November 12, 2015

Take your power back as a diabetes patient!

unnamedLiving with diabetes is difficult. Let’s not deny that.

Sometimes more so, sometimes less. On a day-to-day basis, there are many ways you can make it less difficult.

And then there are those times when it all becomes just difficult.

You feel unsupported. Alone. Misunderstood. Frustrated. Angry. Unheard. None of which help your blood sugar to stay stable either, right?

One of these instances that many a diabetes patient has experienced at least once throughout their diabetic career, is at a doctor’s appointment.

Not only do you have to see various types of doctors regularly, but it seems as though most of them don’t even listen to what you say.

You know what it’s like. You explain your case, how you’ve been feeling and what’s going on with your blood sugars, which don’t seem to make any sense, not in this, nor in any other possible parallel universe.

And all your doctor says is something very comforting along the lines of: “well, to me, it just doesn’t seem like you’re trying hard enough!”


It’s just as if they haven’t even heard what you just said, or, alternatively not even cared one little bit.

But what about if you have been “trying hard enough”, done everything in your power to get diabetes under control and, if for no other reason, not have to listen to that one sentence being said at every appointment? What are you supposed to do then?

For a long, long time, all I did was say “yes, doctor, I’ll try harder for next time.” And I’m sure you’ve done it, too, if only to get out of the doctor’s office and go back to your, apparently, according to them, unfulfilled life.

As soon as I got back home after those appointments, things got back to what used to be my normal. I’d do exactly what the doctor told me to do – try harder with all the tips, tricks and tools they had given me. Which only left me as disappointed the next time I had to endure another doctor’s visit.

I’m not certain when I had had enough of this circus, actually. But one thing was for sure, I felt I couldn’t keep disappointing myself like that anymore. I cleaned up my act, what I ate, how I exercised, how I viewed blood sugar numbers and what role my doctor played in this cobweb that is diabetes care. This took me quite a long time as I did it with baby steps, very gradually.

This was despite my mother always telling me since I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 2; “you are your own best doctor”. What she meant by this was NOT that I could just ignore health care professionals opinions and treatments, but rather that I know my body the best, only I can feel what treatment (or anything else) is the best for me and only I have the power to make the necessary changes to my care to make diabetes-magic happen. Sure, my doctor can help, advise, check and support me, but ultimately I’m the one who needs to make the decisions regarding my own care. And that requires a lot of preparation, skills and knowledge. Oh, and a little dash of courage, too.

I want to share my 5 best tips on how to become so confident during a doctor’s visit that they can’t help but listen to what you’ve got to say.

1. Knowing your options

I can’t tell you this enough: Research. Your. Options. It’s about keeping up to date with new tools, new science and new helpers.

Often I’ve arrived at my doctor’s office with a bucket full of new information that I’ve spent time and energy researching, only for us to come up with some kind of awesome solution to whatever is going on right there and then. A solution that my doctor, nor I had thought of. We got there together because I brought her new information.

Also, knowing what your test results mean without having to rely too much on your doctor to explain them to you is pure gold. That way you can get to a solution quicker as a team, as well as it enables you to be able to ask for extra investigation (i.e. more tests) should they be necessary. This goes for all test results, from HbA1c to thyroid tests to cholesterol to vitamins and minerals.

It also gives you the power to say no to suggested treatment options that you, through your research, have found out won’t work for you. For whatever reason.

This is a lot about taking responsibility for your own care. Knowledge is power!

2. Your Dream Health Care Team

This is one of my favorites!

Assembling your Dream Health Care Team is essential for you to get access to the best care for you and your needs.

What does this mean? As soon as you can’t be completely honest with a healthcare professional and your relationship isn’t working, it’s time to look for a new one.

For example, say your endocrinologist only wants to push more medications on you, whereas you would like to explore options for as long as you can, is when it could be in your best interest to find a new endocrinologist whose thoughts are more aligned with your own. This goes for any healthcare professional, from the aforementioned endo to CDE to nurse to nutritionist to ophthalmologist to GP.

In the end, you’ll end up with an awesome Dream Health Care Team that you know has your back whatever may or may not happen. I know I love my Dream Team of ladies helping me with whatever I need!

3. Get to Know Superheroes

Batman, Superman and Catwoman are all on your side!

Jokes aside, superheroes in this case means people that are going through the same thing as you are; other diabetes patients!

The absolute easiest way to do this is through the diabetes online community, or DOC for short, where you can find all kinds of diabetes related questions, issues, stories, experiences, and, first and foremost, help and inspiration to find a solution that suits you.

So check out a few diabetes related Facebook groups, blogs and forums. Your questions are there to be answered, preferably by people who have gone through the same thing themselves and live with diabetes 24/7.

4. The Fine Line

Empowering yourself with all this knowledge is fantastic. And necessary. But it can also easily come to a point where it’s all just too much.

Watch out – knowing too much and being a besserwisser about it is annoying. For everyone involved.

There is a very fine line between being annoying and being just-informed-enough-to-get-your-point-across-efficiently. If you push too much, the only thing you’ll achieve is to leave both your doctor and yourself feeling frustrated and unwilling to find the best possible solution for you. You still want your doctor on your side; they’re the key for you to get exactly the help that you need.

Remember that your physician also has years of experience with you and other patients individual forms of diabetes, so completely dismissing their opinion and suggestions is just as silly as just accepting everything they say. You need to find the fine line between these two.

5. Celebrate!

Don’t forget to celebrate!

Celebration is unmatched in terms of effectiveness for motivation and continued self care, especially when it comes to people with diabetes.

And it’s all about celebrating the small stuff, like a great blood sugar reading, a well-bolused meal, correctly guesstimating your basals for exercise or a successful visit to the doctor’s office.

The more small things you find to celebrate, the more you are able to appreciate yourself, with diabetes being a part of that self.

Learning these steps and daring to take them in preparation for, and during, your next doctor’s appointment is a very courageous, yet necessary thing to manage your ride with Diabetes as well as you possibly can.

“You are your own best doctor.” Remember that.