Since May of 2010, the amazing Diabetes Sisters group founded by Brandy Barnes has held an annual Weekend for Women conference, that I understand is a life-changing experience. Sadly for me, I've been invited to speak twice, but have not been able to attend because May is such a big month for my family. But fortunately, we have kindred spirit Sysy Morales, who blogs at The Girls Guide to Diabetes, joining us today to shed some light on what happens at these annual D-girl fests:

A Guest Post by Sysy Morales

The 2012 Diabetes Sister's Weekend for Women Conference took place this past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina. I attended last year and found it extremely worthwhile to hang out with fellow diabetic women as well as recharge my "diabetes management" batteries. This weekend did not disappoint.

The conference is for any woman with diabetes, regardless of the type. Just shy of 100 women attended this year to support, learn from, and celebrate each other.

Friday night consisted of networking activities which allowed us to spend some time chatting with a few handfuls of women, and I found this a great way to kick off the conference. Bonding and learning a bit about several women provided everyone with a lot of ease going into the event. Attendees seemed more enthusiastic and relaxed than last year. I know I was.

Saturday and Sunday provided many sessions for women to attend. I appreciated how we had two tracks to choose from, and I found all the speakers to be experts in their field and very aligned with the mission of DiabetesSisters, which is to positively encourage women towards health and happiness through education, awareness, and support.

Saturday morning began with a great start -- an hour of our choice of yoga, zumba, or tai chi. The talks consisted of women's most pressing concerns, such as motherhood, diet, weight management, depression, finding support, and of course, sex and relationships.

Speaking of relationships, DiabetesSisters held its first-ever Partner's Perspective Program this year, attended by more than 30 husbands and boyfriends with their partners. They also met separately to discuss the issues and emotions they face as partners of women with diabetes. My husband Alex provided input into the planning of the program and attended it. He wouldn't tell me what the men discussed (apparently they all swore to secrecy to encourage sharing) but he did say that he enjoyed being able to talk with a group of guys who knew exactly what he was dealing with. He appreciated being shown how to use a glucagon injection, and we ladies appreciated Janis Rozler speaking to the men privately about how diabetes affects women when it comes to sex, physically and mentally speaking. Thank you, Janis. I will let you know how it goes.

A few interesting tidbits I learned from the conference:

- Depression is common for women with diabetes and must be addressed and dealt with in order for diabetes management to be successful.

- Your doctor should screen you for depression once a year.

- Viagra may be a useful option for women to increase blood flow and stimulation.

- Women with diabetes (at any age) should be medically treated as if they have had a myocardial infarction.

- Exercise reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%.

- Disordered eating requires attention and is not to be ignored.

I know you all want to hear about what Nat Strand had to say. She was one of the winner's of The Amazing Race, has had type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years, and is an anesthesiologist. I personally have never watched The Amazing Race on CBS and hadn't really read much about Nat Strand, and so listening to her talk about her experience and what it meant to her was a real eye-opener. What she accomplished as a person with type 1 diabetes is genuinely impressive. She struck me as very charming, but also very humble and wise. She reminded us that "diabetes is an obstacle that by no means prevents you from doing anything" and she admitted that diabetes "is a beautiful talent to have in life because it makes you stronger in everything you do." You may be surprised to know that she considers discovering the DOC the best gift to come about from her experience with The Amazing Race. Nat hung around for the rest of the day, took pictures, and spoke with the attendees. She even won one of the hula hoop competitions that were held during that evening's celebration!

I presented at the conference with DiabetesSisters founder, Brandy Barnes on the topic of navigating the world of online technology, and was pleasantly surprised to discover how many people were excited to check out blogs like this one and other great DOC resources. I got emails later about how women were looking forward to connecting with other people with diabetes and get involved in diabetes advocacy. Sometimes we think "why aren't more people involved?" And I think many people are not aware of what exists out there. That's just one reason why I'm so thankful for DiabetesSisters and the Weekend for Women.

During the celebration, Brandy's 7-year old daughter, Summer, danced while singing us a song. I saw almost every person (even the men) stand up, clap, throw their hands up, and joyfully cheer her on. I got a sense that the weekend accomplished what it was meant to. We learned new things. We saw past the distinctions of type 1, 2, 1.5, gestational, and pre-diabetes. We supported each other. We were moved to action.

On Sunday morning, we went on a mile-long Orange:WILL Diabetes Awareness Walk with friends, family, and other community members. At the end of the conference, I witnessed women ready to go home with a renewed feeling of potential and hope for their lives with diabetes.

I cherished my time with the amazing women at the conference, feel more ready than ever to tackle my blood sugars, and will definitely be back next year. I'll leave you with some words from Dr. Strand: "Diabetes is THE amazing race...everyday."

Right on, sister.

Thanks for the great report, Sysy, and thanks for being our envoy!

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