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Posts tagged ‘Friends for Life’

Perspectives on Diabetes: Why Children with Diabetes Matters.

People ask me why this conference matters, why the organization matters, and it’s sometimes hard to sum up.  What’s so great about sitting in a room full of people with diabetes?  Isn’t it like surrounding yourself with a reminder of something that is a pain in the butt (diabetes)?  Doesn’t it suck to talk about diabetes all the time?

DUDE.  NO.  This is kind of the opposite.  Being around people who understand diabetes doesn’t breed a boatload of discussion about it.  Instead, I’m sitting at a lunch table with folks who know the ins and outs of diabetes, but we don’t shout out our blood sugar results or bolus amounts.  It’s not like that.  We’re talking about what our lives are like outside of diabetes, about the life we build that includes diabetes, not built around diabetes.

People with diabetes wear green bracelets, to both alert to potential emergency situations (you see a green bracelet in distress, think glucose tabs in a hurry) but the green also threads together the people who are playing host to diabetes.

A quick glance at someone’s wrist lets you know that they get it.

Sometimes, when days are kind of rough, I’ll put on a green bracelet to remind myself that I am not alone. Support from the community is as important as the insulin I take; both keep me healthy, and keep me going.

But it’s not just the green bracelets that make this community so powerful. Orange bracelets are given to folks who don’t have diabetes, but who remain touched by diabetes.  My daughter and my mother came to Friends for Life with me a few years ago, and they were also able to connect with their respective tribes, the orange braceleters. My mother, after decades of raising me without a vast diabetes support network, was immersed in a sea of parents who understood so much of what she’s experienced as my parent. And my daughter, her understanding of mom’s diabetes expanding with time, was able to hang out with other little kids who had parents with diabetes.

This kind of support, community … whatever you want to call it, it matters.  I mean, you’re here reading on a diabetes-centric blog, for crying out loud.  Clearly we, as a group, have a pull towards one another and benefit from connecting.  For me, knowing I’m not the only PWD (person with diabetes) on the planet makes diabetes easier to handle.  This is a hard thing to build studies around and quantify how it affects health outcomes, but taking my insulin is easier when my mental health receives care.  My A1C has been consistently steadier since engaging with the community.  My level of diabetes health literacy has grown by leaps and bounds.  And diabetes scares me less, on the whole, because I am surrounded by people who are in it with me.

Whole person health, remember?  Diabetes doesn’t exist in a damn vacuum.


The annual Friends for Life conference is coming up this July, and if you haven’t checked out the conference, now is the best time.  There are also other regional conferences (Anaheim in September, Falls Church this past April) that offer the same connection and community on a slightly smaller scale.

Full disclosure:  I’m a board member for T-1 Today, which is the parent non-profit organization for Children with Diabetes.  My bias includes that, and the fact that I haven’t produced any insulin for the last 30 years.  If you’re an organization interested in finding out more about how to make a tangible difference in the diabetes community, please connect with me.  And if you are interested in making a charitable donation to support the organization, click here.  And thank you!

SUM Related posts:

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.

Snapshots: Fell Off.

Until next time.

Friday Six: But Not On Friday.

SUM stuff from around the Internet:

“The latest in this trend is the meme showing a fat little girl titled ‘Lil Diabeetus snacks’ as a take-off to Little Debbie Snacks.  It’s being bandied about on FaceBook as ‘cute’ and ‘funny’; an appropriate name change.  Is it funny?  I don’t think so.”  Kate weighs in on the Facebook meme.

Tuesday’s #dblogcheck was a community success, and seems to have woken up many of the sleeping bears (if you want to picture blog commenters as sleeping bears, which I do, because that’s adorable).  Check out Chris Snider’s excellet Storify recap of many of the blog posts and be sure to say hello on some new and old blog favorites.

Wendy’s daughter has gone to Clara Barton Camp … and she’s also gone BIONIC.

Athletes inspire kids with diabetes at Friends for Life Conference” is the title of this video, but I’m going to assert that adults are pretty inspired by Charlie and Jay, too.

An eighth grader took She Still Smiles and made it into something really, really cool.  Read about Talia’s project here.

“Her former team dismissed her for having diabetes. Her coach and teammates stood by her and struck out on their own.”  Read more about Rebecca Young here, and consider supporting her!

I sent emails to my representatives.  Now it’s your turn.

The “Fakeabetes” Challenge – pretending to be a PWD for the day!  Read more from Kim and Whitney on this day with diabetes.

This post from Meri is a call-to-arms, and I’m ready.  “The Movement Has Begun.”

JDRF appoints Derek Rapp as new President & CEO – here’s more information on this change in leadership from the mothership itself, and a post about the changing leadership of ADA and JDRF on Diabetes Mine.

Why Should Diabetes Advocates Enter This Food Fight?”  Hope Warshaw explains.

“ADA and others have sent in their comments, but the FDA needs to hear our individual voices as advocates.”  You can give the FDA your thoughts on the proposed Nutrition Fact Label, and you have until August 1st to do so.  More on the how, and why, at Diabetes Advocates.

The FDA will host an online conversation (“A Virtual Town Hall”) for people with diabetes on November 3.  And, according to the crew at diaTribe, they want to hear from you!  Click this link for more information and the link to email diaTribe, and you can also join the conversation on Twitter using the #DOCasksFDA hashtag.

My favorite part of this video?  “I can read.”  Love, love, love.

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.

 

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