Growing up, the notion of diabetes camp was gently nudged into my brain each Spring. My endocrinologist and my parents would ask me, “Do you want to give it a try this year?” and my annual response, unfailingly, was “NO!”
To this day, I still don’t really know why I was so against diabetes camp. Part of the reason may be because I was a bit of a nervous Nelly growing up (okay, okay, I still am) and didn’t like the thought of sleepaway camp: It meant being away from home for an extended period of time, which made me feel nothing but anxious.
But my best guess as to why I didn’t want to go is that I felt that camp wouldn’t benefit me in any way. Both my mom and my aunt have type one diabetes, so they were (and still are) my go-to sources whenever any sort of diabetes issue crops up for me. I didn’t see how meeting kids my own age with diabetes would help me; after all, I thought I had everything I needed in my mom and aunt.
Things changed drastically for me when I started college and made the transition to caring for my diabetes independently. I got wind of a diabetes student organization on my campus and was interested in attending a meeting. That was it for me: for the next three years, I was very involved with this organization (the College Diabetes Network), eventually becoming the President of my school’s chapter and continuing to this day to volunteer for them whenever I can.
My involvement with the CDN has resulted in me meeting countless other T1Ds my own age, and it’s been amazing. I love sharing stories and learning from them. And as it turns out, most of these individuals went to diabetes camp when they were young and loved it. In many cases, diabetes camp is where they thrived and met some of their closest friends. They learned a lot about caring for their own diabetes and became more independent with diabetes management at a younger age.
But even after hearing the rave reviews about diabetes camp…I’m still thankful that I didn’t go to it when I was a kid.
Why? Because I think that a person’s journey with their own diabetes is highly personal. Like insulin-to-carb ratios or multiple daily injections versus insulin pumps, diabetes is often a disease about choices and responsibility. As an individual with diabetes, I hate being told how to handle my condition by someone who thinks they understand it better than me. I’m the one person in this world who understands MY diabetes better than anyone else. I know my body and I know what diabetes treatments and decisions are best. And for those few years of my life, I thought it was best for me to not go to camp. It was out of my comfort zone, and I refused to be coerced into going.
Perhaps in the back of my mind, I knew I’d have an opportunity later in life to connect with people my age who have diabetes. And I’m so thankful that I did because it came at a time in which I felt ready and was more accepting of my diabetes overall.
So there are no regrets for me when it comes to my choice to not attend diabetes camp. You could say that my decision to stay at home during those summers made me a happy camper…
Sorry, not sorry for the bad pun.