When I was at the Roche Summit in San Diego last month, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Brandy Barnes, founder of The Diabetes Sisters organization aiming to connect and inspire women with diabetes.  We were talking, as a group, about how Pharma has partnered with and supported diabetes initiatives across the country.  And today, Brandy has offered to guest post about her PODS program, which helps bring in-person support to people with diabetes and is an example of a quality partnership.  

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Brandy Barnes

“That’ll never work … You can’t put type 1s and type 2s together and expect anything positive to come from it!”  

That’s a sentiment I’ve heard numerous times since I presented the concept of DiabetesSisters to the diabetes world back in 2008.  If you’re not familiar with DiabetesSisters, we are a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the health and quality of life of women with and at risk of developing diabetes; and advocating on their behalf.  In other words … if you want to know anything related to being a woman with diabetes, we have a member, an expert, or a program that will help you find the answer! And, yes, we really want to erase the line that has been drawn in the sand between the different types of diabetes.

So, I’ve told you what it was like three and half years ago, now let’s fast forward more than three and a half years to July 2011: What started out as a woman who just really wanted to find a way to help women with diabetes and a trusting volunteer who agreed to be the first blogger on the DiabetesSisters website has now transformed into a bustling national nonprofit organization with not only online programming but also in-person programming.  

One of the cornerstones of our success is our PODS Meetup program.  If you are wondering where the name came from and what it stands for … a volunteer who was involved in the creation of our first “meetup” came up with the name because the title “support group” was a bit tired and outdated. And after all, we are not the stereotypical typical support group you would envision.  We are a contemporary group of women who just happen to have diabetes and we like to meet up once a month to share our current concerns, accomplishments, funny stories, and even down-right awkward situations with diabetes.  We laugh, cry, and even get angry about our diabetes on occasion. Therefore, the name PODS (stands for Part of DiabetesSisters) was agreed upon because it invokes the feeling that we are all a part of something bigger, something specifically for women with diabetes.  The term “meetup” was agreed upon because it signifies that our modern and innovative approach to diabetes management in the 21st Century.  

Our first PODS Meetup took place in Raleigh, North Carolina in January 2010 and the Raleigh group has met on a monthly basis ever since.  Over the past 18 months, I have witnessed this group of Sisters form a strong sisterly bond with one another.  I have also seen them learn incredible lessons and uncover important health information from other women at the meeting.  Lesley Gray, a DiabetesSisters member who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a little over five years ago, shared with me, “Although my doctor had told me repeatedly that I needed to check my blood sugar more often, it just didn’t register with me … until I heard my D-Sisters with type 1, type 2, and even pre-diabetes talking about the valuable information they gained from checking their blood sugars.  Now I understand that checking my blood sugar isn’t something I am doing to satisfy my doctor.  I am doing it because I want the valuable information I get from checking my blood sugar.  As a result, my doctor no longer has to remind me to check my blood sugar more often!”  

The first PODS Meetup

Another DiabetesSisters member, Pat Lewis, shared how she has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 50 years and had always managed it with insulin injections.  Although she had lived by the motto: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” for many years, after attending a few PODS Meetups and talking one-on-one with women about their experiences with various pumps, Pat approached her endocrinologist about switching to an insulin pump.  “Although he was taken aback by my sudden take charge attitude, he was happy that I had taken more control over my diabetes management,” she said.  Pat has now been on an insulin pump since the summer of 2010 and says it is one of the best decisions she ever made.  Then, there are the heartwarming stories of hope and support.  Kelli Turner, who has lived with diabetes for more than 21 years, and currently serves as the National PODS Meetup Coordinator said, “I always felt like there was something missing in my life….sort of a void in my life.  But, after my first PODS Meetup, it became very clear that what was missing in my life was the support of another woman living with diabetes … another woman who really ‘got me.’  Life is good!”

Although PODS Meetups started in the Triangle Area of North Carolina (also our headquarters), it didn’t take long for the concept to spread across the state and even into other states.  We hold monthly PODS Meetups in three different cities in North Carolina and we have quickly “set up shop” (with the leadership of DiabetesSisters members, of course!) in San Diego, CA; Bracey, VA; Cincinnati, OH; Albany, NY; and Washington, DC.  We have PODS Meetups scheduled to start soon in many more cities/states, so there may be one in your area soon!  

You can take peek at the list of upcoming PODS, you can bookmark our Event Calendar, or you can register your interest in attending or hosting a PODS Meetup in your area.  What kind of diabetes you have, your age, or how long you have had diabetes is not nearly as important to us as just having the opportunity to welcome you into our ever-expanding Sisterhood and let you know that there is someone out there who really ‘gets you’!  

Now, every time I see one of those people who said, “That’ll never work”, I smile inside, so happy that I didn’t listen to them!  And that reminds me – a special thank you to Roche Diagnostics for seeing the huge potential and supporting the PODS Meetup Program early on!  

In Sisterhood,
Brandy Barnes, MSW
Founder/CEO of DiabetesSisters

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Thanks for posting, Brandy!  While I love the support found online, there is something even more powerful about spending time in-person with people who truly “get it.”  How are you connecting with your fellow PWD offline?