Posted by on Saturday, 19 November 2016

Facebooking my diabetes for #WDD2016


Monday this week was World Diabetes Day. It's is one of those made-up things that come around every year and hope to raise awareness of something or other - World Sparrow Day... International Day of Happiness... World Toilet Day... One of my own favourites is 'International Talk Like A Pirate Day', but I digress... Aaaaarrrrrrrrr!

World Diabetes Day is held every year on November 14th, good ole Freddie Banting's birthday (one of the guys who was instrumental in the discovery of extracting and using insulin in diabetes treatment). It was nice to see a WDD themed Google Doodle make an appearance, something that us pancreas-impersonators have been asking for for many years.

A few years ago, inspired by something I saw on Twitter from Scott Hanselman, I decided to document a day's-worth of diabetes interactions on Facebook as they happened. People seemed surprisingly interested, and so having given them a few year's respite I thought it was time to Facebook my diabetes again. Here's how it went...

06:22 
Slightly early start to the day but the routine is the same. First thing, even before kettle goes on is to check blood glucose level. Make small hole in finger, squeeze out drop of blood and apply to test strip. Result: 8.3. Ideally this would be between 5.0 and 7.0. Give insulin for breakfast. Estimate single slice of toast as 15g of carbohydrate (12g for the bread, 3g for a dab of marmalade). Insulin pump suggests 1.3 units of insulin for the carbs, plus 0.6u to correct the slightly high BG level. In addition I also need an extra 1u for my liver releasing extra glucose when I get up (part of the body's Circadian Rhythm). Dose delivered I will now wait at least 30 minutes to eat breakfast.

Via comments:
Regarding the carb value of bread: I deliberately choose Burgen 'soya and linseed' as it is a) tasty b) slightly lower carb and c) relatively low GI

Regarding waking BG level: The official guidelines are 5-7, I think. The 7 is to give some wiggle room for a rise after eating. Usually pre-meal guides are 4-7, but at breakfast they make it 5, because regularly waking in the 4s is associated with increased risk of undetected nocturnal hypoglycaemia which can be a real problem. 

06:50
Check pump display to remind me when I had dosed for breakfast. I have been waiting 30 minutes to eat for so long I often instinctively get this right. I thought to check at about 28 minutes today which is about perfect. I need to leave a gap between dose and food because the 'rapid acting' insulin I use is not actually very rapid. I cannot afford getting distracted though as if I wait too long the insulin could start working before the food kicks-in and my BG levels could drop too far. It's a balancing act! 

07:17
Breakfast of champions. I have tried many things over the years but this seeded bread is fairly reliable for me (everyone's reaction to different foods is frustratingly and confusingly different). It has slightly fewer carbs than regular bread - 12g per slice vs the more usual 18g - and the seeds help to slow absorption. It is anything with carbohydrate that raises blood glucose levels, not just sweet things, so that's bread, rice, pasta, most fruit, anything made with flour, grains, root veg, and then all the sweet and sugary things too. My task is to match the carbohydrate I eat with doses of insulin. And then to match the speed of absorption of the food with the timings of the doses. I cannot hope to get that right all the time. But the lingering threat is that if I get that wrong too often I am at risk of blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, limb amputation (high levels) or unconsciousness, coma or death (low levels). Fun eh! Over the past 25 years I have spent more time thinking about the potentially disastrous outcomes of my efforts to manage my diabetes than is probably good for a person's mental health. 

07:57
Time to take this moppet out for a walk. Activity and exercise need more fuel than resting and tend to make insulin work more dramatically, so I need to allow for that, even when it's something as insignificant as a 35 minute wander. My insulin pump allows me to reduce my 'background' insulin level, so I am setting a 70% Temporary Basal Rate for 45 minutes. 


08:52
Back from dog walk, just checking to see how things are going. 11.5mmol/L. This is too high, it looks as though I could have done without the TBR I set (though tomorrow might yield different results even if I do exactly the same things). Ideally this should be no higher than 9mmol/L 2 hours after eating so I am adding .7u of insulin with the aim of getting me back to 9 and leaving the insulin already 'on board' to deal with breakfast as it continues to digest. 

09:14
It's 9:14 and I realise I have already forgotten to mention something. I had a shower, so I disconnected my insulin pump temporarily, capped the tubing and the cannula that is inserted, currently, on my back. After the shower I primed the tubing and reconnected. So many of these interactions are so automatic I barely even notice them any more. 

10:02 
WDD Update: (It's RELENTLESS isn't it?) 10am and feeling a little bit indigestion-y / dry-throated. This *might* be connected with my raised blood glucose levels, but my symptoms of high BGs are patchy to say the least. It is probably because I have just been thinking about it since breakfast and it's all in my head. Or maybe it isn't? Tempted to check my blood glucose level again, but the thought of another finger prick so soon after the others (and especially because I think it will be another high level) is not encouraging me. 

I am also feeling a bit hungry, but adding the complexity of something carby at this stage will just create even more confusion/uncertainty so I am having a handful of nuts and a cup of tea instead. It's not that I *can't* have a couple of biscuits - it's just that the mental effort, and potentially disastrous BG outcomes kinda drains the joy out of them.

Via comments
Regarding feeling hungry when BG is high: I think it's because you body knows you have fuel on board, but it also knows that the energy is trapped in the blood and not making it into the cells. So it asks for more fuel. Which potentially makes the problem worse. Which makes you hungrier. Rinse. Repeat...

The really REALLY irritating thing for me is that my clearest symptom of low blood glucose is ALSO 'feeling a bit hungry'. So every time I feel a bit hungry I have to work out whether my BG is too high because of what I've just eaten, too low because I've over-compensated or, perhaps, that I might be just 'a bit hungry'. Pah! 

10:40
My Twitter feed is ablaze with #wddchat16 today. A 24-hour curated international Twitter conversation with different countries hosting an hour and handing over to each other. Thousands and thousands of people connecting, sharing experiences and supporting each other. I find great support to help me manage my T1 by connecting with people online, but I am going to have to resist getting involved on Twitter today or I am *never* going to get anything done! 

12:30
Lunchtime beckons. As you can see, the carefully considered correction doses I have administered today have had absolutely no effect, even though all of those doses have now finished working (approx 4 hours). I am beginning to feel the sluggishness of high BGs emerge. Lunch is a 2 slice Burgen bread sandwich and an apple*. 25g carbs for the sarnie and allow 20g carbs for the apple, so 45g total. My lunch ratio is 1 unit of insulin for 11g carbs. Thankfully my pump can do the maths for me, along with calculating a correction based on 1u lowering my BG by 3.5mmol/L and the difference between my current BG and my ideal mid-range target. Confused yet? Dose for lunch is 4u, plus another 1.5u correction for the high BG. I will wait rather longer to eat this time, with the intention of being more in range before adding more carbs. A tricky timing challenge as the longer I leave it the more steeply dipping my BGs will be when I eat, and the food will take a while to get going itself. It can feel like trying to hit a perfectly weighted long-ball pass to a sprinting striker... in the rain... into a headwind. 

* I tend to eat the same things for breakfast and lunch week in, week out. Partly habit, but mostly to reduce the number of variables by sticking to things that have been 'fairly reliable' (Ha!) in the past. That way if results are not as expected I can discount carb-estimation and food-absorption-speed errors, and it becomes more likely that my insulin needs have changed again.

12:46
How long has that been? Ah. OK, my instinctive 30 minute recheck. Will leave it a while and BG check again.

Via comments
It must be exhausting being you: The thing is... I recognise how amazingly lucky I am to *only* have T1D to live with. And to live with it in the UK with access to insulin, tech and the unbelievably amazing NHS. If I'd been given a list of LTCs to pick from aged 21, it would have been a pretty good option.

13:12
Just checked again. #BGnow of 9.3 after a full hour. Not perfect, but it will have to do. If I don't eat now I'm likely to get too absorbed in what I'm doing and forget.

15:42
This is getting a bit annoying now. Walked to Coop without TBR as things have been running high and I'm still too high on return. If things were working I would already be back in range. Correcting with a further 2.5u. Pump recommended 0.7u as I still have 0.7u 'insulin on board' from lunchtime. Initially thought about 1.5u, but have added another unit. Essentially I am now dosing what I think is 'slightly too much' because 'enough' isn't doing anything. I will need to keep an eye on it towards eve meal time. Starting to feel a bit crabby/irritable.

Via comments
Could raised BGs be an issue with the infusion site? Good thought, Not sure though... Would expect a much more dramatic rise with a cannula fail rather than being held steady through subsequent meals. This just feels like walking the wrong way on a travelator. Have been expecting my basals/ratios to shift soon. Looks like this could be it?

Could it be degraded insulin, having got too warm?  No it's quite a fresh one. I will take a look at tomorrow's results and see whether it's a pattern or 'one of those days'

17:43
Yay! My first in-range result of the day. Must remember to change my insulin pump battery before I go out for the evening. Last thing I need is Threepio wailing away when I'm trying to play guitar.

17:56
Just prepping for evening meal. Here's my insulin pump working up the mathematics for the dose. Feel very lucky to have access to tech which can fine tune doses like this. And if I decide I want to up my insulin intake by 10% tomorrow I can adjust the settings and let it work out the new ones. My diabetes may not behave reliably/predictably, but at least I can wrestle it with some precision on one side of the equation!

19:54
Typical, just when you can't watch what is going on and just when you really don't want to dip low. Several handfuls of Skittles to the rescue. Don't want to repeat the brain-fog for the next lot of songs.

Via comments
Regarding hypo warning signs: The ones that sneak up on me at that level really scare me. I tend to get good signals at least between 3.5 and 3, this time I had lack of coordination and slight sweating as clues. Didn't get my more usual anxiety/hunger until on the way back up.

21:42
That's the thing about T1 diabetes. You really can't rely on it to behave consistently. Just when you have been running high all day, and without rage-bolusing for a meal you get an unexpected dip. I suspect a slight mis-estimate of carbs for my evening meal, and not quite enough of an insulin delay for noodles (some carbs take longer to hit my system and an insulin pump allows me to deliver the dose either fully or partially spread over a number of hours). Still surprised the handful of extra fast carbs I ate as a 'safety cushion' disappeared so completely. 

22:02
Another check, and as I half expected I slightly over-did the hypo correction. Always tricky treating a hypo when you have insulin active, and when you don't want to risk a double-dip. I added a 30 minute 0% temporary basal rate just in case. Looks like a few Skittles too many. Another correction delivered. Not my best day of BG control. But not my worst either!

23:36
This is the last of my posts as part of World Diabetes Day. I waited up to allow that last correction to settle in. 

In Sesame Street style, today has been brought to you by 9 blood glucose checks, 110g of carbs, 29.475 units of insulin (40% background, 60% meal/correction). Just an average day with T1D (with above average BG levels). 

Now wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. And the next day. And the next. And the next...


 

Posted by on Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Night-time nonsense. Perfection isn't possible.

The darkest hour, just before dawn, yesterday
I stumbled across this little bit of research again today. And while I know I had clocked it in the past, and was aware of it - this time it came as a huge relief.

I have not been feeling altogether cheery about my diabetes of late. Off and on for something getting on for a year I have been feeling more than usually grumpy and disheartened about it. I have written (mercifully few) ranty grumblings about it every so often. Partly driven by a couple of clinic appointments where I somehow managed to spend the weeks before and afterwards twisting and distorting either real or imaginary conversations into spirals of judgement, impossible requirements and self-destructive behaviours. Quite reasonable and well handled suggestions suddenly becoming a cloud of frustration and rage in my head, and a lead weight in my heart.

Many people would describe this as 'diabetes burnout', but that always sounds a bit too dramatic and significant. Mine is perhaps more of a 'diabetes weariness', with occasional outbursts of 'OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE WHAT ON EARTH IS THE POINT'.

Diabetes is such a mind game. Confidence and self-belief count for a lot for me. I do better when I feel things are going better, and I am much more likely to go off the rails or make (deliberate/knowing) poor choices when my levels are all over the place anyway.

You may recall that one of the changes I had been trying to make related to my remaining overnight hypoglycaemia. Nothing like as bad as it would once regularly have been (I have not had any severe hypos either in the day or overnight for years) but time spent hypo overnight is still something I really want to reduce further. Well after the best part of a year, and having tried a whole bunch of different approaches (some disastrous, others not so bad) I'm not sure I'm very much further forward. Without continuous monitoring it's hard to be 100% sure, but it seems I will still dip below 4.0mmol/L at some point on something like 3 nights in a month. I am now running most of the other nights significantly higher and that has resulted in an increase to my A1c by something like 0.5%-1%. On the plus side though, my number of BG checks below 4.0mmol/L last month was slightly lower than normal (whatever normal pretends to be).

So some things are a bit worse. And other things are a bit better. Well that all sounds familiarly 'life with T1D' to most of you I'm sure.

But here is the thing - if you, like me, struggle with variability in levels overnight. There is a LOT we can do to reduce it. There are strategies that we can put in place to really help. But it will never be perfect.

And we have to find a way to make peace with that.

During the day, you can do your best to reduce variability - to make good food choices, to dose carefully, to make adjustments around activity and exercise. And all the time you can watch and check and see how you are getting on. Check. React. Adjust. Move on.

What this piece of research, published in Diabetes Journals in May this year, demonstrates though - is that overnight insulin requirements are likely to be even more variable than those during the day. Think about that for a minute. In almost 2,000 days and nights that were measured and compared there was more variability in insulin need overnight than during the day. More variation with NONE of the variations in food, activity and all the rest.

That doesn't mean that it is not worth trying, of course. We still need to do the best we can to make up for our errant pancreases letting us down on the whole insulin-production front. Keep checking, reviewing and adjusting. Throwing in the occasional overnight basal test every now and then ("Hooray!", said no one ever). But it is worth bearing in mind, if you are struggling this week, that you are not on a level playing field. What works well most nights might let you down tomorrow, and that is not your fault.

Perfection is not possible. All we can do is our best.

Link: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/39/5/830.short

Posted by on Wednesday, 12 October 2016

64 Days with the Minimed 640G - A year on

Someone at Medtronic expressed an interest in some of us who video-blogged as part in their '64 days with the MM640G' trial to post a follow-up after a year to say how we were getting on. Well I slightly missed the deadline, but such is life at the moment. I still have a post waiting in the wings that I've been wanting to write since March. Somewhat unexpectedly I have managed to get it put together this week - partly because the battery state on my pump was right for something I wanted to share.

I still really like the MM640G. It's a bit big, it's a bit clunky, and it's a bit of an ugly-duckling in the looks department, but it still works well for me. And if I were choosing this week from the current crop of available devices, I would opt for it again. So much of it does exactly what I want... rock solid dose reliability, great handling of temporary basal rates and basal patterns, handy home screen showing most of what I want instantly. And if I could afford the wizardy of sensors I know from experience that I would love it even more.

Unfortunately, what tends to happen with me, the longer I live with a piece of diabetes technology, is that I find more gripes and niggles with it. So fair warning, this is a bit nit-picky.

So here you go... some moaning about repeat button presses, slightly over-cautious menu-language, that darned screen unlock thing, the flippy-floppy belt clip and, perhaps most importantly the battery check that will reject a battery if it has anything less than absolutely full charge.

Enjoy!

Watch the video

Posted by on Saturday, 23 July 2016

Cholesterol confusion and climate change

Photo by Malcolm Koo (Creative Commons)
There are two types of people in the world - those who repeatedly suggest there are two types of people in the world and those who don't.

When it comes to cholesterol and heart disease however, there seem to be three types of people in the world: Firstly those who think fat is bad, cholesterol causes heart disease and statins should basically be put in the water supply; Secondly those who suggest cholesterol is a natural healthy substance, saturated fat is fine and doesn't affect serum cholesterol anyway and that statins are at best ineffective and at worst part of an evil plot by Big Pharma to make vast sums of money and hang the consequences to anyone who takes them. Thirdly there is the group that watches the two extremes bicker and squabble. That reads report after report each debunking the other's 'evidence' shrugs our shoulders and wonders what on earth to make of it all.

You may be able to tell that I am firmly in the third group.

I have tried to write this post many times before. Almost always after the release of some study or other which shines light on it (from either direction) in a pretty conclusive way. But each time this happens, almost without fail, within a day or two I will see something else that eloquently argues exactly the opposite point of view - and I find myself back at square one. So I have given up waiting until I have made up my mind one way or another and decided to just pour it all out. To try to explain my confusion - probably mostly to myself. It will be rambling, contradictory, borderline-incoherent, and in reality I should probably re-read it and get rid of at least two thirds of it. But I'm not going to spare you that, dear reader. You will just have to suffer along with me.

At the outset it is crucial to remind you that I have absolutely NO medical expertise whatsoever. This is not advice (perish the thought!). I don't understand most of this stuff enough to apply it to my own situation, let alone anyone else's. I know people that take Statins and get on well with them. I know people that have had terrible experiences with Statins and would not touch them with a bargepole.

The last time I nearly wrote this post was April this year when I read this report of the HOPE trial. I found this particularly interesting, because it talks specifically about 'primary prevention'. That's medical shorthand for giving people some medicine to prevent a thing happening that they might be at increased risk of.
“Statins work beautifully, resulting in a high significant relative risk reduction of 25%,” said Yusuf. Further, statins were “relatively safe,” though there was a small excess in muscle pain, but not rhabdomyolysis, in the statin-treated group.
Wow! 25% less chance of heart attack or stroke. Sounds pretty worthwhile. And HOPE-3 focussed on a population at 'intermediate risk'. So these are benefits that were shown to exist even where increased risk was only fairly modest. This caught my eye because you don't have to live with type 1 diabetes for long before people start telling you that you are going to die of a heart attack. That's what does for most of us, apparently. However perky your blood glucose management is generally, living with T1 you will almost certainly be having significant glucose excursions that 'nonnys' would never have. Of course you can significantly reduce your theoretical risk by keeping a lid on your blood glucose levels and HbA1c - but therein lies the snag for people trying to view any of this research and apply it to their own situation. Risk calculators don't work if you have T1. And primary prevention studies that take a cohort of people with a UK-average HbA1c of 9% or so, might have a different risk to you as an individual depending on your own fortunes wrestling the Diabetes Gremlins. Benefit shown to those at 'intermediate risk' was certainly interesting though. I've not had a heart attack, I'd like to keep it that way and I'm getting older year by year.

I had promised my clinic that I would continue to keep an open mind about the cholesterol issue, and perhaps this was it - the primary prevention study I had needed to convince me that it was worth trying a Statin and seeing how I got on with it, in the hope that my undoubted increased risk of heart-based shenanigans might be reduced by 25%.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the term 'relative risk'. Studies, particularly Statin studies, are quite keen on using that frame of reference as it usually gives a nice Big Attention Grabbing Number. So if your risk of something happening was 0.1% and it dropped to 0.08% it might sound pretty meagre. But you could express the same change as a 20% reduction in relative risk, which sounds much more weighty. Hmmmmmmm.

Hot on it's heels, if not chronologically but more in terms of the way I stumbled across things was this rather sensationalised tabloid reference to a study by Professor Harumi Okuyama, of Nagoya City University, Japan. This time, taking Statins can actually apparently *make things worse*. Harden your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack.

This was followed swiftly by this piece by Cardiologist and confirmed Statin sceptic Dr Aseem Malhotra which raises some well-worn questions over the entire evidence-base behind cholesterol-lowering drugs and the refusal of the companies to release the raw data on side-effects.
"biased reporting in medical journals, commercial conflicts of interest and medical curricula that fail to teach doctors how to understand and communicate health statistics was contributing to an epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients."
reputed French Cardiologist Dr Michel De Lorgeril's own analysis reveals that all studies published after 2006 reveal “no benefit” of statins for cardiovascular prevention in all groups of patients.
I'm not even going to open the can of worms that links Statins prescribed to people without heart disease and a doubling of their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Frankly I have enough on my plate with the diabetes I already have.

And again here, from just this week. Another article that confidently suggests nails in the coffin of the cholesterol hypothesis.
Dr John Abramson, a health policy expert from Harvard Medical School, looked at the HOPE-3 trial and told me the effects were meagre indeed: “91 people have to be treated with a statin for 5.6 years in order to prevent 1 non-fatal heart attack or stroke.” Another way to say this is 90 of the 91 people who take statins for that long won’t see a benefit (and some will experience adverse side effects).
The observant among you will be smiling that exactly the same HOPE trial mentioned above with glowing 25% reductions in risk and very low side effects is now being interpreted as having almost no effect whatever *except* the possibility of side-effects. Though of course, for the 1 person out of 91, the 'not having had a heart attack' would probably be seen as quite a benefit. I wonder how you get to know that you are that 1 person and not one of the other 90. How exactly you notice that something is not happening to you because of a tablet rather than it just not happening to all the others.

And yet... and yet... Most doctors and scientists in the world seem to remain convinced of the link between heart health and lower cholesterol.

My basic problem
Over the last 4 or 5 years I have read a number of posts and articles from people who raise questions over the whole lipid/fat/cholesterol/heart hypothesis. I know that for some of you this will ring alarming tin-foil-hat klaxons, but articles like this (higher cholesterol associated with lower mortality overall *including* heart disease) and this (what causes heart disease anyway) are an entertaining read - and I cannot help it - but they do seem make a lot of sense to me.

I know that for some (many? most?) healthcare professionals some of these characters are a sort of... well, if not exactly laughing stock - certainly not voices to be taken seriously. People who insist that everyone else has it wrong and only they know the truth. Eyes roll. "OK then, if you say so. Never mind dear."

Perhaps it is precisely because I am not medically educated, that I have not learned and trusted the basics of the 'status-quo'. I have less invested in one way of thinking about cholesterol and heart health - and so it is easier for me to read these other arguments and think, 'Well that's interesting.'

Of course, proponents of the mainstream viewpoint will point to decades of scientific research and understanding that have brought us to where we are. For them the lipid-heart hypothesis is an unshakeable fact. And this or that or the other study* has shown that lowering cholesterol really does work. Most of their peers think the same. So take your tablets and feel safer.

*('Funded and published by the people that make the tablets!!' cry the sceptics)

And around and around I go...
  • Lots of studies over many years show (apparently) convincing benefit of Statins for heart disease with very low risk of side effects
  • Sceptics say the 'adverse event' data are under-reported and the pharma companies refuse to release the raw information for independent analysis
  • When it comes to secondary prevention (people who have already had a heart attack) the evidence is much clearer. Most people seem to agree that they work and work well
  • Even among cholesterol sceptics or neutrals there is a thought that it might be some activity of Statins other than cholesterol reduction (such as reduction of inflammation or stabilisation of plaques) that confer benefit
  • Statins are the most profitable drug in the history of the world - vested interest doesn't even begin to cover it
  • And yet I do not subscribe to the view that All Big Pharma Is Evil either - of course pharmaceuticals is a business and the companies have a requirement to make money for their stockholders - but I do think that it is in their interest to create 'products' actually help people, those will be much easier to shift after all
Climate change
The other day, all this made me think about climate change. A decade ago there was a funny little film by Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore called 'The Inconvenient Truth'. We don't even think about it much any more really. As I am sure many of you will remember, the eponymous 'truth' was that the actions of the human race had built up over time and were affecting the climate of the entire planet. Greenhouse gasses, climate change and all that. What struck me was the way that the voices that first raised these ideas from as early as 1896 were initially dismissed perhaps even ridiculed for their line of thinking. Not only that, but now that global warming has been firmly adopted into the scientific mainstream there are still contrary voices. Voices who will insist that for all the evidence that it is unmistakeably happening all around us that climate change is Nothing To Do With Us. That the whole thing is a hoax. A scam. Deniers who will wrap their arguments in convincing-seeming scientific language of planetary cycles, solar variation and internal radiative forcing. There's a conspiracy theory for everything it seems.

And I wonder where we are with cholesterol and heart health? Who is on which side? Will the ones who are being ridiculed ultimately turn out to have got it right? Or at least, made steps in the right direction? Will the mainstream position change in the light of more and better and more independent evidence? Or has the mainstream got it right already and are the cholesterol-deniers just confusing everyone.

I really wish I knew the answer. Because however many times I try to unpick this I always end up here. Shrugging and thinking... well I don't know! Which doesn't really do enough to convince me to take a tablet every day for the rest of my life.

Posted by on Friday, 10 June 2016

Dinkleflakes, diabetes, discussions and #DXStockholm

DxStockholm doesn't make sense, I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually exist. And if it *did* exist, then I'm almost certain I wouldn't make the list. It must be a particularly vivid dream, probably someone else's. I suspect Philippa's Dinkleflake-(me neither)-bacon-pancake-apple-sauce-and-double-cream breakfast is causing some sort of hallucination and I'm in it. Grand, wide, impeccable streets strewn with petals. Impossibly blue Scandinavian skies. More than two dozen storytellers with barely a beta cell between them, weaving tales in half a dozen languages. And yet, this time last week I was there.

But what is it for?

It is very easy to get cynical about these things. As a middle-aged Brit it's virtually compulsory. Any company that puts an event like this together obviously wants something. For all the compliance form-filling about not expecting anyone to write anything, surely it's just bribery plain and simple. Chuck 'em a few treats, show them some shiny new toys and let them spread the word for you through the FaceTwit-o-sphere.

Except that didn't happen.

Stockholm's 20's themed Haymarket Hotel, once a swanky department store

DxStockholm was the second of Abbott's European Blogger weekends. Last year saw one held in Berlin. There was an event in Sydney a month or two ago. I can't speak for the other events, but in Stockholm there was only one short session, led by Abbott's Principal Research Scientist Chris Thomas, that came anywhere close to mentioning product, and that was the only session where all participants were explicitly forbidden from saying anything about what they heard.

The rest of the weekend was an amazing opportunity to meet, mingle and share experiences among a group of bloggers from the UK, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden and Italy. A diverse bunch of people all at different stages of life, and at different points along their own unique diabetes journey (sorry... let's just all agree to forget that I actually used the 'J' word, apparently without irony, and never speak of it again). There was a programme of talks and interactive workshops that covered everything from personal creativity to the potential timing of being subjugated by our newly created super-intelligent hyper-machine overlords. We ate, we chatted, we shared, we learned, we laughed, we moved robot cat ears with the power of our minds.

I am hugely grateful to have been invited. Honoured doesn't begin to cover it.

DxStockholm really did feel like a genuine attempt on the part of Abbott to engage with the patient community. To support it and recognise it as a 'good thing', to encourage it and feed it. Living with a long term condition like type 1 diabetes is easier when you are walking alongside others. Where people can stand by you when you wobble, or understand the tiny, joyful victories of inexplicably well behaved BG levels after some food extravagance. The cloud of voices sharing their stories across Europe as grown enormously since we started writing this blog and I am proud to be a tiny part of that. In the same way that a building feels very different when you know that there is someone else in it - even if they are several rooms or floors away - my life with diabetes is more settled, easier to face, when I know I am connected in some abstract way with many others facing the same daily irritations, triumphs and disasters.

Abbott's theme for the weekend was 'My future, my choices', which led to a very engaging and interesting programme of content. If you'd like a really good summary of the weekend, with some cracking pictures this post by Jen Grieves is a good one. See also this, this, this or this. Honestly! Invite a bunch of bloggers to an event and suddenly you are up to your eyeballs in posts, all better than this one.

A few things that stood out to me over the weekend:
Stockholm is a really cool place. And it's always sunny. Always.

People are inherently creative, even if they don't think they are. Even the simplest snippets of conversation have a unique rhythm to them. Unique insight. Unique voice. You don't have to try too hard, or try to be like anyone else, or do what they do. You just have to be you. No-one on earth can do that like you can.

People and things.
The future is a really exciting place. Things, people and information are getting more seamlessly connected and the Next Big Thing is just around the corner. What sounded like crazy science fiction 5 years ago is happening now and will be everywhere soon. But all of this wearable technology, interconnectedness, captured data, stored knowledge and artificial intelligence has no moral compass. We will have to provide the ethical framework for this exponential future. Above all we will have to remember not to lose sight of the value of people (Dalai Lama quote in that pic rather sums this up).

BioHacking is alive and well outside the diabetes world just as it is with the #wearenotwaiting brigade. Hannes Sjoblad introduced BioHacking as 'science where n=1'. Which sounds very much like what people living with type 1 diabetes face every day. Personal experimentation, data collection and the quantified self. Being aware of what data can be collected and how it can be used for and against you.

Snapchat is apparently a thing. And I still really don't get it.

Mindfulness is relaxing, but not ideal in a warm room at the end of the day with an impromptu scooter rally collecting in the street below.

Separated at birth?
One of the funniest things in the world is waiting while a very hungry Grumpy Pumper is about to be served a handful of toasted cauliflower croutons on an enormous, elegant white soup plate before the (delicious) soup starter is poured. If you've ever wondered if that frown can get any more frowny... I can confirm the answer is a big, solid YES.

Other Europeans are amazing with languages and our laziness and lack of ability as a country makes me cringe. 

Type 1 diabetes likes nothing more that to bring you down to earth with a bump. On Friday, as I landed in Stockholm and stood to move from my seat I happened to notice a young girl in the row behind with a familiar-shaped disc on the back of her arm. It turned out to be one of the German bloggers Lisa - the very first person I met at #DxStockholm. We got chatting and ended up sharing a taxi to the hotel with a few others on the same flight. My German stretches about as far as "Lumpi ist mein hund", "ich bin zwölf jahre alt" and "sprechen sie Englisch" but we all managed to chat away in the taxi thanks to their rather better command of English. Just before breakfast on Sunday morning as people were gathering and chatting away, Lisa suddenly collapsed. A rapid and unexpected crash into hypoglycaemia really knocked her for six and she slumped by the buffet table. Of course, there are few places you could be where you would get more immediate and knowledgeable help, and Lisa was on the way to recovery before the paramedics arrived. But it served as a bit of a reality check to all of us. These events lurk in the corners of each of our lives and while we sometimes splash our insulin around with casual abandon, there is a real and present danger quietly hovering in the background. But even these events are part of our stories. The highs and lows of a life with type 1 diabetes.

As a community we are better together. Different voices, different experiences, different perspectives, different needs and hopes and aims. But all fundamentally connected by our wonky pancreases and our dark sense of humour. Put two or three people with diabetes in a room and they can talk for hours - even if none of them speak the same language.

Huge thanks to Abbott for the opportunity of taking part in #DxStockholm. It was an honour to meet so many amazing bloggers from all over Europe and to feel connected to a wider world.


Obligatory #DxStockholm Group Shot


More about #DxStockholm
A Storify summary by Eglantine LeRoi
Our future, our choices… and our f**king disease by Antje

Googlytranslatable posts...
Abbott DxStockholm by Lisa (including an account of *that* hypo)
About dextrose lulls exit row and more by Sarah
DxStockholm by Sofia

Disclaimer. Abbott Diabetes sponsored my attendance at #DxStockholm and paid for travel, accommodation and organised the event itself. They also treated us to a smashing dinner at Kung Carls Bakficka restaurant on Saturday night and provided a beautiful cookbook on swedish cuisine. I have not been asked, or paid to attend, write about or publicise the event - frankly I think they have been more than generous!