Our Trip to CWD Friends For Life
Benny and I recently attended the Children with Diabetes Friends For Life conference. I’d heard about it for years and was excited to experience it. Children with Diabetes is a wonderful online resource. Friends For Life is their conference, set up so that families can meet up, have fun and learn about diabetes.
Maybe it’s because Benny was diagnosed at such a young age (23 months) but he doesn’t think about diabetes as something that changed his life for the worse. We’ve never told him he couldn’t do something because of type 1 so I wasn’t sure what he’d get out of an experience like this.
This year’s conference was the biggest yet; about 3000 people attended. There is something incredibly comforting about seeing so many people affected by diabetes. No one looks at you funny when you take out a meter to test and every other person seems to be wearing an insulin pump. It’s inspiring and freeing in a way I hadn’t expected.
We had a great time at the conference expo where we learned about the latest technology for diabetes care, played games and met new friends. Hands down, Benny’s favorite was the booth where kids got to go through “spy school” and answer questions about diabetes as part of the training. See this picture? I have about six just like it.
Another highlight was Sports Central, where kids play and learn how to manage diabetes during sports. The staffers walk the walk; we met a marathon runner and an ice climber, both with type 1. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but one of the conference speakers, Will Cross, is the first American and the first person with diabetes to climb the highest peak on each continent and trek to the North and South Poles!
We also saw Crystal Bowersox, from American Idol, and former NFL player Kendall Simmons, both type 1 diabetics there to inspire others with their stories. Just as special, I saw teenagers unselfconsciously checking their blood sugar and showing younger kids that it’s ok to rock an insulin pump in the pool.*
It’s also pretty cool to be in a place where you never have to look up the carb counts for meals (it’s all printed out for you!) and you’re not the only one in the room, or even at the table, who checks blood sugar before eating.
*Note: Not all insulin pumps are waterproof. Please refer to the Owner’s Booklet for further technical information.
Going to Friends For Life was a wonderful experience for me, an affirmation that my child may have a chronic health condition, but it doesn’t have to stop him from chasing big goals.
As for Benny, I know he liked seeing all the diabetes technology, and we talked about new steps we might take as he gets older. I can’t say his outlook on diabetes changed significantly because of Friends For Life. In a way, it was confirmation of what we’ve told him all along: his future with diabetes will be as bright as he wants to make it.