CDF is thrilled to welcome new-yet-old staffer Kelsey Tullis as our new
Community Relations Coordinator!
As many of you might know, Kelsey has not only been a camper herself but also a counselor at Chris Dudley Basketball Camp, and has also helped out at Gales Creek Camp and Riding on Insulin. A college graduate of George Fox University and alumni of Corbett High School, Kelsey will be helping to organize Camp, leading us on the "Walk/Run Where You Are" campaign in May 2017, and assisting in other areas of the Foundation's work where needed. Her enthusiasm and passion for helping others is a perfect fit with CDF's values and goals - we sure are lucky to have her! Please learn more and hear from Kelsey directly on her new blog, More Than A Number
by Kelsey Tullis
Getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is life changing. It throws your whole world upside down, your routines out of wack, and your emotions all over the place. However, my life changed not once, but twice in 1999.
In May of '99, my life was turned upside down by my diagnosis. I was a seven-year-old learning to give myself injections, what could be normal about that?
But, in July of '99, I attended a diabetes camp for the first time, and I dare say, this changed my life even more than my diagnosis did.
As I have mentioned in past posts, I often have conversations with parents of children with T1D about my childhood. They ask what my parents did in regards to diabetes that was helpful and how we handled certain situations.
Without a doubt, sending me to camp was the best thing my parents did.
I have a hard time writing about camp. My struggle is not with talking about camp - trust me, I could talk about it for hours. But I hesitate for fear that I don't have the right words to do it justice. The magic that happens at camp is truly indescribable.
I have a vivid memory from when I was about 10 years old. I was lying in my bed, curled up in my pink comforter, and my mom was going over my logbook. Trying to combat high blood sugars and getting used to my first insulin pump, our emotions were stretched thin, and our patience, waning. I remember looking up at my mom and asking the question that I am sure is all too familiar to you: "Why me?"
I believe that everything happens for a reason. I can't identify exactly when I started feeling it, but as I got older, I began to feel this overwhelming sense of... why.
Okay, that seems crazy, right? How could a lifetime of managing a chronic illness be leveled out by a few weeks spent in the woods, sleeping on bunk beds, and making friendship bracelets? But for me, it wasn't about camp overcoming diabetes. Obviously, I still have diabetes. I still get frustrated with my high BGs, still wince every time I put my CGM in, and still have days where I want to throw my pump out the window and just give up. I ran a stubborn 300 all day today and couldn't concentrate on anything.
Diabetes isn't fun.
It was about the way camp eased the burden of diabetes, even just for a week. The blessings that have come into my life through camp somehow make the struggles so much more bearable.
I met my best friends through camp. When I first started going to camp, I only knew one other person with T1D. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by kids my age who understood what I was going through, who didn't ask questions when I poked my finger or pulled out my pump. As I grew up, these friendships grew and strengthened. We became friends outside of the one week we spent together every summer. We became friends who supported each other through the ups and downs of life, not just the highs and lows. In truth, we became a family of sorts, and everyone that came to camp was automatically included in that family, no questions asked.
I learned some of the most influential lessons at camp, and through the people I have met at camp. I was constantly inspired to take better care of my diabetes, and to learn how to do so. But I also learned so much about myself, outside of diabetes.
At camp, I was able to just be... me. If you are a teenager in today's day and age, you know how much of a struggle feeling comfortable in your own skin can be. It seems to be a common theme throughout today's youth; second guessing ourselves, feeling insecure, trying to fit in...
But at camp, all of those things seemed to take a back seat. I learned more about myself in a week, in the middle of nowhere than I did in a whole year at high school.
I think the reason I was able to feel this way at camp was the support. I had wonderful counselors to look up to and laugh with. I was lucky enough to have an amazing camp director at the camp that I attended for the majority of my childhood. She was (and still is) supportive, loving, and encouraging. She loved me for exactly who I am. She made time to see me outside of camp, and today our relationship has turned into an amazing friendship. I know that I wouldn't be who I am today with out her.
Relationships like these are what inspired me to come back to camp as a counselor. When I was 18, I started spending my time at camp as a staff member. A lot of people warned me about this. They told me that the magic of camp would disappear when I saw behind the scenes, when it became work. In the past six years, I have worked and volunteered at 3 different diabetes camps, and I can tell you with full confidence that I have discovered what makes camp so magical.