I want to start my saying THANK YOU to Christel for having a vision and a dream and making it real. I want to say THANK YOU to the UnConference Collective for supporting that dream, adding their own touch to it, and making it a reality.
Trying to put into words what the Diabetes UnConference meant to me is difficult. If I could use my hands in a blog post, not only would they be waving all over the place, but they would clap twice, and hug everyone.
Ever since I started on Twitter and dipped my toe into the world of the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) I have heard about diabetes conferences. The blog posts and twitter posts made me wish I could attend each and every conference. I wanted to be able to experience that level of "ME TOO" that is so powerful. Unfortunately, travel is not always in my budget, or my health (have I said I HATE flying?). So I would read the posts and wish.
My wish came true.
Last year sometime, it was announced that the First Ever Diabetes UnConference would be held in Las Vegas. LAS VEGAS!! That is an easy driving distance for me. I could actually go. I COULD GO! Let the planning commence!
Plans were made and money was saved. I was going to a Diabetes Conference... and I was nervous as all everything.
You see, in my ten and a half years of being blessed with this disease, I had been judged and pitied, looked at with weird looks, asked "why can't you do that in the bathroom", been told of every cure, and that I just wasn't smart enough to listen. Yes.. I was actually told that I didn't have the intelligence to know better. Talk about a verbal slap across the face.. with a cast iron skillet.
I knew that I wouldn't experience any of that at the UnConference. I knew that everyone attending understood how much a pain this is, how exhausting it can be, and how no matter how hard we try some days diabetes wins. I knew that I would come away feeling better and stronger. What I didn't know was how much I would love everyone I met.
From the moment of my first hug from Bea when I picked her up at the airport, I knew my d-family had grown. I was adding members to my all important d-family faster than I could remember everyone's names. There were a few people I had met in real life before, but everyone else I just knew from online. Thank goodness we all had name tags.
I learned so much, and yet nothing was new. I learned that I wasn't alone and never would be. I learned that some four letter words are standard descriptions for diabetes, and it's okay to shout them as loud as possible. I learned that we all have little tricks and tips that may or may not work for everyone, after all your diabetes may vary (I owe you a quarter, Bennet). I learned that the fears I had, others had had too. I learned that we would be okay.. together. I knew all this, but hearing someone else say ME TOO, made it that more valid and real to me.
I know that diabetes makes us stronger, not just emotionally and mentally, but physically as well. I am truly convinced that broken pancreases make arms stronger. I have never had so many tight, comforting, and totally awesome hugs as I did there. (Hold on, some #VegasDust just blew in.)
I can honestly say that at all times I felt Welcomed, I felt Valued, and I felt Respected.
AT. ALL. TIMES.
I will never forget my first ever diabetes conference and I can hardly wait for the next one.