Melissa Slemp experienced the strength and sisterhood as an active member of the Jacksonville, FL PODS Meetup for six years when she began thinking of creating another PODS closer to her home, about an hour from Jacksonville. She recognized the need for support for women with all types of diabetes in St. Augustine. Jacksonville leaders Jennifer Stanton and Diane Bajalia encouraged her to start and grow a group in her community. In December 2018, Melissa logged into diabetessisters.org and easily found how to start a PODS Meetup – and soon after, DiabetesSisters of St. Augustine was born.
At first Melissa was worried that she wouldn’t be able to reach enough potential members to join the new PODS. But after just 4 months, word of mouth is picking up and a steady 3-5 members attend each month. Many of the members are finding the St. Augustine PODS by visiting the DS website, or by mutual friends who connect with the group.
Recent topics the group has discussed include managing treatment plans, tips and plans for seeing local health care providers, and the day-to-day struggles to balance food, activity, and medicine(s). PODS members like the opportunity to join a community with other women and talk about similar struggles and questions they all face. They also love enjoying a meal, having conversations, and getting to know each other and develop friendships outside of diabetes care. Melissa and the group are also thinking about other fun activities to do together like going to a diabetes event/walk, taking a beach walk, or trying a new yoga class.
After living with diabetes for 37 years, Melissa knows the value of peer support and having a community of people who know what she’s going through. “Personally, I love the support. When I was growing up and even 10 years ago, I lacked community support. Diabetes is a common disease…we need each other to help us along this journey, connect with others who understand, offer advice, support, and even a hug when we need it.”
Melissa looks forward to planning and leading monthly PODS Meetups and seeing members there, and loves when new members find and join the group. “I’m excited that the group will continue to grow, and that we have this opportunity to learn and help each other.”
Since 2010 the Part Of DiabetesSisters (PODS) Meetup program has offered monthly support to women living with any type of diabetes or prediabetes, and provided a nonjudgmental place to discuss the successes and challenges of living with diabetes. Led by women lwho live 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 up, 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!