What we got out of a CWD Conference…who knew?

My family and I recently went on a vacation.  I foolishly booked our travel for two full weeks knowing that I had a lot of family to see and wanting to get full value for all of the money we were giving Air Canada. By the end of our two weeks we had enjoyed time with family and friends. I had introduced my boys and my fiancé to the pleasures of west coast British Columbia.  We had seen giant trees, they had tried fishing, one child had done his first bungee jump and everyone had tasted blackberries.

The end of the trip was something that I wasn’t as sure about.  We were going to the first Canadian Friends for Life Conference about diabetes.  My oldest son loved FFL Florida.  He had a lot of friends and still talks about going back.  My youngest son is a hermit who isn’t much for socializing and has little time for most people.  My fiancé was considering staying on with us if his work schedule allowed.  I was excited that he wanted to see what I do and to learn more about a disease that was moving into his house but I worried that he would be bored because I knew I would not be around all of the time.

As the conference date arrived, my three guys enjoyed some sightseeing while I reconnected with old friends and helped to prepare for the arrival of about 500 people who would make up the Friends for Life Conference.  I suggested that they come down during the social and perhaps I would get to break away or at least they could see the exhibits. 

Sadly, I didn’t get to break away.  Things were crazy as a number of us worked to try and assist everyone who came to register and ask questions.  I caught glimpses of faces that had previously only been names but rarely got a chance to really chat.  That didn’t change much when my family came down to see me.  Thankfully my fiancé did a great job of taking the boys around, finding them some food and chatting with other people at the event.  I kissed him when I found out that they ate with Joe Solowiejczyk.  He is someone who has had diabetes for 50 years and works for Animas helping people and families to cope with diabetes.  While Joe didn’t turn my young son into a social butterfly, he remembered him and continued a dialogue with him throughout the conference.

The next day the boys began their sessions and I was asked to introduce some speakers and assist in a room during the afternoon. Thankfully my fiancé had family in the area and he was able to meet with them for the afternoon.  Time remained busy as people came by asking questions, wanting to learn, and just stopping to say hello.  It was wonderful for me but I was sure it was probably very dull for the poor man who came with me.

Sunday was the last day of the conference.  The boys were excited because they were going to spend the day at Stanley Park and the Aquarium.  No more lectures and sharing…it was a day of fun!  I had two sessions to deal with this time and both involved me presenting.  I had been asked to talk with my friend Michelle Rago about Managing Diabetes in Schools and on Saturday night, I was asked if I would join in facilitating the Moms’ Group discussion Sunday afternoon. I was really honoured to be asked to join and appreciated the warm welcome I received from the other members of the team.  They wanted me to open things and get it all going.  This still left Larry with little to do…except shop! He still had gifts to pick up so I suggested a trip to Granville Island and provided a shopping list just in case he thought we didn’t have enough souvenirs for our own home.

Our schools session seemed to go well and I was amazed at the turn out.  The moms’ group was also a success with a few learning points for Heather and I should we get to be involved again.  It was great to see so many familiar faces in the group. I was excited to have hugs from women who had emailed me for years and now were meeting me. Finally however it all came to a close.  My boys were upstairs waiting in our hotel room and my fiance was there with me to watch the close. I felt pretty lucky.

The next morning we headed on the plane back home. We were exhausted and ready to put our heads down on our own beds.  As we settled on the plane, Larry said to me, “Maybe we need to get that $100 meter. Who cares about the cost.  It will tell Liam that he needs insulin and remind him to test.”  I was so very touched. He had listened.  He had heard.  He wanted to help make our lives better. I explained that I hoped to have that new meter at no cost soon to try out but more importantly, my son’s pump already does all of those things and he ignores it.  The thought was truly in the right place but unless the meter had electrodes that would shock the kid, we were out of luck. He said that he would just have to start reminding him as well then.  The next day at dinner he did just that.  He told my son that he had better start remembering to do his own care or he was going to hear all of the reminders twice.  He then said,”Did you test? Did you bolus? Did you set your travel basal?”  I laughed and said he could save the last one for our next vacation!

I guess despite being bored, and despite the fact that he felt he had already learned most of what was said from me, he took a bit more in and is more than willing to put it to use.  It made me feel great to know that I finally had someone on my side.

The conference impact didn’t end there however. Our first day home was also a day to go and meet our new diabetes team.  As we were waiting to see this person and the next one, my son and I began to talk about a lecture that I had heard.  Joe had been talking about a “diabetes meltdown day”.  I explained what that meant and my son thought that was the greatest idea ever! When we got back in the truck after the appointment, he immediately told Larry that he was going to have a diabetes meltdown day and Larry had to tell him how wonderful he was. Larry suggested he would kick his butt and motivate him instead.  My son was okay with that.

When the conference first began, I would ask my boys what they had done in a session. What did they learn? What did they talk about?  I got nothing. Slowly over the past 24 hours my youngest son has been pouring out more information on what went on, how others deal with diabetes, and diabetes conversations in general than he has in his lifetime of living with this disease. I haven’t pushed it. I have let it go where he wants it to but I have been amazed. I thought nothing sunk in. I thought that they were just there in body because Mom made them.  I was wrong and I am so very grateful!

Once again my CWD family…and the family in my house, continue to amaze and impress me!

CWD Nostalgia

The sun is shining this morning and despite the cloud cover the temperature has already reached above 20C (76F) and its not even 8am.  The house is quiet.  I am letting the males of the household get some much deserved rest after working hard all week and the dogs? Well they are flaked out on the deck enjoying the light breeze that Mother Nature is providing them so far.

The chaos of merging two homes into our one new home is slowly fading although I still can’t remember where I have decided to place many of our things but it will come with time.  Right now I am choosing to simply enjoy the silence and the peace.  My office is currently my laptop on the kitchen table.  Far from ideal but the view of the backyard makes it a sacrifice I can handle until my fiance and I get my real space ready.

As I sat down and booted up this morning, I of course checked out the Facebook world to see what was happening.  The bulk of my Facebook friends tend to be people with diabetes or families of someone with diabetes.  Diabetes is obviously a big part of my life and I have met many people and made some incredible friends because of this horrible disease.

Today I was treated to many great new pictures. I love getting the chance to “see” so many family and friends and glimpse into their lives as I give them the chance to glimpse into the chaos and wonder we call our life. This morning brought on much nostalgia and excitement. For those of you who don’t know, www.childrenwithdiabetes.com has just finished up another amazing conference for families with diabetes in Orlando.  It was a wonderful idea that came together out of friends wanting to vacation together and now…well its an experience that I would recommend to anyone. I am hoping to go back one day soon but until then I love seeing all of my amazing friends in these great pictures and remember back to when we joined them.

Jeff Hitchcock and Michelle Rago are amazing with a camera.  They capture the very essence of people.  They capture innocence, fun and the amazing friendships that this community has created. I have said it time and time again, I truly don’t know what I would have done for all of these years without so many of these people.  I am blessed to have found a group of friends who have been there for the diabetes crisis’s, for the days when I just don’t want to do this any more, and for the celebrations that only people with diabetes can understand.  They have encouraged me.  We have laughed together and we have shared tears.  It is amazing what the Internet and some amazing people coming together can create.

Now as I said, I wistfully look back at the Florida Conference and long to sit beside the lake with friends like Stacey, Lauren, Michelle, Joanne, Rita, Julia, and more but once again I also have another CWD event to begin to get excited about.  I have been very lucky to have been a part of the Canadian CWD conferences since their inception.  I get to go and hang out with some wonderful friends.  I reconnect with my rock, Laura and so many more. Through these conferences, I have also been able to put faces to some of my fabulous Canadian friends. I look forward to seeing so many of them again and watching their children grow. 

This year will be a shock for my Canadian friends because my children will actually be with me! I know, who would go to a CWD conference and leave their kids behind? Me! The first year they had already been to FFL in Florida and spent time with their father instead.  The next time was during school so they stayed behind once again but this year? Well, its in Vancouver which is where I am from so I am booking flights, packing up the entire family, doing some visiting with one family before we all get together to enjoy learning and fun with our other family!

Its amazing how people who are spread so far away can become so important to your life. I love gatherings like these as well as the small, more informal gatherings we have been a part of.  I look forward to each time I get to get together with my diabetes family and just hang out, be ourselves and know that we all “get it”.  To know that we are all fighting the same fight.

See you all soon!