By Ana Morales
I’ve seen a lot of comments and articles that show how important and helpful an online community can be, the DOC in particular. You can ask each other questions, give and take advice, or just support each other. It reminds me of when I attended a diabetes camp and how great it felt to be there.
I attended Camp Too Sweet, an annual week-long summer camp, for 6 years in a row, starting when I was 8 years old. I was terrified about going the first year because it lasted about 8 hours everyday and it was pretty far away from home for me (about an hour). Fortunately, each camper got to invite a friend or sibling, so my older sister Sara (by 14 months) always came with me. Almost every year the camp was in a different location, but the structure of each day was basically the same. We did crafts, went swimming, ate, played games, and had mini health lessons, which were sometimes incorporated into the games. One year, the camp took place in my hometown at a rock climbing center, so we rock climbed every day and even learned how to tie all the knots and spot someone so that we could do it in pairs without the instructors’ help. Another year, we went hiking and camped in the woods overnight. It was like a regular camp but with one exception. About half of the campers had Type 1 diabetes. We each had a spot around the main room with a basket that had things for checking blood sugar levels and a big chart above it where we could keep track of our levels throughout the day. There were several adults who would help us if we had off target blood sugars or if anything else went wrong.
I remember feeling so comfortable there, among other children my age who were dealing with the same thing as me. I never felt embarrassed about giving insulin before eating or stopping an activity to check my blood sugar because everyone else was doing the same thing. I didn’t have to worry about carrying a juice box or glucose tablets with me everywhere because the adults and helpers always had some with them. Whenever my blood sugar was high, the other campers and adults were sympathetic and made sure I never felt left out. I’m sure my parents also felt more at ease knowing that even though I was an hour away from home 8 hours a day, I was surrounded by dietitians, nurses, and volunteers who knew how to deal with diabetes. I made a lot of great friends, a few whom I’m still in contact with today. Before camp, I didn’t really know anyone else with diabetes (besides my sister) and sometimes it felt like we were the only ones who had it. When I realized it wasn’t true, I sure felt relieved…
Reminiscing about camp reminds me just how awesome it is to not feel ashamed or embarrassed when dealing with this disease. Diabetes is hard to deal with and it makes a world of difference when the people around you understand that. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that even the people you love the most don’t completely get it, but how could they? This is why we have to educate the ones we love (and realize that they do try to understand) and seek out the advice and support of others in our situation.
So for all of you who offer your support, advice, and friendship to others, thank you :]