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 HernandezJeff HitchcockScott 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!)

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