I’m exhausted. I have a sore throat. My blood sugars have been skyrocketing and crashing and no matter what I do I can’t get my CGM to show me a flat(ish) line. But I can do nothing but smile, because I spent the last five days at Friends for Life. With people who really are my friends for life.
The plan for today was to write a post that makes you feel like you were there. That conveys how odd it feels to look down at a simple green bracelet on your wrist and feel pride and belonging. (That green bracelet is given to all attendees that have Type 1 Diabetes. Our family and loved ones wear orange bracelets.) I need to write a post that gives you a taste of the comfort of discussing diabetes burnout with a room full of people who get it and two wonderful session leaders trained to help you cope with it. I have a million stories, a million thoughts, a million experiences and I shed a million tears, both happy and sad. I don’t know how to write about all of this in a way that will do it justice. It is just beyond my scope.
So instead, I will tell you my first story from this year’s Friends for Life, and hope I can do the conference a small sliver of justice.
Shortly after checking in, Pete and I were off to find registration and our friends who had already arrived. As we stood waiting for the elevator a family joined us. The mom and younger sister had on orange bracelets, and the older sister had on a green bracelet. So I asked them where we needed to go to pick up our bracelets and registration packet. I was starting to feel a bit of that fuzzy headedness as the mom explained that we needed to go to the first floor and then walk to the end of the long, long hallway. I immediately muttered something like “better test” as I pulled out my meter. And then, somewhat to my surprise, the bonding began.
The sister with the green bracelet excitedly exclaimed “You have diabetes too? That is SO COOL!!!!” Although I can’t be sure, her reaction and the tone of her voice makes me think I was the first fellow diabetic she had ever met. I couldn’t help but smile, even as a 41 flashed across my meter. In the jumble of the next few excited (but low-brained for me) minutes, we shared our stories. Mom told me her daughter was diagnosed less than a year ago, and I told them I was diagnosed over 32 years ago. Mom and I quietly murmured about expectancies for PWDs back then, and she asked pointedly “How are you?” I was so proud to be able to tell her that I am healthy and complication free, and to see both relief for her daughter and gladness for me flash across her face. As we got on the elevator I turned to Pete to tell him my blood sugar was 41, and the family all said “What??? 41????” My friend with the green bracelet said “How are you smiling right now?” and tried to insist I take the small chocolate milk she was holding. I can’t tell you how honored I was that she would give me her chocolate milk, and I thanked her but told her I’d be fine as I had plenty of Starbursts (which I was shoving into my mouth at that moment).
The elevator arrived at our floor and we all began walking down the long, long hall. My new green bracelet friend asked if I wanted to sit down, and when I said I was okay to walk she put her arm around me and walked beside me. (I swear, I was so touched I almost cried.) Her sister seemed to delight in telling me how crabby my new friend gets when she is low - something I completely understand. We all laughed about being crabby because of a low and being crabby just because we all sometimes get crabby! We came upon a “Hydration / Low Station” and my green bracelet friend suggested I have some water. She poured a cup and I poured a cup, and then was surprised as she handed her cup to me and explained that she had poured it for me and she wanted me to drink it. Then she reached into the bowl of glucose tab packets and said “Here, take these too”. I told her the sign said to please only take them if I needed them, and I had already treated my low with Starbursts, and she wisely responded “Your blood sugar was 41, that means you need them so please take them”. So I thanked her again and did.
By then it was time for Pete and I to head to registration and for them to head to the pool. The mom and Pete snapped pictures, complete with my two cups of water and emergency packet of orange Dex4s. I have never in my life felt such kindness and compassion from a complete stranger, let alone one that looked to be less than 10 years old. The minute I heard the excitement in her voice upon realizing I had diabetes too, I knew without a doubt in my mind she was going to have an amazing experience at Friends for Life. And I know she is going to have an amazing life. I wish I had run into them again before the conference ended, but unfortunately our paths didn’t cross after that first night. But I will always be thankful for the chance to meet this family. And I will always remember how one small girl with a green bracelet drove the entire point of Friends for Life 2012 home to me during my very first moments there.