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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Apologies don't regrow Beta cells

"What's that?" The 30 year old waiter pointed to my hip.

Here we go again. 

"Oh. That. It's my insulin pump. I'm Diabetic." 

"I thought it was a pager." A pause, as his brain ran into overdrive to process what I said. "I'm sorry you have that."

"It doesn't bother me." I gave him a quick smile as I turned away. 

A few minutes later I returned to the counter to pay for my meal. He clearly wasn't done thinking about it yet. "I thought you were a doctor."

"No, just diabetic."

"I always thought diabetes only happened to old people." This guy obviously does a lot of thinking. I contemplated buying him a thesaurus just so he could look up alternatives to 'I thought'.

"I have Type 1 Diabetes, it's autoimmune. Maybe you've heard of juvenile or kids diabetes? Its that kind."

He paused, apparently trying to decide if he should say what he was thinking, which turned out to be "Like when their parents feed them too much sugar?"

And he was doing so well in his questions before that.

"No, no. Autoimmune means my body attacked itself. It has nothing to do with sugar. Its just something that happened" Somehow I managed to keep my voice polite. It really did seem like he wanted to know, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt with his statement about too much sugar. He did start to nod his head like he understood.

"Well, I hope they have a cure for you one day. I'm really sorry you have diabetes."

Some days I hate these conversations. You can tell the people who aren't going to listen to or believe you, no matter how many facts you arm yourself with. Today I felt like I was talking to someone who would listen. It was also the first time anyone has ever apologised to me about my diabetes. I didn't really know what to say to that because I'm not sorry that I have diabetes. I'm just sorry that so many misconceptions about diabetes are still mainstream.

NDW (National Diabetes Week) ended just over a week ago and conversations like this are why I will continue to answer questions and field silly comments with as much tact and good nature as possible (out loud, anyway. The ranting monologue in my head may sound a little different). The public currently get their education from the media, which more often than not, print misleading or false information about all types of diabetes. Its open and honest conversations where you don't make people feel silly for asking that help to change wrong pre-defined ideas about diabetes to a correct and better understanding of diabetes.

For myth busting on Type 2 Diabetes, see here. For Type 1 myths, click here.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Kellion Awards

It;s National Diabetes Week here in Oz. I'm very happy that yesterday I got to kick it off in one of the best ways possible.

I had the great privilege of sitting among some of the most inspirational people that the Diabetes world has ever seen. The Kellion Victory Medal recipients. I was invited along by Diabetes QLD to attend with my husband.

I initially thought about asking another diabetic to join me as my plus one, but my husband had recently made a comment that I didn't invite him to enough diabetes things. I was glad it was him that I bought because the experience of watching people receive their Kellion Award who had lived with diabetes for 50, 60 or 70 years was very emotional. I needed a hand to squeeze to stop me from bawling like a baby (although that may have been the high of 22 encouraging the quiet sniffles).

My husband and I were seated at the table of a proud gentleman who had brought along his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Until the official start of the ceremony we talked among our table, trading tales of old and new technology. Little did I realise that the man who we shared a table with would share one of the most inspirational stories of the day. He talked about the ups and downs of diabetes, of how he hid it from his wife when they 1st started dating, the changes he had seen. He talked about the social advancements in diabetes, and the new stance on discrimination against diabetics in the workforce that he was happy had changed for the better since his time working. And a beautiful tale of motivation. "When my grandson was born" he said, gesturing towards the young man at our table "I made a pact with him, that I had to hang around long enough for him to pour me a scotch on his 21st birthday." At this point he was quite emotional and his voice was cracking, as he stood tall and proud and announced "Well that happens this week."

A 60 year Kellion Award recipient, he was the proudest of the lot, aware of his accomplishments, all made whilst living with a chronic medical condition. The enormity of the effort it had taken him to reach this milestone was not lost on me. By the end of his speech I was almost certain that one of my greatest goals in life would be receiving my own Kellion (in 46 1/2 years time!). Not only is the Kellion a great way to recognise that you've managed to drag diabetes around for 50, 60 or 70 years, but a great way to recognise all of your achievements in life. Perhaps because of the mortality that diabetes represents, we may tend to recognise smaller and more everyday accomplishments as being such important parts of our lives.

I could probably write a small book on attending the Kellion awards and the inspiration I felt. How lucky I am to have been diagnosed in a time when a blood glucose level can be obtained in 5 seconds, instead of by heating urine over a burner for 10 minutes. Especially how lucky I am to have access to technology like insulin pumps. Knowing that other people survived, for 50 or more years, without access for a long time to the advancements we have today.

There was one statement said which summed everything up nicely for me. "Diabetes is about having to do things you don't like, but getting on with it and just doing it anyway". Nothing about diabetes is fun and enjoyable. But I will happily trade the mere seconds it takes to care for myself each time for the many more years I will enjoy if I take that time to look after myself. The longer I have diabetes, the less I think about the strange things I have do to my body to survive. Happily, diabetes takes a back-seat to my life and the brief moments of pain or discomfort are quickly forgotten. The Kellion Medal Recipients were living proof that you can have any life you want, diabetes or no diabetes.

Reasons Why I'm Hypo: Not Hypo, but I somehow managed to concentrate and soak in the awards ceremony sitting on a BGL of 22. There was no foreseeable reason for the 22 other than the fact that I didn't sleep well (if at all) the night before.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Them Diabetes Food Feels

I like to do quizzes, surveys and make lists. Questionnaires. I like answering things. For some reason I believe my opinion and self-identity matter.

So naturally when I opened up my latest 'Member Matters' email newsletter from DQ and found the link to a research survey on eating behaviours in individuals with Type 1 Diabetes, I happily jumped on board and completed it.

As usual there were the normal trigger warnings that they give out before completing any research survey. I didn't think the warnings would mean anything to me. Basically if I see food that I like, I eat it. I really didn't think this survey would mean, or do, anything for me.

It surprised me. I know that having diabetes doesn't create the best relationship with food. But I thought that somehow I had managed to escape that particular brew of diabetes emotions. The food emotions.

I have them. That little survey dug deep and forced me to really think about my relationship with food. To the outside world, I act like food is no issue. Double chocolate cake with extra chocolate syrup? Yes please, and I'll take that with good glycaemic control to boot (if it has chocolate content of any kind, you know I've got that carb count sorted.)

But apparently there is still some small part of me that says I should be ashamed of food and eating. Because I'm diabetic. Because I know that people are judging me. Because I know that glycaemic control can vary wildly with each morsel I pop into my mouth and the perfectionist part of me wants good glycaemic control, all of the time.

I sneak food. Not like I have a stash hidden under my bed (well I have some in my bedside table drawer but that's for nypos),but in the way that I will pretend I haven't eaten food. Or pretend I didn't eat a particular food. I also don't particularly like eating in front of other people.

And then came the questions on when this behavior was most evident. When do I sneak food? Usually when I'm sick of questions about my diabetes, diabetes itself, or people trying to 'help' me. Food seems to be a 'question trigger' for people to remember to ask you about your BGL, or wonder how many carbs are in that, or various other things. When I'm sick of that, its just easier to eat away from people. Or just pretend I didn't eat.

I pretend I haven't eaten a certain food when someone says something about my diabetes and what I have eaten. The other day I was at a party for a friend. And I was unintentionally 'diabetes shamed'. It was cake time, and as everyone else was handed their pieces, I was handed a smaller piece, because I had diabetes. I chose not to get upset then, because I was in a room full of people who didn't know me or my condition, and I didn't want to draw any attention to myself. Even though I have insulin and therefore could have eaten the cake no problems, the situation made me feel very awkward to be eating the cake at all. I brang some home and my husband asked if Id eaten any there, and I wavered between saying no I hadn't or telling him about what had happened. It was hard to admit how ashamed such a simple misunderstanding had made me feel.

I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do about my diabetes food habits. I guess that's the perilous side of being survey 'click-happy'. They open the can of worms and dump it all over your floor, but then refuse to offer help in cleaning it up. Good thing I'm pretty handy with a broom.