Women with Diabetes: We Are Family
Say Hello to the DiabetesSisters
These women are not related, but they find it easy to relate. They share something important--their meters are a clue. Blood sugars (and more) bring them together, across different ages, types, and treatments. Say hello to your sisters in diabetes. This growing, loving family wants to adopt you.
This photo: From left to right: Ellica Church, PWD type 1; DiabetesSisters founder Brandy Barnes, PWD type 1; Diane Butler, PWD type 1; Leslie Gray, PWD type 2; Kelli Turner, PWD type 1; and Mary Pruiett, PWD type 1.
Sisters of the Heart
Kelli Turner of Raleigh, North Carolina, is the only person with type 1 diabetes in her family. For more than 20 years, she managed well--yet felt a little lonely. Lesley Gray developed type 2 diabetes six years ago. She was motivated to make food and weight loss changes and to gain knowledge about how type 2 progresses. Both women found their way to the nonprofit organization DiabetesSisters--and became sisters of the heart.
DiabetesSisters is composed of women who get what it means to live with diabetes, Kelli says. Lesley agrees: "You can never have too many friends."
This photo: Lesley Gray, PWD type 2, left, and Kelli Turner, PWD type 1, of Raleigh, North Carolina, met through DiabetesSisters. "Type 1 and type 2 are different diseases, but the struggles are the same," Kelli says.
Making the Most of Peer Connections
DiabetesSisters offers education, encouragement, and empowerment with a strong emphasis on peer connections. The organization helps women connect online and through local face-to-face gatherings. Nine cities have active groups; more than 20 other regions are looking for members. Two groups are forming in South Africa!
This photo: Kelli Turner checks her blood sugar during a sister-time meal.
Monthly Meetings: Conversation & Laughter
At monthly PODS (Part of DiabetesSisters) meetings, often hosted at members' homes, women gather for a couple of hours of conversation and laughter.
"I've learned so much," Lesley says. "I'm type 2, but chances are I may need insulin someday. So it's interesting to hear from Kelli and others who use insulin."
This photo: Leslie Gray, left, and Kelli Turner, right, dish about favorite products during a joint shopping trip.
The warm, intimate setting allows the sisters to have no-holds-barred chats about everything from the carb virtues of almond and soy milks to how to deal with well-meaning but uninformed loved ones. PODS leaders receive training by phone and are provided with topic suggestions. "Typically, we go around and share a story," Lesley says. "And we usually have an open forum for questions."
"We talk about things that you may not have thought to ask your doctor," says DiabetesSisters founder Brandy Barnes, PWD type 1, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. "Sex is always a popular topic. What do you do about lows during sex?"
Experiencing Aha Moments
Brandy, who developed diabetes at age 15, wants women to learn about healthful living, gain support for the emotional aspects of their condition, and find ways to advocate for women with diabetes.
Brandy's first experiences with diabetes treatment and providers were disappointing. She felt berated about her blood sugars and restricted by her injection routine. Fortunately, she found a great team (a physician's assistant and a certified diabetes educator with type 1) while she was in college.
Brandy's aha moment happened when she began pumping insulin, which reintroduced spontaneity to her days. Brandy wanted others to experience aha moments and to see they are not alone in living with the challenges of diabetes.
Looking for Common Ground
Diabetes veterans and newbies alike find much to share, whether they live with type 1, type 2, LADA, gestational diabetes, or MODY. "I didn't know anything about type 2 diabetes," Kelli says, referring to her pre-DiabetesSisters days."I wasn't always looking at the similarities." In fact, a member with type 2 diabetes convinced Kelli to give the pump a try. Sisters do know best!
Join the Sisterhood
Face-to-face interactions are at the heart of DiabetesSisters, but there are plenty of ways to get involved online. The organization's website features active forums for online chatting, medication and appointment reminders, expert tips, and links to other resources. The SisterMatch program partners compatible sisters for an online relationship with a woman who understands the challenges diabetes brings. And the group welcomes volunteers to host monthly meet-ups (training is provided).