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How diabetes camp changed my life: A love story

The other day, I went grocery shopping with low blood sugar. It’s kind of like being stoned. I bought everything the color orange: yams, carrots, pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin beer. I snacked on dried apricots and mangoes out of the bulk bin. I’m pretty sure  the security guard was following me as I did circles around the store, but it didn’t matter; I was on a diabetic binge.

I have Type 1 diabetes (not the “diabeetus” kind but the kind you get as a kid). As anyone who is blessed by my presence knows, I’m kind of obsessed with my janky pancreas. And since November is World Diabetes Month, I’m celebrating in every way possible.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11. My body was shutting down due to ketoacidosis, a condition resulting from a prolonged period of high blood sugar. I was always thirsty and peeing like a race horse. I lost 25 lbs before I was hospitalized since my body was breaking down fat as energy instead of sugar.

Sure, it was kind of a bummer at first. I had to learn how to give myself insulin shots while in the hospital. (First, I practiced on an abused orange; I hope nobody ate it.) I also had to learn how to count all of my carbohydrates. It was confusing, especially since I was a chubby kid with a serious love of food. The first thing I said to my dad was, “I can’t eat Pop Tarts anymore.”

But I learned that wasn’t necessarily true at the greatest place on earth: Diabetes Camp. Yes, Diabetes Camp, where a couple hundred syringe-wielding kids hang out in the woods and count carbohydrates together. I learned that I wasn’t the only one schlepping around needles and that I could, in fact, eat foods such as Pop Tarts as long as I count their carbohydrates and give myself insulin accordingly.

I like to think diabetics enjoy getting their groove on more than most people; we diabetics did nickname camp Diabooty Camp after all. I had my first real kiss at the Diabetes Camp Dance when I was 12. (Yes, we have a dance, and yes, we took a mass break to test our blood sugars.) I broke the poor boy’s heart then made out with his best friend next year at camp. I’ve got a type. It’s called “diabetics.”

I’ve been going back to Diabetes Camp ever since, and now I’m a counselor. I’ve grown up with all of these crazy diabetics and have a bond with them like nobody else. I have all of my homies on Facebook; there’s always at least one diabetic online. Someone will post about low blood sugar or a broken insulin pump, and there will be a flurry of comments.

I hate when people call diabetes a chronic illness or think it’s a curse. Diabetes is that extra swag, that special somethin’ somethin’ that gives me that edge. Whenever I date someone new, I can’t wait to whip out my diabetes supplies for the first time in front of them. Nothing like watching me jab a syringe in my stomach to set the mood.

Now, excuse me while I test my blood sugar.