Finding the Good in Type 1 Diabetes

Tonight as I watched Nicholas David sing his soulful rendition of Lean On Me on The Voice, I couldn’t help but get choked up. It’s one of those songs that each and every one of us knows and attributes a particular memory to, whether a memory of a loved one or of a friend or a place or a feeling. I hear that song and my vision clouds with memories of Camp Sweeney, a diabetes camp in Texas that I went to when I was a teenager. We’d sing Lean On Me at the end of every campfire and it brought us together as a community of kids all inflicted with the same tiring, demanding, and relentless disease.

I can feel the hands of my bunk mates on my shoulders now, standing in circle together, the Sweeney Five playing the song in true Sweeney style. We yell the lyrics at the tops of our lungs, echoing the famous words with comedic additions, like,

for (Sweeney five)
it won’t be long (short)
till I’m gonna need (elbow)

And at the end of the song, we just stand there, literally leaning on each other, and knowing that no matter what, we have each other’s backs. We’re connected by something bigger than ourselves and no matter what, we will always be family.

Camp Sweeney is one of the few experiences that have made me thankful for my diabetes diagnosis. I realize that I’m usually complaining about this disease on The Juice Box Diaries, and rightfully so because it’s tough and, honestly, sucks. But if I’m going to have extra sweet blood, then I might as well make extra sweet lemonade and take a second to think about what diabetes has given me that I can feel thankful for.

It’s taught me an amazing sense of responsibility. It’s made me more aware of keeping my body healthy. It’s challenged me, making me stronger. It’s allowed me to meet amazing people and gives us an instant connection. It’s given me passion to share my story with others. It’s instilled an awareness of others in me, letting me accept people in a deeper capacity and dismiss their ‘flaws’ more easily. And it brought me to Sweeney, two summers of my life that I’ll cherish forever, basking in the fondness of the moments I spent alongside my friends and fellow campers, all sharing that desperate desire for a cure while feeling unbelievably thankful that such a rotten diagnosis could lead us to each other.

I could go on and on about how amazing my time at Sweeney was with anecdotes of our Alpha-Beta rivalries, our all-camp moonlight hikes, our trips into town to go bowling and see movies, and our dances in the gymnasium, which is where I first slow-danced with a boy, most likely to a Rascal Flats song. But to tell you the truth, unless you’ve been to Camp Sweeney, I guarantee you won’t be able to fully appreciate it. So I’ll simply leave you with a few pictures and let the smiles on our faces do the talking (which you can find on the original post on my blog). Remember, it’s National Diabetes Awareness Month right now, and on this 19 of November 2012, I’d like to be known that type 1 diabetes isn’t always a curse.

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Comment by Jane Voltz on November 29, 2012 at 6:49am

Hi Leanne!
My name is Jane, and I have had Type 1 diabetes since 1973. My husband and I moved to the St. Louis area (Edwardsville, IL) a little over 4 years ago. Since we moved here, I have been looking for a good endocrinologist with a good team to work with. I have been to two so far, and they have been ok, but not what I'm looking for. Since you live in the area, do you have any recommendatios? I've been on an insulin pump since 1994 and also wear a CGM (not as often as should, but...), so I need someone well versed on the pump. Thanks!

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