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Diabetes by Design – Part 3

In Diabetes by Design – Part 1 and Part 2, I raised a few questions about how we might think about designing a life with diabetes. I talked about the importance of a framework and an intentional approach to life with diabetes. I addressed the question of owning your diabetes versus being owned by it.

As I said in Part 2, I don’t pretend to have all of the answers or to have it figured out. I don’t. My purpose in this series is to encourage you to think about how you approach life with diabetes and come to terms with the disease. Figuring out life with diabetes is a process and always will be. And, the process will move at a different pace for everyone.

What does it look like?

Having thought about a framework and having made a decision to own or be owned, it seems sensible to me to visualize how a desirable life with diabetes might look. For me, this is how I manage my own expectations. For example, it would foolish for me to imagine a life with diabetes that was all fun and games, a carefree ride into the future. Rather, the visualization process allows me the chance to see different scenarios and wrap my head around one or more possible alternatives that are sensible to me.

One way I visualize my life with diabetes is that I simply have a pancreas that has been set to “manual” mode. I think of it kind of like a having a stick-shift in a car. It requires slightly more effort and much more attention than driving a car with an automatic transmission, but it’s still a very efficient way to get around. This visual model works for me since it is consistent with my stated intent to own the disease. As the owner, I control what gear I am in, so to speak, as well as how fast or slow the engine revs.

As I have said before, what is sensible to me may not be sensible to you. This is a highly individualized endeavor. The point here is to think about a mental model or visualization that fits your situation and is consistent with your framework.

How would it work?

The next aspect to consider is the practical application of a lifestyle framework. What is it going to take to make this work? What information and tools will I need? How do I find what I need? The real nuts and bolts of how you carry on day-to-day. Drawing from my own experience, here’s some of what was on the list of specific things I considered and why I thought they were important:

  • I knew there was going to be a lot of data. Since I knew there would be way more than I could keep track of on paper, it would be important to have a organized database on a computer that I could use to store and analyze big quantities of data.
  • I had a strong sense that the data, over some period of time, would tell a story and help me, my doctors and other caregivers understand something about how my body behaves in certain circumstances. This matters because today’s data will someday be useful in predicting the future. Without the history, however, I would not be able to see or remember the whole story. Beyond anecdotal evidence, I would never really know if I was doing better or worse – at least not until maybe it was too late. Think of it like tracking stock prices. Among other things, analysts look at history to help predict the future. The same principle applies here.
  • I had a pretty good idea that the length of time that it might take for the data to tell a coherent story was not known nor easily knowable, so it would be important to have a long-term solution. This mattered to me because of the very real possibility that technology and equipment would change over time and that the data management solution I picked would allow me the control my data over the long term. Several solutions I looked at didn’t fit since they were product or device-centric. So, for example if I wanted to consider changing to a different meter or pump in the future, there was a very real possibility that I might face the prospect of losing my historical data – at least in a workable format.

These and other considerations led me to design and build the solutions that worked for me and my particular framework. Those original tools are the basis for the design of the tracking diaries found in My Project Diabetes.

The point here is not a pitch for Project Diabetes, although we think they are pretty good tools. The point is that the tools and information you choose to use should be informed by the framework and expectations that you have built for your particular situation. Taking this approach should lead to a sustainable process for living life with diabetes on your terms, not its terms.

Woody Runner is Founder and CEO of Three Questions, LLC which operates Project Diabetes as part of My Health Projects. Three Questions also operates Healthcare Fellowship Networks.

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