After years of hearing about the great experiences others (and others’ kids) have had at diabetes camp, we finally have some stories of our own. The Bear went away to Clara Barton camp for a week – first sleepaway experience, first time the BHE & I have spent a night without her for over 8 years. Whoa.
I tried to manage my own expectations… Of course, I hoped that she would love camp so much that she would want to go back for a month next summer, that she would return eating new foods and open to trying new sites for pump and cgm, and that she would have new diabesties for pen pals & visits — but I also knew that was pretty unrealistic for 5 days of diabetes camp.
The BHE and I really enjoyed our time. We went out to eat a couple of times without pre-planning or having to pay a sitter (woo-hoo!); we went on walks with the dog together and got to wake up quietly instead of via 8-year-old alarm. We missed the Bear of course, but without any of the anxiety that usually comes along with her being with other people who don’t necessarily “get” it, and without the very short deadline that comes with a brief birthday party or playdate or day camp.
I think I was more burned out from taking care of both of our diabetes than I realized. The break from packing lunches (with carb counts & insulin instructions included), “teaching” the cliff notes version of managing diabetes to a new camp every week, deciding whether to set alarms for overnight testing, etc., etc. was amazing and so much more of a break than I even expected. My own bgs weren’t very cooperative, but it was still a break.
When we picked up the Bear she was clearly glad to see us (phew!) but also seemed to have had a good time. Over the days we’ve gotten to hear bits and pieces of what she did, who she got to know, and (of course) what wasn’t so much fun (she didn’t get to swim in the pool because she had ketones & couldn’t take her pump off). She did say on pick up day that she definitely wants to go back next summer, but still for one week — not for two.
More than any of these details though, we can see some hints of greater confidence in her as well as a bit more understanding of what it can be like not to be the only one her age living with diabetes. She told us that she wanted to try out an insulin site on her belly when she got home — hallelujah! Music to my ears 🙂 We’ve been “suggesting” branching out for sites for more than a year with no success. The first attempt was bad… we hit a blood vessel/nerve and needed to take it off right away. I was sure that would probably set us back until next year’s diabetes camp but two days later she said she wanted to try again. That second time went much better and then tonight she did her second successful belly site. This is going to give her back/butt a much needed break.
She is justifiably proud of this new, brave step and wants to share it but is asking questions about how it will be received by different people. She originally wanted to tell some kids at this week’s camp but quickly realized herself that most of them don’t even really know she has diabetes and none of them are likely to “get” why this is exciting. She came up with a few people who will celebrate it with her (school nurse, a friend of ours – adult – who has T1 and who went to Clara Barton as a kid) and also is feeling more motivated to reach out to a couple of new Clara Barton camp friends.
I’m so proud of her in so many ways. And so sorry that she has all of this to deal with. It’s a mixed bag. I wish that more people didn’t seem to dismiss the camp experience when they hear it is “diabetes” camp. I wish that she could have that kind of community around her much more than just one summer week. I wish it wasn’t so hard to articulate all the feels.