Camp Sweeney: a Life Changing Experience

On December 5, 1994, at the age of five, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed and hospitalized with type one diabetes, an autoimmune disorder affecting one in six hundred children in the United States. It is an illness where the body destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, mistaking them for foreign bodies. Because of this, a person must take insulin, either by multiple injections per day or by an insulin pump. They must also monitor their blood glucose (sugar) levels around the clock. I have never considered this disease a setback, but it has been a daily challenge. It has enabled me to learn more about myself, and experience some of the best opportunities of my life. If I had never been diagnosed, there would be a part missing in me, and I would probably not know what I want to do as a career. The day I was diagnosed with diabetes, my life began.

            A couple of months ago, a girl in one of my classes asked me, “What are you going to do this summer?” I answered, “I’m going to diabetes camp.” She giggled at my response. However, by the end of the class period, the entire class knew about Camp Sweeney, my diabetes camp. To my surprise, my peers asked many questions such as “What do you do at diabetes camp?” I replied by telling them that we do everything you would do at any other camp, and so much more.

           The camp’s motto is, “Where friendship begins and never ends,” and I find this true. As a result of this common bond, we are all able to cultivate amazing relationships. Each day I think about a friend, or talk to a friend I met while at the camp. I still recognize people I have not seen in eight or nine summers, and even after several dormant years, we are able to rekindle our friendships. 

            At camp, many of our day-to-day burdens are relieved. At mealtimes, we do not have to count our carbohydrates in our meals, and each day the medical staff doses our insulin. This gives us a much appreciated break for three weeks. It is almost like taking a vacation from diabetes. Some might even call it liberating. It is comforting to know that there are people out there who are willing to care for us and help us maintain good health.

            Another advantage is that we also develop a support system. Though we only spend a short time together, we meet old and new friends, we learn more about our illness in medical lectures, and we maintain good control of our diabetes. Friends from Camp Sweeney are always there for each other in the bad times and the good times. More like a large family rather than a group of diabetic campers, when we cannot do things on our own, someone from camp will always be there for us, no matter what the circumstance may be. I have had difficult experiences that I could not have made it through without help from a friend, such as when I was not taking my insulin all of the time. My friend made me admit to my doctor that I had been doing this. I then switched insulin regimens, which made it more convenient to take my insulin. My friend improved the quality of my life. It is the love for one another that helps keep us strong.

            Camp Sweeney reminds us all that it is perfectly possible to live a normal life with diabetes. In the outside world, others view diabetes as a handicap or a setback, but here diabetes truly becomes an asset that makes us distinct from others. By taking good care of my diabetes I learn the characteristics of a hard-working person: persistence and perseverance. I realize that I cannot always manage to have perfect control, no matter how hard I adhere to my insulin regimen and diet. However, I must try my hardest to maintain good control in order to live a long healthy life. I am stronger than many people because of this desire to live.

Camp Sweeney, the home of my fondest and happiest childhood memories, has inspired me. I want to become a nurse practitioner specializing in pediatric endocrinology. I want to demonstrate to children that diabetes never has to hold anyone back, and any person living with it life just as anyone without the illness. I hope to be a role model to my patients, educate them about their condition, and ensure they have the greatest prognosis possible. My own experience serves as the strongest motivating force in achieving my goals.

            Diabetes has never held me back. In fact, it has been a gift to me. If I were never diagnosed, I would probably have no interest in the medical field, nor would I have shared such long-lasting moments at Sweeney. Unfortunately, this year marks my last summer as a camper. Though I am already dreading the moment I will have to say goodbye for the last time, the camp has always been an enormous part of my life. My life will be enriched by the ten summers I have spent there. I will always be thankful for those memories. I am also thankful for having the opportunity to live with diabetes, because I would not have the same aspirations as a person living without diabetes. Now I have the support from my friends from camp, and I know my career choice due to my diagnosis of diabetes. December 5, 1994 transformed my life in ways I could have never imagined.

shining0starlet shining0starlet
18-21, F
2 Responses Apr 27, 2007

Thank you for sharing a very inspirational and well-told story!

Wow that is a very good and inspiring story!!! It is so good that you can turn an illness into something good. It is great that you are enjoying life. :)