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We all do a good job at undermining ourselves at times. We use a four letter word that diminishes what we are doing, and limits the value of our experience and expertise. That four letter word is ‘just’.

In diabetes, we hear it all the time: ‘Oh, I just have type 2 diabetes’ as though it is insignificant and doesn’t have any challenges. ‘I’ve lived with diabetes for just a couple of years’ because we think there is only currency in decades of living with the condition, when really any length of time with diabetes is meaningful.

And we are all about minimising our experience when it comes to the treatment of our diabetes. ‘just use diet and exercise to manage my type 2 diabetes’ or ‘I’m just on tablets’ or ‘I’m just on injections twice a day’ or ‘I’m just on MDI’. The list goes on and on. And on.

I realised just how ridiculous we have become with this when I heard myself, during a conversation with a fellow Looper, ‘Oh, I just use Loop’. (More on that later…)

At the Ascensia Social Media Summit at ATTD we spoke about this, specifically how there is almost a stigma within the diabetes for those seen to not be using the shiniest and brightest and newest of technologies. It seems that some people almost feel embarrassed if they are not constantly updating their technology toolkit with the most recently launched product.

The idea that anything that we are using today is ‘yesterday’s technology’ is wrong. Blood glucose monitoring can’t be ‘yesterday’s tech’ if it is what most people are using to track their glucose. And syringes and pens can’t be considered the ‘old way to deliver insulin’ when that is how the vast, vast majority of inulin-requiring people with diabetes get insulin into their bodies. Plus, every single one of us using a pump must be able to deliver insulin this way because machines break.

Somewhere in discussions about our treatment technologies, we seem to have forgotten that, actually, not everyone wants to be using the latest kit. And that is okay. There is a spectrum of diabetes technology, and as long as we are on it somewhere and managing our diabetes the way that works best for us, then elephant stamps all around!

There is clearly an over-representation of people at one end of that spectrum dominating on and off line conversations. Spend a couple of hours in a diabetes Facebook group and it would be a reasonable assumption that most people are wearing pumps and CGM. But that’s not true.

And it could appear that DIYAPS is the way to go for most people with T1D, when the fact is that numbers are relatively low. It’s hard to estimate exactly, but there may be somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 worldwide how have ‘built their own pancreas’. That is just a drop in the type 1 diabetes ocean.

It’s fantastic for those of us interested in this technology to be able to (virtually) congregate and talk amongst ourselves. I learn so much from my peers in these groups – just as I have with all aspects of life with diabetes. The lived experience continues to trump any other way of learning about diabetes.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about technology used by limited numbers. Of course we should. We want others to know about it so they can make an informed choice about whether it may be right for them.  We want our HCPs to know about it and to support those of us using all sorts of technologies and treatments.

Where it becomes problematic is when there is the misconception that this is the norm. Or when those not using the newest technology feel that they are wilfully doing diabetes the ‘old way’. It’s unfair to think for a moment that those who are not using the tech ‘don’t care’ enough about themselves – especially when decisions are made based on a very good understanding of what is available and what they have decided works best for them.

So, back to my ‘Oh, I just use Loop’ comment. It was directed to someone far more technologically advanced than me; someone who runs all sorts of other programs alongside their DIYAPS. They generate lots of reports and make lots of changes and seem to have far more bells and whistles than I even knew were available.

I nodded as they told me all they were doing and then, when they asked me how I manage my diabetes, I answered that I just use Loop. I heard myself saying it and stopped and corrected myself. ‘I meanI use Loop. It works for me. Perfectly.’

We don’t need to make excuses for doing diabetes our own way. If we truly have choice (which I know is not always the case), and we have made the choice based on what we believe to be the best possible treatment and technology for us at that moment, then surely that’s a great thing. We shouldn’t ever be made to feel less committed to our own health and wellbeing. That’s not how it works.

DISLCOSURE

I was invited by Ascensia to co-chair the Diabetes Social Media Summit at ATTD (#ATTDDSMS). I did not receive any payment or in-kind support from them for accepting their invitation. I have co-written a piece for the blog, however this was not edited (apart from inevitable jet-lag-induced typos) and all words are those of mine and the piece’s co-author. You can read that piece here.  

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I never thought I’d be one to think about back-up plans the way I do now. A few years ago, I remember being extraordinarily proud of myself as I wrote this post about my diabetes spares bag. And then a couple of years ago, I thought I was remarkable and quite brilliant at being able to easily manage when I got to work and realised my insulin pump hadn’t made it with me. I thought I had every contingency sorted and was fabulously good at diabetes. Give me a medal, please.

But in the last six months or so, I’ve come to see I’m not quite as prepared as I thought. I probably should point the finger right now at David ‘Bionic Wookiee’ Burren for this. He has highlighted holes in what I thought was a well-planned strategy a number of times (‘What’s your RileyLink Bluetooth address, Renza? You don’t know? You should.’), shaming me into wanting to do better, and really making me question all my life choices at the same time.

Back-up planning has been covered in both the Australian and European Social Media Summits hosted by Ascensia (disclosure at the end of this post) and it is interesting to see that the level of organisation and preparation varies so much in those of us living with diabetes.

Some people have thought out every possible contingency and have a plan for each one. Others have a fixed idea about what might go wrong and have made accommodations for those (that’s me). And others figure that it will all work out and the diabetes gods will sort it out.

I guess that personality type comes into how well-equipped we all may be. Some of us have a far more lackadaisical approach to planning for the apocalypse than others. But I do agree that it never hurts to be prepared or to consider things that may never have entered your mind before.

So here are some things that I have learnt in recent times that have completely changed the way that I think about my back-up planning.

It’s not just about kit (1). It’s all very well to have back up for what happens if (for example) your pump dies, but if that means returning to MDI until a replacement can be delivered, actually knowing how to do MDI is important. (Bless my endo who always asks if I need any long acting insulin ‘just in case’. She gave me some in-date long acting insulin and we had a discussion about what doses would look like after I proclaimed ‘It’s been 18 years since I gave myself a dose of long acting insulin. And it was Protophane. I have no idea what I am doing.’Lovely endo didn’t even roll her eyes at me when she walked me through exactly what I’d need to do to ensure my basal dose was right and the timing of the injections.)

It’s not just about kit (2). Look – my back up plan to my pump dying is another pump. I have a couple in the diabetes spares cupboard and always travel with one. But I don’t carry one around with me on a day-to-day basis. If I was a couple of hours from home and my pump died, I’d need to know what to do in the meantime. Again – it’s been 18 years since I was on MDI, but I always have a spare syringe and insulin with me so I can bolus until I get hooked up again to a working pump. My injection technique is scratchy – very scratchy, but in a pinch, I can manage it. There’s nothing wrong with asking for some re-education on something for which you may be a little out of practise.

Apparently my long-held belief that the DOC is my back-up plan is not actually adequate, because who is going to be able to provide me with insulin/pump consumables/spare pump/battery/RileyLink at 3am when things like to go wrong. (This is despite the success of the whole Pumpless in Vienna story.)

Equally, having a neighbour with type 1 diabetes two doors down is great when I need a Dexcom sensor at breakfast time. But it would probably stretch and test the neighbourly spirit if I woke her and her family in the middle of the night because I desperately wanted my loop to turn back to green and needed a sensor to do that.

I need a back-up of EVERYTHING I use if I want to be able to seamlessly manage any issue that comes up. With Loop that means a spare Loopable pump, a spare Riley Link, a spare G5 transmitter as well as all the necessary consumables. That takes expense as well as organisation.

CABLES!! They need to be part of my back up plan. I was at a conference last year somewhere (can’t remember where) and remembered as I was about to sleep that I’d forgotten the charger to my RileyLink. And just last month didn’t charge it overnight, meaning that my Loop turned red while I was at work and I was unable to do anything until I got home. Carrying the right charging equipment for all devices is important.

But! If I don’t have all these things, I need to ensure that I have a suitable, easy and fully ready-to-go option that will get me through until I can assemble all required to return to normal service.

When your back up plan becomes someone else’s back up plan, you need to do something about it. Case in point: at the DOCDAY event at ATTD, a friend leaned across the table and asked me if I had a spare battery for her Loopable pump. Of course I did, because there is always at least one in my spares bag. I handed it to her and made a mental note to pick up some more AAA batteries next time I passed a convenience store. Of course, I forgot all about it until Loop started complaining and that the battery was running low. Down to 4% battery and starting to feel a little nervous, I found a tiny little store in a backstreet in Brussels, crossing my fingers as I walked in that there would be a stash somewhere of what I needed. There was and I changed the battery just as my Loop app was showing 0% battery.

Beating ourselves up about our perceived or real lack of planning is unnecessary. As Sophie, one of the participants at #ATTDDSMS, said: ‘Life gets in the way.’ And it does. I challenge anyone not living with diabetes to do their normal life, live with diabetes and not only think about all the ‘just-in-case’ scenarios, but also prepare for each and every one of them.

But mostly, what I have come to see is that the point of a back-up plan is for it to be smooth and simple, with as little disruption to our day as possible. A plan that requires a cast of thousands, hours of travel, is insanely complex and relies on a number of external factors that are potentially beyond our control is not really going to make executing our plan all that easy, or give us peace of mind. And that’s a big part of what this is all about – feeling confident that we can manage whatever gets thrown at us.

That is, after all, the nature of this condition we live with.

DISLCOSURE

I attended the ATTD conference in Berlin. My (economy) airfare and part of my accommodation was covered by DOCLab (I attended an advisory group meeting for DOCLab), and other nights’ accommodation was covered by Roche Global (I attended the Roche Blogger MeetUp). While my travel and accommodation costs have been covered, my words remain all my own and I have not been asked by DOCLab or Roche Global to write about my attendance at their events or any other aspect of the conference. 

I was invited by Ascensia to co-chair the Diabetes Social Media Summit at ATTD (#ATTDDSMS). I did not receive any payment or in-kind support from them for accepting their invitation. I have co-written a piece for the blog, however this was not edited (apart from inevitable jet-lag-induced typos) and all words are those of mine and the piece’s co-author. You can read that piece here.  

My third ATTD, and as soon as I started reading through the program, flagging the sessions I planned to attend and the technology I was keen to get my hands on and learn more about, a familiar feeling started to settle over me. It was there the first time I attended the conference and again last year.

And that feeling is that this conference, more than any other, reminds me just how unlevel the diabetes landscape is. With the shiniest of the shiny and newest of new technology and the most impressive treatment options available to people with diabetes on show, the vast gap between the haves and have nots is stark.

I was not the only person to acknowledge this. My first full day in Berlin saw me in an advisory committee meeting with diabetes advocates from across Europe, and when asked about the most pressing issues in diabetes, access was at the top of the list for every single one of us. Most (if not all?) of us in that room live in places with outstanding funding and reimbursement programs for diabetes drugs, technology and education – having to go without or ration insulin isn’t something we have ever needed to consider. Even those of us self-funding CGM are in a position of extreme advantage to be able to cover the significant out of pocket expense. But we all know that for millions of people across the world, this is not the case.

And then, later in the week at the Ascensia Diabetes Social Media Summit, another issue that came up again and again was choice. Choice refers to range of factors in diabetes. Choice of the type of technology we use, including the different brands; choice of the healthcare setting we feel best suits our brand of diabetes; choice of the specific healthcare professionals we see. It is also the freedom to be comfortable with our choice of technology, not feeling we need to conform to what others believe is the right thing.

But just how real is the whole idea of choice in diabetes? And when it comes to technology, how much of the decision about what we are using and how we are managing our diabetes is truly our own?

When access to basic education and treatments is severely limited, there is rarely any choice at all. In some places, a diabetes diagnosis is life and death, and surely in those cases all that people are choosing is life. How they manage that is probably not contemplated at all. In countries where diabetes does actually equal a death sentence, no one is debating whether TIR and A1c is how they would like to track their diabetes management.

But we don’t need to look to countries where outcomes are still so desperate to see lack of choice. Just this week, a very distressed mother of a young child with diabetes called me because they had just been told they were not permitted to use the pump they had chosen after careful deliberation and research.

This isn’t uncommon. Diabetes clinics across Australia make it difficult for PWD to be able to use the technology we have decided is the best choice for us. Sometimes that means not being able to use the specific technology we want (i.e. refusing to sign the necessary paperwork for a pump), or it could mean not being given the right to choose the brand of device we prefer.

At ATTD, I frequently heard about how healthcare is being transformed, and that may be true for those of us not disadvantaged by the country where we live and are trying to access care. We should celebrate the advances being made and the better outcomes so many of us have seen. But at the same time, we need to find a way to not get so far ahead of ourselves that we leave the most vulnerable further and further behind.

Click for original tweet.

I have been interested in discussions about time in range (TIR) for some time now. It has become a key way that I assess just how I am tracking with Loop and, as I wrote earlier this year, really the only measure I’m interested in. I like it because it can give me real time information about how I am tracking. It shows that when I am at a conference and not eating properly, but doing more activity than I normally would, my TIR is going to be less than if I was at home in a regular routine. It also shows what happens when I’m not Looping for ten hours (thanks to a variety of factors) my TIR plummets!

At ATTD this year, there was a symposium dedicated to the topic and from the standing-room-only crowding of the hall, it’s clear that a lot of others are interested too. In the few presentations I attended about the Medtronic 670G, TIR was frequently referred to (in one study there was a slight increase in TIR after PWD had been using the device for 8 months, although significantly lower than what people using DIYAPS are reporting.)

Just as I did while live tweeting the session, I have to address the issue of access to the technology. TIR is all very well, but it takes tools, and those tools are prohibitively expensive. Some places have no subsidies available for CGM or Flash, others have limited reimbursement programs. And, of course, there are places around the world where accessing glucose strips is a near impossibility.

TIR is a measure for a very, very privileged few, and as much as it’s held up as the future of diabetes, it is simply incorrect and misleading to suggest even for a moment that most people with diabetes have this data at their fingertips. (They barely have finger prick data at their fingertips.)

But, this is a conferences about the latest in technologies and treatments, so let’s talk time in range…

Dr Irl Hirsch is an MD from University of Washington, Seattle. His session as listed in the program was: ‘Time in Range vs. HbA1c: Are our patients ready to change?’, but he changed it to a far more suitable ‘Time in Range vs. HbA1c: Are our patients and health-care colleagues ready to change?’

Irl’s short talk was an absolute cracker and started by exploring what we already know – A1c is flawed. We’ve known this for years, but it’s taken having easy access to CGM data to truly appreciate just how flawed. The two points he raised to back this up were A1c levels can’t be compared between two people (and yet that happens all the time!); each A1c comprises a wide median glucose range. In other words, A1c sucks (they were his words, not mine!).

And then the talk got fun as the focus shifted to just how ready different groups were to shift from a focus on A1c to TIR. The three groups were: people with diabetes (and their families), endocrinologists and non-endocrinologists. Irl presented the results from a survey of diabetes HCPs asking their thoughts on the readiness of those three groups to embrace TIR. Here are the results:

The HCPs surveyed all believe that PWD are by far the most ready to change from A1c to TIR. At the same time they believed that no non-endo HCPs were ready. We really have a problem.

The survey participants offered a lot more than just their assessment of the readiness for this shift. They provided extra comments about some of the barriers to the change. This is how some of the HCPs (all working in diabetes) assessed the inclination for PWD to move to TIR:

But perhaps the most unsettling was what they thought about non-endocrinologists willingness to start to talk TIR. (I think that they were mostly referring to primary care physicians.)

As the list was read out, and the audience responded accordingly, my confidence level about how likely it was that TIR would start to become the norm shrank away. This is despite the way that many PWD have already adopted the measure and use it daily.

In the online groups where I spend a lot of time playing, it is clear that we are already very comfortable and committed to talking TIR. People frequently post their Dexcom Clarity data showing the super-nifty image of how much time they have spent in and out of their self-determined range. This is the language we speak.

But despite my unease about just how quickly the shift will happen, it has definitely begun. The International Consensus on TIR was presented which included targets for people with type 1, type 2 and for women during pregnancy. Plus there was evidence presented that showed TIR can predict the likelihood of diabetes-related complications. With all this, and the demand from PWD, we will be hearing about this more and more in coming years.

Looking for more?  This piece by Irl Hirsh, Jennifer Sherr and Korey Hood was just published in Diabetes Care is a really interesting commentary on the issue.

DISLCOSURE

I attended the ATTD conference in Berlin. My (economy) airfare and part of my accommodation was covered by DOCLab (I attended an advisory group meeting for DOCLab), and other nights’ accommodation was covered by Roche Global (I attended the Roche Blogger MeetUp). While my travel and accommodation costs have been covered, my words remain all my own and I have not been asked by DOCLab or Roche Global to write about my attendance at their events or any other aspect of the conference. 

Let me tell you what is worse than jet lag. Jet lag combined with food poisoning. These are the two extra circles of hell Dante forgot about.

While I am recovering and trying to get my body to accept coffee again, here are some photos from last week’s ATTD conference which was in equal measure amazing, overwhelming, frustrating, intimidating, brilliant and exhausting. I’ll explain more in coming posts, but for now, enjoy the images.

How to deal with jet lag when arriving in Europe #1: night time walk to major tourist site and be amazed.

How to deal with jet lag when arriving in Europe #2: find (half) decent coffee.

How to deal with jet lag when arriving in Europe #2.1: drink all the coffee.

And then drink some more.

#docday is always a highlight. Little dogs called Jamaica make it even better. (Jamaica on the left; Bastian on the right.)

Hello Solo… New pumps headed our way.

MySugr is ALWAYS on message.

Flavour of the conference #1: DIYAPS

Flavour of the conference #2: Time in Range

Vegetables. I craved them.

Because there were so, so, so many dense carbs!

Not that I was complaining. (Especially when mini doughnuts came in Diabetogenic colours!)

Oh – did I say that #SpareARose was mentioned? A lot?

Such as at #docday. (Grumps looking especially grumpy because I’d just announced #SpareAFrown.)

And then? Then there was the smile-a-thon, as we smashed through target after target.

Next week, I’ll go into detail about some of the different sessions, highlights and satellite events I attended. It was a frantic few days – so worthwhile in every possible way. And as always at these conferences, finding those who live diabetes – themselves or with a loved one – provided the necessary grounding throughout the conference. This year, that support was even more pronounced with every single person who was asked to step up to promote #SpareARose doing so in spades. This is all the community. That is what it is all about…

DISLCOSURE

I attended the ATTD conference in Berlin. My (economy) airfare and part of my accommodation was covered by DOCLab (I attended an advisory group meeting for DOCLab), and other nights’ accommodation was covered by Roche Global (I attended the Roche Blogger MeetUp). While my travel and accommodation costs have been covered, my words remain all my own and I have not been asked by DOCLab or Roche Global to write about my attendance at their events or any other aspect of the conference. 

I’ve been Looping for about 17 months now. I’m a fan (perhaps you may have picked that up).

The reason I am a fan has nothing to do with my A1c. In fact, right now, I couldn’t tell you what my A1c is (more about that later). I love Looping because it works for me. It takes away a shedload of my diabetes tasks. It helps me sleep better. It gives me more energy. It means I think about diabetes less. It significantly, significantly, significantly reduces the number of hypos I have, and the impact of the almost-hypos that have replaced the doozeys used to have. It means I get to wear cool t-shirts.

Badge of honour…

Because in exactly the same way as if I have tried a different eating plan it’s never been about numbers on the scale, Loop has never been about A1c.

It’s especially never about a measurement that is so flawed that it really is time to wonder why, for me and those of us who are able to access far more informative and useful data, even bother to have this checked. (Read this piece by Dr Steven Edelman from TCOYD for more on that.)

I have to say that I feel a lot of discomfort when I see A1c as such a focus. Some if it is for the reasons I’ve already stated, but also, it reinforces that we measure our success as PWD and how we are managing with this number. If my A1c went up this time, I really couldn’t care less. I’ve not long come off three weeks of holidays where diabetes barely interrupted the flow of sunshine, sea and sleep. And family, friends and food. I have not had a hypo in months. I have not had days of wanting ‘I hate diabetes’ tattooed across my forehead.

I went to my endo appointment last week still in slight January holiday mode. I completely forgot to call ahead for a pathology request – in fact, I’d forgotten all about the appointment until I was sent the text reminder a few days earlier. I used to think it was a waste of time not showing up without results waiting for me. But I wasn’t really all that concerned this time. I had some other information at hand including how much time I am spending in range. That gave me enough to focus on before I moved onto other things I wanted to talk about: the things that are really important to me with my diabetes.

Living well with diabetes is about so many factors. Those factors will be different for different people (and yes – A1c may be how some people consider living well).

As someone who has had really dark times with diabetes, it’s the light times that demonstrate how well I am doing. Those times may not be the times that I am ticking boxes that we are told gauge our success. They have certainly not been times necessarily marked with a low or in-range A1c. They are the times when the impact of diabetes is lightest. When it dances across my conscious rather than lives there. When it casts a gentle shadow rather than a thunderous cloud. A1c has never had anything to do with that.

It’s Research Wednesday again. Still not a thing, although Jane Speight from the @ACBRD disagreed with me after I said that last time, so maybe it is a thing?

Anyway, here are a few research studies you may be interested in getting involved in. Remember, participating in research is a great way to help contribute to and shape diabetes care, as well as provide insights that only those of us living with (or around) diabetes truly can. Please do consider getting involved if you can.

Women Loopers in Australia – we need you!

The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes is currently recruiting women for a research project on DIYAPS.

This one has been open for a while and for some reason lots of blokes have participated, but we need some women to get involved. Women are a truly significant part of the DIY world. I know that when I want information about DIYAPS, the first person I look to is Dana Lewis. And for Loop specific info, Katie DiSimone. I also know that there are a lot of women loopers in Australia. And we need you!

So – if you are female, living in Australia, aged 18 years or over, have had type 1 diabetes for at least a year, and using Loop, OpenAPS or AndroidAPS , please consider getting involved. This study involves a phone interview which will take 45 to 60 minutes, and you’ll be asked about your looping views and experiences.

CLICK HERE TO CONTACT THE PROJECT MANAGER FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

(Disclosure: I’m involved in this study.)

Loopers everywhere – we need you!

The OPEN project is a collaboration of international patient innovators, clinicians, social and computer scientists and advocacy organisation investigating DIYAPS. The first piece of work from this consortium is called DIWHY (get it?) which is looking to provide a better understanding of the reasons that people with diabetes decide to take the DIYAPS road, as well as examine barriers and motivators to building and using these systems.

You can participate in DIWHY by taking the online survey which is open to adults with diabetes as well as parents/carers of children with diabetes. The survey is available in English and German.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND DO THE SURVEY

(Disclosure: I’m involved in this one too…)

Social media and diabetes care

Jacqueline, from the University of Hamburg, is currently looking for people to complete an online survey to help with her Masters thesis. She is looking at the importance and use of social media in diabetes.

The survey is anonymous and will take you about ten minutes to complete.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

Still open – new mums with diabetes

Women with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes who are either pregnant or have been pregnant in the last year are still needed for a survey from the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre at Sydney Medical School (from the University of Sydney).

This is a twenty minute survey and the aim of the research is to better understand the glucose monitoring preferences and experiences of women with diabetes during (or planning for) pregnancy.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

I spent a lot of the weekend feeling a little sentimental. Our beautiful girl turned 14 and as usual, we reminisced, telling the story of the day she was delivered. And I reread my pregnancy diary, the feelings of intense excitement, anxiety, fear and anticipation flooding back. I remembered how, 14 years ago, the only way to check glucose levels was to do blood glucose monitoring. And I was doing that up to twenty times a day. My poor, poor fingers.

While I was remembering all this ever the weekend, I was holding onto an embargoed secret, knowing that an announcement about the expansion of the current NDSS CGM funding program was about to made. In between organising a weekend of birthday celebrations and wrapping gifts, I was also planning for the media announcement which would be taking place early on Sunday morning at a local women’s hospital. I took breaks in preparing food for Sunday’s birthday lunch and read running sheets, familiarised myself with the ‘talent’ who would be explaining what the new funding meant to them, and made sure that I knew where I had to be at 8.30am the following morning.

And amongst all that, I prepared myself for what I knew would be coming: disappointment. There would be a lot of disappointment because the funding package was not going to include everyone, and those who missed out would be upset.

This is my personal blog, and although I work for Diabetes Australia, this is about my own life with diabetes, and to a degree, my life around diabetes. I write a lot about what is going on in the ‘diabetes world’ – both in Australia and more broadly. Sometimes what I write is directly applicable to me; other times, it’s not.

Today, I am writing about the announcement that was made yesterday and I guess that the line between personal and professional is potentially going to get a little murky. Please read my disclosures at the end of this post carefully, because my bias needs to be strongly acknowledged – by anyone reading this piece… and by me while writing it. But I hope that also, people understand that I need to write about this personally too.

In a nutshell, yesterday’s announcement delivered an extra $100 million dollars to fund CGM to women with type 1 diabetes planning for, during and after pregnancy;  people aged 21 years and over who hold a concession card (and meet clinical criteria); and children and young people with ‘other insulin-requiring diabetes’ (for example, cystic fibrosis-induced diabetes). This is all on top of the current $54 million funding which provides free CGM products to children and young people up to the age of 21 who meet the clinical criteria. Also, Flash glucose monitoring has been added to the list of products available, meaning more choice for people with diabetes.

This is good news.

And yesterday, as I chatted with women with type 1 diabetes who had just had babies and were planning more, or were currently planning for a pregnancy, I knew just how much of a difference having access to this technology would mean to them.

Kelly and baby Grace with Health Minister, Greg Hunt, and CEO of Diabetes Australia, Greg Johnson.

I thought back to when I was pregnant and how it would have been so much easier had CGM been available then.

How wonderful that these women, and thousands of other women like them can breathe just a little easier knowing that they will be supported with this tech while planning and during their pregnancies – and the period afterwards. Oh – and then I remembered breastfeeding hypos, the jars of jelly beans on every flat surface in our house – including the back of the loo – and how, when home alone, I used to feed our baby girl on the floor in case I had a bad low and dropped her. CGM alerts and alarms would have been so brilliant then!

CGM is out of reach for so many people. It is expensive technology and I know there are people making sacrifices to be able to afford to use it. I know what that is like – back before pump consumables were on the NDSS, we had to budget $300 per month for lines and cartridges, tightening our spending on everyday items, forgoing holidays, meals out and other things we wanted to do so that I could continue to drive my pump.

Is it fair that the technology we use to keep us alive means we need to make such sacrifices. It certainly doesn’t seem so. And I know that is how people are feeling after the funding announcement was revealed yesterday.

Am I disappointed? To a degree, yes, I am. I believe that I, and other people with diabetes like me are every bit as worthy as women with T1D planning for to have a baby, and kids and young people with type 1 diabetes, and adults on healthcare cards. I completely disagree that type 1 diabetes is harder for kids than it is for adults, because actually, type 1 is tough at any age, and each age and stage of life has its own particular challenges.

But I refuse to see yesterday’s announcement as anything other than a positive step in the right direction, just as I saw the initial funding for children and young people a good thing.

People have missed out; people who will still not be able to afford CGM; people who desperately need this technology to live the best diabetes lives they possibly can. And that’s why yesterday is not the end to the CGM funding story. In fact, it’s a new beginning.

Also, I think it is important to point this out: An announcement like this does not happen quickly. It comes from years and years and years of work. CGM  has been in Australia for over ten years now. Yes – that’s right. Over ten years. So when you hear people referring to this as new or emerging technology, or saying it wasn’t around five or six years ago, that’s rubbish.

I can remember that pretty much as soon as CGM was launched into Australia, Diabetes Australia and JDRF Australia started to fight, lobby and advocate for this to be funded. How do I know this? Because I sat in meetings back then as we tried to nut out just how to approach the government for funding. What would work? What sort of model was achievable? How would the people who were most at need benefit? There are no easy answers to these questions. All we have to rely on is evidence and what the evidence shows is that there are some groups that benefit most from CGM technology.

Diabetes Australia, JDRF Australia, the Australian Diabetes Society (ADS), the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA), the Australian Paediatric Endocrine Group (APEG), and the Australian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS) have worked together to form an alliance to provide evidence-based submissions and information around CGM technology (amongst other issues). Why is this important? Because bringing together the peak consumer bodies with the peak professional bodies means that all stakeholders are represented, and it’s pretty hard to disagree when we combine PWD sharing our own stories for why this tech matters alongside HCPs talking about the clinical benefits.

At no time has this alliance ever pushed for anything other than funding for those with high clinical need. The idea of an upper age limit was never, ever promoted by this group – we never fought for access to be only for children and young people. Our original funding submission is a matter of public record and can be seen here and you can clearly see that we were advocating for what the evidence pointed to.

I am proud to have been a part of this work – for over ten years now. It is the very definition of ‘slow burn’. This slow burn is not all about being in the public eye and yelling about what we do. In fact, it is all very much out of the public eye. It’s monotonous at times; it can be repetitive and it takes time.

Yesterday we celebrated. Today we’re back at work, looking to how we get the next bit of funding secured.

And finally, we can yell and stamp our feet and say that we should have fully funded CGM for all people with type 1 diabetes. But that is never going to happen. If we look to other countries where there is funding available to people with diabetes of all ages, there is still clinical criteria that must be met in order for people to access reimbursed sensors and/or transmitters. Nowhere has a policy where anyone and everyone with type 1 diabetes can simply show up, put out their hand and be given a CGM. Instead, clinical need is used to determine who has access. I think that we need to be realistic about expectations of what funding will look like in the future.

DISCLOSURES

I have worked for Diabetes Australia since January 2016, and prior to this role, worked at Diabetes Victoria for over fourteen years. I have been involved in CGM funding submissions from Diabetes Australia and the alliance which includes JDRF, ADS, ADEA, APEG and ADIPS. I was also on the Department of Health’s implementation Committee after the initial $54 million CGM funding was announced. I have been involved in writing information and education resources about CGM and hosted a number of national webinars after CGM products were first listed on the NDSS. I have spoken at technology events held at Parliament House, sharing my personal experience of why I use CGM, and, more broadly, why this technology is beneficial to many people living with diabetes.

I use CGM full time. I do not receive any subsidy or discounts for using CGM, and fully fund transmitters and sensors myself. I am fortunate to have friends in Europe who have occasionally provided me with sensors when they have spares, and I am currently using a re-batteried Dexcom G5 transmitter. At the beginning of November, I spoke at a health professionals workshop for ADS where I demonstrated how to use the Dexcom G5, and was provided with one sensor for this demonstration.

The cutest baby ever.

Sometime last week, I marked a year since I started using Loop. Measure for measure my diabetes is a lot nicer to deal with these days and I know that I have settled into the comfort that comes with something that just seems to be working. The predictability of loop seems to fly in the face of all that is diabetes, so I do admit to not getting too comfortable with it all – even after fifty-two weeks of seemingly boring diabetes.

This was startlingly obvious to me when I reflect on my last two very busy weeks. As I ran around the Adelaide Convention Centre last week, not once did I think about Conference Hypo Syndrome. As I flew from Melbourne to Sydney to Adelaide and back home to Melbourne, I didn’t think, even for a moment, about travel lows and highs. And throughout the busy days, and the long busy nights of the two weeks – which involved hours sitting still in sessions and meetings as well as times of a lot more activity – apart from a cursory glance at my Loop app, diabetes didn’t bother me.)

It has been almost 12 months since I first spoke about Loop at a health professional conference, and it’s fair to say that I am still slightly traumatised by the memory of that session. I know that for the vast majority of the people in the room on that rainy day in Sydney, most had never even heard of the world of DIY diabetes, and the idea that a forty-something-year old woman with diabetes was standing before them talking about how I’d built my own pancreas was more than a little terrifying. And they let me know about it.

There was disbelief, horror and alarm that I was telling my story. I repeatedly heard people tell me that this was irresponsible and unsafe. And a number of HCPs were shocked, worried and appalled that the instructions for others to do what I had done were freely, easily and openly available online. (My cheeriness about open source wasn’t mirrored by most at ADATS.)

I’m pleased to say that wasn’t the response last week, during or following the DIYAPS symposium ‘The Brave New World of Diabetes Technology’, which featured me sharing about my own personal experience of why I decided to, and my first year of Loop; David Burren speaking about the technical aspects of the DIY technologies, and Cheryl Steele encouraging HCPs to support people using these technologies. The formal presentations were rounded out with Greg Johnson launching the Diabetes Australia DIY Technologies Position Statement.

It was standing room only, and great (and surprising) to see a number of endocrinologists in an ADEA symposium. We deliberately programmed the session to have a lot of time for questions, because we knew there would be lots! And there were.

There were a number of questions from the audience about what the role of HCPs is if someone comes to them and says they are, or they want to start, looping, and I think the consensus is that while we don’t necessarily need our HCPs to understand the intricacies of the specific technologies, and we are very clear that we don’t want, expect or need them to be able to help us build our loop, we need them to acknowledge that DIYAPS is a reality for more and more people with diabetes.

The overall feeling in throughout and following our symposium was of interest and curiosity. But even more, a desire to truly learn and understand more about the #WeAreNotWaiting world and where HCPs fit into it all, and how they can support those of us making the choice to loop.

The shift in the attitudes of health professionals is significant and important, and it extends far beyond DIY diabetes technologies. Because it all comes back to the whole idea of choice. There will never be only one right way for all people with diabetes. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the foods we choose to eat, the technologies we choose to use, where we decide to see how HCPs, our decision to wait or not wait, or the support and services we choose to link in with. We need to have the space to do what is best for our diabetes. We need the freedom to make the choice. And we need our HCPs to support our decisions.

I have already shared this, but in case you missed it, the three presentations from our symposium can be watched here:

DISCLOSURES

My travel and accommodation to ADC was funded as part of my role at Diabetes Australia. Thanks to the ADS and ADEA for providing me with a media pass to attend the Congress. 

The day before the Australasian Diabetes Congress (ADC) started, Ascensia Diabetes Care brought together a number of Australian diabetes blogger and advocates for the Australian Diabetes Social Media Summit, #OzDSMS – an event that promised to tackle some interesting and difficult topics in diabetes. The social media component was relevant for a number of reasons: the #TalkAboutComplications initiative that The Grumpy Pumper would be speaking about had been (and continues to be) driven on social media; and we really wanted to share as much as we could from the day on different social media platforms to ensure that those not in the room had a clear picture of what was going on and were able to join the conversation.

This planning for the event happened after one of those brainstorming meetings of minds and chance that sometimes occur at diabetes conference. I caught up with Joe Delahunty, Global Head of Communications at Ascensia at ADA because he wanted to speak with me about the launch of their Contour Next One blood glucose meter into the Australian market. And from there, plans for the social media summit were hatched. Joe isn’t afraid to look outside the box when considering ways to work with PWD, and his idea of a blogger event tied in beautifully with the ADC which would already have a number of diabetes advocates in attendance. We both knew that we needed a drawcard speaker. So he sent us Grumps.

One thing was clear from the beginning of the event’s planning – we wanted this event to tackle some issues that aren’t always readily and keenly discussed at diabetes gatherings. It is often a frustration of mine when following along industry-funded advocate events that the topics can seem a little frivolous, and there is the risk that they can seem a little junket-like because most of what is being shared is selfies from the attendees in exotic locations. (For the record, I am always really proud of the Aussie DX events hosted by Abbott because the programs don’t appear as though we’ve been brought together to do nothing more than celebrate our lack of beta cell function while swanning around Australian capital cities.)

The #OzDSMS program was simple – three talks plus a product plug. The discussion was going to be led and directed by the PWD in the room, but the Ascensia team wanted to be part of that discussion, rather than just sitting and listening.

Grumps led the first session in a discussion about how the whole #TalkAboutComplications thing came about after being diagnosed with a foot ulcer. Although he had prepared a talk and slides, the conversation did keep heading off on very convoluted tangents as people shared their experiences and asked a lot of questions.

For the second session, Grumps and I drove a discussion  focused on decision making and choice when it comes to diabetes technologies, with a strong theme running through that while the people in the room may know (and perhaps even use) the latest and greatest in tech, most people using insulin are still using MDI and BG monitoring as their diabetes tech. (For some perspective: in Australia, there are 120,000 people with type 1 diabetes and about 300,000 insulin-requiring people with type 2 diabetes. Only about 23,000 people use insulin pumps as their insulin delivery method. And there would not be anywhere near that number using CGM.)

This certainly is interesting when we consider that most online discussions about diabetes technology are about the latest devices available. We tried to nut out how to make the discussion about the most commonly-used technologies relevant – and prominent too.

Also in this session was a conversation about back up plans. While this is one of Grumps’ pet topics (he wrote about it in one of his #WWGD posts here), I think he met his match in David Burren, our own Bionic Wookiee. Between the two of them, they have back up plans on top of back up plans on top of back up plans, and over the week came to the rescue of a number of us at ADC who clearly are not as paranoid well organised as them.

Yes, there was talk of product. Ascensia’s Contour Next One meter was being launched at ADC, so there were freebies for all and a short presentation about the meter. (For a super detailed review of the new meter and the app that accompanies it, here’s Bionic Wookiee’s take.)

It makes sense that device companies use these sorts of events as an opportunity to spruik product, especially if it’s a new product. I am not naïve enough to ever forget that we’re dealing with the big business of medical tech, shareholders, ROI and a bottom line. But as I have said before, I WANT us to be part of their marketing machine, because the alternative is that we’re not included in the discussion. I’ve not drunk the Kool Aid – I’m fully aware they know that we will have some reach if we write about their product. I’m also fully aware that even though our bias should always be considered, the words remain our own.

I was super pleased that during the small part of the day dedicated to talking about the device, the presentation wasn’t simply about trying to blind us with all the fancy bells and whistles included in the meter. Instead, the focus was on accuracy. As I wrote here, accuracy will always be king to me, because I am dosing a potentially lethal drug based on the numbers this little device shows me. (Well, these days, I need it for when I calibrate my CGM which will then inform Loop to dose that potentially lethal drug.) Accuracy matters. Always and it should be the first thing we are told about when it comes to any diabetes device.

We moved to the Adelaide Oval for dinner for a final presentation by CDE and fellow PWD, Cheryl Steele, who also spoke about accuracy and why it is critical (this went beyond just talking about the new meter). I walked away considering my lax attitude to CGM calibration…not that I’ve necessarily made any changes to that attitude yet.

It was an exhausting day, but a very satisfying one. There was a lot of chatter – both on- and offline and it felt that this was just the start of something. Ascensia has not run an event like this before and hopefully the lively discussions and engagement encourages them to see the merit in bringing together people with diabetes for frank and open dialogue about some not-so-easy topics. While this event was exclusively for adults with type 1 diabetes, I think people with type 2 diabetes, and other stakeholders such as parents of kids with diabetes, would benefit from coming together to share their particular experiences and thoughts in a similar event setting, and potentially some events which bring different groups together to hear others’ perspectives.

As ever, I felt that this event (and others like it) go a long way towards boosting opportunities between PWD and industry, and I am a firm believer that this is where we need to be positioned. Thanks to Ascensia for allowing that to happen; thanks to others from far and wide who joined in the conversation – we were listening. And mostly, thanks to all the advocates in the room for contributing so meaningfully.

Disclosures

I was involved in the planning for the Ascensia Diabetes Care Social Media Summit and attended and spoke at the events Grumps attended. I did not receive any payment from Ascensia for this involvement or for attending the Summit. They did provide lunch and dinner, and gave me a free Contour Next One blood glucose meter. And an almost endless supply of coffee. Ascensia has not asked me to write about any of the work I’ve done with them. But I will, because I like to share and I know there are people who are desperate to know what was going on while Grumps was here!

Grumps was here as a guest of Ascensia Diabetes Care, who brought him to Australia to be the keynote speaker at the Ascensia Australia Diabetes Social Media Summit and to speak at other events about his #TalkAboutComplications initiative.

My travel and accommodation to ADC was funded as part of my role at Diabetes Australia. I would like to thank the ADS and ADEA for providing me with a media pass to attend the Congress. 

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