Wednesday 29 February 2012

Featuring yours truly......!

About a year ago I was bimbling around on the Internet and happened to type into Google, something along the lines of 'Diabetes charities Hampshire', because I really had no idea what there was in my area other than JDRF South. I wasn't expecting to find much, but found myself typing it in anyway.

There had to be more than one diabetes charity, surely?

To my delight I stumbled across a charity based only 15 minutes down the road from me. Small world, ay! They are called the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation and despite being a small outfit, they have a big message; Staying well, until a cure is found.

Over the last year I have taken part in their Bootcamp event, have been brought to tears by their message of hope, have done a sponsored walk in their favour and have popped in for several cups of tea with their team. They make a really good cup of tea, FYI.

To my delight, they asked yours truly if I would like to write their tale end news piece for their February newsletter.

Um, would I ever!?!

I chose to write my piece about exercise because that is one of the true keys to success when 'staying well' with the 'betes, so seemed to fit quite nicely with their aims.

Unfortunately they don't have an online version, so I have copied it all down for you below. But check out their website on this link for more info on what they do and if you can, pop in for a cuppa sometime. I'm sure they won't mind......

My name is Anna and I am many things. A daughter, a sister, a wife and a friend. I love to surf and snowboard but can do neither whilst standing up. I love Autumn, Cornwall, black and white photography and animals. I am also a type 1 diabetic, juvenile onset, insulin dependent - the beast has many names. Diagnosed at the age of four, I must have been through every stage of acceptance in the book; I was the child who couldn't understand it, the teenager who fought against it, the young adult who reluctantly accepted it into her life and am now fully fledged (but still very young at heart!) adult who manages to negotiate each day with reasonable success.
For many years I struggled to achieve anything which looked like even basic control. In fact for me, 'stable' was a place you kept a horse, not something you could expect from diabetes. So after fighting against it for far longer than I care to remember, I finally took up the suggestion my team at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth made, of trying an insulin pump. Even though the pump is still something which is only available on the NHS for type 1s who meet certain criteria, going onto a pump came with a wealth of information about carbohydrate counting, exercise and cutting yourself some slack when things go a bit 'wonky'. All of which can make a difference without ever having a pump.
Perhaps the biggest realisation for me was about the benefits of exercise. Having avoided it for many years and using excuses like 'my control just isn't reliable enough', starting exercising on a regular basis was one of the turning points in my diabetic control. I started going for walks in the country or strolling to and from work every day, all the while noticing my insulin requirements dropping almost by the day. I found that whilst cycling and for several hours afterwards, I needed only 10 per cent of the insulin I normally need in order to keep my sugars in range. I found that yoga brought my sugars down nicely every time and even my 10-minute cycle to and from work has my sugars in check by breakfast.
Earlier this year a friend even convinced me to try 'Body Combat'. Whatever you are thinking about how intense it sounds trust me, it's tougher! Imagine being with 50 other people while high octane music blares out and an instructor who apparently has limitless energy shouts through a microphone,while you attempt to mimic them (and fail drastically), all the while using moves from martial arts and - if you do it like me - 90s rave. Now also imagine that this exercise propels your fitness, energy levels, self confidence and general well-being faster forward than anything else you've tried.
So what is the key to exercising? As I found out, it is to treat it like an experiment. When trying a new exercise try to eat similar foods before and after and do it at the same time of day. Take a little carbohydrate (like a banana) before exercise to give your body a little boost, even if you need to inject for it. Be confident and don't write it off after the first attempt. It took me weeks of body combat to discover exactly the right formula and now I am at the front panting away, enjoying every minute and reaping the blood glucose benefits.
The message I want to get across is that it doesn't matter what form of exercise you do whether it is team games, high intensity cardio, a gentle stroll or even stretching; moving your body in any way allows your body to use the insulin you either put in or still produce yourself much more effectively.
And frankly, it makes you feel top notch!

Sunday 26 February 2012

The Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes conference 2012

The 7th -10th February 2012 saw the arrival of the international event known as the Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD) conference, which I was lucky enough to be able to attend as a representative of INPUT and funding from Dexcom to assist INPUT in the work they do. The ATTD is a worldwide conference where research outcomes at the very forefront of technological advance are presented. Being only 5 years old it is still in its fledgling years, but growing noticeably each year. Although I was not at last year’s event, I am informed that there were around 1000 attendees. This year, there were 1600 and I’m sure there are many more who would have attended given half a chance. It is aimed at diabetic professionals (or professional diabetics, in my case) mainly being consultants, nurses and diabetes educators, although the odd advocacy service pop up here and there too!
Being an insulin pump user, a diabetes advocate and a bit of an inquisitive old lass, it is always of great interest to me to see where this diabetes technology beast is heading. We hear terms like ‘Artificial Pancreas’ and ‘non-invasive glucose monitoring’ thrown about on an almost daily basis now and yet many people in the diabetic community feel these are creatures of myth and seem to hold a ‘that’ll be the day’ attitude towards them. So to be involved in a conference where this research is being presented was an honour and frankly, somewhat of an eye-opening occasion for me. .
Clearly it would be impossible to go through each of the presentations, symposiums and workshops in detail. Not in the least because my less than scientific mind would never be able to recall all the details for you. But perhaps giving you an idea of the things that caught my eye would be of use.

One of the stands in the exhibition which I kept circling in a slightly cautious way, was that of C8 Medisensors. In case you haven't heard of them (I hadn't), they are bringing to market a non-invasive glucose monitor that uses Raman Spectroscopy technology which for those of you who don't speak 'medical journal', is effectively a light that shines through the skin and identifies how many glucose particles there are in the interstitial fluid. Phew, mouthful ay. Well, according to early tests they are showing promising results, although the last test only involved 6 people. I would need to see a significant higher amount before I would be convinced it would rival the likes of Dexcom 7+ and Medtronic Enlite. Now we all remember the success of previous non-invasive systems such as the Glucowatch, the remnants of which remains burned on the skin cells of countless diabetics who had the misfortune of using it. But this was impressive. In its current form it is a bit on the 'chunky' side, and is held around the midriff with a tight neoprene band. But for those parents out there who hate the feeling of piercing their children's skin with countless needles they have to face, I think this could be a contender. If, and only IF, they come good in clinical trials. Watch this space.

For quite some time I have been aware that in order to avoid post meal spikes I need to bolus 30 minutes before each meal, otherwise those spikes just creep in a couple of hours later. But we also know that each diabetic is different and we are told all the time to find our own way. So I was very interested in a lecture about bolus times in children using insulin pump therapy. In the results being demonstrated to the audience, the message was that 15 minutes was the optimum pre-meal bolus time to avoid those spikes. In addition to this the study, called “Fine Tuning of Insulin Pump Therapy in children with type 1 diabetes: The importance of bolus timing and type” demonstrated that making the most of dual wave boluses and separating correction boluses and meal boluses, would make all the difference. They found that with mediterranean food for example, boluses were split 70% straight away and 30% over 4 hours, while Pizza was 30% straight away and 70% over 6 hours. They also highlighted that the results of their study showed that when blousing for a meal, any correction bolus being included with the meal bolus, should be separated by 15 minutes, and that this would bring glucose down to normal via the fastest route. Fascinating stuff for me, someone who has always struggled to get my head about a dual waver

One of the key lectures for us to attend included INPUT’s very own Lesley Jordan taking to the stage. Lesley has been involved in a pioneering project to trial the Accu Chek Diaport, an intra-peritoneal (goes into the peritoneal cavity in the abdomen) infusion site which is permanently fixed (as long as the host wants it, that is). It is surgically implanted and regularly maintained and allows for insulin to be much faster acting (see number 3 on my list), removes the worry of hitting a bad site and means much better control. It may not be for everyone as it is surgically implanted but for those with site problems leading to frustration and poor control it provides a very useful tool in helping achieve control over their condition and maintain use of an insulin pump effectively. Lesley has been one of the Diaport 'guinea pigs' and thanks to feedback from her, the new and improved second generation is ready to launch.

There were also stands demonstrating the Omnipod, the Accu-Chek Combo, the Medtronic Veo and my particular favourite of the moment, the Cell-Novo. I had the chance to catch up with some old friends from Medtronic, meet new ones at Roche and Cell-Novo and had a chance to thank Dexcom for supporting INPUT and in a round about way, helped me attend such an inspiring event.