The Third Year.

It would be difficult to find fault in 2017. It was an amazing, amazing year. In what certainly feels like the blink of an eye, a whole bunch of amazing things happened in the diabetes world.

In February, I ventured into a coffee house south of the river, where I met a group of total strangers with diabetes. Over the months that followed bonds were formed, some brilliant ideas were brought to the table, and events were held across Perth. A Young Adult Diabetes Committee quickly came to life.

It’s exciting to finally have something close to home that caters for young adults with diabetes, in the same way that kids and families have the Telethon Type 1 Family Centre. It wouldn’t have been possible without this group known as the YADC Legends, and of course the support of Perth Diabetes Care.

In April I attended Medtronic’s inaugural Diabetes Advocates Day in Melbourne, where I caught up with some new and familiar faces in the DOC. The day was over sooner than it began, but I was fortunate enough to hear some news on the progress of closed loop trials underway here in Australia. Hopefully this will pave the way for Medtronic’s 670G hybrid closed loop insulin pump, which communicates with CGM to regulate glucose levels, to hit our shores.

April also brought with it the announcement of the federal government subsidy of Continuous Glucose Monitors for those under the age of 21. It was a bittersweet announcement, because while it’s a win for kids and families, type 1 doesn’t magically disappear at the age of 21. It was also disappointing to hear that children in some age brackets would have to ‘prove’ their need for such a system, which is reminiscent of battles people face for health insurance coverage in the US.

Diabetes Blog Week rolled around again in May, which saw 100 diabetes bloggers answering a prompt each day for five days. It was my third year participating, and connecting with so many other people with diabetes from all over the world really reminded me of why I am a part of the Diabetes Online Community.

June presented me with an opportunity to join the team at Diabetes Daily as a freelance writer. This role has really challenged me, both as a writer and in thinking beyond my own perspective as someone living with diabetes. Massive thanks to Diabetes Daily for having this Aussie on the team!

Australia’s National Diabetes Week rolled around in July. While there were still some messages centred around complications, it was fantastic to see a theme that encouraged people to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of diabetes. This is what diabetes week should be like, every year!

August began in Melbourne with Abbott’s second Diabetes Exchange event, following on from the initial event where the FreeStyle Libre was launched in 2016. Once again, the planning and execution of these two days was superb. It was extremely generous of Abbott to reconvene this group of bloggers together once again, continuing conversations that were able to go beyond the product itself. Thanks for making me feel so valued!

Later in the month, I was an invited speaker at the Roche Educators Day (RED). It extremely humbling to meet so many passionate diabetes educators who had given up their day to learn from us. I was also able to put faces to many healthcare professionals I had previously only interacted with through the DOC. Massive thank you to Roche for having consumers involved for the first time, and for making us feel so welcome!

At the end of August, I was able to tick the ADS-ADEA conference off my bucket list thanks to the generous sponsorship of Diabetes Australia. I was thrilled to be attending sessions and acting as a consumer reporter at an event largely attended by industry professionals. I also realised that we still have a long way to go in getting others to see the value of having consumers involved in these kinds of proceedings. Thank you to Diabetes Australia for pioneering this initiative, and to Renza, Ashley and Melinda for fantastic company!

October brought with it the news that Animas would cease the manufacture of the Vibe insulin pumps in the US, with a view to eventually exit the market globally. It’s sad to see choice taken away from people with diabetes, moreso here in Australia where we will eventually be left with only two options – Medtronic and Roche.

Fortunately, a new entrant hit the insulin pump market in Cellnovo! I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the Cellnovo system during the ADS-ADEA conference, before subsidised consumables finally became available through the NDSS in November.

December marked the end of weekly OzDOC chats on Tuesday nights. While it was bittersweet to see the space where I first found peer support online come to an end, the timing felt right.

As this little corner of the internet turns three, I just wanted to say a massive thank you for reading, commenting, getting in touch, Facebooking, Tweeting, talking to me or coming along to one event or another.

I continue to write and be involved in the diabetes space because of this resounding feeling of community that helps me not to feel so alone in all of this. You have all made my world a lot smaller today, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I’m not sure what 2018 has in store for me, but it sure does have big shoes to fill.

Wishing you a very Happy and prosperous New Year.

– Frank

Festive Isolation

Diabetes is an extremely isolating condition to live with. I think I’ve dealt with that isolation quite well over the past couple of years, both by building good support networks around me and simply acknowledging that it exists. Diabetes is not normal, and I feel more normal just by saying that out loud.

But there’s still something about this time of year, where that isolation feels a little greater.

It’s hard being surrounded by loved ones who don’t have diabetes, or don’t seem to care about diabetes, at this time of the year. Watching others being all merry and carefree and sometimes living like there’s no tomorrow, can make that isolation feel somewhat greater.

Hey, that’s fine. I don’t expect extended family members who I see a few times a year to remember about diabetes. I don’t expect, nor do I want special treatment just because I have diabetes.

But I also find it extremely insulting to be asked about diabetes the minute I’m sitting down with my helping of dessert.

“How do you manage sweets with your diabetes?”

“Do you have to be careful?”

“It’s not too much sugar?”

I manage my diabetes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 366 in a leap year. Diabetes extends far beyond dessert time. It extends into my nights. Into my weekends. Into my physical activity. Into my work. Even into my sleep. Misconceptions like these do me a great injustice.

As someone who actually has to live with this condition every day for the rest of his life, it’s ludicrous to suggest that I don’t know what’s best for me. Or that I would, you know, be tipping poison into my mouth if I knew it would kill me.

I don’t think anyone takes pleasure in inflicting feelings of guilt and shame, and yet ill timed comments like these do just that. In fact, feelings of guilt and shame can spiral even further into anxiety, depression and even disordered eating.

So if you are planning on seeing a loved one with diabetes during this festive season, here’s a better way that you can support them and help reduce those feelings of isolation.

Check in. Say hi. Ask them how they’re doing. Genuinely, and not just in passing. Show them that you care. Ask us about day to day life with diabetes, because hell, it’s a bloody big part of our lives!

However when it comes to dessert time, the only question a person with diabetes should be asked is how delicious it is.

While I’m at it, check out these pearls of wisdom on best supporting a loved one with diabetes from My Therapy App!

Travelling Prepared With Diabetes

With the Christmas and New Year break just around the corner (if you’re lucky enough not to be working), today I’m revisiting a post from Diabetes Blog Week on travelling with diabetes.

When I was first diagnosed, I had this attitude that diabetes wouldn’t weigh me down. Quite literally. I wanted to prove that diabetes hadn’t changed me. I wanted to prove that I didn’t need to carry a meter, insulin or jellybeans with me as a just-in-case. It felt weak. It felt like giving into my condition.

So if anyone knows a thing or two about how to travel un-prepared with diabetes, it’s me.

I once boarded a ferry to Rottnest Island, only to discover that I had bugger all insulin left in my pen cartridge. Instead of trying to find a Pharmacy, I decided to wing it and somehow lived to tell the tale.

I remember going hypo on a Friday morning at work, with nothing to eat other than an overripe banana. Yuck.

I discovered a failed infusion site while I was away from home painting a house one Saturday afternoon, and had to drive home in the pouring rain to change it.

When my insulin ran out halfway through a lunchtime dose, I winged it again, probably running high until hometime.

When I suspected spoiled insulin earlier this year, I had to call my Dad to run some up to me work.

And then something changed.

I began using an insulin pump, and I knew that I needed a better contingency plan now that I was relying on a machine to keep me alive.

When it comes to travelling prepared with diabetes, my biggest dilemma is deciding whether I actually need to carry those supplies with me, or whether I am simply preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

I like to travel prepared. But I also like to travel as lightly as possible. Us guys don’t exactly have the luxury of handbags…

I’ll often stand in front of my desk before heading out, debating over whether I need to bring this with me. I’ll tuck things in my pockets. Then I’ll take things out because I feel weighted down and over prepared.

I’ve tried the whole keeping supplies stashed in different places. You know, desk drawers, lockers, in the car, in my satchel. In theory, it sounds like a great idea. The only problem is you begin depleting those supplies. And you have to remember to keep topping them up. Not ideal, either.

I’ve recently invested in a small pencil case. I keep all the essentials in there. A blood glucose meter, lancing device, spare lancets, spare meter batteries, glucose tabs, an insulin pen and needles. Spare batteries, an infusion set, insulin cartridge and my Animas coin to deal with a potential pump failure.

Those are my essentials. Nothing more, nothing less. I grab that case every time I leave the house. There’s no more dillemas over what to bring, or what not to bring. It’s not big, bulky or akward to carry. It can even stay in the car if it’s going to annoy me while I’m out.

You learn from experience when it comes to travelling prepared with diabetes.

 

And you do get better at it over time.

P.S. Don’t forget that insulin can spoil in the heat if you’re planning on spending Christmas Day at the beach!

Christmas Trees

Last weekend, on a blazing hot 37 degree day, I visited a Christmas tree farm. I was on a mission to find a tree that was both nice and full, but also not yet in possession of a ‘sold’ sticker.

I walked through rows upon rows of bushy Christmas trees, the blazing hot sun burning on my pale skin. Despite finding a nice full one, I decided to move on in search of something better, only to later decide to double back and try to find the needle in a haystack. Thankfully I had a clue in the form of a giant spiderweb.

My brother cut it down with a simple hack saw, as I stood and pulled the tree away from him. We heaved it onto the little cart we were also supplied with, and headed back to load it onto the back of his ute.

A real Christmas tree is somewhat of a newer tradition in our house, and something that I didn’t truly appreciate until I tried it. The fullness, the colour and the smell. Nothing beats it. We keep it out on the patio, which I also like to deck out with lights. Perfect to sit under on a cool Summer’s evening.

With the silly season upon us, Kerri’s idea of not posting about diabetes is a subtle reminder to spend some time doing something that makes you happy. To spend some time unwinding and focussing on having a good time, rather than getting too caught up in the intricacies of this damn condition.

So, that’s exactly what I plan on doing over the festive season.

For me, that’s likely going to look like renewing my Netflix subscription, spending time outdoors, reading the stack of newsletters and magazines I’ve fallen behind on, eating and drinking, and hopefully reconnecting with the DOC.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Thanks for being a part of my tribe this year.

A Close Second

Yesterday afternoon I laced up my white Nike trainers, stashed my FreeStyle Libre and Orange glucose tabs into my pockets and sat my headphones into my ears. I stepped outside into a breezy December afternoon, and started walking in the direction of the park down the road from me.

After a short stroll through the grass and the trees, I checked into my local Pharmacy, picked up the box of heavily subsidised supplies I’d ordered through the NDSS a few days earlier, and went on my merry way.

As I backtracked through the park, with the box on my side supported by my right arm, I couldn’t stop thinking about how attractive it all looked in there. The fresh boxes of supplies, all packaged neatly in a bigger box that was originally home to Morning Fresh dishwashing liquid. (Lemon scented, in case you were wondering…)

The comfort infusion sets with their manual insertion, that have helped to relieve my feelings of anxiety over every site change. The angled nature of those sets, that have helped to relieve the constant bruising and bleeding that the 90 degree ones would cause. The simplicity of their packaging, which minimises waste and makes travelling a hell of a lot easier.

The 2ml cartridges that hold my rapid acting insulin, the precious substance that fuels my existence each and every day. The magical liquid that enables my body to convert carbohydrates into energy every time that I eat. The special fluid that trickles into my body every three minutes to keep my blood glucose level, at a custom rate that’s only possible thanks to an insulin pump. The precious stuff that is only a doctor’s script, 36 dollars and a short walk down the road away.

The test strips that pair with my Accu Chek Guide blood glucose meter, and allow me to check in on my blood sugar level. Its Bluetooth abilities that seamlessly transfer blood glucose results to my smartphone with ease. Its sister smartphone app that allows me to review my stats without the hassle of cables and USB ports. The accompanying Lancing device that isn’t exactly ‘painless,’ but the one I’d want to be using if I absolutely have to be stabbing my fingers 15 times per day.

As I casually carried home this box of dishwashing liquid containing another two months of my life, I realised just how lucky I am to be able to trial and choose the products and devices that best suit my needs. How lucky I am that these expensive supplies are relatively cheap and accessible to me here in Australia.

If I can’t have a working pancreas for Christmas, then this sure does come a close second.

And if you’re thinking about those less fortunate this Christmas, consider a donation to T1 International, Spare a Rose or Insulin for Life