Monday, June 3, 2013


This past weekend was one of a few times where I have felt that I truly belonged no place else but where I was. I'm talking about the Students with Diabetes 2013 National Conference. This is the third year that Nicole Johnson (Miss America 1999 and a T1D) has hosted this event and it was the biggest yet.

Me, Ben, Laura, Danika, Liz, and Paige at the blue party!
After last year's conference I could not wait for the next one. And when the day finally came it was definitely worth the wait. This year it was held at a hotel instead of in a dorm at USF and it was a great place for it to be held. On Friday after check-in and acquiring our diabetes swag (awesome shirts, backpack with goodies) we got to hear Sebastien Sasseville talk about being the first Canadian T1D to climb Mount Everest and about his experience with the Sahara Race. He used these experiences to give a very inspirational and motivational speech. I personally learned a good strategy to commit to getting things done. By "throwing your pants over the fence" you force yourself to followthrough and complete your task or else you'll be running around without pants! Sebastien also said two other things that I really found inspirational and thought-provoking:

"People won't remember how long it took you to get to your dream, but they will remember if you quit. Don't give up."

"One day you wake up and there is a dude called diabetes in your room and you realize you have to get along."

The first one is comforting in that it inspires not to ever give up. No matter how big of a dream you might have, as long as you keep working towards it and one day finish it. However, if you give up everyone will remember the failure. The latter statement is a rather more comical way of remembering that diabetes is not going anywhere so you might as well coexist with it peacefully instead of trying to "beat" it.

My new friend Alicia
After Sebastien's talk came dinner and then the Blue Party! It was a great time to get to know some new people and we also filmed a cool video that I got to speak in and will be coming out later this year. I met some cool people that night and we stayed a little after the party talking. These people were Alicia, Tiani and Rebecca.

The next morning we got to hear from Dr. Bill Polonsky about diabetes and relationships. He talked about the "diabetes police" which we all know someone who asks like they are our diabetes police officer. He speech was not with out such humorous things as the blood glucose fairy, who we can blame all of our odd BG's on and calling "cheating" on certain rules "vacationing." One of the last things he said I thought was clever and a very necessary thing to do. When dealing with hypoglycemia you should "do the the opposite of what Obi-Wan said to Luke: Don't trust your feelings, trust the numbers." Often when deal with low BG's you don't really know how you feel, but your meter can give you a number and you should always know at what point you should be treating for a low. Never just go by how you feel, when the numbers can tell a more accurate story.

The entire group at the Blue Party
We then broke into separate guy, girl and type 3 sessions. We had a great talk in the guy section, but what happens there stays there. Sorry ladies, our secrets shall remain. After this we had lunch and the vendor fair where I talked to Blake from Sanofi who had helped me when I had trouble with my insurance company and getting my BGStar strips and Kristin from Insulet who is actually my local rep for my Omnipod and whom I've spoken to on the phone before. It was great actually meeting these people who have helped me in person.

After lunch we had Tom Boyer talk to us about advocacy. I learned some surprising statistics, such as the fact that diabetes funding has dropped 20% in the last 4 years. He showed just how important it is to get out there and advocate for more funding for diabetes research and advocate for other things for diabetes.

Finally we were at the "star" presentation of the weekend. It was Dr. Aaron Kowalksi's turn to talk about the Artificial Pancreas Project. The first step towards this would be an insulin pump that would automatically turn of due to low BG. This is actually already available in Europe but the FDA is dragging their feet on it here. The next step would be a pump that would reduce it's basal rate as you got close to low BG. Logically from that you would next want it to increase the basal rate as you got close to high BG. He also talked about some other projects being worked on, including an insulin that you would be able to give at the beginning of the day and you would be good for the rest of the day.

Jmiah's cardboard cutout
After this talk Jmiah spoke about his life with diabetes and how he uses it to inspire teens and Michelle spoke about exercising and diabetes. This was followed by a quick "chair zumba" session. We then all got ready for the beach luau.

At the luau we had Sonny's chicken and baked beans and other delicious foods. Unfortunately we didn't get to stay long because there was a thunderstorm threatening nearby. However, it was still great because I got to hang out with my new diabetic friends and for a few minutes got to geek out with one of them over Doctor Who. We went back to the hotel and hung out for the rest of the night. It was awesome to get the opportunity to get to know some of these people better because everyone has a different story to tell and while we all share a common disease, we are all still truly like snowflakes: each one of us different -- and with a very interesting story. And then Ava, Nicole's daughter, brought the bedazzles out for everyone to bedazzle their pumps and meters. I ended up throwing a bunch of the ones that didn't stick to anything at Alicia instead of bedazzling anything - whoops! After a bunch of us spent the next few hours just talking it was time to call it a night.

Some of the group from last year!
The next morning we had a motivational speech by Dr. Nick Hall of the water tribe. He spoke about how his sailing experiences have taught him not to give up and that we can have control over our lives even when it does not seem like it.

It was time for a few last pictures and then to say our goodbyes - until next year, of course!

I feel like I learned so much this weekend and I would not trade this experience for the world. I feel rejuvenated and ready to live with that dude diabetes for another year. I also feel ready to go advocate and bring more awareness to T1Ds.

- Keep flying steady

Edit: Also, I swear something must have been in the bacon because every morning my BG levels skyrocketed.

(So I am posting a bit out of order for events, but I really wanted to talk about this past weekend. However, I will have a post about Quidditch World Cup VI soon! Also, if I made typos, sorry. I'm very tired right now but I wanted to write this.)


  1. I am a little jealous! I wanted to be at the conference this yr, but I just got accepted as a research assistant for my colleges biology/chemistry department. I am glad you had a great time though! maybe next yr. BTW I am a nursing/microbiology major STEM/T1D geeks unite

    1. That's still sounds like you're going to have an awesome summer though. Good luck with the research! And hopefully you can make it next year!