The International Diabetes Federation’s World Congress is on this week and I am en route to Busan, South Korea for a very busy few days.

Two years ago, when I was invited to chair the Living with Diabetes (LWD) stream at the Congress, I said yes without hesitating. I had been deputy Chair for the previous Congress and loved working together with Manny Hernandez who was leading the stream. I hoped that we would be able to put together a programme as strong as we saw in Abu Dhabi in 2017, as well as introducing lots of new speakers, new topics and elevating the voice of people living with diabetes. The LWD organising committee has been a dream to work with, and together with Sana Ajmal, Elizabeth Snouffer and Pei Yan Heng we have brought together a program that I am so proud of.

I would be lying if I said that the problems that have been overshadowing the IDF over the last few years hadn’t been front of mind at times. In fact, I often wondered if we would actually all be congregating in Busan. There were times I expected to wake up in the morning to an email announcing the Congress had been cancelled and that all our hard work had been for nothing.

But, here we are, just 24 hours out from the opening ceremony, and Busan is already starting to fill with diabetes healthcare professionals and researchers. And a whole lot of wonderful diabetes advocates who will be sharing their stories of living with diabetes. I can’t wait to get there and to see and hear just what they have to say on the stage at the BEXCO conference centre.

This Congress is the only international diabetes meeting that has a stream dedicated to the lived experience. We are given equal billing with other streams and the same funding to fly in speakers from around the world. I am thrilled that we have this stream, but my only regret is that there is not more integration of that PWD voice in other streams.

So, here is my hope – and plea – to anyone and everyone at the Congress: Make time to go to hear the speakers in the LWD stream. They are a reminder of why you do what you do. There will be stories of incredible hope, adversity and brilliance. There will be tears, and humour in there too, because sometimes, laughing (along with insulin) really is the best medicine.

Thanks to everyone who has made the long trek to Busan (it’s really not the most direct place to get to!), and prepared to share their story and experiences. There will be opportunities to follow along from home – the hashtag is #IDF2019, and some sessions are likely to be streamed live by those in the audience. Please do participate in the conversation from wherever you are. I’ll see you from Busan!

DISCLOSURE

I am the Chair of the Living with Diabetes Stream at the IDF Congress in Busan. My flights to Busan are covered by Ascensia Global (in order for me to get to Busan in time to co-facilitate their Social Media Summit). Flights home and accommodation are covered by the IDF.