I couldn't stop grinning as my mum and I walked up the path to the marquee (which for the record, is a very impressive marquee!) we were greeted by Alex who showed us to the entrance and the first person I saw was Adrian and his wife, Sue! (AdrianLong3 on Twitter) For the first time we actually spoke real words to each other, we weren't speaking through Twitter we were face to face, in the same room and the only words we could use to describe it were "This is so weird!!" Not only do we get on well with diabetes in common, but we can also have conversations about other things, mainly cats! And of course, we couldn't resist a selfie;
More people started arriving, and for the first time I met many others who I've been talking to on Twitter, notably Abby (the_only_abi) and her husband, Nichola (Mrs_Nichola_D) and her husband, Jules (Jules1315) and her husband, and Jules was very shocked at my height, which I imagined people would be, I'm 5ft10, I did send out a prior warning on Twitter;)! It was brilliant being able to meet everyone in real life and lovely introducing everyone to my mum and introducing my mum to everyone, and it was awesome to be in a room full of diabetics where we were all "normal". Meeting Paul for the first time was a significant moment, he was also shocked at my height (I'm seeing a pattern here, haha) I've "known" Paul since I was 14/15 so to be able to finally meet him now at 18 in real life was amazing!
And Lydia (LydiaSara19)! Lydia and I met for the first time at Type 1 Parliament with JDRF in March 2014, and finally two years later we were able to see each other again which was wonderful. We talk all the time on social media and obviously get on just as well in real life, if not better! Again, it was weird but brilliant to be able to talk properly and face to face, not behind a computer or a phone screen. Lydia brought along Alyssa, who I've spoken to before through Type One Teens on Facebook and Grant, it was nice to meet them too and Alyssa came down from Scotland!
The agenda for the day was basically to first of all think about topics that we all want to discuss in sessions and then go off and join whatever sessions we wanted to! The sessions before lunch were things like mental health, diet and exercise, technology etc. I went and sat in on the mental health session, while my mum went to join on the discussion about diet and exercise because she's a personal trainer, and actually trains a lady that has Type 1! As Paul described it the day was like "a big coffee break" we weren't confined to a certain session once we sat down, we could rotate around the room and sit in on different sessions if we wanted to. All the sessions were very informal and it was a wonderful learning opportunity, everyone had the chance to speak if they wanted and sharing personal experiences about each session was definitely the best way to learn.
One of the things I was most excited about was a real life game of #bgbingo! Every Wednesday at 9pm members of the #gbdoc come together on Twitter and join in a tweet chat- and at the end of each chat there is a game of #bgbingo and this is basically where a random number is tweeted and we all have to test our blood sugar and whoever's blood sugar is closest to the number is the winner. I actually said to myself in the morning that I had to really try to keep my blood sugar in range because I don't mind the 'naughty step' on Twitter, but I'm not too keen on assuming naughty steps status in a room full of everyone! Ha ha. Despite not wanting to be on the 'naughty step' I was! However my blood sugar was 9 so not too shabby. We all wrote our blood sugar reading on a post-it note and stuck them on the window.
Lunch time brought lots of beeping into the room...pumps, meters and injection pens were in full swing. The venue missed out on the request for low carbohydrate food so lunch consisted of lots of sandwiches, but it was lovely nevertheless and my blood sugars were 6.1 afterwards, even if I did have a bit of cheesecake for dessert! After lunch we had another set of sessions, there was more tech talk, more talk about diet and there was also a session on diabetes and other conditions, and 'mank and moan' which was a chance for all the non-diabetics to get together and have a chat! Ha ha. I originally went to the diet session, however I don't really follow a diet, so eventually I went over to chat to Philippa (Flippper1) and Abby who were talking about blood tests! I also had a nice chat with Katie (Kat_greenfield) about pumps and the DAFNE course.
There was a representative from Abbott at the conference who was there to talk to everyone who wanted to know about the Freestyle Libre and I saw one in the flesh in real life which was interesting. Later on in the day Adrian lead a session on the Libre and sang it's praises far better than any Abbott representative could- personal experience is key with that type of thing. There was also debate about the pronunciation of Libre amongst the #gbdoc, apparently the name is Spanish and not French so I reckon that solved the debate!
There were two days of the conference but my mum and I only went on the Saturday because it's a long way to travel and train tickets are expensive for one day let alone two, then add in hotel fees! Today there was a group photo taken with the caption "over 1000 years of experience living with diabetes" amazing! Collectively there was 1000 years of lives lived with diabetes. There were two people that particularly stood out though, and that was Lis (LisWarren) and Pat (apatrickmooney) who alone had 101 years worth of living with diabetes between them. Both have lived with diabetes for 50 years...they are the kind of people that really give you hope, the hope of a life well lived despite type 1! It was great to finally meet Lis in person too after conversing on Twitter and Facebook a few times recently. Not only did we have those who have in the room people who have had type 1 for decades, we also had someone who was only diagnosed on Wednesday, what a trooper and what a great attitude she has towards it despite only just being diagnosed, a brave thing for her to do!
As well as meeting people I've spoken to already on line, there were new faces and all in all it was such a diverse group of people and a really interesting and informative day. I learnt things, (notably that it is mostly Rhodri behind the #gbdoc twitter account! :o ;)!) and I finally got to meet so many of the #gbdoc in real life. The day went by very fast and it was disappointing having to say goodbye to everyone after what seemed like so little time together. It was very much like meeting up with old friends and I felt like I've known some people for my whole life.
At 5pm that day everyone started going their separate ways, and some stayed for the meal. Lydia, Alyssa, Grant and I all took a photo together with our pumps which was really nice and then they left to get changed as they were going back for the evening meal with everyone. The day drew to a close before we knew it and my mum and I caught the train at 7:05pm from Nottingham back to London, we didn't get home until about 10pm and we were very tired but feeling good after a fabulous day.
We met, we learned, we inspired and most of all we were together, in real life, being able to connect away from the phone screens and the computer screens. I'm grateful for the #gbdoc, I really am! How lucky are those of us that are a part of it that we have each other to talk to, we all understand one another and it's satisfying that everyone was just as I imagined them to be. I have now put voices to tweets, and I'm still buzzing from #pwdc16 for sure. Thank you to the #gbdoc for existing, and for helping make Type 1 Diabetes that little bit more bearable.