Date: 30 August 2016
It might sound a strange thing to say, but when it comes to my Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), I don’t think of myself as a patient.
Over the years I have had a lot of what I consider to be ‘patient experiences’: visits to my GP, appointments with the practice nurse and I have spent more time than I like to think about sitting in hospital outpatient waiting rooms. On a few memorable occasions there have also been urgent visits to A&E.
I’ve had my fair share of all of these, but in the three years since my T2D diagnosis I have spent less than an hour in total with health care professionals talking about my condition.
During the same period I have spent more time thinking about my health than in the thirty years previously. My condition impinges on my life and thoughts at every turn. Very rarely does a couple of hours go by in which I don’t make a decision relevant to managing my diabetes.
Most of these are very small, but cumulatively they take up a great deal of my thinking. They include the following:
In order to manage my condition well, I need to balance the above factors, as they all play a large role in raising or lowering my blood glucose levels.
None of these decisions have - or could have been made by - my health care professionals, or even in conjunction with them. The nature of my annual consultations with my GP is such that they can’t cover anything more than a discussion about my medication and very general advice about my lifestyle.
Following my diagnosis, I have read widely about diabetes. Through online peer communities, such as the #gbdoc, I have learnt more about the practicalities of managing the condition. From community groups, such as parkrun, I have learnt about exercise, and I have received encouragement and advice through the likes of Team Blood Glucose. From Diabetes UK, I have learnt about what care and support is available, and got useful advice when I have been on the receiving end of discrimination.
I am very lucky to have stumbled into many of these communities, and remain deeply grateful to all of them as they have informed and supported my personal journey towards successful management of my T2D. Without them, my journey would have been a very different and far less positive one.
So when we think about the experience of someone with T2D, it is important to remember that the time we spend with healthcare professionals represents just a fraction of the total experience.
For the rest of the time, we are very much on our own, so equipping us with the knowledge, skills and motivation to manage our conditions is always key to successful outcomes.
For more information, download On the Level: Evidence for Action on Type 2 Diabetes.
Robin Swindell on why he doesn’t see himself as a patient when it comes to his type 2 diabetes.
Robin Swindell was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in May 2013, and manages the condition with diet, exercise and oral medication. He is a keen runner, occasional cyclist and can usually be found at his local parkrun at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning. He tweets as @fractis.