Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Friends for Life 2014 - the second half

The second half of Friends for Life was even better than the first.

Faces that were strangers were becoming familiar. Shy smiles exchanged on the first day turned into broad grins by the third as the same people kept crossing paths with me. I never did learn most of their names but our eyes met and we seemed to share a feeling of kinship.

When I got there, I thought I would seek out people like me. Athletes. Adults. Pumpers. CGM'ers. Diagnosed in adulthood. Doing most of it on our own.

Instead, I felt myself drawn to families. To parents of little kids with type 1. To siblings of someone with type 1. To hopeful moms sitting alone in the session hosted by JDRF where they talked about the quest for a cure. To dads siting at the back of the room who told me about their grown daughters with Type 1 that they still worry about. To groups of kids wearing orange or green bracelets all hanging out together. To teenage girls who seemed to hide every sign of Type 1 but who wore their green bracelets in plain sight. To others who kept their pumps in plain view with the tubing hanging out for all to see.

The first day of the conference I played spot the famous people. I spotted so many people whose blogs I read. Most of them probably have no idea that I read them. Or who I am. I recognized them from their photos. I recognized their children and their partners from their photos. I felt like I knew them all already. I wanted to go up to them, say hi, tell them how much I enjoy reading their stories and then ask to take a photo with them as proof that I did indeed meet them.

I didn't.

I discovered that I didn't want to talk to people I already felt I knew. I wanted to meet the quiet people. The ones who don't write about their T1 lives. The families with five foster children who were all there because one of the kids developed T1 in January. They wanted to come to the conference and learn more about what the future would hold. The D-mom who hid her T1 from everyone, who had two children but had always wished she could have had six. The college student who was there on her own and who joined me for breakfast when I was sitting on my own. She taught me that there is more than one place to put a CGM and I taught her that she's not the only person who sweats a lot and struggles to keep adhesives attached. I wished I had talked to her on the first day rather than the last. She was pretty cool.

On the last day, I hugged the moms I met the first morning and I wished them and their families well. We may meet again next year. We may never again cross paths.

At 4am on Sunday morning I walked the quiet halls of the hotel to the lobby. I climbing into a taxi to the airport and looked out the window at the dark streets as we drove. I saw no green bracelets at the airport. I saw no green bracelets on the plane. I saw no green bracelet when I arrived in Toronto. I don't remember the moment when I saw the last green bracelet but it was some point on Saturday night as I headed back to my room to pack. If I had known it would the last - I would have stopped to thank them. I didn't and so I didn't.

I got home and wore my bracelet for the rest of the day. I just wasn't ready yet to take it off - frayed and battered as it was.

I didn't think I would want to wear my illness so clearly on my wrist. I didn't think it would be so meaningful to see others do the same. I have known for years the importance of the Diabetes Online Community. Until last week, I never knew the importance of the Diabetes 'In Person' Community.