The more I know the more I understand – by Helen May

Apart from a wine and spirits appreciate course (with an exam at the end), I had not done any study since university. However, I have been considering for some time whether I still have the ability to study. So when I read about an Open University (OU) course, “Caring for Diabetes”, I thought this was an opportunity to try some study and learn more to control my diabetes.

The OU describes the course as:

This course provides an introductory overview of diabetes care. It focuses on the person with diabetes, and how they can make informed choices in relation to treatment and lifestyle. You will study medical, social, psychological and educational aspects of the condition of diabetes, and learn about its diagnosis, complications, treatment, lifestyle changes and the role of individuals within the diabetes ‘team’. The course will appeal to students from a variety of backgrounds, including people with diabetes, health care workers and anyone interested in learning more about the condition.

I spent six months learning about all types of diabetes (not just the Type 1 I have), the symptoms, treatment, complications and the impact it can have on our life. At the end of the course, I felt I had learnt little I didn’t know about Type 1 but now I can answer questions about Type 2 (which I get quite a few of from people whose friends, parents, elderly relatives, … have recently been diagnosed so “what does that mean?”).

I had thought about some of the emotional difficulties which had never occurred to me but it gave me a better understanding of why and how people have challenges coping with diabetes. I came away with a certificate and more literature than I thought I would need. I also came away knowing the only acceptable way to reference articles in essays … you have to love those academics!

Overall, I gained the confidence to continue reading and learning about diabetes. I try to stay in touch with the changes in understanding through Diabetes UK through their website, Balance magazine, Update magazine (intended for healthcare professionals but I find it very interesting) and, of course, the blogs. I also receive the Diabetic Hypoglycaemia newsletter which is very research orientated but gives me an insight into what is being considered.

My favourite is the Weekly Medical News Newsletter I receive every Wednesday. This lists many worldwide articles that have appeared in journals: some are press releases from our good old Diabetes UK, some are research studies, some are news about new products being accepted in the USA and some are fascinating facts about the cost of diabetes worldwide.

In a typical year, I only see a healthcare professional once to discuss diabetes and only once they have suggested a change to my treatment. If I want to know more to ask for more or make sure the visits stay at once a year, I see it is up to me to do the research and, actually, I find it really interesting.

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