Australian scientists recently made groundbreaking discoveries about the way insulin binds with proteins. If you need to play catch up, here is the media release from The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
I am no boffin. I understand what I understand to assist me with my diabetes management. According to scientists, these discoveries will lead to developing improved types of insulin, including the possibility of oral administration. What has been discovered is the way in which insulin uses the insulin receptor to bind to cells. We have always known that his happens. This is why insulin is administered to those who are deficient; because we know that it is required to transport glucose from the blood stream into cells for energy. The how is what has been articulated; and this is very exciting stuff.
It also got me thinking of similar scenarios as I navigate my way through life with diabetes. I know for a fact that peer support has been an essential part of my diabetes management. Fortunately my parents recognised the importance of this and let me attend Children’s Diabetes Camps. This is the current model, which differs quite a bit from what I experienced, but you get the idea. It was here that I met some of my most beloved friends. I am still very close with four of them who I met as an adolescent. We all have type 1 diabetes. And that is probably the only thing we genuinely have in common. For example, one of these friends has become a professional triathlete. Now, I love to swim endless laps until my little legs cramp up underneath me. But to run or bike any great distance? Nuh uh!
The amazing thing is that we have supported each other through so many of life’s hurdles. The teen years, career aspirations, travel, relationships, wedding days, pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood… and the list goes on. My point is that from the very first diabetes camp, I realised that I simply had to be surrounded by other people living with type 1 diabetes. Facing up to the same battles each day… each hour… and some days, each minute.
I continued attending Camps as a child, then volunteering as an adult, as well as participating in face to face support groups. I have had the opportunity to work in the field of diabetes, and more recently I discovered the Diabetes Online Community, (DOC). Thanks to the brilliant work of Cherise Shockley and the Diabetes Social Media Advocates , (DSMA,) there is a place online via Twitter where people living with diabetes gather and chat once a week. There are many more initiatives to get involved in, but the online chat is where I started, and get the most out of. This means that absolutely anyone can access peer support while living with diabetes. The DOC, in my humble opinion, is a space in which each person who is diagnosed with diabetes should step into and try on. You know… just to see if it helps at all.
My question is this. What is the “thing” that binds us all together? I know I take it for granted. The connection that is felt as soon as I learn someone is affected by diabetes. Even the parent of a child with diabetes. There is some sort of metaphysical bond that forms. Often not requiring any words to express understanding. It could be a hand to the heart and an acknowledging smile. Or a tweet consisting of nothing more than, “I hear you, my friend”.
So we know it is there. I wonder if there will ever be a day where I will read a media release with the title, “The scientific benefits of participating in diabetes peer support proven”.
I might give it a bash. I might try to define that very thing that we call peer support that can get me through the most challenging “diabetes moments” of all.
Like I said. I’m no boffin, but I sure know about the value of peer support. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
Absolutely no doubt in my mind.