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February 8, 2011

Summer camp helps kids adjust to diagnosis

Am I alone?

My younger patients seem to feel that way, just as I did as a child with diabetes.

I felt as if I was the only person with diabetes. On my mind were questions like: How can this happen to me? What did I do wrong? Why am I the only one who takes shots? Isolation is a significant factor for any young person dealing with a chronic illness.

Thankfully, my mother had an answer. At the age of 8, I was enrolled for a two-week session at the Joslin Diabetes Camp. This camp was designed to help children with diabetes to learn to live with their disease, to take ownership of their lives and to demonstrate that we were not alone.

But the idea of camp left me mortified! How could my mother and father possibly force me to go to this camp — how boring it would be. I felt as if I were enrolled in summer school. Well, with mild protest, I traveled south to Charlton, Mass., to begin my two brutally long weeks at a diabetes camp.

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING

After the five-hour drive, we carried my trunk and supplies down to my cabin. The campus was beautiful. There were numerous cabins along a lake, about eight campers to each cabin and at least three staff members. There was a large pavilion for hockey and basketball, numerous soccer fields, a beach, boathouse, infirmary, mess hall and even a radio station. After checking in, unpacking and saying good-bye, my parents left.

Was I bored? No. I can honestly say those two weeks were absolutely amazing. Each day was spent with various kids and staff members with very similar experiences and most of us took shots. What an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so many people with diabetes that understood living with an illness — clearly, I was not alone.

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