A thriving diabetes community in Portland that welcomed me

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 3.51.09 PMIt’s not often in life we meet people whom we feel so in tune with, but when it happens I really, really treasure it. Not surprisingly, many of my diabetes colleagues, friends and acquaintances I meet initially through email. The best is when we actually get to then meet face-to-face – and this week that happened. Two of my email friendships got consummatedshall we say ;-). 

I’d like to introduce you to Heather Clute and Jeff Horacek, tell you what makes them amazing, and share a bit of my week. 

Heather is a wellness counselor and coach and has had type 1 diabetes for 14 years since the age of 27. Jeff is an internist and some roads in his personal life led him to run Portland’s diabetes support group. Jeff is the kind of doctor who credits his patients for his deep understanding of what it’s like to live with diabetes. I know because he’s said it more than once including at his diabetes support group this week.

Both Heather and Jeff also co-host the online radio podcast“Transforming Diabetes” where their interviews with diabetes experts help us transform diabetes from foe to friend. The link above takes you to the program we recorded while I was in studio. We call it ‘getting real with riva’ but it’s really three people sharing what it’s like to live with diabetes and what we’ve all learned along the way. 

I went to Portland to give an A1c Champion presentation to Jeff’s support group and I arrived a few days early to get to know my hosts. And I do mean hosts. Heather hosted me in her home for two days. And besides enjoying her hospitality, and the drive to the second largest waterfall in America, and the walk in the Japanese Garden – which transported me to my days living in Japan – what I also got to see and appreciate is what it’s like to manage type 1 diabetes when you’re also managing three littles ones, two aged 6, one age 8. Cute as buttons they are, yet your time is their time. I saw how many more challenges there are in that setting than my own where I have no one vying for my attention, where diabetes is my only child so to speak. And that’s just the kind of stuff we talked about on our in-studio Transforming Diabetes program.

The evening before my A1c Champion presentation to Jeff’s support group, Heather and Jeff invited two other professionals from the Portland diabetes community to join us for dinner – endocrinologist Elizabeth Stephens and RN, CDE Susanna Reiner. We had a great evening sharing tapas and conversation. I learned from Susanna, who’s heavily pursuing gluten free cooking, about substituting almond meal for flour, which I plan to do in my next batch of chocolate/ginger biscotti which my husband loves. 

The night I delivered my presentation I did something I’ve never done before. Before I began, I led the group through a mindfulness exercise to ground everyone about why they’d come and have them remind themselves what they hoped to get out of the evening, and to be present. I thought to do it because every time I look at Heather or Jeff I think mindfulness – they are working on a program they hope to offer next year that will revolve around mindfulness and diabetes management. 

Maybe this is just my way of saying “thank you” to my hosts. To take a few moments to appreciate how special my time in Portland was and how special it is when people walk into our lives who make us feel validated, important and seen. When you wrap that around diabetes, that’s quite a gift.

In a way there is nothing amazing about Heather and Jeff, they are just two people living their lives and doing what they love. And in the doing they are brightening a little corner of their own, and our, lives. They are, as are so many, the unsung heroes in diabetes, and all our unsung heroes are pretty amazing in my book. 

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