In October 2017, I attended the Weekend for Women Conference and DiabetesSisters Leadership Institute. Being surrounded by 150 people with diabetes left me awestruck. I attended many sessions led by brilliant, dedicated advocates for people with diabetes. I learned about the role that the glycemic index plays when trying to balance carbohydrate and insulin absorption from Gary Scheiner. I learned about the latest technology advances available and coming to us from Melissa Lee. I learned how to navigate the insurance world and take control of my healthcare from Nicole Bereolos. I learned how to better facilitate PODS Meetups from Diana Karczmarczyk. I began taking steps toward my lifelong goals after the session with Shawn Shepheard. But of all the moving and inspiring and informational talks I listened to, the biggest lesson for me was outside of the sessions.
I was surrounded by women with diabetes: my tribe. I heard stories of pain, strength, fear, and hope. I saw women who stood loud and proud because of their battle with diabetes, emboldened by their strength to “every day make the choice to live,” as Melissa Lee put it. I saw women who had a silent strength because of their battle with diabetes, humbled by it, quietly fighting it and quietly making that choice to live.
We are alive because we are strong. We are women who wake up every day and decide, “I will not let this thing beat me.” It takes strength to wear your insulin pump for all to see. It takes strength to accept that oral medication or insulin therapy is the best thing for you. It takes strength to educate yourself and seek out that information when it isn’t always freely given by our healthcare providers. It takes strength to say, “No, thank you” to a food you love. It also takes strength to say, “Yes, but only a small piece.” It takes strength to make the decision to change something in your life, no matter how big or small, because you know it will improve your odds against this disease. It takes strength to stand up and claim that “Yes, I am a type 1, type 2, LADA, MODY, 3c diabetic.” It takes strength to face a world that at every opportunity would rather throw insults and jokes at you, rather than understand your life that you were forced to live. And by God, do we live it!
We gathered together and ate delicious tacos, discussing the pros and cons of sugary and sugar free alcoholic drinks. We laughed our hearts out at Cindy, Gary, Karen, and Christel as they discussed the nuances of sex and diabetes. We stood courageous and sang karaoke in front of a bar packed with strangers. We went line dancing. We awoke and did yoga, or went for a run, worked out, or slept in until the last minute before the next session. I saw firsthand what we can accomplish as a tribe. I saw the weight lifted from each of our shoulders because we were surrounded by our people, nodding in agreement and saying, “ME, TOO!” I saw firsthand the immense strength we have when we come together and hold each other up. Because I have my tribe surrounding me, I can.
Every diabetic/person with diabetes deserves that community. We are stronger when we stand together, regardless of the type we were diagnosed. I pledge to bring that sense of hope, and strength, and community to my PODS group in Denver. I tried to do this thing alone for over a decade, and I had so many highs and lows, emotional and diabetical (yes, I made that word up). Now that I’ve found my tribe, I am able to face this deadly disease. I am able to stand up and proudly claim, “I am a dia-bad-ass.” To my diabetes community: You inspire me to be better, to live better, and to THRIVE in spite of diabetes.
~Theresa Hastings, PODS Leader, DiabetesSisters of Denver Metro area, CO