I know we have a few parents who lurk on ShootUp so I’ll take this opportunity to bang one of my favourite drums. Back in the dark ages, when I was young, I went on numerous Diabetes UK children’s camps. I loved them. Learning to abseil, kayak and orienteer with other pancreatically challenged types was just fantastic. It was an upside to having diabetes.
My first camp, aged 5 was when I realised that there were other people in the world who had diabetes, it wasn’t just me. I was surrounded by 40 other kids who looked normal, but who did blood tests and injections too. Amazing.
It got me away from my parents too. Which was a great thing, because it helped me start to take a tiny bit of responsibility for my diabetes. I was enveloped in cotton wool on the camp, surrounded by Drs, nurses and helpers who’d help me check my blood sugars, decide what insulin I should take, keep an eye out for hypos, make sure I ate when I needed to. But it was the first time I’d ever done that without my parents there. And when you’ve done that, it makes sleepovers with friends a much less terrifying prospect.
It created a great competitive spirit too. I saw so many kids do their first injection all by themselves at camp. Because there’s nothing more embarrassing than being a 7 year old who has to be injected by the Dr when there’s a 6 year old next to you doing it themselves.
I can’t even bring myself to adopt my usual sarcastic, slightly cynical style when it comes to Diabetes UK camps and family weekends. I think they are the most valuable thing Diabetes UK does. Their family weekends give parents and kids a chance to learn about diabetes, but more importantly, to meet other people going through the same nightmare and realise that they can get through it. I’ve spoken at a few of the family weekends about growing up with diabetes and I love doing it – you can see people visibly change. From terrified newcomers facing a life dominated by an evil chronic disease, to people who can see how to get a grasp on the diabetes monster and live well despite it.
Seriously, if you have a child with diabetes, get them onto a Diabetes UK children’s holiday. Or take the family on one of their Family Weekends. If money is an issue, there is funding available from various sources, details on the website. I think a big part of living successfully with diabetes is having self confidence and a positive mindset – that’s what these events are really about. With a large portion of fun on the side.
Gush over. Normal service will resume shortly.