Impact of The Diabetes UnConference.

I’m still processing The Diabetes UnConference.

It’s really hard to describe. At least to someone who was not in attendance. I’ve received a couple of inquiries about the event. Good inquiries, actually.


The problem is, the UnConference was not about one subject or another as much as it was about us, the people who were there, and our lives with diabetes, how we choose the devices we choose, how we navigate relationships involving diabetes, and that awful trifecta of guilt, depression, and burnout. And a LOT more.

What was said was not necessarily said for the benefit of educators, or healthcare professionals, or drug manufacturers, or even diabetes bloggers. Instead, what was shared was shared for the benefit of the people in attendance. As much as it makes me cringe when I say it, in this case, you really had to be there to fully feel the depth of our discussions.

That’s not to say that there won’t be any visible initiatives to come from the UnConference. There may very well be advocacy jumpstarted, or increased diabetes volunteerism due to some of the issues that were discussed. I certainly hope so. But it may come from individuals, or a team of individuals, rather than from the UnConference saying “here’s what we decided to do”. I have an idea in my head that came from the Aging with Diabetes session. I don’t know if I can do something with it, but I would like to try.

I also think that many of the things that were talked about will eventually make their way out beyond the confines of our walls at The Flamingo hotel. It just won’t be via Tweets and Facebook and blogs and so on. It’s going to be person to person, peer to peer, PWD to PWD. The conversations, however sacred, are not over. In many cases, they are just beginning. I like to think we cracked open quite a few cans of worms at the Diabetes UnConference.

When I consider bonds that were solidified over that weekend, and I look at Facebook posts and read blogs in recap of our time in Las Vegas, I’m finding that I wasn’t the only person who was moved by what I heard and experienced. And I’m not the only one having trouble describing it in a way that someone who was not there would understand and grasp hold of completely.

That’s kind of frustrating in a way. Except that the thing that makes it frustrating is also what made it so great—no social media during the sessions, keeping what was shared within the confines of the UnConference rooms, making it safe to open up, and ensuring everyone was listening.

That’s a tradeoff that this patient, anyway, is happy to make for the benefit of my fellow People With Diabetes who were there, and for the feeding of my soul that surprisingly happened during this special time in my life. I’m generally far too jaded to really get emotional anymore. I still feel things deeply, but I’m much more likely to keep my feelings to myself until the moment passes. That’s another thing I really had a hard time with, and I found myself opening up far more than I tend to do at traditional conferences.

Here’s the thing: Closing one window (social media) allowed another window (self fulfillment, enlightenment, relationship building, keep adding to the list) to open wide. Not just for me, but for everyone there. When I think of that weekend, I’m still a little raw. But I’m also ready and willing to listen to the next Person With Diabetes who needs a little more care and feeding of their soul.

My guess is that the impact of the first ever Diabetes UnConference will be both immediate and long-lasting. You’ve been reading about the immediate impact now, and the benefits of that are mostly internal. The long-lasting impact will be written about in years to come, and calculated in how one person makes an impact on another person’s life.

I’m still processing all of this, and I’m sure some of the attendees still are too. The conversations are just beginning. Lives are just starting to be changed. And that makes me feel like the UnConference will never really be over at all. I like the idea of that very much.

Unless, of course, there’s a cure. Then I’m okay with it ending. Just so you know…

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  • Laddie  On March 25, 2015 at 9:28 am

    A good description of the weekend, Stephen. Exhilarating and exhausting for sure. So glad to have met you in the real.


  • Kristin Smith  On March 25, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Very well said. Here’s one PWD whose life was truly changed and whose mind was opened to all of those topics we covered. You’re right, the ripple effect has only just begun.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Jochen  On March 25, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Very good discription. But as “cure” needs to be defined I’d love the idea of a never ending UnConference even if there will be a cure. Let’s stay FwoD (friends without diabetes).

    Liked by 1 person

  • richard157  On March 25, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Hello Stephen, thanks for your discussion of the Unconference. I wanted so much to be there, but the expense would have been too much. I am 75 now, and have been T1 for 69 years. I rather doubt that discussing the history of diabetes would have been an appropriate topic at the Unconference, what do you think about that? Dwelling on the ‘here and now’, and the future of diabetes would have been much more appropriate. That is my way of thinking. I have some mild nerve damage, but no other diabetes related complications. I have been very fortunate.

    Thanks again for your take on the Unconference!

    Richard Vaughn

    Liked by 1 person

    • StephenS  On March 25, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Richard, you are a hero, and I think the here and now was a big part of the discussions. We talked a lot about the psychosocial aspects of living with this disease. Thanks for weighing in!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Stacey D.  On March 25, 2015 at 10:48 am

    As hard as it is to put into words what was gained from the weekend, this was a great depiction. Thank you for writing it!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Kate Cornell  On March 25, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Wonderful post, Stephen. Your insights are spot-on. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  • George  On March 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    This post is perfect. Thank you Stephen. I was so happy to finally get to meet you.

    Liked by 1 person

  • fifteenwaitfifteen  On March 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm


    Liked by 1 person

  • Mike Hoskins (@MHoskins2179)  On March 25, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    This was a great writeup, Stephen, and you did a great job at capturing what I think so many of us are feeling. I’ve had some similar notes, about “how we can use the UnConf to…” and just feel… weird about that. You’re absolutely right, that this isn’t for those things. I don’t think I would feel the same about this experience if it was used or going to be used for some research study, or as advocacy or “teaching educators.” Just too much to get my head around. I’m happy with the emotions being shared, because they could. And we’ll see whatever advocacy or greater efforts can build from conversations that started in Vegas. Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person


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