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.