You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Wellbeing’ category.

New year, new jumble. And lots of saved links from the last few weeks to share.

#OzDOC 2.0

Did you know that after OzDOC had it’s ‘final’ tweetchat at the beginning of December last year, it’s had a reboot and is now continuing to go at a great rate. David Burren (AKA Bionic Wookiee) kicked off the chat but is looking for people to volunteer to the moderators’ roster. There’s a brand new Twitter account to follow (@OzDOC_host), but the #OzDOC hashtag continues to shine brightly.

Same #OzDOC time, same #OzDOC channel. (i.e. Tuesdays at 8.30pm AEDT)

And while we’re talking tweetchats…

…make sure you keep an eye out on the #GBDOC tweetchats, which also had a bit of a restart last year and are going absolutely brilliantly. Follow @GbdocTChost for topics and moderators.

Now is a great time for Aussies to participate in #GBDOC because with the time zone difference, the chat is on Thursday 8am AEDT…which is actually quite pleasant. (It all goes to pot and becomes more difficult when daylight saving kicks in/out in respective hemispheres in coming months, but for now, it’s certainly manageable!)

Jane’s profile

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Professor Jane Speight and I make no apologies for mentioning her so frequently on this blog. She is truly a champion for and of people with diabetes and her pioneering work on diabetes and #LanguageMatters, and social stigma are changing the landscape for those of us living with diabetes.

Last week, a profile of Jane and her work was published in The Lancet. Congrats, Jane. I can’t imagine a more worthy recipient of this attention. Please keep on keeping on. I for one am very grateful to have you on our side!

Read the article here – it’s free, but you will need to register/log in to access it.

(Click photo for source)

Dear ‘patient’

I was really interested to read this BMJ Opinion piece about medical letters, with the writers suggesting that instead of addressing ‘report letters’ to referring (and other) doctors and HCPs, that they should be addressed directly to the person, CCing in the doctor who would ordinarily have been sent the letter.

I love that idea! My endo generally copies me in on anything she sends out to my other HCPs to keep me in the loop, but I think that actually writing directly to me is even better.

HCPs would need to completely reconsider the language they adopt, the terminology they use and the overall tone of the communication, and I believe that there is nothing that should be shared with another HCP about me that shouldn’t be shared directly with me.

Interesting idea. And interesting to see if it has legs…

Writing for Grumps

After writing for me a few weeks ago, I returned the favour and wrote a post for The Grumpy Pumper. (I think the deal he made was something like ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’, so I had to come up with the goods.)

This is all part of Grumps’ attempts to get people with diabetes speaking about #TalkAboutComplications in an open and honest way to help reduce the shame that seem to go hand in hand with a complications diagnosis.

Get ready for Spare a Rose spam

This year’s campaign is about to kick off. And if you want to know why I support this campaign, here’s just one reason.

Hospital admissions and T1D study

Rebecca Munt from Flinders University is currently enrolled in a PhD at Flinders University and is looking for participants in her research.

The focus of her study is to explore the experiences of self-management for adults with type 1 diabetes in the hospital setting (when T1D is not the primary admission diagnosis). If you’re interested in participating in Rebecca’s study, have type 1 diabetes, are over 18 years of age and have been admitted to hospital within the last two to five years (not for diabetes), please call Rebecca on (08) 8201 5749 or email rebecca.munt@flinders.edu.au

(The project has Social Behavioural Research Ethics Committee approval from Flinders University.)

Future of medical conferences

I have been very vocal in recent years about the shortcomings of diabetes conferences, specifically the lack of involvement and engagement of people with diabetes as part of the planning, running and presenting of the conference. So this piece really resonated about why medical meetings need a revamp, and some ideas for what could be done differently.

(Click for original tweet)

Because #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs.

Does the story we know and love about Banting need a rewrite?

I was fascinated to watch the short documentary shared in this story which suggests that the frequently-told story of the discovery of insulin is missing out a critical part.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

This blog post by Sue Robins detailing two vastly different medical appointments is compelling – and quite heartbreaking –reading.

More D Merch

Totally true!

Click image to get your own!

 

Advertisements

It’s not really a great day in diabetes with news all over my SoMe feeds about a study published in Diabetologia which links high glucose levels with dementia, and a report from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute showing Aussies with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to suffer sudden cardiac death.

Perspective is really important on days like today. I’m not in any way wanting to minimise the significance of the these reports – obviously we should take them seriously. But equally, I think we also need to find some positives in the diabetes space and remember that it is not all dire and critical.

Diabetes is serious and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know diabetes. This weekend, a true giant in Australian diabetes died. Hal Breidahl was a pioneer who co-founded the Australian Diabetes Society.  In a piece he wrote back in 1980 (and the language reflects that it was written in 1980!!!) about what people with diabetes want to know he states:

All diabetes is severe – unless adequately controlled. Patients often want to know ‘how bad is my diabetes?’ or ‘how severe is the condition?’ or ‘how high is the blood sugar?’ The notion that ‘I’ve only got a touch of sugar’ or ‘I only have mild diabetes’ should not be allowed to remain…

We get it. Diabetes is serious. Nasty things happen. We know it.

But I want to add to this. There is – there has to be – more to diabetes than the negative stories that make the news. Because in amongst those stories there are these things to remember, and I seek them out each day:

  • Diabetes is serious, but it is also the condition I need to live with and find some semblance of balance as I work out how to fit it into my life.
  • I need more than just the negatives, or bad news highlights. Because not offering the things I can do to live as best I can does nothing for my mental health – or for my diabetes health.
  • Attention grabbing headlines that only tell part of the story do nothing to make me believe that I will be able to live well with diabetes. Also, ‘live well’ means different things to different people and it’s a moveable feast, but I know that the idea that we need to be complications-free to be living well is a flawed and dangerous idea.
  • There is a lot of positive research about diabetes and we need to know about that too. Like this which reports people with type 1 diabetes are living longer.
  • There is an undeniable truth that reading over and over and over again that diabetes is going to increase my risk of <insert whatever you bloody well feel like> is exhausting. I feel as though I have been kicked in the gut every time it happens even though I know that I am living the best diabetes life I possibly can.
  • While diabetes may increase the risk of all sorts of things, sometimes it just doesn’t, because sometimes it’s not diabetes. If others could remember that, it would be useful so that any other affliction isn’t automatically lumped in the ‘It’s because you have diabetes’ basket, and not investigated properly.
  • If you are talking about the nasty things that diabetes seems to increase the risk of, please acknowledge that the tools we have to live with this condition are not up to the task. Any failure is not mine as a person with diabetes. It is the failure of a body part that decided to not to what it is supposed to. It is a failure of the insulins currently available not being able to act fast enough. It is a failure of monitors not being accurate enough and delivery devices not delivering properly. Please remind people of that when you also mention that out of range glucose levels (AKA diabetes) means that we’re at a higher risk of not-so-great things.
  • The bad stuff? It may not happen.

On a day like today when I am reading a lot about the diabetes things I really don’t want to think about, it is especially important for me to find some of that balance and search out the good news. Because otherwise diabetes tips into a really dark place where good self-care becomes almost impossible. There is light in diabetes. And sometimes, we need some help finding it. Sometimes we need to search a little harder to see it. Today is one of those days.

I wrote this post on this day last year and today, when it came up in my TimeHop app reread it and realised it is a good one to consider at the beginning of the year as I’m trying to get myself in order. I’ve made some edits to some of the points due to changes I made last year in the way I manage my diabetes. (The original post can be found here.)

I suppose that I was reminded that being good at diabetes – something I’m afraid I miss the mark on completely quite often – does involve others who sometimes don’t necessarily understand what it is that I really need. And I can’t be annoyed if they don’t intrinsically know what I want and need if I can’t articulate it. This post was my attempt to do just that. 

______________

Sometimes, I’m a lousy person with diabetes (PWD). I am thoughtless and unclear about what I need, have ridiculous expectations of others – and myself, and am lazy. But I’m not always like that. And I think I know what I need to do to be better.

Being a better PWD is about being true to myself. It is also about reflecting on exactly what I need and I hope to get it.

  • I need to remember that diabetes is not going away
  • I need to remember that the here and now is just as important as the future
  • I need to remember that I don’t have to like diabetes, but I have to do diabetes
  • I need to remember that the diabetes support teams around me really only have my best interest at heart, and to go easy on them when I am feeling crap
  • I need to empty my bag of used glucose strips more frequently to stop the strip glitter effect that follows me wherever I go – edit: while this is true, I do have to admit to having far fewer strips in my bag these days due to my rather lax calibration technique
  • I need to remember that it is not anyone else’s job to understand what living with my brand of diabetes is all about
  • I need to remember that the frustrating and tiresome nature of diabetes is part of the deal
  • I need to be better at changing my pump line regularly – edit: even more so now that I am Looping and think about diabetes less than before.
  • I need my diabetes tasks to be more meaningful – quit the diabetes ennui and make smarter decisions
  • And I need to own those decisions
  • I need to see my endocrinologist – edit: actually, this one I managed to nail last year and even have an appointment booked in for a couple of months’ time!
  • I need to decide what I want to do with my current diabetes technology. There is nothing new coming onto the market that I want, but what about a DIY project to try something new? #OpenAPS anyone…? – edit: oh yeah. I started Looping….
  • Or, I need to work out how to convince the people at TSlim to launch their pump here in Australia – edit: even more relevant now after yesterday’s announcement that Animas is dropping out of the pump market in Australia
  • I need to check and adjust my basal rates
  • I need to do more reading about LCHF and decide if I want to take a more committed approach or continue with the somewhat half-arsed, but manageable and satisfactory way I’m doing it now – edit: sticking totally to the half-arsed way and happy about it!
  • I need to remind myself that my tribe is always there and ask for help when I need it
  • I need to make these!

And being a better PWD is knowing what I need from my HCPs and working out how to be clear about it, rather than expecting them to just know. (I forget that Legilimency is not actually something taught at medical school. #HarryPotterDigression)

So, if I was to sit down with my HCPs (or if they were to read my blog), this is what I would say:

  • I need you to listen
  • I need you to tell me what you need from me as well. Even though this is my diabetes and I am setting the agenda, I do understand that you have some outcomes that you would like to see as well. Talk to me about how they may be relevant to what I am needing and how we can work together to achieve what we both need
  • I need you to be open to new ideas and suggestions. My care is driven by me because, quite simply, I know my diabetes best. I was the one who instigated pump therapy, CGM, changes to my diet and all the other things I do to help live with diabetes – edit: And now, I’m the one who instigated Loop and built my own hybrid closed-loop system that has completely revolutionised by diabetes management. In language that you understand, my A1c is the best it’s ever been. Without lows. Again: without lows! Please come on this journey with me…
  • I need you to understand that you are but one piece of the puzzle that makes up my diabetes. It is certainly an important piece and the puzzle cannot be completed without you, but there are other pieces that are also important
  • I need you to remember that diabetes is not who I am, even though it is the reason you and I have been brought together
  • And to that – I need you to understand that I really wish we hadn’t been brought together because I hate living with diabetes – edit: actually, I don’t hate diabetes anymore. Don’t love it. Wish it would piss off, but as I write this, I’m kinda okay with it
  • I need you to remember that I set the rules to this diabetes game. And also, that there are no rules to this diabetes game – edit: that may be the smartest thing I have ever written. I’d like it on a t-shirt
  • I need you to understand that I feel very fortunate to have you involved in my care. I chose you because you are outstanding at what you, sparked an interest and are able to provide me what I need
  • I need you to know that I really want to please you. I know that is not my job – and I know that you don’t expect it – but I genuinely don’t want to disappoint you and I am sorry when I do
  • I want you to know that I respect and value your expertise and professionalism
  • I need you to know that I hope you respect and value mine too.

And being a better PWD is being clear to my loved ones (who have the unfortunate and unpleasant experience of seeing me all the time – at my diabetes best and my diabetes worst) and helping them understand that:

  • I need you to love me
  • I need you to nod your heads when I say that diabetes sucks
  • I need you to know I don’t need solutions when things are crap. But a back rub, an episode of Gilmore Girls or a trip to Brunetti will definitely make me feel better, even if they don’t actually fix the crapness
  • Kid – I need you to stop borrowing my striped clothes. And make me a cup of tea every morning and keep an endless supply of your awesome chocolate brownies available in the kitchen
  • Aaron – I like sparkly things and books. And somewhere, there is evidence proving that both these things have a positive impact on my diabetes. In lieu of such evidence, trust and indulge me!
  • I need you to know I am sorry I have brought diabetes into our  lives
  • I need you to know how grateful I am to have you, even when I am grumpy and pissed because I am low, or grumpy and pissed because I am high, or grumpy and pissed because I am me.
  • Edit: I need you to keep being the wonderful people you are. Please know that I know I am so lucky to have you supporting me. 

I was thrilled and honoured to speak in the symposium at #IDF2017 all about peer support. I shared the program with Chris Aldred, better known to all as The Grumpy Pumper, and advocate Dr Phylissa Deroze (you can – and should – find her as @not_defeated on Twitter).

Speakers in the peer support symposium at #IDF2017

When we were putting together the program for the symposium, the idea was that it would offer an overview of what peer support can look like, beginning with how diabetes organisations and community health groups can facilitate and offer a variety of peer support options, and rounding up with the perspectives of people with diabetes who provide and participate in peer support.

I spoke about how diabetes organisations in Australia, through the NDSS, offer a suite of peer support choices, urging the audience to think beyond the usual face-to-face or, increasingly, online peer support group. Activities such as camps for children and adolescents with diabetes, information events, education sessions (such as DAFNE) are all avenues for peer support. Peer support need not only take the form of a group of people sitting in a (real or virtual) room talking about diabetes in a structured or unstructured way. It can happen just by putting people with diabetes in the same space.

I’d never met Phylissa before, but I quickly learnt she is the definition of the word determined. She spoke eloquently about her own type 2 diabetes diagnosis which was anything but ideal. Instead of feeling beaten and overcome by how she had been let down by the healthcare system, she turned to her peers, finding a group that not only helped her diabetes management, but also gave her confidence to live well with diabetes.

Phylissa now facilitates an in-person support group for women with diabetes in Al Ain in the UAE, and is a huge supporter of, and believer in, the power and importance of peer to peer engagement and support in diabetes management. You can read more about Phylissa’s work on her website here.

Grumps, in true Grumps style, gave a talk about how his approach to peer support is more organic and certainly not especially structured. Although involved in some more planned peer support, he believes the most effective way he can support others with diabetes is on an individual, more informal way. Kind of like this:

Click image to see tweet.

And as if putting into practise his talk at the Congress, last week he started a conversation on Twitter about his own recent experiences of being diagnosed with an ulcer in his foot opening the door for people to speak about diabetes complications.

Click image to see tweet.

The way we speak about diabetes-related complications is often flawed. The first we hear of them is around diagnosis and they are held over us as a threat of the bad things to come if we don’t do as we are told. They are also presented to us with the equation of: Well-managed-diabetes + doing-what-the-doctors-say = no complications.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

From then on, complications are spoken of in hushed-voices or accusations. Blame is apportioned to those who develop them: obviously, they failed to take care of themselves.

And because of this, for many people, the diagnosis of a diabetes-related complication is accompanied by guilt, shame and feelings of failure when really, the response should be offers of support, the best care possible and links to others going through the same thing. Peer support.

Back to Grumps’ raising diabetes complications on Twitter. After sharing his own story, suggested that we should not be ashamed to talk about complications.

That was the catalyst others needed to begin volunteering their own stories of complications diagnoses. Suddenly, people were openly speaking about diabetes complications in a matter-of-fact, open way – almost as if speaking about the weather. Some offered heartfelt sympathies, others shared tips and tricks that help them. But the overall sentiments were those of support and camaraderie.

The recurring theme of the peer support symposium at the Congress was that we need to find others we can connect with in a safe space so we can speak about the things that matter to us. It’s not the role of any organisation or HCP to set the agenda – the agenda needs to be fluid and follow whatever people with diabetes need.

END NOTE

While we’re talking peer support, how great is it to see that the weekly OzDOC tweetchat is getting a reprise this week, with Bionic Wookiee, David Burren at the helm. Drop by if you are free at the usual time: Tuesday evening at 8.30pm (AEDT). I’ll be there!

Disclosure

I was the Deputy Lead for the Living with Diabetes Stream, and an invited speaker at the 2017 IDF Congress. The International Diabetes Federation covered my travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress.

This week, for the first time ever, I had no anxiety at all as I prepared for my visit to my endocrinologist. I always feel that I have to put in a disclaimer here, because I make it sound like my endo is a tyrant. She’s not. She is the kindest, loveliest, smartest, most respectful health professional I have ever seen. My anxieties are my own, not a result of the way she communicates with me.

Anyway, now that the disclaimer is done, I walked into her office with a sense of calm. And excitement. It was my first post-Loop appointment. I’d eagerly trotted off for an A1c the week earlier (another first – this diabetes task is usually undertaken with further feelings of dread) and was keenly awaiting the results.

But equally, I didn’t really care what the results were. I knew that I would have an in-range A1c – there was no doubt in my mind of that. I know how much time I am spending in range – and it’s a lot. And I have felt better that I have in a very, very long time.

The eagerness for the appointment was to discuss the new technology that has, quite honestly, revolutionised by diabetes management.

I sat down, she asked how I was. I marvelled – as I always do at the beginning of my appointments with her – how she immediately sets me at ease and sits back while I talk. She listens. I blabber. She never tries to hurry me along, or interrupts my train of thought.  I have her full attention (although I do wonder what she must think as my mind goes off on weird, sometimes non-diabetes related tangents.)

And then I asked. ‘So…what’s my A1c? I had it checked last Wednesday.’ She told me and I took in a sharp breath. There it was, sitting firmly and happily in what I have come to consider ‘pregnancy range’. Even though that is no longer relevant to me, it frames the number and means something.

I shrugged a little and I think perhaps she was surprised at my lack of bursting into tears, jumping up and down and/or screaming. I wasn’t surprised. I repeated the number back to her – or maybe it was so I could hear it again. ‘And no hypos.’ I said. ‘And minimal effort.’

I’ve had A1cs in this range before. In fact, I managed to maintain them for months – even years – while trying to get pregnant, and then while pregnant. But the lows! I know that while trying to conceive and during pregnancy, I was hypo for up to 30% of the time. Every. Single. Day.

It was hard work. No CGM meant relying on frequent BGL checks – between 15 and 20 a day. Every. Single. Day. And it meant a bazillion adjustments on my pump, basal checking every fortnight and constantly second guessing myself and the technology. Sure, that A1c was tight, but it was the very definition of hard work!

This A1c was not the result of anywhere near as much effort.

Surely the goal – or at least one of them – of improved diabetes tech solutions has to be about easing the load and burden of the daily tasks of diabetes. I’m not sure that I’ve actually ever truly believed that any device that I have taken on has actually made things easier or lessened the burden. Certainly not when I started pumping – in fact, when I think about it, it added a significant load to my daily management. CGM is useful, but the requirement to calibrate and deal with alarms is time and effort consuming. Libre is perhaps the least onerous of all diabetes technologies, yet the lack of alarms means it’s not the right device for me at this time.

These tools have all been beneficial at different times for different purposes. It is undeniable they help with my diabetes management and help me to achieve the targets I set for myself. But do they make it easier to live with diabetes? Do they take about some of the burden and make me think less about it and do less for it? Probably not.

Loop does. It reduces my effort. It makes me think about my own diabetes less. It provides results that mean I don’t have to take action as often. It takes a lot of the thinking out of every day diabetes.

So let me recap:  Loop has delivered the lowest A1c in a long time, I sleep better that I’ve slept in 20 years, I feel better – both physically and emotionally – than I have in forever. And I feel that diabetes is the least intrusive it has ever been.

Basically, being deliberately non-complaint has made me the best PWD I can possibly be.

Oh look! Your phone can now be deliberately non-compliant too, thanks to designer David Burren. Click on the link to buy your own. (Also comes in black and white.)

We can work out how much we fork out to pay for diabetes.

It’s expensive. Of course it is. When I added up the costs earlier this year for a Diabetes Blog Week post, I estimated our family budget takes a hit of about $6,500 (excluding private health insurance) each and every year. That’s a lot of cups of coffee and a lot of pairs of boots.

But if I talk about the financial burden of diabetes alone, I’m selling short just how expensive the condition really is. The dollars I fork out each year are only one part of what it costs me – although it is a lot easier to quantify.

Because, there’s time. So much time.

We sit in waiting rooms, travel to appointments, take time out to make calls to make those appointments, call the pharmacy to order insulin and supplies, visit the pharmacy to collect insulin and supplies. Our prescriptions run out and we have to hastily find a time and way to refill them. We sit on the phone waiting to receive pathology results. We take time out of work time, out of family time, out of social time, out of our own time because diabetes demands it.

And then there is time dedicated to the day-to-day minutiae of ‘doing diabetes’. The time it takes to check our BGLs, or change a pump line, or site a new CGM sensor. Then there is the time to look at data, and act upon it. We lose time to treat lows, treat highs, watch CGM traces, question what to do with random numbers. We build up a sleep debt that never gets repaid, no matter how many early nights or nanna naps we try to sneak in.

It adds up. It all adds up – slowly and deliberately until suddenly we realise just how much time it takes. I tried to give a dollar amount to the time I spend doing diabetes, and stopped when I realised just how terrifying it was. If I was able to dedicate that much more time to paid work, I’d be spending a lot more time in New York each year. And then I got depressed and decided to stop adding up the hours I spend on diabetes.

But still, this is just scraping the surface. The money it costs and the time it takes are significant and must not be underestimated. However, the harder to measure personal costs and emotional burden should not be forgotten either.

I don’t really know how to gauge the extent of those costs. I don’t know how to quantify the psychological impact of diabetes – most of the time I can barely qualify it. But I know it’s significant.

During this month, there are a lot of efforts to try to explain diabetes to those not living with it. JDRF’s T1D Footprint calculator is doing the rounds again, and it’s an effective way to put numbers to just some of the tasks we do to manage our diabetes. I really like they’ve added an extra element to their social media activation: a photo frame with the words ‘T1DYouDon’tSee’ which acknowledges our invisible condition.

Because that’s the thing about diabetes. We can tally up hours and dollars, but measuring the stuff we can’t see is a whole lot harder. And for me, that’s where the real expense in diabetes lies.

It’s not really diabetes awareness time here in Australia. We save that each year for the second week in July and then add an extra spurt of awareness raising on World Diabetes Day. But many of us still decide to jump on the bandwagon of our US friends as they spend the whole of November talking diabetes and giving everything a blue wash.

I always start the month strong, lining up blue clothes and scarves and other accessories to be worn each day. I head off for a blue manicure, regretting it pretty much the minute I walk out of the nail salon. I change my profile picture, and add blue circles to all my photos. I write about every awareness and advocacy activity that comes my way.

By the time 14 November rolls around, I’m already starting to feel exhausted and over the whole thing and by the time my birthday hits in the final few days of the month, I’m ready to slap anyone who wants me to wear blue. All the different initiatives start to roll into one and I can’t remember what I’ve mentioned and what I’ve forgotten to spruik.

So this year I’ve decided to do things a little differently. I knew that I needed to make a change to my usual gung-ho approach when I shared a fun post-a-different-diabetes-photo-every-day Instagram challenge this morning and realised that I was feeling a little ambivilent. I was already feeling the pressure of deciding what to post and didn’t want to commit to posting a diabetes-related photo every day to my socials. So I deleted the post and thought about what I really wanted to achieve this month. And I decided that I want to take a gentle approach to my awareness efforts.

This year, when I get to the end of November, and look back over the month, I’m okay if my SoMe feeds are not a daily reminder of awareness-raising activities. I’m fine with not telling every single person I see that it’s diabetes awareness month and then share one new fact about diabetes for them to commit to memory. I can live with not being sartorially blue or navy or aqua or sapphire for the next thirty days.

Maybe I have some advocacy burn out. Maybe the last couple of weeks of feeling as though I’ve had to defend my treatment decisions have taken a toll.

And yes, I realise how privileged it is to say ‘I don’t want to do diabetes advocacy this month’ when I don’t need to fight for insulin or diabetes supplies. I won’t be abandoning my efforts in this space. (I know that there are some really important access activities coming up in coming weeks and I will be supporting them.)

But I am going to go easy on some of the other things I’m usually all over. And that’s okay. ‘My diabetes; my rules’ extends to how much we want to talk about it. So this year, I’m talking less. I’m not hitching a ride on every bandwagon and I’m taking it easy with the online activism. I’m going less blue and I am absolutely fine with that. T1D will still look like me. (Oh, but I probably will still get a blue manicure. And I’ll probably still regret it.)

Following last week’s post about how my ADATS’ talk was received, several things happened. Firstly, I was contacted by a heap of people wanting to chat about the reaction. Secondly, I was sent several designs of logos and t-shirts with ‘deliberately non-compliant’ splashed across the front, which obviously I will now need to order and wear any time I do a talk (or am sitting opposite a diabetes healthcare professional). And thirdly, discussions started about how we manage our diabetes ‘off label’.

While off label generally refers to how drugs are used in ways other than as prescribed, it has also come to mean the way we tweak any aspect of treatment to try to find ways to make diabetes less tiresome, less burdensome, less annoying.

When it comes to making diabetes manageable and working out how to fit it into my life as easily and unobtrusively as possible, I am all about off label. And I learnt that very early on.

Change your pen tip after every use.’ I was told the day after I was diagnosed, meeting with a diabetes educator the first time. ‘Of course,’ I said earnestly, staring intently at the photos of magnified needles showing how blunt the needles become after repeated use. ‘Lancets are single use too.’ I nodded, promising to discard my lancets after each glucose check. ‘You must inject into your stomach, directly into the skin – never through clothes, and rotate injection sites every single time.’ I committed to memory the part of my stomach to use and visualised a circular chart to help remind me to move where I stabbed.

Fast forward about a week into diagnosis. Needle changed once a day (which then, in following weeks, became once every second day, every third day, once a week… or when ‘ouch – I really felt that’); I forgot that lancets could be changed; speared (reused) needles directly through jeans or tights into my thighs, having no idea which leg I’d used last time.

And then there were insulin doses. ‘You must take XX units of insulin with breakfast, XX with lunch and XX with dinner. That means you need XX grams of carbs with breakfast, XX with lunch and XX with dinner. These amounts are set and cannot be altered. You must eat snacks.’ I took notes and planned the weekly menu according to required carb contents. Within a week, I’d worked out that if I couldn’t eat the prescribed huge quantities of carbs, I could take less insulin and that all seemed to work out okay. And I worked out how I didn’t need to have the same doses each and every day. It was liberating!

I switched to an insulin pump and the instructions came again: ‘You must change your site every three days without fail.’ I promised to set alarms to remind me and write notes to myself. ‘Cartridges are single use,’ I was told and vowed to throw them away as soon as they were empty. Today, sometimes pump lines get changed every three days, sometimes three and a half, sometimes four and sometimes even five. Cartridges are reused at times…

I was also told to never change any of the settings in my pump unless I spoke with my HCP. But part of getting the most from a pump (and all diabetes technology) is about constantly reviewing, revising and making changes. I taught myself how to check and change basal rates – slowly and carefully but always with positive results. (For the record, my endo these days would not tell me to never change my pump settings.)

CGM came into my life with similar rules, and as I became familiar with the technology and how I interacted with it, I adapted the way I used it. Despite warnings of never, ever, ever bolusing from a CGM reading, I did. Of course I did. I restarted sensors, getting every last reading from them to save my bank balance. I sited sensors on my arms, despite warnings that the stomach was the only area approved for use. I started using the US Dex 5 App (after setting up a US iTunes account and downloading from the US App Store) because we still didn’t have it here in Australia, and I wanted to use my phone as a receiver, and seriously #WeAreNotWaiting.

And today…today I am Looping, which is possibly the extreme of using devices off label. But the reason for doing it is still the same: Trying to find the best ‘diabetes me’ for the least effort!

The push back to curating our diabetes treatment to fit in with our lives is often frowned upon by HCPs and I wonder why. Is it all about safety? Possibly, but I know that for me, I was able to always measure the risk of what I was doing off label and balance it with the benefit to and for me. I believe I have always remained as safe as possible while managing to make my diabetes a little more… well, manageable.

It can be viewed as rule breaking or ‘hacking’. It can be thought of as dangerous and something to be feared. But I think the concerns from HCPs go beyond that.

As is often the case, it comes down to control – not in the A1c sense of the word, but in the ‘who owns my diabetes’ way.

When we learn how things work, make changes and adapt our treatment to suit ourselves, we often find what works best is not the same as what we are told to do. And I think that some HCPs think that as we take that control – make our own decisions and changes to our treatment – we are making them redundant. But that’s not the case at all.

We need our HCPs because we need to be shown the rules in the first place. We have to know what the evidence shows, and we need to know how to do things the way the regulators want us to do them. We need to understand the basics, the guidelines, the fundamentals to what we are doing.

Because then we can experiment. Then we can push boundaries and see what is still safe. We can take risks within a framework that absolutely improves our care, but we still understand how to be safe. I understand the risks reusing lancets, or stretching out set changes by a day or two. Of course I do. I know them because I’ve had great HCPs who have explained it to me.

Going off label has only ever served to make me manage my diabetes better. It has made me less frustrated by the burden, less exasperated by the mundanity of it all.

And the thing that has made me feel better – physically and emotionally – about diabetes more than anything else is using Loop. So, use it I will!


It seems silly to have to say this, but I will anyway. Don’t take anything I write (today or ever) as advice. I’m not recommending that anyone do what I do and I never have.  

Helen Edwards from Diabetes Can’t Stop Me has written a thoughtful piece today on her blog about why she has ‘broken up with CGM’.

I truly love this post, because it once again reinforces the ‘one size fits no one’ approach that I have always advocated when it comes to diabetes.

As I read Helen’s story, I realised I could have written this post. I was reminded of the long and very winding road that it took for me to get to a point where I could live comfortably with all the tech. Learning to love it took even longer. It certainly was not love at first sensor! For a long time, I felt overwhelmed by all the data, the alarms drove me to distraction and I struggled at times to live with an invisible condition when all my robot bits are on show.

I showed the below photo during my talk at ADATS last week. It’s from a few years ago (and accompanied this post) when I was really struggling to live alongside CGM. I had to work up to convince myself to put on a sensor and made all sorts of deals to try to limit the stress I was feeling. I turned off all the alarms except for the low alarm. I promised myself that I would rip the sensor out if I was starting to be paralysed with all the information being constantly thrown at me. And I reminded myself that the data was just numbers trying to retrain my brain to not feel judged by the electronic device.

This wasn’t the first time I made such a deal with myself. And it took this and many other attempts of starting to wear CGM before everything feel into place. There were times where I pulled sensors out after two days because I just couldn’t cope with it.

Learning to live alongside diabetes technology is not an easy decision. There is bargaining, sacrificing and trade-offs. The tech is brilliant, but it rarely, if ever, works as simply as the shiny brochures promise. It’s not perfect and the limitations of the technology should never be blamed on the person wearing it.

Also, it’s no good speaking to people like me, because I’m all evangelical about it and spend all my time telling people how much I love it – while conveniently forgetting how long it took to find that place.

The tech is not for everyone and no one should be made to feel bad if they choose a more analogue approach to diabetes management. This is another slide I showed at last week’s ADATS meeting (from this post):

Right device; right time; right person. The right device might actually be no device at all. And that is absolutely fine!

Are you an adult (aged 18 – 75 years) with type 1 or type 2 diabetes living in Australia or the UK?

No? Avert your eyes and go back to looking at pictures of of cats on the internet.

Yes? Stop right there…. You can go back to looking at pictures of cats later, ‘cause right now, you have better things to do.

Like THIS:

Click to take the survey.

YourSay (Self-management And You): Quality of Life Study needs people just like you to have your say about the impact of living with, and managing diabetes on your quality of life.

You only have until the end of the month to participate, so now is definitely the time to do it.

And to say thank you, I baked these and am virtually sending you a couple:

You’re welcome!

Click here to do the YourSAY survey.

Advertisements
Follow Diabetogenic on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Read about Renza

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

Archives

Twitter

%d bloggers like this: