I had intended to write a blog about the Diabetes UK Big Event which was held on Saturday 14th July (2012) but unfortunately I didn't get to see much of it, so this would have been the extent of the blog (I'll write a mini one about the meeting soon). Instead I'm going to write about the social side of the event because the social element has now become an important part of my diabetes regime.
Friday 13th July (2012) was the date that the Diabetes UK Young Leaders had been given to reunite, to socialise, to welcome new faces and ideas and to prepare themselves for a productive meeting the next day.
The 20 Young Leaders are from the UK Ireland Scotland and Wales and are all between the ages of 17-30. The aim of the group is to lead young people with diabetes, to support them and to offer guidance. There is a gap in the service for young people at the moment and we want to fill that gap with ideas plans and action to create a better future.
The agenda for our day was going to be taken up mostly by meetings to discuss and finalise plans for the Young Leaders group. The setting was Warwick University where the Diabetes UK Big Event was taking place, it was the perfect setting for young people to meet.
Our "social meeting" was to begin (and end for me) in a bar named "The Mucky Duck" which we arrived at around 5:30pm. Too early I hear you say? Well so did I, but being the oldest I was shouted down and forced.. I mean literally dragged kicking and screaming into the bar! Once I had gotten over my utter shock of being manhandled I calmed down and soaked up the converstaions.
Obviously we all have our diabetes in common and chatting revolved around this to begin with.. What we eat, who has a pump, how our blood sugars are doing etc and I was lapping it all up! See this is something that I had never experienced throughout my 10 years of living with diabetes, until a few months ago when we all met for the first time. I realised when I had left the last meeting that this is what I had been craving all along! The people who completely understand what I'm going through. People who can give me advice and share tips and experiences. People who I can honestly and openly talk to about anything diabetes related because the chances are they've been through it themselves.
Friendships are powerful things and with a condition like diabetes I think they can be a massive influence in the way we take care of ourselves and they way we view life with diabetes.
So the conversations soon turned to football, which meant that I could move away from the guys and chat to Hannah who is quickly becoming like a little sister to me. We chatted away until the heavens opened up and we had to take shelter inside. Our next stop was a pit stop for fuel (food and insulin) at the student restaurant/bar.
This is a new experience for me as I've never eaten with other people who have diabetes before. We all picked from the menu and Hannah calculated my carb intake for me as I had no idea what it was. It was all very exciting and new as I usually eat in front of my computer at work, in front of my laptop at home or on the go when I'm rushing around! Sitting down to enjoy a meal with good friends was what I really needed. I actually enjoyed taking my time over the food and tasting it for what seemed like the first time in ages! Having that good experience and associating it with food is something which is lacking for me, so once again my diabetes friends have helped me more than they know!
After we had all had our fill we headed back to The Mucky Duck where the guys hovered around a young pretty barmaid and the girls sat and chatted. By this time there were a few additions to the group and we all mingled as much as we could. Unfortunately the guys were in what looked like a hypo trance around the pretty barmaid so I left them flexing their muscles to chat to Joe who manages the social media side for Diabetes UK. Working in social media and health care is my dream job so I bombarded him with questions about how he uses social media to interact with different people on a daily basis. I learnt so much and ideas kept popping into my head about how I could reach more people, help more people and make more of a difference. Another win for diabetes as I now had even more motivation thanks to all of this socialising!
As the clock started ticking closer to midnight I started to feel the early alarm I'd had and the long journey, so I made my excuses (being old was one of them) and headed for bed. Only 3 of us left early but I don't think my night could have been any better. I watched people laughing and joking with each other as I left and I was happy. I'd spent time in the company of some wonderful people and had even more to come the next day. Every time that I speak to someone about my diabetes I get inspired to make more of a difference to other people. I don't think that I would be where I am today if it wasn't for the great care that I receive at my hospital, but I know that I can maintain that with the diabetes friends who I speak to every day. They are just as important to me as my HCPs now, and for that I want to say thank you to everyone.