Tag Archives: Diabetes UnConference

The Diabetes UnConference Alexandria 2017.

Full Disclosure: The Diabetes Collective paid for my hotel accommodations so I could reprise my role as a facilitator at the Diabetes UnConference. All opinions are my own.

That t-shirt says it all: No judgement. Just support.

The fifth Diabetes UnConference has completed. Our venue was the Embassy Suites hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. This time, the UnConference was co-located with the Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women conference. This created the dynamic where, in addition to the separately attended UnConference and the Weekend for Women sessions, there were general education sessions available to both groups.

Obviously, I can’t speak to the Weekend for Women track, but they’re a fantastic organization populated with some of the smartest, strongest, most supportive people you could ever meet… some of whom are actually Diabetes UnConference alumni and facilitators. The general education track was full of informative tidbits.

And the UnConference was the UnConference. A safe, supportive space where adults with diabetes and their PLUs, or People who Love Us, could talk about and explore the various things going on in our heads and our hearts these days. And believe me, there was a lot to talk about.

As usual, the Diabetes UnConference weekend included cheerful and excited Hellos. It included intense discussions, and evenings out with the best of friends. It included tearful Goodbyes and promises to stay in touch and plan meetups in the future. Which brings me to this:

There will not be a Diabetes UnConference in 2018.

There are a number of reasons for this. Mostly, it’s time. Let’s face it… diabetes, and diabetes advocacy, takes a lot of our time these days. Plus, now that we’ve done this five times already(!), maybe it’s time to take a breather and reimagine the Diabetes UnConference for 2019.

One thing’s for sure though: no UnConference does not mean no UnConference activity. I’m looking forward to UnConference alumni gathering throughout the country over the next couple of years, to continue discussions, support, and all the things that make our safe, protected time together as wonderful as it has ever been.

My gosh, I already miss my tribe.

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8 Questions… just because.

It’s been kind of a whirlwind week, in the middle of two or three whirlwind weeks in a row. Lots of things going on, some important news, and a few really sad stories outside of the Diabetes Community.

Since we’re busy and we’ve had a lot of dark clouds hanging over our collective heads lately, I think we all could use a break. So, without further ado, here are eight interesting diabetes questions based on, well, nothing really. Feel free to leave your answers in the comments. Here we go:

1. Insulin pump or MDI (multiple daily injections)? Or neither? We know that some people who live with Type 2 diabetes don’t take insulin at all, and some insulin users are using inhalable insulin. I’m still working with my Animas Vibe pump, even though Animas has decided to go out of business. Whatever you do to help manage your diabetes, if it’s working, you’re doing the right thing. Isn’t it great to have choices? When we’re allowed to have choices?

2. Dexcom or Libre? With U.S. FDA approval of Abbott’s Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitor, I suspect this will be a question asked more and more in doctor’s offices and at diabetes conferences nationwide. These aren’t the only CGMs available, but they’re the only ones available as standalone devices (not required to be paired with an insulin pump). Again, it’s great to have choices, when we’re allowed to have choices.

3. Have you heard of The Affordable Insulin Project? This is another of DPAC’s efforts on an issue that affects millions of Americans. Check out the website and see how you can help spread the word and help make access to the life-saving drug that many cannot live without more affordable. To find out more, go to AffordableInsulinProject.org.

4. Have you donated insulin or supplies to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico? Insulin for Life USA is helping to coordinate efforts to send much-needed insulin and test strips to those impacted by hurricane Maria, and also hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Find out how you can help pay it forward by going to ifl-usa.org.

5. Are you donating blood? All of us were shaken this week by the news that hundreds were gunned down at a concert in Las Vegas. In response, many have donated blood via the American Red Cross. Did you know that many People With Diabetes in the USA can donate blood? Whether it helps victims in Vegas, or those closer to your home, every pint is necessary and so appreciated. I can state unequivocally that donating blood has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Consider donating too, then go to RedCrossBlood.org.

6. Did you watch the Sammies this year? Maybe you missed them because you were concentrating on the Emmys. The Sammies, or Service to America medals, are known as the Oscars of government service. They’re given each year to federal employees who are recognized as “breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges and getting results”. That’s especially true of Courtney Lias and Stayce Beck of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who have been instrumental in helping artificial pancreas research move from the “maybe, someday” stage to patient’s hands. I cannot say enough good things about them. Read about their incredible work HERE. Congratulations Stayce and Courtney!

7. Will I see you this weekend? Friends for Life comes to the Washington, D.C. area this weekend in Falls Church, Virginia. If you’re coming, I hope to see you as I advocate at the DPAC table in the exhibit area. Look for a brief recap in this space shortly.

8. Will I see you next weekend? When it rains, it pours, and diabetes events will be pouring over Northern Virginia like monsoon season in Myanmar this October, as the Diabetes UnConference and Diabetes Sisters’ Weekend for Women co-locate in Alexandria October 13-15. I will once again be a facilitator at the UnConference, and I am very much looking forward to getting together for peer-to-peer support, encouragement, and all the feels. I’ll let you know how it goes later in the month.
 
 
Those are my questions of the moment… have any answers, or questions of your own? Let me see yours in the comments below.

We have a winner!

How many of you remember this post from a few weeks ago?

I have received multiple responses to this, and I am happy to announce that we have a winner.

Because a second, generous donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) stepped forward, we were able, together, to provide registration for the Diabetes UnConference and two nights’ stay at the Embassy Suites Alexandria, the host hotel for this gathering.

Like I said in the original post, I realize this doesn’t make everything suddenly more equal and inclusive at diabetes events throughout America. Especially in light of the terrorism that took place in one of my favorite places in the world, Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, this seems like a rather meek gesture.

Sometimes we can’t change the whole world… but we can influence our little part of it.

I am thrilled about sending our winner on this trip, and they are excited about attending.

I’m not sharing the identity of the winner. I thought about it. But I felt that whether I did or I didn’t reveal, I could be open to criticism. By not revealing, someone could say that I’m trying to make it about me, or hide the fact that I did this. That’s a ridiculous argument, but someone could say that. If I did tell everyone who it is, I risk looking like I’m showing them off for my own benefit, which, frankly, is not what this scholarship offer or the Diabetes UnConference is about in any way.

So our scholarship winner is free to share that they are the scholarship winner, should they want to. But again, in the spirit of inclusion, I want them first and foremost to be thought of as a welcomed attendee… as a valued member of our tribe… as a respected contributor to our community… as a person.

For now, there is still time to register for the Diabetes UnConference Alexandria (co-located with Diabetes Sisters’ Weekend for Women conference), happening October 13-15. Room reservations are filling up fast, so if you want in, your time is limited.

I can truly say that it has often been imitated, but never duplicated. It is that special and unique. Come to our gathering and share. Experience. Explore. Not about diabetes life, but about life with diabetes. No structure. No judgement. Find your tribe. Love them hard.

See you in October!

Disclosure: I will be part of the team of facilitators at the Diabetes UnConference Alexandria October 13-15, 2017. All opinions are my own.

Just one step.

Update: Another donor has graciously stepped forward, and now I can say that we can provide registration for the Diabetes UnConference and Friday and Saturday night at the destination hotel for the event. Yay!
I will pick a winner on August 14.

I read with great interest this well-written article from Chelcie Rice that was featured over at Insulin Nation recently. Christopher Snider and his sister Jeanette talked about the post and the subject on their podcast, Mark All That Apply. I think both are worthy of attention, and for what it’s worth, both have me thinking about this subject again.

As I mentioned to Chelcie after he linked to his story on Facebook, I think about the lack of diversity every time I attend a diabetes event. It’s not that there is a lack of color at events; often, there is no color at all. Even though we all know that people of color are disproportionately affected by diabetes. It’s something that’s entirely different from the ethnic makeup in every other part of my life.

But hey, I’m an advocate… but wait, I can’t change my ethnicity… so what should I really do if no one shows up who doesn’t look like me? I’m not sure exactly what I should do. But I know what I can do.

I will promise to provide one scholarship to this October’s Diabetes UnConference to a person of color. I will promise to pay for registration to this event in Alexandria, Virginia.

This will only include the price of registration. I’m not rich enough to include travel, so that will not be included. I can’t guarantee much else either. But hopefully, this is something, and hopefully it will get someone to consider applying for the scholarship who up to now has been on the fence about attending a diabetes event.

Why am I doing this? Because I’m altruistic and wonderful? It’s a little more complex than that.

The truth is, every single time I’m at a conference or research summit, I notice the lack of diversity in the room, and I think about it. This past Friday’s Outcomes Beyond A1c meeting (more on that later in the week) was an exception, but most of the diversity in the room came from outside the USA. To this point, I haven’t done anything about what I’ve seen.

I’m also well aware that this won’t exactly solve the issue of diabetes meetings, conferences, etc. that are not as diverse as they could be. I mean, it’s not like people of color have been excluded from the events I’ve attended. And where there has been diversity, it appears to me that people have been welcoming.

But by and large, diabetes conferences and other events still look different from the way the rest of my world looks. And if doing this one, small thing helps to begin to change that, if it begins to help communities that have been underrepresented, I’m comfortable with my decision.

There are powerful leaders among us, and it would be ludicrous to think that they are all white. As I’m fond of saying, we need all the advocates we can get. Frankly, I don’t care what they look like. And while I can’t speak for them, I suspect that the white friends I have in the diabetes community feel the same way.

Likewise, there are many in need of support and empowerment in the diabetes community, and I have to believe the needs I see among those who look like me are at least matched by those who do not look like me. And if they’re in need, frankly, I don’t care what they look like.

I haven’t thought very hard about rules for this little effort. But for starters, here’s what I’m looking for:

– You need to be a person of color (loosely defined; in other words, you don’t look like me)

– Since this is for the Diabetes UnConference, you must be an adult living with diabetes, or an adult close to someone living with diabetes of any type

– You need to want to use your opportunity to help others… paying it forward is part of the plan

We’ll make up the rest as we go along.

If you’re interested, send me an e-mail using the E-Mail Stephen link in the upper left part of this page. On August 14, I will pick a winner from among those responding. Be ready for follow-up questions. I don’t want to make it difficult for you, but I do want to make sure you can make it, and I want to make sure this event is a good fit for you.

One more ask: Please share this with others you know in the diabetes community. I would be thrilled to have to choose from a number of applicants.

Finally, this is not all there is. If we think about it, probably all of us, no matter what we look like, can figure out a way to help make diabetes events look more like the rest of the communities we live in. I’m hoping I can provide scholarships in the future. Not sure if I can, but that’s the goal. But that’s not all I can do. Whether it’s through communicating with additional diabetes groups, or through a donation, or through continuing to be a welcoming presence wherever we are, I know you and I can help make diversity a part of the diabetes advocacy we all believe in.

We all want to reduce the burden of diabetes on everyone living with this disease. This is just one small step. A symbolic step perhaps, but it’s what I can do.
Now, let me ask: What can you do?

Now, more than ever.

I wonder sometimes if I haven’t changed over the last several months.

These are tough times here where I live, and it seems like many of the things I believe in, the things I was taught in school, don’t really apply to today’s America. Or maybe this is the America that was here all along, but it’s just showing itself in a more public way. I realize just reading that can inspire different interpretations based on your political leanings, but this is not about that.

Regardless of how you look at things, there seems to be a lot to worry about.

I’m getting older… there’s that. And, of course, health care is multi-faceted and multi-argued, and it probably will be for the foreseeable future. Where I can, I’m trying to be a better friend, a better colleague, a better person overall. However, in some ways, I fear I’ve become a less happy person at times.

Let’s face it… I think we’re all feeling a little more stressed out these days.

That’s why this community, this diabetes community, is so important.

Photo courtesy of The Diabetes Collective, Inc.


That photo is from the second Diabetes UnConference. There are a number of friendships that begin on UnConference weekend that continue far beyond the event itself. Friendships that stick to you. Friendships that restore your faith in people. Friendships that make the time apart from each other seem interminable, and the time spent with each other flash by in a nanosecond.

Whether it’s virtually, or over brunch like it was this past weekend, being able to communicate with others who walk the same stretch of road you walk can have a huge, positive impact. There’s something about the feeling you get knowing that you belong, not because you’re famous or independently wealthy or part of another special group… but because you’re stuck with a condition that no one wants. And someone else is too.

It’s the feeling that amazingly, something about this crappy disease is worth celebrating.

Photo courtesy of Rhonda B.


Does this mean we’re not going to experience problems? Of course we are. Life doesn’t go away just because we get to spend a couple hours in the presence of friends.

But those two hours certainly make those problems a little more bearable.

I think that’s the point. Even when we’re up against deadlines and doctor appointments; projects and finger pricks; goals and glucose issues, we have our friends to lean on, who understand, and just help us forget about the drag of diabetes for a while.

Now, more than ever, we all need friends who remind us that there’s more to life than the next big thing to complain about. If you don’t have one, I encourage you to find one or more friends, virtually or in person, who will accept you for the contribution to community that you truly are or wish to be.

Looking to make new friends? Want to talk about diabetes in a safe, supportive atmosphere? The Diabetes UnConference is coming to Northern Virginia October 13 – 15, 2017. This fall, the UnConference is being co-hosted along with the Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women. Two chances to make new friends! To learn more, and to start the process of making new friends in the diabetes community, CLICK HERE.

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