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This year for World Diabetes Day, the International Diabetes Federation has decided on the theme ‘Diabetes Concerns Every Family’. According to the WDD website, the aim of the campaign is ‘…is to raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and to promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of the condition.’

I get that. I have said it on numerous occasions: it takes a village to live with diabetes.

I was a little nervous when I first saw some of the materials from the campaign, because I was worried that it may focus too much on the negative effects of diabetes and how it burdens the families of those living with diabetes. I know how diabetes impacts my family and I feel enormous responsibility already about that. I don’t need to be reminded of it, and I certainly don’t need to be guilted into being told that if I am not managing my diabetes properly I am doing a disservice to my family.

Although there have been a few little things that hint at those ideas, mostly, what I’ve seen has been positive and focused on celebrating and acknowledging those villagers who help us live with diabetes.

Diabetes Australia has decided on the campaign of #MyDiabetesFamily to highlight the idea of the village, and acknowledge that ‘family’ looks different to a lot of people.  For some people with diabetes, it will be their immediate family – parents, partners, kids etc – who are their main cheer-squad and supporters; for others it will be their friends, work colleagues or maybe gym partner. Someone the other day told me that their dog is their most important diabetes supporter, providing them with comfort – and alerting them to lows.

I was asked to put together a collage of the people who I would refer to as #MyDiabetesFamily. This is it:

#MyDiabetesFamily

Obviously, and most importantly, Aaron and the kidlet feature. They know my diabetes in a way that no one else does because they see it most. They see the difficult days, the frustrations and how overwhelmed I can get, but they also see my celebrate the positives. And they have seen how much my diabetes – and my attitude to it – has changed in the last 12 months. In some ways, they benefit from Loop, too because my diabetes intrudes a lot less into our family’s life.

My parents and my sister are on there too – another obvious inclusion. Their support is never ending.

My gratitude for my family – in the more traditional sense of the word – is unending. They may not have diabetes, but they deal with it in different ways. While they may not understand that feeling of unquenchable thirst that comes from high glucose levels, or the panic of an ‘eat the kitchen’ low, they do know what it is like to be spectator to it all and I know that they all wish that I didn’t have to deal with those things – and everything else diabetes has to offer.

And the photo at the top shows just some of my friends with diabetes. As it turns out, this was the first photo on my phone with a group of diabetes friends, and these fab people are just a tiny number who also make up #MyDiabetesFamily; I am lucky to say that there are so, so many more.

These are the people whose islet cells are as absent as my own; these are the people who ‘get it’; these are the people who intrinsically understand what diabetes feels like – even if each of us have different experiences, and we use different words to explain it, and come from and with different perspectives. These are the ‘us’ in #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs; they are the ‘tribe’ in ‘Find your tribe, and love them hard’.

And in the middle? Well, that would be me. Because I am the one who is so grateful to have them all there as part of my life, helping and supporting me.

Want to get involved and celebrate your own diabetes family?

Have a look at the Diabetes Australia Facebook page (click on the image below to be taken there) to find out how.

DISCLOSURE (because they matter and I always disclose. ALWAYS.)

I work at Diabetes Australia, and had some involvement in the development of this campaign. I am writing about the campaign because I think it is a truly important one – not because I was asked to by any Diabetes Australia staff. Plus – I’ll take any opportunity to highlight the folks who make living with diabetes easier!

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I’ve been a little out of sorts for the last week or so and this has translated to me feeling a bit distracted, and not sleeping well. I’d forgotten about not getting a good night’s sleep, because Loop completely and utterly changed the way I sleep. Here’s the thing, though: when I  am not sleeping well, my glucose levels are far less predictable. And then, when my glucose levels are far less predictable, I sleep less. And so, I enter a cat and mouse chase as I step in and try to sort things out when really, I should stop. And try to sleep more.

I’ve thought about this as I skim through posts about raising awareness of diabetes. Because I realised that in the eagerness of doing the very important work of trying to #MakeDiabetesVisible to everyone else, and raise awareness of what living with diabetes is truly like, I am still becoming aware of things myself. It flies in the face of my belief that this month isn’t about those of us who have diabetes – it’s for the people who don’t, so that we can hopefully improve their understanding of the seriousness of diabetes.

But actually, in the last few days, as I’ve been a little more introspective – and awake more –I’ve become aware of the impact of sleep. Or rather, the impact of the lack of sleep.

I talk a lot about how all-encompassing diabetes is: about the burden of diabetes. This is different for everyone, and in the past I have spent a lot of time (some might suggest navel grazing) trying to define the things that contribute most to that burden for me.

Since I started Looping, I regularly say that I feel less burdened than I ever have.

That is true. And when I think about it makes perfect sense. The automation of Loop means doing fewer diabetes tasks, and that means less burden on the physical things I have to do. It has also resulted in significantly reducing swings in glucose levels. These things alone save me a lot of mental energy. And physical energy too. And keeps my mood far more even.

But this last week; a week that I have felt a lot more needed from me emotionally, diabetes has struggled too. Loop is brilliant at chugging away in the background and keeping everything as stable as possible. Night-times are brilliant because there are far fewer of the contributing factors that send our glucose levels into disarray.

However I have spent more time awake, meaning less time for just chugging and more time for needing to fix things. The less I sleep, the more Loop has to do. And sometimes, it doesn’t cope all that well – especially if I step in to try to give it a ‘helping hand’.

Sleep is so important. We talk about food and exercise and medication and how they impact on our glucose levels. We talk more about the result of stress on our diabetes management. We know that when we get right the equations about those factors and our glucose levels are less variable, we feel better. But sleep? I honestly don’t think that anyone has ever spoken with me about sleep.

Sleeping more is a regular issue for me. I get a second wind late at night and suddenly decide that is the time I should really do some work. Plus, having friends around the globe means needing to negotiate time zones. When they are awake, I often should not be, yet marathon message sessions often happen and that delays sleep too. It works both ways. I’m conscious that good times for me to chat are not necessarily ideal for those in a different hemisphere! Oh – and then there is jet lag. Ugh…jet lag.

Adam Brown has devoted a whole chapter of his book ‘Bright Spots and Landmines’ to the issue of sleep and diabetes. I think I need to have a reread. But more broadly, I think we need to better address the issue of sleep for those of us living with diabetes, because once our quantity and quality of sleep starts to affect our glucose levels, the way we feel overall significantly changes.

I’m feeling much more like my usual self today. I slept a little better last night and my CGM trace has been far nicer; Loop has been able to cope much better, and my time in range has returned to what I have become used to. All in all, it adds up to me feeling like I usually do.

Unfortunately, even with the improved night’s sleep and more time in range, I still wasn’t thinking clearly enough when I chose this colour for my nails. I’ve no idea what to blame for that ill-advised choice, but probably should have learnt by now that awareness raising for diabetes does not need to extend to blue nail varnish. Alas, I have not …

The kid and I have been enjoying some fierce Scrabble battles. At this stage, I am absolutely owning it, and, as a mother who has always subscribed to the tough love approach to parenting, I’m not going easy on her in any way. Plus, I like winning.

I’ve always loved Scrabble. I love the empty board at the beginning and the possibilities of what is about to be laid down. I love turning over the first seven letters and arranging them on the wooden stand, wondering if there is any chance of finding a word that will use them all up as my first turn. I look ahead and try to strategise so that I manage to get the most double and triple world scores. And I play to win. Did I mention that already?

As the board fills up, and letters form different words, I hope for an open board with lots of options to use the letters already in play. I move the tiles around on the stand trying out different arrangements, searching for uncommon words that the kid may never have come across, (because why not use this is a teaching moment?!).

When our game finished the other night, I looked at the words and smiled at the randomness of it all. How did those words all come together; how was that pattern the end result? It was an exercise in haphazardness and chance and, sometimes, a bit of luck.

Just like my twenty years of diabetes. There is no rhyme or reason to most of it; nothing really happened by design. There was (and continues to be) a lot of trial and error. I stumbled on things and added to what I was doing to see if it made anything better. Sometimes, I jackpotted on the equivalent of a triple word score with a J in play. Other times, I called it a day, throwing everything back into the box and starting again. There were times that I looked at what was in front of me and somehow cobbled together something that seemed to work.

If I were to make a Scrabble board of words relevant to my life with diabetes now it would use different words today than when I was first diagnosed, or after five years of living with diabetes, or ten, or fifteen.

Twenty years ago, the words would have been about uncertainty, following what I was told and naivety. There would have been words reflecting the management tools I was first given, and they would have been very different five years later, when ‘pump’ would have replaced ‘pens’ or ‘injections’. Some cynicism and sass would have started to make its way in. Another five years later it would have all been different again, my bolshy attitudes much clearer and on show. Fifteen years of living with diabetes would have seen more technology, words showing how my world had been opened up thanks to online diabetes support networks and more travelling. These days, there would be words like ‘Loop’. And ‘tribe’ to acknowledge those friends with diabetes who have come to be an integral part my story.

There would be words that may be denied in regular Scrabble, but the diabetes version would absolutely approve of words and abbreviations such as DIYAPS, diaversary, Kellion, RileyLink and YDMV.

But undoubtedly, throughout it all, there would be some words that would be played all the time in each game. Words such as fear, anxiety, frustration. And hope. Hope would always be on the board, the first word played at every opportunity. Because it’s always been with me. It’s the thread that has been woven through and held together every part of my diabetes, from that first day to today and every single day in between.

Trending on Twitter at the moment is a hashtag that is getting a lot of attention (obviously: it’s trending).

The hashtag is #DoctorsAreDickheads.

Has it got people’s attention? Yep.

Is it inflammatory? You bet.

And it needs to be.

The shitty thing is that sometimes it takes a loud, brash moment like this for people to sit up and listen. Lousy experiences in healthcare are not isolated experiences. Not being listened to; not being believed; being dismissed; being belittled; experiencing doctor bias – these are all real. These happen frequently.

In diabetes, we hear this from the point of (mis)diagnosis right through to people who have lived with diabetes for decades. How many people were sent away from the doctor being told their symptoms where nothing? How many parents were told they were over-reacting when they repeatedly took their thirsty, constantly peeing, losing weight child to the GP? How many of us are blamed instead of helped when we start to develop complications?  Almost every single person with diabetes I have spoken has a terrible tale to share.

Hashtags like this, which often then become ‘movements’, come about for one simple reason: people are hurting and need to be heard. They don’t happen because an individual has a grudge directed at one other person. They happen, and become magnified, because there is clearly a systematic issue somewhere. One single person may start the discussion, but others see their own experiences reflected in what others are saying and join in the discussion.

Also, hashtags like this don’t happen as a first line of attack. Often, people have tried every other angle: they have tried to reason, asked to be heard, searched for someone they hope will be more sympathetic, used the system in place – the system that is meant to protect them, followed protocols for making complaints when things go wrong, written quiet pieces on their own blogs or in closed community groups in a hope that someone – anyone – will listen. They have tried being polite, quiet, compliant.

Yet they don’t feel heard.

Unsurprisingly, there have been parallels drawn between #DoctorsAreDickheads and #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. And in exactly as the response to #MeToo became #NotAllMen, and #BlackLivesMatter became #AllLivesMatter, predictably we are seeing #NotAllDoctors.

Suddenly the reason behind the discussion is hijacked. Doctors become defensive; others jump to their defence. And the stories of those who have been hurt, who continue to be hurt, who have sometimes had their lives turned on their head, start to get lost.

The right response to this hashtag is to listen. It is not to turn it around and defend yourself or start to attack those who are sharing their personal stories. It is not to be self-justifying. It is not protect your own interests. It is not to accuse the people sharing their stories as being aggressive, nasty, offensive, attention-seeking or confrontational.

It is to stay silent and listen. It’s to let the discomfort wash over you, surround you, move in and almost suffocate you while you remain quiet and listen.

Listen to the people who have had these horrible experiences. Recognise there is a power imbalance between medical care givers and receivers. Understand how vulnerable some people are when they are sharing their stories – and how vulnerable they were when they were let down by their doctors. And accept that the anger on show is completely and utterly understandable.

Personally, I have had some horrid experiences with doctors. Of course I’ve had some incredibly positive and empowering experiences. I have nothing but the highest regard for my own healthcare team and so many of the HCPs I am lucky to work with as part of my job. I named my kid after my endo because I honestly think that her care and expertise and compassion are part of the reason that I have an amazing teenager accompanying me in my life these days. But this isn’t about celebrating those moments.

It’s about the ones that left me feeling hopeless.

Some I’ve documented on my blog, others I feel I am still too traumatised to talk about. I have felt belittled, delegitimised, stigmatised and made to feel like a fool, a hypochondriac, a trouble maker, an attention seeker by doctors in the past. And I am a confident, educated, Bolshy advocate who understands the system. Imagine for a moment those who don’t, because we’re not hearing from them. Yet.

For every single person using the #DoctorsAreDickheads hashtag on twitter as they share their experience, there are dozens who are not doing that. It is not a loud minority who are being rabble-rousers. What we have seen in the last day or so is just the start.

Could it have been more nuanced? Maybe. Someone suggested that a better option would have been #DoctorsBeBetter, but I guarantee that those who are up in arms about this hashtag would still be crying #NotAllDoctors even if there wasn’t the profanity contained within the current hashtag.

And finally, I have a plea here. Please, do not invoke the #LanguageMatters movement as part of this discussion. Language matters – at least the way that I see it and have been working at for almost a decade now – is about ensuring that the language used when speaking to and about people with diabetes empowers and supports us.

If we want to add a language focus to this discussion it’s this: stop policing the language that ‘patients’ use. In the same way it’s not up to healthcare professionals to tell people with diabetes the language to use when speaking about our own diabetes, it is not for the medical community to tell the ‘patient’ community to tone it down or use different words when we are telling our own stories. We will use the words that resonate with us, within us, amongst us. Because these are our stories. And it’s time, and we deserve, for them – for us – to be heard.

I may use the latest and greatest in diabetes tech, built my own pancreas, become completely reliant on automated insulin delivery, wear devices that send, read and respond to data 24/7. I can set reminders and alerts and alarms and all the fanciest of fancy bells and whistles to help remind me to do diabetes.

But sometimes, the best way is totally old school!

‘When I hear from and read about you and other adults like you with diabetes, you make me think everything will be okay.’

This comment was made to me recently – and not for the first time. I have heard this more times than I care to remember (directed to me as well as to others with diabetes) from others (often newly diagnosed) with diabetes, as well as loved ones of people with diabetes.

While I believe that it is often said as something that is meant to be complimentary, it has become one of the comments I absolutely dread hearing. It’s not a new thing – I have heard people say things like this and similar for as long as I have had diabetes. And I know that I have, in the past, said things like this too – especially around Kellion medal time each year when I get to meet with PWD who have lived with diabetes for far more years than me.

But in recent times, I have stopped saying it, following a conversation with someone who received a Kellion medal this year and read my post about the ceremony. ‘I have nothing to teach you,’ they said to me, as we were chatting. ‘All I do is live with diabetes. I don’t have a choice. It’s not remarkable. It’s just my life. And I get annoyed at people who want to give me a medal for simply living with diabetes.’ We both then giggled at their choice of words because we were, of course, actually speaking about (Kellion) medals, but I think I understood what they were saying.

And it got me thinking to how we speak about others living with diabetes and other health conditions, and what we are saying when we start to use words like ‘inspirational’, ‘brave’, ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’, ‘magical’, ‘motivating’, ‘heroic’ and all the other syrupy superlatives you can imagine.

I have used every single one of those words at some point when talking about other PWD. And people have used these words when talking about me, and I can tell you all I feel is uncomfortable and like an absolute fraud. I’m none of those things. I’m a bumbling mess most days. So it doesn’t sit well at all if the only reason that someone is using hyperboles to describe me is because of diabetes.

And then when someone goes a step further and starts to say a PWD make them feel better about themselves, their situation, or their (or their kid’s) future, that’s just placing a whole lot more expectations on the shoulders of that person with PWD. Or, when someone says that they want to learn from us, suddenly on top  of everything else, we also have to be teachers? More weight on an already extremely heavy situation.

Of course, there is a darker side to this. Not always are we seen as beacons of inspiration. In fact, sometimes, people want to hold us up as examples of ‘what not to do’. I cringe every time I hear the suggestion that newly diagnosed PWD should meet someone with diabetes-related complications as a warning of what can go wrong. Absolutely no better is the idea that rather than underlining diabetes-complications as a threat, it’s a good idea to look at PWD living with complications as examples of proof that life goes. I’m pretty sure that’s not what anyone is thinking when they get up in the morning and go about living their life with that complication.

Suddenly, alongside the responsibility of doing diabetes and all that comes with it, (complications or no complications) we are also now responsible for making others feel better and more knowledgeable about their own situation? That just seems like another task to add to the endless demands diabetes already places on us.

And it also seems a little unfair.

It’s true – there are days that some of us may be brave; we may be seen as inspiring; we may amaze you. Some days it may even be me who seems to be some of those things. But not if the only reason you see us like that is because we are living with diabetes. Last Friday the fact that I got up and out the door and to the airport before 6am in matching shoes, stockings, lipstick within my lip line, and a pencil dress that wasn’t wrinkled is actually quite remarkable, and I would be grateful for someone to acknowledge that. Oh, and a couple of weeks ago, there was a spider the size of a saucer on the ceiling of our bedroom and I more than capably dealt with it. You may call me brave for that, because: Australian wildlife. But nothing to do with diabetes.

We are people with diabetes and we do what we can to manage that however possible. We are not here to make other people feel better about their own lives, or allay concerns they have about their loved ones with diabetes. We’re not here to be a teaching moment. An equally, we’re not here to be a cautionary tale. We are just here to muddle through with the lives we have; lives that contain diabetes.

I have always loved this song.

I’m heading to Sydney this morning (it’s early…too early) for the Australasian Diabetes Advancements and Technologies Summit – ADATS, (follow along at #ADATS2018), which had me thinking about the conference last year where I spoke about Loop, scared a shitload of HCPs, was almost traumatised into never speaking again in public (almost – didn’t happen) and was happy to be branded non-compliant.

Today will be a far gentler experience – my role is as a member of the organising committee, and as a session chair. Surely no one will want to sue me for that. Right?

As I ponder that, and reminisce about last year’s talk, here are some links. So many links that I have been wanting to share. So, have a cuppa, have a read, and share stuff.

Also, being deliberately non-compliant is kind of fun…

(Disclosure first: My flights from Melbourne to Sydney are being covered by the National Association of Diabetes Centres (NADC), the organisers of ADATS. I am on the organising committee for the conference.)

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Finally DIYAPS makes it to the mainstream media in Aus

I’d heard of The Saturday Paper, (which was a surprise to the journalist who interviewed me), but apparently not all that many people have. It’s a weekly newspaper (somewhat unimaginatively named – it’s a paper and comes out each Saturday) with long-form articles. One of those articles was about DIYAPS and came about after journalist Michele Tyde heard about the Diabetes Australia DIYAPS Position Statement.

Read the article here.

Read the DIYAPS Position Statement here.

The body part is connected to the PWD

‘Talking about the “diabetic foot,” the “diabetic kidney,” or the “diabetic eye” suggests they are somehow separate from the person whose body actually hosts the diabetes. This language suggests the diabetes-complicated body part is more like a malfunctioning car part that needs service – if only we could be provided with a courtesy foot, eye, or kidney to use until our own is better!’

The language at ADA this year (all the way back in June…all the way over in Orlando) didn’t really set off too many alarm bells. Until we had a good look at the program. I wrote this piece with The Grumpy Pumper for diaTribe about how it seems that #LanguageMatters a whole load less when talking about diabetes-related complications…and that needs to change.

Conference blogs

It’s great to see the Ascensia Diabetes Care team continue to support diabetes bloggers by inviting them to write up their thoughts on diabetes conferences. The latest contribution is from Sascha Stiefeling (who blogs at Sugar Tweaks) where he gives some insights into the start of EASD. (It was written in German and translated into English.)

Oh – and here’s the post I wrote for them about the Australasian Diabetes Congress a couple of months ago. (I was not paid to write this, or supported by Ascensia to attend, but I did work with them on their Social Media Summit.) 

No weakness at all

On Mental Health Awareness Day this year, UK writer and poet David Gilbert wrote this beautiful post about the strength – not weakness – of living with mental illness.

How we are wrong about obesity

This piece about obesity is a must read. It talks about how weight bias from healthcare professionals and stigma often results in higher weight people avoiding going to the doctor because they fear discrimination, not being believed and being shamed.

More on weight stigma

And read this piece (also on diaTribe) about how weight stigma hurts people and affects health outcomes.

Keep Sight

This week, Diabetes Australia officially launched the first ever national eye screening program, Keep Sight. The program will make it easier for Aussies with diabetes to get their eyes checked. You can read about the program here (from when it was announced back in July).

Disclosure: I work at Diabetes Australia, but was not asked to write about this program. I’m doing so because it is important.

Your story is important

True champion of listening to ‘the patient’, Marie Ennis-O’Connor wrote this wonderful piece about the power of storytelling in healthcare.

Always be kind

I’m always fascinated to read stories from HCPs who write about their experiences on the other side of healthcare. Moving from care-giver to the one needing care can be life-changing. In this BMJ Opinion piece, health researcher Maria Kristiansen writes about how important compassion and kindness from healthcare professionals were for her and her family during her young son’s illness and death.

More on kindness (because we can never have enough)

The first sentence of this article in BMJ by Dr John Launer had me hooked: ‘I’m not a clever doctor, but I’m a kind one’. Have a read.

Diabetes in hospital

I know I’m not the only one to be terrified of needing to go into hospital, worrying about a lack of knowledge about type 1 diabetes treatment and my technology, and having to fight to maintain ownership of my own diabetes care. Adam Brown at diaTribe has written about his recent trip to A&E, surgery and subsequent recovery after his appendix ruptured. Lots of great tips for anyone who may wind up in hospital.

Digital diabetes

How can digital medicine and research, and artificial intelligence transform diabetes? That’s the question research scientist in diabetes, Dr Guy Fagherazzi, asks in his (open source) review in Science Direct that you can read here.

Bake these!

And finally…It’s nearly the weekend and if you have a spare 20 minutes, you really, really should think about baking these! They are crackled parcels of molasses, spice and all things nice and are, quite possibly, one of the best things I’ve ever baked.

Earlier this week, Professors Jane Speight (ACBRD) and Frans Pouwer (Southern Denmark University) published a blog post on the ACBRD site, with their wrap up of EASD, specifically, the lack of psychosocial sessions at the conference. In the piece, Jane and Frans quite rightly say:

‘Psychology is not an optional extra. If diabetes care is the seat of a three-legged stool, then it is supported by three legs: psychology/education, treatment/technology and complications screening. It seems ironic that so much funding, resource and effort is put into strengthening and promoting the treatment/technology and complications ‘legs’, while the psychology/education ‘leg’ remains short and weak.’

EASD is the largest diabetes meeting on the calendar this year. It draws a truly international audience, with healthcare professionals and researchers from all disciplines. It is possible to speak with endocrinologists, diabetes educators, allied health professionals, general practitioners, psychologists, and researchers from all spheres of the diabetes care spectrum.

And yet, it is undeniable that the conference has a true clinical focus, almost forgetting that diabetes does not only impact specific parts of the body (so, so much about the ‘diabetic foot’!) but the whole person (absolutely not enough on the ‘diabetic mind’!).

I am not for a moment saying that the scientific and clinical elements of diabetes should be removed from a diabetes conference, or that they are not important. But I am saying that by demonstrating ONLY this aspect of diabetes, the picture presented is very, very incomplete.

I have written before that this is a frustration of mine at EASD, along with the continued lack of ‘patient representation’ on the conference program. It astounds me that there are no advocates on the official program, giving the ‘lived experience’ standpoint to what is being discussed. With hours and hours of sessions focusing on complications, how valuable it would be to have a PWD who is living with complications standing up there to give a little perspective to all the science. And a psychologist to speak about how complications affect far more than the part of the body that has become…well, complicated.

I urge the organisers and program committee to step up, and find a way to fill in the gaps and start to present a far fuller and more complete picture of diabetes.

While this would involve including more focus on the behavioural side of diabetes with the relevant professionals on the program, it must also mean including PWD into the program – in a meaningful way. If it is too much of a leap to include PWD alongside HCPs in the scientific program, introduce a Living with Diabetes Stream as the IDF has done in their last four World Congresses. It can be done. It can be done well. (And I say that with full disclosure that I am leading the stream at the 2019 Congress and was deputy lead for the 2017 Congress, and spoke at the 2015 Congress in the LWD stream.)

The thing is, it would actually be very, very simple to include PWD in the EASD program because we are already there. This year in Berlin marked the seventh EASD conference I have been fortunate to attend. I have always gone because of satellite events designed specifically for PWD. Initially, these were run by Johnson & Johnson, and more recently Roche, who has taken the ‘patient engagement’ to a new level, running events with up to seventy bloggers. That’s seventy people who have a story to share about their own diabetes experiences.

And I know that many of those seventy people would want to talk about all aspects of living with diabetes, including the psychosocial impacts.

As a leading annual diabetes meeting, EASD could be better. It ticks a lot of boxes. But it could, quite easily, tick a whole lot more by being far more wholistic in its approach. Focus more on the behavioural side of diabetes. And have PWD front and centre where we belong. After all, we’re the ones all this information and research is meant to be benefitting.

DISCLOSURE

Roche Diabetes Care (Global) covered my (economy) travel and accommodation costs to attend their #DiabetesMeetup Blogger event at #EASD2018 and present at their media event the day before EASD. Roche Diabetes Care also assisted with providing me press registration to attend all areas of the EASD meeting. As always, my agreement to attend their blogger day and participate in their media event does not include any commitment from me, or expectation from them, to write about the company, the events or their products. 

With Jane Speight at EASD in Berlin.

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation recently; specifically, how we remain motivated living with a lifelong health condition that places so many demands upon us. It’s something I also get asked about a lot by others with diabetes – often people newly diagnosed: ‘How do you stay so motivated.’

It’s all smoke and mirrors, because the truth of the matter is that most days, my motivation to ‘do diabetes’ is very low. In fact, I think that there is a spectrum of motivation where zero is ‘What diabetes?’ and ten is ‘I log everything…EVERYTHING…ask me how many carbs I ate yesterday and what my BGL was at 3.10pm and 5.55pm. Go on…do it. Because I can tell you. Do it. Ask me. And also, yes! I can tell you why my glucose levels spiked at 10.12am three months ago on a random Tuesday. Also, look at this: it shows how my glucose levels are impacted by the phases of the moon. In other news…here’s my last fifteen years of A1cs displayed pictorially, but I can also demonstrate them using interpretative dance if you would like me to. Would you? You would, right? Let me just find my Kate Bush playlist on my iPhone…

Generally, I’m a solid 3.5. I don’t do graphs, I have a vague idea of what my CGM is telling me now-ish, and I can tell you my A1c to within about 0.5 per cent. I call this winning.

I have had periods – extended periods – where I am far closer to zero, which have not been great because that has added ‘not-doing-diabetes-guilt’ to the simple ‘not-doing-diabetes’ which basically equalled feeling crappy all around. And I’ve also been closer to ten – this, for me, was called ‘pregnancy’ – and I was borderline obsessive.

Someone recently asked me if I thought there was a secret to staying motivated. I don’t think there is, because surely, at least one oversharing blogger would have written about it by now.

But I do believe there are small factors that, when combined, do make it easier to remain, if not enthused, at least stirred to keep chugging along with diabetes.

Firstly, in range numbers beget in range numbers, and in range numbers make us want to check for more in range numbers more frequently. It’s undeniable that when we see numbers that don’t cause the response of rage, frustration, sadness, stress or anxiety, we are more inclined to check again. And again.

Technology that helps rather than hinders makes everyone feel better. Many think that it’s a given that new tech makes life easier, but unfortunately, that’s not always the truth, because often – at least to begin with – it requires more input from the user. Actually needing to do more, but not necessarily seeing results is not a recipe for remaining enthused!

Boring tasks are boring, so any way that we can eliminate them or reduce them helps. Making appointments to see our HCPs, finding time to visit a pathology centre for quarterly A1cs (and more) and keeping our diabetes supplies and meds current all take physical time as well as mental time. I have a pharmacist who is like my personal assistant when it comes to reminding me that it’s probably time to reorder insulin and NDSS products and prompts me when I need a new insulin prescription and I cannot tell you how much I love her. She sends me texts messages (totally unobtrusive) and I reply by text and then a day or two later pop in and she has everything ready for me. I can’t remember the last time I ran out of something, thanks to Mae!

But for me, if there was a silver bullet, it would be this: I am motivated because of today. Today, I have been able to do everything I have wanted to do and diabetes has not stopped me, even momentarily. And that makes me want to do it more.

I know that a large part of that is that I have the capacity, the will and the ability to do what I need to make this happen. I speak from a position of privilege, because I also know that the devices I am using – and am able to afford to use – certainly do help me with everything. They have helped to make my diabetes today doable, manageable, and as untroublesome as diabetes can be.

You can threaten me with what is going to happen in five, ten, twenty years’ time; you can tell me about all the disabling and debilitating complications that will happen if I don’t remain motivated and how they will impact on my life as a fifty, sixty and seventy year old.

But unless what you are saying is going to impact on me right here, right now, I can ignore it, and I can ignore the things that may help me reduce the risk of those things happening.

Perhaps that’s where public health messages about diabetes get it wrong. They tend to focus on longer term impacts. It’s not just teenagers who believe they are invincible. Despite a body that each and every day looks less like that of a sprightly youth, I think I am still young. I think all the things that are considered long-term issues are still years off. Being unmotivated doesn’t seem to matter when I don’t need to deal with those issues today.

But when diabetes does impact on my day now, then I notice. More hypos, more hypers, more interrupted sleep, more roller coaster numbers, more exhaustion, more feeling crappy. All of these things make day to day life more difficult. And I want to avoid them as much as I can.

I’m quite pleased with my solid 3.5. Sure, it could be better. Sure I could do more. But it’s consistent. And it’s achievable. Plus, quite frankly, everyone around me should be pleased with the absence of interpretive dance.

Click to get your own Casualty Girl bag.

After a wonderful couple of weeks of real holidays – sun in Italy, less sun in London – I headed to Berlin, saying good bye to my family as we headed in different directions. I was bound for meetings before EASD officially kicked off. And they were headed to Wales and canal boats with extended family. We could not have found ourselves in more different settings!

My first day in Berlin was dedicated to HypoRESOLVE, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) funded project looking to provide a better understanding of hypoglycaemia. I am on the Patient Advisory Committee (PAC) for this project, which kicked off back in May this year in Copenhagen.

The project is divided into eight work packages (WP) and it was WP 8 that convened the first meeting. I was there as part of the PAC, and also to provide the personal perspective on hypoglycaemia.

Back in May at the kick off meeting, I had given a talk called ‘The literal lows of my diabetes’, where I spoke about my own experiences of 20 years of diabetes and how hypoglycaemia had impacted on my everyday life. This was a very personal talk, where I spoke about the fear and anxieties of lows, my different hypo personalities and the terror that comes with impaired hypo awareness.

But for this new talk, I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to highlight my own experiences, because I am but one person and it is important that the audience never feel that they have ‘done diabetes’ and understand the ‘patient view’ because they have listened to one person.

I wanted my focus to be on the disconnect between how hypoglycaemia is regarded in the clinical and research world as compared with the real-living-with-diabetes world.

So, I used the tools at hand, and the fact that there is a vocal and ready to help diabetes online community just a few clicks away and sent out this tweet:

It was apparent straight away, as the responses came flooding in, that the way hypos are described and classified in clinical and research terms is very, very different to the way those of actually experiencing lows see them.

Here is how hypos are categorised in the literature:

Straight forward, neat, tidy, pigeon-holed.

And yet, when I asked PWD how they would describe hypos, here is what they came up with:

Some of the words were repeated multiple times, others appeared only once. Some of the words are the words I use to describe my own hypos, many I had not considered. Yet every single word made sense to me.

Hypoglycaemia, in the same way as diabetes, is not neat and tidy and it cannot be pigeon holed. I hope that my talk was able to illustrate that point.

And I hope I was able to highlight that using simple words and simple categorisations only service to limit and minimise just how significant and impactful hypoglycaemia truly is for those of us affected by diabetes.

You can keep an eye on the progress of HypoRESOLVE on Twitter, and via the website.  

DISCLOSURE

The HypoRESOLVE project funded my travel from London to Berlin and provided me with one night’s accommodation. I am not receiving any payment for my involvement in the Patient Advisory Committee.   

Previous disclosures about my attendance at EASD 2018, can be found on this post.

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