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Posts from the ‘Diabetes Advocacy’ Category

Turning Ten.

I’ve written ten years of content here at this blog, and today marks the beginning of an eleventh year.  Ten years is a frigging long time.  When I started blogging, I was 25 years old and living in a one bedroom apartment in southern Rhode Island with Abby the Cat and a newly-minted Siah Sausage, starting my relationship with Chris and clumsily finding my footing as a proper adult.

Rocketblast forward ten years and I’m a self-employed writer and proud diabetes advocate, married to the guy whose name I still write in the peanut butter, mother of one small but fierce little Bird.  (And, as Rhode Islanders should, we came back to Rhode Island.)  Throughout the last ten years, so much has changed.  But type 1 diabetes has been a constant.  (A constant pain in the butt.  A constant source of humility and perspective.  A constant thing to be conscious of and diligent about.  All of it.)

What makes my diabetes management easier?  A healthy diet, lots of exercise, checking my blood sugar, taking insulin appropriately … check.  What makes doing all those things easier?  A healthy community, lots of community, checking in with the community, taking community appropriately …

… check again.

I could go on and on about how blogging about diabetes has opened up opportunities for support and camaraderie, but I’ve kind of already done that.  So I’ll just say thank you to each and every one of you who reads this blog or writes their own blog or Tweets about diabetes or posts about diabetes on Facebook or Instagram or Tumblr or [insert shiny, misspelled social media thing here].


Thank you for sharing your stories, and for creating our diabetes community and helping it grow.  It’s been an amazing journey, the one from “alone” to “connected,” that “grateful” doesn’t even begin to touch.

Onward and upward.

Guest Post: #SpareARose and Symplur.

I’m late with today’s post, but it’s a good one.  :)   This afternoon, Chris Snider of A Consequence of Hypoglycemia has contributed a guest post about Symplur and the Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign.  It’s an in-depth look at how the stats of the #sparearose hashtag campaign influenced the spread of the message.  This post is an interesting peek at where analytics and community passion line up, and where they don’t.  Thanks, Chris, for offering your insight!

*   *   *

I started working with the folks at Symplur at the beginning of this year. My objective was to tell stories and bring the patient community further into the conversation around data – specifically the data they are generating through health conversations on Twitter. After the Spare a Rose campaign concluded, I reached out to Kerri to see if I could help shine a light on the 2-week whirlwind using Symplur’s fancy analytics tool, Signals. I was given four questions to try to address.

1. How did the message spread? Did it reach outside of people with “diabetes” in their profile?
2. What kinds of messages resonated on the whole? Calls to donate, stories about why insulin matters, etc?
3. Did people with small reach still have a big impact because of the close knit nature of the DOC?
4. Can the data prove that every voice does matter?

(1.) What the data says: people associating themselves with diabetes in their screen name, user name, or description represented 43.9% (321) of #sparearose participants, but generated 63.5% (5,825,580) of the impressions. What is difficult to report on is how many of these impressions overlap within the community. How many followers do each of the 43.9% have that are associated with diabetes in one form or another? How many impressions from the other 56.1% were made on people living with or associated by diabetes? It’s difficult to truly parse out where the venn diagram sits, but I think it’s safe to say the diabetes community came strong with their effort to spread the word. This does leave me with some bigger questions to consider for 2016: How might we increase the number of people sharing #sparearose that aren’t immediately associated with diabetes? Should that ratio always favor the diabetes community? How might the appeal of Spare a Rose better resonate with people without diabetes?

(2.) I tried to see what kind of activity was generated around tweets featuring the word ‘donate’ and ‘insulin’ as those are the two biggest subjects related to the Spare a Rose campaign. Every tweet including the word donate included a link to sparearose.org or the subsequent donation page. Similarly, 93% of links including the word insulin included a link to one of those two pages. It makes sense, right? If we’re going to ask people to donate, we need to show them where to go. If we’re going to appeal to the life-saving insulin #sparearose provides, we need to include a link to show people where to go. Looking past the percentages, however, reveals something quite curious. There were over twice as many (2.3x) tweets featuring the word insulin as there were the word donate. What would the final fundraising totals look like if more tweets mentioned the fact that one of the goals of #sparearose is to collect donations? Something to think about, perhaps.

One other stat I noticed was that of all the #sparearose tweets, 67% of the ones that were recorded were Retweets. I wonder what this data would show if more communication about #sparearose was original thought rather than rebroadcasting the words of someone else. To be fair, I’m just as guilty of this as the next person. Sometimes someone else does a better job of saying what I wanted to say and rather than repurpose someone else’s thoughts and words, a simple RT is enough to get the point across.

(3.) To address this, I tried to determine what maximum follower count yielded half of the total impressions from the reporting period. And, what maximum follower count yielded half of the tweets. Where is the tipping point in the makeup of participants that best represents how much of an influence a smaller following can generate. My impressions goal was 3,536,645. Tweets was 868.

Of all the people participating in #sparearose on Twitter, participants with 19,150 or fewer followers generated a little over half of the impressions recorded – How many participants have fewer than 19,150 followers? 97%. 19,000 twitter followers isn’t realistic for most of us, so to put all of this in perspective, participants with 1,000 or fewer followers generated 3% of the total impressions recorded. A single tweet from Crystal Bowersox makes a huge difference in terms of exposure.

Of all the people participating in #sparearose on Twitter, participants with 945 or fewer followers sent a little over half of the tweets during the reporting period. So, most of the tweets came from people with less than 945 followers, but they generated less than 3% of the impressions? My thoughts on this lead into the final question.

(4.) Do small voices matter? Unfortunately I can’t report on how many links were clicked, whose tweets generated the most clicks to sparearose.org. Crystal Bowersox understands the value of a vial of insulin, but do her 60,000 followers? But, for someone with 150 followers, how many of them are going to acknowledge and engage with a donation ask? It feels cold making all of this a numbers game, but the numbers fascinate me. Is there a point where you have too many followers to trust that any significant percentage will engage with a fundraising ask? How likely will followers outside of the diabetes community donate? Should we, all of us, try to cultivate a following outside of the diabetes community in addition to the relationships we build up among the pancreatically-challenged? Is it a matter of making the right ask or the right number of asks?

So we’re clear, I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the entire diabetes community to think about the nuts and bolts of how all this works. What matters most is the passion to connect with others and help educate whoever will listen to the reality that a little can mean a lot to a child with diabetes. Thanks to people like Kerri, we can make a difference. Even if the numbers from Symplur may suggest otherwise, believe me when I tell you that every voice does matter. Every one of you reading this, telling your story, paving the way for someone else with diabetes to feel safe enough to join our crazy little group, all of us are making a difference.

Empathy and Diabetes.

An example of Cards for Humanity, T1D edition. #makehealth

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

This is the card one person at the meeting pulled. When their alarm went off, they got up out of their seat and dropped to the floor. Immediately, someone else sprang into action.

I watched from a distance while Michael drew up the glucagon injection and, with fumbling hands, injected it into the simulated “skin,” aka the rubber ball.

Michael’s reaction to having to following this exercise:

And this is what playing Cards FOR Humanity looked like at the meeting I attended this week.

Introducing "Cards FOR Humanity" at this #makehealth event, driving T1D empathy. #proudtobepart

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

For the last few months, I’ve been part of a design team for type 1 diabetes  (put together by the T1D Exchange and C3N – the disclosure is that I have been compensated for my time), and the team I am on decided that part of truly understanding diabetes means walking the walk.  It means understanding the subtleties and nuances of diabetes. 

It’s empathy.

“Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors.” – from Psychology Today

To make an attempt at helping people better understand diabetes – helping them empathize – we created a card game of sorts. Based loosely on “Cards Against Humanity,” we took that concept for a spin and created a deck of cards with scenarios and accompanying questions to walk someone through a moment in a life with type 1 diabetes.

#empathyordie #makehealth

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

#makehealth #empathyordie

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

#makehealth #empathyordie

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

The discussions that grew from these cards was inspiring, and these discussions gave rise to new levels of understanding and innovation, simply because people in the room who didn’t have diabetes identified more with the people who did.

There’s no way to properly simulate “a day in the life with diabetes,” but a glimpse can be provided, and from that understanding, innovation will rise.

To download a free PDF of the discussion cards, visit Cards For Humanity.

Unraveling the UnConference.

Thanks to the vision, dedication, and determination of Christel Aprigliano, the first Diabetes UnConference came together in Las Vegas last weekend.

“Wait, what?  I didn’t see anything on Twitter or Facebook!”

And that’s because there was a social media blackout on the whole conference during the actual course of it.  No live-Tweeting, no live-blogging, no live-streaming.

As my daughter used to say: “nuffin.”

Which is something I admittedly didn’t agree with, at first.

I always view conferences, both professional ones like the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions and the more community-based ones like TCOYD and JDRF‘s TypeOneNation, as an enormous privilege to attend.  Travel, lodging, and time for conferences can be a huge barrier to attendance, and as someone who has had channels of support that make it possible for me to attend a lot of meetings throughout the year, I feel like it’s part of my “job” to report back on how things went.  And not in a wicked journalistic sense (because my tendency to curse remains what it is and sometimes I don’t take fastidious notes but instead drink copious amounts of coffee), but in a man-on-the-scene sort of sense, trying to help fill in some of the blanks for people who aren’t able to make that particular meeting.  It’s not right that everyone can’t be everywhere they’d like to be, and the diabetes community is good about paying things forward.

[And yes, this is where my disclosure comes in.  In an effort to open up more of Christel's conference budget for crucial things like scholarships, etc., Animas was asked to sponsor my attendance as a facilitator, and they thankfully jumped on board.  I'm grateful for my personal and professional relationship with Animas and the support they have shown to me and to the diabetes community as a whole over the past five years.  For more on my relationship with the company, you can read my disclosures.]

But having a social media blackout was a good thing for the UnConference, even though it kept the conference closed.  Why was that good?  Because there was a lot of vulnerability at this conference, and it wasn’t on display for people to comment on, or document, or send out to a slew of social media followers.  Some folks in attendance were meeting fellow people with diabetes for the first time ever, and others were reconnecting and enjoying established relationships.  People talked about how diabetes affected their lives, and the things that made them feel a slate of emotions – guilty, triumphant, and all the ones in between.  To let the discussion flow without feeling the need to document it was a nice change of pace, and personally kept me in the moment.

Which was helpful, because attendees didn’t share all their “sames.”  It wasn’t an exercise in group-think, where people all said they reacted similarly to diabetes scenarios.

For example, when we were talking about burnout, many people shared their personal experiences with diabetes-related burnout, and others said that they haven’t ever experienced burnout.  I thought that was a powerful moment, because while there might be majority opinions on certain topics, the whole point of the diabetes community is that we are strong in what unites us as well as what makes us different.  One size doesn’t fit all, and neither does one emotional response.  I loved these moments because they woke me up and reminded me of the diversity of our experiences.

While I wish there could have been more people in the actual room, I know that access to conferences like this will come in time.  To that same end, half of the people in attendance were people I hadn’t met before.  It wasn’t the “same crew,” which I thought was powerful and helped shake up some of the “same scene, same people” vibe that has a tendency to dominate at a lot of diabetes conferences.  But what really resonated for me is that people felt comfortable and confident during these discussions, and I think the social media “blackout” contributed to that comfort.  Scrutiny was at a minimum and people could concentrate on being present.

Which is why, at the end of the conference when we were asked to write one word on a 3×5 to describe how we felt about the sessions, the word I wrote was “heard.”

Blog posts about this UnConference might be scarce, but to me that scarcity makes sense.  It was about sharing in the moment, not recapping after the fact.  Maybe, for once, what happens in Vegas stays there in specifics and instead makes it back into the community in the form of increased discussion, support, and connection.

 

McDave from the Plane.

“Were you saving these seats for us?”

I travel regularly for work, and because I’m usually on the road without my family, I end up in various discussions with strangers to fill the time.  Since my days as a breakfast waitress in college, I’ve always enjoyed those snippets of single-serving conversations.  Airplane travel can offer insight at 30,000 feet (sometimes from the pilot).

“Yes.  I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours,” I replied, standing up so that the couple could join me in row 9.

This was my introduction to Dave and his lovely wife.  Throughout the course of the flight from Orlando back up to Providence yesterday, I spent some quality time talking with these two and over-sharing to a frightening degree.

We talked about flying, and how none of us cared for it.  We talked about the Patriots and how mother  (and his wife) are hardcore fans.  We talked about how his daughter has been an extra in several films and TV shows.  And we talked a lot about food.  After a discussion about what I do for work and what brought me into the diabetes space (see also:  diagnosed 28 years ago, felt alone, founded a blog, found some friends), Dave admitted that his own diet could use a shift in priorities.

“We could eat better,” he said.

“We could eat a LOT better,” his wife said from the window seat, smiling ruefully.

“Everyone could eat better, but our fast-food society doesn’t exactly make it easy.  You have to go above and beyond to make sure you aren’t eating junk.  Junk is mainstream!  Think about how screwed up our perception of ‘breakfast’ is; we dump sugary syrup onto pastry-esque pancakes and call it a healthy meal.  That’s not a meal … it’s dessert!”  They nodded, and I realized I was on a mile-high soapbox.  “I’m so sorry.  Food stuff makes me ranty sometimes.  Like when I think about the kinds of foods marketed towards my daughter.  Chicken nuggets and french fries and sugar cererals.  Stuff is gross.”

“So she’s never had a Happy Meal from McDonald’s?” asked Dave, half mocking me, half actually asking.

“She’s had McDonald’s food two or three times in her life, but that’s it.  And no, she’s never had a Happy Meal.”

He laughed.  “You’re missing the chance to make her happy!  But not the food – I get that you don’t want to give her the food.  I used to make my own Happy Meals for my daughters.  I’d take a toy that they hadn’t played with in ages and pack it in with their lunch.  Instant Happy Meal!”

“That’s a good idea.  I like that.”

“Yeah.  Now you can write about it in your blog, right?  I want to be in there.  People would want to read more about me.”

His comments made me laugh.  “Sure.  I’ll write about you.  But the blog post has to have some kind of resolution, right?  Where we both promise to make changes and then we hold one another accountable?  Or is that taking it too far?” I asked him.

Dave thought for a minute.  “I can do that.  Listen, my wife and I will make a change.  We promise to eat something green with every meal.  A vegetable, like spinach or broccoli or squash.  Except that squash isn’t green, so we’ll have to be flexible with the color requirement.  But a vegetable with every meal.”  He made a fist and jabbed it towards the air with conviction.  “A vegetable with every meal!”

“And I promise to make my kid a happy meal, like the one you described.”

He handed me his business card and I promised to send him a link to the post once it was live.  (Hi, Dave!)  The plane landed and we all went our separate ways, resolute in our decision to make positive changes.

This morning, as I packed Birdy’s lunch for preschool, I put one of her small, forgotten toys in the lunch bag, alongside her healthy food options (and a crappy drawing of Loopy drinking a mug of steaming coffee).  I wondered what kind of vegetable Dave managed to work into his breakfast that morning, and smiled.

What’s the point of going through life without ever making eye contact, or making a connection?  Single-serving or not, I’m better for having sat next to Dave.

Earned.

This morning, the Joslin Clinic shared a photo of Dr. C Kenneth Gorman, who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for living 80 years with type 1 diabetes.  He’s one of five people to have received the medal, and the first Canadian (eh?).

Here is this wonderful man, medal and all:

joslin medalist

[From the Joslin Diabetes Clinic Facebook page]

Dr. Gorman redefines what it means to “earn” a medal, in my eyes.  Thank you, Joslin, for letting us know about Dr. Gorman and to Dr. Gorman for inspiring me to keep working towards my 80 year medal.


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Happy birthday to Dr. Seuss!  He’s always been one of my favorite writers to read, recite, and then parody as needed.  In homage to the good doctor on his birthday, I’m revisiting a poem I wrote called A Human’s Resilient, One Hundred Percent! Because we are resilient, damn it.

*   *   *

Sighed Panky, a lazy panc deep in the gut
“I’m tired and I’m bored
And I’m stuck in a rut
From making, just making insulin every day.
It’s work! How I hate it!
I’d much rather play!
I’d take a vacation, or a long nap
If I could find someone to do all this crap!

If I could find someone, I’d kick back and chill …”

Then Panky thought, “Could Kerri be up for the thrill?”

“Hello!” called the lazy panc, smiling her best,
“You’ve nothing to do.  Does this sound too strange …
Would you like do the work I do for a change?”

Kerri laughed.
“Why of all silly things?
I haven’t islets or enzymes or things.
ME do your job?  Why that doesn’t make sense!
Your job is make insulin!  The thought makes me tense.”

“Tut, tut,” answered Panky.  “I know you’re not me
But I know you can do this.  Won’t you hear my plea?
Just pick up that needle and draw up the dose.
Once insulin’s flowing you won’t feel morose.”

“I can’t,” said the Kerri.
“PL-E-ASE!!” begged her panc.
“It won’t be too hard, kid.  Sorry to pull rank.
But I’m leaving regardless if you raise your voice.”

“You’re a jerkface,” said Kerri.  “Not to give me a choice.

I’m unsure how to do this. Details are the devils!
How do I keep steady my blood sugar levels?
What do I do? Can you leave me instructed?”

“You’ll figure it out,” and the panc self-destructed.

“The first thing to do,” murmured Kerri,
“Let’s see.
The first thing to do is to prop up this Me
And to make ME much stronger.  This has to be done
Because diabetes can weigh an emotional ton.”

So carefully,
Hopefully,
She searched, unimpeded
For the resources, tools, and support that she needed.

“I know that there’s life found after diagnosis.
It’s good and it’s worth it. That’s the prognosis.
I meant what I said
And I said what I meant …
A human’s resilient,
One hundred percent!”

Then Kerri, with peers and insulin by her side,
Well she tried
and she tried
and she tried
and she tried.

She kept at it for decades
Despite feeling perplexed.
It requires work one day,
Again on the next.
It sucks! Then it doesn’t!
But Kerri remained sure,
“My life’s worth this effort,
(Though I’d still love a cure.)
I wish Panky’d come back
‘Cause some days I’m so burnt.
I hope that my body thrives on the things that I’ve learnt.”

But Panky, by this time, was far beyond near,
And was dormant for good now. Diabetes was here
And was staying, so Kerri, for better or worse,
Had a pump on her hip, glucose tabs in her purse.

Diabetes is constant, day after day.
But the life in its wake is still good, plenty yay.
And even on days when the Stuff is Way Blah,
Life with disease is not life without Awe.
“It’s not always easy. Diabetes might test me.
But I’ll stay on task and I won’t let it best me.
I meant what I said
And I said what I meant …
A human’s resilient
One hundred percent!”

Some days it is simple. Some months are real hard.
Diabetes is something you can’t disregard.
But a panc on vacation doesn’t mean that you’re broken.
“You can still do this.”

Truer words never spoken.

 

[With apologies and thanks to Dr. Seuss,  this is in homage to Horton Hatches the Egg.]

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