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.
In time for the last day of the Children with Diabetes Friends For Life Florida Conference…
It must be spring. There is still snow flying around outside and my winter boots were on my feet today but I have noticed a restlessness in the air. I was reading a blog in which the author felt that maybe she was not doing enough in the diabetes community despite raising awareness and entertaining many of us.
I have had that same feeling in the pit of my stomach. That question of what are you doing and more importantly–how do you do it better? I have yet to have any great epiphanies but it did motivate me to start a new project. I decided to “tweak” my website. I am seriously thinking about completely rebuilding and cleaning up the current format. I found a search engine to make looking through the site that much easier but I still have to decide what my spring website look should be. In the meantime, I decided that a movie of some of our greatest memories would be in order for the home page.
I began a journey back in time as I looked through old photos. I truly hate Diabetes with a capital H but the warm memories I found in the pictures really helped to ease the pain. I found pictures of a trip we went on to New York. Many of our online diabetes friends got together and we had a fabulous day at the beach. There was no awkward time of getting to know one another. We instantly had known each other for years and the day was amazing.
I found pictures of our trip across Canada. Again, there were photos of the many friends we met along our travels. There was a barbeque in Ottawa, a night in the interior of B.C. as well as introducing Rufus, the bear with diabetes, to many of our family members.
As I dug around, I found the photos of our trip to Friends for Life in Florida. I remember again, sitting down to drinks with “old” friends and having my son disappear with his pals to enjoy his vacation. There was basketball and Disney World rides for him. There was pump failure and great contacts for my other son and I. We found out that the best place in the world to have a pump malfunction was at a CWD Friends for Life conference. The friends and resources you will find are second to none!
I came across pictures from our Friends for Life Canada conferences and began to look forward to reconnecting with old friends again this summer. There were walk photos and I remained amazed at the generosity and enthusiasm of so many amazing people.
Friends for Life Canada is always a chance for me to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. One of my tasks each year is helping out with registration. I love it because affords me the chance to meet people as they are coming through the door. It always amazing to see how far people have come to connect with other families living with this disease.
Registration in Toronto this year was a pleasure. Everyone arrived at different times and we were able to make sure that their initial experience was a positive one. We saw people from all over Canada, the US and even a family from the UK. It was great to be able to put faces and families with names that we had interacted with online for months or even years as well as connect with new people.
As I have said, my son is very private. He is not interested in sharing his diabetes experience with others. He hates being the center of attention and is often very shy when people who know me come up to him. He is growing up however, and did interact with a few people and answer a few questions when asked.
On Sunday, the conference drew to a close. I was exhausted after a very busy day. My son was glad to see his bed after walking and site seeing with the teen group all day. My exhaustion led me to the restaurant for food and drinks with friends before we all headed our separate ways for another year. My son was more interested in bonding with the bed and TV than joining a group of adults. We agreed to meet at the elevators and I would take him to grab a bite to eat before I settled into dinner with my friends.
At the elevator, I met up with one of the families that we had spent a bit of time with over the past few days. They asked if my son would like to join them for supper. I asked him and he said sure. I was pleased that he would be spending time with a family that I had already had the pleasure of getting to know a bit as well.
From across the room, I watched their interaction. There was laughter and fun. They had three children, one of whom was my son’s age. There seemed to be a connection. As time passed, I was surprised to see that they were all still engaged and my son had not bolted to his room. Things were obviously going well!
Eventually the evening came to a close. We said good-bye and hoped we would be able to keep in contact. When we were back in my room my son told me about his evening. He had had a great time. He turned to me and said “Mom, she injected herself–twice!” My son has been on a pump since he was five. Despite the fact that he should learn how to inject in case of a pump failure, its something that he has never done himself. He was very impressed that this girl, who was a few years younger than him, had been so self-sufficient and done this on her own.
I was impressed that he had noticed and said something. One day, perhaps we will get the chance to talk to them all again. They definitely left a wonderful impression on us and hopefully we left a positive impression on them. Have I mentioned how much I love and appreciate the opportunities for friendship that CWD conferences afford?
Yesterday, I opened up my Facebook account and saw a friend sharing an article from Kerri Sparling, of Six Until Me . Kerri was discussing “Those Online People” and shared a conversation she had over a coffee. It was about whether the connections made online were “real” friendships or not.
About 10 years ago, I ventured into the world of the Internet. I ran across a website aptly named www.childrenwithdiabetes.com . They had a support list for parents of children with diabetes. I signed up and immediately was in a world where people got it, they lived it, and they understood how I felt. I was no longer alone. They had answers to my questions or at least a shoulder to lean on through the tough times. Their support has never waivered after all of these years.
In the beginning, when I spoke of these people, I didn’t know how to refer to them. They were my online support group. They were people that I had not met and yet they were people that I spoke with on a daily basis. I wondered how others would react if I called them “friends” but they were more than that so to not call them friends seemed to devalue them.
Over time, I realized that they were not my “online friends”. They were not my i”maginary friends” as others who were struggling with the same concept would often say. These people had become my family. They were there in my darkest hours. They were there on the sunniest of days. There were disagreements. There were victories shared. We watched each other’s children grow. We shared in the milestones of all of our children with diabetes and without. We laughed with each other and we cried. We were there for each other through funerals, divorces and marriages.
After a period of years, I was able to begin to put faces and voices to many of the members of my diabetes family. We traveled to various locations and were invited into the homes of these great people. We went to conferences and expanded our relationships.
I was recently asked why I go to the Friends for Life conferences. It was suggested that they were boring and not necessarily worth the money. I was shocked to the core that someone could think such a thing but then I realized that they had not walked were we had. They did not understand that FFL conferences were not just about learning–they have amazing speakers and interactive sessions that always allow me to take home something new. These conferences are a family reunion.
Its as much about learning from the amazing array of speakers that they have as it is about catching up with old friends. I enjoy having a glass of wine with the friends who have helped to get me this far in life. I like chatting and catching up with the people who were there for me when things were going wrong and I wanted to just hide under a rock and call it done. I love seeing the children who were only babies when we first “met” and have grown to be amazing, inspirational young adults.
The diabetes online community has brought together some incredible people. Together we have somehow managed to bring out the very best in one another and create some amazing changes in the world of diabetes.
I hate diabetes and like everyone else, long for a cure. I love the family that diabetes has brought to us however. Their warmth, their kindness, and their unwavering support truly make them “Friends for Life” or as I have said before, my diabetes Family.