Everyone living with diabetes faces challenges. But women with diabetes are especially cursed with some unique obstacles.
First and foremost, there are hormones.
These pesky chemicals influence blood sugars in ways that are often unpredictable. And, because they change throughout the month and throughout a woman’s life, it can feel impossible to get ahead of their effects.
Beyond the typical ebb and flow of monthly hormones are the especially potent ones that come with pregnancy. A constantly changing mix of chemicals combined with ever-increasing insulin resistance will challenge the sanity of even the most experienced diabetic. Pregnancy presents problems even for women who do not intend to have children. The fear of an accident and the stress of how diabetes might affect the unborn are enough to cause blood sugars to spike on their own.
Beyond physical differences, women with diabetes also have to deal with the unique challenges presented by cultural and social expectations. Raising children, climbing the corporate ladder, and even dating are all hard enough by themselves, and made even more complicated by the addition of diabetes.
Despite all these unique challenges faced by so many, diabetes care is often treated with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This can leave a lot of people, particularly women, feeling overlooked.
It was this issue that led Brandy Barnes to establish the first American non-profit with the single focus of helping women with diabetes. In the 11 years since its conception, DiabetesSisters has helped thousands of prediabetic, type 1, and type 2 women learn how to better control their condition while building community connections for lifelong support.
Sisterhood for Women Living with Diabetes
DiabetesSisters aims to educate, empower, and encourage all women with diabetes to live a better life. They accomplish this through a number of programs.
One of the simplest, yet most effective of these programs is called Between the Lines. Through their website, DiabetesSisters shares first-person accounts of the trials and tribulations of living with diabetes. These stories are submitted by women with diabetes from around the nation and focus on a number of topics from trying to find healthy, affordable groceries on the island of Hawaii to diagnosis tales we can all relate to.
Whatever the content, these stories all have one thing in common: they inspire.
To hear another person verbalize the same emotions, frustrations, and hardships you are dealing with immediately takes you from a place of isolation to seeing yourself as part of a community. And knowing that others have made it through that struggle can help motivate you to take the first step yourself.
But the support provided by this organization doesn’t stop with stories of inspiration. They also provide in-person meetups around the country.
Part of DiabetesSisters, or PODS, is a program led by a group of volunteers who host monthly meetups for women living with diabetes in their community. Whether you are type 1, 2, or prediabetic, joining these meetups is free of charge.
These meetups are loosely structured with rotating topics to encourage discussion. The goal is to provide a safe environment where women can discuss their struggles and learn from others with similar experiences. The intention is always to create an educational, respectful space where women can learn to take better care of themselves and their condition.
Currently, PODS Meetups exist in 35 locations across 20 states. For those who don’t live near a current meetup group, there is a viral meetup held on the third Thursday of every month.
In addition to creating a sense of community, DiabetesSisters also strives to educate and advocate. In 2016 they launched their minority initiative to increase awareness, peer support, and resources for minority women living with diabetes. These communities are often disproportionately affected by diabetes yet receive fewer resources to educate and support those living with the condition.
DiabetesSisters is a nonprofit organization run by a small group of women living with diabetes. At the heart of the great work they do is a growing number of dedicated volunteers.
If you are interested in hosting a PODS Meetup in your town, you can fill out an application to become a PODS Leader on the organization’s website. In addition to providing resources to help you advertise and run the monthly meetings, the organization also hosts Leadership Institutes throughout the country. These in-person training programs are meant to build and enhance better leadership skills, share experiences, and create welcoming atmospheres to encourage honest discussion.
If you want to contribute to this great organization but don’t have a lot of time to dedicate, you can always submit your own personal story of diabetes struggles and successes. DiabetesSisters is continually looking for new stories from any woman living with diabetes or prediabetes. For more information on how to get involved, send an email to email@example.com.
Of course, the sole reason this organization exists is to provide support to the women who need it. Check out their website today — diabetessisters.org — for a host of resources to help you live a healthier, happier diabetic life. While you’re there, make sure to check out the list of current PODS Meetup groups and the schedule of upcoming meetings so you can find and connect to the sisters with diabetes in your community.