Connie Hanham-Cain, RN, CDE met DiabetesSisters Founder Brandy Barnes at the American Association of Diabetes Educators conference in 2009, and attended the 1st DiabetesSisters Weekend for Women conference in Raleigh, NC. In June 2010 she invited some of her colleagues with diabetes to join her in creating the first Part of DiabetesSisters (PODS) Meetup in the greater Albany, NY area. A small group of women with diabetes met at one of their homes. They were so excited and happy to make the connection with each other that they decided to meet two weeks later for dinner at a McDonald’s. Their group activity that evening was reading and discussing the placemat menu with nutrition content listed for the various food items (carbs, calories, protein, fat, sodium) so they could make healthier selections that fit their individual plans.
After that, the women decided to have monthly PODS Meetups. Connie and Helen Morgan began as PODS leaders for the first several months, after which Katie Goot joined them as a third leader. The group doubled from the first 5 members to 6, and then 9 or 10 regular members. Gail Nurnberg joined them as a co-leader in 2015. And after giving birth to her son Alex, Katie recently began leading a second PODS Meetup in Clifton Park, NY.
For the last 4 years, Connie’s employer has granted the PODS access to meeting space in a convenient and central location with a well-lit parking lot. The new location in Clifton Park meets in a classroom at Katie’s church. Katie encourages other PODS leaders to evaluate how location is working, because making appropriate changes has definitely improved attendance. Moving to different locations over time has helped maintain members looking for a PODS Meetup closer to where they live or an easier drive from their homes. Changes in the time of day and day of the week have also helped, especially for PODS members who don’t like to drive at night or don’t want to attend after a long work day.
PODS members say they like learning new things about diabetes and hearing tips from members about what has worked well for them, such as new food choices or a trick to solve a common insulin pump issue. Some popular and relevant topics discussed at both Albany-area PODS locations include:
- problem-solving strategies for getting supplies and CGMs;
- adapting food choices for celiac and other food sensitivities;
- sharing recipes and products for healthy eating; and
- healthy ways of coping with stressful situations.
Making choices about what to eat and how to prepare it is always a top theme, and members will often bring healthy snacks to share with the group. One recent hot topic was prior authorization because many members have experienced trouble getting supplies paid for by their medical coverage.
The Albany-area PODS members love the camaraderie and support they feel from women who really “get it” about life with diabetes and its frustrations. They support each other through thick and thin, and support and pray for each other when they experience health or life crises. One member was on a waitlist for kidney donation for two years. When she received a kidney donation and had transplant surgery in February 2018 her d-Sisters celebrated with her - and continue to support her throughout her recovery.
In addition to official PODS Meetups, members sometimes get together for lunch or to attend a play or a movie. Several have attended the DiabetesSisters Weekend for Women conferences in past years. Katie says that she likes the DiabetesSisters conferences and the Partner Perspective track so her husband could attend and have his own focused education.
Both the PODS leaders and members in the Albany area participate in many opportunities to promote and share about DiabetesSisters throughout their community. They have tabled at a TCOYD event; networked at Diabetes Days at a local supermarket chain; attended annual American Diabetes Association events during Diabetes Awareness Month in November; and tabled at St Peter’s Health Partners Diabetes Day events. Several of the PODS members and leaders served as expert panelists as people with diabetes (PWD) for the St Peter’s event. Some have also attended a retreat in upstate New York, created and led the Diabetes Women of Wisdom Collective, of which Connie is a founding member.
As a CDE, Connie gives DiabetesSisters brochures and PODS Meetup info to each woman that she sees for diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) so they know DiabetesSisters is here for them, in person and/or online. On the national T1D Exchange and myGlu.org patient advisory committee she often mentions DiabetesSisters and encourages women to check out diabetesisters.org to find or start a PODS Meetup in their area. She is an enthusiastic supporter and advocate for DiabetesSisters because “connecting with d-Sisters is energizing and awesome!”
According to Connie, being involved with DiabetesSisters and the PODS Meetup “has been life-changing for me because it connects me with the greater community of women with diabetes. It keeps me connected with my tribe (the Tribe of Living with Diabetes) and my d-Sisters across the country. I know I have my d-Sisters to back me up and support me when I need lovingkindness, compassion, understanding, and support.” Gail echoes those sentiments: "It takes patience, kindness, and understanding to be a great support group. That's what we have here."
Katie agrees. “I have really enjoyed being part of this support group. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Their encouragement throughout my pregnancy last year really helped me. It was wonderful on the hard days to know that they were rooting for me. And I am inspired by others to work harder at certain habits. As a leader, I am glad to provide that same space for others.”
Since 2010 the PODS (Part Of DiabetesSisters) Meetup program has offered monthly support to women living with any type of diabetes or prediabetes, providing a safe and nonjudgmental place to discuss the successes and challenges of living with diabetes. Led by women living with diabetes, the groups offer true peer support focused on women and diabetes.The PODS Meetup Program reaches more than 1,300 women annually, in person (in 22 states) and online (members meet via computer cameras from the comfort of their own home). Women age 18 and better, living with any type of diabetes or prediabetes, are invited to attend PODS Meetups. If you would like more information on local PODS Meetups near you, or starting a group in your community, please complete the PODS Meetup inquiry form –we look forward to hearing from you!