|Beach Party and Banquet|
I have been swamped since returning, but in spare moments have wondered...how could I even use words to express the enormity of this conference?
Enormity in so many ways...Size: over 3000 people all living with Type 1 diabetes in one place...Emotions: I don't think I have ever cried and laughed so much in one week...Learning: so many educational sessions all running at once-at times it was hard to choose just one...Fun: from the banquet to the beach party to the exhibit hall to Sports Central-the fun didn't stop...Connections: we made friends and built bonds that we hope will continue year after year. Gone was the need to spend time explaining Type 1, and how we have to live, and please don't get that deer in the headlight look...instead instant connections were formed...all of us living with this shared bond. It was like coming HOME.
So many moments fill my memories...sitting at dinner one night in the hotel at a Hibachi restaurant and looking around the table to realize everyone at the table was from the conference and living with Type 1. All the kids (and adults!) checking blood sugars and taking insulin at the same time. Green and orange bracelets everywhere (the bracelets of belonging...green for having Type 1 and orange for those who love them.) Looking around the hotel pool and seeing not only a sea of bracelets, but also dexcoms on childrens' arms and pumps everywhere. Having moms I don't even know offering my daughter glucose tabs when she was low in the pool. Looking around the hotel and seeing test strips everywhere...and they weren't ours! Talking with other moms and hearing over and over that we share the same fears. Getting to know another woman who is also a spouse and mom to a Type 1 and finding out we have so much in common in our unique roles as dual caretakers. Watching Sean connect with so many other Adults with Type 1's (there is an entire track at the conference for Adults with Type 1.) He has spent so much of his life with diabetes in complete isolation...it was almost like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon as he bonded with these wonderful adults. Meeting so many celebrities living with Type 1 and watching the stars in my daughters eyes as they interacted with them. Going from booth to booth in the exhibit hall and having a chance to see new insulin pumps up close, taste different glucose tabs, see new tools to make life easier. They even had a Build A Bear exhibit to make Lenny the Lion who has Type 1 with parts of his body all ready for kids to practice insulin shots or pump/Dexcom insertions. Learning about Coco-the Disney character who has Type 1. Seeing the convention center covered with Children With Diabetes posters, and collages of all the kids. Meeting so many heros...young and old. I am simply in awe of the children and adults living with Type 1. For all of these moments, there were hundreds more. It was quite simply like feeling like you finally found HOME.
I was not expecting the complete pit of emptiness that enveloped me the day the conference ended. We made the mistake of staying one extra day. We watched the orange and green bands slowly disappear from the hotel. It was culture shock to walk in the lobby the next morning and not see a single green or orange bracelet. Likewise, we made the mistake the night the conference had ended of walking through the convention center to get our car. All the posters and decorations were gone, and in their place the ones for the new conference starting. I haven't felt that empty in a long time. This was shared by every member of my family. All four us forced smiles and tried to cheer each other up.
This week Jessica's green bracelet finally fell off. The look of devastation on her face was not easy to take. I asked her why she was so sad the bracelet had come off. She said "Because it meant I am not alone and it reminds me of all the happy memories of the conference." I had her tape it to her desk where she can look at it and remember...until next year...when we return HOME.
|Lenny the Lion with his insulin pump and Dexcom|