Monday, July 2, 2012

Everything I know about diabetes I re-learned at Girl Scout Camp

Going to Girl Scout camp for the first time in more than two decades, I had one goal: Have enough energy to make it through the day with 16 Brownies.

But little did I know I'd learn a few lessons from a little girl named Lauren.

Lauren has type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed this spring, but she never let her "condition" stop her from enjoying life. And she never stopped life from taking care of her health.

Lesson 1: Diabetes care is a team approach, and we should all look after each other.

Another leader would talk in hushed terms about her needing to sneak away for blood sugar testing or an insulin injection at the nurses's station. Having been diabetic for 15 years, I knew the more open you are about your diabetes, the easier it is for others to help in a time of crisis.

So I took her under my wing. I told her we were blood sugar buddies, and we'd check our sugars together at the nurse's station (even though I carry my meter at all times). By the end of the week, we were comparing notes and playing "beat the blood sugar." More important, she felt comfortable enough coming to me when she felt shaky so we could get her care.

Lesson 2: Take care of yourself.

Being diabetic for so long, I have been burnt out on my care on more occasions than I should count. I confess that with work schedules of late, my testing had been infrequent - going for days in some cases. (Luckily I am in fairly good control and can tell my highs and lows.) Lauren reminded me that to be your best self, you have to take care of yourself.

It's not an all-or-nothing approach. I'd been testing more frequently that week and virtually cutting out insulin since we were averaging eight to nine miles of hiking each day. The morning after our sleepover, I wrestled with the resulting morning 160 from two s'mores and no insulin. Her response? A very serious, "You need to walk more!" and starting up a funny hiking game on our route to the lodge.

Lesson 3: Who cares if you're diabetic?

Yes, there are days when blood sugars rule your day. But that doesn't mean they rule you. What I admired about Lauren so much was that she was the last to leave the pool, the most stubborn at attacking the rock-climbing wall, the first to join a group game. Diabetes was part of her, but it wasn't her. And I can't let that be an excuse for me, either.

No comments: