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I had an endo appointment yesterday. It was my first in over six months, but this was by choice, rather than inattention. Last November, I decided that I really didn’t need a three month follow-up appointment, and my endo agreed. So, after settling my account for the visit, I made an appointment for May this year. A work trip to Copenhagen via London necessitated a reschedule and this was the first appointment time available that worked for me. The six month follow-up timeframe was pushed out to eight months.

Early last week, I called for a pathology request to be sent to me so I could have a blood draw before heading in. While I had a list almost as long as my arm of things I wanted to discuss, I really am trying to stay on top of having regular screenings so that we can compare results year to year.

Clearly, I am in a really good headspace about my diabetes and, in particular, diabetes HCP care, at the moment. I am happy to attend appointments. Even though I needed to cancel the May appointment, I made a follow up and kept it. I had all my bloods done beforehand. This is a far cry from how I was just a couple of years ago … when actually, I was crying just thinking about it all.

So, last Thursday, I made my way to a local pathology clinic, my request slip scrunched tightly in my hand. And I realised that even with my generally low level of worry about all-things-diabetes, I felt my anxiety levels going up in the days leading to, and the day of, the blood test.

I’m nervous about having my A1c done,’ I said to someone last week, and, puzzled, she asked why. It was a sensible question to ask, because truthfully, of all the things I was being checked for, that was the one that I had a pretty good idea what the result would be.

I estimated my A1c and got it right to 0.2 percentage points. The truth is, I am totally ambivalent about A1c. I couldn’t care less about the number because my TIR is where I want it, and I knew this would be reflected by a way-in-range A1c number. (I take no credit for it – it’s all Loop.)

But my kidney function? My cholesterol? My thyroid function? Coeliac screening? Everything else? I have no idea how they are tracking. There is no app on my phone to remind me how I going with those, or helping me guess what they me be. I have no Loop for my kidneys!

I realised that was the source of the anxiety, not my A1c, even though that’s where I was pointing. I guess that makes sense: feeling nervous about A1c results is expected and easy to explain. But the truth is that wasn’t my I was feeling uneasy.

Those complications screenings that I am diligently trying to make sure I have annually still terrify me. Both in the lead up to having the checks done, and then as I wait for the results.

The beast of diabetes that lives within our very core behaves in different ways. Often it is slumbering, lying almost dormant, lulling us into a false sense of all is well. I guess that is how I have felt since I started looping. I say that I am the least burdened I’ve ever been my diabetes because my diabetes is not thrashing around and making itself known so much. But this last week, it has started to wake, reminding me of its presence. I have felt diabetes more in the last week than I have in the last ten months.

I tried to describe this to a close friend the other day – a friend who has seen me live through some pretty horrid diabetes times, and celebrate some damn fine ones. She asks sensible questions and is always listening and learning. She gets it. But she struggled to understand how I could move from saying I’ve felt the best I have ever felt in relation to my diabetes to suddenly speaking of the anxieties that I hold so deep; especially when nothing had changed.

It’s the unknown. It’s the waiting. It’s the fear of what I may be told. That is the beast.

Today, the lightness in my step and in my heart as returned. The appointment went well, the results showed little, if any, change from the last screening checks. I am back to feeling the way I was before last week. After stirring, and stretching, the diabetes beast has curled up and resettled, and is hibernating again. At least, for now…

Waiting with diabetes

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Yesterday an article was published across Australia detailing a new report showing that Australians with diabetes are missing out on the recommended levels of diabetes care. Most of these people receive their diabetes care in general practise.

A couple of things before I go on:

  1. The article was behind a paywall, but Diabetes Australia shared an image of a portion of the it, and that can be accessed here. If you have access to a News Ltd. account, you can read the article here.)
  2. I want to say that in writing this post today I do not want to be seen to be doctor-bashing. I don’t believe that is constructive in any way whatsoever. However, I do think that there needs to be acknowledgement that the level of diabetes care in general practise is not ideal for a lot of people.
  3. The language of the article was atrocious. It appeared first under the heading ‘How diabetes sufferers are dicing with death’ Seriously, journos, ready the freaking Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement.

Onwards…

There was some discussion online after the article was shared, with a few doctors believing the article wasn’t all that helpful and feeling that it was unfairly unfavourable towards GPs. Someone also commented on the language used. (I’m not sure if they meant on Twitter or in the article. The language in the article was strong and very critical of GPs.)

The report is damning, and it shows that the results for people with diabetes are not good at all with only one in three people diagnosed with diabetes receiving expected standards of diabetes care. Only half had their A1c checked, and of those, only half again were in range.

This is despite there being a documented diabetes annual cycle of care (for which GPs receive funding). If completed fully, the annual cycle of care includes: annual A1c, cholesterol, and kidney checks, weight and blood pressure checks, as well as two-yearly eye and foot checks.

For me, it shows yet again how stacked the decks are against so many people with diabetes. We don’t receive the level of care recommended and then, when we don’t meet expected outcomes, or develop diabetes-related complications, we get blamed.

If we want to talk about things that are unhelpful and not constructive, let’s begin with that.

We seem to forget that most people don’t innately know what is required to manage diabetes, or what screening checks are required – especially people newly diagnosed with the condition. A lot of people rely on their healthcare professional – in the case of diabetes, usually their GP – for this.

I’ve written before that in my case, my GP is not in any way involved in my diabetes care. This is a deliberate decision on my part. I understand it is also a privileged decision – I have easy access to my endocrinologist, and other diabetes specialists for all my diabetes healthcare needs.

But that’s not the case for everyone, and a lot of people are reliant on their GP for all their diabetes clinical care.

People with diabetes are being let down.

Even though pointing fingers and appropriating blame is not necessarily helpful, it’s what we seem to do. We can blame the system. We can blame a lack of funding. We can blame a lack of continuity of care. We can blame the fact that there are no coordinated screening programs. We can blame the need for more specialist care. We can blame a lousy and ineffective electronic records system.

But what we can’t do is blame people with diabetes. No one asks to get diabetes. No one asks to get diabetes-related complications. So how is it possible that in a system that is letting us down, we are the ones blamed when it happens?

Also, this week, we have heard story after story of missed type 1 diabetes diagnoses with people reporting that despite seeing their GP (often repeatedly) about their symptoms, they were not checked for type 1 diabetes.

It is undeniable that some GPs simply do not know enough about diabetes to diagnose it in the first place, and then to treat it in an ongoing and effective way, and this is leading to those of us living with it not receiving an adequate level of care to live as well as possible with diabetes.

While there may be some hard truths in the report, hopefully the result will be better care for people with diabetes. Because, surely, that is all that matters.

As National Diabetes Week activities began, I kept a close eye on the Twittersphere to see just how the week was being received. Pleasingly, there were a lot of mentions of the #ItsAboutTime campaign, and I set about retweeting and sharing activities by others involved in the week. 

One tweet, from Edwin Pascoe, caught my attention:

Edwin Pascoe is a registered nurse and credentialled diabetes educator in Victoria.  He is currently undertaking a qualitative study as part of a PhD at Victoria University into the lives of gay men and type 2 diabetes in the Australian context.  Data is collected but analysis is underway.

I read Edwin’s tweet a few times and realised that he is absolutely right. I can’t think of ever seeing anything to do with any diabetes campaign that addresses the specific issues faced by LGBTI people with diabetes. So, I reached out to Edwin and asked if he would like to write something for Diabetogenic. I’m so pleased he did. 

One of the criticisms of diabetes representation in the media is that it lacks diversity. I completely agree with that sentiment. Because while we certainly may share stories, we also need more voices and more perspectives, and come to understand that there are different, unique and varied experiences and issues faced by different groups. 

I’m thrilled to feature Edwin’s post today, and am so grateful that he took the time to write it. 

__________________________________________________

CDE, Edwin Pascoe

Diabetes is a chronic condition that is managed in the context of people’s lives and this fact has been increasingly recognised by peak bodies in diabetes within Australia such as Diabetes Australia, Australian Diabetes Society, Endocrinology Society of Australia and The Australian Diabetes Educators Association.

Diabetes education has therefore become not just about defining diabetes and treatment for people but exploring how people with diabetes manage these things in context.  Creating the freedom and space for people to speak their truth will allow health practitioners to explore appropriate solutions that are congruent with the person with diabetes needs.

The following will cover some of this context and how sexual orientation may influence diabetes.

Context is everything

The context of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons has not been recognised formally by these same peak bodies in diabetes specifically.  Arguments shared informally have suggested that what people do in bed does not affect diabetes and considering we have full equality under the law why would it matter. Further to this health care professionals (HCPs) have suggested none of this worries them as all people are treated the same, but herein lies the problem as:

  1. Not all people are the same.
  2. LGBTI people are still not fully recognised under the law in Australia despite the recent success in Marriage Equality. For example religious health care services and schools are permitted under law to fire or expel anyone that does not follow their doctrines.  In some states gay conversion (reparative therapy) is still legal despite the practice having been shown to cause significant psychological harm.  It is also important to note that it was only quite recently that the last state Tasmania decriminalised homosexuality in 1997 so this is in living memory.
  3. The law is not the only determinant of social acceptability but is entrenched in culture (we know this from numerous surveys that have seen the up to 30% believe that homosexuality as immoral (Roy Morgan Research Ltd, 2016)). Law changes have only meant that in part hostilities have gone underground.
  4. The focus on sex or what people do in bed fails to see people as whole and often lead to false claims of promiscuity in LGBTI people. There are also assumptions in relation to what people do in bed for example anal sex is one of these stigmatised practices.  In reality not all gay men practice this and a significant percentage of heterosexual people do engage in anal sex.

Reports from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA identified that 44% heterosexual men and 36% of heterosexual women have engaged in anal sex (Chandra, 2011).  Mild displays of affection such as holding hands and leaning into each other engaged routinely by heterosexual couples are heavily criticized when observed in same sex attracted people causing LGBTI people to self-monitor their behaviour.  If they choose to engage in this behaviour it is often considered and calculated rather than conducted freely.

The result of this is that there is a lot of awkwardness around the topic of sexual orientation for both the HCP and LGBTI person, something not talked about in polite company.  This means that rather than talking about their health condition in context there is tendency to talk in general terms if they are recognised as LGBTI, or they are assumed heterosexual until the person outs themselves during the consultation.

However outing oneself can be an extremely stressful experience as, despite good intentions by HPCs, LGBTI people may still be fearful and remain silent to the point of even creating a false context (a white lie to keep themselves safe).  It has been a known practice among some LGBTI people that some engage in the practice of ‘straightening up’ the house if they know HPCs or biological family members are coming to their homes, to again keep themselves safe.  This is not to say that all situations are this bleak but that for some at least it is.  Does this prevent people from seeking help in the first place when required?

Studies on rates

In the USA Nurses’ Health Study, it was noted that the rates of diabetes in lesbian and bisexual women was 27% higher (Corliss et al., 2018).  Anderson et al. (2015)examined electronic records for 9,948 people from hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices in all 50 states (USA).  Data collected included vital signs, prescription medications and reported ailments, categorised according to the International Classification of Diseases diagnostic codes (ICDs). They found that having any diagnosis of sexual and gender identity disorders increased the risk for type 2 diabetes by roughly 130 percent which carried the same risk as hypertension.  Wallace, Cochran, Durazo, and Ford (2011), Beach, Elasy, and Gonzales (2018)also looked at sexual orientation in the USA and found similar results.

However one must consider the country in which this data was collected as acceptability of diverse sexualities and differences in health care systems do make a difference. In a study within Britain the risk for type 2 diabetes was found to be lower than the national level (Guasp, 2013).  In Australia the rates of diabetes in a national survey came out as 3.9% in gay men in 2011 (Leonard et al., 2012)and this was the same as data collected by Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013)for that year (they did not differentiate between types).

Life style factors

Life style factors such as exercise and food consumption are important to consider as these are tools used to manage diabetes.  Studies have found significant level of homophobia in Australian sport that prevents participation(Erik Denison, 2015; Gough, 2007)and that there are elevated levels of eating disorders including binge eating disorder in LGBTI people (Cohn, Murray, Walen, & Wooldridge, 2016; Feldman & Meyer, 2007).

Qualitatively, a study was conducted in the UK/USA by Jowett, Peel, and Shaw (2012)exploring sex and diabetes, and in this study one theme noted was that equipment such as an insulin pumps put participants in a position to have to explain and the fear they were being accused of having HIV.

Stories

The following two stories may help give context to how sexual orientation has influenced these two people’s lives.

The first story is regarding a gentleman who came to see me for diabetes education for the first time who had lived the majority of his life hiding his sexual orientation due to it being illegal.  During the consultation I was trying to explore ways to increase his activity levels in order to improve blood glucose levels, strength and mental health.  He advised he didn’t like going for walks even if it was during the day in a built-up area as it was dangerous.  When asked to explain this he said he feared being attacked due to his sexuality as he felt he looked obviously gay, but I didn’t see that.

A second story later on was from an elderly lesbian woman who was showing me her blood glucose levels.  I noted her levels were higher on Mother’s Day, so I obviously asked what was going on there. She bought out a picture of her granddaughter from her purse which immediately bought a tear to her eye. She said her daughter had a problem with her sexual orientation and so stopped her from seeing her granddaughter, and that it had been two years since she had seen her.

It’s only the start

It is important to note that each letter of the LGBTI acronym has their own unique issues with regard to diabetes.  I have mainly talked about gay men here as this is what my study covers but there are studies on transgender people (P. Kapsner, 2017), increased rates of diabetes in people with HIV (Hove-Skovsgaard et al., 2017)and of course many others.  In Australia we don’t routinely record sexual orientation, only in areas of mental health and sexually transmitted diseases, and as such data is lacking in this area. It’s time to be counted and there is a need to learn new ways to improve engagement for LGBTI people with diabetes.

References

Anderson, A. E., Kerr, W. T., Thames, A., Li, T., Xiao, J., & Cohen, M. S. (2015). Electronic health record phenotyping improves detection and screening of type 2 diabetes in the general United States population: A cross-sectional, unselected, retrospective study.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2013). Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12. from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4338.0~2011-13~Main%20Features~Diabetes~10004

Beach, L. B., Elasy, T. A., & Gonzales, G. (2018). Prevalence of Self-Reported Diabetes by Sexual Orientation: Results from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. LGBT Health, 5(2), 121-130. doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2017.0091

Chandra, A. (2011). Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States [electronic resource] : data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth / by Anjani Chandra … [et al.]: [Hyattsville, Md.] : U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, [2011].

Cohn, L., Murray, S. B., Walen, A., & Wooldridge, T. (2016). Including the excluded: Males and gender minorities in eating disorder prevention. Eating Disorders, 24(1), 114-120. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2015.1118958

Corliss, H., VanKim, N., Jun, H., Austin, S., Hong, B., Wang, M., & Hu, F. (2018). Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Women: Findings From the Nurses’ Health Study II. Diabetes care, 41(7). doi: https://doi.org/10.2337/dc17-2656

Erik Denison, A. K. (2015). Out on the fields.

Feldman, M. B., & Meyer, I. H. (2007). Eating disorders in diverse lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40(3), 218-226. doi: 10.1002/eat.20360

Gough, B. (2007). Coming Out in the Heterosexist World of Sport: A Qualitative Analysis of Web Postings by Gay Athletes. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 11(1/2), 153.

Guasp, A. (2013). 2013Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey.   Retrieved 09/07/2018, 2018, from https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/Gay_and_Bisexual_Men_s_Health_Survey__2013_.pdf

Hove-Skovsgaard, M., Gaardbo, J. C., Kolte, L., Winding, K., Seljeflot, I., Svardal, A., . . . Nielsen, S. D. (2017). HIV-infected persons with type 2 diabetes show evidence of endothelial dysfunction and increased inflammation. BMC Infectious Diseases, 17(1), 234-234. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2334-8

Jowett, A., Peel, E., & Shaw, R. L. (2012). Sex and diabetes: A thematic analysis of gay and bisexual men’s accounts. Journal of Health Psychology, 17(3), 409-418. doi: 10.1177/1359105311412838

Leonard, W., Pitts, M., Mitchell, A., Lyons, A., Smith, A., Patel, S., . . . Barrett, A. (2012). Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians.

  1. Kapsner, S. B., J. Conklin, N. Sharon, L. Colip; . (2017). Care of transgender patients with diabetes. Paper presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, Lisbon Portugal http://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/4294/presentation/4612

Roy Morgan Research Ltd. (2016). “Homosexuality is immoral,” say almost 3 in 10 Coalition voters [Press release]

Wallace, S. P., Cochran, S. D., Durazo, E. M., & Ford, C. L. (2011). The Health of Aging Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Adults in California. Policy brief (UCLA Center for Health Policy Research)(0), 1-8.

Official ‘Look! We’re at a conference!’ photo.

One of the best things about going to diabetes conferences is finding time to speak to, and bounce ideas off, fellow people with diabetes. It’s always so great to hear others’ ideas and opinions – sometimes I find myself nodding in furious agreement, and other times their views are completely opposite to how I see things. 

A couple of weeks ago at the America Diabetes Association Annual Scientific Meeting, The Grumpy Pumper and I spoke about a post I was writing (and subsequently published last week) about using the latest diabetes technologies at diagnosis. I knew that he would have some strong thoughts on this topic. 

Grumps said he had some concerns with my ‘give us all the tech right now at diagnosis’ approach, and today, he’s written his thoughts. (Seriously – my pestering him to write is paying dividends these days! Note to self: keep on it!)

Here’s what he has to say…

_______________________________________________________

I’m not really sure if this is a What Would Grumpy Do (#WWGD) post or not. Or if it’s just rambling of the kind of crap that occupies my tiny brain on a daily basis.

Anyway…

Last week, the Nigella of the DOC posted about the use of diabetes tech and how early someone should be offered it post diagnosis(Renza note: Grumps: We’ll be talking about that nickname next time we catch up…)

This subject always interests me, and, to a point, concerns me.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of everyone having the choice of whatever kit they want and need to manage their diabetes, as early as possible in their journey with diabetes, to be able to relieve their own personal burden of diabetes. This also goes for parents and carers too – (those that manage diabetes in a different way, for or with the person with diabetes, dependent on their age etc.).

Of course, the utopian world is for a fully functioning ‘Artificial Pancreas’ (AP) to be commercially available and affordable; a world where at diagnosis, everyone has access to this and the information to make an informed choice if it’s right for them; a world where for most, if not all, that burden of diabetes is not even realised…

My interest and concern?

Well, my job, (as uninteresting as it sounds to most), is business continuity. Or planning for what happens when (as an organisation) things go wrong: when technology that you rely on is unavailable; when your supply chain lets you down; when there is a skills shortage to carry out the things you need to do.

As a result, my brain (tiny as it is) constantly sees the possible risk of what could go wrong, and the mitigations and plans. (The saddest part? I actually enjoy it…)

You can maybe see where I’m trying to go with this now?

The more we rely on diabetes technology, and the earlier we do so, then we (in my opinion) need to have better contingency plans in case things go wrong.

Our ultimate safety net is hospital. However, none of us want to have that as our contingency, do we?

Continuity planning isn’t complicated: it can be detailed; it’s often dull. Ideally it never has to be implemented, but inevitably it does.

The official definition of business continuity is:

‘…the ability of an organisation to maintain essential functions during, as well as after, a disaster has occurred.’

Basically: the ability to carry out the essential things you need to do when shit goes wrong!

I’ll try and keep this brief since I can see you are already dropping off to sleep.

For me, with my diabetes management, it breaks down to this:

Essential functions (the minimum things I need to achieve):

  • Avoid DKA
  • Stay in a safe glucose range (so wider range than usual target, and sod any talk of flat lines!)
  • Be able to detect and treat hypos
  • Be able to fulfil driving regulations

Tasks I need to do to achieve the above:

  • Get a measured amount of insulin into my body
  • Be able to check my glucose levels
  • Treat a hypo when detected (meter or hypo awareness)

Critical tools needed to achieve the above:

  • Insulin
  • Insulin delivery method
  • Blood glucose monitoring system
  • Hypo treatments

The level of continuity that you wish to plan for is total up to the individual. Ideally, we usually try to plan for minimum disruption.

My current diabetes kit is:

  • Insulin
  • Insulin Pump
  • CGM
  • Blood glucose meter
  • Hypo treatments (various)

Whilst I am lucky enough to have spares for most of this kit, I, in my opinion, benefit from being old school. My journey to diabetes technology has been progressive and having started on injections (via syringe) I am confident that I have the skills to keep myself safe if all my technology failed.

As a result, my base-level back-up is:

  • Insulin
  • Syringe
  • Blood glucose meter (and of course strips)
  • Hypo treatments (or cash to purchase as a back-up to my back-up)

So, there you have my interest…

My concerns?

Skills shortage.

In that utopian world where all go onto AP at diagnosis, how do we ensure that we have the skills to stay safe if technology fails? Or if a suppler fails to be able to get a component to us? Let’s face it, a hurricane in the wrong place can cause production issues that lead to shortage of supply; transport strikes; fuel shortages. All of these, and more, have possible impacts.

So if we don’t have the skills to implement our back-up plan, then what use is it?

Some would argue that PWD would need to be educated on MDI etc., which is very true. However, it is another thing for most adults to know how to inject and actually doing it for the first time.

Then there are children with diabetes. Diagnosed as a baby and on a pump soon after, the child may never know how to inject. Until they need to. That could be a huge psychological thing for any child.

There is no one easy answer. As always, and as I said above, our ultimate safety net is hospital so we should always be safe.

But my advice to myself is:

  • Have a plan
  • Know how to use it
  • Wear sunscreen

Live Long and Bolus!

Grumps

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

I am a master outsourcer. I outsource as much as I possibly can – from cleaning our home, doing our garden, washing the car and grooming our dogs. I used to feel guilty about this. Then I realised that doing these sorts of things make me irritable and bad-tempered, and it’s better for everyone – mostly and especially me – to just get someone in to do them so I don’t need to a) do them myself and b) get shitty because they are not getting done. (I should add that Aaron feels exactly the same way. He has no desire to do any of those things either, so the outsourcing is a joint decision and one that makes for a far more harmonious home.)

The other day, a new outsourcing device made its way into our home. Despite having someone frequently come and give our place a thorough clean, three dogs and a cat make for grotty floors. Most days, the timber floorboards need a quick going over to gather the dust bunnies and pet hair that collects in corners. Not anymore! This little helper is going to take care of that from now on!

Outsourcing makes sense. And as I have become older, wiser – and some may say lazier – I continue to look for ways to help with the more mundane things in life.

Hello, diabetes…

Many years ago when my diabetes – and I – were not in a great place, I mentioned to an endocrinologist (not my current endo), that I was so overwhelmed by, and over diabetes and I wished that there was a way that someone could do it for me for a week or so. ‘You can’t outsource your diabetes to me,’ she snapped. I’d not suggested her being the one to step in and take over, but she was adamant that it wasn’t going to happen – just in case I was considering asking. (She was promptly sacked after that comment.)

I frequently hear people (myself included) say that the most relentless thing about living with diabetes is not being able to take a holiday from it. It’s true. Even if you have someone helping with caring duties, the toll of having this unwelcome visitor using your body as a guesthouse is unyielding. And even when we manage to find a way to share the load, (for example, partners doing night-time glucose checks, or being responsible for keeping hypo stores replenished, or scheduling HCP appointments, or making sure that insulin prescriptions, glucose strips, pump consumables, sensors etc. are all ready and available at home), there is no sharing or removing the load of the emotional toll of having diabetes.

So with all this in mind, I was a little surprised to hear myself say that I had ‘outsourced my diabetes’ when, at a recent presentation I was giving, a HCP asked me about Loop. I’ve been thinking about that comment quite a lot since I made it. Is it really accurate an accurate thing to say.

I guess that to an extent, it is partially true. I spend less time thinking about diabetes and less time ‘doing’ diabetes. Loop takes over a lot of the things I used to do. This was reiterated in Justin Walker’s talk at Diabetes Mine’s DData Exchange event on day one of ADA last week.

Loop doesn’t make diabetes go away. It doesn’t even take away all the tasks – I still am responsible for making sure that my pump cartridge is loaded, cannula is in working order, sensor is reading. But thanks to the automation, it does take away some of the responsibilities. I guess that the reduced burden comes from the positive results I see every time I look at my Loop app – jut knowing that it is doing its thing and will let me know if something is wrong – takes away some of what I once had to do myself.

Outsourcing is about sharing the load. It’s about handballing some of the tasks and responsibilities of life to someone – or something – else. Loop is the very definition of that!

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.

It never fails to surprise me – that instant connection you make with a diabetes peer.

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Amira who has lived with type 1 for over 20 years. I flew to Sydney to oversee some filming for a work-related project, and Amira was being interviewed.

I listened to her tell her diabetes story (one I really hope she will write about for here!) and afterwards, we had a coffee and chatted. And there it was: that connection that goes far beyond our lazy beta cells, and far beyond both being diagnosed around Easter.

Amira is one of those dynamic, passionate, smart and funny people who helps to make the lives of people with diabetes better. I listened as she explained to me how she works with people with diabetes and instantly I knew she was one of those people I would want as part of my HCP team.

We spoke about every day things that I would speak with any other woman about. But diabetes adds layers and complexities and frustrations and fears. We nodded at each other as we shared those thoughts. Because they resonated straight away. And I was reminded again: the power of peers. That connection of diabetes that goes so deep that it must somehow be built into the DNA of those first encounters.

A new diabetes buddy makes for a good day. Today was a good day!

Today’s mood:

…Of course this tee is from the awesome Casualty Girl, and you can get your very own by clicking here. (Not sponsored – I happily purchased this myself!)

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.

‘No one asks to get diabetes. And no one asks to be diagnosed with a diabetes complication.’

I don’t know how many times I have said these words – in presentations, casual conversations, in meetings. I feel like a broken record sometimes, but it seems that I’m not done saying it because there are still real problems with the way we talk about a type 2 diabetes or diabetes-related complications diagnosis.

Both are discussed as an end point. And often an end point following failure which is so problematic that it makes every single part of me wince.

‘You got type 2 diabetes because you did/didn’t do this, this and this….’

‘You developed a diabetes-related complication because you did/didn’t do this, this and this.’

And then…there is nothing. There is nothing about what happens next: who to turn to, what help is available, ways to live well. Just some blame and shame and a massive spoonful of guilt, too. You’re welcome!

We need to change this. How different would things be if news of a type 2 diabetes or complication diagnosis was not accompanied with finger pointing at all the things that got us to that point, but instead an acknowledgement that this may feel scary, and a helpful list of what is available to help us.

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is not an end point. Neither is being diagnosed with a diabetes complication. It’s a transition. And at that transition point, we need hope. And to know what’s next. (Cue: Snuffy Walden.)

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