One of the best things that came from Diabetes Exchange in Sydney was the opportunity to make some real life connections with members of the Diabetes Online Community. In the past year and a half, online peer support has changed the way that I look at and manage my own diabetes.
More specifically, I’ve been drawn to a group called the Oz Diabetes Online Community, where I participate in diabetes support chats on Twitter every Tuesday night. The individuals in this particular group are the ones that I feel I can relate to the most. Theirs were among the first blogs I read. Their Tweets are the first that grab my attention in the morning. They live in the same country as I do, and we likely share a lot of similarities (and differences) about life with diabetes. The chance to meet some of these folks was a dream come true.
Mind you, I still can’t believe that this happened to me. I’m not an athlete or a celebrity, nor did I know anyone of influence in the room. I’m just an ordinary guy who happens to have diabetes. I kept waiting for the event to be cancelled, or to be scheduled on another day where I wouldn’t be able to attend. I was half expecting to be told that I didn’t have enough blog readers, or that I would be too expensive to fly over from Western Australia.
Going into this event, I definitely felt a little bit like the odd one out. I lived on the opposite side of the country, and I was probably the newest of all the bloggers there. I hadn’t met any of the others in attendance prior. I was a little nervous about whether I would fit in, and whether the other bloggers would be as nice as they seemed online.
I was so nervous on the drive to the Ovolo hotel in Woolomollo on Thursday afternoon. I wondered who would be the first person I’d meet. Would I run into Renza getting out of a taxi? Would I walk up behind Ashley at the reception desk? Would I bump into Georgie on the way to my hotel room? I wondered if I would even recognise them outside of their Twitter photo.
I was escorted up to my loft style hotel room, which was like nowhere else I had stayed in my life.
And, sadly, hardly enough time to enjoy it. I was nervously counting down the minutes until 4 o’clock. When I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, I nervously proceeded to make my way down to the lobby for event registration. I instantly recognised Georgie, Kim and Ashley exiting the elevator on the opposite side of mine, and the nerves were instantly relieved.
It was super weird at first. Even though I knew these guys online, I didn’t know them, really. It was super weird as we sat down, and part of me wasn’t sure what I was going to say to them. Hey, great blog post last week? I’m glad the registration in the lobby lasted an hour, as it served as a nice ice breaker. By the end of that hour, I’d had a decent chat with Ashley, Melinda, and PR ladies Laura and Hannah, and I’d had a few words with Georgie and Kim as well.
It was great to chat with Drew and Matt, who I did not know of prior to this event, over breakfast on Friday. I was honestly in awe of all of Melinda’s life experience with diabetes, which absolutely shines through all of her activity online. I had a nice chat with Kim on the boat, as well as a few silly photos. Renza gave me a few words of encouragement about my upcoming pump day on the way upstairs to pack my bags on Friday morning. Georgie and I counted down together as we inserted the Libre sensors on our arms. I had fun Tweeting with Ashley during Friday’s proceedings, despite the fact that we were sitting next to each other. Although I didn’t get a chance to have a chat with Tanya, I was inspired by the story she shared about managing diabetes and achieving great things in a way that worked for her.
I guess my biggest takeaway is that I no longer feel like such a stranger around these guys. While some of the bloggers aren’t in the same circles as myself online, I do feel closer to some of the others. I feel like I do Tweet these guys more often. I have now replaced most of their “online” voices in my head with their real ones. And some of them are now Facebook friends, as well.
I feel so privileged to have met these guys, and I’ll remember our time together fondly. Here are the list of attendees and their blogs:
Ashley of BitterSweet Diagnosis
Melinda of Twice Diabetes
Georgie of Lazy Pancreas
Kim of 1 Type 1
Renza of Diabetogenic
Tanya of The Leveled Life
Drew of Drew’s Daily Dose
Matt of Afrezza Down Under
Disclosure: Abbott Diabetes Care paid for my travel and accommodation expenses to Sydney. I received a FreeStyle Libre reader and two sensors free of charge. There was no expectation that I would subsequently blog, and all opinions expressed are my own.