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I met someone the other day – a friend of a friend – who had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Within the first 15 minutes of our casual conversation standing in the street as the Saturday morning rush happened around us, I heard these words from their mouth:

‘It’s my own fault. I should have gone to the doctor sooner.’

‘I am not a good diabetic at all.’

‘I am doing a really bad job checking my bloods.’

‘I’m not sure how long I need to keep checking my bloods. Or how often, really.’

‘I was told if I didn’t look after myself I’d need injections. I’m terrified of needles.’

‘I have a list of foods that I should and shouldn’t eat.’

‘I’ve never been sick before. And now I feel as though people think I am sick. But I feel fine.’

‘The doctor said I don’t have diabetes too badly, but then told me all the things that could go wrong.’

‘I am scared. I don’t know anything about diabetes, but I am scared that I am going to go blind. I was told that’s what would happen.’

Here was an incredibly confident, capable and clear thinking person, not much older than me. Until now, their contact with HCPs had involved annual flu jabs (kudos for that!) and a trip to the GP for the occasional virus. They told me they’d never spent a night in hospital.

The diabetes diagnosis came about after their GP suggested routine blood checks on the day they went in for their flu shot. The following week, they were told they had diabetes. This was just last week. So far, this person had spent about fifteen minutes with their GP and 45 minutes with the diabetes educator who works out of the clinic.

And look at how diabetes has been presented in that time. Already, this person feels as though they are a ‘bad diabetic’ and failing in their treatment. And they are scared.

I responded to some of those comments gently:

‘You DID go to the doctor – for your flu shot. And when they suggested you have a blood check, you did it there and then.’  

‘You are doing a great job. There is no such thing as a bad person with diabetes. We do the best we can with the information at hand.’

‘This is all new. You are checking your blood sugar and that’s amazing. Well done. You didn’t have to even think about that two weeks ago!’ 

‘Do you have a follow up appointment? When you go back, as why you are being asked to check at the times they’ve suggested. And if this is something you’ll need to do for the next week…or month…or longer.‘ 

‘It’s perfectly understandable to be afraid of needles. I don’t know anyone who likes them. And you may need insulin one day. But not yet. And if you do, that’s not because you have failed. It’s because diabetes needs to be treated and sometimes with type 2 diabetes, (and always with type 1 diabetes) insulin is that treatment.’   

‘Have you been referred to a dietitian? It’s really hard to change the foods you’re eating if you’re not sure about diet. Ask for a referral.’  

‘I don’t really think of having diabetes as ‘being sick’, so I understand what you mean. But you will need to think about your health differently. That doesn’t make you a sick person, though.’

‘It’s perfectly, perfectly understandable to feel scared. If you think that having a chat with a psychologist or counsellor will help with that, ask your GP.’  

‘Also … find some other people with diabetes and talk with them. Here’s my number. Call me any time.’

Imagine, if instead of feeling the way they were feeling, this person felt empowered, confident and assured – even if there was a bit of fear and uncertainty in there.

On the day we are diagnosed, we walk into the GP’s surgery not having diabetes. And walk out with a diagnosis.

It starts early. Those messages at diagnosis can impact how we feel about our diabetes for a very long times – indeed the rest of our lives.

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Diabetes Week kicked off in the UK yesterday with the launch of their very own Language Guidance statement. Well done to all involved. It’s great to see another language document joining the movement started by Diabetes Australia back in 2011, and added to in recent years by the ADA and AADE (who presented their Guidance Statement last year), diaTribe Foundation (who has written extensively on the issue) and the Team Novo Nordisk (who developed a great guide for media reporting on the team.) And now, it’s great to see the UK on board, too.

Click to read the new UK Diabetes Language Matters guide.

In Australia, it’s been wonderful to see just how widely our statement has been used. Conference organisers have embraced the Diabetes Australia statement, including it in speaker packs, encouraging presenters to align their talks with the document. (The table which offers suggestions for words and phrases that can be problematic is a very useful reference tool.)

I can still remember the launch of the Diabetes Australia statement. It was at the State Library of Victoria which played to my word and book nerdiness almost perfectly. There could not have been a better setting for a media launch about words, language and diabetes.

Little did we know back then just how significant or far-reaching this document would be. At first, we were met with a lot of resistance, and people thinking that it was political correctness gone slightly mad. But we persevered and made sure that we were clear why this work was necessary.

I remember sitting in talks given by HCPs and flinching constantly as judgemental and stigmatising language was considered appropriate. Now, in Australia at least, it is startling when someone uses words such as non-compliant, because the ongoing, constant and committed efforts by many have completely changed the way that the words are used when speaking about and to people with diabetes.

While the official statement was launched seven years ago, the impact language and words have on diabetes was not a new area of discussion. People with diabetes have been talking and writing about how significant the (positive and negative) impact of words can be. I remember seeing discussions about it on the Reality Check forum not long after I was diagnosed, and speaking about it at events we ran back when the consumer program started at Diabetes Victoria in the early 2000s. We knew that words had power. We just needed to bring everyone on the ride with us to get them to understand it too.

And that’s why the Diabetes Australia statement – and all those that have come since – are so important. They provide a framework to refer to; something to hold up as an example of how things could be better.

Even though there has been a lot written and spoken a great deal about language and diabetes over the last seven years, we’re not finished. This is not a static movement. No one can for a moment think that we have ‘done’ language; there will always be new and different things to consider. Some particular areas of interest to me in recent times include the language we use when talking about hypos. And how we reframe the way we talk about diabetes complications.

I wrote this piece after the ADA Annual Scientific Meeting last year when I realised that we need to keep moving forward because there is still much to be done.

But while we do that, I believe it is important that we never deviate from the intention of the language matters movement. It is not about dictating to people with diabetes the words we can and cannot use when talking about our own diabetes, or criticising the words we choose to use. It is about framing the way people speak to and about those of us living with diabetes, and encouraging the use of language that is inclusive, engaging, non-judgemental, destigmatising and respectful. It is about using words that make us feel empowered, positive, hopeful.

Fundamentally, it is about making things better for us.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the Australia Diabetes Society’s (ADS) annual Insulin Pump and CGM Workshop. I’d been invited along another ten or so people with diabetes who already wear CGM or Libre to share our insights into living with and wearing sensing devices.

(Quick shout out to the ADS. For those who don’t know, the ADS is the professional body for endos in Australia. Over the last few years, their leadership team has been absolutely instrumental in finding ways to better include PWD in what they are doing. As an organisation, they have been innovative, and responsible for ground-breaking initiatives such as the Enhancing Consulting Skills resource. We need our professional bodies to be like this. And we need them to work with us so that we can provide our perspective to the work they are doing.)

The idea of the workshop is for endocrinologists to have hands on experience of the technology rather than just what they see and are taught at industry events. (For the record, the industry events are super important because they are an opportunity to learn about the shiny technical side of things. And get branded pens. Pens are awesome.)

Discussion was the focus of this session. There was no long presentation with people taking notes. Instead, we were asked to sit at tables with endocrinologists, and encouraged to share our the real life experience of wearing the technology.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this is always the way I want to learn and to share information. I seem to get annoyed at sessions when I have someone speaking at me for ages, telling me what they think I need to know. I much prefer to have discussions and watch conversations go off on tangents, providing attendees with the details and information that is relevant to them; that they will be able to take home with them and put into practise.

The thing about having PWD in the room is that we have a tendency to hold little back. My friend Jodie and I were at the same table. We both wear Dexcom, but our experiences are quite different. (Or as I put it: ‘She does what she’s meant to. I don’t’.) This was actually a master stroke, because it showed the endos just how varied our experiences can be. And that while what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, there really may not be a ‘right’ way to do things.

Jodie and I demonstrated putting in new sensors so that the endos could see how the actual insertion works. We talked about using an alcohol swab where we were about to site our sensor (in this case, I was the one following the instructions I’d been taught when I first started using CGM. ‘ Yeah…I can’t be bothered,’ said Jodie and I wanted to high five her and welcome her to the dark side of non-compliance.)

There was one endo at our table who was pressing every single one of my ‘OH-YES-LET’S-TALK-ABOUT-THAT’ buttons, and the first thing she said when we removed the sensor from the packaging was ‘Why is there so much waste in there?

We spoke about the fact that current Dex sensors don’t have reusable inserting devices and that really, the companies could perhaps do a little more to find ways to reduce waste, while continuing to produce a sterile product. (The G6 apparently has addressed this…)

At one point, the Dexcom rep. mentioned the share function on the G5, and as if by magic, my new favourite endo jumped in with ‘Who makes the decision as to whether or not their data is shared.’ I wanted to hug her, but it was the first time we’d met and I thought that might be a little creepy. But yes; oh yes! We were going to talk about consent.

The absolute best thing for me was that not once as I shared by clearly (and absolutely owned) deliberately non-compliant CGM existence, did one of the endos look at me with disdain, shake their head, raise an eyebrow or tut tut. They asked how what I did made things better for me.

Some examples of questions and my answers:

Why do you wear the sensor on your arm and not your stomach?

I find it more comfortable and it reads more accurately. Plus, it lasts longer there than on my tummy.

Why do you restart the sensor?

Because I’m frugal and don’t want to fork out $90 every seven days when I know it works perfectly well for me still at 21 days 

Look, the Dex reps should turn away right now, block their ears and pretend that they don’t understand me, because I am going to be really candid about this. Firstly, I am going to say that I adore this product. I would say that no matter who is in the room – I’m not sucking up to the AMSL reps because I’m hoping they’ll throw some free product my way. They don’t and that’s fine. I mean it. This is a brilliant product that I literally trust with my life. But there are some things that piss me off…

Sensors are around the $90 mark. They are approved for use for seven days. But at the end of those seven days, the sensor is still working perfectly. In fact, many people report that it works even better after the first week. Why should I throw out a perfectly good, working product if it is still doing what it says on the box? 

I know the risks. I am choosing to do this myself and I am more than happy to own it.

But while we’re on this topic. The transmitter is AUD$540 every three months. That’s right, after three months, it stops working. The batteries are still good to go for a couple of months, but the device is factory set to stop working. Now, this has been done with a whole lot of safety considerations in mind and I understand those. But again, a device that is not rechargeable and still has some use in it has to be thrown out.

So, I don’t really have any qualms about using all sorts of DIY solutions that allow for the transmitter life to be extended.

I’ll say it again – I know the risks. This is about me and no one else. I am happy to take those risks.

So, you don’t calibrate it as recommended. Why?

Because sometimes, stopping whatever I am doing to calibrate is not something I want to do. Plus I’ve been wearing this for over 2 years now and I’ve learnt what to trust and what not to trust and how to use it safely. I have set my own boundaries that I feel are acceptable and perfectly safe.  

Do the alarms bother you?

They used to. But now I’ve managed to customise them to a way that works for me. I have all the alarms on now, but in the past, I had all the high alerts and alarms disabled because they pissed me off so much. But the predictability of Loop means that the alarms are rare and I generally I have the headspace to respond to them as they happen. (Although the please calibrate one can drive me nuts sometimes.) 

Do you share your CGM data?

I have in the past, but I don’t these days. As an adult with diabetes, I make that decision and there have been times when I’ve liked the idea of someone having my back – usually when I’ve been travelling solo. But since I’ve been looping there has been no need.  

What’s Loop?

Um…we’re going to need a longer session… Here’s the address to my blog. Sorry for all the swearing.

After the event, the event organiser sent me a lovely text message, thanking me for my time and for speaking at the Workshop. She said that the CGM session was a highlight for many of the attendees. ‘People with diabetes make the best teachers,’ she added. And she’s right. When we are talking about what it’s like to actually live with these device on our bodies and in our everyday life, we really are the best people to talk about it! HCPs are great at talking about the science and the clinical side of things. But we make diabetes real because we are living it. You can only get that when you go straight to the source. And yes; we’re the source.

Disclosure

The ADS provided me with a $50 gift voucher to thank me for my time on Saturday. I was also given one Dexcom sensor to insert at the Workshop which I am still wearing. (And will do so for the next three weeks or so…)

I caught up with Grumps a couple of weeks ago in London and bored/annoyed him to death with requests for him to write for me again. Success! Off you go, Grumps… 

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A couple of weeks ago I was lucky. Lucky that my great friend Renza was in the UK. Lucky that we had time to catch-up. Lucky that JDRF UK invited us both to talk with their staff about #LanguageMatters & #TalkAboutComplications.

Smiley / Grumpy

One of the questions during the session was around how can we get the language matters message out to healthcare professional?

Renza gave her view. I can guarantee that it was brilliant and articulate. But if I’m totally honest, (which I can be now, with her back on the other side of the world again), I wasn’t totally listening.

I’m shit at multi-tasking you see. In fact, I struggle with single tasking most days.

You see I was thinking (another thing I struggle with….)

It’s easy (relatively) to get the message out to my diabetes team:

  • Discussions
  • Position statements.
  • Frowns and a raised eyebrow at the required time.

But what about my extended team?….. How would I do this?

What Would Grumpy Do?

Basically, I did what I often do, (which pisses people off).

I answered with a question.

  • ‘Who is in my HCP team?’
  • ‘How many HCPs are in it?
  • ‘Do I see the same HCP every time?’

Ok. That’s three questions. (I’m also shit at maths.)

I’d kind of inadvertently got a head start on this one because at the beginning of my foot ulcer treatment (fucking ages ago), I considered how joined up my care would be.

Don’t get me wrong. Each team is fantastic and the care is brilliant. It’s not joined up, though.

My brain works, (when it actually works), in pictures. So, I mapped this out:

Grumps’ brain drew this.

There are a lot of HCPs involved here, in several locations and different fields of expertise. The only person present at every single appointment and meeting is me.

So, I am the one best placed to ensure that my care is joined up. In which case, I am best placed to ensure that I am talked to in a consistent way, using the language that I am personally comfortable with.

I’m not saying that its easy. I am saying that it’s my responsibility to try.

The best manager I ever had used to tell me: ‘What you permit, you promote’. If you let people treat you in a way that you do not like, it validates it to them.

Live Long and Bolus!

Grumps.

Want more from The Grumpy Pumper? Check out his blog here. And follow him on Twitter here

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.’

I wrote a piece last week about how nervous I was about a talk I was giving at the Victorian ADEA Branch Conference about my personal Loop experience. The conference was held on Saturday, and I did my talk and escaped unscathed. It’s a good news story!

Thanks to everyone who encouraged and sent me words of support before my talk. I decided that I’d come clean before starting and admit to the audience that I was feeling a little nervous because I understood just how contentious many may consider what I was about to say.

Having legendary CDE Cheryl Steele share the stage with me – and her story with the audience – certainly helped!

Here are my and Cheryl’s talks.

A reminder – I am not recommending using Loop. This is my personal story and my personal experience. If you would like more information, please search ‘Loop’ on the blog. (There’s lots here because I keep banging on and won’t shut up about it!)

I am frequently the only non-health professional in meetings or on panels at conferences. I admit to it having taking me a number of years to completely feel that I belonged at the table. Imposter syndrome is real and despite my seeming (over) confidence, I often have to give myself a little pep talk reminding me that the PWD voice is the most important voice, that I have every right to be there, and that I should speak up.

At a recent meeting, I was speaking with a group of healthcare professionals about diabetes complications screening. There was a break in the formal part of the day, and as we stood around drinking our coffees, the first comment came that made me prickle. ‘Screening is available. People just need to stay in top of it.’

I took a deep breath. ‘Um, it’s not really as simple as that.’ I said. ‘You have made an assumption there that people know what the screenings are and how frequently they are recommended. That’s not really always the case. And there are a lot of factors as to why someone may not be up-to-date with their screenings.’

‘Such as?’ asked the person who made the original comment.

‘Really?’ I asked. ‘You need to ask that? There are so many.’ The group was looking at me, waiting for a response that, personally, I thought was a little redundant.

I took a deep breath. ‘Well, to start with, not everyone is in regular care and if they are not seeing someone regularly for their diabetes, they may not be up to date with screening. Also, a lot of people are terrified of diabetes-related complications and that may make them nervous about having the check done. If they don’t feel that they can approach the topic of how anxious they are feeling perhaps they decide that it is easier to simply not know. ‘

I was getting a lot of blank looks, so I did what I do in situations like that. I kept talking.

‘Also, there is a lot more to complications than… just complications… By that I mean that the way complications are communicated is fraught. Often there is a lot of judgement and stigma. People feel ashamed. They think it is their fault if they develop them because that’s the way it’s been framed to them. And of course we all know that’s not true.

The look I got from the others suggested that no, we don’t all know that to be true. So I kept going.

‘Plus…life gets in the way sometimes. Everyone falls behind with the things we perhaps know that we are meant to do regularly. Which reminds me,’ I continued in a moment of realisation, oversharing and far too much information for a group of people I don’t know. ‘I need a pap smear.’

I was about to say something else and then stopped myself, deciding I’d said enough.

‘But surely people need to know. So they can be treated. You all know that early diagnosis means better treatment, right? So why don’t you just stay on top of things. Isn’t that your responsibility to do that. If you find out you have retinopathy or something and you’ve missed five years of eye tests, you can really only blame yourself. A lot of people just don’t care or want to know. You do know that diabetes complications are serious, don’t you?’

I looked at the person who had just said that. Was he actually diabetesplaining diabetes complications to me? Was he diabetesplaining how people with diabetes feel about complications to me? Did he just diabetesplain what people with diabetes know?

I wasn’t sure where to begin. But tried to anyway.

‘Well, no. Not everyone necessarily knows that early diagnosis means better treatment and not everyone knows how frequently screening checks should happen. There is always so much to keep on top of when it comes to living with diabetes that sometimes things slip through to the keeper.

‘And sure, it’s may be my responsibility to keep on top of things, but I have a lot of other responsibilities. I mean, it’s your responsibility to do 30 minutes of exercise every day and eat five serves of veggies. Do you manage that every single day?

‘And blame is a really, really unhelpful word here. It suggests that someone wants to develop retinopathy and so they have wilfully ignored their eye checks. No one wants to develop diabetes complications. I can promise you that.’

‘And to your last point: Yes. I know diabetes complications are serious. How much do I know this? It keeps me awake at night. I actually feel terror about developing them because I am scared that I won’t know how to cope. Before an eye screening and while waiting for my ophthalmologist to tell me what he sees at the back of my eyes, I hold my breath until I hear him tell me that there is no retinopathy. When I have my kidney function checked, I am on tenterhooks until I hear from my endocrinologist with the results…

‘Really – there is nothing you can say that will increase my awareness of how serious diabetes complications are. I know it. I live it. I breathe it. Every single day. That’s what people with diabetes do.’

Thankfully, we were being called back into our meeting and the conversation came to a slightly awkward conclusion.

Maybe, because of all the work I’ve been doing around diabetes complications recently, I’m on high alert, but it seems that I have had more than my usual share of similar conversations recently. And each time I am left with a sour taste in my mouth. I also feel disappointed, sad, tired and a little defeated that there are still so many misconceptions bandied about, continuing and feeding the stigma associated with diabetes complications.

But every single one of these encounters strengthens my resolve to reframe the way we talk about diabetes complications. We need to bring discussions into the open. We need people who have been diagnosed to be given an opportunity to talk about their experiences, so that their stories are heard loud and clear. We need to call out anyone who perpetuates stigma, judgement and blame around complications.

Diabetes complications are a reality for people living with diabetes – either because we are living with them or we are constantly thinking about them. We don’t need HCPs to tell us how to feel about them. We need HCPs to provide information and support us.

 

When I first spoke to my endo about Loop, I wasn’t really all that concerned or nervous. The decision to take my diabetes management in a new direction was mine and mine alone and I knew she would support and work with me. My approach was pretty much the same as when I have changed any aspect of my management, whether it be introducing new tech, a new eating plan or anything else that deviates from the norm.

And after my first post-loop appointment, when she listened to what I was doing and how it was going, her response was brilliant. I guess that after she heard how great I was feeling and how well I was going since looping she realised that this was the best thing for me to do at the moment and she wanted to know how to continue to support me.

But I know that is not the case for everyone and that is especially evident at the moment with more and more people using DIY diabetes technology solutions.

I frequently see discussions online from people who are very apprehensive about an upcoming appointment when they will be telling their HCP that they are Looping. And I have heard stories of HCPs refusing to continue to see people with diabetes who have started using the technology.

This actually isn’t about Loop. At the moment, a lot of the discussion may be about DIY technologies, but actually, this goes far beyond that.

It’s the same as for people who have adopted a LCHF approach to eating and have been told by their HCPs that it is not healthy and they would be better off returning to an evidence-based eating plan.

It is the same as when pumps were new and CGM was new and Libre was new, and HCPs were wary to recommend or encourage their use due to the lack of evidence supporting the technologies.

I am keeping all this in mind as I prepare for a talk I’m giving this weekend for the Victorian branch of the Australian Diabetes Educators Association. I guess I am a little battle-scarred after my talk at ADATS last year, and am being far less cavalier about charging in and extolling the brilliance of Loop. I know that the audience is new to this technology, know little about it, and might be uncomfortable with the idea that I ‘built my own pancreas’. For some, it will be the first time they have ever seen or heard of it.

I’m trying to think of a way to talk about it so that the audience responds positively to the technology rather than the way many responded at ADATS last year.

But I am a little stuck. Because if I stand up there and say that since looping I feel so, so well, have more energy than in forever, am sleeping better than I have in 20 years, feel less anxious about my diabetes and feel safer, don’t have hypos anymore, feel the least diabetes burden ever, and have an A1c that is beautifully in range… and people still question my decision to use the technology, I’m not sure what else I have. I don’t know what more I can say to try to convince the audience just how much this has benefitted me.

The ending I’m looking for in my talk is for the audience to leave feeling interested in the technology and open to the idea of Loop as a possible tool for some of the people with diabetes they see.

But perhaps more than that, it is wanting the HCPs to think about the way they react when someone walks into their rooms, wanting to talk about something different or something new. It’s about being open to new ideas, accepting that the best thing for the PWD is not what the guidelines say, and realising that there is a lot going on out there that is driven by the end user. And perhaps it’s time to really start listening.

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

 

 

Curled up in the comfort of my bed in Melbourne on Saturday night, I was transported to London where I was watching the live stream and live tweets of the Type 1 Diabetes Rise of the Machines event. (You can read details of that here, or by checking out the #T1DRoM Twitter stream.)

When you are not actually there and able to see and gauge the reaction of the audience, it can be easy to misinterpret the vibe of the room. I couldn’t see the faces or body language of the people in the audience, so I wasn’t sure if my response was the same as theirs.

But there are somethings that can’t be missed – especially with a live Twitter feed!

A representative from one of the device companies was speaking about their range of products, one of which is a blinded CGM device*. Immediately, I bristled. His words celebrating the ‘blinded’ nature of the device, ‘There’s no way for you to interfere with it’,  did nothing to make me feel more reassured at what he was saying.

The tweet I sent out pretty much sums up how I felt about his comments:

And this one from Dana Lewis, who was a guest speaker at the event, was bang on:

Yeah – clearly I was not the only one who had that reaction!

I remember a number of years ago wearing a blinded CGM. It was actually the first CGM here in Australia and I was on a trial for something (I actually can’t remember what the trial was for…) and wearing the clunky CGM was part of the study.

But I certainly do remember demanding that once I returned the CGM (after about 3 or 4 days), I was given a print out of my data. ‘Why would you want that?’ the trial nurse asked me. I imagine that the look I gave her could only be described as ‘withering’.

‘Um…so I can see what is going on with my glucose levels throughout the day. That data is gold – there is no way I will ever have seen anything like it before and the insights will be incredibly useful.’

‘But you probably won’t be able to interpret it all. And what are you going to do with the data?’ That question was asked with an element of suspicion.

I don’t suffer fools and was about to yell loudly at the trial nurse who needed some lessons in ‘patient empowerment’, so I decided to take my questions elsewhere, asking to see the trial supervisor who had enrolled me in the study. The result was a crisp envelope with my name neatly printed across the front handed to me at the end of my next visit to the centre.

Fast forward – probably about 17 years – and I wear CGM all the time and use the data to make daily adjustments to my insulin doses. (Well I did until Loop took over that for me. Reason #124978 I love Loop. Have I mentioned that before?)

I can’t imagine having something connected to me that is collecting information that I could use in real time to improve my diabetes management and not be able to access that data. How frustrating it would be to have something attached to me that could tell me when I was going out of range, but not letting me know it at the time so I could actually do something about it!

Today, if a healthcare professional suggested I wear a device for any period of time where I could not access the data there is no way I would agree.

If you think that it is a good idea because not all PWD could understand the information, then that is a shortcoming of the education process – not a shortcoming of the person with diabetes. And, yes, of course not everyone wants to see all their data, but they should certainly have it offered to them if it is out there!

Denying us access to our own data is simply another way of trying to control the narrative of our health condition and our health education. Not arming us with the information – especially if it is readily available – serves no one.

*Blinded devices are often referred to as the ‘Pro’ version which makes me a little annoyed. Pretty sure the ‘Pros’ here are the ones wearing the devices and analysing and acting on the data 24/7…

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