Person to Know: Brandy Barnes

I have mentioned the organization DiabetesSisters in previous posts on this blog (http://julietalksdiabetes.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/diabetessisters-weekend-for-women-conference/). Recently, the founder of DiabetesSisters, Brandy Barnes, was mentioned in Diabetes Forecast Magazine’s People to Know 2014 Issue. The following is the article, written by a fellow DiabetesSister Cherise Shockley, whom I met in April at the Weekend for Women Conference, which I’ve also previously posted about on my blog (http://julietalksdiabetes.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/weekend-for-women-2014/).

Please enjoy reading this article! I am so glad to be able to share it!

People to Know 2014: Brandy Barnes

By Cherise Shockley
October 2014

Brandy Barnes, Community Builder

When Brandy Barnes was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 15, she had one objective: prove to her peers (and herself) that diabetes would not stop her. Fast forward a decade, and Brandy has done just that.

In January 2008, she founded the nonprofit DiabetesSisters organization to provide education, support, and advocacy for women of all ages with all types of diabetes. Through this valuable resource, members can learn about health risks and prevention, find support from women who really “get” diabetes, and learn how to advocate better for themselves and others with the disease.

When I met Brandy in 2009, DiabetesSisters had a uniquely empowering and diverse online community where women shared triumphs, mistakes, accomplishments, and laughter. Since then, the membership has grown to over 10,000 people, and Brandy and her team have expanded their programs by adding the PODS (Part of DiabetesSisters) Meetup program, a conference series (see “Sisters and Friends”), and Life Class webinars.

Over the past seven years, Brandy and DiabetesSisters have changed the lives of thousands of women with diabetes by welcoming them into the haven of their sisterhood. They have created bonds that reach beyond a diabetes diagnosis, educating and supporting women through some of their most challenging life stages with diabetes: dating, pregnancy, motherhood, menopause, and more.

The organization’s mission is one I can get behind, so when Brandy and her team approached me with an opportunity to help bring the diabetes community together for a DiabetesSisters social media meetup featuring my DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) Live radio show, I could not resist. I was honored and happy to oblige.

Last year, I attended my first DiabetesSisters conference in San Francisco. I was a little nervous walking through the door, but as soon as I saw 100 women going through the same challenges as I was and talking openly about them, I felt at home. The education, information, and stories were life changing and made me realize that I need to be surrounded by “sisters”—sisters, like Brandy Barnes, who understand my diabetes and me.

Author’s Note: Cherise Shockley was diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) in 2004. She is the founder and creator of Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) and conducts weekly live Twitter chats and Blog Talk Radio shows for people affected by diabetes. She’s a speaker and presenter on the topic of social media and health.

ARTICLE COURTESY OF DIABETES FORECAST MAGAZINE: http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2014/10-oct/people-to-know-2014-brandy.html
(C) Diabetes Forecast, October 2014

For more information, visit: http://www.diabetessisters.org

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Family Matters

No, this post is not about Steve Urkel…..(::snorts:: “Did I do that?” LOL! Memories)…but this is another rather personal true story. I love telling true stories because inappropriate comments are made to diabetics on a daily basis. What I love sharing even more are true stories that come from my own family members.

Let’s start with July 4 (Can you tell I haven’t posted recently? – My apologies). At my own parents’ house, my father made a comment to me about asking if I should eat something. I actually said to him rather rudely, “Yes, I can eat that! Don’t make me write a blog post about you!” While I’m not, and have never claimed to be a “perfect” diabetic, it’s not okay for someone to ask me that! It’s especially not okay when it’s my father who should know better since I’ve lived with this disease for almost 22 years. I am not asking him if he should be smoking cigarettes, so how dare he ask me if it’s okay to eat something.

The second instance is another family member asking my mom why she was serving Crystal Light (a sugar-free sweetener mix similar to Kool-Aid). She doesn’t want the children consuming “artificial sweetener.” Um, do these family members forget that I’m diabetic?!? I guess so.

So, I guess my point to today’s blog post is that, in many ways, I expect the general public to be ignorant about certain diabetes-matters. However, when it’s my own family, it just plain irritates me. They should know better! I didn’t ask for this disease. I just ask for a certain level of knowledge, acknowledgement, and respect from my own.

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That moment when….

….you plan to inject yourself with 9 units of insulin and you only have 1 unit left!!

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Cocktails for a Cure Event

Come out for some drinks and a pig roast. All proceeds support Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)! Awesome event! See flyer below for more details.

CocktailsForACureJDRFFlyer

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Oxymoron?!?

The pictures below are scans of a newsletter that was sent to me via my local insurance company. It’s titled “Understanding Diabetes.” It was mailed along with an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) in regards to my deductible insurance plan stating how much I would owe for prescriptions and appointments after the insurance company’s payment and that a bill would be mailed to me shortly thereafter. I actually chuckled/smirked when I saw this. Obviously the insurance company knows I have diabetes. They can tell just by looking at the claims for my medications, my lab tests, and my appointments.

“What is Diabetes?”, “There are two major types of diabetes,” and “Did you know?” are 3 of the headers on this information sheet. What is Diabetes? Well, it’s an auto-immune disease that I live with every single day. I have good days and bad days with it. I have highs and lows. And then they make the comment “being overweight and lack of exercise can be a cause” of diabetes. Um, not in my case, insurance company! I’d really like to know who’s responsible for saying these types of letters should go in the mail with the Explanations of Benefits. Even though I found it a bit offensive, I can’t help but laugh at it now. Why don’t you mail something that is more generic for all of your insurance company policy holders? For example, an information sheet about healthy eating since that would benefit EVERYONE!

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Exclusion

This should probably be titled, “True Story, Part 3″ but this title is more direct. By the way, did you miss me? It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted.

I work with a really great group of people. Some of us hang out outside of work and we have our own little “work family” so to speak. We are really good about celebrating special occasions around here whether it be a going-away party if someone leaves or a retirement party, baby shower, bridal shower, graduations, etc. We also celebrate birthdays. We call them “surprise” parties, even though we always know we will get one, we’re just not always sure the exact day or time of day. We’ve had various treats served at these birthday parties, ranging from cookie cake to make-your-own ice cream sundaes, to brownies, to various other sweet treats.

Last week, however, I was pushed over the edge by what I, as a diabetic, consider an ignorant comment. Since the beginning of this year, I have been making strides to not only improve my own glucose levels (amount of glucose in my blood – ideal number is 70-150 before and after all meals) and A1c (3 month average of overall glucose control – ideal percentage in USA is 4-6% or 5-7% depending on who you ask), but incorporating more exercise into my daily routine and recording what I am consuming using a great app titled “Lose It!” It’s amazing how much better you eat when you are aware of how many calories and carbohydrates are in an item. While I have been exercising regularly, though I’ve “fallen off the wagon” over the last few weeks or so, I really haven’t lost as much weight as I was hoping. (I know that taking insulin and having better glucose control almost seems to make this feat impossible, however. I don’t like this fact and I don’t have to like it either, but I digress because I am happy with the food choices I am making). What does this have to do with last week and exclusion, you ask?

On the last Wednesday of every month, our area of the department is given a cookie tray for employee satisfaction. Now while I would prefer that we were offered a healthier alternative such as a fruit or veggie tray, I understand that it is much more cost-effective to purchase cookies and that I am only 1 of 12 people who should avoid the cookies. Several times, I can avoid that cookie tray like nobody’s business. Other times, I grab a sugar, oatmeal raisin, or chocolate chip cookie, because I’m human and I want one, diabetes and all! (I am by no means advocating eating cookies!) Other times, I want one and by the time I go to get one, there are ALL gone. 12 people eating close to 40 cookies – you do the math. That means someone or a few people are eating more than one. Oftentimes because of this, I complain that I wasn’t even given a chance to eat a cookie. Again, I am not advocating eating junk food or non-diabetic friendly foods, but I would like the option to have a cookie if I want one. I can eat it and take insulin to cover for the grams of carbohydrates consumed. One time, I made the “mistake” (sarcasm) of complaining that the cookies were gone and that it was unfair that a few of us didn’t get any. (A coworker also stated she didn’t have one either and she does not have diabetes.)

Last week, at one of our birthday celebrations, the dessert of choice was an ice cream cake. Here is the brief conversation that occurred approximately 2 hours after the ice cream cake birthday celebration:

Coworker: “We saved you a piece of ice cream cake since you weren’t able to make it back to the party.” (I wasn’t able to get away from my desk at the time of the celebration)

Me: “Oh, that’s okay. I’ve decided to pick my poison this week so I’m skipping out on the ice cream cake.”

Coworker: “Okay, but just so you know, we saved you a piece so you weren’t excluded.” (Coworker is the same as the one I mentioned about being upset about the cookies being gone)

Boy, did that burn me! Excluded! Excluded? Excluded?!?! You exclude me EVERY SINGLE CELEBRATION by not having something diabetic-friendly! Boy did that comment piss me off!

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is even though I do get annoyed when I am not given the option because we all know that YES, DIABETICS CAN EAT SWEETS, the exclusion at every single event and not having a healthier option trumped the TECHNICALLY “not exclusion” of saving me a piece of ice cream cake. After all, we’d all be better off if we ate a little healthier, diabetic or not!

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Weekend for Women 2014

I am so glad that my normal blogging day occurred so quickly after returning home from the conference!

I had the opportunity to attend the DiabetesSisters (www.diabetessisters.org) Weekend for Women Conference in Washington, DC (Embassy Suites, Alexandria, VA) this past weekend for the first time! I am so glad that I did! Not only did I make new friends, but I learned things that I never knew before (even though I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for 21+ years). The most important part of the weekend, however, was being in a room surrounded by other diabetics and not be afraid to cry when a topic touches you emotionally, being able to test your blood sugar right there in the wide open without people giving you “the look” of oh-my-God-what-is-she-doing horror, remembering the sound of my insulin pump as others’ were beeping, etc. It was great to not be alone! Sickness, low blood sugars, high blood sugars, eating whatever we wanted and not having anyone ask, “Should you be eating that?” were all shared together with our own support system. I want to especially thank Brandy Barnes, the Founder and CEO of DiabetesSisters for forming such an AMAZING organization. Words cannot express how much I have learned from your organization, this conference, and the PODS Meetups I’ve attended! I also want to thank Anna Norton, Operations Manager, for all of your hard work and answering my numerous questions in preparation for, and at, the conference! You ladies are amazing and I can never thank you both enough! My life has been changed and I can’t wait to attend another conference in the future!

Here are some pictures of Old Town Alexandria, VA, Washington, DC, Embassy Suites, and of course, My DiabetesSisters:

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