Last Tuesday, I was a part of the ‘People With Diabetes Panel Discussion’ at the Roche Educators Day. This is the first time that consumers have formed a part of the day’s proceedings, and I do thank Roche for having us there frantically tweeting away! It was also extremely humbling to see consumers being championed throughout the day by some of the presenters and attendees asking questions.
In a refreshing change of pace, West Australians on the panel outnumbered Eastern Australians. I was introduced to fellow type 1 Samantha, who is also Mum to two type 1 children, and Stephanie who lives with type 2 diabetes. The Eastern Australian contingent was represented by Ashley of Bittersweet Diagnosis and Renza of Diabetogenic.
Having two people on the panel who weren’t as immersed in the online world as myself, Ashley and Renza made the discussion richer. It was very insightful to hear Stephanie’s experience as a type 2, and not feeling very enlightened with her diabetes management until completing a DESMOND workshop. Samm’s perspective of “don’t wish for your problems to go away, wish for better skills to deal with them,” has also stuck with me for a number of days.
The highlight of my day was being able to tell a room full of healthcare professionals the importance of building a good support system. A short three years ago, I didn’t know a single person living with diabetes. I was feeling relatively isolated and alone with my condition before I began writing my blog and connecting to others through social media and eventually offline.
Our discussion shifted towards the illusive concept of ‘control,’ and this really challenged a belief that I had held for a long time. I was told I would live a normal life on my diagnosis, more so from my parents than from my healthcare professionals. I long imagined reaching a point where I would feel in control of my diabetes. As much as I wanted to believe that diabetes doesn’t make me any different, it does. Diabetes is not normal. We can only do our best to minimise the disruption of a very lousy condition.
I got the crowd laughing when I began talking about how my healthcare professionals continually bang on about not having more than two hypos a week. Despite their well meaning intentions, it’s simply not a realistic goal. I’ve certainly found that it’s an unfortunate trade off with spending more time in range. Then at the other end of the spectrum, I was ecstatic to see numbers in the single digits after my diagnosis while my diabetes educator told me that I needed to be correcting a blood sugar of 9 mmol. Ah, such a fine art…
So, what is the best thing that’s come from being diagnosed with diabetes?
Diabetes has made me a more confident person. I have learned to speak up for what I want from my diabetes healthcare professionals, and to make sure that they are working for me and meeting my needs. Three years ago I’d hardly have imagined myself being so open about my diabetes, let alone being an advocate for others. I really do think that this confidence has spread beyond my diabetes alone.
We weren’t supposed to talk about our peers as a positive of diabetes, because we talk about them all the time. However, I said it anyway. Diabetes has made the great big world around me a lot smaller through the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet, both online and off.
When I think about how hard it was for me to say goodbye to each of these amazing individuals on Friday after four days together, I think that peers are definitely the best thing that have come from diabetes.
Disclosures: Roche Diabetes Care Australia covered my registration and travel costs to attend Roche Educator’s Day. I am also being paid an Honoraria for my giving up my time to speak in the People With Diabetes panel discussion. There was no expectation that my participation would bind me to a particular view of Roche, nor was there any expectation that I would blog or Tweet about the event.
What a great talk. I mean east Australians not withstanding, or is it western? I can never keep them straight.