I really don’t know why I have to learn this lesson over and over. I think maybe it’s because I’m so focused on one key message when I am advocating for diabetes that I forget I need to explain the very basics of diabetes before I launch into that message. The Diabetes Hands Foundation’s MasterLab Advocacy conference in 2015 was where I heard this lesson for the first time; never assume that people know what living with type 1 diabetes is like. Really like! OR know much about it at all. (Thank you, Stacey Simms (http://staceysimms.com/ from Diabetes Connections Podcasts for that message). It can be a huge oversight because if people don’t know those basics then everything else I say may have less impact.
It’s such a simple thing. Every conversation HAS to start with what diabetes is and what I have to do every day to manage it.
This lesson was reinforced when we went to Leinster House to brief our TD’s and Senators about why people with diabetes needed a better health service. Our two patient representatives, Davina & Rebecca, explained all the blood glucose checks they do, the measuring and calculating carbohydrates and the calculating how much insulin to dose every time in both of their speeches. Among the comments they received afterwards were “I had no idea that you had to think about ALL of those things”, and “there is so much to think about in diabetes”.
Rebecca explained that something as simple as going out for an ice cream, which is a normal thing to do for a teenager, but for a teenager with type 1 diabetes it has to be planned and accounted for with insulin.
These speeches were real eye openers for our audience. And they listened! So the lesson in advocacy that I have to drill into my head is to first explain my diabetes before I delve into what the issue of the day is.