This One Time, at D-Camp...

I ate chili out of a pumpkin.

Decorated pumpkins with pump and blood testing supplies.

Sat underneath a taradactyl, and zipped on a rope as my pump clung to my waist for dear life.

Met an incredible group of kindred souls who also happened to be Living With Diabetes, just like me!

The Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana (@dyfofindiana) hosted its first-ever weekend Oct. 23-24, where Teens With Diabetes were the focus. The director, a D-Mom to an 18-year old Type 1 son, reached out earlier in the year to see if I'd be interested in being a part of that in some capacity - as a guest, speaker, volunteer, whatever might be needed. I'd agreed.

Yes, I was excited. This from a guy who must now confess that he didn't have much of a chance to experience D-Camp himself in those younger years. I'd attended Camp Midicha in Fenton, Michigan back in the first summer after my diagnosis at age 5... but, thanks to a greedy group of mosquitos that targeted the back of my leg and left a softball-sized bite, it wasn't an experience that stood out as something I wanted to re-live. I remember some fond times, despite that, and even ventured back in my teen years once I'd gotten a driver's license to try volunteering there one summer. It didn't last, unfortunately.

Flashing forward to October 2010: I may be 31, but I was excited about this. Even though I wouldn't be "one of the campers" and even had at least a decade on the oldest of counselors there. So, I was the "Adult Type 1 guest" who got to hang for the weekend. In a sense, it was a little weird being "that guy." But honestly, I felt more like "one of them" than not. We were all the same, and in so many of these teens I saw some of myself.

Twenty-six teens (or tweens) attended, with a majority being girls.

Unlike regular D-Camp, this Teen Weekend had a mantra that everyone was pretty much responsible for their own D-Care. Monitoring, doing what they'd normally do at home. Apparently, less protocol than what happens during regular camp weeks and weekends. Bedtime and pre-meal times brought the requirements of testing and then reporting numbers, so that the head counselor Alyssa (@afaughn, a fellow DOCer and DBlogger over at The Chocolate Cheerio!) could write them down.

Being the weekend before Halloween, the holiday festivities were a theme - from the pumpkin passing game where we got to share how we liked Candy Corn and Cider rather than Glucose Tabs and Juice, to the Pumpkin Decorating with D-Supplies Contest. Not to mention the regular fun like paintball, ropes, zipline, pool, and Wii Rock Band. There was also a contest to guess how many Accu-check strips were sealed in a bottle.

During meals in the dining hall, or no matter where we happened to be, the constant beeps of pumps and CGMs or even blood meters were like a musical chorus. And it felt like music to my ears! Of course, we all had to constantly look down to see if that was actually us beeping or someone else.

The more serious point for the weekend, though, was talking about "those issues" that the teens might not want to chat about with parents or doctors, but might be more comfortable sharing with fellow D-Campers. Like the high school rebellion. The sports/dating/coolness v. D-Management balancing. College prep and the Drinking, Drugs, Driving, & Rock N' Roll issues they'll be facing.

At times, they looked at me (and the other Adult Type 1s there as "speakers") like we had 3 heads. But I think my wandering around with them earlier, zipping on a robe and being led blind-folded across a field with a spoonful of candy corn helped ease the mood. We touched on how important it is to know your own limits, to "be on your game" so that you'll be normal. Since none were 21, drinking wasn't really a topic they'd experienced yet and we gave the legalese-like disclaimers. The two other Adult Type 1 guys, both in their 30s and living with diabetes for 25+ years like me, talked about being athletes in high school (and some college) and how they'd handled drinking. I talked about my own experiences, especially during my "rebellion years" during late high school and early college, and what I'd learned not to do from those situations. One of the other Adult Type1 who was serving as a counselor, a 24-year-old who's married and in her final year of pharmacy school, talked about the same experiences in her own life. Our common elements were the turning points, and one of the high school boys raised his hand.

"I'm listening to you, and it really means a lot because that's where I'm at. I am at those turning points in my life, where sports and dating and school is more important than testing."

We all talked about getting through those times and doing what's needed, not pushing off D-Management for the sake of sports or anything else because then we really wouldn't be able to achieve that level of "normalcy" we're striving for.

After that, we all broke up into groups for smaller personal discussions. The girls divvied up and went to a couple cabins, while the guys went to other cabins. Some didn't have an interest in the discussion and went their own way. We had a small group, and mostly delved into sports and some of those issues like dating. While our breakouts didn't last all too long, the girls appeared to be in their cabins for a couple hours chatting it up. So, some of the guys went on a late-night hike before everyone gathered in the dining hall for snacktime and a choice: PG-13 movie or game-time. Most went with pool and the Wii.

Being "old" and already nearing 11 p.m., I found some tea and fought off some yawns before wandering over to hang with some of the 20-something counselors for a game of Euchre. Lights off came at midnight, and all the campers reported their bedtime BGs to Alyssa - ranging from Lows to a mid-500, who was in my cabin. We all went to bed, and at least in our cabin slept like babies.

Wakeup and breakfast came very early at 8:15 a.m., and of course our cabin alarms didn't go off as planned. But we made it. Mr. 500-BG from the nigh before had come down to the 100s. A county sheriff's deputy, who has a 9-year-old daughter diagnosed July 2009, was my co-speaker for the Driving With Diabetes chat. Less than half were actually at driving age, but most were very close to that point of being behind the wheel. He talked about the police perspective of recognizing and responding to diabetic drivers, and noted how surprised he always is that so few of the D-Drivers he encounters wear any medical identification. He shared that stickers and ID is important, especially given some situations like one that happened in Fishers, Indiana recently where a Type 1 went Low and drove through parks and, despite not injuring anyone, is now being charged with criminal recklessness. I shared my own experiences. I really wasn't trying to use scare tactics and be all negative about it, but a lower BG threw me off somewhat and it felt like I was rambling. The response was positive, though. We talked about the importance of testing, not guessing, before getting behind the wheel. Then another speaker came in to talk about his own son's experiences of driving with diabetes in a more pro-sport capacity. At the end, the teens got some Driving With Diabetes stickers and keychains from DADInnovations.

There was the pumpkin-decorating contest judging and some giveaways, and lunch undnerneath the taradactayl hanging from the ceiling before everyone parted ways to meet their parents outside. The older teens and adults cleaned up, and then the counselors had a pumpkin-smashing round out on the hills in back. While I didn't experience D-Camp much as a kid or as a teen, it's something I find very awesome and impressive here in Indiana and hope to stay involved with. There's already talk of moving it up to the summer next year and different ideas being tossed around, like pump games and such. Whatever happens, I'll bet it will be a great time for everyone involved!


Unknown said…
Wow Mike, so neat to hear about your participation in this camp as "the adult type 1 guy" and about the camp in general. The topics covered must have meant a lot to the attendees.

I am hoping to send Joe to a camp next will be his first experience with it.
Jamie said…
Great post Mike. It is always interesting to see how people's diagnosis impacts them differently at each stage of life.
Great post! I'm glad you enjoyed the weekend. It's something we've all been thinking about for a long time- thanks for making it successful and sharing your stories with us! And thanks for the shout-out :)
shannon said…
This sounds like a great experience for everyone involved! I hope to send my (almost) 11 y.o. daughter to something similar when she gets closer to the teen years. Thanks for sharing!

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