For the last three days, I was out in San Diego for the Weekend for Women: Celebration of Strength conference, and throughout the course of my quick, two and a half day trip, I met so many inspiring women. And I heard so many inspiring things.
Brandy Barnes, creator of the Diabetes Sisters organization, opened the session by talking about dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions of life with all kinds of diabetes. “Fight the mental battle of making our diabetes management a priority, while juggling the competing forces of jobs, family, friends … we have this all in common.” Everyone in the room was living with type 1, type 2, or LADA (and with one self-proclaimed “Type weird”, Ms. Natalie Sera, who I had the pleasure of meeting and hugging).
“Lets wrap our arms around them and help them feel like they are part of our sisterhood,” Brandy said, encouraging those who have attended the conferences in the past to reach out to new attendees.
That was the theme of the weekend – reaching out and being there. There were many speakers (and I was very honored to be one of them, on a panel with some fellow insulin pumpers, talking about diabetes and technology), and their topics varied but their messages all contained the common thread of community.
Susan Jung Guzman, Phd and Director of Clinical Services at the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, spoke about the diabetes juggling act. She talked about how, if you sit in on an average diabetes education course, you will hear about over 155 recommended “things to change” in your life. “Or at least 155 things, because we stopped counting after 155. But really? 155? That’s three hours per DAY that diabetes eats up.”
“All of you are diabetes jugglers. Some of you are quite masterful. And some of you are learning,” she said in reference to all of the things we, as people with diabetes, are trying to manage in the course of our lives. And without a lot of positive reinforcement. “You bring your A1C down from 11% to 9%, and it isn’t met with a ‘Good for you!’ Instead, you hear about the things that can happen when your A1C is 9%.” She shook her head. “There are 26 million people with diabetes, but only 13% are managing to the established metabolic goals. We’re scolding people instead of offering them help, and hope.”
I heard a lot of inspiring things over the course of the weekend, but one of my favorite quotes did come from Susan in that first session. “We have a full spectrum of wellness in here,” she said, smiling at the group of women with diabetes who were listening to her. And I appreciated that focus on wellness instead of illness.
More on some of the other sessions later this week, including a mindful eating exercise involving an M&M. Which I’m still wrapping my mind around.
[Disclosure: I was asked to attend the conference by the team at Animas, and they paid my travel, lodging, and expenses. Full details on my relationship with Animas here. Also, if you're interested, this is a really cool Rube Goldberg machine.]
*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*