This past weekend’s Children with Diabetes Focus on Technology conference in Washington, D.C. gave me a lot of insight on gathering information, staying motivated, and living a better life with diabetes.
Not all of that information came from the scheduled sessions.
I’m always a little wary of meeting someone in person that I’ve only seen, heard, or read about in another forum. Sometimes that’s because those kinds of meetings haven’t always gone well for me. But mostly, it’s because I’m really and truly worried about annoying someone, taking up their time with only my questions when a hundred others would like to do the same, and giving them the uncomfortable feeling that I’m immediately their best friend when really, they hardly know me.
Does that sound like I’m over-thinking it? Yeah, I know. I also know that I’m better at building relationships from the ground up, starting them at a place where the other person is most comfortable. I never want to assume anything about anyone. So when we went to sign in at the conference on Friday night, I didn’t turn around right away when I heard someone behind me calling my name. It was Karen of Bitter-Sweet Diabetes and Diabetes Blog Week. I got a big hug from her and Scott Johnson. Maureen didn’t show it, but she was shocked. At me. She probably thought I would pass out or something. My own family doesn’t hug like that, and she knows it’s out of the norm for me. Later she told me that after that, she wasn’t worried about me the rest of the weekend.
But let me back up a minute. This is about the conference after all, and I think it’s important to note (again) that a lot of support and information-sharing goes on in between all of the items on the official agenda.
First, let’s cover the exhibit space. This is where all of the vendors are set up peddling wares like the Animas pump, VerioIQ and iBGStar meters, Orbit infusion sets, and Glucolift glucose tabs. ADA and JDRF (hello Delia Whitfield) each had a table too, though, as you might expect, they were on opposite ends of the exhibit space.
Why is the exhibit hall a big deal? Oh, I so wish that I had attended a conference like this when I was thinking about starting on an insulin pump. It would have given me a chance to see products in person, hold them in my hands, and most of all, ask questions of the company pushing the device. Don’t know if it would have changed my mind. But I would’ve liked more information, even if I didn’t know all of the questions to ask at the time.
The attendees at the conference are there in the meeting rooms, exhibit space, and throughout the hotel for the duration of the conference. Getting just one tip on managing BGs, or getting the support and perspective of someone who’s gone through what you’re going through is worth the price of admission. And helping someone answer a question, or giving that support and perspective from your point of view really feels great.
The CWD staff and faculty appear to be very hands-on, helping to answer questions and also listening to concerns or suggestions. They’re very approachable, which is super. I love that I didn’t see a tie on anyone all weekend. And I’m a little jealous, ‘cause I don’t get to dress like that for my job. I also liked the buffet, with its nutritional information in front of every item, right down to the gluten free bread (yes, I’m still eating it – go figure).
So back to the individuals I met over the weekend that I have seen, heard, or read about before. Here’s a list, and I hope I didn’t leave anyone out:
Karen, Scott, Kerri, Shannon, Christopher Angell, Dayle and Chris. Also Tom Karlya, Ed Damiano, Harold Sanco, and Sebastien Sasseville.
I’ve seen a lot of posts over the last year and a half or so talking about meeting people in real life, and how great it was, and how special it is to be in the presence of such lovely people, all of whom “get it”.
What I really liked was how normal it was. I mean, it was cool that everyone did their testing and bolusing right out in the open, and that questions were asked and answered with candor and thoughtfulness. What I didn’t expect was how normal that felt. I can’t ever remember feeling like that when talking about my diabetes. I wouldn’t wish for this at all, but there was a point where it almost felt like most of the world has diabetes, and a select few were left with working pancreases. Weird, huh? I admit that I wasn’t expecting to feel that sense of… not having to be on stage with my diabetes all the time. That’s a pretty relaxing place to be. Thanks to everyone for making me feel normal.
So that’s my take. And that’s why I would recommend attending this conference in the future, or the Friends for Life conference in Orlando in July. Or one of the other conferences in the USA, Canada, or the UK. I wouldn’t have said this even six months ago. But I’m saying it now. Go and connect. Learn something. Find your normal.