Last night I returned from attending my fourth Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women conference, this time in the Alexandria Virginia/DC area. And I feel so grateful.
One of the things I was looking forward to most was seeing old friends and making new ones. And of course that was one of the best parts. The bonding that happens between women with diabetes at these events is truly remarkable! But another part that I have found so rewarding through the years is the knowledge and motivation gained through connections and sessions to keep me empowered. I consider myself an empowered person living with diabetes. However dealing with the ins and outs of it day after day, for the past 32 years, can leave me feeling less powerful at times. Sometimes a little push is all I need to get back to it.
We were fortunate to be in the company of Dr. Nat Strand. I first met her at the 2012 conference and loved her. She is so down to earth, knowledgeable and has a positive attitude that is contagious. She lead a session this time around about Diabetes from Head to Toe. While I basically knew all the organs and body parts that diabetes can have a negative affect on, hearing her talk about it just reiterated to me how important it is to keep a proactive approach to my health. Although I have started with minor complications, I have had them diagnosed very early and that has been to my benefit and I believe what has kept them minor so far. I have also had others ruled out by having the appropriate tests for them. Especially these days, early diagnosis is key to proper treatment and hopefully preventing the progression of the condition.
(Me with two lovely ladies, Nat Strand and Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN)
Although I am already active in the diabetes online community, it was fun to see Cherise and Kerri teach the group how to connect through blogging and social media. There was also a DSMA Live meetup which was fun!
I actually got up at 6:30 on Saturday morning to work out. I know, I don’t know what has gotten into me! There were exercise options for the early morning session but instead of T’ai Chi or a walk around the town, I chose to get my butt kicked with the lovely Ginger ;) It was an anaerobic workout teaching how to use your body as weights instead of equipment. I learned that I’ve been doing squats incorrectly but have pretty good form for push ups :) It was a hard but awesome workout.
There was a pretty emotional discussion about how diabetes affects eating and body image. It was lead by a panel consisting of Asha Brown, Diana Naranjo, PhD, Rhonda Merwin PhD and Lorraine Platka-Bird PhD, RD. When put into perspective, how can anyone living with diabetes view food the same way as people without diabetes? Food is one of the key elements in our management. It could either be a life saver or it could be a derailment in blood sugar control. Attention and calculation surrounds every single piece of food that goes into our mouths. No wonder this poses the opportunity for psychological issues!
Claudia Graham, MPH, PhD, gave the keynote presentation and also received the 2014 Inspiration Award at dinner on Saturday night. She is the Vice President of Global Access at Dexcom and has thrived with diabetes for over 35 years. She spoke to us about how to be your own CEO as sometimes being a woman can have some stereotypes attached to it. She also pointed out key things to know about your health as it relates to diabetes. One key statistic she mentioned was that as a person living with diabetes, you will spend 8,760 hours each year taking care of it. Your doctor on the other hand will spend on average one hour each year. One. This is the only disease that leaves 99% of the treatment in the hands of the patient. And that is why it is so critical that we be empowered and be our own CEO.
We were all awarded with a stone, to commemorate the years we have lived with diabetes. Mine was for courage. And I have to admit, courage is one of the things I will take with me after being in the presence of such inspiring, dynamic and valiant women.
Thank you Brandy and Anna for organizing such a wonderful event once again!
I also want to thank my husband for joining me on this trip as he has the past three times. I don’t think he realizes just how much that means to me. I don’t know what I would do without his support.