ADA 2022: An Incredible Experience

June began with one of the most wonderful experiences of my professional and personal life with diabetes…and that is the American Diabetes Association’s 82nd Annual Scientific Sessions conference.

I attended as part of my job at the College Diabetes Network and already felt very lucky that I was offered the ability to go. But I felt doubly fortunate as it was unclear whether or not I’d actually be able to go about a week prior to the event. As I briefly mentioned in Monday’s blog post, I had a rebound case of covid at the tail end of May and spent the days leading up to the conference feeling fairly frantic about coming to terms with the reality that I may not be well enough to attend.

Fortunately, everything worked out in my favor – and I’m so beyond glad that it did.

Beaming with excitement at the conference convention center!

Attending this conference reignited my passion for what I do and the community that I aim to serve. For the first time, I was able to connect in-person with so many powerhouses working within the diabetes sector, hear about the amazing work they’re doing, and learn about the many exciting advancements being made in diabetes care and research. The energy and vivacity was practically tangible, and it reinforced the importance of the work that I do.

I didn’t attend this conference alone, though: Besides a few of my CDN colleagues, I was also accompanied by some of our NextGen Fellows. (Read all about the NextGen program here and meet this year’s fellows here and here.) Watching them get to know one another, network with individuals they admire, and share their stories was awesome and evidence of why the program matters.

My gratitude over this experience is endless: I’m grateful that I met everyone that I interacted with, that my diabetes was (relatively) well-behaved and that I didn’t run out supplies, that I learned so much, and that I was able to go, period! I can’t wait for future opportunities like this that allow me to connect in-real-life with the awesome diabetes community.

Bret Michaels Appreciation Post

There’s a bunch of famous T1Ds who would be really cool to meet: Victor Garber, Sonia Sotomayor, Derek Theler, to name a few. And obviously, there’s Nick Jonas, who is probably the most popular of them all. But there’s a different musician with diabetes who I’d be even more eager to meet than Nick – nothing against the guy, of course.

Who do I have in mind? Why, the one and only Bret Michaels, the lead singer of the rock band Poison.

This might surprise some of you – I don’t exactly seem like the type who’s into that sort of music. But I totally am. Nothin’ But a Good Time, Unskinny Bop, and Talk Dirty to Me are among my favorite Poison songs. They’re simply excellent to dance and sing along to, and to play on Guitar Hero (which I did often in the game’s heyday, and absolutely pretended to be a rock and roll guitar QUEEN every time I played it).

And I somewhat ashamedly admit to indulging in Rock of Love when it regularly aired on Vh1. It was Bret’s dating show, and it was like The Bachelor on steroids. Total reality TV trash, but I was hooked on it and never missed a season.

Okay, so you get the idea that Bret Michaels might be a stereotypical rock star who revels in big hair, eyeliner, and female company…but he’s different from most because like me, he has type 1 diabetes.

It would be friggen’ sweet if Bret Michaels saw this post.

From what I’ve read and understand, he was only a couple years older than me when he was diagnosed. Growing up, he was the only kid with diabetes in school, which presented its challenges. Arguably, the stigma surrounding diabetes in those days was much stronger, and Bret struggled when his classmates and their parents misunderstood his condition and how it came about. But that didn’t stop Bret from developing into a self-motivated individual. Along with his parents, he started the first youth camp for T1Ds, which still exists today in Pennsylvania. As he grew into adulthood, his passion for music and creativity flourished, and he became a founding member of the band known as Poison today. It took time for Poison to achieve success, but through hardship Bret persevered and took comfort in music as a therapeutic outlet.

It must’ve been difficult for Bret to admit to the world that he had diabetes, but after collapsing onstage at the Madison Square Garden in 1987, he had little choice but to share his story. Instead of dwelling on possible repercussions, though, he chose to work harder rather than give up. Poison’s popularity grew over the years as they found widespread commercial success, but Bret never forgot about supporting diabetes charities like JDRF and the American Diabetes Association. He even founded his own charity that supports youths with diabetes and helps them afford diabetes camps.

I can’t help but appreciate the fact that he’s devoted much of his life to being a performer as well as a philanthropist – neither are easy, and to do both and still manage to take care of his diabetes is something that I think is amazing. That’s why I say move over, Nick Jonas (though he has also done so much for diabetes organizations) – I’d like to meet who I consider the OG T1D philanthropist/celeb, Mr. Bret Michaels.



Memory Monday: That Time I Planned a School Walk for Diabetes (Part 1)

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

Okay, so I’m deviating slightly from my typical “Memory Monday” post as I take a walk down *my personal* memory lane. I’m reminiscing about that time I planned a School Walk for Diabetes at my high school as a freshman. This is going to be a two-part “Memory Monday” as next month, I’ll write about how that same year, I had to create a lesson plan and educate a whole group of middle school students about T1D, too!

But let’s focus on this part – the School Walk for Diabetes bit – first.

I’ll admit my memory’s a bit foggy on the matter. But fortunately, I kept the binder that documented my hard work on this project, a binder that was both hilarious and horrifying for me to look through 10 years later. I’ll also admit that it was somewhat impressive; after all, this was a massive project for a high school student to tackle. I had a project partner who contributed a great deal, though, so that absolutely helped make it a success (ahem, we got a 100% – an A+ – as our final grade, NBD).

The nerd in that picture (A.K.A. me) would end up with a 100% on this project!

As I leafed through the binder, I found a description of what it was like to organize the Walk component. We met with a couple of local teachers who were in charge of the event and told them we wanted to do anything we could to assist them as part of our project. After many email exchanges and in-person conversations, we had an action plan for how the day of the Walk would flow.

Here’s my oh-so eloquent description of the day of the walk:

May 31, 2008 – Time Spent on Project: 5 Hours

We arrived at 8:30 to help set up for the Walk. We hung a large sign in front of the school and decorated the track with balloons and motivational signs. For three hours, we stood on the track and punched holes in paper bracelets for the Walk participants as they completed a lap. A reporter was present and took our picture for the paper. The Walk was successful and we raised just under 5,000 dollars for the American Diabetes Association. We helped clean up after the Walk, which took half an hour.

Really riveting material there, huh? But truly, it’s kind of neat to see that my passion for diabetes awareness was strong even in those days. I think participating in this project marked the beginning of my comfort level with my diabetes increasing, and it’s cool to have a record of that.

I could do without the photos of me as an awkward teenager, though…