A Students with Diabetes Conference Journal

When I was in school, I was lucky enough to know a few other students who also had Type 1. For those who go years without meeting another person with diabetes, Nicole Johnson, a former Miss America ’99 with Type 1, founded Students with Diabetes (SWD). The organization is not just for students, per se. Instead, its mission is to “create a community and connection point for young adults with diabetes on both college campuses and in local communities across the country.”

After having a great time at the 2014 SWD conference, my fiancé and I returned to this year’s event in Tampa. I think going to a conference like this is one of the best things you can do if you are a young adult with diabetes.

Here’s how our weekend went:

DSC06318_SWD_1_300pxAt check-in, everyone used syringes to plot on a map where they lived.

DSC06319_SWD_3_300pxThe conference officially kicked off with a special appearance from Crystal Bowersox, a talented American Idol runner-up with Type 1. After some humorous karaoke, which involved rewriting famous TV show theme songs with diabetes-themed lyrics, Crystal performed a small concert for the crowd, concluding with an emotional rendition of “Stand By Me”. (You can click here to watch the video; for every share on Facebook, DCE Productions will donate $1 to SWD scholarships.)

After some early morning Zumba and a delicious breakfast, certified diabetes educator Jill Weissberg-Benchell kicked off the day with a presentation on Diabetes Burnout, using humor and snarkiness to discuss the daily struggles of living with diabetes. She taught us how to gracefully educate people about Type 1, even when comments feel like insults.

Following the opening lecture, we chose to sit in on the relationship session led by certified diabetes educator Michele Laine, who talked about everything related to romance and diabetes, including corny pick-up lines, physical intimacy, and pregnancy. Jill then led a Body Image session; it was a rich discussion about food struggles and how to cultivate a healthy view of our bodies, as well as how to look at food as food instead of as medicine, a common Type 1 mistake.

During the lunch break, we could speak with vendors, including Animas, Tandem, and Novo Nordisk. I ended up trading in my Animas Ping for a new Vibe, which shows your current blood glucose and insulin on board on the same screen.

DSC06324_SWD_5_300pxNext, we heard from bionic pancreas engineer Ed Damiano about the results of a study of his device. Damiano shared that many participants in the trial stopped looking at their CGM graphs because their numbers were “too boring.” (Oh, how I long for the day my blood sugars are boring.)

Later that night, we enjoyed food, music, and dancing on a dinner cruise on Tampa Bay.

IMG_6670_SWD_6_300pxOn the last day of the conference, Type 1 athlete Kyle Cochran shared the story of his diagnosis and a snapshot of his time on American Ninja Warrior. Cochran’s talk was an inspiring message of how to use obstacles to create opportunity. SWD founder Nicole closed the conference with an equally inspirational message of hope. There were few dry eyes in the room by the end of her talk.

The weekend flew by, and I already can’t wait for the opportunity to go to a SWD conference next year!


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Amy Ford is a junior at Malone University studying Community & Public Health Promotion. She hopes to help those with Type 1 diabetes to manage the condition and promote Type 1 diabetes awareness in the public. She is a recent JDRF National Communications intern, and blogs at when she isn't busy studying for school, devouring novels, drinking tea, or watching lots of episodes of Gilmore Girls.

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