Friday, July 26, 2013

Friends For Life....2013

The Friends For Life Conference for people with type 1 diabetes was held in early July this year. The conference meetings began in the year 2000, so this was the fourteenth year. It was created by Jeff Hitchcock, the owner of the website at http:/www.childrenwithdiabetes.com/. Jeff has a daughter with type 1, and the FFL has done so very much for type 1 diabetics. People from other countries attended, it is an international conference. 
The conference is held in Orlando, FL in the month of July because that seems to be the only month that all children are out of school and can attend. Having the meetings so close to Disney World is very convenient. Many parents took their children to see the Disney attractions before or after the conference. 
This was my first year at the FFL, and it was one of the most valuable experiences of my lifetime. The type 1 people attending were divided into four groups: children, tweens, teens and adults. Discussions were held for each group. I visited several wonderful discussions on three of my days there. The speakers were well chosen and I learned much from them. There were more than one hundred discussions, and several were held simultaneously. Choosing which ones I wanted to attend was difficult. Food was provided in several buffets, and I ate too much. The carb counts for all items were provided so I was able to keep my blood sugar stable. I attended several special evening socials with wonderful meals: First Timers Reception, Grand Opening Ceremony, Family and Friends Banquet, Adults with Type 1 Casino Night, and Dessert with the Faculty. There were also special socials for the other groups.The closing keynote address was given by Will Cross. Will is type 1, and he has climbed the highest mountain on each continent. He has also hiked his way to both the north and south poles. His wife and children attended his  session. There were some type 1 celebrities present, mostly professional athletes. Kids had their pictures taken with them. I met Crystal Bowersox. She is type 1, and she won second place on the American Idol TV show several years ago. She sang some songs, and posed for pictures with the kids. 
This conference was so wonderful that I want to attend as often as I can. I met so many online friends, and my picture was taken with many of them. My wife and I are planning to attend the FFL conference in 2015. I am really looking forward to that.
All type 1 diabetics, irregardless of age or location, should attend at least one FFL event. It will be a very worthwhile experience.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Retirement and Living With Diabetes

I was employed as a teacher at the college level for 34 years (1964-1997). I had complications with my diabetes, and had to retire several years earlier than I had planned. Two years after retirement my health problem was resolved, but my former position was filled, and I was no longer needed at the college as a full-time teacher. After retirement I taught part-time for several years, and did a lot of carpentry work and painting on my home. My strength was gradually declining, and I had too little energy for strenuous activities. I felt like a fish out of water, and was very bored much of the time. Retirement did not seem to be as great as I thought it would be.

As a teacher I did not earn a lot of money, but the fringe benefits were very good. My wife and I financed our two sons while they were in college, until they had MS degrees. We were heavily in debt by the time they graduated. Gradually we paid off our debts, and our financial situation was stable. There was too little money for traveling like I had always wanted to do. My wife did not want to travel, she was perfectly happy staying at home, and taking one trip each year to see our sons and our two grand children. I wanted to do so much more, but we could not afford it.

In 2006 I discovered a diabetes support group online at Dlife.com. The support group there was a new found  hobby for me. I soon joined other diabetes websites, and made many friends. Sharing my diabetes experiences with others was very rewarding. I helped my new friends, and they helped me. I was the only long term type 1 diabetic in most of the support groups, with more than 60 years of diabetes. My friends encouraged me to write a book about my life with type 1. That book was published in March, 2010. I was pleased with the hours I spent each day with my friends. I joined Facebook in late 2010, and found many more diabetes support groups. The parents of diabetic children were encouraged to find a long term type 1 diabetic who had good diabetes health. In July, 2013, I attended the Friends For Life Conference in Orlando, FL. It was a wonderful experience. So many great discussions, pictures taken with friends, and great food! My wife wants to go with me to the FFL in 2015.

More recently, health problems began to emerge. My wife needed a knee replacement in 2009, and now (2013) I need both of my knees replaced. My wife and I have arthritis, which slows us down, and makes many activities difficult. We don't know how much longer we can make those flights to Atlanta to visit our children. Our sons are very busy with their jobs, and they find it difficult to visit us each year. We live in New York, so we are are not physically able to pack up all our belongings and move south to Atlanta.

Without the online activity and communicating with my friends, life would have become incredibly boring. With my good health, working out at the gym, taking long walks, and my online activities, I am very content. My wife is very happy tending her flower gardens, spending time with her hobbies, and communicating with the neighbors. We have been married 49 years, and we will celebrate our golden anniversary on May 31, 2014. Retirement is good, for both of us!!