You enjoyed each moment as best you could, but never quite fully - because you were ever cognizant of how fleeting this time together would be.
|photo credit: Jacquie|
You hugged and cried and laughed with family, who were technically strangers. Our blood may not have been related, but our pancreases (pancrei?) belonged to the same club.
|photo credit: Sara|
|photo credit: Sara|
The Diet Coke was, for the one-time price of $14.90, limitless. (And seemed to cause some dehydration - but that's another story.)
There were free cupcakes at one point.
High and low blood sugars abounded. Emergency supplies were exchanged. Humalog pens were lent out. The Florida humidity meant a sweaty early morning walk to the convention center each day. Rollercoasters made us queasy.
Every day was so imperfectly perfect.
|original photo credit: Martin|
How do you sum up something like that? How do you quantify it? How do you explain to anyone without diabetes what that feels like?
And how cliché is it if I say that I really do feel like I have Friends For Life?
When I signed up for the Children With Diabetes Friends For Life conference, I did so with a tiny thought in the back of my mind: With a name like that, I hope there's a place for an adult like me. This was my first CWD conference, and even though I knew adults with type 1 who had gone before (and enthusiastically recommended it), I was cautious about getting too excited.
2011 was the first year that CWD had an "adults with type 1" specific set of sessions, and so I didn't set much in the way of expectations of what those sessions would be. Truthfully, my main reason in wanting to go was to get to hang out with that great assembly of people for 5-ish days.
I set my expectations way, way too low.
I thought that some sessions had good value, like the "Finding Support Through Social Media" session with Scott and Kerri - it had a casual feel to it, and those of us who were proficient in the subject matter could lend advice and ideas to those who were new. Kerri's session on "Diabetes and Pregnancy" also was a favorite - except for those awkward moments when a man would try to walk into the session halfway through (were we so quiet, they thought the room was empty, maybe?).
I thought that some sessions were pointless, like the Novo Nordisk sponsored "Grown-ups with type 1" hour. The facilitator didn't seem to have any working knowledge of life with diabetes, and it showed. Painfully. ("Do you try to avoid lows?" "Raise your hand if your last A1C was under 7!" It was totally uncomfortable, and didn't really seem to accomplish much beyond providing some market research findings for the pharma company sponsoring it.)
The session that had the most punch for me was the "Avoiding and Overcoming Diabetes Burnout" session with Dr. Jill Weissberg-Benchell. (She is both a pediatric psychologist and a CDE, and "works regularly with children and teens and their families to facilitate coping with diabetes and other chronic conditions". And, really, I've never met a person who so totally "got it" without "having it" themselves. She is a rockstar.) What started as a guided discussion on managing the day-to-day of diabetes turned into one big group therapy session. Fifteen of so of us adults with type 1 sat in a circle, finishing each other's sentences and passing each other the Kleenex. It was... beautiful.
I know that won't sound like a good time to some, but it was exactly the honest, gritty conversation I needed to have. And with just the kind of people I needed to have it with.
That feeling - the one where you feel understood in some unspoken way; where you feel like you are "among your kind"; where you fear your heart might explode from the joy it's holding? It was one of the best gifts FFL could have given me.
* * * * *
Disclosure-y stuff: The CWD people did not ask me to write about the FFL conference, nor did they provide any compensation for my attendance. All expenses associated with this trip were out of my own pocket, and as always, all opinions are my own.