Friends for Life: Part 2

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So in the last week or so, not too much has changed in my diabetes care. No real exciting updates or particularly interesting stories to share, so I figured, why not write about something that is always exciting for me and that flows so naturally: the Children with Diabetes (CWD) conferences!

On a side note, I’ve had some people who are really perplexed by all my positivity regarding Type 1. First, I just want to clarify that what I write is my opinion and my experience — I am not speaking on behalf of all people with Type 1 diabetes. If you are in any way offended by my posts, I’m sorry that you took what I wrote in a negative light. (A bit ironic: I’m being so positive, that some people are taking it negatively!) Alas, c’est la vie, non?

Anyhow, a couple weeks ago I wrote about the CWD conference in Philly, as well as some of the reasons why CWD is so important to me. This time, I want to share some more about the summer conference. And as always, if you have any questions, comments, or writing requests, feel free to comment below. I read all the comments and do my best to respond. (The last few posts are lacking in the comment department, so if you’re reading this drop a line, even if it’s just to say, “Hey, I read this!”)

This summer the Friends for Life (FFL) CWD conference will be held at the Marriott World Center Resort in Orlando, Florida. The FFL conference was held there the year before last, and let me tell you, it was simply incredible. The place is huge — it’s actually the largest Marriott in the world! It’s also home to the largest pool in all of Florida, and my personal favorite, a glass elevator that goes all the way up to the 28th floor. (Willy Wonka’s got nothing on this elevator!) It’s freaky the first couple of times you ride it, but since we had nothing else to do, my friends and I would ride the elevator up to the top floor.

If the hotel itself isn’t enough to entice you, the summer conference is such an incredible experience. I believe last year there were around 3,000 participants at the conference. Imagine 3,000 people roaming around your hotel with identifiable lime green and neon orange bracelets all there for a conference to talk about diabetes. Diabetes, the one thing that it seems like no one else understands the other 361 days of the year. (The lime green bracelets are worn to identify individuals with Type 1; the neon orange is for individuals without it.)

Name tags are also worn by conference participants. The people who are conference staff, faculty, or volunteers wear conspicuous badges on their name tags indicating their position at the conference so that you can approach them with any questions you may have. (“First timer” badges were recently added to the mix so that conference veterans know who to reach out to so that everyone feels extra welcomed and cared for.)

One of my favorite things about the FFL conference is all of the special guests (aka celebrities) that are there. These are triathletes, singers, dancers, race-car drivers, NFL players (big ups to Kendall Simmons and the Pittsburgh Steelers!), mountain climbers, professional cyclists, and I know I already said singers, but I’m talking American Idol finalists! Crystal Bowersox will be attending FFL this summer, making it her second year in row! (And who could forget the year they brought Kevin Covais? That one goes out to my good CWD friends. You know who you are…)

If you haven’t ever attended a CWD conference and have no idea how it works, there is always something there for everyone. During the day, everyone gets split up based on age groups. There are specific focus groups and sessions for parents, grandparents, teens, tweens, and elementary age children, and there’s even child care for the really little ones. Here’s a direct statement from the Children with Diabetes page on exactly what to expect at the conference:

Children with Diabetes presents our 13th annual family conference! Join our international group of world-renowned clinicians, researchers, physicians, adults, children, and families with diabetes to learn the most current information in diabetes care. Attend educational sessions and get cutting-edge ideas for your family’s diabetes management. Participate in parent discussion groups and find new, creative ways to help and motivate your children. Watch toddlers and teens, young parents and grandparents, new diabetes professionals and practiced clinicians make new and lifelong friendships. This is a conference you won’t ever forget!

One of my all-time favorite things about the CWD FFL Web page is the testimonials at the top. Basically, statements by past conference attendees. I think this one sums it up best:

I have never seen my teen so happy, although I only saw him five minutes before bed and for a few minutes after waking….he said mom I see you everyday, but these guys are my friends for life!

The thing about CWD conferences is that your friends truly become your family. I get emotional just seeing everyone, and don’t get me started on what happens when it’s time to leave. It’s actually become a bit of a tradition where conference friends go home with one another because of how rarely we see each other. I have best friends who live in Illinois, California, Kansas, and Florida, just to name a few. (And I mean a few!)

The thing I love the most about conferences is the positive energy. You can’t help but smile all day long. Here are some pictures from last year that show just some of the fun we had!

Maryam and Spider-Man
Meeting Spider-Man for the first time.

Maryam and Phoebe

My friend Phoebe and me before my final teen dance.

Super Bowl Ring

Wearing Kendall Simmons’ Super Bowl ring. (Go Steelers!)

With Woodie and Jessie
And of course, hanging out with Woody and Jessie before heading out for a day at Magic Kingdom.

So basically the Friends For Life conference is a few days in sunny Orlando with the best people you’ll ever meet! It’s a great time for the entire family, and I guarantee everyone will leave with hearts full and hope renewed. There’s something about being at a CWD conference that makes you accept that everything is going to be just fine. You come to the overwhelming realization that there are a ton of people out there dealing with the exact same thing on a daily basis

One of the hardest things about Type 1 is just the psychology of it. Of feeling like you’re the only one doing this and that no one gets it. CWD changes all of that. So if you’re free in early July and can make it down to Orlando, I highly recommend it. I guarantee you’ll have the time of your life!

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