Rationality.

One of the pastimes I am often found guilty of is trawling the interwebs for diabetes gear.

Managing diabetes day in and day out, can feel downright monotonous at times. Anything that helps to make me feel more excited about checking my blood sugar, treating a low, or more effectively delivering my insulin doses are all winners in my book. Being a guy, I’m constantly trying to make things as compact and easy as possible to travel with when I’m on the go.

But I’m also a really sensible person. A practical one as well, while I’m at it. I don’t like spending money on things that I don’t have a use for. I constantly weigh up whether my hard earned dollars could be better spent on things like test strips, pump consumables, paying bills or meeting the financial goals I’m working towards. And damn, diabetes gear can be so bloody expensive.

I’m a terrible decision maker, too. I’ll often hover over an item for long enough to be laughed at by my family, deliberating over whether I like it enough and whether it’ll be useful enough for the price tag attached to it. I’ll bring things home, and have a change of heart soon after, thinking about what I could have better put that money towards. I’m not just talking about diabetes gear anymore, either…

Another item I’ve been mulling over during Christmas is a fully fledged CGM. I was actually asked the question just a few days ago, when my rationality began pouring from my mouth. The cost of the transmitters, that send blood glucose data from the sensor to my iPhone or receiver, would be enough to purchase a year’s worth of FreeStyle Libre sensors. That money could also be put towards other essential stuff like health insurance, doctor’s visits, test strips, pump consumables, hypo treatments, batteries and insulin. Ditto to the question of overseas travel.

Yeah, I might be a rational person in nature. Yet still, I believe that living with diabetes is definitely one of the reasons as to why I am so rational. No matter how great a country I live in, how comfortable I am or how secure the roof feels over my head, part of my brain is always thinking about that rainy day that I hope I don’t ever have to face.

Normal Person Sick

I spent my final days of 2017 feeling under the weather. Which is a mild improvement on last year, when Dad grazed the back of his head on a running ceiling fan while changing a light globe, but that’s a whole other story…

At the time of year where I wanted nothing more than to enjoy leftover cheesecake, munch on Nonna’s biscotti and sip on icy cold percolated coffees, I was devoid of all my appetite. I could feel bloating, wind and a great deal of discomfort in my stomach.

As I thought back to Christmas Day, I honestly felt that I hadn’t done anything extremely out of the ordinary.

Our family brekkie of bacon, eggs and grilled tomato, with Baileys and a few choccies was nothing out of the ordinary. I only picked a few of the more tempting options for dinner at my Uncle’s place, rather than attempting to try everything and then feel the food and high blood sugar coma for the remainder of the night.

There were a few small blips throughout the day, but the highest I could remember my blood sugar peaking at was 13mmol. I was feeling super proud of myself at the conclusion of Christmas Day.

Two days after Christmas, I was left with next to no explanation for my symptoms. I went without dinner, and breakfast the following morning. I had a few water crackers for lunch, before finally feeling able to manage small meals.

I was shit scared to give any insulin until I’d actually stomached anything, for fear I would be forced to finish something I physically couldn’t. I even remember suspending my basal rate to bring myself away from a very minor hypo, because I really did not want to eat a glucose tab.

However when the symptoms still hadn’t passed by the weekend of New Year’s, I began to think about the implications of my diabetes.

The rational side of my brain was telling me that I had been managing my diabetes well, and that I was far too young of a d-baby to be expecting anything more serious. That this was likely normal person stuff, such as indigestion and possibly over-consumption of gas producing foods? That I couldn’t identify any other symptom that would point towards some of the diagnoses that Dr Google had planted in my brain. 

But the irrational side of me was jumping to all sorts of scary conclusions that Dr Google had matched with my symptoms. I was shit scared that I had done something to myself, feeling myself fill up with guilt over everything indulgent that I had put into my mouth in recent weeks.

I was reluctant to visit my GP, feeling that he probably wouldn’t take it too seriously, At best, he might have pointed me to some over the counter stuff that I was already taking. So, I decided to play a game of wait and see over the New Year’s weekend.

After a few days of very minimal food, near perfect blood sugars, a few basal tweaks and no dairy, the hunger pangs finally returned on New Year’s Day.

So, what did I learn from this little ordeal?

My diabetes still bothers me, even when it’s not bothering me.

And I’m still kind of bummed that I missed out the leftover Christmas desserts…

Less Is More?

The only resolution I set for myself in 2018 was to be more productive.

I want to get more shit done, by spending less time working at it.

(I know what you’re thinking right about now, but just hold up and let me explain for a minute…)

One of my greatest shortcomings is this uncontrollable urge to get anything and everything done in one hit. It’s easy to tell myself that I’ll smash this column out tonight, or that I’ll clear out my e-mail inbox in half an hour and then put my feet up and binge watch another two episodes of The Crown.

But that doesn’t always produce my greatest work.

I’ll tire of the seemingly infinite task at hand, and end up wasting away more time yawning, rubbing my eyes or trawling through social media once again. The longer I sit there, the more I begin to obsess over my work and do more harm to it than good. There are days where I’ll go to bed feeling lousy about myself, failing to remember the last spare moment I had to take some time out for myself.

So, back to my new motto – less is more. I’m learning to set boundaries. Spend an hour writing, or working, or whatever it is that I’m doing, and then stop and come back to it again later. Or even tomorrow.

Walking has been so therapeutic for me over the last few months, and just taking the time out every day to feel the afternoon sun on my face and collect my thoughts makes me feel a bit more human. Which is especially important when I’m living with a condition that involves so many different robot parts and feels monotonous at the worst of times.

I’m also trying to read more. Reading was a pastime I really enjoyed as a child, and I’ve really fallen off the bandwagon in recent years. I’m being realistic and aiming for a book a month. Besides, sleep feels so much more…restful after burying myself in a good book before bed. And, you know, it’s nice to take a break from reading about diabetes once in a while…

So what does all of this have to do with diabetes?

Tending to things like my self care and mental wellbeing helps me to feel better about living with this damned condition. I manage better. I’m not stuck in autopilot mode so often and then swearing at myself over a stupid mistake.

Besides, it feels surprisingly good not to have a resolution directly centred around my diabetes for a change…

What’s on your bucket list this year?

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