I started this series a couple of years ago but only managed two letters before I promptly forgot about it. But now I’m back with the latest edition all about diabetes camp.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband, Erik, and I visited my homestate of Oregon for a week. We were in town for a friend’s wedding and then stayed the rest of the week so that I could celebrate my 30th birthday with my family (yep, I’m officially 30, in case anyone is keeping track). One of our favorite places to visit while in Oregon is the Oregon Coast, which is unlike the typical beach that most of you are probably familiar with because the forest literally goes up to the beach. We decided to spend one of our days driving out there (it’s about 90 minutes away from my parents’ house).
On our way out there, I told Erik that we would be driving right by the diabetes camp where I went when I was growing up. I asked him if it would be alright if we stopped by so I could show it to him. It seemed silly to drive literally past their driveway and not at least take a peek, even though I wasn’t sure we’d be allowed to walk around.
I had attended Gales Creek Camp for a couple of years right after I was diagnosed, and then I attended again for three summers when I was in high school. I met some great friends there, several of whom I’m still in touch with via the magic of Facebook (I even interviewed one of my camp friends for Diabetes Forecast because she’s kind of a big deal in the D-community).
Driving down the gravel road from the main road to the camp brought back so many memories. I started getting giddy and excited and I wasn’t even going as a camper! That’s how much of an impact this place had on me — and the kind of impact it can have on a kid with diabetes.
When we parked, I immediately recognized the pool (a favorite activity) and the basketball court (never once stepped foot on that thing). As we walked further, we were met by two camp counselors who were very sweet but seemed maybe a little suspicious about what two strange adults were doing at the camp on a Tuesday morning. I told them I used to be a camper, and when they asked me when I was a camper, the phrase “fifteen years ago” got stuck in my throat. Considering I was about to turn 30 just a couple days later, the whole thing made me feel really old!
The counselors got permission to walk us through camp, but almost everything looked the same so I didn’t really need a tour guide. I showed Erik the Medical Building, where we did all of our “tests and shots” (it’s still called this, even though I’m sure many campers are on the pump), the Arts & Crafts building, and the dormitories.
We crossed Gales Creek (yes, an actual creek) to the dining hall where Bubba, the camp director from when I was a camper, was working in the kitchen.
It was so fun to catch up with Bubba and introduce her to Erik. We reminisced about the counselors and campers, and I updated her on who was married and who had kids. Again feeling really, really old.
Bubba invited us to stay for lunch (Taco Tuesday) which we graciously accepted. The camp food was pretty good, although I was surprised to see they still use carb exchanges for their meals. I suppose it makes it easier to carb count, but I always thought it was kind of weird. But in most instances, camp is cutting edge, with the best medical staff around. We even saw one of the endocrinologists who worked as the Camp Doctor when I was at camp, which just goes to show the kind of loyalty that people can have with a diabetes camp!
We sat down to eat with the counselor who originally welcomed us, and a couple of campers joined us. They were about 9-years-old, which is about the same age I was when I started going to GCC. I wanted to find out what their favorite activities are, so I asked “What’s your favorite thing about camp?.”
Without missing a beat, one girl replied, “A chance to be normal.”
Amen, sister. Amen. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or where you’re doing it. When you’re with your people, that’s all that matters.