Dan Olivia, Shelton CT:
I was 47 years old when I diagnosed with diabetes, the first two weeks everyone thought it was type 2 until my GAD enzyme test results told a different story. I was a type 1 Diabetic. How ironic was this when I just was slowly winding down from a few months of doing the Akins diet. I lost 25 lbs. I had just finished my second course of an antibiotic in a two month period of time…My endocrinologist hinted to the fact that there was rumor that the antibiotic may have caused my diabetes but there was no real proof. So here I was the only diabetic my family ever known. The only type 1 diabetic I ever knew were former patients who had uncontrolled asthma and were prednisone dependent. They were poor individuals who could not breathe with out steroids but the steroids made their diabetes rage out of control. Fear filled my mind.
My fear was compounded (by) the fact that early in my life I had lost a kidney. Diabetes Forecast talked about the importance of a pump. My first Endo told me I had to wait to get bad before my insurance company would pay for a pump! That day I called the busiest endocrinologist in town crying. She saw me the next day. Two weeks later, a pump was delivered to my door!
What we found in the first year of using a pump was I was starting to develop insulin resistant diabetes. My insulin usage was going up and up. My HbA1C was raising and so was my weight. She said I need to start an exercise program. This was so foreign to me. I was the kid who was always beat up in gym class, stuffed in the locker… uncoordinated efforts with every sport I attempted. I knew I was going to die with this disease. What is a man at 50 years old going to do to learn what he should have learned when he was growing up?
I joined a 30 minute work out program which was a start, but I only had me to rely on. It took me three or four months to even make it to 30 minutes three times a week. Then I read a story on Diabetes E-news, it was about the first camp for adults with type 1 diabetes. My first call was to ask “do you think I’ll be too old?” I was guaranteed that I would not be! My second question was that I never played any sports would I feel left out or hold back people? I think the answer was something to the effect to each to their ability. I was psyched!
It was a week of wonder, a week of learning, a week of ability. I shot hoops for the first time in my life! Not just for fun, but to experience and learn how to do it. I was attempting everything that they offered. I was 19 again and no one was laughing! Everyone was encouraging. It was motivational, educational and helped me to build a level of self confidence that I have never known. It helped me build self reliance. What a difference a week makes when all you have is support and guidance, when all you want to do is to reach out and help yourself. It was all there. I am so grateful to have had such an opportunity.
Now I have a personal trainer and I am at the gym 4-5 times a week. I spend 45 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes each time. I have developed muscles I never knew that I could. Yes, I have diabetes but diabetes dose not have me. I plan on going back to more camps, as my schedule allows. I will never stop learning about this disease or re-learning what I may have forgotten. I will never stop fighting to live well and long. I will never forget all what the drug company and the antibiotic did to me. That does not define my life. I now belong to a community of others who are just like me. We are more then just diabetes. We all can be survivors.
Dave Shack, Boone, NC:
I was diagnosed at age 2. That was 29 years ago. Almost ever since then I hated everything about being a diabetic. I even tried to go to one of those camps as a kid and that was terrible. I guess “snack time” was the only cool thing I can think of. I had tons of seizures as a kid and even as an adult and that was most likely because I tried to ignore the fact that I was a diabetic. I didn’t go to the doctor or check my sugar for years in a row. When I was asked by another diabetic to run an Ironman Triathlon with him I said sure, not because I was in to proving anything about diabetes or because I wanted to change my life, simply because it sounded pretty cool. Well I got signed up with Triabetes and they got me into DTC. It was a pivotal point in my self image and self care. It rocked me. I wasn’t alone and it became apparent that I could take care of myself and not just survive. I could kick butt. Without the knowledge I gained at camp, training for that Ironman would have been way too hard. Well Diabetes Training Camp not only helped me train and finish the race, it is also given me the tools to continue to manage myself much better than I had ever thought possible. Diabetes doesn’t suck, but poor management does. So I got over it.
Kathy Ziegert, Neenah, WI:
I can truly say that my experience at Diabetes Training Camp changed the way I live with diabetes. The opportunity to go to camp came at a time of my life where I was finally ready to do some serious self-acceptance about having this pancreas-challenged body…16 years after diagnosis. Diagnosed at age 12, I mastered the skills of denial and repression throughout my teenage and early adulthood, telling only absolutely necessary individuals about having diabetes.
I first read about Diabetes Training Camp in a Newsweek article. It sounded incredible. I am a runner and general sports enthusiast; I love team sports, individual sports and just moving around in general. I checked out the website and signed up for the newsletter. That very small detail was another step towards acceptance. I told myself that if camp ever traveled to the Midwest, I’d have to find a way to go. A few weeks later, DTC announced they would be coming to Chicago. My heart jumped and I found a way to go.
Camp both fed and taught me how to feed my mind, body and soul. In the classroom sessions, I learned intricacies of exercising with “insulin on board,” as Dr. Matt says, and more about the biology of diabetes management. The individual 1:1 sessions helped me feel truly valued and heard, with feedback and support from knowledgeable and caring staff. The workout sessions were the perfect balance of complete child-like fun mixed with very technical and useful skills training. And finally, creating the bonds of friendship with other campers made a supportive diabetes community I never imagined to be so uplifting and powerful. I adore my fellow campers and relish their blog posts, filled with triumphs and challenges.
Since attending camp, I am proud to wear my insulin pump in full sight instead of trying to find ways to hide it from the world. And when people ask, it’s my “external pancreas.” I plan on celebrating my 17th Diabetes Birthday (March) and 30th Life Birthday (April) by competing in my first triathlon this year. Through camp, I met this extraordinary group of women with diabetes willing to support each other in training for and competing in the Longhorn 1/2 Ironman Triathlon, Team WILD – Women Inspiring Living with Diabetes. And thanks to DTC for inspiring that living.
As I learned at camp – Peace, love and insulin…
Samantha Stevens, Washington, DC:
I am 19, and I am a sophomore at Georgetown University. I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when I was five. Growing up, I always participated in sports: volleyball, softball, swimming, you name it. When I got to high school however, the picture changed. I still was an avid athlete (on the Crew team now), however I was now at much more competitive level. I managed to get by managing my diabetes throughout practices and races, however I knew I was often not performing at my best. When I was accepted into college and asked to row for the Georgetown Varsity Crew team, I was ecstatic! However, I also knew that although my high school team was very competitive, college would be exponentially more challenging, and “getting by” wouldn’t cut it at this level. That’s when I heard about DTC. After one conversation with Dr. Corcoran, I was convinced it would be the perfect experience for me.
I was the youngest camper (17 at the time), but age did not matter in the family we formed during camp. I could not have asked for a better experience. The trainers were top notch, as well as extremely helpful and supportive. I learned so much about cross-training, nutrition and recovery, sports psychology, yoga and flexibility… and how to manage my diabetes across all of those facets. The most amazing part of my experience was that Matt called a rowing coach from Lehigh (who has an excellent crew team) and arranged a series of private lessons for me!
DTC allowed me to start college with newfound skills and confidence in my ability to manage my diabetes while being a varsity rower. I’m no longer just “managing to get by” – I’m making strides in my training and have set many new Personal Best times. Two years later, I still implement the skills I learned from DTC every day, and fondly remember the wonderful and fun experience I had there.