Posted by on Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Rage Bolus - a Christmas classic

Disney Pixar's Inside Out. One of my absolute favourite films.
I've seen a few things about rage boluses in recent months and it did that rare thing of making me think, "I should write a post about that".

I can't remember exactly when I first came across the term 'rage bolus', but I think it was quite soon after discovering of the power of peer support and shared experience. I am almost certain that it came from that most legengary of #DOC legends, Kerri Molone Sparling's Six Until Me, and I'm pretty sure that it was Kerri who came up with the phrase originally.

If you live with diabetes and use insulin, even if you've never heard it before, you will instantly know exactly what is meant by a rage bolus. It was phrase that made me go, "Aha! Yes!! I know that thing." Type 1 diabetes can be incredibly frustrating to live with. For all the illusion of 'diabetes maths', and there is no question that sometimes carb ratios and insulin sensitivity factors can and do work (some days / most of the time / once in a blue moon), it is also absolutely the case that there's a lot more going on than food + dose = reliable results. And when things go a bit off track you can feel that you have got it wrong (and sometimes you have!). A sense of personal failure. Feeling like an idiot. So frustrating. Other times you know that you have done all the things you are supposed to do (scrupulously counted carbs in a carefully chosen, healthy meal that you've eaten many times before with reliable results) and still your BG ends up in chaos. Doubly frustrating. Or you just decided to treat yourself (after all everyone else with their functioning pancreases and none of this to worry about were having a lovely time) and then you see it all coming back to slap you in the face, even though you tried your best to work it out. Triply frustrating.

Sometimes there are only so many small, carefully-calculated, properly-spaced correction doses you can try and wait grinding your teeth and stewing in double figures for hours (or days) willing your BGs to stop inexorably rising or stubbornly unmoved before you go OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE and whack in a big ole slosh of insulin to try to get things moving downwards.

And as we approach Christmas I am aware that we are heading into 'rage bolus' season. Meals are likely to be less predictable. Less easily guessed or measured. You may have a little sniffle, or be drinking sugary alcohol, be surrounded by endless nibbles, or be less active than usual, or exposed to any number of other factors that might make decent dose-guesswork much harder.

Let me just be perfectly clear about this - rage boluses are generally a terrible idea. They almost always result in hypoglycaemia, sometimes in a really nasty and stubborn and/or scary low. And crashing from one out of range BG to another at the other end of the scale is likely to make you feel even more frustrated, annoyed and difficult to live with.

So why do we do it to ourselves?

Because, frankly, sometimes it WORKS. And like an addicted gambler feeding endless coins into our BGs fixed-odds betting terminal we have reached the end of balanced and logical assessment of likely outcomes. Sometimes high BGs are the result of a significant underestimation of carbs. Or perhaps it's a dose that hasn't absorbed properly. There are circumstances where we are in 'insulin deficit' of a number of units. And where the food already eaten is still feeding glucose into the bloodstream, and where a dose isn't likely to reach maximum effect until an hour after you grit your teeth and go for it, there can be long, long hours between a measured, cautious correction dose and seeing any effect at all.

Repeatedly, I have heard respected diabetes clinicians suggest that one of the reasons that rage boluses are a bad idea is that taking more insulin doesn't make it act more quickly, it only makes you fall further in the end which leads to likely hypoglycaemia. I think it would be much easier to resist the rage bolus urge if this was actually true. The simple, demonstrable fact is that taking a larger BG correction does make it act faster to reduce high BGs. We know this because we see it happen. And to pretend that it doesn't really isn't going to help me in a consultation. If I take a 0.5u correction dose (as suggested by my pump or smart meter) then after a reasonably predictable onset time I will have a proportion of that 0.5u available to act on my errant BG. If I take a 5u correction, after the same onset time I will have much more circulating insulin available. It may not be exactly mathematically 10x as much, but it will be more. And If I've rage-bolused before and checked after 30 minutes, then an hour, an hour and a half... I will have seen this happen.

Rage boluses do reduce high BG faster.

It's just that they also add chaos onto more chaos.

Sometimes I will make this calculation in my head:

OK so I've currently got annoyingly high BG. I also have some insulin already on board. Along with that, I also have half a meal which I may (or may not) have hoplessly inaccurately estimated that is feeding more glucose in. Some of which will be accounted for by the dose that's already acting. Or possibly it won't. Solution? I'll dose a big ole slug of insulin in now to get things moving in the right direction over the next 2 hours, then depending on how things go I will eat some extra carbs later on to mop up the last bits of the dose.

I mean... what could possibly go wrong?

I once referred to this frustrated act-and-counteract ballet as uncertainty tennis (particularly where my guesses and second-guesses follow in double-quick time and everything overlaps far more quickly that it can possibly have had enough time to actually take effect).

Try to give yourself some head-space this Christmas. Give yourself a little more leeway. Perfection is an illusion. BG perfection doubly so. No one wants to live with a grumpy pancreas-impersonater muttering and grumbling after every meal.

And if possible try to resist the rage bolus urge. Except for the times when it works perfectly and brings you back neatly into mid-range. I mean... those are just awesome! (and incredibly unlikely)

Posted by on Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Frestyle Libre available on prescription. Again.

It's with a certain sense of deja-vu that I mark World Diabetes Day this year with the news that Abbott's Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitor will become available to people with type 1 diabetes in the UK on prescription from April 2019. Cue inevitable Twitter meltdown.

Hang on... haven't we been here before?
Well yes. And no. You may remember me writing a post in September last year on this very subject.

Technically the Libre was made available on prescription on 1st November 2017, "subject to local healthcare economic approval". Prior to that 2017 announcement various Big Health and Diabetes Organisations (such as the Regional Medicines Optimisation Committee, NICE and a collaboration of Diabetes UK, ABCD, JDRF and INPUT) put together helpful documents, guidance and national position statements about what Libre was, who it might be useful for and the evidence to support its use.

What followed was an unholy scrabble of various different CCGs across the UK who either adopted Libre under RMOC criteria, published their own set of rules (which often had bizarre additional requirements that seemed to bear no relation to Libre and its use, such as blood pressure results) or denied access entirely saying that there wasn't enough evidence, or that they didn't like the colour of the packaging or any number of "Whatever we do, let's kick this can as far down the road as we can manage" strategies. And all the while those CCGs in the 'no' camp had meetings and re-reviewed the evidence that had already helpfully been reviewed for them, and invested time (and presumably money) into reinventing all the wheels they could see.

So what emerged was variously described as a 'postcode lottery', 'Libre lotto' and 'bloomin outrage' and across the country people living in the (at the last count) 51 CCGs to have said a big fat NO to prescribing Libre got together and organised themselves to petition, badger and generally make a fuss about it.

Meanwhile, in areas where Libre was more freely prescribed, the early results were overwhelmingly positive. HbA1c's tumbled, and importantly positive effects were seen at all starting points, with significant improvements being seen in those who hardly checked BG at all as well as those regularly checking 6-8 times every day.


And the results didn't begin to tail off after an initial positive surge either. As more data were added, the improvements were sustained and improved further.

Meanwhile the irrepressible, unstoppable force that is Dr Partha Kar was not for taking 'no' for an answer. If the evidence was sufficient for area A, why was it deemed insufficient for area B just down the road? Gentle pressure was applied with an NHS England behatted sledgehammer and a smile. Additionally everyone's second favourite Libre-prescribing-data-muncher Nick Cahm quickly became errant CCG's worst nightmare as he quietly and eloquently sifted through mountains of information to show how utterly nonsensical some of these local decisions were. And Diabetes UK weighed in to support and rally local people in their #fightforflash. The CCGs didn't stand a chance really.

And so today, the biggest of NHS bigwigs Simon Stevens joined in to announce that Libre will be available nationwide under RMOC guidance from April 2019:

“As the NHS prepares to put digital health and technology at the heart of our long term plan for the future, NHS England is taking important action so that regardless of where you live, if you’re a patient with Type 1 diabetes you can reap the benefits of this life improving technology.”

So who exactly will have access?
As far as I am aware this is the guidance that will be used to identify appropriate people with diabetes who will benefit from Freestyle Libre going forward:

It is recommended that Freestyle Libre® should only be used for people with Type 1 diabetes, aged four and above, attending specialist Type 1 care using multiple daily injections or insulin pump therapy, who have been assessed by the specialist clinician and deemed to meet one or more of the following:

  1. Patients who undertake intensive monitoring >8 times daily
  2. Those who meet the current NICE criteria for insulin pump therapy (HbA1c >8.5% (69.4mmol/mol) or disabling hypoglycemia as described in NICE TA151) where a successful trial of FreeStyle Libre® may avoid the need for pump therapy.
  3. Those who have recently developed impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia. It is noted that for persistent hypoglycaemia unawareness, NICE recommend continuous glucose monitoring with alarms and Freestyle Libre does currently not have that function.
  4. Frequent admissions (>2 per year) with DKA or hypoglycaemia.
  5. Those who require third parties to carry out monitoring and where conventional blood testing is not possible. In addition, all patients (or carers) must be willing to undertake training in the use of Freestyle Libre® and commit to ongoing regular follow-up and monitoring (including remote follow-up where this is offered). Adjunct blood testing strips should be prescribed according to locally agreed best value guidelines with an expectation that demand/frequency of supply will be reduced.

It will be very interesting to see how this works in practice, and in particular whether this framework allows widespread adoption of Libre2 when that launches in the UK (at the same price as Libre1 apparently), which gives Libre users the option of alerts to prompt scanning when BG rises or falls to particular limits.

Roll on April!

Posted by on Saturday, 13 October 2018

European Launch of the MiniMed 670G - Switzerland

The Medtronic Mothership poised for takeoff
I was chuffed to be invited to join bloggers and diabetes advocates from Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, the UK and other places I have almost certainly forgotten for the Medtronic Diabetes Community Exchange 2018 at Medtronic's European HQ in Tolochenaz, Switzerland.

I was particularly pleased to be invited to walk in the footsteps of the legendary Alison and Tim from Shoot Up or Put Up and to needlessly and completely unnecessarily rekindle the rumours that Medtronic have an entire department dedicated to the drowning of puppies in their relentless pursuit of evil. Rumours which are, of course, entirely untrue. And completely made up by Tim. Or are they?

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and were swiftly transported to the impossibly quaint, beautiful and strangely fragrant 'Chalet Suisse' restaurant where we were treated to a slap-up meal composed of cold meats, pickles and industrial quanities of gently bubbling cheese into which we enthusiastically dunked hunks of white bread. Fluffy white bread, a vat of cheese and a little alcohol. What easier meal could there possibly be for a tableful of pancreas impersonators to contend with? As inevitably happens at these events, people with diabetes quickly feel at ease with each other and conversation flowed to a burbling soundtrack of bleeps and buzzes from various bits of diabetes kit. It was a very lovely evening. Thanks Medtronic!

All those friendly faces and barely a functioning pancreas between them.
European Launch of the MM670G
It was perhaps no surprise that Medtronic had invited us during this particular week - in which their latest hybrid closed-loop insulin pump system launched in Europe. The launch begins with the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and Slovenia as of 10th October, with Finland and Denmark following hot on our heels next week. I have been using Medtronic pumps for the past 7 years or so, but others around the table used other brands, pods or MDI injections.

Inevitable device timeline pic. No future dates, naturally.
The MiniMed 670G launched in the US in June 2017, and the version launching in Europe is almost exactly the same. If you are new to the snazzy concept of 'sensor augmented pumps' (and why wouldn't you be?) the basic idea is that you combine an insulin pump and CGM (continuous glucose monitor) into one device. At it's simplest, the pump acts as a receiver for the sensor glucose and allows display of current glucose values and can alert the wearer if levels are rising, falling or generally going off kilter. The really clever stuff starts to happen though, when the pump uses an algorithm to act independently on the basis of the received sensor glucose values. On my MM640G I allow Threepio to silently and automatically take action and cut off my basal insulin if my BG is predicted to fall below 3.9 within 30 minutes. This has saved me countless low level hypos whenever I have been able to afford a sensor. If you're interested in the details there's a little animation explaining how this works here.

The MiniMed 670G adds extra oomph to the mix by also having the ability to increase basal insulin where sensor glucose is rising. Gary Scheiner, who wrote 'Think Like a Pancreas' wrote a review of the MM670G after it launched in the US which has a good deal of detail if you are interested, but which also prompted several questions for me.

What I thought I knew
The MiniMed 670G uses two main targets, neither of which can be changed by the user. Overall it aims to direct your glucose value towards 120mg/dl (6.6mmol/L). Where it is taking corrective action for elevated sensor glucose, it aims towards a target of 150mg/dl (8.3mmol/L). These were the launch values in the US, and will be exactly the same for the UK version.

A number of options that experienced pump users might expect to be able to use (temporary basal rates, dual (combo) wave, and square (extended) wave boluses are unavailable in auto mode.

From what I can tell, things like differing basal patterns for weekdays/weekends do not apply in auto mode either.  Nor can you alert the system that you are about to undertake exercise in advance.

In fact there seems to be very little you can adjust and tweak in auto mode aside from insulin:carbohydrate ratios and Duration of Insulin Action. If you are planning to exercise you can temporarily set the pump to aim for the higher target, but that's about it.

All of this may fill you with dread and impending frustration. Or it may elate you with gratitude of being able to hand over responsibility almost entirely.

Users can, of course, use the pump in 'manual' mode whenever they wish. This would give them effectively the same choices/options as the MM640G, but doesn't take advantage of the additional automation on offer.

Is there anything else like this?
No. Well... not regulated, approved and currently commercially available no. But of course the MM670G is not being released into a vacuum. There are other emerging sensor augmented pumps (eg Tandem T:slim) which incorporate predictive low glucose suspend (rather like the MM640G). Alongside which there is a growing community of enthusiastic loopers who have decided #wearenotwaiting and use a variety of homespun, and significantly more tweakable, options. Of course not everyone has the confidence to build their own diabetes device - I am assured that these are no longer cobbled together from bits of string and paperclips, but nevertheless still do require careful configuration, software and in some cases additional DIY hardware. Additionally many loop solutions currently require older out of warranty insulin pumps. This may not be the case for long, nor might OpenAPS and Loop's unregulated status continue, now that Tidepool have committed to developing Loop as a supported, regulated app available for users on a range of in-warranty devices.

What I found out
It's fair to say that I was very enthusiastic about the prospect of the MiniMed 670G about a year ago. But things are moving so fast these days, that this is already beginning to feel like an older model. And as an inveterate fiddler the idea of so few settings being settable by me is a bit... well... unsettling.

What I found very interesting, was the observations Medtronic have made from 3.2 million days of data since its launch in the US. Essentially, they suggest the MiniMed 670G tends to work better in people who don't fiddle and try to come up with their own ways of working around not being able to alter settings. Often people who are new to an insulin pump, who have not already built up a library of hacks, tricks and strategies to bully their pump into doing what they want it to. People who simply give the MM670G the information it requests and heed the alarms, who keep the sensors well calibrated, and who count and supply carb information of meals and then let the pump do its thing, are the ones who tend to get the better results.

I am aware from my own relentless tweakery that at least some of it is frequently down to constant changes in insulin sensitivity and insulin need (and working around times when my pump settings aren't quite right).  I suspect that one of the main reasons behind the lack of tweakability on the MM670G is the closely guarded algorithm. This updates up to 17 different parameters at midnight every single day, based on the previous 24 hour's worth of data along with a rolling average of the previous 5-6 days. Essentially the pump is continually adapting and tailoring itself to you. So those unmovable targets may not seem to be what you have chosen, but the intention of the MiniMed 670G is to keep your BGs as stable as possible to increase your time in range, to reduce glucose variability and to reduce hypoglycaemia to almost nothing. At least... that's the idea. Medtronic are quite upfront that this is the first iteration of this algorithm, based on dozens and dozens of research papers, and that it is intentionally cautious. Other more 'aggressive' versions with greater user control are being strongly hinted at.

A consequence of the 'machine learning' of the pump adapting to you as an individual though, is that it does take a few days of sensor wear for auto mode to become available (48 hours from midnight following sensor start). I'm not exactly sure how that would impact occasional-sensor-users like me, who cannot afford full-time coverage, but it's clear that only a portion of each sensor for me would be auto-able. In theory sensors can be restarted just as they can on earlier enlite-using pumps (sorry Medtronic!), but this newer pump uses Guardian 3 sensor technology, and because the MiniMed 670G has more control over insulin delivery it makes more checks that the sensor data being received is of high enough quality. Without having used it, it's impossible to tell whether it would get twitchy and drop restarted sensors earlier than I am used to.

Case study
It was a delight to meet Rob Howe a Texan ex-pro basketball player and MiniMed 670G user. Tall, slim, athletic, and with that easy, effortless charm that seems to be the gift of so many Americans. He shared his experiences and took part in a Facebook Live broadcast after which we were able to ask more questions.

Rob was an enthusiastic MM670G poster-boy, and having moved from MDI/CGM to an insulin pump with an impressive HbA1c of around 6.2% (44mmol/mol) he was obviously no slouch when it comes to BG juggling.

When asked about changes he had noticed during his year on the pump, one of the most striking was that his regular weekly order of two 1 gallon containers of orange juice he kept in his fridge to treat overnight hypos started to go off before he could use them. They simply weren't needed any more. As a basketball player and all around active type, he also seems to have put the MM670G through its paces exercise-wise, from high intensity BG boosting sprints/weights to longer distance runs of 6-10 miles. Rob was able to keep the pump connected throughout exercise and allowed it to manage his activity, with great success it would seem. Initially Rob said his HbA1c rose a little, perhaps up to the mid 6's (48mmol/mol), but seems to have settled back to the low 6s since. So while the fixed settings on the MM670G algorigthm seem to target an HbA1c of approx 6.7% (50mmol/mol), it looks as though, once again, Your Diabetes May Vary.

What next?
It will be fascinating to see more accounts from real users 'in the wild' across Europe. Several people in the group were about to start with MM670G in November. There was an extended discussion during the end of the afternoon where bloggers raised concerns and questions. There are plans to subtly alter the materials and structure of the MM6xx cases to help avoid those battery compartment cracks (which in turn will mean Medtronic don't have to replace those pumps), plus small alterations to clips, and clip rails. Medtronic are planning a version of the MiniMed 670G which will be able to communicate to phone via Bluetooth. It is notoriously difficult to predict how long it might take to get devices through regulatory approval (and goodness knows what additional chaos Brexit might add to the mix for us in the UK), but reading between the carefully veiled lines it seemed that they were hoping it might be in the next year or two. No promises etc etc. Perhaps even more interestingly... this version of the MM6xx series would have the ability to receive updated software/firmware after distribution. This is something that Medtronic have been inching towards for some time, and could significantly accelerate the takeup of new and better pump versions where the hardware is essentially identical, and it is only the algorithm which needs updating.

One thing is for certain. The rate of change in diabetes devices doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon.

Disclaimer. Medtronic Diabetes invited me to attend the MiniMed 670G European launch in Switzerland. They paid for my economy travel, transfers, accommodation, the welcome meal and lunch at their offices. I wasn't asked or paid to write this blog post or any other social media posts connected to the event. They also included a nifty little Medtronic branded battery power pack thing in a 'welcome' bag. Oh and a pen too.

Posted by on Friday, 5 October 2018

Fight For Flash in Bristol - Diabetes UK

The last remaining island of 'NO!' in the South West
It was great to get together with 30 or so people with diabetes and DUK folks last night in Bristol to consider how to challenge the local behemoth BNSSG CCG (Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire) to rethink its current 'flat no' position on prescription of Freestyle Libre in the city and surrounds of Bristol.

The event was organised by local legend and all round good egg Sandra Tweddell, who works and campaigns tirelessly to improve the lives, opportunities and experiences of PWD. Sandra called on the wonderful folks from the South West office of Diabetes UK who set up and supported the event.

Bristol's expansive CCG extends to areas around the city, and depending on which of the maps I found online are the most up to date is either one of the last or absolutely the last CCG in the South West to approve Freestyle Libre for prescription. The CCG initially dismissed Libre despite strong support from local specialist diabetes Consultants and DSNs who submitted a very strong case document outlining the potential benefits and cost savings, and national position statements from RMOC, Diabetes UK and the Association of British Clinical Diabetologists.

It is slightly irritating that Bristol suggests 'lack of evidence' as one of their main reasons for denying access to Libre since it was only this year that Bristol finally stopped supplying homeopathic treatment on the NHS. One of the last areas in the country to stop funding a treatment for which there appears to be absolutely no robust scientific evidence at all. Their other, and cynically I might suggest more pressing reason, is a substantial budget deficit. An eyewatering £58 million black (or possibly red?) hole in their finances which is inevitably applying significant pressure on their committees to not pay for anything they absolutely don't have to. It is also striking that while Bristol has internationally recognised specialists and expertise in diabetes research, some of the outcomes for treatment leave a lot to be desired - our record for lower limb amputations ranks as one of the worst in the country, for example. 80% of the UK entire budget spent on diabetes goes on treating complications of living with diabetes. When it goes wrong, we are very expensive to treat.

Dividing into small groups to brainstorm.
The event attracted a wide variety of people, from those diagnosed 40+ years ago, to others with less than 12 months of pancreas impersonation under their belts. After a brief introduction by Diabetes UK's Stefan, we gathered in small groups to brainstorm ideas on 3 different questions: Why do we think the CCG is denying Freestyle Libre in the area? What could we do to convince the CCG to change their minds? and Who could help the campaign?

An absolute torrent of ideas followed. The CCG's position seems fairly entrenched at present and revolves around a perceived lack of evidence, very real financial constraints and perhaps a lack of understanding of the nature of diabetes and how a piece of monitoring technology genuinely can help. Encouragingly discussions inside the CCG are still ongoing (perhaps they are already feeling the pressure) and Diabetes UK is meeting with them later this month. We seem surrounded by people who can help to remove the postcode lottery - several of whom are in positions of significant influence. Everyone's second favourite NHS England Associate National Clinical Director for Diabetes, Partha Kar is making 'gloves off' murmerings where CCGs are resisting Libre and maintaining the postcode lottery, while Keith Vaz and the APPG are mustering Parliamentary support.

As Libre has rolled out across the country and clinicians have begun to share the transformation in quality of life and hard-data outcomes that Libre is bringing to their patients, there surely will come a point where these can no longer be dismissed as merely 'anecdotal'. We were keen to find out exactly what was 'lacking' about the evidence that the CCG had already reviewed, and specifically what sort of evidence they were looking for.

It was great to see the enthusiasm in the room. A real desire to challenge the decision, to clarify the potential benefits to the correct population of PWD (and the potential cost-savings that can result both in the short, medium and long terms). Added to which the annoucement of a CE mark for Abbott's shiny new Libre2 at EASD this week which offers the option of alerts and alarms that many Libre users have been wanting for so long. And the current news seems to be that Libre2 sensors and its reader will cost exactly the same as Libre1.

The meeting closed with commitments to keep up the pressure, write to MPs, involve the local press, liaise with local HCPs and specialists. There are plans to gather more information and case studies of the benefits & cost savings other areas are experiencing (particularly where these include substantial short-term savings eg for hypoglycaemia and DKA admissions). There was also a genuine desire to try to get in front of the CCG in person and/or as a group. I may have accidentally suggested going mob-handed to the CCG AGM or a similar public meeting dressed as Jelly Babies. A Flashmob, if you will.

Watch this space.

Posted by on Monday, 11 June 2018

No two days - Diabetes Week 2018

Ugh. Good morning to you too.
Apparently this week is Diabetes Week.

Me neither.

If I get the chance I will try to rattle in a post about the excellent #languagematters work that is being launched this week which hopefully will provide useful pointers to healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes who are trying to have more positive, more enabling, less stigmatising conversations.

In the meantime I have other things on my mind. Because as I posted recently on Twitter my diabetes has been behaving in a peculiarly cantaknerous way recently and I don't see why I should suffer that alone, so I'm inflicting it on you lot.

We've toyed with a few different straplines for our blog over the years, before we settled on the current one, "Because no two days with type 1 diabetes are the same. Except when they are." Which I liked because it was a) slightly annoying and b) didn't really make much sense. Both attributes shared by type 1 diabetes itself.

It is part of the unending joy of playing at being your own pancreas that you are perpetually caught in the tension between the illusion of 'diabetes maths' (deliver x units of insulin to process y grams of carbohydrate plus or minus z percent for activity/illness/alcohol/whatever) and the reality of living with a condition where the sheer bewildering number of variables that might combine, contradict, multiply or cancel each other out, when trying to calculate a precise (or sometimes wildly guessed) insulin dose, mean that it can be extremely difficult to work out why things have gone well, or not quite so well.

As a defence, some of us pancreas pretenders with a few years under our belts attempt to find some ways of reducing the number of variables without expiring from sheer boredom. It's a kind of coping strategy and it can work quite well up to a point. I have eaten pretty much the same breakfasts and lunches for more years than I care to remember. A regular rhythm with slight differences for weekdays and weekends (craziness!) but generally, more often than not, a known number of slices of a single brand of bread along with a medium-sized apple at lunchtime, and a not very adventurous range of fillings/toppings. It is functional eating. Designed to be predictable. Well tested. Evening meals I tend to eat a much wider variety.

And this regularity provides a useful touchpoint. Because as I said this strategy is only successful 'up to a point'. And that point is where something else changes. You have the normal food, you take the normal dose alongside the normal background insulin and the normal level of activity. But suddenly you see anything but normal blood glucose outcomes. If everything is changing all the time, with all sorts of different meal choices/fat contents/dose requirements, it is much harder for me to spot when my diabetes has joyfully shifted the goalposts (again!) and when I need to slightly adjust basal dose or meal/correction ratios.

I've been happily using this technique for years now. And my diabetes and I have got into a sort of gently seething stalemate. I fix the ratios/basal/correction factor. A week or two pass... a small basal tweak is required... then another... then another... And every month or three perhaps a larger overhaul might be required. The basal pattern might slightly change shape, or carb ratios and correction factors may need to be adjusted. Blood glucose normality (Ha! By which I mean the generally expected levels of BG chaos) resumes. Up a bit... Down a bit... Down a bit... Back up a bit. And so my diabetes world turns.

Something odd
More recently I have been seeing something much more unusual, unexpected and irritating going on. But such is the chaotic and fickle nature of living with type 1 diabetes, that it's taken me a while to even spot it was happening, and realise that over the past 2-3 months it has been developing into a bit of a pattern.

The perils of CGM
In a sense, I wonder if I might have spotted it sooner if I'd had less access to CGM. It sounds bizarre, but the difference for me between living with CGM and living without it is that CGM frees me from needing my diabetes to behave predictably. I am able to roll with it and adjust as I am going along much more freely. But that freedom, ironically, may come at a price. Without CGM, I need my diabetes to be much better behaved. I need to know that I can do x and (more or less) expect y to happen without watching it unfold, or being alerted if things are going off-track. I've only been wearing CGM occasionally this year, but it's probably been 50-60% of the time. And that's a lot of weeks of 'adjusting on the go'. Having run sensor-free for 2-3 weeks I realised how much I had lost my fingerstick BG mojo (especially after a full year with quite heavy CGM/Libre use in 2017).

When the weirdness started happening and I was wearing sensors I just worked around it. It has only been since running sensor-free for a few weeks that I've needed to look at the root cause to try to get things back onto an even keel when I'm not able to watch what's going on between the dots.

Pattern spotting
What seems to be happening for me recently, at lunchtime and even moreso for evening meals, is that the speed of absorption of previously predictable meals has substantially changed. While I used to be able to take doses all up front with 20-30 minute delay before eating at lunchtime, and immediately before eating evening meals, I am now needing to use dual waves to substantially delay insulin delivery so that the late arriving food still has insulin available.  What had been happening was a post-meal period where an initial sharp BG rise was followed by a prolonged dip (needing multiple carb top-ups to prevent hypos while the meal dose was working at full strength) followed by a later rise into double figures as the food absorbed when the insulin was on it's way out. Many T1s will be familiar with this 'pizza effect' where the fat delays carb absorption - but suddenly I was seeing it with previously very predictable and cooperative foods.

I can't explain why this has suddenly become necessary. I'm not sure I even care to be honest. Especially since breakfast seems to have been entirely unaffected and is proceeding as it always has. Typical type 1 diabetes. It can't actually make sense. It just has to set new 'rules' for that thing, but leave that other thing as it was. And in another month? It could all change again!

The good news is that I have made some decent progress in the past few days to find a set of splits and timings of dual wave doses that seem to be working better for lunches and evenings (and reduced dose ratios to boot). I will pop a sensor to see a bit more detail in the next few days.

Hope the BG gremlins are giving you all a bit of peace.