As you read this, I will be in my absolute favorite place in the world – the Clara Barton Diabetes Camp in Massachusetts. Barton is a sleep away camp for girls with type 1 diabetes (T1D). For the first week of camp (Wacky Week), campers can bring a non-T1D to camp. After that, it is all people with diabetes and the “Wannabetics” have to go home. Imagine a place where everyone has type 1 diabetes and those who don’t are the ones who are “different.” Incredible, but true.
My First Summer at Diabetes Camp
I was 11 years old for my first summer at Barton. I was newly diagnosed with diabetes and had never been away from home. My parents dropped me off and I could barely keep my tears from rolling down my cheeks. I looked around the bunk at all the strangers I would be living with for the next two weeks. How was I going to survive this?
We all gathered on the porch and shared our diabetes stories. I had never been open about my diagnosis before. It was too new and raw, and I was so afraid of being different than all of my friends. Well, that hour spent on the porch was the start of a new outlook for me. What was I ashamed of? I was surrounded by new friends and the coolest counselors - and none of them were embarrassed! Why should I be? By the next day, the foreboding bunk of strangers was my cozy cabin filled with close friends.
Making Lifelong D-Friendships
|"You made friends with the best, most understanding girls who are strong enough to handle type 1 diabetes, but soft enough to love each other."|
I now do three weeks at Barton and I can’t wait to get back. We swim in the lake and the pool, do arts and crafts, dance with the boys at the Joslin Diabetes Camp, sing crazy songs and play all kinds of games. In between we talk, laugh, share clothes and became closer to each other than I would ever think is possible in a few weeks.
And of course, together we weather highs and lows – the emotional kind, but mostly the kind related to blood glucose! I actually like being “low” in the middle of the night, because it is another chance to hang out together, wrapped in our blankets while we wait for the glucose to take effect. Although my family tries to understand what it feels like when my blood glucose dips low or shoots up, they don’t fully understand. My Barton girls do. And I don’t have to explain it. They get it and we do it together.
If any Barton girls are reading this, I know you cried during the Torch Light Swim at the end of camp and ran through the woods at night dressed in black during “Cities.” You laughed and screamed during the talent show, and danced and flirted at the Joslin camp dances. You pranked the other cabins and loved that you didn’t have to “think” at meals, because EVERYTHING we eat has the carb count provided. You made friends with the best, most understanding girls who are strong enough to handle type 1 diabetes, but soft enough to love each other.
So, this is my love letter to Camp Clara Barton. My favorite place in the world that helped me get back to feeling normal and like me again. Thank you for helping us have the best summers of our lives.
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