Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#Masterlab: Emily Coles & How a WWII Bomber Analogy Changed My View on Advocacy

This is my final post about Masterlab. I will also summarize my experience at Friends For Life in a future post.

The presentation that stood out the most to me, that literally brought a room full of bright, energetic and passionate advocates to their feet in thunderous, well deserved applause was Emily Coles.

Emily works for the Diabetes Hands Foundation. She does a lot for the communities online and off, I knew Emily from her intelligent and witty interviews with diabetes superheroes.

When she introduced herself, she indicated that she hasn't been presenting for long. She was presenting on creating a powerful message for a powerful audience.

And did. she. ever. We were a powerful audience, and her message knocked us over.

She started her story about war planes returning for repair. When a plane returned during WWII for repair there was diligent care taken to see where the bullet holes were. (the planes that were returning did not have a lot of holes in the locations outlined in light circles below, this image is not the one that Emily showed, but it is one I found quickly on Google and belongs to

Emily asked:
When the decision to reinforce the planes was made, where do you think the reinforcement was made?

People from the crowd stated obvious things (to us) the cockpit, the engines, the wings.....

And she said:
"It was the part of the planes that were untouched by bullets, because the ones that were getting hit there weren't returning."

And a light shined over the crowd. A moment of ahhhhhh hhhaaaa.

She went on to explain that if our legislators, health care providers, and government gave us fair and equal access to tools that we need to succeed in living a full, healthy life we could change the world. We can not change the world with poorly managed self care in diabetes It causes many, many complications- but perhaps the most dire is that a person may not be able to complete their personal mission while dealing with everything else. She explained that we can not do an effective job either personally or professionally if we are just trying desperately to survive and keep our head above water.

And right now, there are many, many people who could be doing so much good for the world (not just in the diabetes space) that simply are not well enough, or not stable enough financially to be able to do it because they are fighting with every fibre of their being just. to. stay. alive.

Emily, thank you. Thank you for your message, and your delivery and your ability to bring an entire room of powerful advocates to their feet. Your ability to capture us an twist our thoughts was incredible.

On top of all of that, I had the pleasure of working on the diabetes hands foundation booth with Emily. And then we got to chatting and got our eyes mostly tested together, and we had a few meals and drinks together. She got me on the dance floor at the Tandem diabetes night, and she talked about dancing like I had never heard anyone talk about dancing. FYI y'all: Emily can move. She can dance like nobody I have ever seen before.

So thank you, Emily. Your presentation and friendship really stood out to me. You effectively changed my mind on how I will advocate in the future, and that's saying something. I'm stubborn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#Masterlab: Part two

Part two of my ongoing series about my Masterlab and Friends For Life experience.

While I already blogged about an grand overview of the theme of Masterlab  I think it's important to thank a few people who gave information that I may have already had in my bank, but really needed to share.

When you are living with diabetes, it's amazing how little thought we tend to put in to crafting our message and selling our message. This is a major part of advocacy that seasoned advocates forget to teach to newer, or fresher advocates. I knew the baseline of a lot of what was taught, my graduate studies were in public relations and eventually health care communications- but even with all of my schooling and my professional experience I still learned so much.

Stacey Simms (@staceysimms, Maria Tsaplina (@TheBetesOrg), Amy O'Connor (@Lillypad), thank you for your thoughtful, and dedicated time teaching us on how to craft our story.

-Treat media professionals as humans. Keep in touch, tweet with them, email them to check in, say hi in the supermarket.
-Make sure your story is not only relevant, but interesting to the media and the general public.
-Practice what you need to say. Draft up questions, and answers and practice. In the mirror, the shower- wherever  you can.
-Know your story. This sounds like it is a really basic note, but when I say know your story...I mean really, truly understand what your story is, why you are saying it and maybe more importantly: know your audience. Understand what their interest may be in your story, why should they care, and what is your call to action for them. If you know all of these, your relationship  with your media professional will be that much better.
-Promote the media, and they will promote you.
-Be passionate, emotional and respectful-of everyone around you....but most importantly be interesting.

I want to say: I found the entirety of Masterlab incredibly informative, helpful and motivating. I really did, but nothing prepared me for how I would feel after hearing Emily Coles (Emily doesn't have twitter, but she can be found over at

More on Emily tomorrow.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

#Masterlab: The first post.

My recap will be in many parts parts.

To get this out of the way, my travel, lodging and conference fees were paid for by the Diabetes Hands Foundation scholarship. While they paid my way to attend Masterlab and Friends For Life, my experiences and my opinions are my very own. They in no way influence what I write here. I will also say  (and they didn't ask me to do this AT ALL) that they are an organization VERY worthy of your donation dollars. If you can spare some money, please throw it their way.

So before Friends For Life officially launched, I attended a two day intensive conference on Advocacy in the diabetes world. This was my second year attending Masterlab, so while I had somewhat of a baseline for my expectations, I had no clue it would be this mind altering this time around. I will break it down session by session.

Throwing my notes together is very interesting. I like handwriting things, so I have a journal around half full of my experiences. Never underestimate the power of free form note taking and trying to piece it together later.

First speaker: Tom Boyer- Director of Government Affairs at Novo Nordisk.

Tom was an excellent speaker. He is one of us PWDs (a person living with diabetes), and when you are presenting on a subject as he did, having that street cred really helps. He has been advocating for many years on behalf of PWDs everywhere.

He presented on rallying the troupes. How we need to work together as a whole group of people with diabetes to create effective change.

He pointed out that a lot of people living with T1D tend to become obessively defensive when someone mentions weight, sugar, lifestyle causing diabetes. A lot of people will throw their hands up and say "NO way! NOT MY DIABETES." But as research becomes more clear, and people start to humanize others behind all types of diabetes we are starting to slowly see the bubble that diabetes is diabetes is diabetes. It all sucks, no matter how your body decided that insulin production is not its priority. The ONLY way we will make change is if we come together.

He described it perfectly: when the three stooges first met, they were in-fighting. They were fighting with each other, there were injuries and nobody was getting anywhere. Then, they decided to work together and fight as one unit and they startedto make progress. Essentially when they worked together they were All For One And One For All.

We as a community need to stop putting our walls up. Nobody, not you, not me, not the president of the USA can advocate for change in diabetes care and treatment until we educate effectively. Defending your "type" and throwing the other under the bus is unacceptable behaviour, and is counter productive to creating positive change and a world without the financial, physical and emotional burden of diabetes.

I am calling on all of my readers, old and new to commit to never trying to defend your type, and only defending the human beings who are living with mal-functioning pancreases so we can really get to work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Not a Recap

I am back from Masterlab and Friends For Life.

It was an incredible experience, again. I don't have the time to write today, as I am back in my office playing catch up.

But....I don't think I want to recap yet. I don't want to write in anything that will make me leak information before I truly savour and decide my feelings on various topics and presentations.

I just wanted to first thank The Diabetes Hands Foundation. Melissa, Mike, Emily, Corinna, and the entire board of directors: Thank you. Thank you for seeing value in me attending the conferences. I am a sponge to information provided by DHF and the presenters throughout the entire conference. I have ideas, big ones. I hope to continue to gain momentum and the guts to push myself further. It truly makes a world of difference for the spirit and for professional goals when you feel valued and I was reminded of that last week. So thank you, I know there are lots of applicants who deserved to be there and I was honoured to represent DHF. Truly.