I am traveling home after a full day of MasterLab in Orlando – a diabetes advocacy workshop put together by Diabetes Hands Foundation. I spent a day flying across country to spend 8 hours in workshop and then turn around and travel another day to come back, and it was worth it. I will write a little later about what I learned. Today it’s all about people.
I love my d-peeps of all types. None of us asked to join this elite crappy club but somehow we beat some serious odds and got in. Turns out it’s a club filled with incredible and awesome people. Maybe it’s the diabetes that makes them awesome? Or maybe you have to be awesome in the first place to get into the club?
Diabetes creates an instant bond and a feeling of trust between people. By the virtue of being in this elite club we have a lot in common, we speak the same language, we share similar stories. I knew some of the people from DOC (Diabetes Online Community); others were perfect strangers. I finally got to meet them in person and it was fabulous.
I loved talking to adult T1s and learning about their journey with diabetes. A few of them shared how, at the time of their diagnoses in the 70s, they were told that they would not live past 40 years old. Let that sink in. Imagine what it’s like to hear it from the doctors when you are a child, a teen or a young adult. Imagine what it’s like as a parent to have a doctor tell you that your child has 20-30 years to live, tops. And that they would die slowly from awful and painful diabetes complications.
Fortunately, treatment of Type 1 Diabetes has come a really long way. These people who were not supposed to live past 40 are living healthy, productive, active lives. And when V was diagnosed three years ago, the only message that we received was that it was going to be OK, that diabetes was manageable and that V would be able to live a normal, healthy, happy life. We never considered any other alternatives. I am so grateful for that.
It was also interesting to learn that most, if not all, PWD (persons with diabetes) I spoke with don’t care about the cure but are very excited about new treatments and technologies. There is a shared acceptance that the cure is far, far away but better treatments and technologies are here and they are making diabetes management easier, safer and more effective.
I am thankful for the opportunity to hang out with d-peeps. There is nothing like sitting down over a few drinks and having an honest talk about life with diabetes. I got to hear a few diabetes war stories too – some shocking, some funny, some a little scary. One person was concerned that she was scaring me off with all the information she and others were sharing. On the contrary! Being surrounded by people sharing their real-life experiences gives me hope for V’s future. We cannot protect V from the reality of life with diabetes, but by understanding it better we can give her the tools to do well. There I sat, surrounded by vibrant, resilient people, who surely had their ups and downs and made many mistakes along the way. Their diabetes management was not perfect and perhaps at times it was downright awful, but they found ways to live well and thrive. That’s good enough for me. No, it’s better than good, it’s inspirational.
Thank you for allowing me to into your lives and giving me a glimpse of my daughter’s future. Her future is bright.
Disclosure: I applied for and received a scholarship from Diabetes Hands Foundation that covered my flight, hotel, transportation and registration. All opinions are mine.