooked me, Tweeted me or sent me a owl last week, I’ll get back to you soon. I promise. Long days, and long nights made me a little inaccessible last week, but the 3am wake up thanks to jet lag is certainly helping me catch up!

So, some standouts for me:


The conversation shift in 12 months around DIY systems was significant. While last year it was mentioned occasionally, 2018 could have been called the ATTD of DIY APS! Which means that clearly, HCPs cannot afford to think about DIY systems as simply a fringe idea being considered by only a few.

And if anyone thinks the whole DIY thing is a passing phase and will soon go away, the announcement from Roche that they would support JDRF’s call for open protocols should set in stone that it’s not. DANA has already made this call. And smaller pump developers such as Ypsomed are making noises about doing the same. So surely, this begs to the question: Medtronic, as market leaders, where are you in this?

It was fantastic to see true patient-led innovation so firmly planted on the program  over and over and over again at ATTD. After my talk at ADATS last year – and the way it was received – it’s clear that it’s time for Australian HCPs to step up and start to speak about this sensibly instead of with fear.

Nasal glucagon

Possibly one of the most brilliant things I attended was a talk about nasal glucagon, and if diabetes was a game, this would be a game changer! Alas, diabetes is not a game, but nasal glucagon is going to be huge. And long overdue.

Some things to consider here: Current glucagon ‘rescue therapy’ involves 8 steps before deliver. Not only that, but there are a lot of limitations to injectable glucagon.

Nasal glucagon takes about 30 seconds to deliver and is far easier to administer and most hypos resolved within 30 minutes of administration. There have been pivotal and real world studies and both show similar results and safety. Watch this space!

Time in Range

Another significant shift in focus is the move towards time in range as a measure of glucose management rather than just A1c. Alleluia that this is being acknowledged more and more as a useful tool, and the limitations of A1c recognised. Of course, increasing CGM availability is critical if more people are going to be able to tap into this data – this was certainly conceded as an issue.

I think that it’s really important to credit the diaTribe team for continuing to push the TIR agenda. Well done, folks!


MedAngel again reminded us how their simple sensor product really should become a part of everyone’s kit if they take insulin. This little slide shows the invisible problem within our invisible illness

Affordability was not left out of the discussion and thank goodness because as we were sitting there hearing about the absolute latest and greatest tech advantages, we must never forget that there are still people not able to afford the basics to keep them alive. This was a real challenge for me at ATTD last year, and as technologies become better and better that gap between those able to access emerging technology and those unable to afford insulin seems to widening. We cannot allow that to happen.

Hello T-Slim! The rumours are true – Tandem is heading outside the US with official announcements at ATTD that they will be supplying to Scandinavia and Italy in coming months. There are very, very, very loud rumours about an Australian launch soon but as my source on this is unofficial, best not to add to the conjecture.

How’s this for a soundbite:


Massive congrats to the ATTD team on their outstanding SoMe engagement throughout the conference. Not a single ‘No cameras’ sign to be seen, instead attendees were encouraged to share information in every space at the meeting.

Aaron Kowalski from JDRF gave an inspired and inspiring talk in the Access to Novel Technologies session where he focused on the significant role PWD have in increasing access to new treatments and his absolute focus on the person with diabetes had me fist pumping with glee!

Ascensia Diabetes packed away The Grumpy Pumper into their conference bag and sent him into the conference to write and share what he learnt. Great to see another group stepping into this space and providing the means for an advocate and writer to attend the meetings and report back. You can read Grumps’ stream of consciousness here.

Dr Pratik Choudhary from the UK was my favourite HCP at ATTD with this little gem of #LangaugeMatters. Nice work, Pratik!


Well, yes. I am still disappointed that there were no PWD speaking as PWD on the program. This is a continued source of frustration for me, especially in sessions that claim to be about ‘patient empowerment’. Also, considering that there was so much talk about ‘patient-led innovation’, it may be useful to have some of those ‘patient leaders’ on the stage talking about their motivations for the whole #WeAreNotWaiting business and where we feel we’re being let down.

I will not stop saying #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs until I feel that we are well and truly part of the planning, coordination and delivery of conferences about the health condition that affects us far more personally that any HCP, industry rep or other organisation.


Roche Diabetes Care (Global) covered my travel and accommodation costs to attend their #DiabetesMeetup Blogger event at #ATTD2018 (more to come on that). They also assisted with providing me press registration to attend all areas of ATTD2018. As always, my agreement to attend their blogger day does not include any commitment from me, or expectation from them, to write about them, the event or their products. It is, however, worth noting that they are doing a stellar job engaging with people with diabetes, and you bet I want to say thank you to them and acknowledge them for doing so in such a meaningful way.

New year, new jumble. And lots of saved links from the last few weeks to share.

#OzDOC 2.0

Did you know that after OzDOC had it’s ‘final’ tweetchat at the beginning of December last year, it’s had a reboot and is now continuing to go at a great rate. David Burren (AKA Bionic Wookiee) kicked off the chat but is looking for people to volunteer to the moderators’ roster. There’s a brand new Twitter account to follow (@OzDOC_host), but the #OzDOC hashtag continues to shine brightly.

Same #OzDOC time, same #OzDOC channel. (i.e. Tuesdays at 8.30pm AEDT)

And while we’re talking tweetchats…

…make sure you keep an eye out on the #GBDOC tweetchats, which also had a bit of a restart last year and are going absolutely brilliantly. Follow @GbdocTChost for topics and moderators.

Now is a great time for Aussies to participate in #GBDOC because with the time zone difference, the chat is on Thursday 8am AEDT…which is actually quite pleasant. (It all goes to pot and becomes more difficult when daylight saving kicks in/out in respective hemispheres in coming months, but for now, it’s certainly manageable!)

Jane’s profile

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Professor Jane Speight and I make no apologies for mentioning her so frequently on this blog. She is truly a champion for and of people with diabetes and her pioneering work on diabetes and #LanguageMatters, and social stigma are changing the landscape for those of us living with diabetes.

Last week, a profile of Jane and her work was published in The Lancet. Congrats, Jane. I can’t imagine a more worthy recipient of this attention. Please keep on keeping on. I for one am very grateful to have you on our side!

Read the article here – it’s free, but you will need to register/log in to access it.

(Click photo for source)

Dear ‘patient’

I was really interested to read this BMJ Opinion piece about medical letters, with the writers suggesting that instead of addressing ‘report letters’ to referring (and other) doctors and HCPs, that they should be addressed directly to the person, CCing in the doctor who would ordinarily have been sent the letter.

I love that idea! My endo generally copies me in on anything she sends out to my other HCPs to keep me in the loop, but I think that actually writing directly to me is even better.

HCPs would need to completely reconsider the language they adopt, the terminology they use and the overall tone of the communication, and I believe that there is nothing that should be shared with another HCP about me that shouldn’t be shared directly with me.

Interesting idea. And interesting to see if it has legs…

Writing for Grumps

After writing for me a few weeks ago, I returned the favour and wrote a post for The Grumpy Pumper. (I think the deal he made was something like ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’, so I had to come up with the goods.)

This is all part of Grumps’ attempts to get people with diabetes speaking about #TalkAboutComplications in an open and honest way to help reduce the shame that seem to go hand in hand with a complications diagnosis.

Get ready for Spare a Rose spam

This year’s campaign is about to kick off. And if you want to know why I support this campaign, here’s just one reason.

Hospital admissions and T1D study

Rebecca Munt from Flinders University is currently enrolled in a PhD at Flinders University and is looking for participants in her research.

The focus of her study is to explore the experiences of self-management for adults with type 1 diabetes in the hospital setting (when T1D is not the primary admission diagnosis). If you’re interested in participating in Rebecca’s study, have type 1 diabetes, are over 18 years of age and have been admitted to hospital within the last two to five years (not for diabetes), please call Rebecca on (08) 8201 5749 or email

(The project has Social Behavioural Research Ethics Committee approval from Flinders University.)

Future of medical conferences

I have been very vocal in recent years about the shortcomings of diabetes conferences, specifically the lack of involvement and engagement of people with diabetes as part of the planning, running and presenting of the conference. So this piece really resonated about why medical meetings need a revamp, and some ideas for what could be done differently.

(Click for original tweet)

Because #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs.

Does the story we know and love about Banting need a rewrite?

I was fascinated to watch the short documentary shared in this story which suggests that the frequently-told story of the discovery of insulin is missing out a critical part.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

This blog post by Sue Robins detailing two vastly different medical appointments is compelling – and quite heartbreaking –reading.

More D Merch

Totally true!

Click image to get your own!


There were some really important and impactful sessions in the Living with Diabetes stream at #IDF2017 in December last year, but perhaps one of the most significant was the final session. Chaired by Professor Jane Speight, the session was titled ‘Diabetes and mental health: distress, diabulimia and emotional wellbeing’.

Talk about finishing with something to get people thinking and talking!

Bill Polonsky kicked off the session with a talk about how emotional wellbeing is affected by diabetes, and offered some ideas for addressing these issues.

(Can I just say what a stroke of genius it was to have Jane Speight and Bill Polonsky on stage together?! To have two champions of diabetes behavioural psychology in one place was definitely a highpoint of the Congress, and anyone who chose to go to a different session missed out. Big time! … Credit where credit is due to us all, Manny, Mary, Hakeem and Kelly!)

The session ended with Erika Backhoff from Mexico who gave an outstanding presentation on diabetes distress and the importance of appropriate training and understanding of the difference between diabetes-related distress and depression.

But for me, the highlight of the session – and one of the highlights of the entire stream – was Georgie Peters speaking about diabetes-related eating disorders. (Georgie writes a great blog that you can read here.)

Georgie began by sharing her own story of insulin manipulation. I’m not going to write anything about this part of Georgie’s talk, because you can see and hear it all here. (You’ll need to have a Facebook account to view it.)

Often, when people speak about living with a health condition, they are called ‘brave’. I absolutely hate it when people refer to me as brave because I live with diabetes (and all that comes with it). I’m not brave, I’m just doing what I need to do to stay alive.

But Georgie WAS brave and I’ll explain why.

Often, when we hear from people living with diabetes, what we hear about is people conquering mountains (literally and figuratively). We hear tales of the super heroes running marathons and winning medals. These are the socially acceptable stories of living with a chronic health condition: the ‘I won’t be beaten’ anecdotes. They give hope, are meant to inspire and make those not living with diabetes feel better about things because suddenly, it seems that this health condition is manageable and everyone with it is a champion.

But the reality for most people with diabetes is the same as most people with diabetes – we don’t run marathons, we don’t climb mountains, we don’t win gold medals. We are just doing the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. And sometimes, we deal with difficult stuff.

Sharing stories of the tough times and the challenging things that often go hand in hand with diabetes is not always easy – for the person sharing the story or for those reading or listening to them

But perhaps that’s exactly why we do need to hear about these stories, and ensure stories like Georgie’s are heard and given a platform.

Just because something is difficult or uncomfortable to listen to doesn’t mean that it should be hidden. This is why people don’t seek the care and assistance they need. It’s why people think they are the only one’s struggling and why they don’t know where to turn.

I could see some people in the audience shifting uncomfortably in their seats as Georgie eloquently, determinedly – and completely unapologetically – shared her experience and, most usefully, offered suggestions for how to work with people with diabetes and eating disorders. I know that I left with a far better understanding of the topic. And an even more resolute desire to keep these types of issues in the public domain.


I was the Deputy Lead for the Living with Diabetes Stream, and an invited speaker at the 2017 IDF Congress. The International Diabetes Federation covered my travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress.

Georgie owning the stage at #IDF2017




As explained previously, I don’t do new year’s resolutions for the simple reason that I never stick to them. I’m unable to do the whole SMART thing and make my goals actually attainable, and so after the shortest time (a day… an hour… minutes), have thrown in the towel.

However, I am not above making resolutions for others. Because that’s the sort of person I am. Caring and sharing. Or bossy. You decide.

Here are some New Year’s resolutions for HCPs working with people with diabetes to consider:

  • Use language that doesn’t stigmatise – both in front of PWD and away from us.
  • And while we’re talking words: use words we understand. We may know a lot about our health condition, but we don’t necessarily understand all the medical speak. If you are talking to us, check in to make sure we actually understand what you are saying to us.
  • Lose the judgement. We all judge; we do it subconsciously. Try not to.
  • Remember who is in charge. While as a HCP you may have a direction that you would like us to take, or our consultations to follow, that might not work for the person with diabetes. Our diabetes; Our rules. Learn the rules and stick to them. (Also, there are not really any rules, so don’t get shitty when we seem to have no idea what we’re doing.)
  • Remember this: no one wants to be unhealthy. Or rather, everyone wants to be the healthiest and best they can be. Use this as an underlying principle when meeting people with diabetes.
  • Sure, offer help with setting goals. We all like to work towards something. But setting the goal is actually the easy part. Help us work out the steps to get there. If someone comes to you and wants to lose weight or reduce their A1c, that’s awesome, but they are big asks. So, tiny steps, easily achievable mini-goals and rewards for getting there.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate victories. You know that person with diabetes sitting opposite you? For some, just getting there and being there is a huge achievement. Recognise that. Showing up with some data – in whatever format? That’s brilliant – so say so. Sure, it may only be three BGL readings from three different meters and all at different times, but that is a start.
  • Diabetes is rarely going to be the most important thing in someone’s life. Please don’t ever expect it to be.
  • Include us in every discussion about us – from letters to referring doctors or others in our healthcare team and when it comes to any results of bloody checks or scans. Make sure we have copies of these and understand what they all mean.
  • Please be realistic. If someone is currently not checking their glucose levels, don’t ask them to suddenly do six checks a day, analyse the data and send you pretty graphs. Small, attainable, reasonable goals. (Once, during a period of particularly brutal burnout when my meter was not seeing the light of day, my endo asked me to do two checks a week: Monday morning before breakfast and Wednesday morning before breakfast. That was it. Next time I went back to see them, I’d not missed a single one of those checks. And even managed to do a few others as well. I felt amazingly good for actually having managed to do what was suggested and eager to keep going from there.)
  • Ask us if we want to be pushed a little. Are we interested in new technologies to try, different meds to consider, a more aggressive treatment plan? Don’t assume you know the answer. Present us with the options and then help us decide if it’s something we want to try.
  • Equally, if we’re pushing you because we want something new or more intensive, help us get it, learn about it and support our decision to try it.
  • Do not dismiss peer networks and peer support. Offer it, direct us to it, encourage us to find it.
  • Be on our side. We need champions, not critics. We need people to cheer us on from the sidelines, go into bat for us when we need an advocate and take over the baton when we’ve done all we can (and shit yeah! – that’s three sports analogies in one dot point – I deserve a gold medal!)
  • Understand that diabetes does not start and end with our glucose levels. There is so much going on in our head and sometimes we need to be able to get that sorted before we can even begin to think about anything else. Get to know some diabetes-friendly psychologists, social workers and counsellors, and suggest we see them.
  • Please, please, please, when it is time for our appointment, do nothing but be there with us. Of course interruptions may happen, but do apologise and excuse yourself – and do everything possible to minimise them. Look at us, take notes on a piece of paper – not a computer, and listen to us.
  • Again…listen to us.
  • Explain to us why you feel we need to have something done. It could be as simple as asking us to step on the scales (which often is actually not simple, but fraught) or it could be asking us to have a scary-sounding and invasive procedure. Why are you suggesting this? Is this the only course of action?
  • Treat us like a person, not our faulty body part. And see all of us – not just our missing islet cells. Because really, if all you are seeing is those missing islet cells, you really are not seeing anything at all.

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. 


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. 

These days, thanks to Loop, I think about diabetes a lot less on a daily basis. I guess it’s to be expected when suddenly my diabetes devices have become far more automated than previously which results in fewer button pushes, fewer reaches down my shirt to find my pump in my bra to make temp basal changes, or even boluses and fewer out of range numbers that need attention.

The downside of this (if there is a downside) is that I lose track of what’s going on.

Because diabetes is rarely front of mind, I’ve found it hard to remember when I did things such as pump line changes. One day during my holidays, as my CGM trace edged up inexplicably one day, I tried to troubleshoot why, but it wasn’t until I was drying myself off after showering that I became aware of how tender the site felt.

I stood there trying to remember when I had last changed the line, counting back the days, before I realised it had been almost a week. After swapping out the line for a new one and examining the site to make sure it wasn’t infected (it wasn’t – just a little red) I started setting a reminder in my phone so that I would remember when it was time for a change.

To be honest, the only times I can rely on thinking about diabetes these days are when that alarm goes off, or another alert reminding me that it’s time to refill my cartridge, restart my CGM sensor or change the battery in my pump. I’m completely dependent on those noisy reminder alarms to make sure I get things done, because my diabetes has become a little bit ‘out of mind, out of sight’.

It’s funny how quickly changes like these become the norm. And other routines have also been given an overhaul.

My waking habits, which always involved reaching for my phone to check the number on my Dex app, is different now. The other day, I came to realise that often I’d be awake, up and moving around for some time before remembering to check my glucose levels. In fact, often it wasn’t until I sat down for a coffee or something to eat that I bothered to glance down at my Apple Watch. I guess that’s what happens when all you see is a number in the 5s every single morning for six months. The novelty wears off and there seems to be little reason to actually check.

Of course, if I felt the gentle haptic of my watch, or vibration of my phone alerting me to an out of range number, I was right on it. But when there was no noise, I simply wasn’t listening to diabetes.

I suppose this is what I meant when I wrote this in my final post for last year: ‘I finish 2017 far less burdened by diabetes than I was at the beginning of the year.’ The burden of diabetes for me has been the monotony of it, the relentlessness of it, the way it permeates every part of my life. I would, quite easily, feel overcome and overwhelmed by these aspects of diabetes.

Without a doubt, that has changed. My new diabetes feels lighter and less encumbering. And with that, my attitude towards my diabetes has become somewhat kinder. I used to say I hated diabetes, but I think what I meant was that I hated how it was so present all the time.

These days, I feel less bitterness about my fucked up beta cells and the resulting long term health condition I have. Perhaps I feel ambivalent – but not in a ‘I’m over it and don’t care’ kind of way. No. Now, for the first time, I feel that diabetes and I are coexisting, if not happily, at least comfortably.

My day’s first though of diabetes is just before my first hit of caffeine. (Click photo for where to buy Casualty Girl pouch.)

I was thrilled and honoured to speak in the symposium at #IDF2017 all about peer support. I shared the program with Chris Aldred, better known to all as The Grumpy Pumper, and advocate Dr Phylissa Deroze (you can – and should – find her as @not_defeated on Twitter).

Speakers in the peer support symposium at #IDF2017

When we were putting together the program for the symposium, the idea was that it would offer an overview of what peer support can look like, beginning with how diabetes organisations and community health groups can facilitate and offer a variety of peer support options, and rounding up with the perspectives of people with diabetes who provide and participate in peer support.

I spoke about how diabetes organisations in Australia, through the NDSS, offer a suite of peer support choices, urging the audience to think beyond the usual face-to-face or, increasingly, online peer support group. Activities such as camps for children and adolescents with diabetes, information events, education sessions (such as DAFNE) are all avenues for peer support. Peer support need not only take the form of a group of people sitting in a (real or virtual) room talking about diabetes in a structured or unstructured way. It can happen just by putting people with diabetes in the same space.

I’d never met Phylissa before, but I quickly learnt she is the definition of the word determined. She spoke eloquently about her own type 2 diabetes diagnosis which was anything but ideal. Instead of feeling beaten and overcome by how she had been let down by the healthcare system, she turned to her peers, finding a group that not only helped her diabetes management, but also gave her confidence to live well with diabetes.

Phylissa now facilitates an in-person support group for women with diabetes in Al Ain in the UAE, and is a huge supporter of, and believer in, the power and importance of peer to peer engagement and support in diabetes management. You can read more about Phylissa’s work on her website here.

Grumps, in true Grumps style, gave a talk about how his approach to peer support is more organic and certainly not especially structured. Although involved in some more planned peer support, he believes the most effective way he can support others with diabetes is on an individual, more informal way. Kind of like this:

Click image to see tweet.

And as if putting into practise his talk at the Congress, last week he started a conversation on Twitter about his own recent experiences of being diagnosed with an ulcer in his foot opening the door for people to speak about diabetes complications.

Click image to see tweet.

The way we speak about diabetes-related complications is often flawed. The first we hear of them is around diagnosis and they are held over us as a threat of the bad things to come if we don’t do as we are told. They are also presented to us with the equation of: Well-managed-diabetes + doing-what-the-doctors-say = no complications.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

From then on, complications are spoken of in hushed-voices or accusations. Blame is apportioned to those who develop them: obviously, they failed to take care of themselves.

And because of this, for many people, the diagnosis of a diabetes-related complication is accompanied by guilt, shame and feelings of failure when really, the response should be offers of support, the best care possible and links to others going through the same thing. Peer support.

Back to Grumps’ raising diabetes complications on Twitter. After sharing his own story, suggested that we should not be ashamed to talk about complications.

That was the catalyst others needed to begin volunteering their own stories of complications diagnoses. Suddenly, people were openly speaking about diabetes complications in a matter-of-fact, open way – almost as if speaking about the weather. Some offered heartfelt sympathies, others shared tips and tricks that help them. But the overall sentiments were those of support and camaraderie.

The recurring theme of the peer support symposium at the Congress was that we need to find others we can connect with in a safe space so we can speak about the things that matter to us. It’s not the role of any organisation or HCP to set the agenda – the agenda needs to be fluid and follow whatever people with diabetes need.


While we’re talking peer support, how great is it to see that the weekly OzDOC tweetchat is getting a reprise this week, with Bionic Wookiee, David Burren at the helm. Drop by if you are free at the usual time: Tuesday evening at 8.30pm (AEDT). I’ll be there!


I was the Deputy Lead for the Living with Diabetes Stream, and an invited speaker at the 2017 IDF Congress. The International Diabetes Federation covered my travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress.

This week, for the first time ever, I had no anxiety at all as I prepared for my visit to my endocrinologist. I always feel that I have to put in a disclaimer here, because I make it sound like my endo is a tyrant. She’s not. She is the kindest, loveliest, smartest, most respectful health professional I have ever seen. My anxieties are my own, not a result of the way she communicates with me.

Anyway, now that the disclaimer is done, I walked into her office with a sense of calm. And excitement. It was my first post-Loop appointment. I’d eagerly trotted off for an A1c the week earlier (another first – this diabetes task is usually undertaken with further feelings of dread) and was keenly awaiting the results.

But equally, I didn’t really care what the results were. I knew that I would have an in-range A1c – there was no doubt in my mind of that. I know how much time I am spending in range – and it’s a lot. And I have felt better that I have in a very, very long time.

The eagerness for the appointment was to discuss the new technology that has, quite honestly, revolutionised by diabetes management.

I sat down, she asked how I was. I marvelled – as I always do at the beginning of my appointments with her – how she immediately sets me at ease and sits back while I talk. She listens. I blabber. She never tries to hurry me along, or interrupts my train of thought.  I have her full attention (although I do wonder what she must think as my mind goes off on weird, sometimes non-diabetes related tangents.)

And then I asked. ‘So…what’s my A1c? I had it checked last Wednesday.’ She told me and I took in a sharp breath. There it was, sitting firmly and happily in what I have come to consider ‘pregnancy range’. Even though that is no longer relevant to me, it frames the number and means something.

I shrugged a little and I think perhaps she was surprised at my lack of bursting into tears, jumping up and down and/or screaming. I wasn’t surprised. I repeated the number back to her – or maybe it was so I could hear it again. ‘And no hypos.’ I said. ‘And minimal effort.’

I’ve had A1cs in this range before. In fact, I managed to maintain them for months – even years – while trying to get pregnant, and then while pregnant. But the lows! I know that while trying to conceive and during pregnancy, I was hypo for up to 30% of the time. Every. Single. Day.

It was hard work. No CGM meant relying on frequent BGL checks – between 15 and 20 a day. Every. Single. Day. And it meant a bazillion adjustments on my pump, basal checking every fortnight and constantly second guessing myself and the technology. Sure, that A1c was tight, but it was the very definition of hard work!

This A1c was not the result of anywhere near as much effort.

Surely the goal – or at least one of them – of improved diabetes tech solutions has to be about easing the load and burden of the daily tasks of diabetes. I’m not sure that I’ve actually ever truly believed that any device that I have taken on has actually made things easier or lessened the burden. Certainly not when I started pumping – in fact, when I think about it, it added a significant load to my daily management. CGM is useful, but the requirement to calibrate and deal with alarms is time and effort consuming. Libre is perhaps the least onerous of all diabetes technologies, yet the lack of alarms means it’s not the right device for me at this time.

These tools have all been beneficial at different times for different purposes. It is undeniable they help with my diabetes management and help me to achieve the targets I set for myself. But do they make it easier to live with diabetes? Do they take about some of the burden and make me think less about it and do less for it? Probably not.

Loop does. It reduces my effort. It makes me think about my own diabetes less. It provides results that mean I don’t have to take action as often. It takes a lot of the thinking out of every day diabetes.

So let me recap:  Loop has delivered the lowest A1c in a long time, I sleep better that I’ve slept in 20 years, I feel better – both physically and emotionally – than I have in forever. And I feel that diabetes is the least intrusive it has ever been.

Basically, being deliberately non-complaint has made me the best PWD I can possibly be.

Oh look! Your phone can now be deliberately non-compliant too, thanks to designer David Burren. Click on the link to buy your own. (Also comes in black and white.)

There is one word – actually an abbreviation of a word – that strikes particular fear through every fibre of my body: ‘Gastro.’ I hate even talking about it. Just typing the word sent a shudder down my spine. (I am nothing if not dramatic…)

A work friend and colleague was telling me about how she had been struck down with gastro a couple of weeks ago – a lovely gift from her kinder-aged daughter. Just the mention of the nausea and vomiting was enough to have me sweating and getting nervous. For the record – and so you understand my irrational fear of the topic – we weren’t sitting next to each other in an office while she was telling me. She was on the other end of the phone. Two states away in Queensland. I was in Melbourne. And yet I was still looking around me wondering what I should disinfect.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Tuesday night I went to bed with my plans for the next couple of days clearly organised and sorted in my head. I had a most-civilised mid-morning flight the next day, and then a couple of days of meetings in Adelaide. I’d booked a cab, checked in online for my flight, half-packed my overnight case and mentally gone through the check list of what needed doing in the morning before I needed to head to the airport.

And then, a couple of hours later I woke up startled, with a very unsettled feeling in my stomach. ‘That doesn’t feel good,’ I said to myself. I lay there for about thirty seconds trying to convince myself that it was all in my head and I was fine and that it would be best to close my eyes and go back to sleep. Before I jumped up and ran to the bathroom, making it there just in time before vomiting. For the first time.

I spent the next few hours alternating between throwing up and being flaked out on the sofa willing myself to not throw up. I was cold and sweaty and hot and clammy all at the same time. My heart rate was racing, and every time I stood up I was dizzy. I gripped onto the walls as I stumbled down the corridor to the bathroom, tripping over nothing but my own two feet.

At about 6am, I sent an email out saying I wouldn’t be getting to Adelaide and cancelled my flight. I crawled back into bed, still nauseous, thinking the worst was behind me. For the most part, it was. I threw up a couple more times before my official alarm went off at 7am.

I feel like death,’ I told Aaron. ‘And I bet I wind up in A&E.’ I used some choice words, mostly words beginning with ‘f’ and ending in ‘uck’, and started to work out how much time I’d lose in an emergency bed having to deal with HCPs wanting to remove my devices from me and ‘look after’ me.

‘Should I stay home?’ asked Aaron. ‘I can take you in that way.’ I told him it wasn’t necessary and that if I really needed to get to hospital my dad could take me. He got ready for work and the kid got ready for school and the two of them left, leaving me in bed, switching between dozing, holding my tender stomach and glaring at my iPhone and my Dex trace. I was hoping if I stared daggers at the trace hard enough it would stay in range.

My Loop was working overtime. I spent most of the morning between 3.5 and 4mmol/l thanks to my Loop cutting off all basal insulin. By about 11am, I could see my CGM trace starting to inch up closer to 5 and then 6, and Loop was making tiny micro adjustments to my basal rates.

I was able to keep water and some dry ginger down, and chewed on small blocks of ice. I didn’t feel dehydrated; I wasn’t going high. I didn’t have ketones. Things were looking good!

By 1pm, I was feeling comfortable enough to call into the meeting I should have been at in Adelaide. My nausea was less pronounced. I felt washed out, achy and tired, but I hoped I was out of woods, and needing to go to A&E was becoming less and less likely. Thankfully.

I have generally been pretty lousy at managing gastro and diabetes. I usually do end up in A&E, needing to be rehydrated and given some anti-nausea meds though an IV as I’m unable to keep them down after taking them orally.

But of course, it ends up being far more of an ordeal than simply lying on a bed with fluids being pumped into me. There is the inevitable request for my insulin pump to be removed so that insulin can be administered via IV – even if it’s clear my pump is working just fine.

Nurses insist on checking my glucose levels, refusing to pay any attention to the CGM spitting out readings every five minutes. My requests (demands?) to self-manage my own glucose levels – and diabetes generally – are ignored. I’ve no idea what would happen if I tried to explain the DIY APS thing I have going on these days, but suspect that wouldn’t go too well.

Usually, it takes me making an emergency call to my endo for things to go the way I really want them to – fluids, dark room, anti-nausea meds and home in about 4 hours (at the most).

By the time I leave I often feel worse for wear – and certainly more battle scarred – than I did when I first walked in there, doubled over and trying to not throw up on anyone.

But I avoided all that the other week. I managed to spend the day in the comfort of my own home, breathing in fresh air from the open windows and generally feeling comfortable and content. The only gastro hangover I had was a little exhaustion and abdomen discomfort. All in all, it was a good outcome. (But I’m still terrified of the word ‘gastro’…)

A much preferred view to a cubicle in A&E!

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