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Diabetes 2.0: It Ended in a Hammock.

Over the weekend, I found myself on a plane again.  Yes, another xanax-free trip at 33,000 feet, this time heading to Fort Lauderdale, FL for the Diabetes 2.0 conference, put on by the Diabetes Research Institute.

Three quick things: 

First, never watch the Disney movie "Up" while on a plane and pregnant.  I found myself sniffling and crying to the opening of that movie, headphones in my ear and my hands clutched firmly around the BSparl.  Oh Disney, you made one sad, lovely cartoon, my friends.

Secondly, Tom Karlya (far right in that first photo and dapper as can be in his yellow tie) was responsible for wrangling in all the bloggers and he was a wonderful host.  Thank you, Tom, for everything.

Thirdly, and most importantly, if you want to see where a diabetes cure may be born, it's time to take a tour of the Diabetes Research Institute.

I've had type 1 diabetes for a long time, and over the last two decades, I've seen a lot of doctors.  I've also done a lot of diabetes walks, received plenty of mail asking for donations, and have been more recently exposed to every possible snippet of public relations "awareness" campaigns for diabetes.  But in all my years at Joslin and all my exposure to the info (for better or for worse) out there, I've never seen an actual research lab.  Sure, Joslin has them in the building, but I'm always rushing to make my endocrinologist appointments on time - I've never been invited to tour the research floors. 

A pile of diabetes bloggers and advocates coming together with diabetes cure-searchers.  Not a bad combo.
(The diabetes advocacy crew and the DRI staff:  More photos on Flickr.)

But at the DRI, that's just what we did.  Diabetes bloggers and advocates, pictured above, hung out with research scientists and talked about exactly what was being done to move us towards a cure for type 1 diabetes.  Over the course of our three days at the DRI, we saw the research labs, heard about the newest advancements in cure technology, and attended presentations about the science behind a cure.  Some of us even spoke at panels of our own, talking about the impact of the diabetes community on our personal lives, and sharing our diabetes stories with the folks who attended the conference.  (We also Tweeted the hell out of this.) 

Bob Pearlman, the President and CEO of the DRI, said this, and it stuck in my head and stayed there all weekend long:  "Our  happiest day will be when we take our name off the door and go do something else." 

These guys are cure driven, and their mission remains true - cure diabetes.

I had the pleasure of speaking on the Connecting Online panel, with Manny Hernandez, Jeff Hitchcock, Scott Strumello, and Ellen Ullman.   We talked about the needs filled by online connections (can you say "massive support network?"), how being online has helped us cope with a life with diabetes, how the online community has impacted our diabetes care, and what we thought of the DRI.

Jeff, our moderator, gave us the questions in advance, except for that last one.  (And the one where he asked us about our blog traffic numbers - tsk tsk.  That's like asking a lady her weight!  ;) )  So, while on the spot and being asked about our DRI host, I managed to put my foot in my mouth yet again.

"I've received all the press releases about the 'cured diabetic mouse,' but today I actually got to see the mouse.  The cured mouse!  Seeing and meeting the people who are actually working to cure diabetes was like receiving a golden ticket and getting to see inside the Chocolate Factory ... whoops, that's a bad pun ... but it's amazing to see the cure in action."

Thankfully, people were patient with my bad turn of phrase, and they laughed, but I did mean it.  Seeing things like islet cell encapsulation devices and the sterile rooms where islet cells and pancreases are actually transplanted was amazing.   I'm not big on waiting for that cure and assuming that a biological cure for diabetes will come to pass in my lifetime, but I actually left the DRI with some hope.  Maybe if not for me, then for the baby that grows inside of me

Thanks to the Diabetes Research Institute for flying us down, putting us up, and listening to everything we had to say.  I'm grateful to have been a part of this conference, and I'm really excited to see what kinds of developments come from the DRI in the next few years.

If you look closely, you can see the growing BSparl bump.
Manny, Sara (aka "Saaaahraaaah), Kerri, Scott S, Ellen, Gina, and Jeff

And before Chris and I flew home to Boston, we spent an hour lounging in hammocks outside of the hotel.  It was a very relaxing way to end an inspiring weekend.  (We also saw lizards.  But that's not exactly relevant.  They were big, though!)

(One last thing - to Juliana, the very nice dentist who I met after the panel.  THANK YOU for your card and for your very kind words. It was a pleasure to meet you!  Good luck with your A1C, and I hope to see you again at another event!)

Comments

WOW!!! That must have been such a great experience.... and I'm a bit jealous!!! :) It's one thing to read about the progress being done towards a cure but to actually be in a lab.... WOW!!

Wow! Looks like an awesome time of learning, and just getting to hang around with people who really understand what it's like to be a person living with diabetes!
Jealous? Yes, I am. :)

That is one cool trip Kerri. To see all that research and steps being taken to find a cure, ugh, so flippin awesome.

I just recently told my boys that "somewhere, in this world, right this minute, there are people in labs working tirelessly for a cure, it might be next week, it might be in 100 years, but they are trying their hardest none the less"...glad to know I'm not a liar! Warms my heart to know these people would be happy to be out of a job...really cool.

Lizards! Lizards! Lizards! everywhere. I grew up in Miami and know exactly what you are talking about. They would drive your cats crazy! Yes they are big, but they eat the bugs.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience that you had at the DRI.

I personally had the opportunity to work with this team.

I am type 1 for 37 years and 29 years ago I was pregnanet with my one and only child.

My regular Dr. just did not know what to do with me. So, he referred me to the Center. Wow what an experience. The glucose meter was the experimental thing of the time. 10-13 Diabetic pregnanet woman from all over would come to the center to learn glucose monitoring and other diabetic education. The DRI was my Joslin.


The lizards are EVERYWHERE! You know that scene in one of the Jurassic Park movies where the girl is attacked on the beach by lizards - that's how I feel every day! They swarm around here. A few days ago, there was actually a frog on the roof of my car. Tropical what?

Also, thank you for spelling my name correctly. :)

I manage an endocrine research lab right here in Boston which has investigators conducting research at the very basic cellular and molecular levels of diabetes research... the building blocks of knowledge that are eventually applied to practical treatments. I was diagnosed at 7 and I grew up wondering if I would ever see a cure in my lifetime. I feel it's closer than it's ever been. It's a privilege to work among these dedicated scientists and have an inside view of research progress. There is also a dark and frustrating side that I see when researchers and clinicians are faced with issues such as tightening budgets due to the current economy and cuts in federal funding which hinders progress and time spent with patients.
Kerri, I can give you a tour of the lab some time.
Incidentally, I am also from RI and just had a baby in May and was a patient of Dr. T

Kerri-

I want to say thank you for tweeting from the event. I didn't think a cure would ever be found. The tweets you all sent out gave me hope too! if not for me, for Niya or another little kid. I'm glad you all had a nice time.

What an awesome experience to see firsthand what is happening in this field. There are so many exciting directions that this research is heading. It is a shame that the bottleneck is the lack of available organs that would help more people and illustrate which will be the most successful path.

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