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Roche Social Media Summit - My Unexpected Reaction

Last week I was lucky to be invited to and attend the Roche Social Media Summit. There are several fantastic posts all about it so I do not want to reinvent the wheel. I would rather point you to some other blogs to check it out.











With that I want to tell you what I think was the best part of the summit besides meeting Bob Pederson, and the most difficult moment I have had in a long time.

First the happy one.

My favorite part of the summit was when someone asked, “By show of hands how many of you have been to all 4 of the summits?” There were about 12 people who raised their hands.

And then the follow up, “How many of you are here for the first time.” 10 hands went up. Awesome.

What a nice mix and I congratulate Roche for doing its best in mixing it up at the same time continuing past conversations. It seems a good formula.

There was one thing that was very different about this summit and that is the guest speakers. Both were motivational and really there for us to benefit from. I want you to understand that this post is 100% a reflection on me and where I am. Not about the speakers and who they are. In fact, I think they were both amazing.

Josh Bleill is a double amputee who lost his legs in a roadside bomb attack while serving our country as a Marine in Iraq. He came to the summit to share his story of encouragement and inspire us all to tell our own stories to help others not feel alone. Something I say about this very website all the time. More times than I can count.

Unfortunately his lesson was lost for me. When he walked in and I saw his prosthetics I got sick to my stomach. My eyes moved straight up to the ceiling in hopes of catching any tears that were starting to fall. He began talking and I started to share his story.

My heart was pounding and I thought I was going to either vomit or pass out. The group giggled about something and sighed as one at something else. I have no clue what was being said.

Trying to calm myself down I took a few deep breaths and tried to tune in to the presentation.

Josh spoke about being a Marine, serving his country, and his dedication to doing the right thing.

I lost it again. Everyone around me was engaged and feeling exactly what they were supposed to and here I am holding back tears and doing everything in my power to not stand up and leave.

Then I heard him mention that while he was on a plane once someone looked at his legs and asked, “Son, did that happen in the war?”

My mind spun out of control with thoughts I never wanted to repeat. Thoughts I am ashamed of thinking but that I must get out.

No one will ever say that to me if I lose my legs to diabetes, they will just assume I am a diabetic who didn’t take care of themselves. There is no honor in that.

He chose to risk his life for this country. I chose to do the same but diabetes took that from me.

Movie stars and other famous people came to see him in the hospital but that would never happen to me. Sure friends and family but no one else.

I was jealous. I wanted to be him.

As soon as he was done everyone stood up to applaud. I stood up too, offered up applause and quickly left into the bathroom.

Luckily the bathroom was empty. I found the furthest stall, shut the door, and fell apart. Sobbing like a little kid.

How could I be so awful, so selfish? Shame on me for thinking what I did and for not getting over it.

I waited there for a while and made sure I looked half way put together before I went back into the summit.

When I walked back in a Q and A was going on with Josh and someone asked if we could take a group picture.

Why did I walk in at that very moment? How could I protest? I wanted to. I wanted to turn back around and leave. I wanted to go up to my room and leave the summit entirely. I was done.

Still I walked up to the front of room and tried, I swear I tried to smile but I couldn’t. I could hardly hold the tears back.

I doubt Josh will ever read this but if he does, and he remembers my face during his talk, I want to apologize. This was nothing against him in any way. He is a hero and will always be one in my book.

There may be honor is fighting the war against diabetes but it is not a war I chose to be a soldier in.

I just hope I leave the battle victorious because right now I feel like a complete jerk.

Disclosure: Roche paid for my travel, hotel and meal expenses for my trip to Indy. They have not however, required any blog posts from any of us. Feedback provided by me is completely my own opinion. 

Reader Comments (23)

George, I'm so sorry that I didn't know you were fighting such strong emotions that day. I hope someone knew so that they could comfort you. You are not a jerk. Even though Josh's story is so entirely different than ours, we do have something in common. Getting used to a new "normal" and overcoming how people may perceive that normal. I hope you're able to see that in the midst of your difficult feelings. And you are already victorious in the diabetes battle G, because you've touched so many lives.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacey D.

Stacey, I totally get it. It makes complete sense. His message was spot on and so effective. My problem is my own shtuff in my head. I am messed up. I opened up to a few people but avoided most since I felt so awful.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Oh George! The only shame would be in hating him. Which I know you well enough to know that's not the case. Your thoughts and feelings make perfect sense when you explain yourself. You're right. No one will ever thank us for a long battle with diabetes if there are amputations involved. It's a sad case. I come from a family where nearly every male served in some way or another in the military. Personally, I went through a time in high school when I thought I might have actually liked to have joined the military (even being pursued by some recruiters, due to some of my test scores). But I knew it was an impossibility. And even though I might never have joined, the fact that diabetes took away that choice has always made me angry. It's not fair that diabetes should taken any choices from us. But it does.
While the thoughts that crossed your mind, did not cross mine (I feel more of a connection because of the military aspect & that I have some friends deployed right now), I understand where you are coming from. And I doubt Josh, if he read this, would be offended. He, of all people, understands the process of working through emotions and the hand that life deals us.
Hugs! You are an amazing person who touches more lives than you'll ever realize.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCara

Well you have me crying reading this. Your heart is so tender and true. Facing one of your greatest fears is not easy in any respect. I remember when Richard Rubin spoke at the Medtronic forum I was blubbering like a baby while everyone else was nodding and being perfectly appropriate too. Hugs!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeri

I wish I knew what to say. On some level I think we all have been there and GET IT.

its the same way no one asks my friends kids if they are ill or in the hospital if its something THEY did wrong. So much judgment and even hatred comes with this disease, how could you not think that for a moment.

you are an amazing pefrson with an amazing heart. And I agree with Cara I think he would get it.

Justice asked me why he cant join the army (besides the fact that mama wouldnt like that), when i told him he cried. I shared your story with him and it brought him comfort. You are someones hero, dont you ever forget that.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis

I knew that was a difficult situation for you. My mind kept going back and forth between listening to him, and wondering how you were doing. I wish I could have done something to comfort you. I didn't want to pressure you to talk about it afterwards, figuring that if and when you needed to talk about it, you would find the opportunity, which you've done here. I'm really glad you've posted this. Your feeling are very understandable, and a normal response. I honor and admire your bravery, my friend.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee Ann Thill

I kept thinking about you, and knowing you like I do with all the background behind this post, wondering how you were doing - much like Lee Ann wrote.

Lots of love and hugs and stuff...

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

@Cara - I could never hate him, in fact I love and respect all of our soldiers. Thank you for what you said.

@Meri - It's strange how big a fear I do harbor towards amputation. Especially after watching the Olympics last night.

@Alexis - I want to hug you and Justice so bad right now. He inspires me all the time and I consider him a hero!

@Lee Ann - I am not sure what I would do without you. Not that I would expect anyone to think about me but you did and I am so thankful for you. I needed to get this out.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

I share many of the feelings that you do and I admire and respect you for sharing them here. It takes courage and strength to write posts like this , and you have those things in spades my friend. None of us are in this war by choice, but I'm thankful that you and others fight as bravely and openly as you do. You do make a difference.

Lots of love, bro!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Durbin


I am so sorry you had such a difficult time, my friend. You cannot help how you feel. But sometimes we wish we could make ourselves feel differently. I know I do. Sometimes when I get upset or anxious, I have internal dialoge with myself, "Why are you upset? There is no earthly reason why you should be upset! Get over it, Jess!"

My therapist is helping me to work on that. However I feel, it's ok to feel that way. Even if I think it's stupid. I'm trying to learn to let myself experience the emotions, and not beat myself up for feeling that way. It's very hard.

At Friends for Life, Dr. Edelman led a session on complications. Which I never should have gone to. I became so angry, I had to leave. Not angry at Dr. Edelman, it's just that talking about complications make me so unbelievably angry. I become quite irrational. My kidneys started spilling protein within a few years of my diagnosis. I was still a kid. Complications happen. Talk about preventing them sets me off.

But other people found value in the session, which is great. It's my issue, and I know that.

You are never alone. <3

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

@Rachel - Thank you for thinking about me. I appreciate it.

@Mike - right back at you.

@Jess - It is tough to admit how scared I am sometimes but I know when I do someone will gain comfort from it. I am sorry about the complications thing. I cannot handle that stuff either. But together I think we can handle all of it!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

I feel like such a tool for not even thinking about how you were coping with that talk.

I find myself very emotionally charged at many diabetes events, and sometimes little things trigger big emotional responses that I don't expect. I think that the timing of your diagnosis, along with everything else that was going on in your life, really sets you up for some incredibly powerful feelings around a bunch of subjects. This just happened to be one of them. And any of us would be dealing with the same feelings if we were in your shoes.

I love you, brother!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScott K. Johnson

@Scott - I would not expect anyone to expect the reaction I had. Nor would I ever hold it against them.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

You are always so honest with your feelings George and that is something to be admired and not ashamed of in any way...

Like LA ...thoughts of you did cross my mind and your previous stories but I did not notice you leaving and coming back...I was dealing with my own bit of 'issues' on another front and contemplating how I was going to hang in for the duration of the day...

Josh was amazing and I loved how he wove his story to reflect how everyone has that personal 'bomb' that goes off in their life and how we deal with it ....reach out to others is what counts....but that said I too was thinking about complications of diabetes and how so many are faced with amputations...it was overwhelming to say the least ... and for him to in turn thank us?! It was humbling x 1000....

My brother but you are in an 'army'...the DOC army...you are a soldier and a pioneer and a very brave soul...you may not think it is as prestigious as serving our military but you fight George...you fight daily for yourself, your family, the DOC and that is not to be discounted...you will forever be remembered for that! I love you!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaimie

@Jaimie - Thank you for those words. In my heart I know there is some honor somewhere. Maybe that is why I want to find a way to help PWD's at a very tangible level. To find the honor.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

I read this earlier today and felt sad with you, but didn't know what to say.
I still don't know what to say to you but know that your strength and love of life inspire so many of us.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

You are not alone. I have definitely had emotional responses to things that were not that much about the thing itself, but something I was not coping with very well. I have a friend with Type 1 who can barely even say the word "diabetes" and can't even listen to anyone else talk about it. We are all struggling.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLili

I'm with Jaimie, on this, you ARE in an Army, and I for one Appreciate your input and your tireless efforts within the DOC...

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick McConnell

Thank you for writing this George. You and I already talked about this so I am not going to repeat what I said to you here. Unless you want me to pound it over your head until you believe it.

Every word you write hear, or speak at forums, or otherwise share with the diabetes community touches someone. One very important thing that Josh shared is that it was another amputee who was the one to finally got him out of bed. It is only someone else who is facing similar issues, who is living a similar story who can motivate us. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people who you have "gotten out of bed" in the diabetes community. Excuse the possible corny symbolism but - you may not have chosen this war, but you are certainly doing an amazing job leading our community into battle.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Uncompromising honesty is hard and worthwhile. Missed you at CWD. Warm regards. Stefan Rubin aka cousin Matt.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStefan Rubin

@Colleen - You have always been so supportive and kind to me and your words mean a lot. Thank you.

@Lili - It's funny how certain things hit us at different times but I am thankful I have a place to share those feelings and support to help me cope with them.

@Patrick - Thank you so much. I appreciate all your support. You are awesome.

@Sara - You get me Sara, and for that I am very grateful.

@Stefan - I missed being there and seeing my cousins twin. It honestly makes me so happy that you remember that, it helps me feel like I was there in a way. I am already saving my nickels and dimes to get there next year,.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

G -
I read this a few days ago and I waited to reply. Emotions are just that and are triggered by so many things.
You are wonderful and brave and honest and those are just some of the reasons I love you and am honored to call you my friend.
Kelly K

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterk2

So super powerful and meaningful! We are here for you and with you, G!

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAliza Chana

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