Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Diabetes Unconference: The power of peer support



Me too. 

Very powerful words. When living with a chronic illness, it helps to know that you’re not alone; that someone else understands the struggles you face. If you’re reading this, you have already reached out in at least one way to find information or a community to help you learn and deal with your life with diabetes. Some of you may know of the greater Diabetes Online Community (DOC) either through blogs, Twitter, Facebook or communities like Tudiabetes, but some of you may have never met someone face to face who also has diabetes. This past weekend I had the privilege to participate in such a face to face event.

Christel Aprigliano at ThePerfectD.com had a vision that she turned into a reality with help from a few friends.  The Diabetes Unconference is a gathering developed by people with diabetes for people with diabetes. This past weekend was the first annual event held at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. There were no keynote speakers, no medical professionals bestowing us with their knowledge, no sales pitches or book sales. It was simply a room filled with people who live with diabetes, of any type, talking about things that mattered to them. 

Very Powerful Stuff.

There were some people there who you would expect to see; those who have been a part of the DOC from the beginning. However, there were also people there who didn’t even know that the DOC existed! There were bloggers and some who rarely get online. Newly diagnosed (less than one year under their belt) up to two women who have lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years…each! (Joslin medal winners). There were close to 2,000 years of diabetes experience in that room for 1 ½ days. Whoa. All types, sizes and shapes coming together with one thing in mind: support.

There was laughter. There were tears. Hugs abounded and high fives flew. Clapping (twice). Frustrations. Hope. Fear. Unbelievable strength and dogged determination. There really aren’t enough words available to me to describe this event. So here’s what you should do. Next year, you should plan to attend. There will be another…and another…and another. Of this I am certain. There is no way that the universe can hold us back from coming together in person and lifting each other up, sharing our fears without fear and supporting each other in a way that only people with diabetes can. Type doesn’t matter; what matters is compassion and understanding for our fellow D peeps. I can’t recommend this type of connection any more strongly.

Finally, thank you Christel for all your hard work and dedication. I know you worried that it wouldn’t fly…but I’m not sure I’ll ever come down and that’s a good thing.