[3 Days with 500 Likeminded Diabetics: ONE TCOYD]
Welcome to TCOYD (Taking Control Of Your Diabetes), the land of the broken pancreas with enough sugar stuffed in fanny packs to go around. For many, this was the first time that they have felt “normal” as a diabetic. I walked in with a new diabuddy that I had met in the parking lot. She was from the UK and flew all the way to San Diego, CA just for this conference. THAT is how important community truly is in a world where you can feel so isolated as a diabetic. Obviously, we became instant friends and started talking about pumps, CGMs, and how the Prime Minister has Type 1 Diabetes… who knew? We sat in the large conference hall and within minutes the place was FULL. 90% of the people in this room were like me- obviously better than anyone else without diabetes (KIDDING). But we all felt it, an immediate connection because of our disease. As the speaker began to welcome us to the conference, it seemed as though all of our diabetic devices were becoming friends and singing aloud together. Beeps, alarms, vibrations, everything diabetes related was going crazy… and I LOVED IT. We all did. I could pinpoint every single sound. “That person is having a low blood sugar... That person needs to charge their pump... That person forgot to complete their bolus… Ooooo that person is having an urgent low blood sugar and needs some sweets asap…” But before they could get their own sugar out, three people next to them were already offering them sugar because THEY KNEW. I’ll be honest with you, upon hearing those all-to-familiar sounds, I teared up. I was so happy. I felt like everyone surrounding me understood all of the pain, all of the sleepless nights, all of the misunderstandings that I had from this disease. It was truly amazing and almost overwhelming.
I wasn’t even planning on going to all 3 days, but after the previous night, I was seriously on a high. No, not hyperglycemia high, high on life! I needed to go to all three days and every minute of those days at that. I needed more! So, we began the day with a choice to run, walk, do yoga, or hangout with diabetics. I chose sleep (deal with it), and I showed up for the second speaker, Jeremy Pettus, speaking on inhaled and other new insulin options (and how they work). I was fascinated to hear the personal testimonies, the pros and cons, and all of the new developments coming our way. One of the insulins mentioned, Afrezza, is an inhaled insulin that is in and out of your system within 90 minutes! It acts insanely fast and gets out incase you need to add another correction bolus (which is also a downside; you will often have to take 2 boluses of insulin for each meal because it is absorbed so fast). Compare that with the [average] on board time of Humalog at 3-5 hours and you’ve got my attention. My next favorite speaker (naturally) was Michael Riddell speaking on exercise and diabetes. The biggest takeaway from his talk? Being diagnosed with diabetes can take 10 years off of your life, but add a steady exercise regimen into your schedule and you get those 10 years right back. A bummer trade to have to make, but well worth it in my opinion!
I should mention that in-between many of these speaker sessions we had time to connect with, commiserate with, laugh and smile with other diabetics. It was blissful to say the least.
We reconvened in the afternoon for “workshops” where you could select which speaker most interested you from a list. For the first session, I chose a work shop put on by a dietician speaker, Adriana Valencia. This woman fought a rowdy crowd with some new info on diabetes and how to properly dose for food. This was new info that most of them had never heard, and in most cases probably went against what they had been taught by their endocrinologists and doctors for years. It was, however, something that I had been studying over the last year so I was extremely excited that this information was finally tested and confirmed. What was confirmed you ask? That you seriously need to take fat and protein amounts into consideration when bolusing for your carbs. Yup, I know it sounds crazy, but think about the last time you had pizza or a hamburger... You probably had to give multiple insulin corrections after the meal, right? It’s a bummer because we are now responsible for even more math, but exciting because it will likely shed some light on some previously frustrating meals. To simplify the math for you, they suggest starting at around a 20% increase in meal time bolus for higher fat meals, such as 40 grams or more. The issue however, is that what is high fat for one person, may be completely normal for another. Because of this, you simply have to rely on trial and error while working closely with your health care team to find what ratio works best for you and your diabetes.
My second speaker choice was the lovely Kerri Sparling (Diabetic Blogger of “Six Until Me”). She moderated a conversation by opening up the floor to anyone who wanted to share. We discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly. I ended up sharing how my being diagnosed with diabetes led me into a passion for fitness and nutrition that I don’t think I would have discovered otherwise. Now it is my passion to help and coach other diabetics to a healthier life while living fearlessly and I absolutely LOVE IT. We heard many stories of frustrations and being misunderstood by family members or even society as a whole, but we all were able to bond through the sharing process because for the first time for many – we feel understood.
Today, we were welcomed once again to a paradise full of diabetics and their loving supporters. Today, however, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad because I knew that after today, all of my new diabuddies would have to travel back home. We began with an inspirational message from Actor and Type 1 Diabetic, Austin Basis. This one stuck out to me because (for those of you that don’t know) I too have dabbled in modeling and acting and know that the pressures and schedules while on set can be tough for a diabetic to handle. The second speaker (another one of my favorites) was Bruce Buckingham. He talked about the wonders of the DIY artificial pancreas and how insanely fast diabetes care is evolving (especially in the last decade). He finished his talk with a peek at something I’ve had my eyes on for a loooooong time: The Bionic Pancreas. In a nut shell, this device will literally be an external pancreas that is completely hands off. Using ultra-fast acting insulin and a separate glucagon mix, it will regulate your blood sugars just as if you had a fully functioning pancreas. I CAN’T WAIT. (I’m not tearing up.. there’s just something in my eye). Next up was a wonderful talk by Kerri Sparling (again) in which she had the entire crowd nodding in solidarity at what the daily life (and previous experiences) each and every diabetic knows all too well. We closed out the day with roaring laughter as Steven Edelman (Founder of TCOYD) rattled off diabetic jokes left and right. We all smiled as we said goodbye to each other, knowing that this was the end.. but did it have to be? Remember when I said how sad I was that everyone had to leave? Well some brilliant people on social media informed me that there are diabetic meet ups all over the place! Which led me to this conclusion – this needs to happen more often. I will personally be organizing diabetic meet ups (all are welcome) and I hope to keep them as a regular occurring event. We will be organizing these in the near future, so keep an eye out. Until then, this has been my review of one of the most wonderful, revitalizing weekends I’ve had in a long time. Thank you Dr. Edelman. Thank you TCOYD.
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