Tag Archives: friends for life

Put these conferences on your calendar… now!

Happy New Year! Since we’ve reached the start of a new year, you might be wondering if there are events in your area that speak to diabetes, or to health care in general in 2018. If you live in my part of the world, the answer is Yes.

This is by no means a comprehensive diabetes conference schedule like the ones Christel Marchand Aprigliano used to write up. But if you live here in the USA, there are a few things you might want to mark your calendar for. Hopefully, these will get you thinking about how to further connect with the community this year:
 
 
Healthcare Costs Innovation Summit. This is an HCI-DC event, sponsored by West Health (HCI stands for Health Care Innovation). While this is not diabetes specific, I can relate that I went to one of these a couple of years ago and learned a lot.

This year’s one day event centers around what we, as a group, on this one day, can come up with in terms of innovations and policy fixes that might help slow down or reverse the rising cost of health care in America. Timely, yes?

Andy Slavitt, former acting commissioner for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and a font of information on health care in America (seriously, follow him on Twitter) will be speaking, among others.

The best news is that the summit is free. The second best news is that it will be live and live streamed, so if you can’t get to Washington in February, you can still look in.

Healthcare Costs Innovation Summit
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Amphitheater at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
CLICK HERE to attend or sign up for the live stream.

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JDRF TypeOneNation Summit. The first of the JDRF TypeOneNation Summits will be taking place on January 20, 2018 (Middle Tennessee and North Florida). The summit in my state will be happening as usual on the first Saturday in March (March 3) in Bethesda, Maryland.

These are great gatherings that give those living with and caring for people with Type 1 diabetes the opportunity to learn the latest about technology and drug innovations, and interact with others from the tribe.

If you haven’t been to a diabetes event before, this is a great place to start.

CLICK HERE to find out more about JDRF TypeOneNation Summits nationwide.

JDRF Chesapeake & Potomac Chapter TypeOneNation Summit
Saturday, March 3, 2018 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road, Bethesda, Maryland
CLICK HERE for more information. Registration opens, probably, some time this week.

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Friends for Life events. Friends for Life will be coming back to Falls Church, Virginia in October of 2018. I’ll be looking forward to seeing old and new friends and learning more about a variety of topics with regard to cost, burnout, managing diet and exercise, and seeking support.

There are usually tracks for kids, teens, and adults at this gathering. If you can’t make the big FFL meetup in Florida in July, October in Northern Virginia is a very nice second option. If you live in the west, Anaheim in May is a very nice second option. If you live in the UK, Perthshire, Scotland in October is a super option. If you live near Toronto or in Niagra Falls, or anywhere else in Canada, Niagra Falls in November works pretty well too.

Friends for Life Falls Church
October 19 – 21, 2018
The Fairview Park Marriott
Falls Church, Virginia
CLICK HERE for more information on FFL Falls Church and the other 2018 Friends for Life events in Orlando, Anaheim, Scotland, and Niagra Falls, Ontario.
 
 
2018 is right around the corner. Get out your calendars and start planning! And if you have any conferences or meetups happening where you are in 2018, please let everyone know in the comments section below.

Note: the original version of this post listed the Anaheim Friends for Life event in April; the conference is actually May 4-6, 2018. Totally my fault.

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2018, you have big shoes to fill.

Well, it’s been a heck of a year, hasn’t it?

2017 has been the most full, and probably most fulfilling, of my years here at Happy Medium. This year has been quite a bit different from previous years too. Different in a good way.

January started with the beginning of my life on Dexcom, inserting the G5 and employing it as a useful tool in my diabetes management. Even if I complained about sensor and transmitter issues, and having to wear one more thing.

February included participation in the second Diabetes Podcast Week. I really love podcasting, and I wish I had more time to fit it into my schedule. I also shared a few notable quotes, and why they inspire me.

In March, I reported for the fifth time on what is now the JDRF TypeOneNation Summit in Bethesda. They’re getting better at bringing adults into the conversation. I also took the time to remind everyone that Nobody Ever Died from Obamacare.

April 1st marked the March for Health, in many cities across America. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak at the march in Washington, D.C., in the shadow of our nation’s capital. I also shared a story from my personal life that showed me how important it is to support your friends. It wasn’t about what I did… it was about what I learned.

Diabetes Blog Week returned in May this year, and it was wonderful, as always. Also in May, I took time to attend a public workshop at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. I learned a lot about FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, and the drug approval and after-market inspection process.

June brought about the rollouts of the new Accu-Chek Guide glucose meter, and (finally) the Dexcom G5 Mobile App for Android. I couldn’t be happier. I finished up the month with a meeting among diabetes friends, and it reminded me that we need each other now more than ever.

In July, I completed my local 5k run again, and did fairly well for a 55 year old who is a slow runner. I also attended another in the continuing #BeyondA1c discussions, and it was amazing, even if the information shared, at times, felt like I was trying to drink from a fire hose.

August posts included a note on conversations and my reaction to them. “It is always about enlightenment and being more comfortable being myself, and being myself with my diabetes.”

September was a hard month. I went through an unexpected emergency appendectomy, which included a very unexpected complication. Fortunately, I’m all better now.

In October, I shared my new role as a member of Maryland’s Advisory Council on Health and Wellness, and how this new role means I’ll be serving more than just the diabetes patients in my state. I’ll be serving all of the citizens of my state.

In November, I tried to remind everyone that while advocacy is often practiced with a little “a”, the effects of that advocacy can be very big indeed. I also went to a meeting at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where I discovered that I was Enlightened, but Unknowing.

And in December, I’ve talked about doing a trial of the new-to-the-USA Freestyle Libre CGM. And I presented a list of 8 gifts that People With Diabetes could really use right now.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the two wonderful Diabetes UnConferences that took place in February and October. Or the fact that we’ve sent out another 15 or 20 Champion Athlete With Diabetes medals. These are feel good stories every single time. I also love hosting the Diabetes By The Numbers podcast, and hope to bring you more episodes in 2018. And thanks to Cherise Shockley and the followers on Twitter for the privilege and fun times shared while hosting some of the #DSMA chats throughout the year.

Thanks also to Christel Marchand Aprigliano for the honor and privilege of representing DPAC at Friends for Life events in July and October. We learn from heroes. We are supported by friends.

This is where I express my gratitude to you for visiting this space on a regular basis… I could do this without you, but it wouldn’t be as meaningful or as fun. Also, I hope that you have had a full and fulfilling year too. Finally, I want to strongly express my desire for all of us to work toward less division, less cost, more access, more support, and mostly, less burden of living with diabetes.

Goodbye 2017… you were a whirlwind, but a remarkable year.

Hello 2018… you have some pretty big shoes to fill.

Friends for Life Falls Church.

Like the Energizer bunny, Friends for Life just keeps going.

I think Children With Diabetes, the organization that stages the Friends for Life conferences throughout the USA, and in the UK too (and occasionally Canada), would rather be thought of on their own, as opposed to being associated with a battery company. But that aside, after attending many of these now, I am still amazed at how they make each gathering spectacular and unique.

In Falls Church, Virginia last week, I was working the DPAC table in the exhibit space again, like I’ve been doing for a while now. That means I don’t get to get into many sessions, but I do get to see a lot that goes on around the venue. Not backstage pass kind of stuff, but things that I think help me see how much of an undertaking each conference really is.

The first thing I noticed was the update to the sessions in the schedule. More advocacy sessions with Christel Marchand Aprigliano and Stewart Perry. Cynthia Rice from JDRF and Paul Madden from ADA also jumped in here and there.

Also, there were sessions about Succeeding as and Adult and Parenting with Type 1, a Safe Zone discussion for Significant Others of adults with T1D, and two sessions for Grandparents and Occasional Caregivers. I saw a session on Your Legal Rights as a Person With Diabetes. When you’re tackling these subjects, led by smart people like Kerri Sparling, Tamara and Sean Oser, Brian Grant, and Leigh Davis Fickling, you know you’re going to learn something significant without needing a PhD to understand the subject matter.

Unlike some of the other FFL events I’ve been to, this time I was able to see a lot of the staff working in the background to keep things running smoothly. Think about everything that needs to be done: Making sure everything arrives (think T-shirts, badges, and those wonderful green bracelets). Setup and registration. Getting rooms ready with the right amount of tables and chairs, screens to view presentations, and branding material. Coordinating meals and food choices with hotel staff.

That doesn’t even count little extra touches that mean a lot. When someone at registration asked me if I had diabetes (do I get a green bracelet? YES!), then someone else asked, “Do you still have an appendix?”, it was the funniest moment of the entire weekend. I don’t know how they all remember so much.

I’m not kidding… everyone works so hard, yet makes it look so effortless. Many of the first timers I met, from Ohio and North Carolina and Pennsylvania and beyond, really appreciated how they were made to feel at home, and how accessible everyone was. How can I describe it? Friends for Life is a comfortable place where everyone feels like they belong. It’s a conference, while redefining the very meaning of that word. Friends for Life is an experience, not one time, but always.

Here’s your notice: if you live in the eastern half of the USA, you should know that Friends for Life is coming back to Falls Church, Virginia next October. If you can’t make it to the big event at Disney in July, this is a great opportunity to learn a lot, interact with others living the same life you do, and enjoy being part of the biggest group that no one wants to belong to… that just happens to be populated with the most wonderful people. To find out more, go to childrenwithdiabetes.com

Extra: You should definitely read this post by Leigh Fickling over at Six Until Me. This describes FFL maybe better than anything you’ve read above.

**Note: I get nothing for writing about Friends for Life. DPAC paid for my travel and accommodations to Falls Church, Virginia. Opinions on Friends for Life are entirely my own.

Friends for Life Orlando 2017.

Full disclosure: I was able to spend last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at Friends for Life in Orlando, Florida. Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition paid for my travel. All opinions are unquestionably mine, and it was my honor to advocate before so many wonderful people.

Just like last year, I worked the DPAC booth in the exhibit hall at Friends for Life, the largest gathering of People With Diabetes in the country. I was also lucky enough to sit in a couple of sessions and spend time once again with diabetes friends.

I remain grateful for the opportunity to advocate for those living with and affected by diabetes, and in the USA, DPAC is the best, easiest way I know of to make your voice heard by elected officials and policy makers across the country. If you haven’t yet, please download the DPAC app now and add your voice to the growing chorus advocating nationwide.

There was quite a bit of lively discussion during the various advocacy sessions led by DPAC CEO Christel Marchand Aprigliano and Stewart Perry. People were asking questions after the sessions and letting their friends know about DPAC too, and that gives us all a great feeling. I know our advocacy efforts will only grow from here.

The rest of the conference (or at least the part that I was there for) was wonderful too, as always. The Children With Diabetes staff really goes out of their way to make everyone feel welcome… even the exhibitors.

I’m not sure I can tell you anything special about this year’s gathering though. I think there are a number of reasons for that.

First, think about it: there really aren’t any amazing product launches that are new. Medtronic’s 670g is fairly new, but Medtronic was once again absent from the largest concentration of Type 1 diabetes patients in one place anywhere in the country.

There weren’t any recent research announcements either. Nothing that makes patients (and especially parents) excited for the next improvement in diabetes management.

Plus, I think Children With Diabetes has a problem. It’s a wonderful problem created by their wonderful efforts to bring additional sessions to adults, and emerging adults, and teens and tweens, and parents, and other caregivers.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t want CWD to change any of that. Their challenge going forward will be to avoid having their amazing inclusiveness create a lot of smaller gatherings, rather than what has always felt like one big gathering of diabetes family.

That’s a tall order. But if anyone can pull it off, I suspect Jeff Hitchcock and his fabulous team can do it. Let’s face it: nothing stays the same. It’s not avoiding change, but instead embracing change and making it work for everyone, that helps great things evolve. And Friends for Life has always been a great thing.

In addition to that, there was one part of Friends for Life that I don’t usually pay much attention to… but it really hit me this year.

I took a couple of moments to go through the Quilt for Life exhibit that is always set up in the back of the hall. The display includes hundreds of quilts depicting various diabetes issues, interests, and people living with this insidious condition.

So to finish up, here are a few photos of quilts I noticed. I don’t know why yet, but the last one really got me, and it still does. I practically broke down right on the exhibit hall floor when I saw it. How does it affect you?



I am under no obligation to do so, but I should mention that there is one more Friends for Life gathering coming up this year, and it will be in my part of the world. Friends for Life Falls Church will be coming to the D.C. area October 6, 7, and 8. To find out more, CLICK HERE.

Markers of our time.

Back in July, when I was at the Children With Diabetes Friends for Life event in Orlando, I had an opportunity to meet a few people working with Eli Lilly & Company in Indianapolis. Eli Lilly, as you probably know, is one of the largest producers of insulin in America. They also have this nice program that awards medals to People living With Diabetes for 10, 25, and even 50 years.

When one of the Lilly execs asked me how long I had been living with diabetes, I mentioned that I had hit the 25 year mark earlier in the year, which prompted the question “Did you send in for your medal?”. I had not by then, but I had thought about it. A few weeks after that gathering, I went to the Lilly website and applied for my 25 year Journey medal. And that’s where I get to the point, the personal point, of this story.
25yearmedal
On the one hand, it’s incredibly selfish to fill out an online form and say “Please recognize me!”. Even now, a couple of months after receiving my medal, it feels selfish. Living with Type 1 diabetes for 25 years does not make me special, and more importantly, it doesn’t make me any more special than anyone who has lived with diabetes for 24 years or 26 years, or any other number of years. Like my A1c result, it’s just a number. A benchmark.

On the other hand, I spent a lot of the past 25 years enduring crappy A1c results. Various doctors and family members, some with the best of intentions, made me feel like it was entirely my fault. Seventeen or eighteen years after diagnosis, I was being told to manage my diabetes exactly the same way I had been told to manage it in the months after diagnosis. I had heard of insulin pumps, mostly that it meant that my diabetes was way out of control. I had no freaking idea what a continuous glucose monitor was. No one bothered to tell me anything about them, and if they had, I probably would have resisted because I wouldn’t have understood their usefulness.

Things in those days were either good or bad; there was extremely little middle ground, and my fear was that the more people knew about my diabetes, the worse I would look. Once I began to look beyond just good and bad, once I started to examine the gray areas and really consider possibilities rather than punishment, my life and my life with diabetes began to change.

So I get it… I’m not special. But I have certainly earned this medal. And I’m not going to feel bad about that. Part of not feeling bad about that meant actually wearing my 25 year medal at the Diabetes UnConference in Atlantic City in September. You can’t see it, but I’m wearing it in our group photo from the event. Most people probably didn’t know I had it on, but I wanted to wear it while with a group of people living with diabetes.

These were people who completely understand the uphill climb that diabetes can be. How diabetes can take your best efforts and kick them to the curb. The emotions of highs and lows and middle-of-the-night set changes and visits to endocrinologists and ophthalmologists. The concerns about how today’s diabetes may affect our lives years down the road, and how much of it is not good or bad, but simply a game of chance.

I’ll probably pull this medal out from its case and put it on now and then. Because you know what? I really did earn this. Having a medal doesn’t make me special. But it’s a terrific marker of time, and a way to focus on the fact that I have survived for 25 years. And it’s more than okay to be happy about that.

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