The other day, I was standing in a noisy café, waiting for my take away coffee to be ready, not really paying attention to anything, other than a tree I could see that had what must have been Melbourne’s first promise-of-spring blossoms. Suddenly, a loud noise dragged me from thoughts of warmer weather and not needing to wear fifty layers of black to leave the house. The man standing next to me turned his head and I caught him looking at my phone.

‘Your Dexcom is wailing,’ he said to me.

‘Indeed it is, needy little shit,’ I replied, after I got over my surprise at his comment. Usually people just look annoyed at the disturbance.

‘So…you’re one of us?’ I asked him, pointing to the pump I’d just noticed on his waist band.

‘Yep. Hi! I’ve never, ever just come across another person with diabetes in a café or just out and about,’ he said. ‘Have you?’

‘Ridiculously regularly in the last few of months,’ I replied, and told him about the mum of a young woman with diabetes at the airport lounge, the security guard at the airport in Amsterdam who referred to me and my travelling companions as a ‘diabetes club’, the woman talking about Libre in my favourite local café, and now him in this café near work.

‘Maybe stay away from airports and cafes. That seems to be where PWD congregate,’ he helpfully suggested.

At that exact moment, my pump beeped its on-the-hour alert that it was sitting on a temp basal rate.

My diabetes-in-the-wild mate looked at me, his eyes narrowing. ‘Now your pump is beeping. Oh – are you looping?’

I was more than a little startled at that one. The noise my ancient Medtronic makes on the hour is not loud at all – three little beeps to gently remind me that a temp basal rate has been activated by Loop. ‘Wow,’ I said. ‘Your hearing is next level. And yes. I am.’

We did the usual diabetes stat check: length of time with diabetes; age of diagnosis; things that drive us nuts; inventory of our diabetes devices; a couple of amusing diabetes anecdotes. ‘I pulled my pump line out on the door handle of my office today,’ he said. ‘Have you ever done that?’  I laughed. ‘No – don’t be ridiculous! I am a smart and clever and always paying attention person with diabetes. Of course I’ve never done that… And by never, I mean once every couple of months for the eighteen and a half years I’ve been pumping.’

My Dexcom fall rate alert wailed again. ‘I’m ignoring it. Hoping it will go away,’ I sighed. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I’ve been doing that with diabetes for the last 32 years.’

We looked at each other and mirrored in his face was the same expression I knew I was wearing – slight defeat, but also defiance. It’s the default expression that so many of us living with diabetes wear when we are feeling a little over it all.

The barista handed me my coffee, and juggling my phone and coffee and umbrella, I turned back to friend. ‘Lovely to chat,’ I said to him. ‘Always nice meeting one of my tribe.

‘Tribe? Is that what you said?’ he asked.

‘Yep,’ I said, a familiar feeling washing over me: The ease and comfort of talking with someone who absolutely understands. In the place of making our own insulin, we make connections. And I was reminded, once again, how these chance encounters, along with the time I get to spend with my friends who have diabetes, sustain me.

Find your tribe. Love them hard,’ he said. ‘Isn’t that how it goes?’

I nodded and took a deep breath, raising my coffee up to him as I started to leave the café.

‘Yes. That’s exactly how it goes.’