When Shelby Kinnaird met DiabetesSisters CEO Anna Norton at a diabetes advocacy event in late 2016, she didn't know that there previously had been a PODS Meetup in Richmond, VA, where she lived. Anna mentioned that the PODS had disbanded and needed a leader to bring it back on its feet. Shelby, who has lived with type 2 diabetes for more than 18 years, quickly decided that reviving the group was something she could do. And in February 2017, Shelby brought DiabetesSisters of Richmond back to life again.
DiabetesSisters was not Shelby's first involvement with a diabetes support group. She participated in one years before in North Carolina, and loved the friendship and peer support the group shared. Once she met Anna, Shelby reached out to Sondra Bennett, PODS leader in Williamsburg, VA and traveled to attend one of the Williamsburg PODS Meetups. Shelby says that "Sondra's support and encouragement, along with the positive vibes I got from Anna and Sarah Mart, made me excited about the opportunity to be involved with DiabetesSisters."
In its former existence Richmond PODS met in an area of town called the West End. Shelby started by deciding to try to bring some women with diabetes together in Chesterfield (another area). After a few months of successful Meetups in Chesterfield, a few emails to the women on the PODS mailing list, and some planning later, and there are now TWO active PODS Meetups in Richmond, VA: Chesterfield and West End.
Though the monthly member numbers can vary, both the Chesterfield and West End Meetups generally have about six or seven women each. There are often new members at each Meetup, so they spend a lot of time sharing personal stories. They discuss diet, diabetes technology, insurance issues, local doctors, and fitness - plus learning about different types of diabetes such as LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes of adults), as there are members with LADA in each group.
Shelby shared that early on, she decided she wanted to better educate myself about technology and managing lows so that she could be more helpful to women with all types of diabetes. "I have learned so much about type 1 and LADA from these ladies over the last year. I love the way we listen to each other and share successes and struggles. I want to keep the group vibrant, motivated, and excited."
When members were asked what they like and appreciate about the Richmond PODS, responses abounded:
"The support! Finding people going through the same thing whom you can talk to in real life. And I don’t know a ton about Type 2 so it’s been informative to get together with all types of people with diabetes to hear from them." - Kelley Kent
"I have really enjoyed meeting everyone and realizing that I am not alone in the world dealing with diabetes. What I enjoy the most is learning that all diabetics are not the same, I even discovered that there is type 1 1/2. It has been the first time that I talk directly to them and understand what they go through and learn how they handle their life and how they use the latest technologies. We also share recipes and names of specialists in the area, specifically endocrinologists and cardiologist that are not only savvy but caring and nice with patients." - Silvia Vargas
"I like sharing and knowing that I'm not in this alone." - Jenn Inman
Shelby and members Kelley Kent and Sarah Vedomske attended the DiabetesSisters Weekend for Women conference in October 2017. Some members have also joined Shelby in being active in various diabetes advocacy activities in her area. Recently she and Kelley met with staff of local congressperson Dave Brat (VA-07) to discuss diabetes-related issues.
"I cherish my dSisters and look forward to seeing them and catching up on their lives each month. I love everything about the DiabetesSisters experience - even when there are challenges, it's all worth it."
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!