Coming to a Close… plus some exciting news!!

I cannot believe my internship with JDRF is over!  As you may have read in my post last week, I have learned so many new things and gained so much new experience in the last seven weeks.  I have met some wonderful people, been a part of an amazing transition time at JDRF, and learned the value of having friends and co-workers with T1D.  Thank you, Nicole Johnson, Students with Diabetes, and JDRF for giving me the fantastic opportunity to work with JDRF National this summer.  It has been a summer I definitely won’t forget!

As my summer with JDRF comes to an end, let me share with you a few highlights and some big news from my last week here.  (COUGH COUGH – There really is some BIG news at the end of this post… so you’re gonna have to read it all to find out:)

I had the pleasure of meeting Derek Rapp, the new President and CEO of JDRF, this week.  On Tuesday afternoon Anne, the VP of Strategic Communications, came back from a meeting to tell me that Derek might be coming up to my desk because he expressed interest in meeting me, as his son Turner is also a Students with Diabetes intern.  Oh my gosh the CEO of JDRF is actually  seeking me out to meet me.  Anne said he would try to stop by my desk that afternoon to say hi and introduce himself.  So, naturally, I remained glued to my desk until 5:15 pm, not wanting to miss my chance to meet Derek!  To my despair, Tuesday trickled away and Derek hadn’t come to my desk.  He’s a busy man.  When I got back to work Wednesday morning, though, Jessica said he had stopped by later that evening but I had already left!  Oh no!  I emailed him Wednesday morning with my apologies and asked him if there was a moment we could meet that day.  I was going to be leaving at 3 that day.  Well, 3 o’clock rolled around and still no Derek.  *sigh*  Later that evening, Kady texted me this photo of Derek, distraught over the fact that we had missed each once again!  Lol!

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FINALLY on Thursday morning, we were able to meet each other.  He was leaving for DC on Thursday, but had a few moments in the morning and asked me to come down to his office.  It was such a delight to talk with him for ten minutes about living with T1D, the technological advances and options that are on the market, and why it’s so important for people with T1D to have the options to personalize how they choose to live and treat themselves.  Derek is such a nice man and I was so honored to meet him!  He asked for my school email address and told me to keep in touch with him.  And, of course, I will!

Hannah, Jenni, and I had fun on Thursday creating a video together about our intern experiences with JDRF this summer.  During our lunch break we went into the conference room, brought Hannah’s laptop, and began (with very little preparation) talking about our internships, what we have been doing, and how much we have valued the experience.  Many, many bloopers and laugh attacks later, I think we captured some good clips of our experiences.  I’m sure the whole office could hear us laughing in the conference room as we kept messing up our words and breaking out into laughter.  I will post the video later once it is edited and finished.  I am definitely going to miss having two friends (and co-workers) with T1D.  Not once have I had to explain myself to them, because they already understand.  Strength comes in numbers:)

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Nicole Johnson left me a nice little surprise note at my desk last week.  After meeting with her at Doubletree, she stopped by the office the next day to say hi.  Unfortunately I was out for lunch, but she left me a note that I will likely be keeping for a very long time:)

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Unrelated to my internship experience, but totally related to my summer in NYC experience, I went to see Ingrid Michaelson on Wednesday night at Summer Stage Central Park with my dear friend Alana!  With my Dad arriving in NYC the next day, going to see Ingrid Michaelson with Alana was the perfect way to spend my last night in NYC on my own.  Ingrid put on a FANTASTIC show and kept us laughing the whole time.  Her voice is absolutely beautiful and she played such a wide variety of her music, from her older CDs to her newest one, Lights Out.  In fact, we were part of the largest crowd she has ever headlined for!  She got emotional a few times throughout the night, as this was a very special night for her.  When she sang The Way I Am, the crowd sang along with her and she had to pause at the end to explain why she was so emotional.  She was remembering the first time she heard a crowd sing her music back to her, which was at a small show of about 50 people.  And now, years later, here she is singing that same song but to an enormous crowd in Central Park that is all singing in unison with her.  She even got me feeling a little emotional!  All in all, it was such a great night.  Good music, good friend, good times all around.

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Alright, back to internship experience.  This week I asked a few of my co-workers if they would write me a letter of recommendation after working so closely with them all summer.  I didn’t expect a poor recommendation,  but at the same time I didn’t expect such wonderful words written about me, either!  I cannot express how thankful I am for this internship and all of the work I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of.  The employees in the Comms department have done such a great job of keeping me involved and giving me opportunities to help with SO many different projects.  This internship wouldn’t have been the same if it hadn’t have been for all of these generous people at JDRF.  While they wrote wonderful recommendations for me, I can’t say I did great work without them.  They gave me so many awesome opportunities and I am so thankful!

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I decided to start another blog!  While this blog has focused on my internship experience with JDRF this summer, I decided to start a different blog that will focus on life with T1D, education, news, and the like.  You can look for my first post (coming on Sunday!) here.  I am so excited to be a part of the DOC.  I never would have even though of starting a blog if it weren’t for it being required for this internship.  But thankfully, I have found that I really enjoy blogging – especially when it’s about something I’m so passionate about!

The Comms department threw me a little “Goodbye Amy” party today, complete with cheesecake – my FAVORITE.  Paige and the rest of the department gave me cards thanking me for all of my hard work this summer and wishing me well in my future.  It has been such a pleasure working with these people this summer, and I am truly going to miss them so much!  I am so thankful for this summer, and while I am ready to go home and back to school, I can’t imagine this summer without JDRF.  The experiences I have gained and the people I have met this summer have had a huge effect on me personally and professionally, and I cannot wait to see what my future holds.

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Alright everybody, this one is the big exciting news….. I, Amy Ford, will soon be a professional writer.  And, I kid you not, it’s all thanks to Twitter!  (Sort of).  This summer, I have been writing this blog on a weekly basis, linking it to my Twitter account at the same time.  Last week I started following a number of diabetes Twitter accounts, including Insulin Nation, a fairly well-known diabetes website that “delivers comprehensive information about the science and technology of diabetes therapy.”  Insulin Nation also has a “Living” section that includes columns from various authors about the many different aspects of living with T1D.  Well… after I followed Insulin Nation, it followed me right back!  And the next day I had a direct message on my Twitter asking if I would be interested in writing a column!  I emailed the editor and received all the details, and it turns out he saw my blog linked to my Twitter account and told me my “writing has personality.”  He wants me to write one column for the website, and it can be about any personal experience related to diabetes.  I don’t even know where to begin!!!  Again, thanks to this internship, keeping a blog, and simply using social media to share it, I was able to be noticed by the editor of a diabetes website and given the opportunity to be published!  SO SO SO EXCITING.  I CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE TO YOU MY HAPPINESS RIGHT NOW.  I’m gonna go enjoy my time on Cloud Nine… be back later…:)

So, as you can see, my summer has been unforgettable.  From new friends to new skills, I have gained so much.  Again, thank you Nicole Johnson, Students with Diabetes, and JDRF for providing such a unique opportunity for college students with T1D.  This internship has provided me with so much invaluable insight and lessons that I will carry with me for a very long time.

And with that – I flee to the CLE tomorrow.  Peace out, Big Apple, I’m coming HOME!

-Amy

It’s the final countdown

Well I hate to say it, but I only have one more week of work with JDRF.  Boy did the last six weeks go by quickly!  I know I already posted earlier this week about what it was like working during the CEO transition, but I thought I would post one again at the end of my sixth week at JDRF to reflect on my time here and what I hope to do in the week I have remaining.

This week was a busy one.  It began on Monday with the hectic, abrupt transition from Jeffrey Brewer to Derek Rapp as President & CEO.  The communications department was a little crazy that day, but by the end of it, we had done our job of communicating and monitoring the audience’s reaction, and I’d say it was a job well done!

Throughout the rest of this week I have been working on compiling lists of donors and fundraisers who have given $50,000 or more in the last fiscal year.  This includes Gala donors, Walk captains, Riders, major givers, etc.  I’ve been compiling all these various lists into one comprehensive spreadsheet organized by Donor Relations Officer (DRO) so we can have the DROs cross-check and make sure we didn’t miss any major donors.  After THAT we will use this list to send out research progress reports to keep our donors informed about how their dollars are being put to use and how JDRF’s research is making progress toward turning type one to type none.  It’s honestly been a bit of a crazy process.  Pulling all these lists from different people has required a lot of back-and-forth emailing and waiting and following up and waiting again.  And then once I get the lists from people, I realize that almost every one of the lists is formatted differently, so it’s required me to do a lot of experimenting on Excel to figure out the best layout to include all the correct information.

The other main project I’ve been helping with this week is updating the Research Information Volunteer (RIV) roster.  JDRF chapters have RIVs in order to help communicate research news to chapter members and keep them informed.  RIVs participate in monthly Webinars, receive email updates, and other training in order to keep up-to-date on the latest JDRF research.  Paige needs to orient and train new RIVs, so I have been contacting every chapter to confirm the RIV we have for them on file and ask if they have any new RIVs that we should know of.  Again, a LOT of emailing back and forth.  My inbox has been quite full this week!

On Thursday there was all staff meeting with Derek Rapp.  Thursday was Derek’s first day in the office after being on vacation with his family.  The 40-minute meeting comprised of his introduction, speech, and a Q&A session for all staff.  I can’t tell you how valuable it feels to be at JDRF at such an important time.  Derek seems like he will do a great job as the head of JDRF, and I can’t wait to see how research continues to progress after Jeffrey’s leadership.

Cool side note: Derek gave a special shout-out to the Communications department in his speech, thanking us for doing a great job handling such an abrupt transition.  Even though he probably has no idea I’m part of the Communications department this summer, it felt AWESOME to be recognized!

After the meeting, Hannah, Jenni, and I left work early to go meet up with Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999 and founder of Students with Diabetes, the wonderful organization that gave us these internship opportunities!  It was so wonderful to see her again after being apart since the SWD Conference in June.  Nicole is in town for an International Board of Directors meeting.  We met her at Double Tree, where she was staying just a street over from JDRF.

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We spent time discussing our internship experiences, what they’ve taught us, and how they’ve impacted our potential career choices in the future.  We also had the opportunity to meet John Brady (Chairman of the Board) and Dick Allen (former Chairman of the Board).

Having the opportunity to sit down and chat with Nicole provided some great reflection time and discussion.  After only six weeks with JDRF in NYC, I have learned SO so much.  Here are some of my reflections/thoughts/learnings from my internship experience so far:

  1. I really enjoy communications work.  As a Community & Public Health Promotion major, I have always had in the back of my mind the goal of becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).  Even if I wasn’t a CDE, I would still want to be involved in diabetes education in some way or another.  Working with JDRF this summer has shown me a lot of different types of work, though.  I enjoy monitoring media.  I enjoy reading and writing diabetes blog posts.  I enjoy crafting emails and updating messaging.  I enjoy organizing.  I’ve discovered that there are many things I enjoy!  Thanks to the experience I’ve had this summer, I am currently thinking of pursuing a graduate degree in Health Communications.  Whether for a diabetes company or not, I love being a part of a communications department and the work they do to communicate an organization’s mission and keep the staff organized and informed 24/7.
  2. I want to continue blogging.  Thank you, Nicole, for encouraging all of us interns to keep blogs about our experiences!!  That encouragement combined with the exposure to the diabetes online community (DOC) I’ve gained this summer through T1D in the News has really convinced me to continue blogging, specifically about living with type 1 diabetes (T1D).  The DOC is amazing.  I want to continue to be a part of it and contribute to the discussions, encouragement, and support it provides so many.
  3. There are more ways to be involved with JDRF than just participating in the Walk.  I have been a Walk Team Captain for the past two years and am registered again for the Cleveland Walk to Cure Diabetes this fall.  After being with JDRF this summer, I have been exposed to so many parts of JDRF that I didn’t know existed!  For example, the T1D Voices Council.  Or advocacy in general.  Or the Ride to Cure Diabetes.  Or becoming a Research Information Volunteer.  There are so many ways to be involved with JDRF and stay involved, even if don’t end up being employed by them in the future.  There are so many ways to help them turn type one to type none!!!
  4. JDRF’s research is amazing and is providing real hope for a future with no T1D.  Seriously.  Encapsulation?  Artificial Pancreas?  Yes please!!
  5. I have gained so many skills, connections, and experiences.  From learning new acronyms like DRO, RIV, ODST, ED, and so many more to helping to manage the communications side of the CEO transition, I have gained so much experience!!!  I have continued to improve my writing skills, my communication skills, my time management, organization, and priority skills, and much more.  And on top of that, I have met some really great people!  Nicole Johnson, Jeffrey Brewer, and the entire Communications department.  It feels great to have such strong connections to JDRF!
  6. T1D friends are the bomb-diggity.  Have I mentioned how amazing it is to have people in your life who know what it’s like to really live with T1D?  Because it’s fantastic.  Here are a few examples:
    1. Kady keeps a drawer of low snacks in her desk.  On days that I exhausted my glucose tabs or fruit snacks?  I could sneak over and use some of hers!
    2. Having a roller coaster of a day with my blood sugars?  There are four.  other.  people.  in the office who know exactly what that feels like.  Not only do they know what it feels like, but they tell me it’s ok to come in a little late to work if my numbers are high and making me feel sick in the morning.  (It happens once or twice).
    3. Had a crazy night with no sleep because of low blood sugars?  Guess what?  So did my friend!  And we can rant together about how frustrating it is to not wake up to our CGM alarms!
    4. They get it.  They get how frustrating it is that no one else completely 100% understands living with T1D.  They understand the strange low symptoms that sometimes you can’t describe with words (Remember, Jenni?  When we rejoiced over realizing we both fell that strange tingly feeling on our tongues when we’re low?  No one has ever understood that!).  They understand the exhaustion that comes with a roller coaster day.  They understand the need to “unplug” from the CGM for a few days.  They just understand:)
  7. Never be afraid of a new experience.  I was really nervous to live in NYC by myself all summer.  I was really nervous to work in the NYC headquarters of a company that is on the forefront of T1D research.  I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know if I’d be a success or failure or something in between.  It turns out it didn’t matter what I thought.  This summer was nothing like I expected!  I learned so much, dealt with loneliness and exploring a big new city, gained professional and personal experience in the diabetes world, and became a stronger, more well-rounded person because of it.  Never be afraid of a new experience, because you never know.  It might be better than you expected!

As you can tell, I have loved my summer internship experience with JDRF, thanks to Students with Diabetes.  Although I am extremely homesick and cannot WAIT to spend seven days at home before going back to school (oh gosh.  School.  I hardly got a break!), I am also a little sad to leave the JDRF office.  It feels like I just got settled!  But I am excited to come home and take what I’ve learned and integrate it into my life at home.

Looking ahead, I am very excited for this weekend and next week.  Tomorrow, Hannah, Jenni, and I are going to a free showing of The Hunger Games on Roosevelt Island together.  I’m really excited!  Then next week I am going to see Ingrid Michaelson at Summer Stage in Central Park with my dear friend, Alana, who lives on Long Island.  And THEN my parents are coming to get me!  They’re going to take me, Paige, and Kady to lunch on Friday, my last day, and then I will show them around the office at the end of the day.  The office is even throwing a “Goodbye Amy” party, complete with cheesecake, my favorite!

I feel very fortunate to have spent a summer in this city and with this company.  I wouldn’t trade it!

 

 

Walking that tightrope #showmeyourpump

Everyday this week while compiling T1D in the News, I continue to see articles, blog posts, tweets, and the like about Siera Sandison, Miss Idaho 2014, and her #showmeyourpump campaign. I posted my #showmeyourpump photo last week, and I have loved all the openness I have seen on social media about showing pumps, pens, CGMs, and the like. People aren’t shy about showing off their diabetes!

Ever since the big news about Siera Sandison wearing her insulin pump onstage for the Miss Idaho competition, I have been trying to follow her social media accounts to keep up to date on her campaign and all the awareness she is creating.  Yesterday she tweeted:

For upcoming blogpost: what is the most common question or misconception you encounter when discussing diabetes with others? #showmeyourpump

Well, I’m going to take a break from writing about my internship and take this opportunity to respond to Siera’s blog prompt!

Up until this past year, I honestly didn’t experience many of the outrageous questions or misconceptions that many people with T1D encounter everyday, but simply because I wasn’t very open about sharing my diabetes with anyone.  Sure, my closer friends and family knew I have T1D, but I never intentionally took the time out of my day to bring this topic up to my more casual friends, acquaintances, or introductions.  If the topic came up I would give the simplest explanation of T1D as I could, leaving very little signals that welcomed more conversation on the topic.

Sure, I’d get the occasional, “Wow, so you really have to watch what you eat, right?” or “You have diabetes?  But you’re so slim!”  But I tried to clear up those misunderstandings as quickly as possible and move on to another topic of conversation, unless the person I was talking to shows a genuine interest in learning more about the disease and how I live with it.

Only in the past year or so have I gained more of a confidence in talking openly and freely about living with T1D without trying to end the conversation as soon as possible.  I’ve learned that by welcoming conversation and inquiries, yes, I do get more crazy questions and misconceptions, but I also receive a lot of understanding and desire to know more about the disease and how I manage it.

SO now to answer the actual prompt.  After thinking on this for a while, I guess I’d have to say the most common question or misconception I encounter when discussing diabetes with others is the following: People seem to think that as long as I do the “right things,” (count carbs, check my blood sugar, and give insulin) I am able to perfectly control 100% of my numbers 100% of the time.

FALSE FALSE FALSE!

Oh HOW I wish this were true.  Seems simple, right?  My pancreas doesn’t make insulin, so as long as I calculate the right dosages of insulin to take with my meals and my high blood sugars, everything should be a-okay, right?  Wrong.  Type 1 Diabetes is a complicated disease.  Every day presents a different set of circumstances.  While other people’s bodies automatically regulate their blood sugar levels perfectly no matter what curve ball life throws at them, my body is left powerless to the threats that stress, exercise, food, sickness, and a dozen other things pose to my blood sugars.

One of my favorite online posts explaining the exhaustion that comes with trying to “perfectly” manage blood sugars with type 1 diabetes is written by Riva Greenberg, who describes Type 1 diabetes in this way:

 Type 1 diabetes is a tightrope walk — all day and all night taking action to anticipate, prevent and recover from my blood sugar going too high and too low.

Yet no matter how hard we try to balance on that tightrope, type 1 diabetes is relentlessly unpredictable.  What works one day doesn’t work the next.  The insulin that you so perfectly calculated to cover that bowl of cereal you just ate? Turns out it wasn’t enough.  Your doses have been the same for weeks and producing nearly flawless numbers?  This week they decided to be different.

While I understand why people who don’t have T1D would think it’s a perfectly controllable disease, I still get frustrated when they ask me questions like, “Oh, your blood sugar is high today?  Why?  Did you eat too much?  Did you not calculate your insulin correctly?”

No, I didn’t eat too much, and yes, I calculated my insulin correctly.  There are just way too many other factors in my body affecting my blood sugars that I am not aware of.  The body is unpredictable.  It is impossible to know every single thing that is going on in my body every single second of the day.  It is amazing how seamlessly undiseased (is that a word?) bodies work to stay functioning every single day.  Only through having T1D have I gained a true appreciation for how our bodies work.  Who would think that missing one little hormone could have such an effect on how the body works?  It is SO much more difficult to control blood sugar levels manually than it is with a functioning pancreas doing it for you.

Writing this post reminds me of a hypoglycemic episode I had back in March while I was at school.  I was studying with my boyfriend, Matt, near the fireplace at school, when all of a sudden he noticed I was typing the same sentence twice in an email, zoning out, not reading as quickly as I normally do, and dozing off even though it was only 8 pm.  He realized I was going low.  I didn’t have my CGM in that day, so I hadn’t been alerted to my low blood sugar (I had also been struggling with hypoglycemic unawareness, not usually feeling low symptoms until I am in the 50s or 60s).  He tried to give me sugar tabs, but I was belligerent, stubborn, and slightly violent in refusing them.  (I don’t even recall this episode past trying to write the email I mentioned earlier).  He eventually called 911 and an ambulance took me to the hospital, where my blood sugars was 19 mg/dl.  People, that.  Is.  DANGEROUS.  I remember coming to and seeing a team of nurses and EMTs surrounding me, with Matt in the corner of the room.  My blood sugars came up quickly and I was able to leave the hospital that night.

Why do I bring this story up now?  Because for the days following this episode, I was bombarded with questions.  Going to a very small university, word spreads quickly (as do prayer requests – I go to a Christian school, so many had been praying for me when they heard I was in the hospital).  I felt very overwhelmed with care and concern and was very appreciative for all of the love that was shown to me.  I felt cared for.

Yet I also felt a little intruded upon in some ways.  Some people asked me questions (with the best of intentions) like, “Why did your sugars go so low?  Did you not eat enough for dinner?”  or “What did you do, how could you not have known they were dropping so quickly?” or even “Hadn’t you been managing your numbers well this week?”

While I can make some educated guesses as to why my numbers dropped so quickly, the mysteries of the human body are just that: mysteries.  I can try as hard as possible, I can devote all my time and energy to blood sugar control, and I can vigilantly pay attention to every bump in the road that might cause my blood sugar to spike or plummet, but ultimately it comes down to this: my own efforts will never quite measure up to what my body was made to do on its own.

Until a cure comes, I will continue walking this very shaky tightrope.  But I might lose my balance a few times…  It just happens.  :)

JDRF’s Transition to a new CEO: A busy day in the communications department

With only two weeks left in my internship with JDRF, I am sad, excited, and extremely grateful all at once. I am sad that in two weeks I will no longer be working for JDRF (though of course I will always be a part of JDRF’s work through my own fundraising and advocacy efforts). I am excited to go home for one week and spend some quality (but sadly brief)  time with my loved ones before moving back to campus for fall semester. And I am so grateful that I was given this huge opportunity to learn and gain experience at a company like JDRF, who is on the forefront of type 1 diabetes research to find a cure for all of us who live with T1D.

It’s only Monday of my second last week, and I already know this week will be a crazy one. Last night, my T1D friend and fellow intern Jenni Maizel, texted me with a screenshot of Jeffrey Brewer’s (as of today, former President & CEO of JDRF) facebook announcing that he will no longer hold the same position at JDRF. I had no idea why, how, when, or any specifics about this transition, but I knew that my next day at work would likely be a busy one with such a huge transition happening. And how crazy is it that I happen to be interning with JDRF at such an important time??  I love experiencing such big happenings such as this one!

I arrived at work early this morning (about 8:40 am) to find that there were already three others who had arrived early as well: Anne (VP of Strategic Communications), Paige, and Brian. Paige came to my desk and asked if I’d like anything from Starbucks, as she was going to get breakfast since the three of them had been in the office since 6:30 this morning. WHOA. Cue the beginning of a hectic day in the communications department.

I opened my email to find two “urgent” emails in my inbox about the transition from Jeffrey Brewer to Derek Rapp, JDRF’s new President & CEO. Finally, it all began to make sense. Jeffrey has left his role at JDRF after having done some amazing work resetting JDRF’s research strategy, fundraising strategy, and management and governance systems. Now, after accomplishing this important work, he has left his position as President & CEO and it is time for a transition to new leadership. Derek Rapp, who’s son Turner (fellow SWD intern!) has T1D, will be JDRF’s new President & CEO. He has served on JDRF’s International Board of Directors since 2010 and has been actively involved in JDRF’s mission and work. Jeffrey has set JDRF on the right course for research, and Derek will continue to propel JDRF’s work turning Type One to Type None.

At 9:30, the communications department had a quick meeting in Anne’s office to discuss the transition and how we would be communicating this information to different audiences. I could tell right away that today would be an important (and crazily fast-paced and busy) one. There were so many things to do and take care of! How do we communicate the transition to staff? To donors? To volunteers? What language do we use? How do we answer questions about the transition?

At 9:00 am, we posted a press release regarding JDRF’s CEO transition, which has certainly gained attention from various media outlets. As I was working on T1D in the News, I saw links to our press release pop up throughout my news searches of the day. At first they trickled in slowly, and then all at once I saw dozens! News sure does spread quickly thanks to the Internet!

Having the experience of being in the office on a day like today has certainly given me an appreciation for what the communications department does every day! They handled a very big, important transition with style and poise to ensure that audiences everywhere understand the transition accurately and correctly.  I’m really excited to see the progress that JDRF continues to make toward finding a cure while under new leadership.  So much progress has been made in the past few years, and it will only get better from here!

For example – One of JDRF’s research concentrations has gotten some special attention in the media lately: encapsulation.  Here’s the idea behind encapsulation: “New beta cells are created and wrapped in a permeable, protective barrier which is implanted in the body. The new beta cells release insulin when needed while the barrier protects them from being destroyed by the autoimmune attack.” (quotes from JDRF’s website) “Encapsulated cell therapy has the potential to virtually eliminate the relentless daily management burden for those living with T1D: no need for multiple daily insulin injections or pump therapy, no more constant blood testing and no more carb counting. People with T1D would just go about their daily lives for extended periods of time as if they didn’t even have the disease.”

Last week, ViaCyte announced that they will soon be moving ahead to human trials for encapsulation.  SO EXCITING!

JDRF is making huge strides in creating a world without T1D, and I love being a part of it all.  Personally and professionally.  Personally, encapsulation could change my life.  The idea of having a simple outpatient surgery to implant new beta cells every few years seems miles better than daily finger pricks, site changes, sensors, carb counting, and the like.  Professionally, it’s been so fascinating to be a part of media tracking what JDRF releases to the media.  Last week I tracked our press release about ViaCyte’s announcement and BOY did it get a lot of coverage.  I helped Christopher, our Director of Public Relations, create a list of all the media outlets that had picked up our release.  There was over 8 pages worth – and I didn’t even get them all!  Like I said, I’m gaining a growing appreciation for what the communications department does at JDRF.  It’s incredible.

Aside from those two very exciting announcements, today’s tasks at work were fairly normal.  I am working on compiling lists of donors, Walk Team captains, and Riders who have donated or raised $50,000 or more in the past year in order to send them research progress reports throughout the year.  We like to keep our donors and fundraisers in the know about how their funds are being used to turn Type One into Type None!  It’s been an interesting process of pulling lists from different departments and compiling/streamlining them into one cumulative list.  It’s tedious, but very enlightening!  There are so many dedicated donors that I am personally so very thankful for.  Without the generosity of donors and the leadership like Jeffrey Brewer and now Derek Rapp, who knows where JDRF would be!  I sure don’t, but I am thankful for where we are and where we’re heading in the future.

Exciting times for the T1D community, people, exciting times:)

#showmeyourpump

This Sunday marked the beginning of Diabetes Awareness Week, and I have certainly been immersed in diabetes awareness this week! The DOC continues to amaze and encourage me every single day: to see their advocacy efforts, their work to change #dstigma and how people talk about type 1 diabetes, their optimism about the future in research for a cure… I could go on and on.

There has been one story in particular that drew my attention (in addition to many others!) this week. Sierra Sandison, who lives with T1D, was crowned Miss Idaho 2014 this week. What’s more, Sierra wore her insulin pump onstage for the swimsuit competition! Talk about self-confidence and stepping out for diabetes awareness!  Her crowning received much well-deserved attention and respect from the DOC.  Yesterday, Sierra shared a photo on Facebook from the swimsuit competition along with a call to action for all those with T1D:

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There it is. I would never have dreamt of posting a swimsuit picture on social media, but diabetics from all over the country have been asking to see me and my insulin pump on the #MissIdaho2014 stage. Honestly, it is terrifying walking out on stage in a swimsuit, let alone attached to a medical device. My message to everyone, diabetic or not, is that we all have something that doesn’t “measure up” to the beauty standards set by the media–and that is okay! It does not make you any less beautiful. We also all have obstacles, challenges, and trials. Diabetes turned my life upside down when I was first diagnosed. Don’t let your challenge hold you back or slow you down. Use it to, not only empower yourself and grow as an individual, but to serve and influence other people as well. 

With that said, I have faced my fear of proudly showing my insulin pump! Now I want to see YOURS! Post your photo on social media (insta, twitter, facebook–make sure it is shared publically so I can see it) with the hashtag #showmeyourpump! The nationwide support from my fellow diabetics this weekend has been AMAZING! I can’t wait to see more of you guys! 

This is not limited to just girls, or to people with pumps–I want to see YOU and whatever your daily battle with diabetes looks like. 

Sierra, you are such an inspiration!  I was diagnosed when I was 10 years old, and I have always been self-conscious about showing my pump site and CGM site when I wear a bathing suit.  Teenage girls are already self-conscious enough as it is, right?!  We all have obstacles, challenges, and trials that can overcome us, but not if we choose to overcome them!

While I won’t be sharing a bikini photo (for modesty reasons, not embarrassment reasons:) ), here is a photo of me wearing my insulin pump proudly on the waist of my skirt today!

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I have always loved wearing skirts and dresses, but it has taken me a long time to feel confident and comfortable about wearing my pump visibly while doing so.  For the longest time, I wore my pump on a leg strap (think like a big garter with a pocket) around my thigh, which was often tight and uncomfortable.  But I would willingly sacrifice comfort for so-called confidence over and over again.  Over the past 6 months or so, I have gradually been putting my pump on the waist band of my skirts instead of hiding it underneath where it is often so tight and uncomfortable!  I have grown confident and proud to wear my pump so visibly.  It brings questions, comments, and conversation that are all welcome because they bring about awareness and education.  Thank you, Miss Idaho, for inspiring and encouraging so many people with T1D to embrace who they are and still live life to the fullest!  #showmeyourpump

Time’s flying by!

So my third week at JDRF absolutely flew by, with it really only consisting of two and a half days.

I continued to work on T1D in the News every day, which still remains to be one of my favorite tasks.

I also submitted some notes I took while doing competitive research on other non-profit organization’s volunteer spotlight techniques. JDRF currently posts volunteer spotlights that feature notable, passionate volunteers that have significantly impacted JDRF. The communications department is looking to update and refresh how we put these spotlights together, so I was given the responsibility of checking out how other organizations do similar spotlights! It was pretty fun. I spent some time browsing websites of other non-profits and jotting down the features I thought were best about various spotlights.

In addition to T1D in the News and volunteer spotlight research, I helped Shawn with contacting people for permission to reprint charts from studies published in medical journals for use in our research progress reports. This was probably the scariest thing I have done thus far and let me explain why… JDRF uses charts and figures in our research progress reports to show donors how their money is being used to fund research in addition to how much progress our research has been making. These charts and figures often come from studies that are JDRF-funded but are published in other journals. Therefore, we need to get permission to use those charts and figures. Sometimes we get permission to do so, but only with a fee. Well, with JDRF being a non-profit organization (in fact, the non-profit organization that funded all of these research studies in the first place), Shawn asked if I could look into getting the fees waived, or at least decreased significantly. Oh boy!! I told her I would contact the woman who gave us the permission and fees and explain to her our situation and our request to waive the fees. It all sounds pretty simple, right? Well here’s the thing. Making phone calls kind of terrifies me. I don’t know why. I’m usually a pretty good conversationalist and communicator in person and in front of groups. But the idea of picking up a phone, dialing a number that belongs to someone I do not know, introducing myself and explaining why I’m calling, and then trying to “get my way” so to speak? It makes me so nervous!! Let’s just say it took me a good ten minutes to simply calm myself down and psyche myself into making this call.

I ended up leaving a message and giving the woman Shawn’s number.

Hahahahaha all that nervousness for nothing!

Aside from that nerve-wracking endeavor, Tuesday was pretty fun. JDRF hired a new Director of Public Relations, Christopher Rucas. We had a welcome lunch for him on Tuesday, much like the welcome lunch that was given for me, Hannah, and Jenni on our first day. He has a lot of experience and seems to be very good at what he does. I like him so far! Paige and I met with him to go over T1D in the News and how it can be improved, which is actually now something I am currently working on THIS week – improving the document itself and how it is compiled. It’s pretty interesting.

On Wednesday, like I mentioned earlier, I got to leave earlier to catch a plane back to Cleveland. My flight was scheduled for 6:29 pm and I allowed myself PLENTY of time to get through security, as I knew Newark Airport would be busier than Cleveland. Turns out it took me only 20 minutes to get through security, so I was left with 2-3 hours before my flight to wander the airport… or so I thought…

My flight ended up being delayed until ONE IN THE MORNING. Not. Fun. There were massive thunderstorms and long story short, our plane was coming from Florida and detoured to Baltimore because of the storms. And there in Baltimore it stayed until the weather was safe enough to fly to Newark. Which ended up being 1 in the morning apparently. I did, however, see many planes take off and land between the hours of 6:29 pm and 1:00 am… so not really sure why ours had to be delayed so long… But anyways. I got home safe and sound at 3 in the morning and promptly fell asleep. I was POOPED.

On the bright side, waiting for six hours at an airport gate provides some unique bonding experience. Especially with cute toddlers. I seem to be quite the kid magnet, as a few toddlers curiously were staring at me and trying to touch me as I sat behind them at the gate. I ended up making funny faces and playing with them for a little bit of time. It definitely brightened my evening:) And then, the next morning at Lakeside, I woke up and came downstairs to Ellie, who walked over to me sticking her arms up in the air in the classic, “Pick me up, pick me up” position that toddlers love to do. I picked her up and she just snuggled right into me for a good five minutes. Ahhhhhhh, bliss. Family. Rest!

I won’t say a whole lot about my weekend on vacation, but I will share some pictures! It was a wonderful weekend, and I felt like I could’ve stayed at Lakeside forever. Matt got to come, too, which I loved SO much. We went to our first wedding together, experienced Lakeside together (we’ve both been long-time Lakesiders, but never met until this year), and had great family time together. All in all a great respite weekend in the middle of my internship experience in NYC:)

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Fourth of July parade

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The little diva

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She loves that camera lens

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Evan and Peepaw – mouths watering while waiting for Nagoya

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Ellie kept wanting me to pick her up:)

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Love his face!

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We went to our first wedding together!

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Glacial grooves on Kelley’s Island

Coming back to NYC was a bit strange for me after spending (almost) five days on vacation in my little-corner-of-heaven-Lakeside-home. Surrounded by people I loved, it was so hard to go back to a little room in NYC all alone. It took me a little while to adjust emotionally.

But now that I’m back, I’m ready to work some more! I went back to work on Tuesday, and let me tell you I was SLAMMED! I came back to about 20 emails and a handful of new projects to work on. It was a little bit overwhelming, but it was so fun to be so busy.

New projects:

  • Speakers Bureau
    • Paige was recently given the responsibility of overseeing the Speakers Bureau, a group of trained staff and volunteers who represent JDRF publicly and support fundraising efforts by conveying JDRF’s plan for a world without T1D by speaking at various JDRF events across the country and throughout the year.  (Donor development events, Walk kick-offs, pre-gala receptions, board meetings, outreach events, etc.)  Now that the Speakers Bureau is her responsibility, she’s asked for my help in listening to some past conference calls between the Bureau members (there’s 14 of them) so I can get a better idea of what the speakers need, how they can be supported, and how we can maximize their strengths and skills while they are at events.  I listened to three one-hour conference call recordings and learned a LOT. I learned about what the speakers love about JDRF, what they appreciate about being the Bureau, what they find challenging, where they need the most support, and most importantly, the ways we at National can best help them.  I think the Speakers Bureau is pretty fantastic; it’s a group of some phenomenal advocates and volunteers who are really passionate about JDRF and creating a world without T1D.  I would LOVE to hear one of them speak one day.
  • RIV Roster
    • RIVs are research information volunteers.  Most chapters have one or a few.  The job of the RIV is to share current diabetes research and provide updates on new diabetes technology being developed.  This involves monthly webinars with other RIVs to receive updated research information, messaging guidelines, and the latest JDRF news.  The RIVs then communicate this information to their Chapter and the public.
    • Paige is currently working on updating the RIV roster so she can identify any new RIVs that need to be oriented and trained.
    • That’s where I come in!  First I am going through our current list of RIVs and making sure that list matches up with the master list of chapters and branches.  Then we will be contacting all the chapters and branches that don’t have RIVs and asking them if they have recently hired any.  THEN we will be contacting the chapters and branches that DO have RIVs and making sure we have the right RIV on file for them.  Lots and lots of updating…
  • Condolence Acknowledgement Letters
    • During my first week at JDRF, I was given the opportunity to proofread and update the messaging on some acknowledgement letters.  A few more were added to that batch this week, including condolence acknowledgement letters.  These letters are sent out to the next-of-kin of people who have passed away and left a gift to JDRF in their will.  In the letter we express our condolences, gratitude, and information about JDRF to the family.  We also send a letter to the firm that deals with the deceased’s account.  I went through the letters and used our updated messaging guidelines to tweak some sentences here and there to make it consistent with our FY15 messaging.
  • Updating (and Improving) T1D in the News
    • I mentioned this briefly earlier, but JDRF recently hired a new Director of Public Relations, Christopher.  Paige and I met with him to tell him about T1D in the News, and he showed us some improvements we could think about making.  We’re going to meet next week after I draft up a sample document of the suggested improvements.
  • TypeOneNation Summit Conference Call and Feedback
    • Prior to this week, I had crafted a survey to send out to the ten TypeOneNation pilot chapters.  These ten chapters were the first chapters to receive Lilly funding of $15,000 to put on a TypeOneNation Summit, or conference.  I made a survey and sent it to the chapters to gather feedback about their Summit and our support.  After the survey results came in, Emily, Kady, and I all got on the phone with the chapters for a conference call to discuss the results and suggestions!  It was so interesting to be on a phone call with about a dozen people.  The chapters had great suggestions for next years Summits.  Emily and Kady focused on asking questions about how each chapter did their budgeting, as this was the first year we received funding from Lilly to put on a conference.  It’s important to have that budgeting information so we can potentially receive more funding in the future.  We hope to have twenty conferences next year (ten more than this year).

So with all these new projects and things to work on, Tuesday and Wednesday were relatively busy.  That came to a quick halt on Thursday, as most of the office was gone in DC for the One Walk conference.  JDRF is currently in the process of changing the Walk to Cure Diabetes to the JDRF One Walk.  This conference was put on for the chapters that are piloting the One Walk!  This meant, however, that the only people left in the Communications department this week were me, Paige, Shawn, and Paul.  It was so quiet!  And pretty un-busy in my case… Everyone was gone, so I didn’t have much to work on!  I continued working on T1D in the News, updating the Q&A document, taking notes on SB calls, and other miscellaneous to-dos.  But yesterday and today sure did go by more slowly than Tuesday and Wednesday did!

All in all, I’m ready for the weekend.  I am currently sitting at Grounded, a cafe in West Village that Paige told me about.  I’m ready for my “me” time… reading, journaling, and drinking a “honey bee latte.”  Mmmm…

Until next time!  Thanks for reading:)

A Wonderful Community

I finished my second week of work at JDRF on Friday.  While it was a little slower than my first week, it was still a pretty great week.

I’m still working on T1D in the News everyday, which is really fun because it keeps me up to date on all things diabetes.  It’s pretty awesome.

I’ve also been helping with a presentation for the One Walk kick-off conference for all the chapters that are piloting the JDRF One Walk.  I’m gathering photos from each chapter along with their “We’re the _____ type” catchphrase.  Each chapter fills in the blank with a phrase that captures who their chapter is and what the Walk means to them.  For example, “We’re the won’t stop at anything type,” or “We’re the every step matters type.”  It’s been fun to see all the photos from all the different Walks held in different cities across the country, in addition to reading all the creative catchphrases the chapters come up with!  It reminds me that there’s people all over the country fighting for a cure for type 1 diabetes.  There are so many chapters across the United States, and they’re all working towards the same goal: a cure.  Even just working for JDRF is making me want a cure more badly than I have ever wanted one before.  Because I see all the work that is being put into one!!

One highlight of my work week was attending my first communications department meeting.  I had been told about these department meetings.  These meetings where Anne has a folder full of paperwork for each person.  A folder which you know nothing of what it contains.  A folder that Anne uses to fire questions to you about what you’re working on and what progress you’ve made and what more you need from her.  So it’s safe to say I was a little apprehensive.  Kady and Paige were chatting with me about the meetings, wondering if I’d even have my own folder.  They encouraged me that it’s intimidating at first, because you don’t know what she will ask you, but Anne is very thorough and not at all mean.  Just intimidatingly thorough apparently.

So I walked into the meeting and sat down with my pen and steno pad, ready to take notes and make a good impression.  Sure enough, Anne pulled out her stack of folders and began to ask each employee questions about their projects.  To most of these questions I felt absolutely clueless.  Everybody talked so fast and replied so quickly, it was hard to keep up and pretend I knew what everyone was talking about.  BUT!  When it came to the questions to Paige about T1D in the News and updating the Q&A document, I finally heard something that sounded familiar!  Paige mentioned that I had taken over T1D in the News and have been doing a good job with it,and that I did a fantastic job cleaning up the Q&A document.  AHHH!  And Jessica mentioned that I had been tracking down and organizing all the One Walk photos and catchphrases.  And Kady mentioned the survey I created for TON summit feedback.  I began to feel like a genuine part of the team:)

As Anne made her way through her stack of folders, I was patiently waiting to see if she would have one for me.  Alas, she did not.  When she reached the bottom of her stack she looked up, found me, and simply said, “Well Amy!  I do not have a folder for you, but it sounds like you are doing a lot of great work for us!  I hear little bits of you in every one else’s reports, so I’m happy you’re with us!”

I beamed and said, “Thank you!  It’s been so much fun getting to be a part of this!”

I left the meeting very happy:)

I feel like I’m part of the team!  Not just while I’m at work, but in a social way, too.  Paige is organizing a get-together for the comm department after work sometime soon.  Brian invited me to a weekly Ultimate Frisbee game.  Paige gave me info about the NYC pools opening this weekend.  It’s starting to feel like I have real friends that I’m working with!

And with that, my second week concluded.  But my sense of community didn’t!

My new friend,Marisa, came to visit me.  I met Marisa at the Students with Diabetes conference. We exchanged numbers and have talked just briefly since the conference, but she texted me awhile ago saying she would be in NYC this weekend visiting her brother.  So we made plans to see each other!

On Saturday morning, we spent some time at Union Square.  We walked around the market, looked at artwork, tasted some free samples, but eventually just sat down in a grassy spot to hang out and talk.  We talked about a lot things from diabetes to school to jobs to boys.  We complained about diabetes but we also were grateful for the community it has offered us.  How so many people can have the same thing in common, and that makes it so much easier.  Take us, for example!  We met a month ago in Florida of all places, and now we’re catching up in New York and are able to talk about the things that annoy us about diabetes, the things we learned from diabetes, and the people we have met because of diabetes.  It’s all pretty valuable.

From there, we went to Brooklyn Bridge, where we walked halfway, took some pictures, then turned back around.  It was hot, okay?  :)
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All in all it was a slow week but a good week.  Full of good people and good friends.

Home Away From Home: My Weekend with Matt

After completing my first week of work at JDRF, I was able to spend my first weekend with Matt, who rode a bus overnight Friday for nine hours (the things he does for me…) to arrive in New York City at an early, yawn-filled 6:30 am on Saturday.

I don’t think I realized how homesick I was until I hugged Matt at the bus station.

I had been so busy all week with the newness of working at JDRF and becoming familiar with a new routine that I honestly hadn’t had much time to sit down and let my feelings sink in.  I’d talked to my parents, my brother, and Matt on the phone as well as texted my friends a few times throughout the week, which probably helped keep my homesickness at bay.  But gosh, when I hugged Matt on Saturday morning, I desperately wanted to be home with all my familiar, loved faces surrounding me.  Having Matt with me this weekend gave me a little taste of home away from home, and I am thankful for that.

Saturday

We had a LOT of fun this weekend.  It all began, like I said, at 6:30 Saturday morning.  Originally, Matt’s bus was supposed to arrive at Port Authority at 7:40 am.  I was planning on waking up at 6:30 or 6:40 so I could get to the station at 7:15, giving myself to find his gate and calm my nerves:) But, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t really sleep Friday night, so I was up on my feet before 6:00 am.  It’s a good thing I was, because I received a text just after 6:00 am saying he thinks the bus is close to the city.  I immediately went to the subway, thinking, “I’ve still got time; I’m sure his bus isn’t that close.”  But then at 6:20 am (while I’m still on the subway), I received another text saying he just got off the bus!  What!  So much for meeting him at the gate!  We ended up meeting outside of the bus station, where Matt teased me for not recognizing him.  I was standing outside of the station looking left and right for my bearded boyfriend, when all of a sudden I spot Matt, completely completely shaven!  Apparently I had looked right at him three or four times, he had smiled at me, but it didn’t even register with me!  Oops.  Best girlfriend award goes to me, right?  Haha.

So, because of said events, Matt and I got a whole extra hour together this weekend!  At 6:30 in the morning… haha.  After standing and laughing in front of Port Authority for a few minutes, we headed back to The Markle on the subway because we couldn’t check Matt into his room until later that afternoon.  Instead, we ate breakfast at The Markle and enjoyed a slow morning together.

After breakfast, we headed to the Empire State Building.  Go big or go home!  I had read online that it’s best to go as close to opening time (8:00 am) as possible in order to arrive when the lines haven’t had time to get exhaustingly long.  So we went around 8:30, and sure enough, we hardly had to wait!  It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day – perfect for looking over the city on the 86th floor.

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Even though we didn’t have to wait in line for very long, it sure was crowded up there!  The Top of the Rock has a much more open area with plenty of room to walk around and get that perfect view of the city without being intruded upon by the crowds of people pushing for their turn to look over the edge.  It was a little frustrating, but we still had a great time looking at the city and taking some pictures.

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After our visit to the Empire State Building, we walked eight blocks to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library.  The library is absolutely beautiful, even though most of what we say didn’t even involve books.  The marble archways are gorgeous.

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Of course, my favorite place was the gift shop, haha.  They were actually having a poster sale for $4.95 a poster.  I bought an old, color blocked poster of the Brooklyn Bridge.  There were some really cool posters with New York City maps, but unfortunately the color schemes weren’t my favorite… oh well.  I could’ve spent an hour in that store.

We enjoyed sitting in the sun at Bryant Park, where there was an orchestra playing behind the library.  Bryant Park is such a wonderful little spot in the city.  People basking in the sunlight, fathers and sons kicking soccer balls back and forth, couples having picnics, and little girls practicing their gymnastics.

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We went back to The Markle for lunch (the less expensive option compared to eating out for every meal).

After lunch, we went to check Matt into his room at Seafarer’s & International Hotel, just a few blocks away from The Markle.  We walked the few blocks in the hot sun while carrying his stuff.  That was fun.  Sort of.

Perhaps because of all the walking, my blood sugar levels dropped and went a little low.  This is one reason I love my Dexcom.  Without today’s technology, I probably would’ve just attributed my sweatiness and being out of breath to walking a few blocks in the hot sun while wearing jeans.  But nope.  It was because my blood sugar levels were going down!

I was a little cranky at my numbers.  I don’t like low blood sugars, because that means I have to take a juice box, sugar tabs, or something else sugary.  It means I have to interrupt myself and those around me by stopping what I’m currently doing, find a juice box in my bottomless purse, drink it, wait fifteen minutes, and finally see my numbers come back to normal.  So let’s just say I felt a little crummy after I had to interrupt my day with Matt with a sugar low.

Matt, however, always seems be a bit more positive than I am in this area.  He always speaks up about how he wants to help take care of me.  How diabetes will never be a burden for him, because taking care of diabetes takes care of me.  He’s always more vigilant about treating lows than I am, too.

I have the bad habit of letting my numbers sit and hover in the 70s, maybe even 60s, because I know that at least it’s good they’re not hovering in the 180s or 200s.  This, unfortunately, can lead to hypoglycemic unawareness.  This happens when a person is so accustomed to low blood sugar that they fail to recognize or experience the usual symptoms of hypoglycemia (sweatiness, shakiness, weakness).  This can lead to dangerously low numbers while skipping the warning signs, thus lapsing without warning into severe hypoglycemia, becoming confused, disoriented, or even unconscious.  Obviously this is dangerous and frightening, especially for those around me, like Matt.  He has been so good about encouraging me to treat my lows, even if I feel awkward or uncomfortable doing so in public.  He assures me that he doesn’t look down on me when my numbers are out of range, whether low or high.  He knows I do my best everyday.

So when I was cranky and feeling crummy about being low on Saturday afternoon, I was happy he was there to cheer me up.  And not just with his words, but with a surprise, too!

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Right after I had taken a juice to bring my numbers back up, Matt asked if he could see my hand.  I was pretty confused.  Why did he want to see my hand?  Did he want to learn how to prick my finger?  Did he want to see if I was still bleeding from my previous finger prick?

Instead, he told me, “This just seems like a good time to give you my gift… you need some cheering up.  This ring is a ‘just because’ gift, but also to celebrate your internship with JDRF and all your hard work with your diabetes.”

You see, just after the SWD Conference, Matt and I were both so blown away by the diabetes online community.  All the blogs, YouTube accounts, Facebook pages, etc.  Matt actually started looking on Etsy for diabetes products.  Over the course of a few days, he sent me links to funny keychains, diabetes alert jewelry, and other such items.  There was one Etsy seller he sent me, Ccaria, who sold jewelry to raise funds for JDRF.  On her page was a ring that she made to represent the blue circle that was created as a universal symbol for diabetes by IDF.

I usually don’t like using extreme statements, but I’m pretty sure this is the most thoughtful gift I’ve received.

And Matt, just so you know, you don’t have to give me presents every time my sugars make me cranky😉

Later that night, Matt and I enjoyed our one fancy night out to Max Brenner followed by the Staten Island Ferry just before sunset (thank you Liz for the suggestion!).  We got all dressed up to go to Max Brenner for dinner and dessert.  My friend, Katie, who went to school in New York City for a few years, told me that Max Brenner has the BEST dessert and she was right on!  The place reminded me of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with brown pipes snaking around the ceiling and walls, perhaps even carrying chocolate?  The atmosphere was very fun, very loud, and very close (our table was inches from the tables on either side of us).  I immediately noticed after ten minutes that both candles on our table were burnt out.  Looks like Matt and I carry on my parents’ tradition of always getting the table that’s a little off!  We both ordered appetizers for dinner: Matt with quesadillas, me with my wings (only I would order wings on a fancy dress-up date).  I just can’t help myself.  They were delicious!  For dessert we ordered the S’mores Concoction.  Served like a science experiment, we received a humongous beaker willed with chocolate, marshmallow sauce, and whipped cream.  On the side were graham crackers, burnt marshmallows, banana slices, and a small beaker of caramel sauce.  We mixed it all together and ate our delicious concoction!

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After Max Brenner, we headed to the Staten Island ferry for the 8:00 pm departure.  My friend, Liz, grew up in Long Island and gave me lots of tips a few months ago when she heard I was living in New York City this summer.  She told me the best thing you can do for free is take the Staten Island ferry.  She recommended taking the ferry to Staten Island an hour before sunset (because you can watch the sun go down on the water) and hopping right back on to Manhattan (because the sky is dark and the city will be lit up).  Boy am I happy she gave me this idea!

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Sure enough, we watched a beautiful sunset on the ferry.

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It was a bit cold, but it was a wonderful end to our date night.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, Matt checked out of his hotel room and we headed to Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side.  I had packed a lot of yummy food from Trader Joe’s for a picnic in Central Park, but thought it would be fun to pick up some baked goods.  I ordered a blueberry muffin and Matt ordered a chocolate chip brioche.  I still don’t know what a brioche is, but it was YUMMY.

We headed to Central Park and spotted some flat rocks on the other side of the lake.  We spent a solid half hour wandering around trying to find the path to those rocks, and we finally found it!  …only to find that some geese had already staked their territory.  Just a few minutes of patience was needed, and the geese went back in the water.  We sat on the rocks with our blanket and food and started munching away while watching the people on row boats in the lake.  Apparently they only cost $12 per hour!  (Mental note for next time Matt visits).  About ten minuets into our picnic, an African-American couple was rowing past our rocks while two geese were sitting fairly close to our rocks.  All of a sudden, a goose from the other side of the lake starts to rapidly fly straight towards the geese sitting by us.  This goose, honking like crazy, flew right next to the woman’s head, seemingly straight towards us.  The woman and I were both shrieking while the goose continued to chase after the other one.  They flew away in the other direction, while the woman on the row boat exasperatingly shouted, “What the heck was that?!?!” while her husband was just laughing to himself.

What an afternoon.

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It was great.

There was also a tiny, rapid-moving spider on our blanket halfway through our picnic.  I jumped up and started hopping like a little girl who has to go to the bathroom while Matt crushed it.  I’m a baby when it comes to insects.  Especially eight-legged ones who move like the speed of light.

After our picnic in Central Park we headed to the Green Flea, just one street over from where we were in the park.  We spent most of our day wandering around the dozens of booths selling antiques, handmade items, refurbished objects, and the like.  I bought a really cute dress for only $30 and a ring for $10.  Matt spotted some neat bookshelves made out of old doors, and I spotted a mirror completely covered in pennies.

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After exploring the Green Flea, we went back to The Markle for an hour before church.  I introduced Matt to Denise, one of the ladies that works at the front desk.  (She’s my favorite).  She talked to Matt and me for a while, asking how he liked New York, about our plans for the summer, and what not.

At 5, we headed over to church (Redeemer Presbyterian at The Salvation Army).  I love that it’s just around the corner.  And we got to hear Dr. Tim Keller speak!  He preached out of 2 Peter on the Christian life and our freedom because of submission to Christ.  It was a wonderful sermon, full of illustrations, stories, and inspirations to think about who/what I am submitting to.  Like he said in his sermon, we are slaves to something.  We’re either slaves to God or slaves to something else.  There is no in between.  But becoming a slave to God gives us the freedom to serve and love others as He enables us to.  Powerful stuff.

After church, we headed to Times Square to find somewhere close to Port Authority where  we could watch the World Cup and eat dinner.  What seemed to be an impossible task at first (most places had waits of 2+ hours) quickly turned into a surprising delight!  On a whim, I told Matt we should check out this Irish pub on the corner.  We walked in and asked if they had a table for two.  They did!  They had four floors, each with TVs to watch the game.  It was actually a nicer environment than a sports bar, as most people on our floor were eating dinner and not just drinking.

We ordered appetizers and watched American score two goals against Portugal and then in the last 30 seconds, Portugal scored… I’ve never gotten so into a soccer game before, but I was genuinely upset!  Matt tried to explain various rules to me throughout the game, but I remained clueless.  It was still very fun to watch and be surrounded by devoted fans.

After the game, we went to Starbucks right across from Port Authority for the last hour before Matt had to be at his bus gate.  It was a nice ending to a wonderful weekend.  We sat, talked, prayed, and had some time to let it sink in that we would be saying goodbye soon.  We walked over to Port Authority, found Matt’s station, and got ready to say goodbye.  Matt, being the protective one he is, walked me back to the Subway tunnel in Port Authority.  He wanted to make sure I got into the Subway safely, as the bus station sometimes has some… interesting characters.  We hugged and said goodbye in front of the Subway entrance.

It was a fast weekend, but a full one!  Full of blessings, quality time with Matt, and lots of fun.  I am thankful that he was able and willing to travel to New York City not just this once, but again later in July!  And I am able to go home (to Lakeside) to spend the 4th of July with my family:) This summer away of home won’t be so hard after all…

 

The Days Go By Quickly…

DISCLAIMER: I hope you like to read, because I like to write.  And I wrote a lot.  A lot, a lot.  But look!  There’s photos at the bottom to look forward to!

I officially have one week of experience working for JDRF National in New York City!  I feel pretty accomplished and ready to take on the next six weeks of this internship.  This week has been absolutely full of gaining more experience, learning new things, coming up with new ideas, and lots and lots of work.

Before I share with you all what I’ve been doing this week, I’d like to share this recent article from Relevant about the importance of having a Sabbath day.

Though I’ve only been working for one week, this is my very first week working full-time ANYWHERE.  Yes, I’ve been a full-time student and yes, I’ve had summer jobs (though they were all part-time).  When I was in high school, my parents were very adamant about encouraging me to stay focused on school.  “Your job is being a student,” they told me.  So, this is the first time in my life that I am taking 40 hours out of my week to devote to something entirely outside of myself.  Yes, I guess you could say I’m gaining experience and developing my professional self, but these are 40 hours that I’m not spending on my personal self and my personal self wants to do all day long (which is basically read a lot of books).  I’m finding that when I come back to my room at 5:30 each night, I have little time and energy to spend doing the things I usually spend all day doing: reading, writing, talking to loved ones.  Let alone time and energy to do the things that NEED to be done: grocery shopping, laundry, dinner eating, exercising, etc.

In the midst of this sudden busyness in my life, I am desperately desiring rest.  Even though I know this is just the beginning.  I see so much more value in time than I did before.  Spending 40 hours working each week is forcing me to prioritize.  It’s pushing me to think about how I use my time.  It’s forcing me to spend my time well and use it efficiently, because there isn’t much of it.  Knowing that there is one day set aside for rest and worship is helping me work even harder and use my time even better.  Here is a quick quote from the article, and then I will continue about my internship:

Rest transforms work.  Taking a sabbath is a discipline, not a habit.  The Sabbath rarely conveniently lands on a day when you won’t have work to do.  Resting means an intentional effort throughout the week to get everything done before the Sabbath.  Because of my discipline, I’ve become a lot more productive throughout the week.  Each week, I feel like I’ve earned my day of rest.  Oddly enough, on the Sabbath, I actually crave doing work.  It causes me to look forward to doing work once again.

I am definitely looking forward to work on Monday already, even though I haven’t truly had my day of rest yet:)

BUT I am thankful for the weekend.  And to have Matt visiting me this weekend.  (insert happy girl squeal here)

 

Now onto the meat of this post:

I already gave a short synopsis of my first day here.  But that was just the beginning.  Instead of writing extensively about what I did each day this first week (that could take hours!), let me give you some highlights, reflections, funny moments, and things that stood out to me this week:

  1. I learned that I am a very efficient worker! I have been given various projects to work on from a number of people in the communications department, so at times I feel like I’m being thrown something from every direction every minute.  But it keeps my day interesting and fun!  One task I was given this week was to update some acknowledgement letters.  When people donate to JDRF, the chapters send out thank you letters, acknowledgement letters, etc. to honor those gifts.  There are dozens of different types of letters: donations for walks, for galas, for golf tournaments, for memorial gifts, for online gifts, etc.  I was given each of these documents and told to update them with JDRF’s current messaging and core mission.  I emailed them back to Sara (the woman who sent them to me), and when noticing how quickly I edited the first ones, she immediately sent me more to work on!  And then more again!  I met with her on Thursday, and she told me she was very impressed at how well I did with so little instruction and how quickly I did the job.  Yeah, there were a few things she had to edit further, but “very good job.”:)
  2. People talk fast and have lots of questions!  I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on a few meetings and conference calls, and let me tell ya, people come prepared and they come ready to ask their questions.  And there I am, sitting on the edge of my seat (while everyone else seems to be leaning back… something I haven’t quite caught onto yet), frantically scribbling down notes.  I am continually impressed by all the work these people at JDRF do everyday and how efficient they are!
  3. So much updating.  A lot of the work I have been doing this week revolves around a Q&A document that is used to answer the most commonly asked questions to JDRF from the public via the info@jdrf.org email address.  The 60-some page document is about half an inch thick when printed (not joking) and needs some serious updating.  Some questions are no longer relevant, others need to be added, and some just need to plain be deleted.  And the entire thing needs to be organized into new categories.  It’s insane.  But, it’s work that needs to be done.  I spent most of Thursday reorganizing questions, reformatting, copying, pasting, and hyperlinking like a crazy woman.  Boy did I feel accomplished when I was finally finished.  Next week will consist of actually tracking down the updated answers to put into the new document.
  4. Intranet is really cool.  So JDRF has an intranet called OnePlace.  It’s basically a site that houses all the information that a JDRF employee would need.  Resources, documents, updates, need-to-knows, etc.  I could spend hours perusing this site.  There’s videos, logos, press releases, news responses, so many cool things!
  5. I write a news segment – all by myself!  (Sort of).  Every day, T1D in the News is posted on OnePlace for JDRF employees to see and it is also distributed to a list of email subscribers.  T1D in the News is a document consisting of what’s new (that day) in the world of diabetes: in research, awareness, everyday living, fundraising, etc.  Before I arrived, T1D in the News was Paige’s responsibility.  Because Paige has recently been handed a lot more additional responsibilities, she is delegating T1D in the News to me!  Basically, every morning I search the Internet for news on a variety of terms: type one diabetes, JDRF, insulin pumps, blood glucose, etc.  I read through the articles, decide which ones are relevant and reputable, and compile a list of the 9-15 articles or blogs that I think will be most important for others to know.  I then compile summaries on each article or blog and place that under the link.  This creates one whole document that is then posted on OnePlace and distributed to its subscribers.  It’s a really cool, fun process!  There’s so much news everyday about type 1 diabetes to which I was absolutely oblivious.  And there are so many diabetes bloggers out there!  The online community for people with diabetes is impressive.  Seriously.  I’ve spent a few hours just searching around on the different blogs out there, and it’s so fun to read… I’ve even discovered some cool products and books for people with diabetes while I was at it!  It’s been a lot of fun getting to start my morning reading about what’s new for type 1 diabetes.
  6. It’s fun to dress up for work every day.  And it feels so good to put on yoga pants at the end of the day.  Seriously.  If any of you reading this know me, you know that I always like to look nice.  When I entered college, I didn’t own a single pair of sweat pants.  I wore jeans everyday.  I wear skirts, I wear dresses, I wear jewelry.  So naturally, it’s really fun for me to dress up for work.  But at the same time, I have never been so relieved to change at the end of the day.  I get up to my room between 5:30 and 6:00, and the first thing I do is put on a t shirt (a comfy free one from JDRF, by the way) and yoga pants and head up to the rooftop to unwind.  I never thought I would enjoy loungewear as much as I do now.
  7. I am now a true NYC commuter.  I read on the subway!  I’m not glued to my iPhone app telling me how many more stops I have.  I know the order of the stops on my commute to work.  I have conquered the subway!!!
  8. Office kitchens are wonderful.  Free coffee and tea whenever I need it?  Yes please!  …and sooooo many flavors….:)
  9. People (other than my Facebook friends) read my blog!  While Paige was showing me how to search for blogs for T1D in the news, I noticed that my blog came up!  I giddily pointed it to her, and she commented, “Oh yeah, I’ve been reading it!  Back when you posted a while ago, I was doing T1D in the News and found it and sent it to all the comm department, like ‘Hey! Guys!  I think this is our new intern!'” …oh my gosh.  I’m gonna have to make sure this blog is a bit more well written if people in the comm department are reading it!  In addition, I was emailing chapters today to gather feedback about their TypeOneNation Summits (a conference event that JDRF chapters put on), and one point person emailed me back saying she read my blog!  So cool!
  10. I don’t feel out of place having diabetes.  While there aren’t gobs and gobs of people working for JDRF that have diabetes, there are two others in my department that do.  Kady and Brian.  And there’s the other two SWD interns, Hannah and Jenni.  And even though not everyone I interact with has diabetes, they at least understand it.  They don’t look at me funny when I pull out my Dexcom, pump, or meter.  Or when I pull a juice box out of my purse.  It’s totally normal.  It’s comfortable.  It’s great.
  11. There are always 50+ tourists outside my building because of that darn bull.  Hahaha but seriously!!  Every morning when I get off the subway, there’s a crowd of tourists taking pictures by that bull!  And every evening when I open the door to leave the building, there is still a crowd of tourists taking more pictures with that bull.  It’s like there’s a continuous flow of people who want to take their prized photo by it and…behind it… I guess I’ll just get used to it.
  12. Conveniently, there is an ice cream truck right outside the building right around lunch time.  Yum.  Hannah, Jenni, and I went outside today to enjoy the weather, and we got some ice cream!  Photo below:)
  13. Cubicles are boring if there aren’t any decorations.  I didn’t know I would get to have my own little cubicle this summer, so I brought absolutely no photos, inspirational quotes, or anything to tack up on the walls.  Consequently, my cubicle is quite drab.  I’m gonna have to liven it up soon!!
  14. I have never used email so often.  So I always thought that I was an avid email checker.  I am notoriously quick for emailing people back.  But geez do people email a lot at work!  There are so many emails back and forth between people: can you do this, can you look at that, just a reminder about this, oh, and don’t forget about that too.  SO much communication.  Outlook is such a life saver.
  15. Co-workers are fun to talk to.  Kady likes to ask about Matt, Paige talks about books she’s reading and fun things to do in the city, and Brian talks about riding his bike all over the city.  It’s fun!  I feel like I have new friends and not just people I work with.  Paige even suggested a book called Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle.  I started reading it and it is fascinating!  I hadn’t really given much thought to what living with diabetes was like before things like shots, pumps, and meters were invented and available.  A man named Frederick Allen treated people with diabetes by essentially starving them, keeping them on a strict diet of often 400 calories or less.  And that was just to help them live maybe a few months or years longer than the prognosis: one year to live after being diagnosed.  Talk about humbling and inspiring gratitude.  This book is making me thankful and awe-filled with each page.
  16. My days go by quickly!  As I mentioned earlier, I have been given many different projects from a number of different people this week.  It definitely keeps me busy and before I know it, it’s 5 o’ clock!  Let me give you a glimpse of what I’ve been working on that makes my hours speed by:
    • T1D in the News every day
    • Updating acknowledgement letters
    • Proofreading and editing Volunteer Spotlights
    • Reorganizing 60-some page documents like the Q&A… oh boy.
    • Sitting in on meetings about Speakers Bureaus, Young Leadership Committee (YLC), and Type One Nation Summits
    • Creating surveys, emailing chapters for feedback, and putting said feedback into spreadsheets
    • Researching competition online
    • Looking for new diabetes blogs to add to our list of regulars to look at for T1D in the News
    • Getting familiar with JDRF’s website and the discussion groups on typeonenation.org

So much to do and so much fun!

So there you have it.  A few tidbits of my first week working full-time as a communications intern for JDRF.  I’ve had a blast so far and have been so encouraged and built up along the way.  Looking forward to the next six weeks of turning Type One into Type None (which, if you think about it, would put JDRF out of business if accomplished… ironic?)

Enjoy your weekend!  I know I’ll enjoy mine:)  Looking forward to a weekend with Matt in the city!

Until next week,

-Amy  (Enjoy the photos below from my time so far in New York!)

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View from the Top of the Rock

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While taking a food tour of Greenwich Village, I saw this man across the street playing the accordion.

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This also happened on the Greenwich Village food tour… mmmmm Molly’s cupcakes:)

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The view from The Markle’s rooftop… where I like to spend my evenings after work.

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Ice cream break with Hannah (and Jenni, taking the photo)!

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Freedom Tower.

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Strand Books.  This place goes on forever…

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The Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.

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On Top of the Rock!