Tuesday, April 28, 2015

HealtheVoices Conference*

The weekend before last, I had the opportunity to travel to Jersey City, New Jersey to attend the HealtheVoices Conference.*

The unique thing about this conference was that it brought together about 60 health bloggers across a variety of diseases and conditions. In addition to getting to reconnect with many of the amazing RA bloggers that I met in Boston at the Joint Decisions Empowerment Summit, I also had the opportunity to meet people living with HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, IBD, metastatic breast cancer, diabetes, and more. 

After a welcome dinner on Friday, we launched into a completely jam-packed Saturday program. Seeing as I haven't been feeling fantastic lately, I have to admit that it was a really, really long day. I was completely exhausted and achy by the end of it. Honestly I probably would have been achy and exhausted even if I had been feeling better! But the speakers and presentations were so great I didn't want to miss any of it. I really learned a lot from the presenters about how to use my blog and social media to support and advocate for all of my readers!

Aside from the amazing presentations, the people at the conference were also a highlight. It was really amazing to get to see and spend time with the RA bloggers that I have been getting to know, both in person and online, over the past several months. We sat together through most of the presentations and laughed at how we all ended up fidgety, popping pain pills, and covered in ice/heat packs by the end of the afternoon. I am so happy to have connected with this stone cold pack of weirdos.   ~;o)

I also really enjoyed meeting people across a variety of other health conditions. It was truly amazing how much we had in common, despite our different diagnoses. On Saturday I had breakfast the mom of a toddler who had breast cancer. We talked about the added stress having a health condition places on being a mom and the sadness of weaning because your health requires it. At lunch I had a wonderful discussion with some ladies across a variety of diseases about the impact of chronic illness on our sex lives (and how to talk about it on the internet, which I have somehow gotten very good at doing haha). And before leaving on Sunday, I had a discussion with a woman with Type 1 diabetes about the issue of disease naming (some folks think rheumatoid arthritis should get a new name, so as not to be confused with osteoarthritis. It turns out some people with Type 1 diabetes feel the same about the confusion between Type 1 and Type 2. An interesting discussion!)

It was partly the discussions and connections made at this conference that gave me the idea to start Mamas Facing Forward, because I think there really is a lot that we can learn from each other - even if we have different diagnoses. In fact, my only complaint about the conference is that there wasn't enough time to really talk to all of the wonderful people who were there! I hope that we will be able to stay connected and continue learning from each other in the future. And I hope there's a HealtheVoices2 next year!

*Janssen paid for my travel expenses. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

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