Today’s guest post is from my good friend Kerri MacKay. Kerri lives in Canada, and she deals with another chronic health issue with which I’m all too familiar, asthma. While she doesn’t have diabetes, Kerri is a big fan and supporter of the Diabetes Online Community. She recently traveled to the U.S. to attend the Medicine-X conference at Standford, and had the chance to meetup with some of our friends from the DOC. Today, Kerri shares her experience with us. Thanks so much, Kerri!
Last weekend, I was blessed with the ability to attend Medicine-X at Stanford University through the gift of an ePatient scholarship. Since I’m here guest posting on My Diabetic Heart, it only makes sense that I share some of my deep love for the Diabetes Online Community, even if I don’t have diabetes myself.
Every time we have new interactions, we learn, experience the world more deeply, and, most importantly, grow. Even though we think we may understand a lot about the inner workings of our worlds, it is only through these experiences that we make our worlds more tangible and thus understand them more deeply. Throughout the weekend, I experienced copious amounts of support and love from members of the DOC who were also in attendance at Med-X. Bit by bit, as an outsider to life with diabetes, I continued putting pieces of the puzzle together as my friends with diabetes stealthily managed the intricacies of diabetes management alongside all of the amazing things we were doing throughout our days in California. I know that for many of my friends, diabetes is always occupying a certain spot in their mind—but I also know the relentless passion they have for making a difference so that they can live as loudly as possible and be as healthy as possible. Aside from hearing the occasional lancing device being busted out, buzzing Dexcom or insulin pump buttons being pressed; aside from seeing the occasional injection at dinner or low blood sugar reading on a meter over the weekend accompanied by some clamoring for some quick carbs [oh, and Kim can attest, I am pretty good at rocking the carbs in the hotel room for lows—animal cookies, Lifesavers and Jelly Bellies were stocked on our desk at the Westin!]
As a person without diabetes [or PWoD as Kerri has named me—I was mistaken for her at dinner on Thursday night—best person I have been mistaken for EVER], I don’t have an internal sense of what goes on, how it feels to have diabetes. Through hanging out with Kim, Cherise, Chris, Mike, Liz, Debra, Sarah and Dana over the weekend, in whichever context that may have been, I was able to get a little more of a glimpse into their worlds, as well as Christina’s, who has two kids with type 1. More importantly, though, I saw compassion and love in action, and I saw the joining together of amazing bonds between these people who may have connected because of living with a chronic disease, but have grown to love and support each other in so much more than that, with hope fueling them to take things, all things, one moment at a time.
I could not have asked for a better, more beautiful group of people surrounding me, and I could not have found a more compassionate group of friends to support me through the journey in California. Even though I don’t have diabetes, and even though I didn’t meet anybody who identified as having asthma, there are certain things about having a chronic disease that just make this indescribable bond form. I may have helped Kim through a low or two, but at the same time, she provided much the same support for me.
While in Palo Alto, my asthma got a lot worse than it has in the past two and a half years, to the point where I had to start on prednisone to work at cutting the inflammation in my lungs so that I could fly back home knowing I would be relatively okay. Prednisone is not my favourite thing, and considering I hadn’t been on it in 2.5 years, I had no idea what the heck it was going to do to my body side-effect wise [it turns out that this time it made me super starving, thirsty and emotional]. Kim is amazing, and totally had my back through it all, and it was so cool to just see that it was really not a big deal to do what I needed to in order to work at getting healthy again. Whether it was in the fact that she just got it and didn’t need to ask me a million questions, to how she just simply asked “You good? Anything you need to do before we leave?” before we went to dinner on Friday after my lungs started getting less than awesome . . . I didn’t just see the compassion, I felt it. I felt it when I busted out the inhaler in the middle of a session and Cherise and Kim quickly leaned over to make sure I was good and after shooting them the thumbs-up they just fell back into the pattern of conference mojo. I felt it when Jewels and I had a chat on the bus about how I was doing, how Carly just got it when I said the prednisone was screwing me up because she’s been there, how my friend Steve who lives in the Bay Area kept calling to make sure I was okay once he found out I was sick. I felt it when I didn’t feel like I had to apologize for being sick, even though I know it’s not my fault. How I knew that if anything, anything at all were to have gone even more awry, that everybody surrounding me had my back and it truly was not a big deal to my fellow ePatients at Med-X because in one way or another, they knew what I was feeling.
The DOC is the most passionate, heart-filled condition-specific group I have ever seen online, and this is something I have long admired about this community that just got hugely underscored this weekend. I feel blessed that I have been enveloped into something so big, so awesome, and so supportive as the DOC, despite my functional pancreas, and that so many members of the DOC have taken the time to not only educate me, but support me and care for me as well. Even if I got sick in the process, I wouldn’t have traded the experience of this weekend for anything. It was truly a blessing to be able to spend so much time with so many of the amazing people I have connected with through Twitter over the course of this weekend, and I am still so in awe of the level of understanding that bridges the gap between one chronic disease to another, between online and off, and between once strangers . . . who are now friends.