sisterSTAFF Blog

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For the Love of our Spouses...

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It all began one warm summer day back in 1996…Wow!  It’s hard to believe that I met my husband, Chris, over 15 years ago… and that we just celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary!  We have been through so much together—just regular, everyday life stuff and lots of diabetes stuff too!

 

Although I have devoted the last four years of my life to addressing the challenges faced by women with diabetes, it was only after the Weekend for Women Conference in May that I began to think more about the emotional impact diabetes has on our spouses.  My husband, Chris, who has been “my right hand man” (literally!) at every conference, pointed out how many spouses and significant others were standing around in the hallways during the conference sessions.  He also mentioned how they would probably have a lot to talk about if they were all in a room together.   Before long, women at the conference were coming up to him and asking him to consider holding some special programs for the spouses/significant others at next year’s conference.

 

A few weeks after the conference, Chris began talking about holding something for the partner’s at the next conference in Raleigh, NC.  He had really given it some thought….he had already come up with a name (The Partner’s Perspective Program) and had all kinds of ideas to involve the partners in the conference.  His ideas included adding some special sessions for the partners to meet and talk, a dinner meeting, involvement in the orange:will walk, and he thought it was very important that the partners have the opportunity to see their spouses recognized that the Celebration of Strength Dinner Program.   I had no idea how much the Celebration of Strength Dinner Program impacted him until then.  He talked about how meaningful it was to see me recognized (along with so many other women who were “thriving” with diabetes) and how he knew the other spouses/significant others had never seen or been a part of something so special for their partners.

 

Now, four months later, he has led his first conference call planning meeting with two other highly esteemed men in the diabetes community-- David Edelman of Diabetes Daily and Alex, Sysy Morales' husband.  Sysy is the brain behind The Girl’s Guide To Diabetes.  I am so excited to see this come to fruition at the 2012 Weekend for Women Conference in Raleigh, NC.   I love my husband very much, but seeing him take such an active role in a cause that is so important to me, takes my love and admiration for him to another whole level!

 

If you are married I encourage you to consider attending next year’s conference and bringing your partner/spouse/significant other for The Partner’s Perspective Program.  If you would like more information or if your husband would like to help out with the planning, please send an email to Chris at chrisbarnes@diabetessisters.org.

Something NEW for Women with Diabetes!

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Hello Ladies!  We’re down to the last few weeks before the Weekend for Women Conference in San Diego and we’re down to the last few spots available!  If you have not registered yet, please REGISTER this week to ensure you have a spot (Better yet, do it today to ensure you have a spot!)  We have lots of great speakers, exhibitors, and activities lined up!  I’m so excited to come out to California in a few weeks!

 

One of our fellow DiabetesSisters, Amy Mercer, has written a book specifically for women with diabetes: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes.  Her story is similar to mine in that she often longed for a “girl friend” to help her through the ups and downs of diabetes.  Many of you can identify with this desire, I’m sure!  Amy’s solution was to compile a book on every topic related to being a woman with diabetes with input and advice from many of the women with diabetes she has met throughout the years.   As a result, we (women with diabetes) now have a great book that we can sit and read at our leisure that provides the wisdom from “wise friends who have been there and done that.”  I was honored that Amy asked me to write the Foreword for the book.  As I told her, The Diabetic Woman by Lois Jovanovic has been the only book for women with diabetes for as long as I can remember!  So, I am happy to have some updated material that was written just for me (a woman with diabetes) to read!  You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Smart-Womans-Guide-Diabetes-Everything/dp/1936303132/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315947060&sr=8-1  No doubt, you will recognize some of the women credited in the book as former and/or current contributors on the DiabetesSisters website.

 

On another front, I recently had a check-up with my endocrinologist.  For many years, I had a very strict management regimen for my diabetes that kept my A1C between 5.9% and 6.9%.  (I just saw a lot of eyes roll and heard a few sighs!)  Have no fear, I am human!--Over the last few years, my life has become incredibly busy and my diabetes management has taken a backseat at times.  As a result, my A1C level has gradually crept higher and higher.  When the nurse came in with my A1C result of 7.2% at my recent visit, I immediately felt a sense of failure.  However, my endocrinologist quickly informed me that he was not concerned about my A1C level and that I should be very happy/proud of it.  In the past, he was often concerned that I may be having too many lows and/or that hypoglycemia unawareness was settling in.  He told me that he felt much more comfortable with me at an A1C of 7.2%than and 5.9%.  Wow!  I’m glad I talked to him….otherwise, I would have gone home and beat myself up over the A1C that was over 7%!

San Diego Conference Quickly Approaching!

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Your weekend getaway in sunny San Diego, CA awaits you!

 

Yes, Autumn is, indeed, in the air!  My daughter returned to school, got a cold, and promptly transferred the germs to me!  Over the last few years, my colds have turned into horrible sinus ordeals that lasted for days, even weeks.  Last Fall my desperation for relief led me to a Minute Clinic at a CVS to visit with a nurse.   Desperate for relief, I tried the Neti Pot.  At first, I was horrified by the idea of shooting water up my nose and seeing it come out the other side.  The nurse also warned me that I would experience a feeling of not being able to breathe when the water shoots up into your nose.   Despite all of that, I was desperate enough to try it and I was amazed at how much it helped!  So, today I will be pulling out the Neti Pot again!

 

If you are considering attending the Weekend for Women Conference in San Diego, CA, I want to encourage you to register now AND reserve your room!  Don't Forget--Staying at the hotel is an important part of taking time out for yourself.  I have heard from MANY women who did not stay at the hotel that they found it difficult to participate in all of the activities they wanted to participate in because they spent too much time traveling back and forth from home.  This will be a weekend for the memory books-- that will include women with diabetes, experts in the field of diabetes, and lots of motivation, education, and inspiration! 

 

Also, we are approaching that time of the year again—time for the Weekend for Women Conference Planning Committee to begin planning for the 2012 Weekend for Women Conference in Raleigh, NC on May 18-20, 2012! If you have marketing, fund raising, event planning, or administrative skills that you would like to devote to this awesome program, please email me at director@diabetessisters.org today!

Call(s) To Action

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Hi Sisters!  This week, I AM ASKING FOR  YOUR HELP!  We need five (5) more women to round out our second and final group for Beta testing on the new and improved SisterMatch program.  If you have one hour (that’s right, all we need is one hour of your time) between this Friday (Sept 2) and next Wednesday (Sept 7), please email me at director@diabetessisters.org or Shandra at shandra@diabetessisters.org.  We want to ensure that this program is the best it can possibly be and we can only do that with YOUR help!  There is no other commitment to contact anyone or to remain involved in the program.  We really just need you to walk through the program and tell us what you like and what you don’t like.

 

I’d also like to thank all of the following DiabetesSisters who joined us this past Thursday evening for a PODS Leader Training Call: Lisa Emery, Stephanie Kuehl, Denise Reeder, Lesley Gray, Helen Morgan, Mary Ulatan, Elizabeth Edelman, Connie Hanham-Cain, Brittney Powell, and Donna Tucker .  They are located various cities throughout the US, so you may be seeing a PODS Meetup near you soon.  Be sure to check the Event Calendar and register for our monthly newsletter as both contain updates on the most recently scheduled PODS Meetups.  If you would like to find out what is involved in starting a PODS Meetup near you, please contact Kelli at kelli@diabetessisters.org.

 

Finally, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE visit the Facing Diabetes Together Map and post your profile!  We just launched this MAP and we want to light it up to show women around the world who are living with diabetes.  It only takes about 30 seconds to complete the form—I promise!  We are planning a BIG event in conjunction with our conference in May 2012 (which is also National Women’s Health Month) and we want to show the vast number of women who have been touched by diabetes throughout the entire world!

 

I hope everyone weathered Hurricane Irene okay.  Here in NC, it wasn’t as bad as they first thought (when they thought it would be a Category 3 Hurricane).  When it hit NC, it had already weakened to a Category1 Hurricane.  So, we dodged two bullets this week with the earthquake on Wednesday and the hurricane over the weekend!

Gimme a Break!?!?!?

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You may recall from my last blog that I felt as though I was about to "hit a wall" because I was so overworked.  I decided it was time to take a trip to the beach with my daughter, Summer, so that we could spend some quality time together ebfore she started school (first grade!).  But, I must admit that, even with my "vacation responder" set up on my email,  was still a bit challenging.  I tried really hard to get everything to a stopping point before leaving ofr the beach, but it was simply impossible to cover everything.  So, I decided that once I arrived at the beach, my “vacation time” was officially ON and I would respond to emails, text messages, and phone calls with the general message that I was on vacation and would respond to/handle any issues when I returned on Tuesday.  Unfortunately, many (no, most) people are not used to 1) me taking time off and/or 2) me saying no.  So, the vacation response sort of went over many people’s heads or they just simply thought it could not actually be true that I was on vacation.  I received a number of phone calls and text messages from people who received the automated response from my email.  Of course, just because I am on vacation doesn’t mean that everyone else is on vacation, so I also had to be considerate of that fact.  For the most part, when I explained that I was on vacation and handling any work or email-related items until I returned, most people were understanding and gave me my space.  There was on ly one situation in which it took me telling the person three times that I was on vacation before they took me seriously…and left me alone.  I think there are 2 main reasons why it is so hard for me to really “go on vacation.”  One is that it is hard for me to just sit around and do nothing.  For example, while I am at the pool, I am using my time in the sun to read a magazine or a book.  So, whenever there is a moment of down time, I am always looking for something to accomplish (because otherwise it would be wasted time).  The other reason it is difficult for me is because I think I am scared that I am going to miss out on some opportunity to further the mission of DiabetesSisters. A magazine might contact me for a quote or an article or a funder might reach out to me, or something of that nature.  Then, I would really feel guilty if I missed an important opportunity because I was on vacation!  I guess I should just look at is from the perspective that if an opportunity arose during my time off, then it really wasn’t a opportunity that was meant to be for DiabetesSisters.  Everything happens for a reason, right?

Time for a Break

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Hello Sisters!  MY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT this week is that the Facing Diabetes Together MAP is NOW AVAILABLE on the DiabetesSisters website.  The purpose of the MAP is to provide another avenue for women with diabetes to connect and to provide a visual illustration of the number of women with diabetes around the world and the closest DiabetesSisters event.   Please go to the MAP now to post your profile!  Let 's show our unity and the power of numbers.

 

Next, I want to thank everyone who sent me such kind wishes and useful suggestions in response to my blog last week.  It REALLY was helpful to get an outsider's perspective and to hear from people who have been in the same position as me. As a result, my blog this week will be very short – for a good reason.  I'm taking some time off!  (OMG!  Did I really just annonuce that??) The sermon at church this past week really hit home with me because our pastor talked about how letting by family and health suffer in the pursuit of work ends up causing irreparable damage to whatever is being neglected- such as my health and/or my family.  Yes, when work is what suffers, your family and health are never damaged-- at least not beyond repair. So, for the first time since DiabetesSisters launched in January 2008, I am turning the “vacation response” on for my email.  My daughter and I are going to the beach for a long weekend.  In fact, I am convinced that sitting on a beach right before sunset with a breeze flowing through my hair is the closest thing on earth to heaven.  (I'm not joking!:-)  Therefore, the weekend I plan to do LOTS of: sitting on the beach, lying around, reading magazines by the pool, waking up late, doing whatever I feel like doing and not checking email and not thinking about work.  So, if you send me an email any time between Thursday and Sunday, please know that you will not receive a response until sometime next week.  But, I’m sure you’d agree that in everybody’s best interest, right?!?!?  So, until next week…

Hitting a Wall

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With Nat Strand, 2012 Weekend for Women Conference Keynote Speaker


I attended the AADE Conference in Las Vegas, NV last week and I had the pleasure to hang out with many people from the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) such as Manny Hernandez, David Edelman, Tom Karlya, Scott Johnson, Miriam Tucker.  I also met with many well-known people in the diabetes community such as Susan Weiner (dLife), Bill Polonsky (Behavioral Diabetes Institute), Kyrra Richards (myabetic), Nadia Al-Samarrie (Diabetes Health), Paula Ford-Martin (dLife), Kelly Rawlings (Diabetic Living magazine), Todd Siesky (Roche), Alana Clemens and Janie Rodriguez (Boehringer-Ingelheim)—all of whom are an absolute joy to be around.  Probably the most exciting person of all that I met was Nat Strand, winner of the 2010 Amazing Race.  She was half of the first female team to win the competition and the first person with diabetes to win!  Her story is absolutely, positively AMAZING!  I heard comments about how moving her talk was for days after it actually took place.  If you have never heard her speak or met her, I encourage you to attend the 2012 Weekend for Women Conference, where Nat will be the keynote speaker!

 

I’ve talked about what a jam-packed week I had and I’m sure from the outside looking in it seems like pure fun.   But, in reality it is extremely tiring and now that I’m back, it doesn’t really seem to be getting any better.   So, I’m close to hitting a wall. (not literally, but figuratively!) So, now I’m trying to figure out the best way to avoid crashing face first into it.  My pastor spoke on this topic at church this past week and it really hit home with me.  He talked about how he hit a wall about four years after he started our church in 2001.  Day after day after day after week after month after year, he worked hard (often not taking any time off) in an effort to do God’s work and reach as many unchurched people as possible in Central North Carolina.  While he was working so hard doing God’s work, his lack of rest starting chipping away at his soul.  His message REALLY hit home with me because I am about four years into the founding of DiabetesSisters and I can’t really say that I have taken an entire day (24 hours) off since it launched in January 2008.  I get started on my work day between 7-8am doing everything from administrative tasks, to marketing, to program management, to fund raising, to operations management.  I typically have numerous conference calls throughout the day—most which result in more things on my TO DO list.  I typically work straight through until it is time to pick my daughter up at 5pm.  I pick her up and get her dinner and while she is eating and watching television, I sit next to her on the couch and try to finish up some small work tasks on the computer or do some straightening around the house.  After she has finished, we usually do something together like go for a walk, play softball, or play a game indoors.  After she goes to bed around 8:30pm, I promptly sit down beside my husband on the couch and begin plugging away at my computer.  I usually work until sometime between 11pm and 1am.  Then it starts all over again.  I have been rewarded greatly for my hard work through the success of the organization. And while the organization has grown tremendously and I am beyond proud of the great work we are doing, I have not been so kind to myself.  (OK, I finally admitted it…on paper.)  Of course, DiabetesSisters is in the midst of lots of exciting projects like the PODS Meetup expansion, the launch of the new SisterMatch program, and the launch of the Facing Diabetes Together Map- things that take a considerable amount of my time—so it is difficult to figure out where I can possibly block off some time for myself.  It seems that my spare time is spent sleeping (and I could use a bit more of that too!)    So, I just ask for any wisdom you have to share and/or prayers this week as I try to create a healthy balance in my life.

Did You Know?...on this day in history...

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On July 27, 1921 two Canadian scientists at the University of Toronto, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, successfully isolated insulin—a hormone they believed could prevent diabetes--for the first time. Within a year, the first human sufferers of diabetes were receiving insulin treatments, and countless lives were saved from what was previously regarded as a fatal disease.  Diabetes has been recognized as a distinct medical condition for more than 3,000 years, but its exact cause was a mystery until the 20th century. At that time, the only way to treat the fatal disease was through a diet low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in fat and protein. Instead of dying shortly after diagnosis, this diet allowed diabetics to live--for
about a year.  A breakthrough came at the University of Toronto in the summer of 1921, when Banting and Best successfully isolated insulin from canine test subjects, produced diabetic symptoms in the animals, and then began a program of insulin injections that returned the dogs to normalcy. On November 14, the discovery was announced to the world.

On January 23, 1922, they began treating 14-year-old Leonard Thompson with insulin injections. The diabetic teenager improved dramatically, and the University of Toronto immediately gave pharmaceutical companies license to produce insulin, free of royalties. By 1923, insulin had become widely available, and the scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine.

It is amazing to think that ALL of this happened in the last ninety years! And just think about all of the advancements we have seen during our lifetime! I am so thankful that I was born in the 20th century! I hope you count your blessings too!

Sharing in the Success of Others

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Hi All!  I saw a post on Facebook this week by a fellow DiabetesSister and I can’t seem to get it out of my head.  She talked about how she posted her happiness over a successful A1C level (>7%) and someone commented similar to, “How dare you flaunt your good A1C level when there are so many who can’t achieve that level.”  Like her, I was shocked at the audacity of this person.  Why aren’t we ALL happy for someone who has worked hard to achieve a great A1C level?  Personally, I want everyone in the world with diabetes to have A1C levels under 7%! Don’t you??  Am I missing something??  I realize that it is often difficult for people with diabetes because we seem to live and die by the number on the meter and from the A1C machine. Some people even end up basing their self-worth on the number that is displayed on the meter.

 

My continuous thinking about this Facebook exchange brought me to an important conclusion: Everyone goes through the stages of grief at a different pace.  When you are diagnosed with diabetes, you have to grief the loss of life as you once knew it……the loss of life without shots or carb counting or blood sugar tests. I hadn’t really thought about this in a while.  If you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief, here they are: 1) Denial and Isolation 2) Anger 3) Bargaining 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance.  Some get stuck in the anger phase for a long time; others get stuck in the denial/isolation phase for a long time.   What struck me in thinking about this is that four of the five stages are pretty negative.  With there being so many people in the world with diabetes and five stages of grief for each person to go through, let’s face it….it is a great accomplishment to reach the stage of Acceptance!  Since only 1 of the 5 stages is positive and Acceptance is quite difficult to achieve, that leaves a lot of room for negativity.  Think about the other people you know who are living with diabetes….it will probably be fairly easy to tell what stage of grief they are in based on things they say about their diabetes and the things they do to manage their diabetes.

 

My point in bringing this up is not to degrade anyone or make anyone feel bad, but rather to bring awareness to an issue (negativity among fellow people with diabetes) that plagues the diabetes community.  Here at DiabetesSisters we pride ourselves on accepting any woman with diabetes into the Sisterhood regardless of age, type of diabetes, or even stage of grief.  I am proud of the wise and humble ladies of the sisterhood and the ways I have witnessed them reach out to those who are in various stages of grief.  In fact, I just spoke to one DiabetesSister today (Laura Watson) who was sharing the ways she had recently reached out to one woman who was in the denial phase another who was in the Depression phase and another who was in the Anger phase.  (Although she did not state this in the conversation, their stages are obvious when thinking about her descriptions she provided.) She had invested her time in them and invited each of the women to be a part of the Sisterhood.  Her genuine concern for her fellow “lost” Sisters was very touching.  This week…I challenge you to post a POSITIVE, uplifting comment to another Sister with diabetes…Even if you’re not in the Acceptance stage yet, it never hurts to compliment someone else AND thinking positively about diabetes may get you a little bit closer to Acceptance if you’re not there yet!  You can post comments on any of the Blogs (Type 1, Type 2, Student, Pregnancy or this blog) or you can post a commment on the Women's Forum.

Here we GROW again!

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Hello everyone!  I am seriously pumped about all of the great things going on at DiabetesSisters right now!  (and I’m also exhausted!)  I can’t really talk about all of it, but I’ll share what I can!  First, I am working with Ayogo Games to create an awesomely interactive SisterMatch program on our newly updated website!  The forethought and detail they have put into creating a program that speaks to our members and addresses their needs (to connect and improve their health) is astounding!  We are moving into the final production phase and nearing the release of our beta version.

 

We have the second 2011 Weekend for Women Conference coming up in San Diego in October…and Susan and I have put a great deal of thought into the speakers and the activities.  I can promise that you won’t be disappointed!  We have initiated a new aspect to our program in which we honor a different woman each year with the “DiabetesSisters Inspiration Award.”  For 2011, Ann Albright is the recipient of the DiabetesSisters Inspiration Award.  She will be joining us in San Diego to accept the award and to share some of her personal “diabetes story.”  You can check out our highly esteemed speakers and session topics here: http://www.diabetessisters.org/component/content/article/20/1169

 

Our PODS Meetup program has really taken off!  Exploded might be a better term to describe it!  As a result, Brittney Powell has stepped in to assist Kelli Turner (our National PODS Meetup Leader) and we are actively interviewing volunteers to also assist with the program’s incredible growth.  We have been working with Micromass Communications to create Topic Modules for each meeting.  In other words, these modules will provide structure and direction through educational information, specific activities, and questions for the groups to discuss at each meeting.   I have to give Andi and Diane at Micromass a big hand for the incredible work they have done on these Modules to make it engaging for attendees and as stress-free as possible for PODS Leaders.  We have also been working to create a PODS Leader Training Manual.  This will be used for our first remote PODS Leader training scheduled for August 25th.  For more information, contact Kelli at kelli@diabetessisters.org or Brittney at Brittney@diabetessisters.org.  Oh yeah…and that reminds me…Brittney Powell just joined our constantly expanding PODS Meetup Leadership Team.  Welcome Brittney!

 

Last, but not least….two DiabeteSisters members, Kelli Turner and Lesley Gray, will be part of a photo shoot with Diabetic Living magazine.  Look for their story in the Fall 2011 issue (available on Nov 1)!  Kelli and Lesley will be profiled in a three-to-four page spread about DiabetesSisters’ PODS Meetups and the important connections being made through them.   So, they get the “star treatment” on Friday—complete with hair/make-up artists and new clothing for the photo shoot.  I’m so excited for them!

 

Now is an exciting time to be a part of DiabetesSisters!  I want to sincerely thank all of the volunteers who have done their part to help the organization grow.  I especially want to thank Markee Flint, Shandra Botts, Kelli Turner, Tanya Varanelli, and Connie Hanham-Cain for their tremendous contributions!  It feels great to be part of this Sisterhood!