Friends for Life Wrap-Up: NextGen Leaders Share Their Experiences

Short Description
FFL NextGen leaders share what they learned at the 2020 Friends for Life virtual conference.
Contributor
Sarah Hauge, Haleigh Diaz, Zachary Merkel, & Nisha Karwal

 

 

Components
Image
Sarah headshot
Title
Sarah Hauge
Description

If I had to choose one word to sum up my conference experience at Friends for Life, it would be "hope." I have always felt that the diabetes community does a great job of supporting children, teens, and even college students with diabetes, but if I am being honest, the adult world of diabetes felt like the great unknown. I had never met an adult with type 1 diabetes without significant complications from poor management. At Friends for Life, I met so many people with diabetes who were healthy and well, despite living with type 1 for 30, 40, or even 50 years. Seeing what life as an adult with diabetes could look like gave me so much hope for the future. After attending the iLet update, I again felt that same sense of hope. Knowing that a fully closed-loop bihormonal system could be released not only in my lifetime, but in the next few years, was so encouraging. Even after living with type 1 for 12 years, I can have hope that life with diabetes could look radically different in the near future. This reminder to hope--to have hope, to keep hope, and to give hope-- is one that I will remember for years to come. 

Image
Haleigh headshot
Title
Haleigh Diaz
Description

This was my first time attending a diabetes conference of this type, and I was pleasantly surprised by the wide scope of topics, relating to diabetes, being covered in the programming. I had an expectation of primarily very clinical, research-heavy information sessions regarding technology and medical discovery. While this was certainly present and extremely beneficial, diabetes affects, and is affected by, nearly every aspect of life beyond the medical implications of a diagnosis, and the Friends of Life conference managed to address this very well. I attended sessions about travelling, activism and social media, mental health, professional workplaces, family relationships, education, and insurance, to name a few. These sessions allowed me to interact with an extremely diverse gathering of people living with or affected by diabetes, and reminded me of the part I have within a larger type 1 diabetes community, something which, aside from CDN, I had had little access to since starting college far away from my home and the network of T1D support I had there.

Image
Zachary headshot
Title
Zachary Merkel
Description

Attending the virtual Friends for Life conference was a great opportunity to learn about many diabetes-related topics, network with professionals in the community, and connect with other people that truly understand what it means to live with diabetes in their day to day life. Many sessions and conversations that were tailored towards parents of children with diabetes, so I had the unique opportunity to get another perspective on diabetes – one that I had not previously considered. Navigating insurance, understanding research, going off to college, and dealing with the positive and negative emotions related to diabetes were just a few of the conversations that I was able to attend. Dealing with these topics personally is one thing, but hearing other parents talk about these things in regards to their children gave me a greater appreciation for all that my parents have done for me related to my diabetes.

Image
Nisha headshot
Title
Nisha Karwal
Description

I attended Friends for Life: Orlando 2020 as a College Diabetes Network representative. I had a wonderful time connecting with CDN peers managing diabetes with similar interests. I had the opportunity to meet with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), which was quite informative as I hope to pursue that training as a physician. I enjoyed all the sessions I attended, especially a young adult session regarding Mental Health & Diabetes. It felt amazing to openly discuss mental health issues that many of us face. A majority of the participants in that session admitted to having a better time managing diabetes with the help of SSRIs. Many of us spoke about how anxiety and depression play a huge underlying factor in managing a chronic illness. I felt a sense of community being able to discuss the difficulties that we face in managing diabetes as well as the solutions to help make our lives better. As a current medical student aiming to pursue endocrinology as a physician, I saw myself able to connect to people with chronic illness with grace. It was a great opportunity for me to practice tactful dialogue while conversing about mental health topics that unfortunately still carry stigma. I loved this opportunity to represent CDN as well as connect with an entire community that understands the highs and lows of diabetes!