Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Expert? It's You . . . . .

Last Friday I flew to Vegas for The Diabetes UnConference.  Despite my usual travel anxiety, the journey went smoothly and I was lucky enough to spend both flights sitting with Stacey.  I was also lucky enough to have been randomly sent through TSA Pre-Check at both airports.  (Yay!!  And I spend about 30 minutes playing slots in Vegas and ended up $30 ahead!)  With the travel out of the way it was time to get on with the conference.

Vegas
I feel very fortunate to have attended many diabetes conferences in the past.  I've been to pharma conferences where my travel was covered, and I've been to open conferences where anyone can attend if they can budget for it or obtain a scholarship.  Both kinds of conferences are comprised mostly of sessions.  And most of these sessions are led by experts - people with a ton of credentials and a long string of letters following their name.  That's good, because I often learn a lot and think about things I've never though of before.  Or think about things in a way I never had before.  These sessions are very valuable to me.

But the UnConference?  The UnConference was different in that all the sessions and discussion were led by us, the patients / attendees.  The conference facilitators were patients / attendees.  While other conferences I've been to usually have at least one similar session, where we can gather in a circle and really talk in a safe environment, I've never been to a conference where every single session was like this.  And it was wonderful.  I shared some of my deepest fears and said some of the hardest things I've ever had to admit out-loud.  I cried tears that were both happy and sad.  I laughed a lot and nodded in understanding.  I found out that all of the weird things I feel maybe aren't so weird after all.  Maybe I'm not a freak for feeling the way I feel.  Maybe it's diabetes that is the freak and others with diabetes share my feelings too.

The truth of the matter is that every session of The Diabetes UnConference was filled with a room of experts.  Every person living with diabetes is an expert.  Even when you don't feel it, you are an expert.  I'm willing to bet that diabetes has an impact on you, and nobody understands that personal impact better than you.  You are the expert.  I'm not an expert in the medical side of diabetes.  I may not even be an expert in parts of my life with diabetes.  But nobody knows better than I do what diabetes means to me, what diabetes does to my body and my emotions and where diabetes seeps into the cracks of my life.

I am my diabetes expert.  You are your diabetes expert.  And it took The Diabetes UnConference to show me how important that is and how much we need to come together and help each other.

16 comments:

  1. Yes, exactly that!! So glad I got to hug you this past weekend :)

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    1. Right back at you!!! And I hope we hug again soon!

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  2. ... in bed. ;) (I am so happy I had some time to hang out with you. I missed you!)

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    1. Table 10 forever!! ( . . . . in bed)

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  3. You are right that we are all experts with our own diabetes. I think we did a good job of not trying to be experts with everyone else's diabetes. Instead it was hugs and support all around. So nice to have finally met you in the real.

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    1. It took long enough, but so glad we finally met!

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  4. Excellent take-away! The emotions in that room were astounding. So much support. So much understanding, even if that understanding was that we didn't really understand. :) There's nothing better than hanging out with D peeps and I'm glad that you're one of mine. Hugs.

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    1. I'm so glad you're one of mine too!!

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  5. I am so glad that I finally got to hug you and talk with you! Don't forget.... KITCHEN PICTURES!! :)

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  6. I am totally going to start adding MDE after my name. Jenn, MyDiabetesExpert It was so awesome to finally meet you and exchange hugs. I cannot wait until next year.

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  7. this sounds like such an amazing experience. it's what I think/hope my kid gets out of the teen sessions at FFL and diabetes camp in the summer. <3

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  8. Karen, those last two paragraphs are solid gold, and reflect a big part of what I got from the Unconference. I am thrilled that you were there... thanks for being such an important part of many people's lives!

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  9. Hey Karen,
    Indeed, you're the expert on your own body, and the one who is in charge of diabetes, not your doctor. It's really nice to read about your honest and heart-felt thoughts. Too many people keep their feelings and emotions about their health within themselves, and it isn't always good.

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  10. Great post, Karen! Was so great to see you again, and I totally agree that so much of the magic of the UnConference was how we all led the discussions. Definitely a unique experience unlike other "conferences" out there, and I equate it more to a meetup of friends than a conference about something. Looking forward to hearing more thoughts as we share those, and can't wait to see what's ahead. Thanks for writing this!

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  11. Karen, I'm SO glad you were able to come. You helped make the UnConference what it was - and we'll all be forever grateful for that.

    And I love Jenn's idea of using "MDE" after our names... heehee! :-)

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  12. Seems like this had impact on you. Maybe I'll attend some day.

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