Posts Tagged ‘students with diabetes’

Students With Diabetes National Conference: A Life Changing Experience!

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by Amelia Lee

As I prepare for my sixth conference, I reflect on the first Students with Diabetes (SWD) conference I attended. I had just finished my senior year of high school and was preparing to leave home to attend The University of Alabama. I was a few months shy of my 8th diaversary. At the time, I dealt with diabetes as part of my life and didn’t give it much thought. I never really cared about what my blood sugar was or if I was covering for the right amount of carbs; I cared more about not being a burden to those around me. Diabetes was just an annoyance I put up with since it was never going away. I was not good at taking care of my diabetes, but I was not bad enough for it to raise concern with my doctor.

At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I was placed in the hospital for DKA. This was the first time I had been back to the hospital for my diabetes since my diagnosis seven years prior. It was a huge wake-up call. I switched doctors and finally found someone who helps me truly understand diabetes and helped explain the consequences of poor control. She helped me find the best way to manage my diabetes. While I was still not the best at monitoring, I was getting better. It was this doctor who suggested the Students with Diabetes National Conference. I was told I would be the youngest there but it would be helpful to go. I would be lying if I said it was my choice to go, it was my parents who forced me to go.

The first conference did not take place in the nice hotels it does now; we were placed into the University of South Florida (USF) dorms. I cried to my mom the entire twenty-minute drive out to USF about not wanting to go and not wanting to be in a new situation. I was never really involved with the diabetes community and at that time, I had no interest in joining. I showed up an hour late to the conference, which was noticeable since there were only 25 people attending the conference. Most of these people seemed to be the “seemingly perfect diabetics” who had everything in control.

My mom told me I had to make it one night and I could leave on Saturday if I wanted; I stayed the entire weekend. It was my suitemates that made me want to stay. After going back to our rooms after dinner and the sessions, my suitemates and I started openly talking about our disease. We talked about how high our A1cs were, how we hide our diabetes from others and how we hated the disease. I needed this honesty and to know I wasn’t alone in struggling with my disease. We spent most of the night talking about how we could not relate to the people who were in control and how none of us wanted to be at the conference. The weekend was spent bonding together over the disease and how we personally dealt with the disease.

I was finally beginning to feel normal. I wasn’t the only one who hated this disease so much that I just didn’t care for it. I wasn’t the only one who was high most of the time. I wasn’t the only one who hid my disease. This is what I needed. Most of the people with diabetes who openly talk about the disease are often in control and do not understand all of the struggles people not in control face. Luckily, I was able to find the people who struggled just like I did. These were the people I was able to connect with and share.

All of us still talk with each other about the struggles we face and how to overcome it. These are the people I can turn to when I’m having a bad day and no one else can understand. They are the ones who understand the joys of finally having your numbers in range. We have all come a long way since that first conference and are now better in control of our diabetes.

While most of the outspoken people at the SWD conference do seem to manage their diabetes almost perfectly, there are many who are struggling with the disease. The conference is a chance to meet others just like you, whether you are in control of diabetes or you still struggle with diabetes. I did not want to go to the conference at all six years ago, but now I refuse to miss it. It is a weekend to feel normal and feel like you are not alone in dealing with your disease. It is the opportunity to meet others just like you, who can relate to you when you complain about how an injection hurts or how many times you have to check your blood sugar.

Don’t miss this chance to make new friends who will always be there!

Pleasantly Surprised

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by  Gabe Rosenthal

You have probably had a few members of your diabetes cheerleading squad tell you about the Students With Diabetes Conference, am I right? Mom has definitely brought it up once or twice in her “just checking in” calls. But “What’s the real deal about the conference? Why should you go?”. Well, luckily I dig the responsibly of persuasion, and challenge accepted! Hear me when I say this is 100% a chance of a lifetime.

I used to be under the impression that if you didn’t hate your diabetes then you were one of those “Nice to meet you, I’m Gabe the diabetic” types of Type Ones. That you either had nothing or absolutely everything to say about diabetes; and you certainly were not allowed to quickly breeze over the reason for your box of syringes (or other diabetes gear) without a few prying questions. It’s hard to feel like a normal person with diabetes in the real world and it’s hard to feel like a normal person in the world of diabetes, right? WRONG! I am a firm believer in balance, and I promise that is an option at the conference. You can be the person in the back crying at every personal story you connect with, and you can comfortably crack a few jokes at the sweat stains under your armpits from overcorrecting your high this morning, but most importantly you can do both and with a certain understanding most of us lack in our typical circle of friends. We’re all pretty different though and you’ll feel that when you first arrive, but isn’t that the beauty of a large group of people with one thing in common? You can choose who your next diabetic BFF is going to be from the type A or type B person, but they are all going to be Type One.

So, “A chance of a lifetime.” you say? Yup, I do. There are three things I will personally assure you, you will walk away with. 1. Friends. Unless you exude a natural aroma of Cheetos and intentionally kick the adorable service dogs, someone will reach out. 2. Comfort. I have a hard time explaining to people what a low blood sugar feels like (Have you tried? Truly impossible.), or that sometimes I don’t feel a needle going inside me at all and other times I feel like I hit a nerve right on the bulls eye. Not only are you comfortable with yourself for the weekend you are here, but I realized that when I left I was allowed to be comfortable when I went back home as well. You may or may not be the only T1D at the cafeteria table, but you aren’t the only one on the planet. If others have embraced the steroid and heroin jokes, well why can’t you? And lastly, 3. Knowledge; I am studying communication and management so you can imagine my feelings towards math. I would be lying if I said that I understood more than 60% of Dr. Damiano’s presentation on his work with the Bionic Pancreas. BUT I did learn that I would no longer have to count carbs, remember ratios and those ridiculous correction equations, if given the chance to test the new gadgets. And gadgets there are galore. Being present with Diabetes is a necessity. I hate to break it to you, but pulling out the box of Captain Crunch and going to town mindlessly does not end well for us. Beyond that though, what I learned at the conference is that being a physical presence in our community is equally if not more important than mindfully. I have been hearing of the magic cure fairly constantly; from the doctor that diagnosed me 7 years ago, to my yoga instructor Dancing Fox disclosing the secret healing powers of cinnamon—and lets face it no one really knows when I can finally resume my relationship with the bulk candy isle. But advancements to make our lives easier are popping up quicker than the by-annual new iPhone launch. If you do not drag yourself to these events you will have no clue that there are so many tools that can help you.

Here’s the thing…if you are apprehensive about signing up, don’t be! Take Nike’s advice and “JUST DO IT”. Not all attendees are “Hoo-Rah” about this nuisance of a disease, and you won’t be stuck in a room with the Toy Story Alien’s chanting “One of us, one of us!”. Two things I imagined when my Endo first told me I should check out Students With Diabetes. I understand, I was uneasy waiving my rights to a potentially relaxing, Memorial Day weekend too. But I now know, without hesitation, I made the right choice to come. Believe me when I say this conference is special. You are not going to remember that lazy weekend, Netflix and Chilling alone—register for The Students With Diabetes Conference 2016, be proactive and make memories you will cherish forever.

Little Break Up!

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Little Break Up
by Paige Wagner

As a person living with diabetes, it is difficult to shake the underlying fear of being alone – hiking alone, traveling alone, or living alone. Sometimes this disease is beyond the control
of any one individual and support can make all the difference.

Relationships become familiar and comfortable over time. For the past eight years, I have shared my life with someone who came to know me intimately. He saw the best and worst parts of me, which included terrifying incidents of low blood sugars and illness. He saved my life with a juice box in the night too many times to count. These are heroic acts I only vaguely remember, but I am nonetheless very grateful for his bravery in times of panic.

I had been unhappy in my romantic relationship for a while, but in terms of diabetes care, he knew how to protect me and catch me when I inevitably fell. This kind of support feels rare, as it takes years to develop, but I recently realized that the seemingly safest decision for my diabetes management does not always align with the best choices for me as an independent adult.

The diabetes community constantly reminds me that diabetes doesn’t have to be the defining
characteristic of my life and it certainly shouldn’t be the driving reason to stay in a relationship.

Ending my relationship was the best thing I could do for my overall health. I feel energized and positive! While I may still be fearful at times, I refuse to let that fear hold me back from the life I want to live.

I am excited for whatever may come next – Healthy relationships are revitalizing! And learning about diabetes is just a small part of falling in love with me.

Value of the SWD National Conference!

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Value of the Students With Diabetes National Conference!
By: Paige Wagner

This year will be the 5th annual Students With Diabetes National Conference. I have attended every conference and each one is better than the last.

From my involvement with Students With Diabetes, I’ve learned how important the diabetes community is to my overall health. I can count on this conference to connect me to LOTS of peers who understand life with diabetes. I’ve made some of my closest friends at these conferences – peers who will text diabetes memes and celebrate in range blood sugars!

That’s not all, though. I’ve learned more applicable diabetes knowledge at the SWD National Conferences than anywhere else in my life. Some topics discussed at the conference are simply never addressed in any other setting. For instance, I learned a lot last year in a breakout session about insurance and being a young professional.

Last year, seeing so many people wearing a Dexcom G4 Continuous Glucose Monitor opened me up to the idea of trying it out. I fell in love with my CGM instantly. Similarly, I was introduced to the Tandem t:Slim insulin pump at a SWD conference and now I wear one. The use of these tools have helped me reach the best A1c I’ve ever had, and if it weren’t for this conference I probably would have never gotten there.

It is important to recharge (especially at the end of a semester when it’s easy to feel burnt-out) and I see this conference as the place to find my motivation to engage in healthy behaviors. I find inspiration through the many conversations I have with fellow attendees about our shared struggles and strategies to achieve goals. Knowing that we’re in this together is enough to get me on track.

It’s no exaggeration to say this is my favorite weekend of the year. I feel that I leave each conference a better person than I came with more friendships, more knowledge, and more motivation.

If you’re on the fence about going, I cannot recommend it enough.

Benefits Of The SWD Internship Program!

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Benefits Of The SWD Internship Program!
By: Nicole Johnson, DrPH, MPH, MA

Ever wonder what life will look like in 5 years? I am always thinking about this. As a natural planner, it is tough for me to handle unknowns. They make me nervous and unsteady, yet they are part of professional life. One way to prepare for your future is to start early, develop a habit of connecting and understand the unique skills that will set you apart and give you the best possible employment options. The SWD Internship Program is a good opportunity to do this. I created this program to show young adults with T1D that there are vast opportunities for a career in diabetes. It is meant to illustrate that you should never be tempted to limit yourself. It is designed to facilitate a culture of connecting. It is crafted to help you achieve success as a professional, while mastering several important skills. In my professional observations there is a particular magic in individuals who have an ease with conversation (they have practiced), those who are willing to be “in the room” with leadership (they are respectful, yet not timid), and those who are able to express ideas with conviction and knowledge (they know how to deliver an elevator speech). If you are interested in learning these skills, meeting exceptional professional mentors and working in diabetes, you need to apply for the SWD Internship Program. These are paid summer opportunities – and the employers are waiting to see your application. Deadline is December 1, 2014! Go to the Internship section of www.studentswithdiabetes.com to learn more about the program, read about past intern experiences, and download materials to help you craft the best application possible. If you want help with your application, send it to the SWD offices and we will offer advice for free. This is your chance to establish yourself as a professional and start your plan for a career in diabetes. Don’t miss it!