Over the weekend, the TCOYD conference team visited Albany, NY.  I was hoping to make it to this conference, but ended up all tangled in life stuff.  (Like a Sparling spiderweb.  Ew.  Spiders.)  Thankfully, Abby was nearby and able to spend the day checking out her first TCOYD event.  (And she got to meet up with the fabulous Karen and Caroline, and several other members of the DOC.)  Here’s Abby’s take on the conference.

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This past Saturday, I attended my first Taking Control of Your Diabetes conference in Albany, NY.  It was really amazing, and I’m going to try and recap it in one blog post.  Which is going to be a challenge, but I’m feeling pretty motivated after seeing Dr. Edelman and Dr. Polonsky both speak as part of the conference.  AND I have pictures.  Let’s get started!

The recurring theme that was pointed out by Dr. William Polonsky was that there isn’t anyone who doesn’t want to live a long, healthy life. As the day went on, I kept thinking about this and it really resonated with me. No matter how frustrated we get with diabetes, or our doctors, or our diabetes-police support groups … we all want to live a long and healthy life. This lead to the theme that Dr. Steven Edelman repeated;  being educated about how to take care of yourself isn’t enough – we need to be “activated,” or motivated to take action in our own health. 

The morning session presented by Dr. Polonsky was called “Balancing the Emotional Highs and Lows of Diabetes.”  I cannot express how refreshing it was to hear a medical professional stand in front of a room full of people and tell us that if we feel sad, defeated, angry, hopeless, and tired because of our disease, we are in the majority and that is normal.  82% of people with diabetes worry about complications.  (My guess would be that the other 18% are under the age of 6 and don’t know what complications are.) I worry about complications every day. Every blood glucose reading I get over 200 mg/dl, I have this lightning-fast thought of “Ugh, I hope my eyes/kidneys/toes/heart/you name it are ok right now.”  

Dr. Polonsky offered up a lot of insight that struck a nerve with me. “We have too many labor saving devices that make it easy to be sedentary – it’s easy for us to be inactive.”  He mentioned this as he was explaining that it’s easy to make excuses not to exercise, but not in a way that assigned blame.  He also said that “having unrealistic goals sets you up to feel like a failure.” We should make goals that are small, and attainable, and don’t require a totally lifestyle change in one day. After reading Kerri’s post re: the goal bingo card, I’ve been really trying to set attainable goals for myself and it totally works! I used to be one of those “Will run a 5k in 3 months or else” kind of goal setters, and that does NOT work.  I left that session feeling like my sometimes passive approach at diabetes is not only normal, but expected and fixable.  

The DOC crew at TCOYD in Albany, NY.  Phew, that's a very technical alt text for ya.
The DOC, representing at TCOYD.  Holy initials!

There were a few moments during some of the sessions that left me more than disappointed. One doctor told us that no matter what our cholesterol levels or blood pressure, if you have diabetes you should be on a cholesterol lowering med, and a blood pressure medication, to fight off any future issues. I can’t even describe how angry I was with this. I understand the theory behind prophylactic medicine, but that’s just overboard. Rawr. There were also two Physician Assistants who were giving a talk titled “The Latest on Pumps and Continuous Glucose Monitoring Devices”.  Their slides were outdated and had inaccurate information, and they kept calling the receiver of a CGM a “transmitter.”  Frustrating.  In plenty of cases, there was a need for some clarification.  And we, as members of the DOC, were happy to help clarify.  Education is key, and attendees weren’t the only ones who needed some info refreshers.

But speaking of needing a little education, I attended the session on health care reform to help school myself.  I just graduated from college for good, and so health insurance is a big deal to me right now. (Not only that, but I want to be a diabetes educator and so I like to learn about all aspects of diabetes, not just the medical stuff.)  Kriss Halpern, JD lead this session. I have to be honest – most of it went right over my head.  I never have and probably never will understand law, politics, insurance companies, or Japanese.  But what I did manage to catch were the main points of Halpern’s discussions.  Here’s my takeaway:  

  1. Dependent children are guaranteed coverage through their parents until age 26. This is the one that most directly affects me, and I have to tell you that I know from experience this is misleading.  Medical insurance is extended. Dental, vision, and prescription aren’t necessarily included.  This means that my dentist appointment last week was my last until I get my own insurance. It also means that my eye doctor appointments are covered, but only because they are considered medical necessity because I have diabetes, and I have to pay for my own glasses/contacts from now on. (Mind you, this is through my personal insurance, I’m sure the coverages vary from person to person.) 
  2. There are state and federal laws that evaluate insurance rate increases. This means that they can’t just raise rates because they want to.  Nice to see that kind of check-balance in place for once.
  3. The medical loss ratio. There is a percentage of money that is required by insurance companies to be spent on medical things. So for large group insurances they have to spend at least 85% of their money on medical, and not on salary, advertising, etc. This seems cool to me, but it might have been this way forever? Like I said, I do not speak Legalese.
  4. Annual limits will be $0 by 2014, and lifetime limits are banned.  This has something to do with the amount of money people are capped at paying out of pocket, I think.   Anyone able to clarify this one? 

Not all of this made perfect sense to me, and I now know that I have a lot of research to do, and a lot of questions to ask. This stuff directly changes my life, and my bank account. I need to be informed.  And sessions like Halpern’s help me know where to start.

The TCOYD team encouraged support groups, taking small steps to better your lifestyle, and most importantly, that we are not alone in this.  And that’s such a huge part of LIFE management, not just diabetes management.  Thanks to TCOYD for providing such an inspiring event!

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Thanks for attending this event, Abby!  And to check out coverage from last year’s TCOYD conference in good ol’ Rhode Island, you can read this post and this one.  🙂