I have been at Texas Lions Camp--a free diabetes camp for children located in the Texas Hill Country--for the last five days. I will be here another nine days. Camp brings out a wide range of feelings from "I don't know how you do that, "that sounds exhausting," to "camp is the best thing ever!" My response--in order--is this: "because I can," "it is hard," and "I agree--camp is the best thing ever!"
For a lot of children, camp--of any kind--is a turning point. Because I'm at a diabetes camp, that's where my focus is going to be. And for me, diabetes camp certainly was a turning point.
As many of you know, I was diagnosed with diabetes at the young age of 17 months old. I don't remember NOT having diabetes. I DO remember running and hiding when it was shot time, or refusing to eat--because I could. My poor mother will probably die early due to my diabetical hijinks. Sorry, Mom. I...love you?
Anyway, I went to my very first diabetes camp--the one I happen to be at this week, by the way--in 1992. I was ten years old, and I had never given myself a shot. I wanted to learn to do that so I could finally go to the sleepovers I kept being invited to. That was my final hurdle to freedom. I wasn't quite ready on Day 1, but on Day 2? I was gangbusters. I woke up with a mission: nobody was going to give me that breakfast shot but ME. And you know what? I did. Because I could. In one split second, my life changed and I was awarded privileges most ten-year-olds take for granted.
I've watched that happen over the course of this week. I've watched kiddos do things they never thought they were capable of, and I've watched lives be transformed. Because they could. Because they did.
Just because you grow up doesn't mean the victories stop. In fact, they become that much sweeter (pardon the pun). I'm not going to lie when I say I get nervous about impending lab results or eye exams, but when they come back and I realize I continue to put diabetes in its place, then I'm the first one to jump around my room like a banshee. Because I can. Because I did.
I'd also like to be the first to point out that I can probably say these things because of a lot of luck, but I'd like to think there was a fair amount of hard work on the part of a lot of people that made that happen. I say that because I know a lot of people who haven't been as fortunate that have also worked really hard. I can't tell you why things worked out differently for them, but they didn't and I don't think it should be assumed it's because they did less work than I did.
To get back to my point, though: I'll be real honest when I say that there are times diabetes sucks. It just does. Even the best jobs in the world have their days. However, I don't think this was all for naught. I truly believe that God picked me to be diagnosed for a reason. He knew I could handle it and wanted to use me to do great things with it. Things like being an educator, or going to camp and helping these kids realize what great potential they have. How much they really are "like everybody else." Do I wish maybe God would've chosen something for me based on my impeccable sense of style? It would've bed nice, but I think the things He chose for me are pretty great. To get to see these kids achieve and overcome is probably one of the highest honors I could accomplish.
To those parents of the kids I've worked with this week: I thank you for the opportunity to get to be part of their learning and fun. I also thank you for reminding me to keep going forward. Today, I set a new goal for myself: I want to be the first Joslin Medal for 100 Years of Successful living with diabetes (hey--I'm only 70 years away!). Because I could. Because I can. Because I will.