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And Then There Were Many.

November 15, 2007

“United Nations, please.”

I couldn’t help but grin as the cab pulled away from Penn Station early yesterday morning.

Although many people believe the first United Nations recognized World Diabetes Day has been months in the making, I know different. This event has been years in the making, going all the way back to a summer in 2001 in the Rosenfeld’s kitchen in Eugene, Oregon where the seeds of this idea were sown.

And now I was here, in Manhattan, on my way to one of the dozens of events in honor of World Diabetes Day.

Emotions swirled around this event as we gathered in the courtyard of the United Nations, overlooking the East River. We were anxious, we were excited, we were hopeful. We were proud

It was a Who’s Who of events, and a friend and I joked it was much like a small conference. In attendance were Jeff Hitchcock of CWD, Nicole Johnson and Mother Love from dLife, Zippora Karz (a former ballerina for the NYC Ballet) and Phil Southerland (lead cyclist for Team Type 1). I also saw Kim Kelly, and had my picture taken with Charles Renfroe and Dr. Fran Kaufman. I saw my friend Noah Moore and Clare Rosenfeld, the co-creator of the Unite for Diabetes Campaign. We huddled together for a group hug and photo.

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After the blue umbrellas were passed out, we were lead down to the UN Rose Lawn for a speech by the Ambassador of Bangladesh and a performance of the “Promise to Remember Me” song by Elliot Yamin and a group of JDRF youth advocates. I enjoyed listening to the song, though I’m embarrassed that I don’t remember a word of the song (though in my defense, it has been six years).

We circle together with our umbrellas held high overhead, the United Nations looking down on the blue circle forming in their backyard.

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Our march along First Avenue was comical. Led by a procession of bagpipers, we marched from the United Nations to the rally venue at Guastavinos under the 59th Street Bridge. Despite what the itinerary may say, it certainly took us more than 246 steps to walk the fifteen blocks uptown! As we marched with our umbrellas raised, people stopped on the streets and stared out of apartment windows. It was hard to differentiate between normal New York City honking and World Diabetes Day honking, but I’m pretty sure a couple cars joined in the fun!

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At the rally, my diabetes radar was in full effect and I managed to spot Seonaid from across the venue (thank you Facebook photos!). We toured the upstairs exhibit area, where I spoke with a representative of the Inspired By Diabetes campaign and picked up a miniature version of the Changing Diabetes bus. I also chatted with some representatives of the AADE and met Christopher Thomas from DiabeticRockstar.com.

Of course, I took dozens of photos and you can see all of them in my World Diabetes Day 2007: NYC Edition Flickr gallery.

That night, as I returned to Penn Station, I stood on the street corner and completed the day with a viewing of the Empire State Building glowing in our blue.

When I came home, I started downloading the photos I had taken that day, clearing out and deleting the fuzzy photos or the one of Seonaid’s and my shoes. I also link-hopped through the blogosphere to see what buzz was made about World Diabetes Day. I think we had more posts than we did on D-Blog Day!

Despite the excitement of the actual event, reading the blogs were very sobering. Today is another diabetes day. So is tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that.

It doesn’t seem like World Diabetes Day should have anything remotely close to the word “happy” attached to it.

I am not happy that I have diabetes. I do not like diabetes, nor have I ever. I am not happy that every 10 seconds a person dies from diabetes-related complications or that in the same 10 seconds, two new people are diagnosed. I am not happy that no one knows there are different kinds of diabetes or how to tell them apart. I am not happy that in Mozambique, if a person were diagnosed today, they would most likely not live to see next year’s World Diabetes Day. I am not happy that in poor countries, a family can expect to spend one-quarter of their entire income on medication. I am not happy that diabetes not only takes lives, but takes quality of life away from so many people.

I am not happy about diabetes.

But I will tell you what I am happy about. I will tell you who I am grateful for. I will tell you what I celebrate.

I am happy that there are people who care enough about this to make it change.

I am grateful and oh so proud of my friend Clare Rosenfeld and her mother Kari for thinking of this idea and have the generosity and fortitude to make sure it happened.

I celebrate that children around the world could see the blue shining in their home country and know that there was someone out there who is trying to help them.

Just like how we all stare into the same sky, dreaming about what could be out there, we all stared at the blue yesterday and dreamed about what could be out there: a diabetes-free future.

I am grateful for the doctors in these nations who work tirelessly to help people, with such little resources.

I am happy that, 85 years after Dr. Frederic Banting created man-made insulin, I am not only alive but I am living, that I have supportive friends and family, that I have the opportunity to help make a difference.

I celebrate the excitement and hope that so many of my friends and colleagues share. We haven’t given up. That is something to celebrate.

Happy World Diabetes Day. Welcome to a new beginning of doing great things.

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More photos from World Diabetes Day, as well as more statistics about global diabetes, can be found on the World Diabetes Day website.

17 Comments
  1. November 15, 2007 1:34 PM

    Allison – this is a great post.

    It is kind of conflicting during these types of things isn’t it? Excitement that so many people are pulling together to help, but sad and sober that it (diabetes) goes on and on.

  2. November 15, 2007 2:35 PM

    I’ve been fortunate to actually have WDD mean something to me… thanks to you and the rest of the OC. If it weren’t for you guys, the Prudential Center here in Boston would just be another building lit blue.

  3. November 15, 2007 3:13 PM

    Great photos. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am sure that for a lot of people with diabetes yesterday was such a conflict. I liked that you gave us both sides of what you are feeling.

  4. November 15, 2007 3:23 PM

    This is a great post, Allison.

    I spent WDD in a mixture of excitement and saddness. Excitement for the possibilities all this awareness could bring. And saddness because I wish we didn’t need the possibilities.

  5. November 15, 2007 4:30 PM

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    Your post is filled with the kind of truth, clarity and hope that inspire great things. I wish I had been there to see it person, but thanks to you and all who posted about their experiences, I can share in this world class affair.

    I was a little saddened at the lack of acknowledgement elsewhere in the media. Besides what I’ve seen online, I heard not one mention of it. That just gives me one more reason to get involved in next years event.

  6. November 15, 2007 4:48 PM

    What a great post. And how true. Thanks for sharing your incredible WDD experience!

  7. November 15, 2007 5:30 PM

    Wish I could have been there. Thank you for giving me a sense of what you experienced.

  8. November 15, 2007 6:32 PM

    How wonderful it must have been to be in attendance! I would have loved to have seen it.

  9. November 15, 2007 7:00 PM

    Allison,
    Thanks for sharing both perspectives. I think a lot of us focused more on the negative side of diabetes. But there’s also also the side where we should be and are grateful for the contributions of so many people that have made our lives better. We should reallly be thankful that we are alive & able to live half-way normal lives. Thanks for bringing this to light.

  10. November 15, 2007 7:46 PM

    As my own post indicated, I agree with your assessment that WDD is not a “happy” occasion, unless of course, you are a diabusiness. But this week, a few announcements regarding Eli Lilly and Company and JDRF suggest that just maybe, Lilly has come to the realization that if they cannot win in the insulin market, perhaps they should fund efforts that might arrest the autoimmune attack that causes type 1 diabetes in the first place. Lets hope these partnerships yield concrete results!

  11. November 16, 2007 12:24 AM

    it was so nice meeting you yesterday! yes.. thank you facebook😛 I agree with everything you said here.. every day is another day with diabetes, but it’s nice to know we have people who care! hopefully this is just the beginning of many changes

  12. November 16, 2007 9:21 AM

    Very nice description of your day in the city, Allison. Thanks!!

  13. November 16, 2007 10:52 AM

    I wish I could have been there. I really liked your comment about it not being “Happy.” I forget about the poorest country and tend to look inward too often. To thnk that someone diagnosed today would not have much hope to be alive a year later is so sad but a reality.

    Thanks for keeping it real and all that you do.

  14. November 16, 2007 11:08 AM

    Allison

    Bless you and thanks for such a moving post.

    I’m also happy to have some many d-friends that I’ve made on the blogosphere.

    And that is thanks in large part to your work my friend.

  15. November 18, 2007 6:05 AM

    fabulous. Not sure how I missed your post, but I did.
    It sounds like you were right in the midst of all the excitement. What a great day for a crappy reason (diabetes I mean).

  16. November 19, 2007 8:35 AM

    Allison, your words shine as brilliantly as the blue light for diabetes. Thank you!
    As I sit, cozy and warm in my own living room in Oregon, I can reflect on our time in NY. It truly was fantastic.
    What made it special for me was the passion from our family of participants, who joined us and showed their dedication for all people with diabetes.
    With the passage of the UN Resolution we have come so very far, yet our work has just begun. It will be through uniting, everyone working together that we will continue to make positive change.

    Hugs from your “Eugene Family”.

    Kari
    Kari Rosenfeld
    Project Manager
    UN Resolution on Diabetes
    International Diabetes Federation

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