Duncan has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. He loves getting outdoors and keeping active, whether that be heading out for a jog, playing a bit of soccer or competing in ultra-marathons! We spoke to Duncan about his journey with diabetes, his experience with Dexcom G6 CGM and why he believes he is ‘fitter for having it.’
Q. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a regular bloke with a family, a ‘real’ job and a busy life. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) when I was 14 and so, over the last 30-odd years I’ve learned firsthand how T1D affects me.
When I was diagnosed, the outlook for people with T1D was pretty grim. There were lots of stories about what you couldn’t do with T1D, there were foods you couldn’t eat, jobs you couldn’t apply for and sports you couldn’t participate in. Worst of all there were books and health professionals telling me how medical complications would affect my quality of life in later years. There wasn’t much good news about what you could do. There was no internet, there were no mobile phones and no social media pages telling of the adventures, sporting triumphs and positive achievements people with T1D were making.
In those days, you needed to inject 30 minutes before food and it used to take 60 seconds to wash and prick your finger and test your blood glucose level using a meter the size of a brick and test strips you had to rinse with water at the sink. In those days I dreamt about not having injections or blood tests and that someone would develop me a watch that would tell me what my BGL was, without pricking my finger….again!
I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m a professional athlete but I’ve done some pretty extreme sporting adventures. In saying that, I am just as happy falling asleep in front of the TV. Over time I’ve embraced sport and developed a mindset that uses having diabetes to my advantage. I’ve run through Australia’s Simpson desert, cycled over the Pyrenees in Europe and run up Queenstown’s (NZ) highest mountains. All to prove that I’m fitter for having it.
Q. Speaking of ‘fitter for having it’, can you tell us about your blog?
I started #fitterforhavingit because after living with T1D for over twenty years, I’d learned a lot about T1D that I wanted to share with other people. I’d also just run six marathons in six days through Australia’s Simpson desert to prove to myself that anything was possible with T1D – despite those talking about what you can’t or couldn’t do. As a result of that run, people living with T1D and a few parents of kids with T1D started contacting me to tell me that I’d inspired them to be more active or more positive. It was then that I decided to do more runs and share my experiences with others. From here, I started my ‘Fitter For Having It” blog.
Q. You’ve recently switched to Dexcom G6 CGM from Dexcom G5 Mobile CGM. Has this helped you stay active and manage your diabetes at all?
Sure. Dexcom G6 has a couple of really good features that make my life and diabetes management just a little bit easier. For me, the best feature is the much simpler one touch applicator that inserts the sensor. I’m no longer tying myself in knots trying to get the sensor attached. It’s one simple push of the button. Also, the Dexcom G6 transmitter and sensor feels a lot smaller because it’s so slim compared to the Dexcom G5 Mobile. The slimline profile makes it feel like it’s hardly there! The longer sensor life and the reduced need to calibrate also make things easier day-to-day.
Q. How do the alerts and alarms help you day-to-day and when exercising?
The alarms, and the option to turn these to vibrate, is helpful when I’m exercising. I run quite a lot, so having the phone in my bumbag, rucksack or pocket while still having the ability to get my CGM reading on the move, makes managing my blood glucose levels during my runs much easier.
I’ve also found the rise and fall alarms, and alarms when my glucose level is outside my target range, helpful when I’m caught up in life and not thinking about diabetes, or at night when I’m tired or sleeping. Seeing trends and changes early allows me to act quickly if I’m going low. For example, I forgot to bolus for dinner the other night and within 30 minutes my phone was beeping and my rise rate was a clear sign that something was occurring. A look at my Dexcom CGM trend confirmed that I’d forgotten to bolus, so I was able to correct that much sooner.
Q. Are there any other features of Dexcom G6 which have helped you manage your diabetes day-to-day?
The wearability of Dexcom G6 has helped, by being able to track my glucose levels on long runs or when I’m playing soccer without needing finger pricks*. BUT it’s the data and insights from CGM that blows my mind. Seeing a chart of my glucose levels over the last 24 hours, or periods when I am eating or exercising, gives me so much insight into the way my body responds to different foods, or types of exercise and stress.
I used to find my blood glucose started to rocket in the morning and I wasn’t sure why. At first I thought it was the dawn phenomenon but Dexcom has helped me work out that it only ever occurred after drinking several cups of tea – which I sometimes do before brekky. That pre-breakfast (and pre bolus) caffeine and milk in my white tea was causing the spike, not something else.
Q. Do you have any tips for others looking into CGM?
I would say:
Q. How would you sum up the Dexcom G6 in 10 words or less?
It is the dream I had when I was 14.
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* If your glucose alerts and readings from the G6 do not match symptoms or expectations, use a blood glucose meter to make diabetes treatment decisions.
Always read the label and use only as directed. Read the warnings available on amsldiabetes.com.au/resources before purchasing. Consult your healthcare professional to see which product is right for you.
“Dexcom G6 has a couple of really good features that make my life and diabetes management just a little bit easier. For me, the best feature is the much simpler one touch applicator that inserts the sensor. I’m no longer tying myself in knots trying to get the sensor attached. It’s one simple push of the button.”
Sam believes that T1D doesn’t need to hold you back from accomplishing your dreams. In 2007, Sam debuted in professional AFL for the Western Bulldogs, and since then has gone from competing on the field to fatherhood. In 2020, Sam upgraded from Dexcom G5 Mobile to Dexcom G6 to monitor and manage his diabetes.
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