Karen Rose Tank, Robin Wright, and Amy Stern had tried to begin a diabetes support group for about a year when in 2013, they saw an article in Diabetes Interview magazine about the DiabetesSisters organization and the upcoming Weekend for Women conference. They were fascinated by the idea, and talked with current group members about aligning with DiabetesSisters and becoming a PODS (Part of DiabetesSisters) Meetup. Everyone thought it was a great idea. Why reinvent the support group wheel? In July 2013, they held the very first Princeton area PODS Meetup.
The new PODS Meetup seemed to be a natural extension of a healthy cooking support group several members had participated in for a while, where they cooked low-carb meals and then sat down together to eat, share, learn, and support each other. With DiabetesSisters, PODS members could delve deeper into learning how to manage the many and varied demands of living with diabetes of any type. Topics recently covered by the group of 8-12 attendees include heart health/preventing heart disease, menopause, communicating about diabetes, healthy eating, self-care, stress and emotional wellness.
PODS members love the emotional support and caring that they offer each other: “We give each other so much positive support and encouragement… rather than the burn out and isolation we can often feel when our diabetes is giving us challenges.” Another mentions: “Through PODS we shift our mindsets to one of more positive and persistence rather than more passive and negative. We all feel like giving up at times…but the power of our group keeps us motivated and on a more upbeat and empowered path.”
Sometimes the Princeton PODS meets outside the regular monthly meeting schedule. They host a resource table at their local ADA STEP OUT Walk, and walk together as a team. They have met a number of new members that way, and spread the word in the local diabetes community about DiabetesSisters and the PODS Meetup. The group has also met for a tour of a local health food store where they shared healthy shopping choices with us and provided samples. Early on, the group decided that field trips would be in addition to, rather than instead of, regular monthly meetings, so that members had opportunities for personal discussions and sharing as well.
As PODS Leaders, Robin, Amy, and Karen have taken what was an isolating adverse experience of living with diabetes, and turned it into a positive, community-supported situation. Being a PODS Leader shifted obstacles into opportunities on a varied and large scale.
As Robin says, “I am no longer in a state of denial and anger, but rather in a proactive mindset. The transformation has affected me deeply, giving me a chance to grow as a person and become more of a leader. Being involved as both a leader and a peer continually helps me learn new ways to manage this condition. After each PODS Meetup I take home several actionable items to incorporate into my self-care practice.”
Robin appreciates the opportunities DiabetesSisters has offered her to share her voice and personal experience through blogging on the DS website and getting involved in diabetes advocacy. Robin has also participated in several patient outreach programs to provide feedback to pharmaceutical companies about their diabetes products. She has learned that as patients, women with diabetes have a voice and our voices do matter.
Karen agrees: “I’ve made so many lasting friendships in our local PODS, as well as getting to know many other PODS leaders who are movers and shakers around the country and the world. Participating in the Global Virtual PODS Meetup was a huge eye-opener for me in terms of the tremendous struggles women living with diabetes have around the world – and helped put my own diabetes management challenges in perspective.
My knowledge about diabetes and my confidence to share as a leader in the diabetes community have grown exponentially through PODS leadership. I benefit and learn so much from both our monthly programs and from PODS members. We are peer support at its best.
Co-leading a PODS Meetup enables me to grow and feed my passion for helping other women living with diabetes. I fill with joy, pride and love to have the opportunity to bring women with any type of diabetes together to help ease the loneliness, fear, confusion and frustration that can come along with this disease. Sharing as a peer with diabetes gives deeper purpose to my life!”
Amy sums up their experience, and a purpose of PODS Meetups, very well: “Diabetes is such a complex disease with challenging management issues and stresses. Going along this journey with our DiabetesSisters PODS Meetup has taught me that it doesn't have to be so overwhelming. There are simple strategies and new medical developments that make this disease less of a challenge.
As a PODS Leader, I am fascinated to watch the growth of many of our members. It is remarkable to see the lightness in their responses and the help it conveys to the others in the group. Though there are setbacks along the way, each member seems to be able to grasp the successes and use them to overcome those pitfalls.
Women who come to our PODS meetings from both new and long-term diagnoses are often confused, overwhelmed, depressed, and struggling. It becomes so obvious that our personal knowledge and experience as peers is crucial. There is so much more to living well with diabetes and incorporating beneficial choices into our day to day life than are never mentioned in a brief doctor’s visit. Being told WHAT to do is far different than hearing from peers HOW to do it – how to actually make the changes, and then how to sustain those changes over time.”
These three PODS Leaders agree: the power of being a part of DiabetesSisters is enormous.
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 18 states) and online (members meet via computer cameras from the comfort of their own home). Women age 18 and older, 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!
DiabetesSisters appreciates the Dexcom One Step Ahead Foundation and the Boehringer-Ingelheim-Lilly Alliance as the 2017 sponsors of our signature PODS Meetup program.