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Posts tagged ‘CWD’

Guest Post: My Magical Disney Moment.

The power of peer-to-peer connections is not lost on the diabetes community.  While insulin remains our strongest medication tool, our mental and emotional health is nourished by connecting with like-pancreased people, making any diabetes burden that much lighter.

One of the most amazing peer support cultures in the diabetes community is found at Children with Diabetes’ Friends for Life conference.  As a board member, I’m extremely proud of the influence FFL has on families affected by diabetes.  Which is why stories like Noor’s are so powerful, because they illustrate how finding your tribe can make all the difference in your health.  

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Born and raised in the Middle East, in a culture where a lot of stigma is attached to people with medical conditions, growing up with T1D was very isolating, lonely and resentful. I was diagnosed at the age of 5, the first 8 years went by smoothly; my mom took on majority of my care load and those pesky hormones still hadn’t made their grand appearance. My doctors put me on a pedestal; I was their most “compliant” patient (yes that was a word that was actually used back then). Puberty kicked in and life as I knew it was over; the hormones took me on a never-ending whirlpool ride. I was embarrassed, tired, exhausted and done with diabetes. I was done with being different. I didn’t know how to explain that to my family and doctor. I felt like I was failing them and they wouldn’t understand, so I decided the easiest way to deal with it is to not deal with it at all. The next 3 years were a nightmare; I was in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. I was in severe DKA 3 times, once so severe the doctors said that I was going into cardiac arrest. I was in a coma for 5 days due to a hypo seizure. My a1c was 13%.

My parents did everything in their power to try and help; they tried soft love, tough love, grounding, reasoning, bribing, yelling, etc. but nothing worked, nothing fazed me. My doctor back home recommended attending the Friends For Life conference in Orlando; he thought it would be an encouraging experience. Little did he know it would save my life, LITERALLY. My parents dragged me kicking and screaming (maybe less kicking and more screaming); the last thing I wanted was to be in a room filled with “outcasts” and “weirdoes,” because you know as a teenager I was a “cool kid.”

The turning point of my life wasn’t when one of the amazing inspirational speakers talked about how he won the super bowl with T1D nor when a world renowned researcher talked about the effects of high and low blood sugars on our organs. It was on a Disney bus on the way to EPCOT with a group of teens who took me in and invited me to join. Kenny, a T1D teen, who was on top of his diabetes game, was checking his blood sugar using his forearm. I asked him the reason behind it and he casually answers, “In case I ever develop complications and need to read braille, I don’t want calluses on my fingertips.”

THAT was my wake-up call, THAT was my holy moly moment, THAT was all it took, THAT was my magical Disney moment.

Fast-forward 13 years; I haven’t missed a single conference, besides one because I was too busy having my twins (I know my priorities are off psht). I am not a mushy cheesy person; sarcasm is my language but brace yourself for this. These people have become my family, my friends for life and my squad. We have been through birthdays, relationships, breakups, marriages, childbirth, graduations, political turmoil (yes that’s a big one), highs and lows together. They inspire me everyday to do better and be better, not only with T1D but also with life in general. They made me comfortable in my own skin (after that summer I agreed to go on a pump after years of resistance); proud of the person I am with my diabetes and embrace it every day. When I’m having a screwed up T1D day, I know I can text them and they “get it.”

When I manage to workout and stay in perfect range they “get it” and understand what a huge deal that is. When I send them a screenshot of my dexcom with 2 arrows up after eating pizza, their “but that was worth it” response lets me know they “get it.” They have normalized this disease; suddenly I wasn’t alone, an outcast, or scared. They are nurses, doctors, advocates, athletes, chefs, photographers, businessmen/women and the list goes on. They proved to me that you can be anything you want to be and be amazing at it, in spite of the struggles.

That is the power of a community.  This is what they meant when they said “it takes a village.”

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Noor Alramahi has been living with diabetes since the age of 5 and since she wrote her own bio, I’m going to paste it here in full.  Mostly because she adds “had twins” as this NBD sort of thing when it is SUCH a BD.

“I’m a 28 year old curly brunette who’s in love with Tiramisu and Justin Timberlake. I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 5, since then I have learned to play piano, played varsity soccer, competed in horse jumping, travelled to more than 19 countries, had twins and can’t think of one thing that having diabetes has stopped me from doing. I am married to my best friend and have 2 year old boys. I have been part of  CWD FFL staff for the past 8 years, I also help run their social media platform. Five years ago CWD FFL inspired me to leave my corporate job and join the T1D nonprofit world and focus on helping people. I work as the community manager at Carb DM and am the co-founder of T1D females group in the family planning, pregnancy and post pregnancy phases called Sugar Mommas

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Thanks for sharing your story, Noor!

If you’re interested in seeing how Children with Diabetes can change your life, check out the website and consider coming to a conference.  If you already know how Children with Diabetes can change your life, please consider donating to support the organization.  And if you’d like to share your story about how the support of CWD has influenced your life, please email me at kerri (at) sixuntilme (dot) com.

Flick of the Wrist.

In the interests of getting through TSA in Orlando as quickly as possible and making my way over to my gate so I could find some iced coffee and a banana, I disconnected my insulin pump and put it through the x-ray machine, caring very little if it melted in the transaction because I was melting in the transaction.

The tram to the gates was arriving just as I was finished at security, so I grabbed my pump off the tray and held it in my hand. dragging my bag to the shuttle. Just after “stand CLEAR of the closing doors,” I reached around to the top of my hip and reconnected my infusion set, sticking the pump into my pocket.

A woman boarded the tram, her infant daughter strapped to her chest. I noticed her noticing me while I reconnected my pump.

“Insulin pump?”

“Excuse me?”

“Is that an insulin pump? Sorry – my son has diabetes and I recognized the pump.”

“Oh, yes.” I searched her wrist for an orange or green CWD bracelet but didn’t see one. “Were you here for the conference?”

“What conference?”

“The diabetes conference. It’s called Friends for Life and it’s put on by an organization called Children with Diabetes. It takes place here in Orlando, over at Disney.”

She smiled. “I’ve never heard of it, and I live right here in Orlando. What’s it called?”

“Friends for Life. It’s a diabetes conference for families with diabetes. Lots of kids with type 1 attend with their parents, and lots of adults like me who go to connect with other adults who have diabetes. It’s really nice, like diabetes camp. Community helps, you know?”

She nodded, and the baby on her chest flapped her arms happily. “My son goes to camp. He loves it. But I’ve never heard of the conference before.”

I reached into my bag and fished around for a pen. Nothing. Checked my pockets for a business card. Nothing. The tram was about to stop and ditch us at the gates, leaving me just a few seconds to try and explain how a few days in Florida can change your life for the better.

“What’s the conference called again?”

I grabbed the edge of my green bracelet and pulled it off my wrist.

It's on. #ffl15

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“I know this seems weird to hand you a slightly-used conference bracelet, but the URL for the conference website is on it. Everyone who has diabetes wears one of these green bracelets. You see one of these and that person understands, you know?” I handed her the bracelet, pointing at the website address. “I hope this doesn’t seem creepy. It’s just an amazing experience, being around all of those other families, and it would be great to have you and your family check it out, if that’s your thing.”

She took the bracelet and put it in her pocket. “This is very nice of you. Thank you. I’ll check it out for sure.”

The tram doors opened and we stepped out.

“Where are you headed home to?”

“Rhode Island.”

“And you come here just for that conference?”

I thought about the week that had just passed, when I was surrounded by people who redefined family.

“All the way here. Green bracelets are pretty awesome.”

She waved, and her baby waved, too. “Thank you for passing this along. Safe travels back home. Maybe we’ll see you next year.”

Usually when I board the plane home from Friends for Life, I like to look down at my green bracelet because it reminds me of my PWD tribe.  This year, with a flick of the wrist, I was grateful it had found a new home.

The Need for Naps … I mean, Self-Care.

Ten years ago, if you told me I’d have to bail out of a conference in the middle of the day to take a nap, I’d have laughed in your face because I thrived entirely on insulin, caffeine, and chaos and what do you mean, NAP?  I don’t need to nap.

Funny how being in my 30’s and hosting almost three decades of type 1 diabetes in my body has changed my whole stance on naps, and self-care in general.

This past week, at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions meeting, there was a lot going on.  Informative sessions, meetings with colleagues, social things with friends in the DOC, and a big exhibit hall full of diabetes companies, both established and up-and-comers.  Lots of stuff going on, and the pace of the conference is enough to wipe you out entirely.  (To catch some of what happened, take a peek through the #2015ADA Twitter hashtag.  There’s quite a bit there.)

Self-care is important for people with diabetes, but it’s not something I used to focus on.  I don’t mean self-care as it pertains to the specifics of diabetes, like checking blood sugars and taking insulin, but more the overall need to listen to my body and take it easy as necessary.  Things like “eating lunch” and “sleeping more than five hours” are included in self-care, but I had a bad habit of not doing either of those things.  I used to power through, soldier on, keeping going, [insert more phrases about not taking a moment to rest here] even when my body was throwing up its hands and hollering, “HOLY SHIT WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP?!”

But the effects of pushing too hard oftentimes wore through my good intentions and left me exhausted, with crummy blood sugar control to boot.  This past week, I embraced PTMO (permission to miss out) in efforts to stay healthy and feel “present” when I was at an activity, and it was a nice change of pace.  I went to sessions and wrote up my notes, and then took an hour to decompress in my hotel room.  I took naps in the middle of the day, grateful for the recharge that 15 minutes with my eyes closed provided.  I did not over-schedule myself but instead tried to keep the flow of the day less frenetic.

Permission to miss out, to take care of my own needs, makes me feel a little meh, as though I’m not able to keep up and that makes me weak somehow.  It also forces me to acknowledge that some parts of diabetes are taking a bit more of a toll on me than they have in decades past (ex. I had a low blood sugar during the conference that wiped me out for two hours.  The hangover is real.)  To Me 10 Years ago, the concept of taking it slower sounds ridiculous and the stuff that weak-sauce is comprised of, but to Current Me, it sounds necessary.  Because I’m older.  And possibly slightly smarter.  I felt present and able during the course of this conference, and I blame taking advantage of PTMO.

Because ultimately, PTMO leads to TGC (taking good care).  And it’s NWF (not without fun).

With Marissa Town at the TCOYD / diaTribe forum where we learned, laughed, and Facetime'd her kid. 🙂

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Mike Bloom from Dexcom has awesome shirts. #2015ADA

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Collector card.

A photo posted by renzas (@renzas) on

Diabetes Hands hosts some of our diabetes faces. #2015ADA #honored

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Friends for Life: Madcap Recap.

A bulleted list because that’s what bloggers do.

  • My personal schedule had me running around like a chicken with its head (and pancreas?) cut off, and while I felt really lucky to be so busy, I didn’t have enough quality time with people I love.  It’s a nice problem to have, but it was frustrating because now that I’m home, I wish there had been long coffee chats with so many different people.
  • Coffee tastes best out of my new favorite mug –>
  • One of my favorite moments was during the Parenting with Type 1 Diabetes session, when Marissa Town and Melissa Lee started singing the Dexcom “ATTENTIVE” low alarm song, complete with facial grimaces and in perfect harmony.
  • It’s weird how therapeutic it can be to cry in a room full of “strangers.”
  • Even odder still is putting the word “strangers” into quotation marks because anyone living with diabetes has intimate knowledge of moments in my life that even my closest family members can’t quite wrap their head around.
  • It was so nice to meet the team from Kedz Covers, and yet so odd to meet them in Florida, seeing as how they live here in Rhode Island.  Only in the diabetes community do you meet your actual neighbors at a conference 1300 miles from home.
  • (And yes, that’s the “Don’t Mess with Rhode Island, Either” t-shirt, but I negated its awesome message by wearing my bag cross-body style, covering the little Rhody and making it look like I’m on the welcoming committee for Texas.  Whoops.)
  • The “Reducing Social Stigma from Diabetes: A Patient Perspective” session with Richard Wood, Kelly Close, and Adam Brown was one that I wish I had been able to attend, because the stigma related to (and nestled around) diabetes of all kinds is a topic that is very top-of-mind for me.  I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing more about this survey and have been stalking the #dstigma hashtag for feedback.
  • Watching Melissa pass the diaversary torch (so to speak) to Briley in the bar at midnight was a moment that made me laugh, but also gave me goosebumps because marking a diaversary can be intense, but doing it a room full of people who love you is fucking empowering.
  • It was an absolute honor (and wicked fun!) to partner with Dexcom last week, sharing stories and giving away copies of Balancing Diabetes. A huge thank you to Dexcom for their support, and also to the diabetes community for stopping by to say hello at the booth.
  • And thanks to Scott for lending me a pen to use at the book signings, which just so happened to be a pen from George’s office, making me feel like a little bit of George was at Friends for Life, too.  Full circle, there.
  • I loved being part of a session for parents of children with diabetes aiming to answer the questions they might not be asking their own kids, and it was an honor to partner with Adam Brown (of Close Concerns) for this session.  The discussions were intense, but productive, and for anyone in attendance who didn’t end up watching The LEGO Movie that night, here’s a link to what the hell I was talking about.
  • I learned that Scott, aka “Pockets,” keeps an army of diabetes (and non-diabetes related) supplies in his pocket.  The man is half kangaroo.
  • (Happy belated birthday, Pettus!)
  • After Friends for Life was over, Chris and Birdzone flew down to Florida to meet me and we spent a few days at Disney.  Getting ready to head out to the park the next morning, Chris asked why I still had my conference bracelet on.  “I like it,” was my response, because it’s hard to articulate what the green bracelet really means to me, or how the orange bracelets keep me going.
  • I still have my green bracelet on.  We walked through the Magic Kingdom and I found myself glancing at wrists around the park to see if anyone from the conference was there.  I didn’t see any green bracelets.  But I kept mine on in case someone was looking, too.
  • I still have it on now, only I don’t think the cats give a shit.
  • (Total sidebar:  It was Loopy‘s birthday two days ago, and Birdy and I will be making her a “cake,” which equals out to Birdy wanting to eat cake and this is her excuse.)
  • Attending Friends for Life is a place where I can wear my emotions on my sleeve and my pump on my hip.  It’s somewhere I can feel safe admitting the things that weigh heavily on my mind but also celebrate something as simple as a 100 mg/dL on my glucose meter.  And nothing reminded me of this more than when I was walking towards my next session and I saw Briley outside of it, tears streaming down her face.  “I just had my eyes checked.  And they’re totally fine!!  After twenty-five years, they are still fine.”  I couldn’t hug her fast enough, or hard enough, because that’s what you do.  You celebrate the things others would never think to celebrate, and you appreciate the people who understand.

 

Ante Up.

During one of the discussion groups at Friends for Life, one of the attendees took a look at their Dexcom, gave it an exasperated sigh, and threw it into the middle of the room in frustration.

“I don’t want it near me.”

There was a brief pause.

“Ante up,” someone quietly said, their own Dexcom case hitting the floor alongside the first.

And within a matter of seconds, a diverse pile of diabetes devices met in the middle of the floor in solidarity.

This is Friends for Life.

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