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I’m back from a very busy week in London and Copenhagen. I arrived back in the door at home exactly two minutes after Harry and Meghan got hitched, so I missed the whole happy occasion. If only we had some sort of magical way to see photos and videos and relive beautiful experiences like that. Oh well, never mind.

The main reason for my trip was for the kick-off meeting for Hypo-RESOLVE, a new four-year project focusing on better understanding hypoglycaemia. I’m there as part of the Patient Advisory Committee (PAC), which is made up of advocates from across Europe. Obviously, it is now legislated that an Australian also be included in any European diabetes advocate activities. I believe it’s called the Eurovision Law.

The project is made up of eight work packages, each led and staffed by leading European diabetes researchers and clinicians, and after seeing just who was going to be in the room, I suddenly was struck down by the worst case of Imposter Syndrome I have ever experienced. This didn’t get any better when I was told that the presentation I had been asked to give was not only for the PAC. No – it would be in front of all eighty project participants. I looked at the list of who I would be standing up and speaking to, and cursed the meme- and photo-filled presentation I had prepared, wondering if I could pretend to understand statistics and graphs, and add some to my slide deck to at least try to sound smart.

I decided to stick with what I knew (memes, cartoons, photos of weird hypo tales), and left the slide deck as it was, hoping against all hope that I would manage to keep myself nice, and sound as though I understood what I was speaking about.

I was asked to give a talk about the real life experiences of hypoglycaemia. Fortunately I have kept a pretty good record of the literal lows of my diabetes (which, incidentally, was the title of my talk). Thanks to the search function on Diabetogenic, I was able to easily pull together a number of stories about the lows I’ve had. This proved to be more useful than I realised because these days, lows are few and far between. Since I started Looping, I’ve not had the sort of low that has made me want to write about it and try to analyse what it all means in my diabetes life. In fact, I’ve not had any lows that have required anything more than a mouthful of juice or a couple of fruit pastilles to treat.

Reading back through my blog posts was actually really quite confronting, and I found myself getting emotional as I read details of terribly scary lows and how they had impacted on me – in the moment, and in the days following. As I read, I remembered the anxieties I felt about something happening while low that would seriously affect my family.

I’ve not asked them, but I wonder if the fact that I have so few hypos these days makes Aaron and the kidlet feel calmer about my diabetes. They still see me sucking on a juice box every now and then, but it is done without urgency, and without the look in my eyes that betrays the calm I used to try (and fail) to convey.

In my talk, I really tried to express just how significant hypos have been in my life with diabetes. I tried to explain that even once a low is ‘fixed’ there are often residual effects – effects far beyond just trying to work out what my glucose levels would do after playing the how-low-can-you-go-hypo-limbo.

I spoke about how the emotional fallout after a nasty hypo can be crippling, leading me to second guess every diabetes decision I made, wondering what I had done to cause the low in the first place – because that is the ongoing narrative of diabetes….we did something wrong to cause the hypo (or the complication, or the high, or the technology failure). And I really tried to explain how sometimes there are no answers, no matter how hard we look, or how desperate we are to find something to blame.

Of course I spoke about the language of lows and how the words we use impact on the way that hypos are considered. There is no doubt that ‘severe’ hypos are serious and need urgent attention and investigation, but so-called ‘mild’ hypos can be just as burdensome.

Obviously, everyone’s hypo stories will be different and I took great pains to clarify that I was speaking of my own experiences only. In the past, hypos have terrified, paralysed and alarmed me. I was afraid to sleep, I was afraid of lows when awake. I was scared I would have a particularly nasty low around my daughter and scare her. I am fortunate that my deliberate non-compliance has resulted in almost no lows, and feeling safer that I have ever felt before. My fear of hypoglycaemia is manageable these days, yet I don’t take for granted that it will always be like this. I still carry hypo food around with me – there is no point tempting the hypo gods by not being prepared!

I’ll be writing more about Hypo-RESOLVE in coming days. I’m so pleased to be involved in such an exciting and interesting project; I’m honoured to have been selected for the PAC. I’m beyond thrilled that PWD are included in the DNA of the project – right from the kick-off, not brought in at the last minute for comment when all the decisions have been made. And mostly, I am grateful that hypoglycaemia is being given the attention it deserves. I honesty hope that one day no one ever needs to feel the panic and fear that so many of us have come to know.

Kicking off the kick-off meeting (Click for source)

You can read all about Hypo-RESOLVE in the Innovative Medicines Initiative media release from last week announcing the launch of the project. My flights and accommodation to attend the Hypo-RESOLVE kick off meetings were funded from within the project. PAC members are volunteers on this project.

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I had a great conversation the other day with someone who was interested to talk about diabetes and language with me. ‘I’m trying to get a better grasp of why it’s something so important to you, because, quite frankly, I couldn’t care less what people say about diabetes.’ 

This isn’t the first time people have asked me this. And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve been asked why I spend so much time speaking about diabetes language matters.

I know the reasons, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that I have them especially well mapped out when I need to explain them. So, let me try here.

There is a tangled and complicated link between the words used when talking about diabetes, and how we feel about it and how diabetes is perceived by others. That link then goes off on all sorts of LA-freeway-like tangents to include diabetes and stigma, and discrimination.

The effects of how we frame diabetes can be felt by us individually. But they can also be far reaching and affect how others feel about diabetes.

We know that language has the potential to make people with diabetes feel judged and stigmatised. In fact, most PWD I know have at some time or another faced someone speaking to them using Judgey McJudgeface words. Of course, we all respond differently to this. For some people, it’s water off a duck’s back. They couldn’t care less what people say and just ignore it. For others, it’s almost a challenge – they use it as motivation to prove that they ‘won’t be beaten’.

But that’s not the case for everyone. For some people, it can be absolutely paralysing.

Fear of being judged and shamed may lead to some PWD to not wanting to attend HCP appointments and, as a consequence, falling behind on complication screening. Some PWD may not even tell their loved ones they have diabetes for fear of being judged. I have met PWD who made the decision to keep their diabetes a secret and for years, not telling another person. This can add to feelings of terrible isolation.

When diabetes is spoken about in stigmatising and demeaning ways, this leads to the spreading of misinformation. And this can have far reaching consequences.

We know that kids with diabetes may be teased by their schoolmates. Their teachers may not respond appropriately to diabetes because of the way diabetes is framed in the media or by others. We can’t really blame teachers. If diabetes is punchline fodder for every B-grade comedian, or an excuse to point fingers at those living with it by every tabloid news outlet, how can we expect anyone to take it seriously?

(And if right now you are thinking ‘This is why we need to change the name of type 1 diabetes’, stop it! People with type 1 diabetes shouldn’t be teased or mocked or judged, but neither should people with type 2 diabetes. This isn’t about people understanding the differences between type 1 and type 2 – this about understanding diabetes.)

The language we use when talking about prevention in diabetes – whether it be preventing type 2 diabetes or preventing diabetes-related complications – means that there is an underlying idea that developing type 2, or complications must be the fault of the individual. ‘If you can prevent it and haven’t, it’s your fault. You obviously lived an unhealthy lifestyle/are lazy/didn’t listen to your doctor/failed to follow instructions/refused to do what you were told etc.’.Can you imagine hearing that, or feeling that is what people think about you – all the time? This is the language – these are the words – used to talk about diabetes.

A couple of weeks ago in the UK, it was Prevent Diabetes Week. I saw countless tweets from people urging, begging, pleading with others to remember that type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented and the week refers only to type 2 diabetes. I wonder if those tweeting realised that comments such as these actually contribute to the stigma associated with type 2 diabetes? Of course type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. But in many cases, neither can type 2 diabetes. There are so many non-modifiable factors associated with a type 2 diagnosis – factors beyond the control of the individual.

But let’s look beyond individuals, the health system and the education system for a moment. What else happens in other settings when diabetes is spoken about in stigmatising ways?

Health organisations, including diabetes organisations, frequently seek donations from the public to continue the important work they do. There is only so much money in the donation pie, and yet there are more and more competing organisations representing people with different health conditions wanting a piece of that pie.

Donations are harder to come by from the general community when there is the idea – the wrong idea – that diabetes is a largely preventable lifestyle condition that is the fault of those diagnosed. There is not the idea that people who have developed cancer brought it on themselves, even though we know that some of the risk factors associated with a breast cancer diagnosis are the same as for type 2 diabetes.

Research dollars for diabetes are far less than for other health conditions. We see that every year when successful NHMRC grants are announced. Diabetes is the poor cousin to cancer research and CVD research.

Diabetes is just as serious as any other condition that is worthy of research dollars and fundraising dollars. Yet because of the way we speak about it and the way diabetes as a condition has been framed, there is a perception that perhaps it isn’t.

Words matter. Language matters.

So, what I want to say to people who think that talking about language and words is a first world problem that only occupies the minds of the privileged is this: I acknowledge my privilege. But this isn’t simply about words. It’s about perception.

Until diabetes is considered the same way as other conditions that are taken seriously and thought of as blameless, the trickle-down effect is people with diabetes will continue to feel stigma. Diabetes will continue to be the poor cousin of other health conditions and diseases because there is the misconception it is not as serious. People will not as readily make donations towards fundraising initiatives. Research dollars will continue to fall short, instead going towards ‘more worthy’ conditions.

That’s why I care so much about diabetes language. Because, language matters… so much.

It’s easy to remember the difficult moments we’ve experienced at the hands of healthcare professionals who have been less than kind.

And, equally, we remember those moments where kindness was shown in spades.

I know I certainly remember moments of kindness in healthcare. And those moments transformed me. I so appreciated the kindness that came from HCPs at moments when a tsunami of grief or despair or pain or a diagnosis washed over me, knocked me to the ground and left me doubtful that I would ever be able to get back up again.

I remember kind words, the silences afforded to me giving me a moment or two (or dozens) to think, the time I was given to understand what was happening and formulate a plan to manage… I remember them all because they left me stronger, more determined, better supported and far more empowered to cope.

Kindness is a highly underrated quality in healthcare. I’m not sure how it should be included in a curriculum full of critically essential information, but it needs to be taught from the very beginning of any healthcare courses, and it’s importance highlighted and stated over and over and over again.

In the last year or so, I’ve read a few books written by (as the publicity often claims) ‘healthcare professionals turned patients’. (I’ve found this to be quite an odd term, because surely everyone at one point or another has been a patient.)

A recurring theme throughout the books is how difficult the HCPs have found it being on the other side of the HCP / patient divide. They often appear astounded at the red tape and bureaucracy they came up against, the hoops they need to jump through to receive the appropriate care, and the sheer unfriendliness of the system. And they write about the extraordinary moments of kindness that often feel far too infrequent.

Sometimes, they have written about how they didn’t realise that the way they themselves behaved could be interpreted as having a lack of consideration and kindness – explaining it was simply their manner and how they made sure they got through the day as efficiently as possible in a system often built on the foundation of complete and utter inefficiency. And yet now…now they understood.

While the books I read have been beautifully written, heart breaking at times, and often end terribly, the stories in them were not surprising. They tell truths about the system – and the lack of kindness – that people with diabetes face every day in every encounter.

When Kate Grainger launched #HelloMyNameIs, she was echoing the calls of countless people before her: please treat us like people. Please tell us what you are doing here. Please know we are scared. Please tell us who you are and what your role in my care will be.

She did it beautifully, simply, eloquently and changed the landscape of healthcare communication. I am so sad that she had to be so ill for this to happen. But her legacy is one for which I am so grateful.

Kindness in healthcare makes all the difference. Some may think it is completely unnecessary and that as long as we are receiving the right diagnosis, good care and excellent treatment, there is nothing more we need. But that is not true. Kindness adds a human element. We need warm hands, warm hearts and warm words alongside the cool tech, sterile environments and scary diagnoses.

Kindness takes no more time; it takes no more effort. But it’s effects can indeed be monumental.

This week has been brutal. I arrived home from the IDF Congress very late on Saturday night after a very long journey from Abu Dhabi and since then, my body clock has had no idea where I am, despite my actual body being very much in the midst of Melbourne’s sometimes sweltering summer. My mind is all over the shop, sleep is something that happens if it wants (which it doesn’t really) and, for some inexplicable reason, I’m off coffee.

So, yes, I am a delight to be around right now. Want to hang out?

My time at the Congress, however, was one of those weeks that makes me feel so fortunate and privileged to do the job I do and have afforded to me the opportunities that come with it. Apart from a very full schedule of outstanding talks from leaders in the diabetes world, the congress was packed with advocates from around the world. I was totally with my tribe.

That’s me talking about diabetes and peer support!

There is lots to write about the Congress and I’ll do so in bits and pieces over the coming few weeks, but there were some stand out moments that I wanted to touch on and thought I’d try to do that now. (I’ve already started this blog post about four thousand, three hundred and twenty-eight times, so who knows how we’ll go here…)

Dot points – because they seem to take less energy and mental bandwidth…

  • This is the only diabetes conference primarily aimed at healthcare professionals that has a stream completely and utterly dedicated to ‘living with diabetes’ (LWD). This is, in equal measure, brilliant and problematic. It’s brilliant because it means that there is a real opportunity for people with diabetes to be on the speaker program, have their accommodation, travel and registration funded, and be part of the conversation at the actual meeting. But it can be problematic because it means that often, there are not all that many HCPs in attendance at the LWD sessions. I believe that one way to improve this situation is to include PWD in other sessions as well as have an exclusive stream. More on that another time, perhaps.

Click image to see tweet.

  • So with that in mind, if your HCP was at the Congress, I’d be asking them which LWD stream sessions they saw and have a stern talking to them if they reply with ‘not a one…’ Hopefully they will be more like UK Consultant Diabetologist, Reza Zaidi who not only attended a number of the LWD sessions, but also tweeted throughout them and asked questions.

(Click image to see tweet)

  • I patted a falcon (not a euphemism). There were falcons at the Congress. I am not sure why they were there. But obviously, I was terrified. I tried to overcome my fear of birds by being brave and patting one. I am still scared of birds.

  • There was a language session in the LWD stream (of course), but it was clear that a few of the exhibitors, presenters and those putting together posters for presentation could do with a refresher course on not using the word ‘compliant’. Call me, folks. I can help.
  • There was a fascinating discussion during the language session when it was explained by someone asking a question that the word for ‘diabetes’ in Japanese is literally translated as Sugar Urine Disease. And yes – you bet that adds to the stigma of diabetes…
  • And one final language point. There was a lot of talk about needing to ‘battle’, ‘fight’, ‘combat’ and ‘challenge’ diabetes as though this is a war. I’m not sure that this is a particularly useful way to think about it all.

Click image to see tweet.

  • Getting a break from the Congress proved almost impossible. So I was so grateful to the diaTribe Foundation for forcing us out of the conference centre and into an Art Gallery with one of their Art Walk series events. We got a guided tour of the brand new (as in, open for less than a month) Abu Dhabi Louvre. Stunning!

The amazing Abu Dhabi Louvre at sunset

  • For some reason, the IDF put me up in the middle of nowhere on a golf course. Perhaps they were hoping I would take walks. Or improve my swing. I did neither of these things.
  • I am more than used to getting asked about the ‘thing’ on my arm. My Dexcom sensor and transmitter are quite obvious and people are curious. I almost have come to expect it and I am happy to answer questions as long as they are asked respectfully. I don’t, however, expect this at at a diabetes conference. And yet, that happened over a dozen times. But possibly, the most surreal experience was stepping onto the Dexcom stand in the exhibition hall and having a few of the sales reps nearly tripping over themselves to ask what it was, how it worked, what it felt like and why it was on my arm. And then they wanted to see the iPhone and Apple Watch app and ask more questions, suggesting that Congress attendees visiting the stand ask questions of me and another person sporting one of their devices. Obviously, I should be on commission…
  • Diabetes conference exhibition halls can be confusing places. There are stands offering products that seem to be so far removed from diabetes that surely the exhibitors have accidentally turned up the wrong week for the wrong conference. I’m still confused by what the fluffy dolphin (pictured here with Annie, Georgie, Grumps and me) has to do with diabetes or what was happening on this stand.

Dolphins and diabetes… join the dots.

  • The Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) might look like pretty much every other conference and exhibition centre I’ve ever been to (they all do), but jeez, it was certainly the largest I’ve ever been to. It was, in fact, quite cavernous and a lot of the time seemed quite empty, despite there being over 8,000 attendees. All that space, and still nowhere to get a decent coffee.
  • I chaired a really important session about diabetes complications. It was great to have an open, frank and honest discussion about living with complications and how they impact on the lives of people with diabetes. (Although, I could have done without the clip from Steel Magnolias to introduce the session on complications in pregnancy.)
  • Finally, it was so lovely to see the wonderful Wim Wienjen’s legacy on show during the hypoglycaemia talk. The book he authored alongside Daniela Rojas Jimenez is due for publication soon.

That’s it in dot points for today. I’ll be back soon writing more about the Congress. (I guess four thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine is a charm….)

Disclosure

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 by travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress. 

I get to meet some pretty awesome people with diabetes around the globe. At EASD I caught up with Cathy Van de Moortele who has lived with diabetes for fifteen years. She lives in Belgium and, according to her Instagram feed, spends a lot of time baking and cooking. Her photos of her culinary creations look straight out of a cookbook…She really should write one!

Cathy and I were messaging last week and she told me about an awful experience she had when she was in hospital recently. While she wasn’t the target of the unpleasantness, she took it upon herself to stand up to the hospital staff, in the hope that other people would not need to go through the same thing. She has kindly written it out for me to share here. Thanks, Cathy!

______________

‘Good day sir. Unfortunately we were not able to save your toes. There’s no need to worry though. We’ll bring you back into surgery tomorrow and we’ll amputate your foot. It won’t bother you much. We’ll put some sort of prosthetic in your shoe and you’ll barely notice…’

I’m shocked. Still waking up from my own surgery, I’m in the recovery room. Between myself and my neighbour, there’s no more than a curtain on a rail separating us. I feel his pain and anxiety. He is just waking up from a surgery that couldn’t save his toes. This man, who is facing surgery again, leaving him without his foot. How is he gonna get through this day? How will he have to go on?

The nurse besides my bed, is prepping me to go back to my room. I tell him I’m shocked. He doesn’t understand. I ask him if he didn’t hear the conversation? His reaction makes me burst into tears.

‘Oh well, it’s probably one of those type 2 diabetics, who could not care less about taking care of himself.’

I’m angry, disappointed, sad and confounded. I ask him if he knows this person. Does he know his background? Did this man get the education he deserves and does he have a doctor who has the best interest in his patient? Is he being provided with the right medication? Did he have bad luck? Does he, as a nurse, have any idea how hard diabetes is?

The nurse can tell I’m angry. He takes me upstairs in silence. My eyes are wet with tears and I can only feel for this man and for anyone who is facing prejudice day in day out. I’m afraid to face him when we pass his bed. All I can see is the white sheet over his feet. Over his foot, without toes. Over his foot, that will no longer be there tomorrow. I want to wish him all the best, but no words can express how I feel.

What am I supposed to do about this? Not care? Where did respect go? How is this even possible? Why do we accept this as normal? Have we become immune for other people’s misery?

I file a complaint against the policy of this hospital. A meeting is scheduled. They don’t understand how I feel about the lack of respect for this patient. They tell me to shake if off. Am I even sure this patient overheard the conversation? Well, I heard it… it was disrespectful and totally unacceptable.

Medical staff need to get the opportunity to vent, I totally agree. They have a hard job and they face misery and pain on a daily basis. They take care of their patients and do whatever is in their power to assist when needed. They need a way to vent in order to go home and relax. I get that. This was not the right place. It was wrong and it still is wrong. This is NOT OKAY!

Yesterday, I woke to the news that the American Diabetes Association – American Association of Diabetes Educators guidance paper on language had been published.

You can read the article here, and then check out this awesome two-pager that has been developed as a quick guide for anyone working with people with diabetes.

I love the four core principles that guided this work. How wonderful it would be if these principles were at the front of everyone’s mind anytime they were speaking about diabetes or to people with diabetes!

But that wasn’t the only exciting piece of #LanguageMatters to hit the interwebs yesterday.

#LanguageMatters superstar, Professor Jane Speight co-authored (with Professor Richard Holt) this editorial about the language of diabetes for Diabetic Medicine. (And yes, the irony of this piece being published in a journal with that name is not lost on me…)

We’re not done yet – there is still much to do. But I do think we are heading in the right direction and there certainly is evidence that the message is getting through.

I’m an invited speaker at a diabetes meeting tomorrow and as part of my speaker information pack, I was sent a link to the Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement, with instructions to use it as a guide for the language I use in my talk.

And the organising team of the Roche Educators Day back in August did the same thing.

But no one is resting yet… We need to keep pushing and keep insisting that anytime anyone is talking to or about people with diabetes it is done with complete and utter respect. When I say #LanguageMatters it is not about political correctness gone mad. It is about fundamentally understanding how the words used – and the way they are used – impact and affect people with diabetes.

So pleased to keep pushing the #LanguageMatters agenda with Jane Speight!

I really tried to switch off from the external diabetes world during my recent holiday. (I would have liked to have switched off from my own diabetes too, but apparently this diabetes gig doesn’t work that way.)

But now, I’m back and playing catch up on all the things I book-marked and planned to read later. Join me!

PLAID

Do you read PLAID Journal? It’s a truly terrific open access peer-reviewed research journal full of interesting articles and research news.

The latest edition is out now, and it includes a little piece I wrote about day to day diabetes.

PROPORTIONAL

My friend Hope Warsaw alerted me to this graph which was tweeted during the recent MedX conference. I like-y very much!

WORDS AND MUSIC

Gee I have some talented friends! Melissa Lee, (there are truly not enough adjectives to describe her aweseomess), has been recording D-Parodies for a number of years now. In recent efforts to raise money for Bigfoot Biomedical’s recent JDRF walk team, she enticed people to donate with promises of new tunes. And boy did she deliver. You can see all of her parodies via her YouTube channel.

But start here for a gorgeous diabetes-themed rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide – obviously renamed ‘Lancet…’

COVERAGE ON ANIMAS

There has been A LOT written about the recent Animas announcement that they will be ceasing business in the USA and Canada.

If you’re looking to catch up, here are some things I’ve found to be particularly useful:

This comprehensive update from Diabetes Mine.

This great piece from Georgie Peters reminding us how personal these devices are to those of us wearing them.

This piece from Diabetes Wookiee, David Burren, urging Roche to step up with their pump which is still available in Australia despite no longer being in the US market.)

And just a reminder of the situation in Australia: Animas is not going anywhere yet, with disruptor AMSL’s update that it’s ‘business as usual’. Unlike our US and Canadian friends who need to make a decision quickly about changing pumps, there is no suggestions that we need to do the same. Animas is still in the Australian pump market – along with Medtronic’s offerings, the Roche Accucheck Spirit Combo pump and (from 1 November) Cellnovo.

HAVE ANOTHER COFFEE

Presented at EASD – the results of a ten-year study that showed people who drink coffee regularly are less likely to die of diabetes. Another latte, please.


DIABETES EMPOWERMENT SUMMIT

How’s this? A free 5-day diabetes summit that anyone can attend. The online Diabetes Empowerment Summit is the brainchild of Danielle Hargenrader.

Read all about it and get your ticket here. 

YOGA FOR DIABETES

More from talented friends! Rachel Zinman is currently on a book tour in the US promoting her new book – Yoga for Diabetes: How to manage your health with Yoga and Ayurveda.

You can buy a copy here.

THROW OUT THE FAX!

I was delighted when Scott Johnson included this slide in his presentation about MySugr at the recent Roche Blogger MeetUp at EASD:

Clearly I’m not alone in my frustration at the insistence of some HCPs to continue to champion (and only use) fax machines!

PEER SUPPORT SESSION WRAP UP

I wrote about the peer support session at ADS-ADEA, and my talk in the symposium. Here’s the wrap up from the ACBRD – the organisers of the symposium.

ALSO FROM THE ACBRD…

If you live in Australia or the UK, please take part in the yourSAY quality of life study. Have your say about the impact living with diabetes has on your life.

Click here to take the survey.

BINGO!

I couldn’t help but laugh when Melinda Seed developed this neat little bingo chart to be used at diabetes conferences. She tweeted it out at the beginning of EASD, just as I was lamenting that questionable language being used by presenters at the conference.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t play during talks. I would have spent far too much time shouting Bingo at inappropriate moments. Come on, people; do better!

I was slightly mortified at an exchange I heard recently between a person with diabetes and a healthcare professional. The HCP was correcting the PWD, who repeatedly referred to themselves as ‘(a) diabetic’, urging them to not use the word as some find it offensive.

Sometimes, it seems that we forget that the idea of discussing, and hopefully improving, the language used about diabetes is to better the experience of people with diabetes. My personal crusade is not about completely eliminating the word ‘diabetic’, for example.

I know many people with diabetes who use the word – as both a noun and an adjective – and are very comfortable to refer to themselves that way. This piece from Mel Seed at Twice Diabetes explains why she is more than happy to use the word. I appreciated her side of the debate. It all fits neatly into my philosophy of ‘My diabetes, my rules’.

But the point of the whole #LanguageMatters movement is not about people with diabetes defending the language choices we make. It’s about others. The Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement as never intended to be for people with diabetes. It was always for healthcare professionals, the media and the general community.

Rosie Walker, on her Successful Diabetes blog, captured it all perfectly when she said this in a recent post about diabetes language matters:

‘This is not a call for people living with diabetes themselves to ‘mind their language’. Anyone is perfectly free to refer to themselves and their condition however they wish – as in most other areas of life. This is about how other people, and especially health professionals and scientists, use language in relation to diabetes and those with it, and especially when they are not in earshot or attendance…’

When a healthcare professional tells someone with diabetes to not use a word to describe themselves, it’s just another example of trying to control the PWD. In the same way that we want choice about the devices we use or the treatment plan we employ, we demand choice in the words we use to describe ourselves and our diabetes.

I have started a separate page on Diabetogenic about all things #LanguageMatters. Click here or on the link at the top of the page for more. 


You know that old word play about why we should not assume anything? Because ‘assume’ makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Yes, it’s lame and I don’t like using ‘u’ for ‘you’ (because I’m a word nerd and don’t do ‘text speak’), but the sentiment is good.

There are so many assumptions that come with diabetes. And almost all of them are destructive.

‘People with diabetes must have eaten too much <insert food/drink type> as a kid.’

‘People get diabetes because they’re fat.’ 

‘People get diabetes because they don’t exercise.’

‘Diabetes means you are sick.’ 

‘People with diabetes could be managing better if they just tried.’

Many of us will have had these sorts of comments made directly at us. Some of us will have heard people say these things. Most of us will have seen these sorts of comment perpetuated in the media and in popular culture anytime diabetes gets a mention.

And they are all wrong.

It’s time that we removed all negative assumptions and replaced it with just this:

Imagine how different things would be if that was the starting point of diabetes discussions. Instead of the judgement and finger pointing that often is associated with a diabetes diagnosis, the first thing that everyone said was ‘And now let’s talk about living well with it.’ Instead of the threats, the attitude was ‘You can thrive with the right treatment’.

Finding out someone has diabetes does not in any way give you a window into their life or an indication into their behaviour. But it does tell you that they have a health condition that requires regular management and the best possible treatment.

Imagine how much easier life with diabetes would be – and how much kinder the conversation would sound – if the next time we told someone we have diabetes, the only thing we heard was ‘Are you getting the healthcare and treatment you need?’

Wouldn’t that be a great place to start the conversation?

A week away from blogging during what happened to be a super busy week in the diabetes world. Let’s play catch up!

ICYMI #1

Bigfoot Biomedical + Abbott Diabetes Care. Details here. Great commentary from diaTribe here, and Diabetes Mine here.

ICYMI #2

Did you see Adam Browne’s piece on diaTribe about the worst food advice he’s received?

When I was diagnosed I was told ‘Eat as much low GI food as you like’ and I remember at the time that not sitting well with me. It turned out to be a disaster because I wasn’t taught to count carbs, but there was this expectation that I would be eating large quantities of rice, pasta, bread and potatoes to match the insulin dose I was prescribed.

I do wonder how different things would be had I instead been given advice that helped me manage my glucose levels, rather than feel I was constantly scuffling with them!

Vaccine buzz

I’ve always been interested in the research developing vaccinations to prevent T1D. This out of Finland was doing the rounds yesterday.

I for one welcome our new robot doctors

This article from Forbes is all about how robots will be taking on an increased role in healthcare.

#LanguageMatters in the UK

After ADA, I wrote that there was some excitement from the UK about developing a language position statement. This blog post from Rosie Walker (Successful Diabetes) and Anne Cooper got the ball rolling in terms of getting some feedback from people with diabetes with a call out for people to have their say.

(And there is a tweet chat about this very topic, which for those playing at home (i.e. Australia) kicks off on Wednesday morning at 5am. I’m going to try to be there, but seriously, I suspect I’ll read up on it at a decent hour once the coffee kicks in!)

And while we’re talking language

I am interested in language beyond just the diabetes space and was interested to read this piece about US Senator John McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer and the inevitable rhetoric that followed. Many promised that Senator McCain would survive because he is a ‘fighter’ and a ‘battler’.

I don’t like using this sort of language to discuss health conditions, because in a fight, there is always a winner and a loser. And it suggests that people who do not survive must not have fought or battled hard enough when we know that is absolutely not true.

Why I write…

There was a lot in this piece on Medivizor from Stephanie Zimmerman, where she shares why she writes about healthcare.

Type 1 and the egg

This is a beautiful and so simple metaphor by  Maureen, who tweets as @MumofType1 to explain what living with type 1 is all about for her son.

How much access do you have to your HCP notes?

This study looked into the experiences of healthcare users with reading and providing feedback on their visit notes.

#HelloMyNameIs heading to Sydney

If you are in Sydney on 26 September, you may be interested in this free event about the #HelloMyNameIs campaign which was created by Dr Kate Granger, (I wrote about the campaign here). This week marks the anniversary of Kate’s death, and her husband, Chris Pointon, will speak about the movement. 

And finally something funny…except it’s not

Gwyneth Paltrow is an acteress, so why anyone would seek medical advice from her is a little confusing. But apparently, she has armed herself with a team of healthcare hacks professionals so that she feels that she is more than qualified to sprout wellness rubbish.

In recent times she has faced the wrath of the science community on Twitter because, amongst other absurd ideas, she suggested that women should shove a jade egg up their vaginas to…actually, I’m not really sure why. I’m not going to comment on that (beyond saying: don’t do it) because superhero OB/GYN Dr Jen Gunter has already done that.

But when one of her healthcare hacks starts talking about autoimmune conditions, you bet I’m going to chime in. Especially, when one of them, Dr Steven Gundry, claims this: ‘I have yet to see an autoimmune disease that cannot be cured or put into remission by simple dietary changes and supplementation’ and then goes on to suggest which supplements will cure autoimmune diseases. Stop it!

Gwyneth – I really liked you in that movie about deadly viruses (possibly because you died in the first 15 mins), but you need to really shush now about healthcare. And stop suggesting women shove jade eggs up our vaginas, for god’s sake!

 

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