Last weekend I attended a JDRF event called “Reach and Teach U” held in Bloomington, MN (one of the Twin Cities nearby suburbs) near the Mall of America.
This was the third annual event, but it was the first I had heard of and attended. There was no charge (but pre-registration was required). It was scheduled to go from 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM, with a number of presentations and educational updates. They even had JDRF KidKamp for children ages 3+ (there was a magician and some other fun activities for the kids while parents and caregivers attended sessions).
There were only a few exhibitor booths there, and in all honesty, it didn’t seem like there was much time to visit them anyway. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like I didn’t have much opportunity to check out the booths without missing one of the presentations. I felt very pressed for time.
The opening keynote was incredible. Dr. Nat Strand, listed as “Amazing Race Winner, Type 1 Diabetic, Optimist” gave an energetic talk about her experiences navigating diabetes and winning (!!) the ‘Amazing Race’ (Season 17) on CBS. It was really something else. The adventure took her around the world in 23 days, and she had to pack everything she would need in a single backpack. She talked about working closely with her CDE who gave her great tips that helped immensely (such as removing some of her pump supplies from the bulky plastic packaging – sacrificing perfect sterility in order to save space). She said the producers and support staff were very ‘by the book’ and wouldn’t even hold a spare bottle of insulin for her. Nothing.
The first thing the producers aired containing anything about her diabetes was a clip of her doing a blood test and it coming back at 337 mg/dl. She talked about how embarrassed she was – with that being her introduction to the world as a person living with diabetes and not being able to show a good number. But shortly after that episode aired, she started getting all sorts of letters and e-mails thanking her for showing real-life diabetes. Anybody with diabetes would probably have crazy blood sugars zipping around the world and enduring crazy stressful challenges and events!
I got to sit with Leah, who was super excited about listening to Dr. Strand speak. After her presentation was done, Leah and I went to talk with her. Leah told Dr. Strand about how she was a big fan of the show, and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just before her season (17) started. Leah said it was a HUGE boost for her to watch Dr. Strand go out there, battling highs and lows, and doing all of these crazy things. It was very emotional, and I could tell it was a big deal for Leah to have this opportunity to talk with Dr. Strand and share her story.
There were a few other sessions that were interesting that afternoon, everything from research updates to radical acceptance to diabetes service dogs. During lunch I was able to help convince my friend Cynthia to start her own blog, which was very exciting to me. I also ran into Dr. Robert Larson, the incredible pediatric endocrinologist who took care of me and my diabetes for twenty-some years as I was growing up (more to come with him soon!).
A large portion of the lunch time was spent kicking off the 2012 JDRF Walk. Honestly, it felt kind of weird. Like “Oh, THAT’s why they are doing all of this stuff today…” Or maybe my expectations were just not in the right place. I think if it is a walk kickoff event, call it a walk kickoff event.
Either way, it was a day well spent, and I would probably do it again.