Several years ago, Karen Graffeo told DiabetesSisters that while she would love to lead a PODS Meetup in the area of Connecticut where she lived, there were already several active diabetes support groups already in the area - and the level of interest and ability to participate in an in-person diabetes support group might already have been exceeded. When DiabetesSisters leaders started thinking about how to reach and support women with diabetes in areas that didn't have a local PODS (Part of DiabetesSisters) Meetup, an online PODS Meetup seemed like common sense. And there was no question of who could lead such a PODS Meetup: Karen was a perfect fit.
The first PODS Meetup for DiabetesSisters of the Virtual/Online Space was held in September 2014, with Karen and #DOC (diabetes online community) leader Cherise Shockley co-leading the meeting. After the initial meeting, Karen became an official PODS Leader - and the Virtual PODS kept taking steps to become such a rousing success.
Virtual PODS Meetups are held the third Thursday of each month at 8pm Eastern. They have not missed a monthly meeting in the last 3 years since the initial meeting. Attendee numbers average about 7 per Meetup, and have ranged from 3 to 11 participants. They join from all across the country:
Being at a Virtual PODS Meetup is just the same as a local PODS, except being able to wear pajama pants to the Meetup without anyone noticing - and not being able to physically hug it out or share glucose tabs with the woman sitting next to you. The Virtual PODS follows the same format and Educational Modules each month that in-person PODS Meetups do. The most popular discussion topics or themes have been healthy eating, tips for making life with diabetes easier, physical activity, and common tests and procedures. Karen reports that the group members really like the quality of information that DiabetesSisters shares, along with the feeling of support and community that they experience.
Since Virtual PODS Members see each other online once a month (and may connect in between Meetups with Facebook or direct messages), it's very exciting on rare occasions when they do get to meet up (and share hugs!) in person. In February 2017, Karen was a facilitator for The Diabetes UnConference that Nikki, a Virtual PODS member, was awarded the DiabetesSisters PODS scholarship to attend. They had an incredible time meeting, talking, and hugging in real life.
According to Karen, through DiabetesSisters she's come to realize that she's most passionate about support for women living with diabetes. "Being a PODS Leader allows me an opportunity to provide support and be supported in return. That support keeps me going on days when diabetes is tough and I'm feeling tired of all of it. I'm grateful that Virtual PODS has connected me to such wonderful friends, and really value the close friendships DiabetesSisters has brought into my life."
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 non-judgmental 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 different states) and online (members meet via computer cameras from the comfort of their own home). Women living with all types of diabetes are invited to attend PODS Meetups. If you would like more information on meetings in your area, or starting your own Meetup group, please complete the PODS Meetup inquiry form –we look forward to hearing from you!
DiabetesSisters would like to express appreciation to the Dexcom One Step Ahead Foundation and the Boehringer-Ingelheim-Lilly Alliance as the 2017 sponsors of our signature PODS Meetup program.