Monday, 25 July 2011


This week at camp I have a group of tiresome 10 and 11 year old boys, but I was very excited to discover that one of my campers is also a type 1 diabetic.  Thinking he’d share in my excitement, I sidled up to him on the first day of camp and excitedly asked if he was a type 1 diabetic.  He gave me an unenthusiastic yes, and then I dropped the (what I thought was exciting) news that I was diabetic too! He barely responded before going off to hang out with the other campers.    
Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed that my camper didn’t match my excitement upon finding out we were diabetic buddies.  But his response reminded me of a time when I would have been less than enthusiastic to meet other diabetics- not because I had a problem with other diabetics but because I had a problem with my own diabetes.  That problem was embarrassment.  I’m a very proud person and one thing I had always been proud of was my healthy, active lifestyle.  Even though I knew that type 1 diabetes was an autoimmune disorder that couldn’t be prevented, I felt that a lot of people didn’t realize this and that they might judge me for being diabetic.  Instead of striving to educate others about type 1 diabetes and eliminate any misconceptions, I chose to hide diabetes whenever possible.
It’s not surprising that hiding diabetes from others sometimes meant I hid it from myself, but since that point in my life I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to balance hiding it and including it when appropriate.  I’ve chosen a new path that seeks to be proud of my diabetes, or at least to be proud of myself for controlling my diabetes and not letting it define me.  I’ve surmounted my fear that people will tag me as ‘the diabetic” and accepted that if that’s all they see in me, they don’t know me very well. 
So I sympathize with my diabetic camper, who ironically probably doesn’t want to be known as “the diabetic” camper.  And I hope that he’ll learn just as I did that he has nothing to be embarrassed about.             

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Right to Play

This summer I’m participating in the Mitsubishi  City Chase, an adventure race (sort of like The Amazing Race, except for a single day in one city) around Toronto in support of Right to Play, a non-profit organization that uses participation in sports and games to improve the lives of disadvantaged children through empowerment and education.
This morning I heard a member of the organization talk about the history and goals of Right to Play.  When the non-profit organization was first established by Norwegian Olympic speed skater Johann Olav Koss, there was a lot of scepticism regarding the importance of Koss’ goal to bring used sports equipment to children in third world countries.  Issues such as AIDS, malaria and political unrest were deemed much more important, but what people didn’t realize was the value of using sports and games to educate and empower.  Right to Play identified citizens of developing nations as not just mouths to feed, but as people.  People that deserved the right to be nurtured and educated.
Why do I support Right to Play? My whole life I have been given the right to play any sport or activity that I’ve shown interest in.  I’ve flirted with ballet, jazz, figure skating and tennis lessons.  Through school I’ve had the opportunity to play on badminton, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track teams.  I’ve competitively played soccer and basketball.  Through all my experiences in sport activities, I’ve developed and enhanced important qualities that are applicable in all areas of my life.  As captain of my basketball team I enhanced my leadership skills, learned how to diffuse confrontation and was given the chance to inspire and motivate my peers.  As one of the weakest players on my volleyball team, I worked on my discipline and perseverance in refining my skills, and gained a new appreciation for the importance of practice. In general, sports have allowed me to appreciate teamwork and communication.
All the skills that sports have taught me are only a few examples of the many different life skills that sports can teach.  But aside from all the social and educational benefits of sports, they are fun.  And everyone deserves a little fun.  Everyone deserves the right to play.   
Even a dollar can help enroll one child in a week of sports activities.  Donate to Right to Play by following this link 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

My Froggy Voice and Camp

Camp started this week and as a counsellor, I’m expected to go swimming with the kids at the end of the day. Imagine a giant pool filled with up to 300 kids on any given day.  It looks like a fun time, kids laughing, splashing, passing around a ball, flipping around on the floaty toys.  Now imagine the same pool under a microscope, and the ridiculous amount of germs, bacteria and viruses floating in that water makes that fun, splashing scene seem more like a horror story. 
Thanks to those germs, bacteria and viruses, after only 2 days of swimming in that pool I got sick.  Having a stuffy nose, aching ears, pounding headache and sore throat isn’t exactly ideal when one spends all day cheering with, talking to, and singing with a bunch of 11 year olds, but that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days.  Luckily I’ve been blessed with an amazingly well behaved group of 11 year old girls for this session, and they’ve been fantastic at listening to me despite my cracking, froggy voice.
Not that diabetes is usually a blast, but diabetes combined with sickness can be absolutely brutal.  Yesterday while my campers and I were doing art in an air conditioned room, I felt my body heating up, and after the campers confirmed that indeed it was just me who felt an increase in temperature in the room, I had to test to decipher whether my warm body temperature was from a low or just a mild fever (turns out it was a mild fever, stupid cold is throwing me off my game).  A lot of symptoms of a cold, such as a fever, cold sweats, dizziness, also happen to be symptoms of a low or a high, so I tend to test a lot more when I’m sick (my poor fingers) in order to rule out diabetes related causes. 
One strange thing about my diabetes is that my blood sugars don’t tend to run high when I’m sick which is something many other diabetics experience. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about this additional symptom of a cold, however that’s not to say my blood sugars were perfect this week.  At times when I was doing an activity with the kids and wasn’t able to test, if I felt symptoms of a low I would drink a quick juice, and then test 15 minutes later only to realize that I hadn’t been low, it was just the cold.
Despite being sick, I had an awesome first week of camp and I definitely appreciate that my job for the summer is active because my blood sugars tend to be better when I’m more active.  In time for the weekend, I’ve begun to feel much better and I’m looking forward to my second week of camp, illness-free. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

To Tell or Not to Tell: Diabetes Disclosure

I kicked off the week by attending an overnight camping trip that was part of training for my summer job at a day camp.  Camping with 28 strangers can be a little intimidating, and as a type 1 diabetic it brings up that tricky issue of disclosure.  Do I make a big announcement to all the staff: “Attention everyone, I’m a type 1 diabetic which is why I can chug juice like a champ”, do I try to be stealthy about it and answer questions as they come “Excuse me Miss but did you know you have a tube sticking out of your side?”, do I find a way to slip it into conversation, “Speaking of volcanoes, I’m a type 1 diabetic!”
I have, in different situations, used one, two or a combination of the above to disclose the fact that I have diabetes.  Usually people are interested or curious when they find out I have diabetes, sometimes they are indifferent, and occasionally they are judgemental or weirded out.  It’s the few experiences I’ve had where people have reacted in the latter two manners that fuel the nervousness I have about telling people I’m a type 1 diabetic. 
On the camping trip I chose to only tell the senior staff members, for safety purposes, and then I just answered questions as they came. Some people noticed me testing and asked if I was diabetic, and I found it very refreshing to not only have people recognize a tester and make the connection to diabetes, but also to have people asking ME if I was diabetic, as opposed to me always informing others that I’m diabetic.
I also found out that another staff member is a type 1 diabetic.  Since I don’t know very many type 1 diabetics that are in the same age bracket as me, I always get overly excited when I do meet such a person, and I’m happy to report that he too shared my excitement upon discovering that we’re both type 1 diabetics. 
The camping trip was successful in having all the staff members get to know each other, and my disclosure technique was successful in having nearly all the staff learn I was diabetic without having to make a big announcement.