If I had a quarter for every time I've heard about diabetes camp in the nine years that I've had diabetes, then paying for college wouldn't be so much of a hassle. It was brought up at every doctor's appointment, by one of my friends who went, and in the pamphlets sent to my house. I decided I would go after having diabetes for a year. The camp I went to was an overnight program for two weeks in college. It was the longest I had ever been away from home, being 12 years old at the time. My life had changed drastically in the year that I turned 11, and I was excited to meet other people who had been living with this disease a lot longer than I had.
My first thought of the camp was that I loved all of the activities they offered. We played all kinds of games, went for hikes, swam, and there was even a camp newspaper that I wrote for. However, I quickly realized that this was not a normal summer camp like what I was used to. The first day, I had to turn over all my medical supplies to my councilors, which I was fine with. What I started to become uncomfortable with was when I wasn’t allowed to test with my own meter, or even on my own for that matter. I also had to meet with a doctor four times a day. Four times! They decided how many carbs I could eat for each meal, how much insulin I should get, and I had to be monitored when I gave any of my insulin shots. I had been very independent with my diabetes since day one, and having someone take all of that control from my hands was not something that I was okay with. I decided to go back the next summer in order to give the camp a second chance. This time I was ready to leave after the first week, and I broke down in the laundry room, begging my counselor to call my mom. I had been diagnosed with celiac disease that year and had to sit with a group of kids I didn’t know at the “celiac table” away from all of my friends. I hated being micromanaged and not being allowed to have a say in my own diabetes management. I had come to this camp to be around people who would help me learn how to better control my disease, yet I felt like I was taking a step back.
Now, I’m not writing this to say that diabetes camp is a terrible place and no one should ever go, but it wasn’t the place for me. I understand all the responsibility that goes into taking care of hundreds of kids with diabetes all in one place. What I am saying is that I think that diabetes camp shouldn’t completely take over the camper’s diabetes management; that won’t help the kids in the long run when they are the ones who have to take care of themselves. I’m actually grateful in a way for my time at diabetes camp because it showed me that I wanted to help other kids like me to be more independent and to live as normal a life as they possibly can. I loved meeting new friends at diabetes camp who understood on a different level what I was going through, and I had so much fun doing all of the camp activities. My experience at diabetes camp was one of the reasons I decided to go into nursing when I applied for colleges. Diabetes is a disease that forces you to mature quickly in order to manage it. My hope is that in the future, I can help kids with diabetes to take control and live as independently as possible, so that they can feel a little more like a kid again.