My First Weekend at Bearskin Meadow Camp

May 29th, 2010 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

After a calm but incredibly cold night up at camp, I started my first day of Work Weekend slightly frozen and quite apprehensive.  Everyone was incredibly kind, but it was all new. 

All of it.

(Not only was it all new to me, it was all at 5800’ elevation; I was out of breath kind of a lot the first few days!  Everyone was.  Good times!)

I met one family and kind of latched on; they had three sons and the middle son had diabetes.  They were a fun family and always had a fun story to share. 

We were all working hard, yet with a camaraderie I didn’t experience often.  People started talking about “Bearskin Magic” but I couldn’t recognize it yet.  I saw parents involved in their kids’ lives and their kids’ diabetes, which was cool enough for me. 

No one said the word “diabetes” at a different volume than any other word.

Maybe that was the magic they were talking about?

I remember playing cards in the dining hall that second night and having a great time talking to the son with diabetes.  We were having an animated conversation and his mom told him it was time to check his blood sugar.  He did, and was low.  I continued to talk to the boy as his mom went to get him some apple juice.  When she came back, I was still chatting away with him.  We were having so much fun that I had to remind him a couple times to drink the juice that was in front of him.  His mom later told me I’d do just fine working there that summer because of the way I treated him when he was low and distracted from treating the low.

None of it was a big deal.  No drama.  Just life.  Life with diabetes.

I guess it’s that Bearskin Magic that is making me cry about this as I type.  It seems like such a little thing, overall, but wow it isn’t.  I would be crying if I were at Work Weekend this year, too, since I cry a little each time I’m up at camp. 

Camp is a very special place.

We all carry our diabetes in different ways; ways that change with our mood, with our glucose levels, with what happens in our daily lives.  Spending even that first weekend someplace where the world looked the same, where we had stories we shared about what got us to camp and stories we shared that had nothing to do with camp or with diabetes gave me an opportunity to see that I wasn’t alone.  It gave me a chance to see some people whose attitudes I wanted to imitate and gave me a chance to be immediately accepted into a kind group who knew my pain, accepted it without mention, and also had a load of good fun to share with me, too.    

Like I said yesterday, sending myself to work at summer camp was the best decision I’ve ever made.  Everyone deserves the same opportunity to feel accepted into a group no matter what mood they’re in, what their glucose meter says, or how many times they’ve been low or high that day.  We all need an opportunity to have others share the weight of of living with diabetes we carry without rest.  We all deserve a chance to sing a song rhyming “glucose” with whatever we can think of to make it work.

We are in this together.  It’s really the only way to get through, and the only way that makes “getting through” worth it in the end.

(Now that I think about it; what rhymes with “glucose”??)

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  1. Peggy says:

    I cry when I think about camp too! Bearskin Meadow Camp does have a certain magic. The summer I was there and had packs of kids teaching me how it is to live with diabetes. They got a huge kick out of doing a blood check with me (non-diabetic) and then discussing with the doc how much snack I should get if any!

    One of many completely and unbelievably awesome memories:

    I have a fear of needles (one might question the logic of me working at this particular camp, but let’s set THAT aside). I have a SUPER big fear of needles. I tremble, I breathe fast, just when I’m around them wrapped up in their sterile packages.

    First day of camp, it’s time for everyone to check their blood before dinner. A camper asks a simple question, “Why are you not checking?” I say, “I don’t have diabetes.” He says, “So?” Excellent point.

    So I stand in line with him, we check together, we tell our results to the doc who draws up insulin for him and the same amount of saline for me. My little Blood Buddy (our names for the next weeks) pinched some skin on his tummy, took his insulin and looked at me…. standing there holding a syringe of saline. It’s one of those moments in life when you have to step up, but I was having trouble not shaking.

    “It’s not that bad. You will barely feel it” he said. He stood close, explained where he takes his shots, why some places were better for him than others, but really it’s best not to think about it too much and just do it, etc.

    I took that shot. And it was no big deal. And neither were all the other shots we took together that session. It would have been a much bigger deal to not check and not take the shots. I would have stuck out like a sore injection site.

  2. That’s a great story, Peggy! What an awesome Blood Buddy. When I was there we called them Diabuddies.

    I bet your Blood Buddy got just as much out of showing you how to take a shot as you got out of his tutorial. What a great camp experience.

    If it helps, they’ve made the syringe needles shorter than they were when you were up at camp. I see one of the long ones now and do a double take! I can’t believe I used to use those… :)

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