About a month ago, Melitta proposed attending a conference called Diabetes Sisters in San Diego. So I decided to go. And I got to room with her, which meant lots of opportunities for chatting! Here are some new things I discovered about her: She’s tall, she has magnificent auburn hair, which doesn’t show up in pictures nearly as well as in real life, she has a WIDE variety of interests, and she has a really cute laugh, which, of course, you can’t hear over the internet. And her name is pronounced Me-lee-ta, so now I’m going to get it right! Of course, I already knew she was very intelligent, and knowledgeable and passionate and interested, so that’s why you don’t find these qualities in the above list!
And I got to meet Christalyn!! Who is bubbly, and energetic and outgoing, and has a wicked sense of humor, and can crochet! And who is MUCH cuter than her picture shows – I’m trying to get her to change her profile picture! She was a very active participant in the discussions, and it was nice to hear her viewpoint.
And then, there was Fabiana!! Who doesn’t know how to stop smiling and laughing! She has the cutest Brazilian accent, and I got to try out my few words of Portuguese on her and she didn’t even criticize my horrible pronunciation! She is a student, and working very hard to finish her degree without very much money, but that doesn’t get her down, because she is already a strong woman, in spite of being so YOUNG!!
I also met a couple of women from the Diabetesworld list on yahoogroups. When Melitta told me about the conference, I passed the word onto that list, and two women decided to attend. They were Pat and Jo (actually, I had met Jo before).
When I complained that the breakfast on Saturday was nothing but carbs, and I simply can’t tolerate carbs in the morning (and my PP of 219 proved it!) Jo went home and cooked me some hard boiled eggs and brought them so that I would have some protein on Sunday. That is the sign of a truly caring and loving friend! And she has the most beautiful pale blue eyes, and a very active mind. She said she had joined TuDiabetes, and I’m depending on you folks to give her a great welcome!
And it was so great to meet Pat too. She is a very special woman – I hadn’t known that she was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of 2, and that she has SURVIVED this disease for 67 years!! That means that she started out in the era when treatment was extremely crude, and lots of folks diagnosed at the same time didn’t make it this long. She is coping with blindness and kidney failure, but the point is that she IS coping. She has a guide dog, and she is very involved in advocating for access for blind people to the diabetes world. She has worked as an RN, and then, when she went blind from retinopathy, she went back to school and got her degree to become a counselor, and is very involved in organizations for the blind. She doesn’t let ANYTHING hold her back!
And I was absolutely thrilled that she received an award for being the woman who had managed to live with this disease for the longest time, and felt really good because I played a part in getting her there! (notice how egotistical I’m being – because I’m the one who benefited from both Jo and Pat’s presence!)
The conference itself was fun. It was called Diabetes Sisters: A Celebration of Strength, and put on by Diabetes Sisters, which is located in North Carolina, and the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, which is in San Diego. And it had corporate sponsorship, which was really nice, because I’m sure our registration fees didn’t begin to cover the cost of the conference.
I liked the fact that it was inclusive – didn’t matter what type of diabetes you have – we may be wresting with our problems in different ways, but they all stem from the same reason – uncooperative blood sugar! Although some of the presentations were geared more toward one type than the other, anyone could go to any talk, and there were always things to learn. And I liked the fact that there was much emphasis on emotional coping, because that is the hardest issue I have faced in my diabetic life. I can deal with the mechanical aspects of diabetes care, but emotional issues around food, weight, type, guilt and rebellion have been and continue to be my huge bugaboos.
But the weirdest (I have a copyright on that word), wonderfulest part was looking around at a room of 100 women and they ALL had diabetes. SO different from feeling alone in daily life! It was an immediate conversation starter, and everyone was so friendly and open. All ages, all different years of experience with diabetes, all different careers and life interests but we WERE all sisters. WOW! When I got to the airport and was waiting for my flight, I actually had to consciously readjust my mindset, because I was out in the world of THEM again, LOL!!
The conference was jam-packed with activities, and I never sleep well in hotel beds, so I’m exhausted, but it’s a pleasant sort of exhaustion. You can Google Diabetes Sisters, and check out their web page – they are going to continue to develop their program, and do some online outreach, which I think is such a positive step, especially for those who live far from “civilization” and can’t easily get to the big cities for such meetings. They are starting a pair-up program where they connect women with similar diabetes backgrounds in order to help you develop a close relationship with someone who really understands what you are going through. I like this idea, because although I HAVE managed to develop some really close friends over the years, it has taken a long time. And there is no one better equipped to support us than others who have gone through the same experience.
I might write more later on the lectures themselves, but it was my friends who really made it a great experience for me. I hope Melitta and Fabi post their pictures, because I was so involved in just experiencing it that I never even got out the camera I DID remember to bring with me (for a change!)
And I love you, Melitta and Christalyn and Fabiana and Jo and Pat!!! Along with the new friends I made!