Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Diabetes Advocacy’ Category

Just a Job.

“I’m just a medical assistant, so my job isn’t as important,” she said as she took my blood pressure and entered the data into my digital file.

“Seriously?  How can you say that?  You probably have more face-to-face moments with patients than the doctors do.  You set the tone for the appointment.  What you do matters.”  I paused.  “Take my blood pressure again,” I laughed.  “It probably just went up.”

She smiled.  “I guess it is important.  But not as important as the doctor.”

It’s strange how people think their interactions don’t matter, don’t have an influence on the patient experience.

When the receptionist checks me in for my appointment, she contributes to the tone of my appointment.  Even if she is asking me for my insurance information for the tenth time, or informing me of an outstanding balance on my account, or telling me that the doctor is running late today, the way she delivers that information colors the experience.

When the phlebotomist is steady-handed and double-checks the information on the blood vial label against my file, their attention to detail and dedication to comfort colors the experience.

When the medical assistant makes eye contact, engages the patient, and acknowledges that the data they are collecting is from a human being, not a lab rat, they color the experience.

When the clinician is on time and the appointment is not an exercise in redundancy and checked boxes on an electronic medical record but instead a discussion between a patient and a provider that influences positive health outcomes, that interaction colors the experience.

And when I’m on time, and I have the necessary and requested data from my diabetes devices, when I have my list of questions and concerns, when I pay my bill or file my claim, and when I’m respectful of everyone’s time and expertise, I color the experience.

There is no “just a …” when it comes to the healthcare experience.  Even when it’s not medically coded as a “shared medical appointment,” the appointment is still shared between the patient and everyone their interact with.  Everyone involved makes or breaks those moments for the patient and the healthcare team alike, with each person playing a crucial role in keeping the process effective, efficient, and evolving.

Everyone.

(EVERYONE !!!)

 

“Do You Like It?”

“Excuse me … your, um, arm?  What’s that on your arm?”

Ninety-five percent of the time, I don’t care if people ask about my insulin pump or CGM.  More power to them for being bold enough to embrace the awkwardness and actually ask, instead of assuming.  (And even in the 5% moments of “argh – stop looking, don’t ask,” it usually ends up being a moment of discussion and disclosure I’m grateful for.  I should be more open to discussing diabetes in a public setting.  Hang on a second … let me start a blog real quick.)

“On my arm?  That’s my insulin pump.  I have diabetes.”

I was in line at Starbucks, grabbing an iced coffee (under the gestational lock and key of decaf for just a few more weeks), escaping the blazing summer temperatures for a few minutes before heading back to work.  I was wearing a skirt and a tank top, with my infusion set connected to the back of my right arm.  My body – thanks to third trimester expansion, has run out of subtle places to stash my insulin pump, so it was casually clipped to the strap of my tank top.

Kind of noticeable, but in a “who cares” sort of way.  It’s hot outside.  And I’m wicked pregnant.  And I have no waist anymore.  You can see my insulin pump?  Good for you.  You can probably see my belly button, too.

“No kidding.  Diabetes?  Is it because of the pregnancy?”

“No, I’ve had diabetes way longer than this pregnancy.  I was diagnosed when I was seven.”

The guy paused for a second, his eyes lingering on the infusion set on my arm.  “So you do that thing instead of shots?”

“Yep.”

“Do you like it?”

That question always throws me a little.  Do I like it?  The pump?  I do like the pump.  I like not taking injections.  I like not whipping out syringes at the dinner table and exposing my skin.  I like taking wee ickle bits of insulin to correct minor highs.  I like running temp basals to beat back hypos.  I like people wondering what it might be instead of assuming it’s a medical device.

“I do like it.  It works for me.”  I paused, already envious of the coffee in his hand.  “I like coffee more, though.”

He laughed and finished paying for his coffee.  “Can’t blame you for that.  Good luck with the baby, and try to stay cool in this weather,” he said.

I don’t like diabetes.  That’s for damn sure.  That shit is exhausting and I’m burnt out on the demands it places on my life.  But the pump?  Yes, I do like it.  It’s  a streamlined delivery mechanism for a hormone I wish my body would just cave and start making again.  It handles diabetes so I can go back to trying to put my socks on without tipping over.

Racing on Insulin: 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

What did you do this weekend?  Me?  Oh, I spent Sunday afternoon with 41 of my DOC friends at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 race.  Sort of.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, Charlie Kimball is driving the narrative about type 1 diabetes as the first licensed driver with diabetes and first licensed driver to qualify for and complete the Indianapolis 500 in the history of Indycar.  He and I have known one another for many years (he’s been a good sport as far as videos, Twitter, and allowing my infant daughter to sit in his race helmet), and it’s been truly humbling AND EXCITING to watch Charlie rise in the Indycar circuit.

And on Sunday afternoon, Charlie Kimball got behind the wheel of his No. 42 Tresiba Chevrolet and took to the racetrack.  But he wasn’t alone; he had his Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team by his side, and the names of 42 diabetes community friends emblazoned on the sides of his car.

I talked with Charlie on Friday, before the race, and he shared a little bit about why he raced with diabetes advocates on his car.  “With the Indianapolis 500, there’s so much history, so many stories, so many anecdotes.  Novo Nordisk and Chip Ganassi Racing wanted to do something to kickstart the conversation about diabetes.  We wanted to do something cool, something to make sure that the diabetes community had their story heard.”

This weekend, Charlie wasn’t racing as #83, but instead as #42.  “The number 42 comes up often – there are 42 names on the car, Tresiba [new basal insulin available through Novo Nordisk] lasts for 42 hours, and 42 is the number on Kyle Larson‘s car.”  (Kyle Larson races NASCAR, and Kyle’s cousin Justin has T1D.)  “People don’t often see that Chip Ganassi has real team relationships across series, which is why I’m proud of the tie-in this weekend with Kyle.”

“Yours was the first blog I read that gave me the confidence to talk openly about diabetes.  You, them, us as a group drive that conversation about diabetes and engagement.  Diabetes is a big part of what I do and who I am.  And [putting the names on the car] is an opportunity to encourage the story to be told.”

And Charlie told his story, and ours, by finishing 5th in the Indy 500.

 

Way to go, Charlie!!  Thank you for continuing to represent the diabetes community – we’re proud to be part of your team.

(all photos credited to credit to LAT Photography USA)

Diabetes Blog Week: Language and Diabetes.

Language and Diabetes:  There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.

(And for more on the topics of Diabetes Blog Week 2016, click here.)

Language matters.  The words we use matter.

Some words make me all fired up, like “consumer.”  I am a consumer when it comes to cars, or coats, or snow blowers.  When it comes to diabetes, I’m not a consumer.  I would never choose to consume these goods; they are chosen out of the desire to stay alive.  I don’t like “suffering from diabetes” because it makes me feel weak and compromised, which stands in contrast to where I prefer to anchor my emotions about diabetes.  And I totally hate the concept of “good” and “bad” blood sugars.  That whole ideology can fuck off in favor of “in range” and “out of range.”

I appreciate the word “complications” because its connotation is perfect for how I feel about diabetes-related complications; that shit is complicated.  I like the word “empowered” because it reminds me that I have a say in how this whole life maps out, diabetes or not.  I like any words and phrases that tie the physical aspects of diabetes to the emotional ones.  I latch on actively to “hope” versus fear.  And I like being called “Kerri” instead of “diabetic,” but hey, that’s just me.

(And I really like certain curse words, but I am trying to use those less, but it’s difficult.  I don’t make insulin, I do make use of curse words.  It’s a terrible habit, but one I am not changing.)

But it’s not about the words we shouldn’t use, or the ones that seem potentially loaded.  This morning, after hearing about the death of a fellow advocate (outside of the diabetes space), I’m spinning with thoughts of the words I wish I used more, the things I wish I said.  The things I should say.

Like “thanks for sharing this.”  I think this every time I read a blog post, or a Tweet, or a Facebook update from someone and it makes me stop and think.  The DOC is filled with voices that challenge what I thought I knew, and who teach me how to re-examine my chronic illness with grace and determination or perspective or humility … or all of it.  I like the way they think.  I like what they say.

And “How are you feeling today?”  I interact with a lot of people touched by illness – patients, consumers, caregivers … whatever word words for you in this way – and their stories touch me.  A lot of the time, I absorb what they’re saying and store it away in my head, but I want to reach out more, ask “how are you feeling today?”  I want the people in our community, and outside of it, to know how much I appreciate what it takes to share their stories, even when they are worn out by doing it, by living it.  A little ask goes a long way.

Or “You aren’t alone; how can I help?”  Because sometimes people share to get things off their chest (“I hate low blood sugars!”), but other times they reach out in hopes of someone reaching back (“I feel so alone with diabetes.”)  Words matter, and hearing, “You aren’t alone; how can I help?” might make a difference.

And “I’m sorry.”  Because I am.

But mostly “thank you” and sometimes, “I love you.”  Over the last few years, there have been people who have come and gone from my life that left lasting impressions, and I bet I didn’t tell them “thank you” and “I love you” nearly as much as I should have.  I know I thought it – thought it a lot after they were gone – but I should have said it then.  When they were here.  When they could hear me and understand the influence they’ve had on my life, the positive mark they’ve left on my existence, and the ways they’ve rocked my world for the better.

Words matter.  Stories matter.  People matter.  So thank you.  And even though you’re reading these words on a glowing screen and we’re communicating mostly through a digital medium, you are part of a community that has forever changed me.

 

Diabetes Blog Week: Message Monday.

It’s Diabetes Blog Week, a week in the year where diabetes bloggers can rally together and share their stories, following suggested (but not mandated!) themes and focusing on connecting with one another as a community.  And who better to closely knit our community together than Karen (who is known in my household as “The Knitter“)?  Karen kindly brings us closer on Diabetes Blog Week by inspiring others to raise their voices.  So let’s do that.

Message Monday:  Lets kick off the week by talking about why we are here, in the diabetes blog space. What is the most important diabetes awareness message to you? Why is that message important for you, and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing it on your blog? (Thank you, Heather Gabel, for this topic suggestion.)

My blog started back in May of 2005, admittedly mostly because I was lonely with diabetes.  I had lots of friends and community outside of my busted pancreas, but no one in my life who “got it.”  That frustrated me.  Made me feel lonely.  Contributed to feelings of isolation.

So I Googled “diabetes” and a long list of shit that would go wrong with my body as I aged came back as a search return.  Not fun.  At the time, I was 25 years old.  I wasn’t ready to think about my chronic illness in terms of a ticking clock.  I wanted more reasons to live, and live well, instead of reasons why I should tuck my islets between my legs (ew) and get ready to die.

Eff that.  I want to have a proper life after diagnosis, not one that’s dominated by fear.  Gimme some hope.

Which brought me to the blogosphere over a decade ago, and that desire to connect with people who intimately understand diabetes is what drives me to stay here.

Over the course of the last eleven years, my “message” has changed.  I’ve changed, so that makes sense.  When I was in my mid-twenties, I wanted to find others who were interviewing for jobs, starting relationships, living on their own, and making their way as an adult … with diabetes.  Confirming that a community existed, and was accessible, lit me up proper.

As I got older, I was interested in hearing about successful parenting with diabetes.  Not exclusively about pregnancy, because that’s not a thing for everyone, but about how families expanded through whatever means they felt were right, either through biological children, or adopted, or fostered, or kids of the decidedly furrier variety.  I really took a lot of pride in sharing my pregnancy six years ago, and again now, because it wasn’t perfect, or seamless, or without issue but hell, it was mine.  And it what I worked for.  And it was worth it.

When there were complications, I felt comforted by the community who had been there before me, and by the hope they provided as to life after diagnosis.  Same goes for diabetes-related depression.  Same goes for infertility.

Same goes for any moment in the last eleven years where I’ve felt alone or potentially isolated, but the community taps me on the shoulder and goes, “Wait.  You aren’t alone.  Turn around; we’re all in this together.”

There’s a level of support found in our community that I can’t properly say thank you for.  But I’m thankful.

Why am I here?  To share my story, as ever-changing as it may be.  To make a difference.  The stuff I share from my digital soapbox grows as I grow, leaving my goal simply to connect with my peers and to live well.  What am I trying to accomplish?  I still don’t know, but I have seen that I accomplish more, live more when I feel the support of community.

I don’t have a set “message,” but I do have a life, and it’s worth documenting if only to prove to myself that diabetes will not bring me down.

If anything, with the help of our community, I’ll force it to raise me up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers