sisterSTAFF Blog

sisterSTAFF Blog

Post-Conference thoughts

sisterSTAFF Blog

May 4, 2011

Hmmmmm…..where to start???? I’m not even sure. I have so much going through my head and I’m still reeling from this past weekend’s Weekend for Women Conference in Raleigh, NC. Furthermore, as you can tell by how late this post is, I am swamped with follow-up from the Conference. The website is also going to be undergoing some major changes soon, so that is another time-consuming task that is/will continue to take up a significant amount of my time.

However, I do want to say thank you to all of the volunteers and speakers at the Conference. In particular, Gloria Loring and Ann Albright went above and beyond my expectations. Heck…Gloria actually spent the whole weekend with the Sisterhood. On Saturday night, she joined us for the Celebration of Strength Dinner Program and kept the party going at the end with a conga line, hula hooping to the music, and her rendition of “We Are Family.” It was phenomenal to be in that room on Saturday night…something you can’t describe in words because it was so impactful and meaningful. One of the best memories of my life…because it was truly a dream come true to be in a room full of women with diabetes who were happy and confident in their diabetes. I felt so powerful as I danced around the room and looked at the smiling faces. Powerful because we were a ‘real sisterhood’—the kind you read about-- and it was so clear in those moments. I have no doubt that this group of women could accomplish ANYTHING we put our minds to!

GloriaandBrandyResized

Gloria Loring and me (My dress was really orange, but it came out pink in the photos?!?!)

Another favorite experience from the weekend was the orange:will walk on Sunday morning. The morning air was so refreshing. Seeing so many people, not just women attending the conference, but the local community and the spouses and children of women attending the conference creating a sea of orange shirts, was just….inspiring, No, it was actually more than “inspiring”, maybe breathtaking is a better word. Like I said, it’s so hard to put this experience into words. We started the walk off by releasing orange balloons and we ended the walk with recognition from Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker of the City of Raleigh’s proclamation of May 1, 2011 as ORANGE WILL EMPOWER WOMEN WITH DIABETES DAY.   There is no doubt that you will hear more from me about the conference over the next few weeks and months as I process all that occurred this past weekend.

You can also check out the numerous other overviews that have been written by bloggers who attended the conference. I think Allison Blass’ overview provides an in-depth look of what to expect at a Weekend for Women Conference:

The Power of Positive Thinking

sisterSTAFF Blog

April 26, 2011

Hello Sisters! I read a great article in Oprah magazine (April 2011 issue) this week that made me think of you and all of the women attending the Weekend for Women Conference this weekend. You can find the article on page 128.

I have long believed in the connection between positive emotional outlook and physical health. In fact, that’s a huge part of why I changed my major from journalism to psychology in college. But many others, especially those in the medical field, have not been so easily convinced. This is partly because it can’t fully be explained or proven. There are certain things we can control about our health (not to smoke, to exercise, to eat healthfully, and to think positively (optimism). Although scientists don’t fully understand the biological mechanisms at work, they do know that optimism is just as important as the other three factors. They also know that negative feelings such as stress and sadness cause a spike in cortisol levels. This spike in turn suppresses our immune system. (Obviously, with diabetes, we do not need out immune system to be further suppressed!) This article in Oprah provides 5 tips on how to stay positive and healthy based on the latest research: 1)Express Yourself 2) Try Meditative Exercises 3) Seek Help if you need it 4) Lean on your friends and 5) Look on the bright side. In reading through these steps, I was immediately struck by the fact that these are the exact things we will be focusing on this weekend at the conference. 1) We have an advocacy session on “making your voice heard” 2) We have two mind-body exercise classes on Saturday morning 3) We recognize depression as an increased risk for women with diabetes and encourage them to reach out to others for help 4) We are a Sisterhood—and that’s what the weekend is all about! 5) All of our sessions focus on the positive side of living with diabetes. In fact, Martin Seligman, PhD, one of the preeminent experts in the field of positive psychology has written a new book called Flourish. Ironically, the title of our keynote address at the Celebration of Strength Dinner Program is “Flourishing with Diabetes.” Without a doubt, Riva Greenberg will certainly bring positive psychology to the group on Saturday night! After reading this article I feel so rejuvenated and validated—especially when I think about the significant work put in by the Weekend for Women Conference Planning Committee for this year's conference.

Lauren Dzubow also shared a great technique to change your outlook on life. It is called Optimism 101. Here is a brief overview:

A) Name the adversity; “I didn’t get a call back from a job interview.”

B) List your beliefs; “The other candidates were probably better qualified, better looking, and more prepared than me.”

C) Identify the consequences; “I’m going to stop looking for a job, so I don’t have to feel this feeling of disappointment and shame again.”

D) Formulate a disputation of your beliefs; “That job wasn’t the best fit for me. It didn’t allow me to use my creativity or my people skills. It’s only a matter of time until the right job comes along for me. Besides, this interview was good practice for when the “real job” interview comes along!”

E) Describe how energized and empowered you feel now; “I feel motivated to keep looking for a job that is a good fit for me.”

I hope this was helpful! I have to say that I think this upcoming weekend is a prime example of all of these principles and beliefs put to work! If you can join us, please do! It will be a life-changing experience!  Let me know your thoughts and/or how you incorporate positive thinking into your life/diabetes management.

Full Speed Ahead

sisterSTAFF Blog

April 19, 2011

Good day, Sisters! We’re only a little over a week away from the Weekend for Women Conference in Raleigh, NC. I have received a number of emails inquiring about the status of the conference in light of the recent tornadoes in Raleigh. Rest Assured…the Marriott did not experience any damage and the conference will go on! No worries! I think the most disappointing experience regarding the conference is when I have a paid attendee email me explaining that she can’t attend the conference because she has decided to stay at home because friend is coming into town, or because a relative is coming to visit, or she has to take care of sick relative. Those women are probably the women who MOST need to be at the conference and they have missed the point of making THEIR health a priority for ONE weekend….Really, it’s just ONE weekend out of a whole year! I want to scream, “You need to make your health a priority if you want to be around to visit with friends and relatives in twenty years!” OK, I’m off my soap box now….

As you probably know, I attended the PhRMA National Meeting last week in Jersey City. I walked away with a great deal of information to think about: What does innovation really mean? How can the PhRMA organization, patient organizations, pharmaceutical companies work together toward the same goal? What can be done to make it less risky (fear of lawsuits) for the FDA to approve new drugs? These are just some of the issues discussed during the Meeting. We also heard from some really awesome speakers, such as Former President Bill Clinton, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Duke (Yuck!) Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Former Miss America Nicole Johnson (who was the keynote speaker at the 2010 Weekend for Women Conference). Bill Clinton was quite a philosophizer! You can tell he is a brilliant man who understands the dynamics of many different global issues. Unfortunately, he rambled a bit and went about 45 minutes over his scheduled talk time, but, of course, no one was about to cut him off! Coach K talked about the importance of team work…mainly focusing on his experiences with the Olympic Team with a lot of commentary about Kobe Bryant. I was also excited to spend time with some of my nonprofit colleagues such as Lisa Tate, Executive Director of WomenHeart, www.womenheart.org.

The interview that Laura Ann Young, MD and I did with Angela Hampton on ABC 11 aired on Sunday. You can view it here:

 

I am totally swamped getting ready for the conference, so that’s all I have time to share this week. Hopefully, I’ll have some down time after the conference (at least, I pray that I do

 

 

Summer's 6th Birthday

sisterSTAFF Blog

April 13, 2011

Summer's 6th Bday

Yesterday was Summer's (my daughter) sixth birthday! We had a fun weekend celebrating with my family in Hickory and we had a great time with her birthday party at school yesterday. She is definitely maturing as the birthday themes she chose this year were: Jonas Brothers for the party with my family and Justin Bieber for her party at school. I have no doubt that I will remember this special day forever because it was her first school birthday party. According to her, “It was the best birthday party ever!!…” Now, isn’t that the acknowledgement all mothers want to hear from their child!

Although a child’s birthday is a big deal to many mothers who don’t have diabetes, I think it is even more special for those of with diabetes because it symbolizes success- success with managing our blood sugars and success with something that many of us were told would be impossible. I LOVE proving people wrong—especially when it comes to diabetes!

This morning, I went over to the ABC 11 news station to tape a segment on DiabetesSisters and our upcoming Weekend for Women Conference. Laura Ann Young from UNC Highgate Specialty Center joined me for the segment. It will air this Sunday on the Heart of Carolina Perspectives with Angela Hampton. (I’ll post it on the site as soon as it is available.) I am writing this blog as I sit at RDU Airport waiting on delayed flight that was supposed to leave at 2:37pm for Newark. It is now scheduled to leave at 5:50pm! I am on my way to PhRMA’s 2011 National Meeting as a guest of Sanofi-Aventis. I am so excited about this meeting and the incredible people who will be in attendance! I hope to strategize new projects and forge new partnerships. So, being late to the meeting doesn’t exactly fit into my plan. But, I guess as a woman with diabetes, I have had to learn to roll with the punches, and deal with sudden changes in plans. After all, one minute my blood sugar might be 128, then when I check again two hours later when I’m ready for a serving of ice cream, my blood sugar might be 351. I have to change plans and go with the “diabetes” flow. It’s all in a day’s work for a person with diabetes…right?

I hope to be able to access twitter while at the meeting and report on the sessions I attend. The theme of this year’s meeting is, “No Time to Be Patient: Innovating for Health and the Economy.” Unfortunately, I had planned to keep everyone updates via twitter during my last meeting (Medtronic’s Patient Advocate Forum) but I had no internet access or phone access during the whole meeting.

I LOVE MY METER!

sisterSTAFF Blog

April 5, 2011

 

This past week, on April 1st, I attended Medtronic’s Patient Advocate Forum in Los Angeles, California. It was a day full of diabetes friends and lively discussions about the current state of diabetes treatment, the history of diabetes treatment, and FDA challenges. Dr. Richard Rubin spoke to us about avoiding “Diabetes Distress.” He also shared vivid descriptions about the history of diabetes treatment. Specifically, I recall him discussing the boiling and sharpening of needles and urinating on a test strip being the only way to determine your blood sugar level (4 hours after the fact!).

Little did I know how insightful this discussion was until I was on my way to airport Sunday morning and realized that I left my meter in the hotel room. UTTER PANIC ensued internally….What was I going to do? I mean, when I fly, my blood sugars tend to not be the most stable, which requires more frequent testing. I made it through the flight home with no idea what my blood sugar was and immediately went to find my stash of old meters to test my blood sugar. After my third meter not working, I was getting frustrated…either I didn’t have the right strips or I didn’t have the right size “irregular” battery and it was way too late to go out searching for one. So, I settled in for the night and fell asleep with a plan of action to go to my endocrinologist’s office in the morning to get a replacement meter. Unfortunately, my body didn’t cooperate with my plan. Around 2:30am, I awoke soaked in sweat and confused. I remember thinking, “I’m pretty sure I need to check my blood sugar, which I think is supposed to be done with a meter, but was that what I left in California? It must be because I don’t see it on the nightstand.” Instead of waking my husband (as I usually do after checking my blood sugar) to tell him my blood sugar, I got up from the bed and wandered downstairs to the kitchen. Unfortunately, after I got there, I didn’t know what to do. “What am I supposed to do?” I grabbed a class and drank some apple juice. Part of the way through my second glass, I felt that panicky feeling—the one I feel right before I pass out. I quickly made my way back upstairs to wake my husband, but the panic was gone when I got there, so I didn’t. I think I made a few more trips up and down the stairs trying to figure out exactly what to do. I was so confused. Finally, I started to come out of it and thinking about what had just happened. Eventually, I went back to sleep. When I awoke on Monday morning, I got up and got dressed to go to my endocrinologist’s office. While I was getting ready, I began to think back about the discussion we had at the Medtronic Patient Advocate Forum. I thought about how difficult it would have been (and how blessed I am now!) to really never know what your blood sugar was and to have to make insulin adjustments on what the pee strip told you your blood sugar was FOUR HOURS AGO!!

Finally, after a full 24 hours of not being able to test my blood sugar, I sat in my car with my new replacement meter. AHHHHH! Such relief to be able to test my blood sugar ANY TIME I WANT TO! As the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder…” Boy, did I miss my meter! And I might even have a renewed sense of appreciation for it! We have gotten so used to having our high-tech gadgets at our finger tips that we take them for granted!

 

 

Hollywood is calling!

sisterSTAFF Blog

March 29, 2011

Hey Sisters! I want to start out by passing along some information about some upcoming television opportunities for people who have been affected by diabetes/obesity. I was contacted by a producer at HBO who explained that they are doing a documentary entitled, “The Weight of the Nation.” Specifically, they are focusing on children and young adults who are speaking out about the food they eat, the physical activity they may lack, and the healthy lives they want for themselves, their friends and families. The film, one of five documentaries for HBO’s upcoming “The Weight of the Nation,” is being produced in partnership with the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente. The film is intended for a family audience, and will be told entirely from the perspective of kids.   It will be directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Shari Cookson and Nick Doob. They are interested in finding young people from about 9 to 18 who care about these issues and are acting as change-agents for their families, schools and communities. Nick and Shari are looking for real kids who need not be a part of a formal organization. In fact, the film is much more about the stories of individual kids--not organizations--whose stories will naturally unfold during the course of filming. At the heart of the film will be self-motivated kids, whose authentic experiences of making their world healthier will illuminate the issues and portray a sense of how the health of our communities needs to improve.

They are interested in speaking to young people who might have any of the following experiences or perspectives, for example, kids who:

• Have been involved in finding new ways to get healthy food into their neighborhoods, schools and communities.
• Are taking action to make change at all levels, such as meeting with local and state legislators or demonstrating for safer playgrounds or access to bike paths.
• Are building a campaign to change our unhealthy eating habits.
• Are changing their school environment, by taking on issues such as mandatory PE or recess periods before lunch, healthy vending machines, and nutritious school lunches.
• Are replacing junk foods in their diet with healthy fresh food, possibly by starting their own backyard or community garden.
• Are confronting their own weight issues or the weight of a family member in healthy and inspiring ways.
• Are confronting their own weight-related health issues, such as Type 2 Diabetes, head on, or are showing the same concern for family members or friends.
• Are fighting stigmatization or bullying against the overweight.
• Are trying to promote physical activity and access to safe places to play and exercise.
• Are speaking out against the targeting of children in the advertising and marketing of fast food and junk food.

 

If you know a young person who might want to share his or her story for this project, please contact Nick and Shari at Mackerelskyfilms@gmail.com.

In addition, MTV’s True Life is also recruiting applicants for an upcoming show about life with diabetes. Unfortunately, this ad is not as realistic and it does worry me in terms of how diabetes might be portrayed. Let me preface the announcement below by saying that the first two sentences should just be deleted all together!:  “Does your diabetes hold you back from living the life the way you want? Do you have an extreme form of the disease which requires you to constantly inject yourself with insulin? Or are you stuck monitoring your diet and exercise when you would rather just live a more regular life? Does it make you feel different from your peers? How is your situation more difficult than your friends’ at school? Are you embarrassed by your diabetes? How often do you visit doctors and how much effort do you put into your health? Have you had any scares relating to your diabetes recently? Are your parents always on your case about your medication, diet, doctor’s appointments, and exercise? Are you planning on taking a new approach to handling your health in the near future?

If your diabetes causes you major difficulty in your life and you appear between the ages of 16 and 28, email us at diabetes@miscmedia.tv and tell us your story. We want to know how living with diabetes makes your life complicated. Please include your name, location, phone number, and a recent photo of yourself.”

On the other hand, this is an opportunity for someone with diabetes from our own community to step up and make sure that diabetes is portrayed correctly…. Hollywood is calling!  Is it callling YOU????

One final note—I will be traveling to L.A. this week to attend Medtronic’s Patient Advocate Forum. (You can follow what’s going on at the event via twitter @diabetessisters.) If you have children, you are probably familiar with the Kid’s Choice Awards. I am very excited to share that me, my husband, and my daughter will be in the audience of the 2011 Kid’s Choice Awards that airs LIVE this Saturday at 8pm (EST) on Nickelodeon. Check it out if you have a chance—maybe, just maybe, we’ll make it to the big screen!

Kids Write the Darndest Things

sisterSTAFF Blog

March 22, 2011

Hi Everyone! It has been another busy, eventful week for me…I slipped away at the end of the week to go to the beach.   I had some good reasons to go (aside from having “Spring Fever”). Really! I did. I had to check on some work that had been done on our condo and I had write my remaining chapters for the Diabetes & Parenting booklet that me, Scott Johnson, and Kerri Sparling are working on for JDRF. The booklet should be complete and produced by the end of this year. I’ll keep you updated. It’s sort of like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (with Diabetes).”

And speaking of children, I absolutely have to share with you what my sweet, beautiful 5-year old daughter, Summer, made for me while I was at the beach. I really love this age—so honest and innocent…..I just want to bottle up every moment to make sure I remember everything- her adorable little face, her hair, her cute little pink painted toe nails, her beautiful curls, her big heart, the sweet things she says, and the funny questions she asks. While I was away, she kept begging me to come home- which I thought had more to do with her wanting to be at the beach with me than her wanting me to come home. However, when I returned home on Sunday morning, she was gone to church with my husband. On the counter, I found a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a zip-loc bag with a note beside it that read: “Hi Mommy. Here is your sandwich. There is a cup of diet Sun-drop in the refrigerator for you. Love, Summer.” Adorable…huh!?!? It gets even better….When I walked up to my bedroom, I found a picture she had colored for me with a note taped to my dresser that read, “Hi Mommy. This is Summer. Me and daddy miss you very much. We cannot have fun without you. We cannot wait any longer for you to come home. I love you very much. Love Always, Summer.” My heart felt so full! I hope everyone has the opportunity to experience that special kind of love in their lifetime- the kind of love where you love someone and you know, without a doubt, that they love you just as much. I feel so blessed to have that kind of love with my daughter and my husband. My heart has never been so full.

orange:will campaign wins ADDY award

sisterSTAFF Blog

March 15, 2011

I am pleased to share that the orange:will campaign (which was created by Micromass Communications) recently won an “ADDY” award at the 2011 ADDY Awards Gala on February 25, at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, NC. The competition was held by the American Advertising Federation/Raleigh-Durham Chapter. I attended the Gala with Andi Kravitz Weiss of Micromass Communications. (Photo Below) I hope you will join us for the orange:will walk on May 1, 2011 at the Marriott City Center in Downtown Raleigh, NC. We welcome any- and everyone who knows, loves, or supports a woman with diabetes to walk the free 1-mile awareness walk with us!

The Weekend for Women Conference Planning Committee met again tonight. We did LOTS of planning. I can’t wait to share our work with you on April 29-May 1 at the Conference. I think the Planning Committee is just as excited as I am because they have poured a lot of their heart and soul into it. Our 2011 Weekend for Women Planning Committee includes: Lindsey O’Hare, Markee Flint, Kelli Turner, Vicki Gibbons, Megan Wilder, Shandra Botts, Susan Totten, and Donna Tucker. If know these women or see them at the conference, I hope you will share your appreciation for their hard work. If you haven’t registered, please do so soon!

"No Sign of Diabetes"

sisterSTAFF Blog

Those words mean more and more to mean every year.  Every year since my 15th year living with diabetes, I have felt a little anxiety about going in for my annual eye check-up.  Why?  Well, I was told when I was diagnosed that I would start to see diabetes complications in my eyes by Year 15.  Of course, being a teenager at the time, I believed this really would happen.  But, they also told me that there would be a cure for diabetes by the year 2000 too—and that sure didn’t happen!

So, now that I'm in my 21st Year with diabetes, I literally did a celebration dance in ophthalmologist’s office when she said those wonderful words, “We see no signs of diabetes in your eyes.”  She went on to say, “I can almost guarantee that you’ll be the best patient we’ll see all day!”  Well, just make my day, why don’t ya! J  Beating the odds is something I relish in, so this is an especially sweet victory for me.  I also take great delight in proving people wrong who have told me that I can’t do something.  When they give me this great news, I see myself figuratively clinking wine glasses with the doctors who told me that information, and saying, “Here’s to diabetes being a health motivator rather than a death sentence- as I was once told.”

I'm getting more and more excited about the fabulous group of women who are flying in from all over the US to take part in the 2011 Weekend for Women Conference in Raleigh, NC on April 29-May 1!  Things are really starting to come together!  Let me just say that the donations we have received for prizes at the Conference are even better than last year!  I’m talking really nice things like- weekend getaways, 1-year gym memberships, lots of high dollar gift cards, gift certificates for haircuts, manicures, and pedicures, specialized purses for women with diabetes, and many more.  The vendors in the Exhibit Hall are planning some pretty elaborate, interactive booths and the speakers are putting together some fabulous talks that get to the heart of being a woman with diabetes.  We are having a really special dinner program on Saturday night that will make each and every woman in attendance feel special and on Sunday we are holding our first orange:will advocacy walk.  There is so much going on, so much good food, so many fun activities, and so many fun women with diabetes from all over the US in attendance—I don’t know why any woman with diabetes could bare to miss it!

Oh- and before I go, my good friend Kelly Close is doing a contest on her website, diatribe, to win a FREE Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor Starter Kit (receiver, transmitter, and four pack of sensors).  If you’ve been thinking/wondering about the CGM, here’s your chance to have one of your own.  The contest ends tomorrow, so if you haven’t registered, you can do so here.

Keeping an Open Mind in Every Way

sisterSTAFF Blog
March 1, 2011

This past week was pretty uneventful—which is a good thing!  Well, except that I woke up on Thursday morning with a really painful arm/shoulder.  At first, I thought I had just slept on it wrong, but the pain was pretty bad and when it was still there on Saturday, I just knew it was something else.  Then, I remembered reading about frozen shoulder in one of the “Ask our CDE” columns.   By Monday, the pain had eased up, but made a mental note to ask the physical therapist I was seeing on Wednesday (for recovery from my bunionectomy) about it.  When I asked her today, she said it was likely from something I did in Zumba Class last Wednesday.  She showed me some exercises to do if it ever happens again and told me not to hold the arm up against me (in a protective stance) because that is what causes frozen shoulder to set in.  (It can set in within 48 hours of the injury!)  She also told me that, as a woman with diabetes, I am more prone to frozen shoulder.

Race is not something I talk about often, but having a bi-racial daughter really puts the world into perspective sometimes.  During the month of February--Black History Month—my daughter, who is in kindergarten, really enjoyed the celebratory nature created at her school.  She was excited to come home each day and tell us who they were studying and what she learned.  She also had a great time singing with her class in the school’s presentation for Black History Month.  What was very noticable was how incredibly innocent and naive children are at this age, especially when it comes to skin color.  The racism and prejudice we see in the world are not inherent.  Our kids must be taught to think that way.  Unless we tell our kids negative things about differences, such as skin color, race, physical disabilities, etc., they have no reason to view them negatively.

At the beginning of the month, Summer came home and excitedly told me the story of Rosa Parks.  She talked about how the Rosa Parks was sitting in the front of the bus and the white people asked her to move to the back of the bus and she refused.  She went on to say, “Mommy, did you know Rosa Parks changed history because it went all the way to the Supreme Court?”  “Yes, “I answered her.  But, you could still see the confusion in her face when she said, “I still don’t understand why they told her to go to the back of the bus.”  In her mind, it was there was no that they could have told her to move because of the color of her skin.  When I told her that it was because Rosa was black and, back then, black people were expected to sit at the back of the bus.”  The look of true shock on her face was something I will remember forever.  My sweet, little, innocent girl was uncovering the harsh realities of the world.  It was sad…truly.  Yet, at the same time, it was empowering to know that her dad and I have  instilled in her the idea that skin color is not important.  It’s not that we spend a lot of time discussing skin color….I think it’s quite the opposite—it’s that we don’t pay attention to skin color and we don’t waste time discussing someone’s skin color because it is irrelevant.   Summer and I went on to have a discussion about how the color of someone’s skin doesn’t have anything to do with their value as a person.  Then, she looked at me and said, “Well, I guess they would have told me to sit in the middle of the bus—because I’m half white and half black.”

The next week of February, the class discussed Martin Luther King, Jr.  We had more lively discussions about how he brought black people and white people together.  Chris and I both told her how thankful we were for all the work he did because if it was not for him, we would not be together and Summer would have never been born.  When we went on to explain that it used to be against the law for “brown” people (as she often says) to marry “tan” people, her face showed a sense of shock and bewilderment.  You could see the wheels turning in her head and her thinking about there actually being laws in place to keep me from being with her dad.