Earlier this month, I was in Melbourne for the first Australian Diabetes Social Media Summit (#ozdsms),
hosted by Diabetes Australia Victoria
. The fabulous Renza Scibilia (who blogs at here
) asked me to come speak with the group about the beginning of my journey as a PWD and as someone who has been sharing their diabetes story online for many years. I was honored to be part of the event.
Renza's goal for the event were very direct: "‘We wanted to find out the key issues that are affecting diabetes consumer (patient) advocates. How are they using social media to push the agenda. As a diabetes organisation, we want to be able to respond and assist using the channels available to us. It’s not about us driving the agenda; it’s about us listening. The Summit seemed like a great way to get talking to the people doing lots of talking out there on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook."
Jo from FingerPricker summed up her experiences about the summit, and her goals going forward. "Feeling like we have all known each other forever and that, strangely enough, because we all are linked via diabetes I felt as if we were family. There is just this immediate understanding and acceptance that is calming and good for the soul. This enforces the drive within me about the importance of exercising ways to promote good emotional health to balance the demands of living with a chronic condition and that this needs promotion here in Australia."
[Editor's Note: YES! I absolutely love when people talk about the emotional well-being of patients with diabetes, which is a grossly under-served issue in the diabetes community. Go, Jo, go!!]
"Social Media platforms do not mean the end of the traditional face to face support groups or medical advice from the professionals. They can work successfully together so that our emotional well-being doesn’t fall through the gaps while we wait for our next appointment."
What makes Australia unique, in my American opinion, is that they're used to the concept of "long-haul." If they want to visit any place other than their own country (or their neighbor, New Zealand), they need to hop on a plane for hours. And the same goes for anyone who visits them. People from Australia, at least from a travel perspective, know what it's like to work to get somewhere.
Happy crew from OZ!
Which is something I think translates into diabetes management pretty fluidly. Type 1 diabetes is a long-haul journey. It's not a pill you take every day and then forget about the disease. And it's not enough to manage solely the day-to-day stuff, either; you need to keep your eye on the balls you're juggling today, and then anticipate the ones you might be juggling months/years/decades from now. Long haul, many balls. (How's that for a ridiculous sound bite?)
As with other international meet-ups I've had the privilege of attending, diabetes doesn't know language barriers. (Or, in this case, amazing accent barriers.) Type 1 diabetes doesn't care where you live or how you talk or what kind of measurements you use to quantify your blood sugar results. If you are a human being living with diabetes, you intrinsically understand others who are living with it in a way that perfect strangers shouldn't be able to ... yet can.
Rachel Lamb, who doesn't blog (yet) but is an active OZ advocate through IDF and co-founder of YWAIT, left the Summit feeling empowered. "Inspiration. Motivation. Networking. Connection. Confirmation that I'm on the right path. As corny as that sounds, diabetes has my mind on overdrive, always. Being involved in the DOC and events like OzDSMS make me feel like I might actually be sane, I'm not alone, and I'm making a difference. I get a lot of strength from the whole experience."
Being part of this event in OZ was an amazing experience, and a huge thank you to Renza, Kim, Diabetes Australia Victoria, and to my fellow PWD down under. Thanks for having me, and for being part of my diabetes journey!
[And for more from the amazing people in OZ, check out some of these sites: FingerPricker, Diabetes Australia Vic blog, Bittersweet Diagnosis, Parent's Jury, HypoActive, Lazy Pancreas, 1 Type 1, Simon from the 70's, YWAIT, Diabetogenic, and Insulin Pumps Need Tetris.]
Disclosure: My travel, lodging, and an honorarium were provided by Diabetes Australia Vic. I was not asked to blog about the event, but as always, my opinions remain mine.