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

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!