The Middle Tennessee chapter of JDRF hosted its first symposium last weekend, overwhelming the Franklin Marriott with test strips and beeping insulin pumps. The symposium was coordinated by the Middle Tennessee chapter, but several others contributed including my local chapter. It was a wonderful weekend full of old friends and new ones.
If you couldn’t make it to the symposium, you can catch up on the action through the search term #JDRFNash. Several of us live-tweeted the sessions we attended. You can see conference topics and the speaker list here. One of my favorite sessions featured Kerri Sparling of Six Until Me. She talked about pregnancy and parenting with type 1 diabetes alongside Dr. Shubhada Jagasia. (Jagasia was one of the deciding factors for me in switching to Vanderbilt last year. She is well-regarded, brilliant and recognizes the emotional side of diabetes.)
I originally found the online community through Kerri while she was pregnant with her daughter. We’ve emailed and even video chatted, but until this weekend had never met. As it seems accustomed within the DOC, we jumped right in as if we’d been friends for years. (And it only took us one hour together to get into trouble, too.) I was looking forward to Kerri’s session tremendously because having children is something I want someday. I’m not ready to start a family yet, but because I have type 1 diabetes, it’s something I have to think about in advance. Both Kerri and Dr. Jagasia reiterated having tight control well in advance is key. It’s one of my underlying motivators to take care of myself now.
The session was informative and beneficial. The crowd included single women, women expecting and women who’d delivered healthy and beautiful babies — with type 1 diabetes. Twenty-five years ago, pregnancy for a type 1 was tough, if not dangerous. Thanks to research and technology, it’s no longer the extreme risk it once was. If you don’t already follow her, you can find Kerri on Twitter here and read her blog, Six Until Me, here.
The second highlight of the weekend was the session on cycling with diabetes. (Go figure, right?) Aaron Jaffe, a member of InsulINdependence, shared his experiences training with type 1. Aaron was diagnosed as an infant and didn’t start running until his late 20s, early 30s. He talked about his motivation, as well as the technology he uses to help keep himself active. I didn’t know much about Aaron prior to the symposium, but I was impressed with his story. I think we share some similarities in the way we approach diabetes management.
I like that Aaron didn’t grow up an athlete. He wasn’t competing in triathlons in college or lettering in track in high school. He started as an everyday guy who wanted to make a change. He conditioned his body and strengthened his muscles over time. It’s inspiring to those of us who work hard, but aren’t professional athletes. He also said something that mirrored my thoughts on cycling:
I have a chip on my shoulder as a diabetic athlete. I don’t win anything, but I cross the finish line. -Aaron Jaffe
It’s true for me as well. As a diabetic, I have something to prove to myself. I may never be a competitive cyclist, but I’ll do everything in my power to cross the finish line. The symposium was wonderful, and I am grateful to have been a participant. I left with more knowledge, greater hope and a few new friends. Many thanks to Mary Lyn Schuh, Agnes Rayome and everyone else with the JDRF Middle Tennessee office. I’m already looking forward to next year.