Mid Year Blues

I sit down in the evening, and I marvel at how quickly yet another day has gone by. I glance at the calendar, and I cannot believe that it will be August in a few days. I watch the mornings slowly beginning to get lighter, and I want to make the most of this beautiful time of the year before its gone once again. Another Friday rolls around, and I cannot believe how quickly the weeks are flying by.

In the grand scheme of things, there are a million things that I want to do.

I want to sit down and write, every day. I want to put more effort into my meals, rather than the usual toasted sandwich I have for lunch every day. I want to save the money I spend on the odd treat at lunchtime. I want to work on my fitness. I want to improve my hba1c. I want to finish all the odd jobs at the house this weekend. I want to read. I want to get hooked on a new TV show, instead of falling asleep out of lack of interest. I want to make time for myself. I still dream of one day having a career that I’m really passionate about. I want to feel full of energy. I want to be excited. I want to be enthusiastic. I want to go to bed feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.

In this grand scheme of this thing that we call life, there are simply not enough hours in the day to get all of these things done.

Last week at the Telethon Type 1 Diabetes Centre in Perth, Canadian T1D athlete Sebastien Sasseville spoke about having a bank of good and bad blood sugar levels. He reminded us that there’s no point focussing on those bad readings that were deposited in the past. Like anything in the past, there’s nothing I can do to change it. I can only look forward, and at what I can do today to deposit more readings into the good blood sugar bank.


I’ve definitely been reflecting on my own diabetes management quite a lot at the moment, particularly now that things are starting to settle somewhat with my insulin pump. I think a lot about where I’m hoping to be with my diabetes in the long run, and what I hope to achieve.

One of my favourite quotes reads “no expectations, no disappointment.” I’m often reminded of the diabetes goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year. That goal of striving for stable overnight glucose levels was full of expectations, and led to a lot of disappointment.

While I’m unlikely to start training for a climb up Mount Everest or a triathlon across Canada anytime soon, I did take away a small piece of inspiration from Seb’s talk. Going into the second half of this year, I’m definitely going to try to focus more on my diabetes for today, and for the now.

Stunning #Winter day in #Perth.

A photo posted by Frank (@franksita) on

Because in the grand scheme of things, the now is what is going to get me to where I want to be in the long run.

Pump Doubts

After a few infusion site failures of late, I’m starting to become really self conscious. After every new site change, I become really paranoid of whether it’s a failure or success.

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I poke my infusion site, trying blindly to detect a kinked piece of teflon that should be sitting underneath my skin. I prod around the infusion site on my stomach, trying to feel bruising and pain. I stand still while my pump is delivering an insulin bolus, waiting on edge to detect any stinging. I lift up my jumper compulsively, watching the colour of the skin underneath my site like a hawk.

I think about whether the skin tissue underneath my infusion site is strong enough to handle 3 days worth of insulin boluses. I frequently glance at my Total Daily Dose history on my pump, questioning whether it’s too high. I feel guilty for the carbohydrates I am consuming, for the sake of the subsequent insulin boluses that will have to go underneath my skin.

I check my levels like crazy after a site change, impatiently looking for signs that the insulin is heading successfully underneath my skin. I keep an eye on glucose movements like a hawk. In a moment of paranoia on Saturday, I even ripped out a perfectly good infusion site because the correction was taking too long to work it’s magic.

I draw dots on my stomach in permanent marker, in a desperate bid to keep on top of site rotations. I stare persistently at the real estate on my stomach, deliberating over just the right spot to place my new infusion site. I worry about how soon I will be able to re-use an area of real estate again.

In moments of site failures, I question whether this is really worth it. I think about results around my diabetes, and I’m almost certain that I won’t see any improvement yet. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had fleeting thoughts that maybe this is not working for me. I worry that I won’t be able to make this work for me. I stand in my room for minutes on edge, pacing, deliberating over a site change or a shot of Lantus.

But when I think about going back to Lantus, I think about the level of control I will lose around my basal insulin rate. I think about how unfocussed I was on injections, blindly guessing and correcting all the time. I think about all of the time and investment I’ve put into this insulin pump, and I know that I’m not ready to pull away from it just yet.

Time to Rethink National Diabetes Week?

As I watched the response towards an amputation-themed National Diabetes Week escalate late last week, I’ve been thinking about my own stance on Diabetes Australia’s campaign. I made my opinion clear though my vlog last Monday (which you can watch here), and have steered clear from most of the conversation since. While it was disappointing to see some of the commentary getting out of hand, it will not make me feel any less guilty for having an opinion of my own. 

Diabetes Australia advocates for the language used when talking about diabetes, and for the way it has the power to shape our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. I support this wholeheartedly – both online and off. To quote Diabetes Australia’s Language Position Statement:

“Language needs to engage people with diabetes and support their daily self-care efforts. Importantly, language that de-motivates or induces fear, guilt or distress needs to be avoided and countered.”

I can’t help but feel that a campaign focussing on diabetes amputations does induce fear, guilt and distress, and contradicts this language position statement. Two diabetes educators in our community even went further to suggest this:

In my practice I’ll be working with newly diagnosed and people who have had diabetes for years and dealing with the heightened anxiety that comes from the strong messaging around this. Powerful messaging can do more harm than good and many people choosing this style of awareness campaign are often not at the clinical coal face dealing with the aftermath” – Ann Morris, Facebook.

“Diabetes distress is real and palpable when people talk about their fear of complications – especially in relation to the fear of foot or leg amputation. Fear is further fuelled by the negative campaign being run in this year’s Diabetes Awareness Week. We shouldn’t be surprised if they disengage about their risk or move to a default mode of thinking that they are ‘here for a good time not a long time’, then adopting behaviours that increase complication risk.” – Jayne Lehmann, Ed Health Australia.

Diabetes Australia admirably responded to some of the criticisms of the campaign in a Facebook post on Friday afternoon, which you can read here.

Diabetes Australia were campaigning for a Diabetes Amputation Prevention Initiative from our government to help prevent 85% of diabetes related amputations each year through early detection and proper care. We were also told that the campaign was not really about the person with diabetes, but to help make the broader public more aware of this issue.

While I don’t doubt the seriousness of this issue, I do question whether a very public National Diabetes Week campaign was the appropriate avenue for this lobbying. People don’t know enough about diabetes. People don’t know enough about what it is, what it entails, and how to best support those of us living with the condition. This was supposed to be our week, where we raise awareness and be proud of the condition we live with. A campaign focussing only on one issue – a negative one – does not achieve this. It only creates stigma.

I blogged about National Diabetes Week positively. I vocalised my feelings about the campaign with those around me. I enthusiastically followed the #NDW16 hashtag on Twitter all week. Yet from what I saw, very few people were actually jumping on board. Yes, there were plenty of automated-looking tweets from diabetes and health-related organisations. There were some retweets. However I saw very few people actually jumping in and talking about it.

Diabetes Queensland and Diabetes Victoria were both calling for submissions to their Diabetes Life Hacks and Diabetes Won’t Stop Me campaigns, and I don’t feel that either gathered the momentum they deserved in terms of social media engagement. I would go as far to suggest that even these more positive campaigns were overshadowed by a negative national theme.

Watching many passionately vocalise their feelings (some inappropriately) towards the campaign on Facebook, I couldn’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the campaign were a positive one. 

Okay, so the theme was foot health. The underlying message was to look at and take care of your feet. Why not set up a few booths across the city where people could get their feet examined for free? The CBD, universities, shopping centres, etc. Create a cool hashtag, and encourage people to post photos on social media as they’re getting their feet examined. Make an event out of it, and give people something to remember when it’s time for their next foot check.

I thought Diabetes NSW were onto something by staging a Guinness World Record – it’s just a shame that they went with “Standing on One Leg,” which seemingly made a mockery of amputees. 

I personally did not like the theme of this year’s National Diabetes Week. And if the response on social media is anything to go by, Diabetes Australia will need to reconsider their messaging in 2017.

Accepting My Ordinary

I absolutely hated the thought of being visibly different to anyone else after my diagnosis. I would sit in the hallway at diabetes clinic, watching the other “diabetic” young adults, and I absolutely hated that I was one of them. For the first couple of years, I definitely tried to hide from my diabetes to a certain degree.

I stubbornly refused to wear my Medic Alert bracelet, despite Mum and Dad’s constant reminders that it might save my life one day, on the principle that it branded me as a “diabetic.”

I would travel as lightly as possible whenever I left the house, without even thinking about the consequences. My diabetes educator once asked me where my jellybeans and meter were. I used to live by the motto that it would never happen to me. And shops were everywhere for backup.

I rarely tested my glucose in public situations, even if I needed to. Oftentimes at uni, I would test with the meter hidden in my bag. Or pack up my things and walk off to the bathroom.

I refused to wear appropriate footwear. I would stubbornly walk around uni in rubber thongs. When my feet were blistering at the end of the day, I was proud that I fitted in with many of the other students on campus.

I wouldn’t talk about diabetes if I didn’t have to. I didn’t lean on the people around me enough for support. I wasn’t confident or enthusiastic about it when it did come up.

Finding peer support and knowledge online, and opening up about my diabetes through this blog has definitely changed my attitude towards diabetes for the better. (Perhaps some age and maturity comes into play here as well…)

Today, my hypo containers accompany me most times I leave the house. Even if they sit in my jacket all night, or stay in the car on a quick trip to the shops, I feel much more comfortable having them on me. My contingency pack is also ready for when I’m away from home for a prolonged period of time.

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I’ve developed a new love for shoes. I’ve been a thongs-and-sandals-in-the-summer kind of guy my whole life, yet now I wear them half as often. While I certainly don’t wear “diabetic” shoes, I do dress more suitably for the occasion. And a good pair of Converse shoes looks good with anything.

Today, my glucose meter sits proudly on my desk at work, within easy reach when I need it. I test in the office that I share with a few other colleagues, and it’s sparked a couple of conversations in particular during recent weeks.

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I’m still tragically hopeless at stringing words together when people ask me if that is a diabetes testing thingy (translation: blood glucose meter), but boy am I so much more confident in addressing it.

I still don’t wear a Medic Alert bracelet most of the time, but that’s purely just because I’m annoyed at the old expanda band sticking to my wrist (something I need to get onto, soon).

I’ve recently began wearing an insulin pump – a very visible sign of my diabetes. When I think about those first few weeks on the insulin pump, I think about how much I talked it through with my family every morning when I woke up – something that I simply wasn’t able to do after I was diagnosed.

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I’ve been watching Diabetes Victoria’s Diabetes Won’t Stop Me campaign for National Diabetes Week, trying to think of something grand to say about how I am not stopped by diabetes.

Accepting that these diabetes intricacies are my ordinary over the past few years, is far more extraordinary than what climbing a bridge will ever be.

That, folks, is how I will not be stopped by diabetes.

(Coincidentally, today is also my one year BridgeClimb-aversary!)