wont beat us

wont beat us

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Diabetes Camp: "The Camp of Champs (and bestfriends)"

Diabetes Camp: "The Camp of Champs (and bestfriends)"

My 1st yr of Diabetes Camp
My last yr of Diabetes Camp

I attended my 1st diabetes camp the first summer after I was diagnosed. I was diagnosed in May of 1995 and the next month my mom was driving her tiny four year old to a day camp an hour away in a big city; Looking back, I am almost positive she was panicking about this just as much as I was.
 I suppose she thought that putting me in an environment surrounded with kids that had the same disease would be a liberating and joyful experience. Now, I have to let you know, I attended a diabetes camp EVERY summer from the time I was four until I turned sixteen, at which point, they politely kick you out! Once I got older – around age 10 – camp was just that, it was very liberating to know for that one week you were not the “odd one out” or “weird”, for one week you got to feel “normal” and it was some of the most fun I had ever had & I made some of my closest friends there.
 However, this was NOT the case in my 1st year at camp. I was a very shy child to begin with, but then adding on top of that a new diagnosis of a chronic disease, well… let’s just say I wasn’t the most self-confident four year old! I hated being around people I didn’t know because I assumed everyone was out to hurt me. Oh, and I forgot to mention one HUGE reason I hated that camp then, my pediatric endo ran it, and I did not consider him friendly or fun in any way. After all, this was the man who delivered the news that I had an incurable form of diabetes, and he was the man that started teaching my parents how to give me 5 shots a day, and he was the man that had to have five of his nurses hold me down every 3 months just so that HE could draw blood. Long story short, we were not on very good terms in my little four year old mind! I probably should add as a side-note, I eventually came to learn that he was in fact a fabulous doctor and he was great to grow up with!

Anyway, so my first year of summer camp was really hard on both me and my mother. I would cry hysterically when she would leave me for the day, and my leaders told her that the first 2½ days I never stopped crying; that from the time she left to the time she came to pick me up, I did nothing but cry. Thankfully I had a good-hearted momma who wanted the best for me and wanted me to stick it out the rest of the week (plus, I am sure there was no refund for the days I didn’t go, lol)! And by the middle of the 3rd day they got me engaged in an activity or two and I was fine. I believe I still cried pretty harshly when I would get dropped off at the beginning of the day, but I survived, and my mom must have seen some kind of positive change because of it or she wouldn’t have continued to send me back year after year! My first year there, they told my mom that I was the smallest, youngest camper there that year and at the end of the week, they gave me an award for having the biggest smile by the end of camp! That right there gives you testament to the positive change diabetes camp can have on a child; even at the age of four!

The camp I attended from age 4-10 was a day only camp. Your parents bring you in the morning and leave you for the day and then they pick you up later that afternoon or night. The summer after I turned 10 I went to my first over-night diabetes camp. It was for an entire week Sunday – Saturday. I was scared to death to go my first year. I only got slightly homesick one night, but by the end of camp I was crying when my parents came to get me because I didn’t want to leave! Going to that camp was one of the BEST decisions I have ever made regarding diabetes support in my entire life! As a kid, there is no replacement for being able to feel “normal” or “like everyone else”, and that is exactly what these kind of camps can give your child! Totally an advocate for diabetes camps, and not based on research or studies, but based on MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE as a kid with Type 1 Diabetes!  [Below are just a few more camp photos that I across.] If you are thinking about sending your child to camp this summer, my biggest advice would be to encourage them to try it but don't force them to go and let them be involved in the decision-making process! Thats my advice, take it or leave it!  
~Casey Karen

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Two months after my 4th birthday, my childish care-free world would come to an abrupt halt! Mine and my family's lives would be forever changed with one unforeseen life-long diagnosis… Juvenile (Type 1) Diabetes. It might have become official in the matter of one day in the hospital but it most certainly didn't hit my poor little body that fast.

No, this disease had been taking its toll on me for quite some time. See, I was potty trained shortly after I turned two and had become a pro at it shortly after. So my parents became very worried when I seemed to be regressing in those skills at the age of four! I would constantly have accidents, never being able to get to the bathroom in time, and having to go all the time. I would not sleep at night because I constantly had nightmares. I had no energy during the day and went from being a cheerful, happy, active kid to a whiny, clingy, couch potato (and little did we know, very sick) kid. I was also a very underweight child. When I was admitted to the hospital I weighed about 25lbs at the age of four! That is 10lbs below where I should have been. [We later learned that frequent urination, nightmares, and lack of energy, and weight loss are all side effects of high blood sugar.]

Growing up before this point I was constantly sick… I always had an ear infection. Maybe that is what set my body’s immune system into overdrive and caused it to attack my pancreas… who knows? But for whatever reason, my own immune system did just that. It attacked my pancreas and killed off all my insulin-producing cells. This causes major problems!

When you have no insulin in your body to break down glucose (sugar), it just stays put in your body where it causes damage. [This is also what causes the frequent urination. Because your body can’t process it normally, it is trying to get rid of it any way it can, so it tries to flush it out through your urine. Most newly diagnosed patients have an excessive amount of sugar in their urine.] High blood sugar levels eventually damage blood vessels, nerves, and organ systems in the body. For this reason, people with type 1 diabetes MUST take insulin in order to stay alive. This means undergoing multiple injections daily, or having insulin delivered through an insulin pump, and in addition to all that they must also test their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times a day! People with diabetes must also carefully balance their food intake and their exercise to regulate their blood sugar levels, in an attempt to avoid hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening.

Imagine trying to explain why you have to do all this to a four year old, or better yet, why her brother and all her friends don’t have to do this but she does. Even better yet, try explaining to a four year old that this all happened so fast but it will NEVER end; she (I) will have to do this every day until I die! Or try to comprehend how you, as a parent, would feel knowing that you now had a child with very special needs and major health concerns and knowing that in order to keep her as healthy as possible you had to give her these injections 4-5times a day, but yet she cries because she doesn’t understand why you are choosing to “hurt” her. Insulin is not my cure but it is my life line so I have do this daily, but I don’t want to. That is why kids, teens, and adults living with Type 1 Diabetes, like me all across the world so badly need a cure! So that no more families have to face what we did. Children don’t need to suffer like this and parents shouldn’t have to put their kids through so much pain. Please support a cure in any way you can! (If you are interested in donating go to www.JDRF.org for more information!)

Thanks for reading the story of my diagnosis! I am now 20 years old and have been living with this disease for 16yrs! It hasn’t been without its complications but I am still here and am a junior in college! Never let your disease stop you from your dreams!!! If anything, use it as motivation, knowing you don’t have as long on this earth as others so you need to chase and reach your dreams faster! I started this blog to educate others, but more importantly, to provide support to anyone who is “in my shoes”. I will continue to update this blog until I catch you up to what is going on in my health world today. =) Please leave comments!!!!

~ Casey Karen