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!