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.