The Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women took place a few weeks ago, and as much as I wish I could have been there (something about a new baby and whatnot), I am so excited to be posting this recap from Sarah Condon, who was there for the whole thing!
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On Saturday, I woke up at 230am, hours before my flight took off. This was the weekend that my entire life would be reevaluated, redone, re-inspired. I arrived at Detroit Metro Airport around 4am expecting TSA to hassle me about my insulin pump (now that its tubeless) and all of my supplies that I needed with me in case of an emergency (insulin pens, pen needles, a plethora of new pods- hey I’m clumsy and I’ve managed to rip a pod off in some of the weirdest ways). I reviewed the TSA website prior to this weekend to make sure I was packing everything correctly so I knew that I had to have my shoes off (eww!) and my liquids and laptop pulled out, no big deal. I also pulled out my bag of diabetic goodies too, just in case. After pulling everything out and trying to juggle my purse, backpack, laptop, bag of shampoo and the like, and the bag of goodies, the TSA agent was not what I expected. They were friendly and walked me right through security without a second glance (well almost, the guy behind the x-ray machine smirked at me. He probably was trying not to laugh at me since I packed everything into baggies, even my underwear, and I tight rolled my clothes into little logs). I sat at the gate for almost 2 hours, occasionally walking around. I knew this trip was of great value monetarily but I had no clue how much I’d value every second of this trip …
I touched down in Charlotte, North Carolina, and race walked to the opposite side of the airport (do you know how huge that airport is? Or maybe it just seemed abnormally large because I was trying to balance a backpack and purse while trying to keep my dress from riding up and race walking in my sparkly heels. Note to self: sparkly heels are amazing. Not so amazing when traveling.). Once I’ve arrived at the gate and boarded the plane, I was filled with anxiety. I was alone in a state that I’ve never been in before and I knew no one (what if something happened to me, like a fierce low?). The closer I got to my destination, the more the anxiety turned into excitement. I was on my way to meeting women who are just like me, diabetic or persons with diabetes- depending on their point of view (I personally don’t care, but I’ve always said that I’m diabetic. While diabetes doesn’t define me, it is a very large part of me and its something I fight for, fight against, and fight with). Some time passes and I get into my rental car (a Yaris- really small and adult word for “crappy” car) and head toward the hotel.
All of the 20 minutes of driving and getting lost was exasperated by a pending low- I say pending because it wasn’t yet confirmed by a glucose test but I could feel it full blast coming on and coming on with a vengeance… first, aggravation while driving… I know I’m from out of town, but really, you all drive like idiots on I-40. Or maybe it was me driving like an idiot? Then the confusion sets in… I’m going even lower and this confusion had made me (yes made me) read the directions from MapQuest wrong. While looking for a gas station (there are none, btw) I pull out a roll of glucose tabs and quickly chew a few. Getting really frustrated, aggravated, confused, and now weak, I pull over and activate the GPS program on my phone and quickly discover I’m two miles away. SUCCESS AND RELIEF!!!
The conference was starting to get underway (it was around 5pm at this point) and just thinking about it makes my eyes water (you’ll see that the smallest things make my eyes water... cute babies, love, sunshine, being alive, etc). There were 100 of us, women with diabetes. Every woman had a type of diabetes but I’ve met more Type 1’s here than I’ve met in my entire diabetic life (persons with diabetes life?) which is almost 14 years. We’ve talked about where we were from (I was the only one from Michigan, as I expected) and how long we’ve been diabetic (here’s that conundrum again) and how excited we were to be surrounded with people like us, to be away from the kids, to be away from the significant others, to be away from the food police, to let our hair down and just be…. Us. It was here that I’ve met some of the most amazing women, the most inspiring women. I’ve felt so alone my entire life and here I am, it was the complete opposite of what I’ve felt back home. Guest speakers entertained, stories were shared, icebreakers were agreed upon, and we all laughed and giggled our way through the orange soul train. DiabetesSisters… We were sisters, we were sisters with diabetes. One big family full of battle wounds, success stories, frustrations, and celebrations.
I overslept for the Belly Dancing class that I wanted to go to, but the events from the previous night were well worth it. During breakfast Nicole Johnson spoke about her life with diabetes and her determination to not let diabetes stop her. This woman was my hero growing up as a pre-teen and then teenager with diabetes. She was young, she was pretty, and she was Miss America 1999... her life seemed pretty amazing and she proved to me that I could do anything that I wanted to do; after all, diabetes didn’t stop her so why should it stop me? Having her tell us about her life growing up with diabetes made her even more of an inspiration- while her life seemed amazing, she had the same daily struggles as me (as well as the rest of the women there). At the conclusion of her speech we all got the chance to meet her and take pictures with her. The afternoon discussion panels were interesting and it was astonishing to know that I wasn’t the only one dealing with the matters discussed. Once again, I was no longer alone.
I left early because my flight left at 7pm but I offered to drive another attendee to the airport too and her flight left a bit earlier than mine... and this time TSA did search me and question me. My bags were scanned with no issue but then the receiving agent told me she wanted to test my bag for explosives. I was trying not to laugh at her, I know she is doing her job, but it was just the irony of the situation. I don’t get searched in Detroit but I get searched on the way back ... just plain silly. After giving me the all clear to continue, I gather my items and turn to walk to the gates. This is when things get slightly intense... she asks me “what is on the back of your arm?” (I was wearing a sundress). I politely inform her it’s an insulin pump. She looks confused and asks me what its purpose was.
Trying to be polite, I inform her I’m diabetic and instead of taking shots all the time, this injects insulin into me. She starts to move her arm as to touch my pod (I’m using the Omnipod) and now I’m losing my politeness, “I prefer that you do not touch my insulin pump, you wouldn’t want me touching your arm, or your behind. This is like an artificial pancreas, like another part of my body”. She gives me this blank look, I knew I confused her and honestly, I did it on purpose so she would get a supervisor. She looked at her supervisor who was sitting just a few feet away and heard everything and he smiled and asked me how long I’ve been diabetic (which I replied “around 14 years”), he smiled proudly at me (a big full teeth smile with a glimmer in his eye, which may have been a tear), bowed his head and told me to have a safe trip and a blessed life and to keep doing what I’m doing because I’m doing something right. It was cool to have a complete stranger react that way. Once I got past security and got familiar with where my gate was located, I decided to walk around; it’s good for the blood sugars. I hear my name out of nowhere so I turn around and walking towards me is B, the sister I drove to the airport. We walk around some more, get a quick dinner, and continue to chit chat before parting ways again. As I continued on my journey home, I started to get all teary eyed; being surrounded by some of the strongest and bravest women was beyond inspiring and made me reevaluate how I care for myself and my diabetes. I’ve never felt such support before and to look back on it makes me get all teary eyed all over again.
Diabetes doesn’t define me but it is a part of me....
And it’s a key to the door to an amazing sisterhood.
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Sarah has had type 1 for 14 years (no complications), is an active breakdancer in Metro Detroit, and spends weekends with her boyfriend and cable stealing cat. (Editor's Note: Her cat doesn't steal cable. Her cat stole the camera upload cable. But her bio made me laugh out loud at the thought of a cat stealing television cable.)