Remembering my Time at the 2018 TypeOneNation Summit in Boston

In my final post for this week’s conference reflection series, I’m republishing my experience at the 2018 TypeOneNation Summit in Boston. This post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on March 19, 2018. This conference was different from the other two I revisited this week because it took place in my neck of the woods, requiring very little travel. It was also one of the first times where a diabetes conference felt like family reunion to me, and it was very special. Read on for my full experience…

St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday of mine because I enjoy celebrating my Irish heritage. Almost every year, I eat a traditional boiled dinner, listen to Irish music, and wear an excessive amount of green.

This year, though, was a little different. In addition to all of the above, I attended the TypeOneNation summit in Boston. The event was organized by JDRF and just about 900 people with diabetes attended, along with their families and caregivers.

There’s nothing like being in Boston on St. Paddy’s day, even if it is for an event that has nothing to do with the holiday’s shenanigans. The spirit of the day made it slightly less painful to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to catch an early morning commuter rail into the city. As I sipped an Irish cream iced coffee from Honey Dew (absolutely delicious) on the ride, I got myself pumped up for what would surely be a fun day.

Once we arrived at the Back Bay station, I was one frigid (and mercifully short) walk away from the event space: the Boston Marriott Copley hotel. I went straight to the registration table so I could receive a name tag and itinerary, then made a beeline for the vendor hall. You can never have too much free diabetes swag, am I right?

Within the hall, I recognized many familiar faces and happily made the rounds to chat with some of my T1D friends in attendance. I couldn’t help but feel like I was at a family reunion of sorts as I reconnected with people who I don’t get to see often enough.

Looking Back on my First Diabetes Conference (2)
This year’s TypeOneNation Summit in Boston had to be canceled at the last minute due to COVID, but here’s to hoping that it can safely happen again next year.

Before long, the events of the day got into full swing as the keynote speaker, Nicole Johnson, addressed the crowd. Nicole won the Miss America pageant in 1999 soon after she received her diabetes diagnosis. She’s done many incredible things since earning that accolade, and she delivered an inspiring speech about living life with diabetes to the fullest. As she spoke, I looked around the room and noticed all the little kids who were there. It warmed my heart to see how they received Nicole’s words. Many of them looked at her in absolute awe. It was obvious that they thought she was pretty great, and I bet that having diabetes in common with her helped them to feel just as cool. Nicole is definitely a wonderful role model!

The rest of the day went by much too quickly as I went to two different talks offered at the summit. One was about going to college with diabetes, and the other was about sex and drugs – the “taboo” diabetes topics. Even though I’ve already experienced what it’s like to go off to college with diabetes, I wanted to go to this talk because it was given by my friends from the CDN. I also wanted to meet the parents and children at the session because I was curious to learn about their concerns. As someone who went to a very similar talk seven (?!) years ago, I felt that I could potentially offer reassurance to these families, especially since the whole college experience was so recent for me. And it turned out that the woman seated next to me was an anxious mom who seemed receptive to the words of encouragement I spoke to her at the end of the panel. While I believe that the session could’ve lasted many more hours (everyone was so engaged in the conversation), I think that the session acted as a good launching point into future discussions for many families who are going to make this transition soon.

I wolfed down a quick lunch – I loved seeing the food labeled with carb counts – before heading to the next session. I chose it because, c’mon, a title like “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll” can get anyone’s attention. Plus, I feel very strongly that the touchier diabetes topics SHOULD be talked about more often. They can be scary to approach, but it’s important to know what to expect in certain situations in which diabetes can play a major role. I had to duck out of this one a bit early to catch the commuter rail back home, but they were delving into some pretty juicy stuff when I got up to leave. I give major credit to all of the panelists in that one – it can’t be easy to talk about highly personal intimate matters in a room filled with strangers!

Although my time at the summit was truncated, I’m so glad that I took the time to go to it. It’s no secret that I enjoy talking with other people with diabetes. Hearing their stories and sharing experiences makes diabetes feel less isolating. And I’m thrilled that I finally got to meet a few people I knew from the DOC but had yet to see in person!

Diabetes conferences, meet-ups, summits…they’re the types of family reunions you actually get excited about and want to attend.

My Experience at the 2017 Weekend for Women Diabetes Conference

I’m continuing to revisit my blog posts on past diabetes conferences I’ve attended. Today’s post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on October 16, 2017. This “Weekend for Women” conference was an absolute whirlwind and a one-of-a-kind experience! Read on to learn more about it…

It’s always amazing to me how powerful it is to be in a room filled with people with diabetes.

I was lucky enough to experience that wonderful sensation this past weekend as I attended the 2017 Weekend for Women Conference held in Alexandria, Virginia. This conference brought together all sorts of individuals: people with type 1 diabetes (and people with T2D), people who love or care for someone with diabetes, diabetes educators, registered dietitians, certified personal trainers, gifted public speakers, and individuals who came to the conference willing to share with and learn from others. It was also a bit different from standard conferences because it was coordinated by two groups – DiabetesSisters and Diabetes Collective, Inc. (which created the Diabetes UnConference).

The 48 hours that I spent at the conference were an absolute whirlwind, but I’ll do my best to recap it for you here.

Let’s start with Friday evening. Almost immediately after arriving at the Embassy Suites hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, I sat down for my first session of the weekend: The Diabetes Policy Advocacy Coalition (DPAC) boot camp. I learned what exactly diabetes advocacy policy is and how easy it is for me to get involved with it. Now more than ever, it’s extremely important for PWD and those who care for them to push our policymakers into supporting public policy initiatives that improve the health of those with diabetes.

After this energizing session, it was time to mingle with all the other conference attendees. It was really neat to meet people who I previously “knew” from interacting with them online and make that face-to-face connection. I also enjoyed meeting new people and expanding my own personal diabetes network. We rounded off the evening by attending a hilarious forum called Sex, Pods, and Rock n Roll, where a panel of diabetes all-stars answered questions from the audience about the more “taboo” diabetes topics. All you need to know is that this session resulted in a room full of PWD brainstorming a new product idea: edible underwear. It’d be perfect for low blood sugars when you’re in…the heat of the moment, no?

Fast-forward to Saturday, a day with an extremely full agenda. It was hard to choose which workshops to attend, but I wound up going to sessions about mindful eating, the physiology of diabetes and exercise, balancing an active life and diabetes, and making use of the glycemic index. I found myself learning something new in each session, which is really cool. After all, I’ve had diabetes for almost 20 years, but it goes to show that you can always learn something new and useful about your chronic condition by listening to others.

Looking Back on my First Diabetes Conference (1)
Who else has a collection of conference name tags/badges?

In between the sessions, we enjoyed an extended lunch break in which I got to meet even more new people. I was particularly excited to meet and interview with Stacey Simms, who hosts the podcast called Diabetes Connections. That means there’s a chance you’ll hear my voice in one of her upcoming podcasts!

The evening ended with a reception hosted by Dexcom, similar to the one the night before. I didn’t stay for the whole thing, but I loved every second of it because I became immersed in a thoughtful conversation with other women with T1D. We talked about healthcare, politics, and what it’s like to be a woman with T1D in this day and age. It was a pleasure listening to what each lady had to say and again, really great to be talking to a like-minded group.

And just like that, it was Sunday morning – the final day of the conference. We only had a half day together, but it was just as awesome as the previous days. One session I went to was about diabetes and pregnancy, and the other was about being the CEO of your own healthcare. Just like the previous days, the speakers presented fantastic information and I found myself feeling sad that it was my last day with this group of people.

I had to duck out of the last group-wide activity a bit early, but I got the gist of the message it was meant to convey: Invest in you. Take time to look at the areas in your life that need attention, and come up with a plan to improve them. Put in the hard work to make your life what you want it to be and you’ll reap the rewards. I thought this was an especially good way to end the conference because it wasn’t necessarily related to our diabetes. It was a reminder that we are MORE than our diabetes and that we, ultimately, have control on how to live our lives happily and fully.

This was the conference, from my perspective, in a nutshell.

A special thank you to Anna Norton from DiabetesSisters and Christel Marchand Aprigliano from DPAC/the Diabetes Collective for their efforts to make this weekend a success. Thank you to each of the speakers for being engaging and putting together magnificent presentations. I wish I could personally thank each and every single attendee for being an active participant and making this conference worthwhile. I’m extra grateful to the people who I got to make more personal connections with, and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with them. Thanks to YOU, if you were at the conference, and are now reading this recap! I’d love to hear from you what your favorite parts were – please feel free to leave a comment about your experience. Here’s to connecting with more members of the incredible diabetes community.

Looking Back on my First Diabetes Conference

This post was originally published on July 18, 2013, on the ASweetLife website. Since I’m away on vacation this week, and it also happens to be the week of the 2020 CWD FFL conference, I thought it’d be fun to look back on the diabetes conferences I’ve attended in the last seven years. I got very nostalgic when reading this old post – all the feelings that I had during that week rushed back at me. To this day, I feel so lucky that I got to go and meet so many amazing people with diabetes – many of whom have literally become my friends for life. Read on for my full conference experience…

Children With Diabetes Friends for Life Conference 2013: A First-Timer’s Report

I was the kind of diabetic child who refused to attend any sort of diabetes camps or events. I always told myself, I don’t need any diabetic friends. I can do this by myself. And I wasn’t exactly alone with my diabetes. My mother has type 1 diabetes, too. We’ve always had a diabetic partnership, and for most of my life that has been enough of a support system for me.

However, as years have gone on I have become more comfortable with the diabetic part of my identity, so much so that I joined the College Diabetes Network (CDN) last year, an organization whose mission is to empower and improve the lives of students living with type 1 diabetes through peer support and access to information and resources. Through CDN I started meeting other diabetics my age, and was blown away by how refreshing it was to chat with them about the daily challenges of living with diabetes as a college student. And thanks to CDN, I learned about an opportunity to apply for a scholarship to attend the Children With Diabetes Friends for Life conference in Orlando, Florida. The CDN team, Christina Roth and Jo Treitman, encouraged me to go for it. This past April I applied, and by May, I had received the news that I was chosen as a scholarship recipient. I was overjoyed.

Looking Back on my First Diabetes Conference
I recreated my overjoyed reaction to receiving the scholarship almost immediately upon arriving to Disney. Here’s the photographic evidence.

Fast forward to July 10th, when I found myself sitting next to my father, the most wonderful traveling companion, on a plane. Our destination was the Coronado Springs Resort located in Disney World, where we would spend the next five days taking advantage of all the conference had to offer. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I meet other people my age? Would I enjoy myself? Would I benefit from the conference? I was anxious, to say the least.

My concerns were allayed once I registered and saw a lobby full of conference attendees. I did my best to absorb the sea of faces before me: all of those people had something gigantic in common with me. It dawned on me that I would get to know some of them well over the course of the next few days, and I couldn’t wait to start the process of making some friends for life.

Before I go on, you might be wondering what exactly happens at a Children With Diabetes Friends for Life conference. In short, families or adults with type 1 gather to spend time together. Participants are are divided into groups by age. I was sorted into the college-age group, which was for 18-22 year olds.

For the duration of the conference, attendees are encouraged to participate in workshops that address a large variety of diabetes topics, like the latest technology for diabetics, dating and diabetes, starting a family with diabetes, and creating diabetes blogs. I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica Apple and Michael Aviad at the diabetes bloggers session, as well as fellow bloggers Kerri Sparling and Scott Johnson. As a relatively new diabetes blogger, I found this workshop to be enlightening as I listened to the advice other bloggers had to offer. I’m excited to explore the intriguing realm of diabetes blogs and gain insight that I can apply to my own blog.

As far as the social aspect of the conference was concerned, I hit it off immediately with several people at the college dinner that was held on Wednesday night. Each person I spoke to had a different perspective on what it was like to be a young adult with diabetes. I was impressed by the clear resilience and independence of the students around me, and I was truly pleased to learn that diabetes wasn’t the only thing we all had in common. Thursday night proved to be fantastic, too. We attended the Friends for Life banquet and ball, which was a full-fledged party with food, music, and dancing. Then my newfound friends and I ventured to Downtown Disney and had a blast soaking up the magic of Disney World and exchanging stories – both diabetes related and unrelated.

One story that I heard at the conference particularly moved me. I was at Brandy Barnes’ workshop about Women and Diabetes – another excellent session – when a diabetic woman sitting next to me became emotional as she spoke about her young daughter with diabetes. She explained how she was dealing with guilt, as she felt responsible for her daughter’s diabetes. She feared the consequences this would have on her little girl later on in life. I felt a compelling need to reach out to this woman and let her know everything would be okay. I spoke to her briefly after the workshop, and explained to her that my mom and I are a diabetic duo, too. I told her that when her daughter grows up she’ll be grateful for her support, knowledge, and perspective as a fellow diabetic with a deeper understanding of diabetes. My mom and I can attest to how even though diabetes has tried to knock us down over the years, we’ve taken control of it and become stronger as a result. I gave the woman my e-mail and the address to my blog, and if she is reading this now, I want her to know that I meant what I said: everything will be okay.

Looking back now with the eyes of someone who attended the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference I can say that I regret – to a certain degree – not attending camps when I was younger. Being around others with diabetes has given me greater awareness of what it means to live with diabetes. Additionally, I am feeling more inspired than ever as a diabetic and a writer to put my story out there and do anything I can help and impact others, all while listening to and learning from what others affected by diabetes have to say about it, too.

27 Acts of Kindness: Days 12, 13, and 14

In times of sadness, fear, and uncertainty…laughter can be a powerful medicine.

I know that I haven’t had much to laugh about lately. Neither has…well, the world, really.

So my desire to have a good chuckle, and make others laugh along with me, was strong this week and inspired Friday’s little act of kindness…

Friday, 4/17 – Act of Kindness #12: I dressed up as Dwight Schrute today.

Yes, that character from The Office. Two years ago, I dressed up as him for Halloween and it was a hit among my coworkers. I figured I could surprise them on Friday by dressing up as him (I still have the wig, glasses, yellow button-down, and tie) and attending my virtual meetings in the beet farmers’ signature garb.

Despite my concerns that they might think I’m a freaking weirdo, they loved Dwight’s appearance in both of my Friday afternoon meetings. Inspired by their positive reaction, I took my Dwight disguise a step further and uploaded all sorts of pictures and videos to Instagram of me in costume doing funny things for my friends and family who follow my account to see. I got a ton of messages throughout the day thanking me for my silliness because it did what I wanted it to do: make people smile.

And I even walked my parents’ dog around my VERY small town dressed as Dwight. I got a couple of honks, a few smiles, and more confused looks than I could count, but it was all worth it – those who know and love The Office as much as I do got a kick out of it, and that’s what mattered to me.

fullsizeoutput_17d6
Photographic evidence of the Dwight costume. And a phrase commonly associated with his characters with a diabetes twist: Bears. ‘Betes. Battlestar Galactica.

Saturday, 4/18 – Act of Kindness #13: Early Saturday afternoon, I got the disappointing news that the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Orlando conference was canceled this year. I was saddened because I made plans to be there in-person for the first time in seven years. There were so many people from the diabetes online community who I wanted to meet in real life at this conference, but I know that the right decision was made to help keep our community safe and healthy at home. Plus, the conference is moving to a virtual format, so it helps to know that we will be able to attend it in some form.

Anyways, the cancellation encouraged me to ask for a partial refund (in lieu of a full one)  for the conference registration I’d purchased earlier this year. The money that I didn’t get back went straight to Children with Diabetes to help them fund their mission, and I feel that it was the right thing to do since they need support (and funding) to make these conferences happen in the first place.

Sunday, 4/19 – Act of Kindness #14: New England weather is effing weird. It snowed and rained all day Sunday, and then yesterday it was sunny and a fairly warm 61 degrees! The beautiful weather brought with it a revitalization for me. I had all sorts of energy to help my parents with a myriad of tasks around the home, so that’s what I did. I couldn’t even complain about it, because dare I say, I enjoyed the chance to move around the house and yard so much (if my parents are reading this, they’re probably jumping for joy over the fact I just admitted that). It felt good to be productive, and since my parents have both worked their butts off in the last few weeks (okay, they always work hard, but the last few weeks have been a little different), I was happy to do a little something that helps them out so they could have a bit more time to rest.

My acts of kindness continue to be small, in the grand scheme of things. But knowing that they’ve helped people, in some teensy-weensy way when things have been rough, continues to motivate me to keep up this challenge. Halfway there!

Overcoming Fears and Feeling All the Feels at FFL Falls Church 2019

I wasn’t sure what I was doing here.

“Here” meaning the CWD Friends for Life conference that took place in Falls Church, Virginia, this past weekend. CWD/FFL are acronyms synonymous with some of the largest, best-known conferences for people with diabetes and their families. I went to my first in Orlando back in 2013, and it resulted in me craving more chances to spend time with large groups of T1Ds.

However, timing and money prevented me from going to as many conferences as I’d like in the last few years. I did go to one back in 2017, but it wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be…so going into FFL Falls Church 2019, I was simultaneously excited and nervous.

My fears and anxieties hit their peak within minutes of me arriving to the hotel that was hosting the conference.

All around me, I was witnessing mini reunions taking place. It seemed like everyone in attendance knew each other, and the introvert within me was totally freaking out – how could I possibly join these preformed friendships?

I left that first night feeling a little deflated. I’d only managed to speak to a couple of people who weren’t exhibiting vendors, and I’d spent entirely too much time looking busy on my cell phone when in reality I was just hoping someone might come up and talk to me. It was a little pathetic, but I knew I’d go back the next day having learned from my mistakes.

Add a heading
Wearing the signature neon green bracelet (which denotes that I have T1D to other conference attendees – the other bracelet color is orange and that means you do not have T1D).

Day 2 rolled around and as I moved from session to session, I slowly started coming out my shell. I met and spoke with parents of T1D children of all ages. I heard a wide variety of diagnosis stories and experiences. I forced myself out of my comfort zone even more by attending a session that focused on diabetes and complications, which I normally can’t stand thinking about, but I actually found it to be one of the best sessions of the entire conference. It’s amazing how much people can open up to a room of what started out as strangers but quickly turned into friends and confidants.

By the third and final day of the conference, my diabetes soul was feeling rejuvenated. It’s pretty difficult to put into words, but being surrounded by so many people with T1D (and those who care for them) for a full weekend is unlike anything else. You’re around people who understand everything about diabetes. They know what a low blood sugar feels like. They know that 4 beeps emitting from an OmniPod is no big deal because it’s just a 4-hour expiration alert. They know how to carb count better than most doctors. They know what burnout is.

It’s just really magical.

In the end, I’m incredibly glad I went to the conference. I met people I might not have ever had the chance to meet. I learned quite a bit about some new diabetes technologies and medicines (more to come on those later). I had open and honest conversations about nearly every aspect of diabetes, which made me feel less alone. I left feeling happy, better informed, more connected, and most of all, proud of myself for overcoming my fears and attending the conference on my own.

FA89CB4A-E570-44BC-B534-93F18358009E
My happy face at the end of the conference.

 

Diabetes in the Wild, Investment Seminar Edition

I always get kind of excited when I’m out and about and notice another T1D. There are some pretty obvious signs that clue me into their similarly useless pancreases: spotting insulin pump tubing, witnessing a finger stick check, and spying a syringe injection are chief among them. Even though I know what to look for and what it means, though, I still can’t help but feel a little thrill when I know I’m in the presence of another person with diabetes.

I know, I know…that makes me sorta weird/creepy, depending on your perspective. But whatever, it is what it is!

Anyways, I experienced another edition of “diabetes in the wild” when I was stuck, in all places, in an investment seminar. I (willingly) signed up for it as part of ongoing educational training for work and didn’t really know what to expect from it. All I knew going into it was that it was expected to last THREE FRIGGEN’ HOURS.

let's party out loud!
I never thought I’d be writing about diabetes and the investment sector in one single piece, but then again, I never thought I’d do a lot of the things I’ve done so far in life.

That’s a long-ass time to spend talking about stocks, bonds, and ETFs.

To make matters slightly worse, upon seeing the other students enrolled in the class, I figured I had basically nothing in common with them. The other seven people were around my parents’ age and up, with a couple of them looking like they were retirees. It was also a predominantly male group, with the seminar being conducted by a male financial professional…so yeah, didn’t seem like there would be much for me to talk about with everyone else.

No big deal. I settled in for what was bound to be a long evening. Just when the seminar instructor started diving into a very-not-fascinating slide on poor diversification within individual investment portfolios, I heard a high-pitched beep from across the room.

My attention immediately drifted from the front of the room to where I thought the sound had come from. My eyes landed on a man (who looked like the oldest of the bunch) who was reaching into his pocket for something…aha! A glucometer!

One of me, one of me…I started chanting. In my head. Because I’m not THAT weird.

I wondered what kind of meter it was – I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head that beeped. But then I saw the man reach back into his pocket to grab…oh, so that’s where the beeping noise was coming from – his pump. It wasn’t an OmniPod; rather, I saw the trail of tubing peeping out from his jeans.

For the next half hour or so, I noticed the man fiddle with his glucometer and pump a few times. I felt badly for him and hoped that he wasn’t experiencing any blood sugar issues or technical difficulties. Plus, I’m sure he must’ve felt a little self-conscious about his devices being out in the open – the instructor did glance at him a few times, as if he was thinking that the man should stop playing with his electronics and focus on the presentation. Given that was the correct interpretation of the situation, I felt defensive for the man. I wanted to tell the instructor to give him a break, that he was doing what needed to be done for his health.

At the seminar’s conclusion, I had every intention of going up to the man, introducing myself, and having a conversation about diabetes. But then…I stopped myself. I’m trying to get better about remembering that many people with diabetes are not as comfortable as I am when it comes to talking about it to perfect strangers. Maybe it would’ve embarrassed him further or made him angry. So I walked out of the classroom, quietly, albeit with a slight smile on my face…because diabetes isn’t always an illness of isolation. It can be the common denominator between you and someone else you don’t think you could possibly share anything with. And sometimes, you can find it in the most random, unexpected places and suddenly feel a bit less lonely.

The DOC: The 24/7 Support System I Never Knew that I Needed

I’ve lauded the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) time and time again for connecting me with individuals globally who are also affected by type one diabetes. And I don’t foresee an end to my desire to express gratitude for this amazing community, because over and over, members of it continue to blow me away with their words of encouragement and gestures of friendship.

My latest wave of gratefulness was spurred when I arrived home from work on Monday to a cheerful, Tiffany-blue envelope waiting patiently for me to open it. It was a delightful little package from my friend Sarah, who I “met” via Instagram over the summer. Besides diabetes, we share common interests in fitness, wellness, our pet dogs, and bright colors, among other things.

Sarah went out of her way to mail me a few goodies (shown in the picture), including a cute T1D key chain and an adorable cactus card with a message of support written inside. I was incredibly, pleasantly surprised by all of it. It wasn’t about the material items for me (though they are totally my style, and I can’t wait to make use of them). It was more so how she took the time to put it all together for me, cleverly incorporating some of the things that introduced us to one another in the first place, that really blew me away.

57D80F3D-2B6D-4B8D-9027-41219C9DFD0B
Sweet trinkets from a sweet friend!

It got me thinking about the larger diabetes community I’ve met and harvested friendships with in the last several years. And as hard as it is for me to properly describe the level of richness, knowledge, and support that those friendships have given to me, it’s beyond easy for me to say that I am infinitely thankful for all of them, and I hope that in return, I am able to offer at least a fraction of the same to others.

With all that said, it’s even more mind-blowing to me that I resisted this community for such a long time. For the first 14 years or so that I lived with diabetes, I rejected the notion that I needed peer support to help me manage the emotional and physical aspects of diabetes. I turned down offers to go to diabetes camp. I didn’t interact with the only two other diabetics in my school’s district because I feared social isolation. In some situations, I even pretended that I didn’t have diabetes, because my yearning to be normal like everyone else overpowered my need to make my health a priority.

That’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that things started to turn around when I met other T1Ds my age. That marked the point where I could have open, honest conversations with others who were going through similar life events at the same time as me, without the judgments or criticisms I may have had to endure if I had those same conversations with family or doctors. While I know that I need to give myself and my personal growth some credit for improving how I manage my diabetes, I would be remiss if I did not also attribute some of that credit to the members of the DOC who have made meaningful contributions to my life and my outlook on it.

It’s funny that something special in the mail made me contemplate all of this, but Sarah’s thoughtful package to me is a tangible representation of how connections within the DOC have changed me for the better.

Thank you, Sarah, and another big thank you to those of you in the DOC that I have met, as well as those I have yet to meet.

T1D, the Common Denominator

I know a lot of people who have type 1 diabetes. And I consider many of them friends of mine.

You know what’s so cool about that? It’s that diabetes was merely the common denominator, something that we knew we shared, but not the sole reason for friendship. Diabetes provides a launching point into which we can find other shared interests: from TV shows to travel destination wish lists, the conversations we have don’t often linger on diabetes. But even when they do, it’s nice to talk about anything-and-everything diabetes with people who speak the same T1D vernacular.

77521CF5-A5CE-4103-9BE3-A4DA1DB4881C
I’d met half of these people prior to this event, and I became fast friends with the other half, thanks to our common denominator: diabetes.

Case in point: An end-of-summer pool party I attended a few weeks ago that introduced me to a handful of T1Ds. Sure, we started off talking about things like medical research experiences and CGM trials, but then we moved on to the other topics we cared about and really got to know each other. It proved to me, for the umpteenth time, that it’s just so dang special that something as shitty as diabetes can bring so many good things into my life, including friendships with some marvelous human beings.

 

Diabetes in the Wild: Beach Edition

I’d just settled into my beach chair, ready to crack open a book, when I spotted her.

She was walking as quickly as she could through the sand to help her friend carry a cooler, but not fast enough for me to miss the CGM on her upper arm. I sat up in my chair and wondered whether I should say something to her – after all, not all T1Ds are excited to encounter one another in the wild.

She caught up with her friend and grabbed the other end of the cooler. As they passed me, I saw she was wearing an OmniPod on her opposite arm. Not just any OmniPod, though: This one was decorated with some sort of emerald green design. I took that as a sign, a literal green light, that she probably wouldn’t mind if I said something.

“Nice OmniPod!” I called out.

She looked around, trying to locate my voice. My mother, who’d been reading the whole time and was unaware of a fellow T1D in our midst, shot a bemused look in my direction as the woman finally made eye contact with me.

“I have one too,” I said, pointing to my arm.

“Nice! I like your decoration. Do you have a Dex, too?” She asked, smiling at me.

“Yup – I’m wearing mine on my abdomen. I saw you had both and couldn’t resist saying something.”

“Well, we’ve got two OmniPodders over here,” She pointed to where she’d set up camp for the day.

Beaming, I told her that we had two in our group, as well. My mom offered her arm up to show her pod. I think that Mom was half entertained, half embarrassed over the whole exchange, so it made me happy to see her join in at the end.

The woman returned to her spot and we wished her well. Mom and I soaked up the sun for a few hours before deciding to pack up for the day. As we were getting our belongings together, a young woman approached us.

1AC16B6B-1C34-4BC7-B8E9-96D612287930
Proud to wear my pod.

“Excuse me, may I ask what is on your arms? I’ve seen numerous people wearing that sort of thing today and I can’t figure out what it is, for the life of me!”

I was going to answer for the both of us, but my mom beat me to the punch. She explained that it was an insulin pump, though other people may wear different medical devices that look similar to it. The girl, seemingly appreciating the response, remarked that it was cool and that she was surprised to see so many people wearing them on the beach. She wondered out loud if she was missing out on some sort of trend.

“Yeah, all the cool kids have them,” Mom said, and we all laughed.

I don’t know how many people on the beach that day were wearing OmniPods – or any other insulin pump, for that matter – but I do know for certain that my mom is right: All the cool kids have them, and they’re much cooler for wearing them with pride in full view of the world.

A Bad Case of T1D FOMO

You might be staring at the latter half of this post’s title and asking yourself, “What kind of acronym is THAT?”

Let me help you out: The title is meant to indicate that I’m suffering from a bad case of type 1 diabetes-specific fear of missing out. (T1D FOMO…if it wasn’t a thing before, it is now.)

I decided that this was the best way to describe how I’m feeling about missing out on tons of excellent diabetes conferences, events, and meet-ups this summer. I think it’s striking me particularly hard this week because I know that the Friends for Life conference is about to kick off in Orlando. That one is special to me because it’s the first conference I ever attended, and it’s hard to believe that it was already five years ago.

1A21FA0F-4B51-4F32-A3D7-293B7C269EB4
#SquadGoals from my first conference, which was already five years ago.

Why am I unable to go to most of these gatherings? And what’s so great about them, anyways? Well, to answer that first question, there’s several reasons why I have to skip many of them. The biggest reason is financial: The cost of conference attendance can be astronomical. Between airfare, hotel, registration, and various other conference fees, you’re easily looking at spending a minimum of $800 – and that’s if you can find cheap and direct flights to the destination. The other side of the coin is that I’d have to reserve my limited vacation time for these events, and potentially sacrifice time off that I could’ve spent with family and friends. I understand that logistically speaking, it makes the most sense to have the majority of these events in the summer months – kids are done with school, generally good weather makes it easier to travel, etc. But having to choose between a diabetes conference that’s bound to be a wonderful time and a highly-anticipated vacation with loved ones is a choice I’d rather not make.

So you think that those factors would make my decision easy, but it isn’t. I hate not going to these events because I know firsthand how magical they are. It’s really neat to meet up with so many people from the T1D community all at once, and it’s even more incredible when you get to shake hands or embrace someone you’ve connected with online, but hadn’t met IRL (in real life) yet. Whether the conference is just a weekend or several days long, it’s awesome to feel “normal” throughout the whole thing. You’re among people who don’t look at you funny when you test your blood sugar before a meal, and the chorus of beeps and buzzes from medical devices never get mistaken for cell phones going off. Sure, I can virtually attend a conference by scrolling through my social media feeds and reading updates from T1D attendees, but it just isn’t the same. While it makes me happy to see them having a fabulous time together, reunited at last, I can’t help but feel slight pangs of jealousy – this is where the FOMO comes into play – as I imagine everything I’m missing out on.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling – there are many others in the diabetes community who can’t go to conferences for several different reasons, even though they want to go. And I can take comfort in the fact that even though I couldn’t go to a bunch this time around, there will always be more in the future, and some will be more affordable than others.

My bad case of FOMO will go away before long, and in the meantime, I know that there are probably tons of other T1Ds who are attending their inaugural conferences this summer, and who will experience what I did five years ago for the very first time. And that thought puts a smile on my face.