This past weekend marked one of my favorite times of the year. Its a time when I get to meet up with old friends, make new friends, and work with some of the most amazing people in the world…who also happen to live with diabetes.
Friends For Life Canada is truly that, a place where people walk into a convention facility as strangers and leave as friends for life. This weekend I reflected on the fact that I had been friends with many of the CWD staff for close to 12 years now. I have watched their children grow and they have become not just friends but important members of my family.
I have written before about the profound impact that the conference has on families and sponsors alike. This year was no different. Once again, at the registration booth, as reps and volunteers were packing up their boothes and leaving, we were told how awed they were by the experience. The people involved felt that they were in the presence of something truly amazing.
When I came home and got online again I found many posts from parents and bloggers stating how much they enjoyed the conference and can’t wait for the next one. Families who had never been to a conference before thanked everyone involved and noted how their lives were changed.
Despite the amazing impact that Friends for Life Canada has on families and its participants, one thing struck me again this year…the lack of corporate support. There are a few companies that you see at every event. They know the value of these gatherings and fully embrace them.
Sadly, many vendors from Canada have chose not to be involved. They are missing out. Parents do not go to a CWD conference because of a loyalty to one product over another. Speakers and volunteers are not there because of their allegiance to one company. We come together for support, understanding and to learn!
I am honored to be part of the faculty at Friends for Life Canada. They pay for my flight to the event and cover my hotel room. In exchange, I address various issues and help out where I can. I also enjoy being at the conferences to see what is new in the Canadian diabetes world. In past years, I have enjoyed looking at various glucometers, seeing what is new in insulin, and of course comparing insulin pumps. This year comparison was not an option. I was not able to put my hands on a variety of new technology, including a pump which we are currently in the market for.
I have contacts in the industry that I can go to for product information but it is not the same as seeing a new meter or pushing buttons on an insulin pump. It is not the same as talking to people who are using various technologies and hearing what they think of these products.
What disturbs me even more however, is that many of the parents at this year’s conference were new to diabetes. According to the CWD report, 75% of these families were also new to a Friends for Life conference. They do not have the contacts that I do. They were not able to see and feel many of the options available to them. They could hear about them in speakers’ presentations but they could not talk to companies and have their questions answered.
Their option is to consider going to the Orlando Friends for Life Conference where an incredible number of vendors come together to showcase the best in diabetes care. Why can they come together south of the border but not in a Canadian conference where travel is much less? Is our smaller market share less appealing? Do we not count because we are such a small population? I would hate to think that.
The first time CWD came to Toronto, if memory serves me, there were three different insulin pump companies present. There were at least that many meter companies showing their wares. There were pharmacies, sweetener alternatives, glucose companies, diabetes groups and more. This year there was one pump company, one meter company, diabetes groups, and a few other constant supporters. The rest of the diabetes vendors failed our families. They did not give them the chance to become informed consumers. They failed themselves by not taking part in the most amazing conference for families with diabetes in Canada. No CWD does not pay me to say these things. This is how I feel. This is what other families feel.
If you have a company that caters to the needs of people living with diabetes in Canada, please consider coming to a conference. Please consider getting involved. I guarantee you that the return far outweighs any expense. Ask people who have been. Listen to the families…
“Thank you so much everyone for a fantastic weekend in Toronto. We had a blast!”
“I’m slightly depressed not being around my diabetic mates I met on the weekend.”
“it was an amazing weekend!”
“Thank you for a wonderful conference!”
and the list of accolades goes on. Just imagine how they would have felt if they could have seen and touched more diabetes related “stuff”. If they could have played with more meters or touched more insulin pumps?
Conferences like this are only sustained through the help of sponsors and corporations. Families cannot carry any more of the burden of cost…and those involved in organizing the events will not allow them to be further burdened. I would hope that the Canadian diabetes products industry seriously looks at becoming more involved with Friends for Life Conferences. I promise you that experience will change you. The tears on the children’s faces when they have to leave their new friends will melt your heart. The camaraderie felt and shared by parents and grandparents will make you feel blessed to be there.
To those who have continued to sponsor and take part in this event…THANK YOU! To those who have missed out in previous years…please get involved NOW.
|Some of my Friends For Life!
Last night I got an email from fellow Diabetes Advocate Mike Durbin asking everyone to take part and/or spread the word about “Diabetes Blessings Week“.
With the American Thanksgiving holiday coming up, I have seen many friends noting the things that they are grateful for throughout the month of November. Gratitude is a great practice and something that I promote in my Life Coaching practice. It is also something that I try to incorporate into my own life.
Mike asked that we blog about a few of the blessings that diabetes has brought into our lives. Ideally you would look at one blessing per day for the week of November 19-25th. Since I am a day late in getting started, I will try to come up with two for my first day…
Actually the top two are simple and intertwined. My diabetes family and CWD conferences.
Its has been almost twelve years since I “found” my family. I had just gotten onto the Internet for the first time. I searched “parents of children with diabetes”. I was instantly sent to a website and a parents email list. There I posted a question about a battle I had been having with my toddler–trying to convince him to eat after giving his insulin. We had been experiencing tears, vomiting, and terrifying lows. I was at my wits end.
Within seconds I received two emails back from parents telling me what I already knew but for some reason could not do. They told me not to give him insulin until after he ate. It was so simple but until another parent told me, I could not grasp NOT giving my son insulin.
That was just the beginning. Over the years, these face-less friends became my support. They were there through the good times and the bad. They understood the bittersweet feeling of having your four year old being able to lance his own finger and draw blood. They understood the exhausting nights and the drag your butt days. They were there to pull me out when I just wanted to curl up and hide under a rock for awhile. They were there through diabetes fights, political battles and personal struggles. No matter what was going on, there was always a strong shoulder to cry on and firm hand to push me forward.
|Beach party with our amazing Friends for Life!
As the years went by, I was able to share the wisdom taught to me with others. I was also able to meet some of my nearest and dearest friends in person. I travelled to visit some at a beach party. I later travelled to visit others at what has become the foremost diabetes conference in North America–CWD’s Friends For Life. It is the one place on earth where friends connect and friendships truly are made for life.
|Just a few of the amazing people that I am blessed to call “friends”
Imagine how blessed I felt when I was asked to not just attend a FFL conference but be a part of the staff? I was honored I was humbled. Each year that I attend, I have to pinch myself. I am surrounded by the most amazing people in the diabetes world. Parents, doctors, nurses, educators and advocates…and me. It truly is the high point of my year when I am there!
Diabetes, despite its brutal nature, has brought many blessings with it. The two that make each day a little easier are definitely the incredible friendships I have made and the gathering of those friends at FFL Conferences each year.
|More of my wonderful friends!
I have said it time and time again, CWD conferences truly are the very best events out there for people living with diabetes. Vendors who fail to take part are missing a lot. Families who do not take part are missing a lot. People with diabetes who do not attend are also truly missing out.
Yes, I am part of the Canadian faculty which does mean that they cover my plane fare and lodgings while I am at the Canadian events but that in no way changes my perspective. Actually it enhances it. Each year I help out at registration and at that desk you see a lot.
You experience the person who walks up and says “My toiletries, which happened to contain my insulin, infusion sets, sensors, and reservoirs did not make it into my luggage.” Before this person can ask if anyone has anything to spare, three people offer everything that they could possibly need to handle their diabetes for the weekend and everyone is able to enjoy the conference without a second thought.
You also get to see the smile on a mother’s face who says “In my rush, I forgot to bring the gluten free snacks for my child but you have an entire buffet dedicated just to her needs! I don’t need to worry about her at all!”
I learned a few other benefits this conference as well. When you lock you key in your room, your son is off site with the other key, and you need to be in your room to get information for your presentation which will take place in less than 15 minutes, the lanyard around your neck with your name will get you a new room key!
While sitting around a lunch table, I learned that others have used the “D” card on occasion for convenience. If you don’t want to get stuck in a room with an annoying coworker, tell them that you are low and need to check. If you don’t want to share that amazing piece of chocolate cake? Tell them that you are sorry but you already pre-bolused for the entire piece.
The most important thing that was reinforced for me during this conference? The value of friendships–new and old. I watched two young boys pose arm in arm for a picture. You knew that the friendship was struck up at this conference. I met people who were previously just names online and enjoyed getting to learn a bit more about them. And as always, I enjoyed time, talk and meals with friends that I have been blessed to have in my life through the ups and downs for the past eleven years. There truly is nothing better than a CWD conference!
I was again honored to be a part of the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Vancouver Conference this past weekend. As a member of the faculty, I enjoy interacting with the many families who attend the conference, chat with some of the vendors and learn from the other staff and faculty whom attend. It is an amazing experience.
Over the past few years I have been a little discouraged at the lack of support from Canadian vendors. Each year that I attend, I hope to gain some insight into which insulin pump I should chose for my son. His warranty will soon be up and what better place to learn about pumps then at a diabetes conference?
Last year, when the conference was in Toronto, one of the major pump companies was obviously missing. I was quite disappointed because I had decided that I wanted to seriously look at their CGM integration. A few other companies also seemed to be missing but the event was still a great success.
This year, when looking at technology, the pickings were even slimmer. There were only two pump companies to chose from. There was only one glucometer company to check out. There were no insulin companies showing us the new directions that insulin and other hormones are headed in. There were no sweetener booths showing us the awesome ways that better tasting alternatives to sugar could be used.
There were some great companies present. Children could decorate OmniPods. Everyone loved dressing up and having their picture taken at the One Touch booth. There were new gaming apps on display by an innovative company called ayogo as well as booths from Store a Tooth, MyCareConnect, Dex4, CDA, JDRF and more.
At the beginning of the event, I was really disappointed by the poor Canadian corporate support to families living with diabetes. Why were we not important? Did they feel that they were already reaching us through social media and did not need to be “seen” at such an event?
As the event came to a close, my perspective changed dramatically. I am sure that Jeff Hitchcock, Laura Billetdeaux and the other CWD staff experience this all of the time, but it was a bit novel for me. I had vendors coming up to me as we were leaving thanking me (I spend a lot of time directing people from the registration booth so they have seen me a few times)! They were grateful to have been a part of such a special weekend. They were honored (as I always am) to be involved in something that touches so many.
I am not sure why the “other guys” don’t think that they need to attend CWD Canada events. I know that they are truly missing out! These events do more than bring families together and connect kids with new friends who also have diabetes–they create friends for life. They create memories. They inspire. They touch our hearts like nothing else can.