Putting the “World” in World Diabetes Day.
First, some background:
I’ve known the co-founder of the Unite for Diabetes campaign, Clare Rosenfeld, since we were ridiculously precocious eight-year-olds attending Gales Creek Camp in Forest Grove, Oregon. Even back then, Clare was the most up-front, “this is my life and let me tell you about it” regarding diabetes as she is today. Because I have been friends with her for so long, I joined her in whatever crazy scheme she came up with to help others with diabetes.
In 2000, Clare founded the International Diabetes Youth Ambassadors, which was a program of Children With Diabetes to bring together children with diabetes from around the world to educate and find a cure. It was a great idea, and it did some good in its infancy, though I’m not sure if the members do anything currently. Listing our profiles, participating in online chats and exchanging emails about advocacy was pretty much our main activities, so I ended up “meeting” a lot of people with diabetes from other countries.
Early on in the program, one girl that I met through IDYA was Anja, a girl from Denmark who has gone on to become one of the most well-spoken and well-traveled diabetes advocates that I know. She is an International Diabetes Ambassador for IDF and she also sits on the Novo Nordisk Youth Panel as well as a few other organizations.
And this week, she is in the United States in preparation for next week’s World Diabetes Day.
We have exchanged dozens upon dozens of emails in the past seven years, but of course, being that she lives in Denmark, we never actually met. We’re friends on Facebook and regularly post silly comments on The Wall (Facebookers will know what I’m talking about).
Today, I finally met this young lady when I took the train into the city, along with her friend, Caitlin McEnery (haha, I almost typed McEnergy, which actually would be a much more appropriate surname!), one of JDRF’s leading advocates. We met up at the Corner Shop Cafe (thanks Kerri!) and spent a few hours browsing the shops in Soho.
As always, it was a terrific afternoon of blood sugar testing, comparisons of Symlin experiences and complaints about doctors who insist they know more than we do about our own bodies and what is best for us. We also chatted about the differences in between life in the United States and Denmark, and they shared stories from the International Diabetes Federation conference in South Africa last December. I feel like we get so caught up in America and the U.S. health system and the trial and tribulations that we have to deal with on a regular basis, but when you become a part of an organization that has such a far-reaching influence, it’s amazing to realize what people have to deal with on a regular basis – fighting to get access to even a glucose meter or one bottle of insulin that actually works or a doctor who even knows what diabetes is. Despite all the hardships we have dealing with our medical system and professionals – and believe me, I know how imperfect it is – I still feel blessed to know that I have access to the resources that I need because I live in a developed country.
It was great to finally meet two ladies who I have wanted to meet for such a long time. I can’t wait to meet more of the advocates when they start arriving next weekend, and I especially can’t wait for the big day! You can be sure that I’ll have a full report.