Forever searching for community | Diabetogenic

Living with diabetes has made me acutely aware of the importance of screening. Eye screening, kidney screening, neuropathy screening, mental health screening – they’re all part and parcel of my diabetes care. 

In my mind, screening is a non-negotiable because I live with a chronic health condition that refuses to stay in its lane, instead, spreading the love around. And by ‘love’ I mean ‘puts a heap of other things at risk’. Diabetes, the gift that keeps on giving. 

Similarly, I’ve always (mostly) been on the ball on cervical screening. Regular Pap smears were booked in every two years. Cervical screening is different now. It’s done every five years (yay!) and is expected to protect almost a third more people from cervical cancer than the Pap smears of old (also yay!). AND there’s a DIY version for those who would prefer. I love it when progress makes unpleasant medical procedures slightly less unpleasant!

After last year’s BIG birthday, I knew that there would be more screening, and sure enough, almost before I’d blown out the last candle on my drawn-out birthday celebrations, both the Australian and Victoria Governments were sending me love letters to help me protect my health. The Australian Government’s bowel screening program came with a kit to do the screening at home. And the Victorian Government sent me a letter, urging me to make an appointment for a breast check.

Diligently, I did just that and had a mammogram at a local BreastScreen Victoria centre. That was about three weeks ago. I didn’t think about it again until I was about to board a long-haul flight home and opened an email asking me to come back for a follow up appointment. There were changes on my screening mammogram that needed to be investigated further. I had a fun 30-hour transit home imagining every possible catastrophic scenario (because: melodrama) and have spent the last week and a half oscillating between ignoring things and stressing over them.  

And that brings me to today. This morning, I had my follow up appointment, and the short story is all is fine. (The very slightly less story is I had a 3D mammogram, my breasts contorted into expert-level origami configurations, and a million images taken to show that all is okay. Come back in two years.)

Walking back to the car, I took deep breaths, scolded my stupid brain for insisting on making things bigger and scarier than they ever need to be, and then reminding myself that I should be kinder because it’s not just this screening that was influencing how I felt. 

I don’t know what it’s like to not live with a chronic health condition that places so many expectations for regular health checks and pressures on my mental health. Honestly, I wish I did. Because I know that the way that I am feeling – the anxiety, the stress, the worst-case-scenario obsessing – is so shaped by twenty-six years of living with diabetes. I can’t switch off these feelings or react differently. I can’t force myself to think of things through any other lens, because everything I see is through diabetes-coloured glasses. 

This is the reality of living with diabetes. And it’s the legacy of scary images and campaigns and messaging that told me it was all inevitable. Of course I’m going to expect the worst because I heard that all for so very long. It wasn’t a giant leap for me to head straight to thinking the worst thing about a call back following a mammogram.

And so, because community is everything to me, as soon as I could I reached out to a friend who has had breast cancer. I needed to connect with someone with lived experience. Who better to try to talk through things? And the next person was a friend with diabetes who had recently had an experience that pretty much mirrored mine (and the same outcome). Of course I read everything I’d been sent from BreastScreen Victoria, but I needed to humanise the situation. And the only way I could do that was by speaking with people with lived experience, who could climb in beside me and wrap me up in a quilt of understanding and reality. Community really is everything. – whichever community it is.  


If you’ve not yet shared and signed the petition for equitable access to AID for Australians wth T1D, please do! This is a community-driven initiative, created by people with diabetes in consultation with other stakeholders who have come together to advance advocacy on this issue. It’s getting close to 1,500 signatures already, and I’m seeing it shared widely in community groups and organisations. Thanks to everyone who has supported the community by being part of this advocacy.

Click to sign


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