I had only had diabetes for two months when my parents forced the idea on me to go to diabetes camp. My Mom, who I considered a strict parent, approached me to talk about going. Though she was broaching a topic, as my father always says, “What Mama wants, Mama gets.” I remember her going on and on about how she thought this was going to help me better cope with having diabetes. I told her I wasn’t interested in listening to her ideas. Besides, I had two beach parties planned that last week of August that I cared more about then going to a place that she told me was called Camp Needlepoint. Camp Needlepoint? Though I love my mother dearly, I thought she had lost her mind. The last place that I wanted to spend a week of my summer vacation was at a place where I wore a Camp Needlepoint t-shirt and had to sit in long educational sessions about what diabetes is, how I should be treated, and the serious complications that I would get if I didn’t listen.
My Mom was the Mom that would constantly remind my brothers and I that her job wasn’t to be our friend, but to be our mother. She trumped my opinion on camp and brought my Aunt Roxane for reinforcement. They packed my bags as we departed Baxter, MN for the long 4-hour drive to Hudson, WI where they dropped me off for my week at camp. I had never even met another person living with diabetes, except for my little brother. I didn’t want to be the sick kid or the kid that everyone threw sympathy votes at. I made my Mom promise me that she would pick me up at the earliest time possible on the last day of camp. I sulked off to my bunk bed in the platform tent and just cried. This was not the life that I had thought for myself.
A young girl, around my age, walked into the tent and crawled up on my bed.
“Hi, my name is Nicole and I’m from Babbitt, MN. Where are you from?”
I choked up my tears and said, “the Brainerd Lakes area.”
“Cool. I come to camp every year and just love it. We’re going to be the best of friends.”
Nicole seemed so normal. Her blonde, bouncy curls followed her as she went to set up her bunk. She seemed nice, pretty, and the girl at school who all the guys would want to date. But wait, she has diabetes, just like me? She seemed so happy and didn’t even ask me about my diabetes when we met. Another girl was sitting on the bottom bunk eating Starbursts. I looked again, and yes she was eating candy. I remember back to when Brittney shoved the piece of cake in my face on the day I was diagnosed and announced to my friends that I couldn’t have sugar anymore. I said to Breanna who was eating the candy, “Aren’t you going to get in trouble for eating sugar?”
Breanna looked up at me and said, “Just because you have diabetes it doesn’t mean you don’t eat candy.”
I will be forever changed by camp. There were kids as young as five and up to eighteen years old that had type-1 diabetes. For once in my young life I didn’t feel so alone. That week I didn’t learn how to live life with diabetes, but instead to live life despite having diabetes. The kids around me were going through the same daily struggles as me and they were living life to the fullest. I learned to rock climb, sail, be a better artist, and sharpen my acting skills in the Camp Finale Play. Nicole and I called each other twin sisters separated at birth. We even slept in the same bunk bed at night because we couldn’t be separated. She would tell me who her dia-
crush was at camp (guy with diabetes who we were crushing on that day) and then I would give my thoughts and then report on my own. When the last day of camp came around my Mom was there promptly at 10am. Her and Nicole’s mother had to practically pull us apart. That week Nicole taught me that I could still be me, even if I did have diabetes.
To find out more information about finding an American Diabetes Association Camp near you click here.