Annual review – by Andy Broomhead

The date of my Annual Review being marked on the calendar has, in the past, struck fear into me on more than one occasion. I’ve previously likened it to some sort of ‘confession’, and I’ve spent time preparing my excuses for the results that are inevitably not within target.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to ‘blame’ a variety of things for why I’d not quite got round to an improved HbA1c or lost a few pounds. A new job, moving house, my daughter being born or just “being really busy at work” all got used at one point or another.

I went through a significant period of time where testing my BG was as a rare occurrence and unsurprisingly, my overall control suffered quite badly as a result. I used to frantically try and cram months of eating right and testing my BG regularly into a week before my clinic appointment. I’m sure you can guess how well that worked out.

The thing is, in actual fact, I think that in all bar one or two of my annual/six-month reviews over the last 12 years, my consultants (and specialist team in general) have always been great with me. They were sympathetic, ready to listen and helpful in a way that didn’t feel like I was being lectured.

I guess at the time, I never really appreciated why that was. I took it to mean that they just generally understood that it was a bit tough sometimes (especially when you’re younger) and that they knew I was trying. To a degree I think a lot of that was true, but really, in hindsight, it was because there is only so much they can do. The ultimate responsibility lies with me as I’m the only one with any power to change anything.

Of course, any annual review or clinic appointment wouldn’t be complete without a sometimes baffling array of numbers, some of which make perfect sense to you, some of which don’t. I don’t know how it works in other places, but in Sheffield, I get an A4 summary of my results that includes a 12 month rolling period so I can see how well (or not) I’m doing.

As I’ve got older I’ve started to pay more attention to the figures beyond my HbA1c, particularly my blood pressure and my cholesterol. At one point I was close to being diagnosed with high blood pressure as every clinic appointment showed some high numbers. I got given a BP monitor to wear for 24 hours which showed that it was only high when I was at clinic – I’m not sure if that’s a common problem for some people but it was good to find out it was just clinic that kept putting me on edge!

I know that getting older means that it’ll get a little more difficult to keep all the numbers closer to target and that I’ll have to work a little harder to do so. But I know what I need to do and sometimes that’s half the battle.

The important thing is to make sure you don’t struggle on by yourself if it ever feels overwhelming. There are so many different ways to get the support you need, including talking to your specialist team, calling the Diabetes UK Careline or engaging with one of the several online communities dedicated to helping people with diabetes. Being able to talk to someone about how you feel when you have diabetes shouldn’t just be a 6 monthly occurrence.

Thankfully my most recent appointment was one where I felt I could talk about my successes over the last few months rather than having to invent yet another excuse. Hopefully that’s also the case for the majority of you too.

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