AADE: Day 3

Danielle Parson, University of Western Ontario '14

Today was another packed day of tabling, networking, and fun in the convention center! Danielle and I started our day off with a panel discussion titled: “DOC Rx: The Role of Social Media in Diabetes Care.” Going into the session, we had no idea what topics would actually be covered but nonetheless we went with open minds and our. As young 20-year-olds, we assumed that we likely already knew everything there is to know about social media and diabetes but wow… were we wrong! The panel discussion displayed an array of experience and knowledge in the “Diabetes Online Community,” including Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Jen Block, Kerri Spalding, Jeff Hitchcock, and Bennet Dunlap – all accomplished and respected individuals in the diabetes community. What started as a somewhat formally structured presentation turned into an emotional conversation about the importance of connecting with peers with diabetes – whether through in person contact or online communities. Much like Tina’s Day 2 presentation on young adults, I could write a whole blog post about the DOC Rx presentation – ironically since the topic of the discussion was online diabetes media – but I’ll save that for another day! In the end, the presentation made me consider things I had never thought of before in terms of my own diabetes management. It seems that a lot of times as a young adult with diabetes (but applicable to individuals of every age, with or without diabetes!) that you don’t want to admit your weaknesses, whether for feelings of fear, inadequacy, or social pressures. But in the process of trying to hide those inevitable unique imperfections, you’re giving them the power to control you! All I can say is at times of the conversation; Danielle and I were both fighting off tears as the discussion turned to the incredible importance of peer support! Being in the conference lecture hall, we ourselves were being supported by the panel and other conference attendees.

Main take-aways:

1. Diabetes is a 24/7 job with no break and should be treated as such – when it comes to your support system, they should recognize that the unpredictability and constant nagging stress undoubtedly takes a toll on a person with diabetes, as well as their support system.

2. It’s OK to admit that you’re not perfect… NO one is! We need to reduce the feelings of shame and guilt when we see blood glucose readings that are “out of range.” Sometimes things happen that are completely UNEXPLAINABLE and there’s nothing you can do but try to learn from it.

3. A1Cs should be seen as a data point to gauge your progress rather than as a number that purely reflects either happiness or disappointment. See POINT 2! An A1C that’s risen since your last appointment can damage your diabetes management outlook for the next three months if you let it. Keep your A1C in perspective.

4. If you don’t feel you can be honest with your clinicians about your diabetes care – reevaluate that relationship. Your diabetes educators should be like those awesome soccer coaches you had in elementary school – supportive and caring even when you miss a goal. Only you can make yourself take care of your diabetes, but your doctors and nurses are there to give you guidance and reassurance along the way. You’re a TEAM – and we all know there’s no “I” in team!

5. If all the people with diabetes in the world could hold a conference and discuss what tips and tricks they’ve mastered over the years to manage their diabetes, can you imagine all the amazing data and resources that could be created?! Well… the Diabetes Online Community can do that! Don’t be afraid to see what other people with diabetes – from all parts of the world – have discovered.

6. Don’t forget to highlight the successes in your diabetes care. One day of great control, or even just one postprandial glucose reading that’s in range, is a reason to celebrate! It’s these small achievements that add up to your real health. So set realistic goals and rejoice in the small progress made.

7. Your happiness and mental health are just as important to your well being as your glucose readings. Determine what brings you down with your diabetes and in your life and work to eliminate, or at least lessen, those stressors.

Following the wonderful DOC presentation, Danielle and I headed back to the Exhibit Hall to finish up our last few hours as CDN representatives (at AADE that is!) at our booth! At this point, connecting with conference attendees felt like second nature! The last few hours flew by as we took shifts manning the booth and walking around the exhibit hall – picking up free snacks, key chains, and trying to meet as many people possible. At the end of the day, having befriended countless fellow exhibitors, we ended up leaving the conference hall with some portable cell phone chargers (thanks Cinsulin!), fiber supplements, a shopping bag full of Level Life protein shakes and power bars, and countless new products to research once we made it back home.

Of course, in our final day in the exhibit hall we did answer a few questions from neighboring exhibitors who really weren’t aware of what we were all really doing there in the first place. We answered the usual… so you guys have diabetes? And… Type 1: is that the bad kind? But we were complimented that we all looked healthy and were obviously taking the initiative to take care of our diabetes. A complement I think we were all happy to accept. 

At this point, the exhibit hall was closed off from attendees as we began the process of dismantling our CDN display. Unfortunately, Danielle and I also had to say goodbye to Tina and Amanda as they headed off to the airport to head back to Boston. After attending one final session titled, “Engaging Emerging Adults,” us students headed back to the hotel to recoup before heading out for the night to the Orlando Universal Studios City Walk. By the time we got back to our hotel late in the evening, we were more than ready to crash in bed and call it a day, and a conference, well done!

As I look back at my time at the conference, it really was an awesome experience. The collective knowledge of all the Certified Diabetes Educators, Endocrinologists, Pharmacists, Psychologists, and Companies was incredible. To say AADE was an eye-opening look into all the possibilities and component of the diabetes field is a massive understatement. From non-profits, to research firms, to clinical trials, to the endocrine clinical field, to pharmaceutical companies, and the diabetes education profession – there’s an infinite amount of ways to get involved in the diabetes care industry. Being at the AADE Conference was like truly being at the very center of the diabetes care world. The initiatives and debates taking place here from topics like “The Future of Health Care Reform” to “How to Organize Diabetes Management” are the future of diabetes – not just for me but also for the millions of people in the world living with the disease. The blend of sheer determination, technological innovation, and personal emotion at a conference like this is overwhelming. Looking around the conference hall, it’s crazy to think how much we have to learn from each other and even crazier to think how much there’s to come in the upcoming years in diabetes research and development. All I can say is thank you CDN for allowing me to come with you guys! Not only did I strengthen my connection with CDN but I also learned things about diabetes and myself that I never would have discovered on my own. With that said… the AADE conference was an absolute success and I couldn’t be happier with the experiences I had in my seemingly short time there!

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The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide innovative peer based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes.

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