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New Beginnings.

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A while ago, I finally took a well deserved day off from everything. I skipped out on boot camp to catch up on some much needed sleep and I took a day off work. Instead, I took my lovely mum out for brunch at one of our favourite places and visited a dear friend in Ballarat (and my goddaughter).

My girlfriend and her little munchkin (aka my goddaughter).

My girlfriend and her little munchkin (aka my goddaughter).

I love bringing my mum out. We take this rare opportunity to chat about anything in our lives that is going on. I usually have heaps going on in the background that I don’t talk talk about at home, so it’s a good way to keep her in the loop with what I’m up to, where I’m headed as well as to catch up on the latest goss with my friends. In other words, yes – I do tell my mum almost everything!

Our conversation ranged from her recent venture onto Facebook and her excitement of catching up with old friends to me starting my masters course this year. Despite starting a brand new course, I felt more ready than ever about starting something new.

As I reflect on it, I realised the catalyst for my passion in healthcare came from my own experience with diabetes. The way I have been treated by various people in different settings has given me a precious insight into the world of diabetes. Along the way, I have met healthcare professionals from across the spectrum – those who are passionate about diabetes to those who can’t wait to see the clock strike 5pm. And I have made sure that I have taken away a lesson from each of them – from tips and advice to what not to do or say with patients. This is something that universities will not be able to teach. It’s one thing to give students a checklist of things to do and things to avoid, but it’s difficult to comprehend and integrate this into practice until you’re actually doing it with real patients.

I still think back to my first visit to see the dietitian who had a student with them at the time. Unfortunately for the student, they were doing the consulting. I say unfortunate because I ended up giving her an earful about how a normal person would never measure out my food portions to the nearest grams, so why should diabetes change that. If that wasn’t enough for the poor student, I ended up in tears because I said I didn’t really enjoy eating fruits at the time and the student dietitian just blankly repeated that I needed more in my diet. By this time I was quite ready to just have a mental break down after being overwhelmed with diabetes information. Thankfully, the dietitian stepped in and took over at this point. I was then asked about things I liked to eat and asked if I enjoyed smoothies or juices. I nodded wordlessly and was then encouraged to make my own smoothies or fresh juices at home with berries or bananas or oranges and low fat ice cream or yoghurt or skim milk and that way I would be incorporating fruits and dairy! How easy was that?! I remember blinking and staring at her blankly while asking ‘I can have smoothies?’ like an idiot. So rather than being overloaded with what I should and shouldn’t be eating, I was simply told to go home and start making some smoothies using whole fruits, low fat dairy and if I wanted, a bit of fruit juice. Simple and doable.

I hope I haven’t traumatised the student too badly and that she’s gone on to become a great dietitian since then.

Another thing I feel that has set me up really well for masters was my honours course. I deliberately chose a project that had clinical aspects as I knew it was what I wanted to be to doing. Admittedly, I was thrown into the deep end as the hospital I was at thought I was a dietetic student and knew all the basics of dietetics. This pushed me to fast forward my learning and have a crash course in dietetics practice 101. I remember being absolutely terrified with my interviewing my patient on my own. Thankfully, I had a great dietitian mentor who listened in and gave me great tips along the way.

Building up my networks has also definitely made an impact on my self-confidence. Figuring out what to say, the right questions to ask, all while still remembering to be myself has been a learning curve and something you can only learn by doing. Reading tips can only get you so far in terms of preparing mentally. It seems like the more events I go to, the easier it becomes because I know what to expect and I am getting to know more people.

And so with all these new skills that I have been honing and building upon, I am very excited to be starting my master of dietetics. Bring on the new skills and experiences and a hectic year!

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Pancreatically challenged, diabetes advocate, PhD student and dietitian - working to positive changes within the diabetes community and healthcare setting. Although diagnosed at age of 19 with T2DM, the type of diabetes I have is under constant debate. Finally pumping as of March 2014.

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