And then it happen. My green bracelet had officially died one month after putting it on my wrist. As I carefully placed it in a box, the rush of that week from Friends For Life flooded my heart and soul. A smile crept across my face as I thought of all those who I had meet and the impact they will have on my life and my attitude. Friendships were bonded this year, and I know now I have created some lifelong bonds that will be hard to break.
If you have never been to a diabetes conference, I do highly recommend it. I encourage you to reach and connect with those around you at any conference. Finding your tribe is a powerful resource. A powerful resource that I wish I would have found sooner.
The main reason why I wanted to go this year was Masterlab. Diabetes Hands Foundation puts on amazing day of advocate ideas, speakers and training session of some of top advocates from around the country. To be in a room full of passionate people who are making a difference is inspiring. Being able to connect to these people and have them as a resource is an invaluable tool in the world of advocacy.
Then there were the people which I connected with during the conference. Moira, who continues to inspire me and others in making a difference. Kerri, who has a way of writing and connecting with others. Scott, who has a knack of connecting others and a love of ketchup, grill cheeses, and diet cokes that matches mine. Kelly, who is an amazing advocate. Rick, who I met before, but his quirky sense of humor makes me smile…always. Karen and her husband Pete, who I was friends with over the internet and was so pleased to meet them in person. Mike L., who I have always admire from afar. Will, whose Sunday’s article always has me pondering and smiling. Nia, whose quiet way about her warms my heart. Cara, whose southern ways matches mine. Becky, who traveled from England to be here was simply a joy to be around. Kim, whose struggles with complications are real but her attitude is far more impressive. Ernesto, who in 15 minutes I realized how cool he really was and immediately admired his strength and determination. And many others…
There was also the nightscout crew who I connected with as well. I am in awe of their work and their passion in paying it forward. James, Wes, and Ben were all at the conference and are part of the driving force behind the project. There was also the most funniest and wittiness of the group of women who are sensational at programming: Christina, Julie, and Kate. All who can out wit and make you laugh until you have tears in your eyes. (I should also mention that Julie’s two children are adorable.)
And then there was a new friend made, Phyllis. I sat beside her during Masterlab. Those of you who know me, know I cannot sit still for a very long time. Poor Phyllis, and poor Mike B, who was on the other side of me (who incidentally has a heart of gold). Luckily, Phyllis and I hit it off immediately and were both tweeting and sharing thoughts. By 2 pm, my attention span had been shot and my #Squirrel moments had invaded Phyllis’s attentiveness. I am sometimes not the best of influence. Mike B had labeled us #badvocates. (But truthfully, the things I walked away with from that nine hour experience has help me see the path of advocacy clearer.) Phyllis and I meet up every chance we got that week and sometimes that got us in trouble. Sometimes, a lot of trouble. Just ask those mentioned above. #drinkyourjuice #prosecco #sitdown #stonerbrownieswithscale #notGF #drinkyourjuiceNOW
But the highlight of my week was getting to see Jack daily and his gift of a hug at every encounter. Jack is a seven year old who has Type 1 before he could walk. He lives fairly close to me, but time does not let me see him as much as I would like to. His smile is contagious and his attitude is something I pray for daily that he will maintain throughout his life. We got to hang out together several times. I let him test my blood glucose and work my pump for me, letting him focus on me instead of himself. I played silly games with him just to hear his laughter. His parents are just as amazing. They recognize his need to own his disease, but not let it run his life. They are truly trying to raise a responsible young man with compassion who just happens to have Type 1 Diabetes. And I admire them more than they will ever know.
And that my friends, is what Friends for Life Conference is about. It is about making connections with those who are just like you. It is about making those who live with diabetes day in and day out realize they are capable of chasing their dreams. It is about letting us meet people who have the same chronic illness as we have and who have achieved their dreams. It gives us the power of our voice to advocate toward better treatments (hello artificial pancreas) and the understanding that we can do things as long as we are given the opportunity to care for ourself first. It is about giving us the tools and resources to achieve our goals in self care. It is about letting us voice things that we do NOT share with others…including our fears for the future. It is about acknowledging that we all work hard at taking care of ourself to the best of our ability and understanding that sometimes we need encouragement. Friends for Life is about making friends for life that truly get it.