The Tribe

Birdie (Kerri Sparling's daughter) and The Kid (my daughter) at Friends For Life 2013 - just two of the gorgeous children that T1s can produce.
Birdie (Kerri Sparling’s daughter) and The Kid (my daughter) – just two of the gorgeous children that T1s can produce.

In less than twenty-four hours, I will be surrounded by my tribe.

Friends for Life, the premier conference for families with Type 1 children (and some of us Type 1s who are children at heart), is going on in Orlando for the next few days. It’s the one conference that no one will ask you if you can eat that, look at your pump and wonder aloud if it’s a pager, or want you arrested if you say you’re high and pull out a needle.

The tribe grows larger this year. I’m honored to be on a morning panel for the first ever Diabetes Advocates MasterLab – a full day session discussing the importance of advocacy and how everyone touched by diabetes can be an advocate. What’s special about this is that we’ll have Type 1 and Type 2s together, along with the parents and grandparents of Type 1s (with some of them being Type 2s themselves). The more encompassing the tribe is, the more powerful it becomes.

For as horrible as this disease is, there is comfort in the solidarity of the tribe. Complete strangers give knowing nods in passing, acknowledging green bracelets signifying Type 1 diabetes on each others’ wrists. When a Dexcom trill goes off in a room, twenty people look down to see if it’s theirs. Someone has a low blood sugar? A torrent of glucose tabs rains down upon them.

There is such comfort in being with others who understand the silent wish as a meter counts down to a number. There is such joy in celebrating the new, squishy babies of T1 moms. There is even such pain as the tears flow when a fellow T1 speaks aloud your innermost fears. We are bound together by blood. And nonfunctioning pancreases.

The dream of The Diabetes UnConference came out of last year’s attendance at Friends For Life. I learned so much, but it was the moments of “life discussions” outside of the meeting rooms that sparked so much of what has now become a part of me. This year’s Friends For Life will continue to be a catalyst in how I live and be an inspiration of who I want to be.

I am eagerly awaiting the open arms of the tribe that no one ever wanted to join.

My friends.

My d-family.

My tribe.


  1. Wish I could be there, but alas – it wasn’t in the cards for this year, still healing up from surgery and working on getting healthy. BUT, I cannot WAIT to see you (and the rest of our tribe) in March at the UnConference!!!!

  2. Like Rhonda, I am thinking of all of you at FFL this week, but am counting the days until March, 2015. Las Vegas, Baby!

  3. […] I knew that it would be awesome. There were probably 10ish people around us (and the pictures Paige is taking show that). We held up the Dexcoms and all of a sudden everyone broke into song. Happy Birthday, but Happy Diaversary instead. Every single group from FFL that was in the bar started singing. It was incredible and completely embarrassing. I am pretty sure I ended up as red as my shorts. However, I also find the power of this community really hard to explain. I wish that this had been taped because it shows perfectly how awesome and big this place really is. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve had it, or how long they’ve had it, or how long the person they love has had it. They’re all in it and they all get it. […]

  4. […] Attending Friends for Life is a place where I can wear my emotions on my sleeve and my pump on my hip.  It’s somewhere I can feel safe admitting the things that weigh heavily on my mind but also celebrate something as simple as a 100 mg/dL on my glucose meter.  And nothing reminded me of this more than when I was walking towards my next session and I saw Briley outside of it, tears streaming down her face.  “I just had my eyes checked.  And they’re totally fine!!  After twenty-five years, they are still fine.”  I couldn’t hug her fast enough, or hard enough, because that’s what you do.  You celebrate the things others would never think to celebrate, and you appreciate the people who understand. […]

  5. The silent wish as the meter counts down to a number…so poetic and so true.

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