Back to D-Camp

A return to Diabetes Camp for the first time in more than a decade was on the agenda for Sunday morning. The point was to talk about my 26-years experience of Living With Diabetes, and talking to some newly-diagnosed familiies at the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana's Camp Until a Cure.

This was the first time in many years that I'd be back to a Diabetes Camp since leaving Michigan, and I was nervous but very excited to have this opportunity. I had a plan and was all set to start as the weekend rolled around, and my outline planning before Sunday convinced me that all was in order for success.

But, my morning bowl of Cheerios got in the way. To be accurate: my bowl of Cheerios didn't get in the way. That was the problem.

The night before, a bedtime blood test showed 118. All was good so I went to sleep. Woke up at 3:30 a.m. to an alarm clock that was slightly louder than I'd planned, and pulled myself up to go test. A 61 mg/dL flashed at me on the One Touch Ultra screen. I helped myself to a half-banana and some saltines with cheese, then returned to bed for another three hours or so. My morning test was 200, slightly higher than I'd hoped but fine given the circumstances. Calculated for a slight correction and factored for the two-serving bowl of Cheerios with milk and a banana on top, then headed for a quick shower and final preparation for getting on the road to D-Camp.

As it happens, my mind started going over the main points I planned to discuss and it totally slipped my mind that I had already dosed for breakfast. Walking out the door, Suzi asked: "Do you want to eat something?" I managed to realize this was a good idea, but again got sidetracked and forgot about the Cheerios. Instead, walked out the door with only a partial banana - without eating the 40 grams I'd already taken the insulin for about 30 minutes earlier.

The Low hit while we were on the road for our 45-minute drive. Couldn't focus, shaking hands, somewhwat blurry vision. Fortunately, Suzi was driving. The realization of my missed breakfast after bolusing came to mind, and I tested. BG: 57. Figures. We stopped in downtown Indy to make some copies of Online Resources Handouts I'd put together, and grabbed some breakfast. I devoured a donut as we once again headed to camp, where I did two subsequent tests that revealed all was fine - I was hovering the 80s.

Of course, this morning Low tangled with my best-laid plan and scrambled my focus somewhat. But it all turned out great in the end, and was a lot of fun. Sprawled out on about 30-acres, the ADA-accredited DYFI Camp and has been around for about five years in Noblesville, Indiana and is the state's only one dedicated to Type 1. Last year, they expanded the focus to also include other special needs children, such as autism. This was the Spring Family Weekend where more newly-diagnosed families got a chance see what the camp offers so they might send their child or children there in the summer. Reaching out and talking with the director a few months back, we discussed my involvement and I agreed to come speak to the families this weekend. Specifically, the topic would be my own 26 years of Living With the D but also the Diabetes Online Community that I've actively plugged into during the past year.

About 10 pairs of parents gathered in a small community room at the camp, while their D-Kids were off with counselors and staff enjoying the sunshine and playing outside. Enjoying camping obstacles such as the magical Low Ropes, which aren't to be confused with or connected to Low Blood Sugars, but rather heighth off the ground. I was told the High Ropes were 65 feet off the group, and we joked about how I shouldn't explore those while wearing a pump as it might result in an expensive replacement.

Some of the faces I've seen before, most weren't. But we all shared that connection that didn't make me feel like a stranger at all, even if I did appear to have three heads towards the beginning. Of course, Suzi was there in the front row and made me shine and look better, as always.

Discussion went into my online activity and D-Blogging: how I'd lived with diabetes mostly by myself since age 5, going through school as the only diabetic and not being exposed to others except in special visits to D-Camp or JDRF functions. Then, after moving to Indiana and starting a blog to keep in touch, started D-Lurking and eventually blogging specifically about my D-Life. Twitter. Facebook. Tu Diabetes. Juvenation. Children With Diabetes. How these online resources are changing how we interact, and how they're connecting us Type 1s.

Some talk of the "horror stories" came up, such as severe Lows and how some might get violent or mean when severely low. How the paramedics have visited my home, and how we must take great care before Driving With Diabetes. One D-Dad with a young daughter mentioned he was already nervous about this, and I did my best to ensure that it's manageable and a CGM might be a wonderful tool in helping catch possibly bad Lows in life. One D-Dad, who works as a sheriff's deputy, talked about his own observations about how diabetics can appear to just be intoxicated, and that window stickers or medical alert bracelets can help quickly tell an emergency responder about a person's D-Situation.

Essentially, the message I tried to relay was that Life With Diabetes can be tough, but so can any aspect of life. It becomes a part of your daily routine, and while there are concerns and maybe advanced planning aspects, it doesn't prevent any child with diabetes from growing up to live successful and productive lives. Part of that involves seeing the fun side and keep a sense of humor, such as laughing about substitute teacher tricks about eating in class or leaving to test blood, getting to the front of the line at amusement parks or buffets in Vegas, or just the weird looks people give when you talk about "Being High" and "Shooting Up" out in public. How we decorate our Christmas tree with D-Supplies, and how our D-Ninja Lance helps us keep our ninja-skills to battle diabetes. There were some laughs, and we had a great discussion.

The sheriff's deputy D-Dad mentioned that since his daughter was diagnosed last year, I was the first adult with diabetes to talk about their experiences, outside of nurses and medical professionals who may have been living with Type 1 themselves. He found it assuring to hear me speak about being successful and happy after 26 years, and that felt pretty good. I listened intently at times when the parents asked questions (see me there to the right, being a listener), and did my best to answer with honesty, modesty, hope, and knowledge that Your Diabetes May Very. Of course, I assured the audience that I was no one to model anything after and that Suzi would be the first to confirm this. More laughter.

We wrapped it up, and made our way to the mess hall to enjoy some lunch. Talking with the director before departing, we agreed to keep in touch. I'm looking forward to making way back to this DYFI Camp before long, and volunteering as I'm able. I hope more adults find the time to do the same, and provide these parents - especially the newly-diagnosed - with that valuable lesson: that despite the D, anything in life is possible. Their D-Kids will grow up, and they can be all that they want in life.


Cara said…
Sounds like you had a great time. And you got to spread the word about the D-OC! :) I went to camp a couple of times as a kid and have contemplated going back as a counselor but haven't done it. Maybe someday...
Great job! I bet it was so reassuring to parents to talk with an adult T1.

That is exactly how I was drawn to (sucked in to?) the online community. I found a couple of young adults with T1 who really seemed to be thriving. It was nice to see that my daughter can grow up to have a (relatively) normal life.


I wish my daughter was old enough for camp or that our local camp offered a day camp for the younger kids.
Judi said…
Is there such a thing as a car window sticker for a diabetic? That sounds like a really good idea if you happened to be pulled over and were real low. It could give a PO/sheriff some kind of idea what was wrong with you if you weren't congnizant enough to be able to say why you were acting strangly.
Anonymous said…
I knew I'd seen them before, but couldn't place the window tags without Googling it... Found this:

DAD Innovations
16797 South Haven Avenue
Orland Hills, IL 60477-6059
(708) 828-4497
(708) 403-0425 fax

Created by a dad with diabetes to help his teenage daughter who also has diabetes, the "Diabetic Driver" decal affixes on the inside of the windshield to alert medical personnel or police who might come upon the car in an emergency. US$6.95 for two decals. Includes shipping to US addresses.
k2 said…
Diabetes camp is a wonderful experience, both as a camper and a speaker.
I spoke at the Donovan McNabb Camp for Children with Diabetes last year and had a similar experience!

Kelly K
connie said…
This is a wonderful thing that you did and it sounds like it went really well!

I applaud you for having the courage to speak to these families about your experiences with type 1 diabetes. These are the moments that us parents of children with diabetes treasure, I cannot tell you enough how important it is for me to hear these stories and meet adult T1s.

The few times that my daughters have met another T1 who is older they always get that little smile at the corner of their mouths, it warms my heart when they realize that they are not alone in this. It means so much to us families!

Thanks for sharing! I am positive that your words gave some much needed comfort to the families you spoke to.
Anonymous said…
This makes me want to go back to diabetes camp!

Not even as a counselor, just to go swimming and play volleyball and sleep outside and let other people take care of me for a few days! Ha!
Karen said…
What an awesome opportunity!!! I'm sure it was so great for the D-Parents to meet and gain wisdom from an "old-timer". (And I mean that in the d-sense only - I'm NOT calling you old!!)
Scott Strange said…
Sounds like a great experience! I'm glad those parents got to speak to an old-timer!
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…

My family and I were at the DYF's Camp Until A Cure "Family Camp" this past weekend and we enjoyed hearing you speak! My husband is actually the Sheriff's Deputy that you mentioned. Our daughter (9yrs old) was just diagnosed last July. You might remember us, we are the family having such an unnecessary struggle with school related "things." Thank you again! We'd love to see you in Orlando in 2011! :)
Anonymous said…
That's a bummer of a start to the day, but what a great ending. You probably could have spoken about moon phases, but just standing there, being an example of someone who has lived the last 26 years of his life with diabetes, would have been all those parents needed. Speaking candidly about it is just the icing on the cake.
Sorry, I'm not coming up with low carb metaphors.

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