What made you decide to volunteer at Camp Hendon and how long have you been volunteering?
I’ve been a camper since I was 12 and when I turned 18 I knew I would have to be a counselor or leave my diabetic family behind. Honestly I started being a counselor because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. But over the 13 years that I have been a counselor, I’ve grown to realize that helping others learn to navigate their diabetes through my own experiences and supporting them all year long is such a privilege.
What is your role at camp?
I was first a camper, next a CIT (counselor in training) for a year, and then an AC (adult counselor). Now I’m part of the HYPE Team 🥳🤩
Why do you come back year after year? What do you get from camp or how has it impacted your life?
I come back year after year because it’s so so fun. It’s like vacay with your best friends for a week. I get so much support from camp that carries on throughout the whole year. As well as inspiration, motivation, encouragement and even some education from everyone fighting the same fight as me. I also get a diabetes reset. It’s nice to have a place where you can focus on your health and not have the distraction of everyday life to get back on track.
Also, In the ‘real world’ you feel all alone, like you can never slip, and you always have to watch your back for low and high blood sugars and your reactions and treatments. You don’t know if your thoughts and feelings and actions are normal because the normal people around you don’t have diabetes. People don’t understand why some everyday things are hard for you, or why you have to bring food everywhere you go or are just oblivious to how much you have to manage to just make sure you wake up in the morning. At camp, that weight is lifted. No one judges you or is scared of you or what might happen to you. No one leaves you behind when you have to grab one more thing incase you go low. No one doubts your potential because you have to take the long road sometimes so you can deal with highs and lows on the way. They understand. And because of that they know what you need and how to help or not help and just wait. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to deal with diabetes when you don’t have to use a foggy brain to communicate something someone may never understand. I come back year after year because these people make me feel safe and capable and I just want to return the favor.
What is your favorite activity at camp and why?
My favorite activity is the dance! I love a theme party and seeing everyone get excited about their dates and dress up and let loose as a whole camp. Lights, loud music, everyone running around, dancing, and special snacks - what’s not to love?? It always reminds me of how excited I used to get when I was a camper.
What are some things you have learned or taken away from camp?
-Diabetes is hard for everyone.
-You’re never the WORST diabetic. Lol
-It’s okay to have burnout, call your friends and take it day by day.
-You can do hard things and you CAN do this. Use your tools. A CGM and a pump make a difference!!
-It’s okay to eat s’mores and other sugary carby delicious treats, just take some insulin.
-You can absolutely kayak (and whatever else you want), just take a backpack
What do you do in your real life when you’re not giving your time to Camp Hendon?
Here’s the thing. Diabetes was not my thing. For many years, despite my Mother’s and Doctor Foster’s many many efforts to keep me in line, I just would not play along. Unfortunately, I have developed many complications because of my defiance and it has changed my life completely. I’ve gained better control over my diabetes in the mean time but the complications are irreversible. I can no longer hold a job because gastroparesis and anxiety make me unreliable. My job title reads “professional patient.” My life is filled with doctor visits and ER trips. Operations and medications. Unpredictable days and an unplan-able future. Thankfully, I have my family, camp family, pets and friends to fill my time when I am well. There are always birthday parties and family events to attend and help plan when I am well. I have a little brother who is still in middle school that I pick up and help with his homework sometimes, and two fur babies that get me out of bed for breakfast every morning.
Do you have any skills or talents that many may not know about you?
I played cello for 7 years, I take photos sometimes, I can plan a pretty good theme party and love interior decorating, but PLEASE get out of the way when I drive.
At what age were you diagnosed?
Jan 9, 2001. I was 11, one month before my 12th birthday.
Favorite low treatment snack?
Icing, little Debbie cakes, nutty bars, orange juice, smarties, mini sweet tarts, apples and pb, milk, milk and cookies, milk and cereal, glucose tablets, Icees, ice cream. Cheesecake.
Are you on a pump &/or CGM? If so, which ones?
I have Kevin, a t:slim X2 with control IQ and Lola, a Dexcom G6.
What is hard for you? How do you manage it?
All of it. I hate taking my blood sugar, it hurts and I forget and it’s impossible to keep up with how fast it changes. So I got a Dexcom to manage it. I also hate taking insulin. It’s a lot of math and a lot of anxiety wondering if I calculated right or not. So I got a pump with control IQ to manage it. In three months, my A1C went from 9.6 to a 7.2. But I especially hate waking up in the middle of the night with lows. So I say a few cuss words while I’m drinking juice that I keep next to my bed to manage it.
Favorite tip for dominating T1D when you have diabetes burnout?
Forgive yourself first. This is not your fault. Remind yourself it is HARD, and adjust your sights. Instead of perfection being the goal, or being perfect ALL the time, try just having a better blood sugar than the last time. And then try again, and remember you can start over as many times as you need to. Also call your friends, call someone who can hear you say this sucks and they believe you. And keep going. You can do hard things.
Do you wear a medical ID?
I have a tattoo! Actually 2!