Sunday, December 20, 2015

My Reflections of the International Diabetes Federation Conference in Vancouver

Sock Monkey preparing to give a speech!

We made it to Vancouver!!!
I’ve been back for a week now since doing my volunteer stint at #wdc2015 in Vancouver where  I lucked in on being one of the 100 volunteers that help IDF run smoothly.  Now, when I  say “lucked in”, being a volunteer is an expensive endeavour for those of us who don’t live close by.  For myself, it was a 12 hour journey to get to Vancouver on a milk run (if you saw my posts in Instagram with my 4 hour layover in Edmonton and “date” with one of the Westjet employees … you will see I made the most of this long trip out west).  I lucked in for this trip of having a nephew who is a Captain at Westjet giving up one of his standby passes to allow a less expensive option of flying the friendly skies of Canada along with shacking up with two other T1D mates in a time share that one of them has that was under a 2 km walk each day to the conference centre in Vancouver. 

Hamming it up within the #bluecircle
Despite this time of the year, which is rain, rain, and more rain … I loved my time in Vancouver both during the conference and afterwards (will blog about that experience later … let’s just say … I’m no longer a virgin when it comes to staying in a youth hostel).  The temperatures weren’t cold though many of the non Canadian visitors to the conference thought otherwise (e.g. “Dubai is 30C today … this 11C is cold”).  Ha! Ha! Come to other parts of Canada my friend and you will not be complaining.  All I can say, if I had a well paying job (rents are not cheap in the city which is where I’d love to live), I’d move out there in a flash!  Fresh seafood, laid back people, 2nd hand shops galore, funkiness, ability to walk in comfort, good public transport … need I say more?

This was my 2nd time volunteering with CDA (Canadian Diabetes Association) for the IDF convention, the last time was in 2009 in Montreal where I lived at the time (you can read about it where I also did a stint wearing a media badge for them … this time I didn’t).   I loved my experience last time, talking to doctors, researchers, companies involved in helping diabetics live life to the fullest.   This time though, IDF due to legalities of products either not being available in Canada, as well as my not being in the medical profession limited the company representatives the ability to converse with me, and some could not even giving me a brochure to help me pass on the info to others (e.g. my CDE's at Cornwall Community Hospital - sorry).  This was my main goal with attending the IDF conference!  So sadly this maybe my last time going (next one is in Abu Dhabi) – as I found it highly frustrating not to have open and honest conversations with people.

Henna Tattoo (I got two) - and insulin pens that have been blinged out in "jewels"!!!
The one good thing though despite not being able to obtain info on new insulins, etc. was the amount of people I met who had either never seen a T1D of my longevity, without complications or the devices I wore.  I educated a few of them on the Dexcom G4 CGMS, insulin pump (e.g. a few nurses were interested in watching me do an infusion change in the washroom one day when Ziggy, my insulin pump, ran out of his juice of life aka insulin).  I was invited to a few countries to give talks (me … on a stage … never … leave that to the ones that enjoy being in the lime light … I’m just happy doing what I do here from my laptop and meeting folks in small groups).  So that made up for not being able to collect more information that I did last time I attended and I'm hoping to play catch up with some of the information sessions that I couldn't attend due to schedule with volunteer duties that are available to attendees to view online.

What did sadden me the most, and what I was being asked to help out with if I came to their country to educate/speak …. EDUCATION (please note … as I told them … I am not a medical professional … just someone living with diabetes most of their life).  It is greatly lacking, along with resources, and costs for drugs, etc. that we all take for granted here in Canada / USA (50 test strips a year are covered in some countries for a T1D!!!).    One surgeon I spoke to from Bangladesh, who performs amputations told me of the amount of amputations he does, not just of toes, but of legs due to people not either knowing they are diabetic, or footwear (many go barefoot or wear shoes that allow objects to become embedded into their feet).  He wished they had better education in their hospitals or community centre that taught people about foot care and diabetes.  I heard similar stories from people I met both during and after the conference, e.g. I met a woman from Saudi Arabia on the day of Santa Claus’s parade in Vancouver (piss pouring rain) and she asked me for directions to it.  It turned out as we walked that she had attended the conference, we discussed diabetes and how I handled it, exchanged calling cards, and viola, another person dealing with the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in their part of our big blue marble.

The best part though?  Meeting up with new people and some I only know online and never met IRL since joining the #DOC (diabetic online community) in order to learn how to use my pump back in 2008! That in turn lead to a job at along with getting more involved in advocacy (I didn’t really talk much about diabetes for my first 41 years with it … shame on me).    Cherise Shockley gives a really good hug and speaks from the heart.  Manny Hernandez … well my “wet pussy” statements floored both him and Tom Karlya aka Diabetic Dad (sorry – I told them I didn’t wear my ears walking to the conference centre due to getting … rain soaked!!).   Sadly, I think Kerri Sparling was worried another photo bomb would be taken of us … so she avoided any "ear contact" with me ;)   The main thing though, meeting up with other folks (some you see scattered in pictures here) who are advocating / educating about diabetes is the most important thing!!!

Here’s to finding a CURE!!!