DTreat Tampa Attendees - July 2011

DTreat Utah – August 26-28, 2011

Over the past month I’ve shared some of my experiences with DTreat, a diabetes retreat for young adults who are transitioning into their independent lives with diabetes. Scott Johnson has also shared a post about DTreat.

DTreat LogoNow, you or a young adult in your life can be part of DTreat too! Over the weekend of August 26-28, 2011, join other young adults with diabetes (Type 1 or 2) at Camp Red Cliffe in Huntsville, Utah. Where is that you say? Have no fear, it’s here!

DTreat Utah - Camp Red Cliffe

DTreat Utah - Camp Red Cliffe, Huntsville, Utah

All of the information that you need to sign up is on the Diabetes Camps web site. The $50.00 registration includes meals, snacks, accommodations, the program itself, and entertainment. Beyond the registration fee, all you have to do is get there. Seriously, if you’re a young adult between the ages of 18-25 (or even a little older) with diabetes, you can’t afford to miss this event.

DTreat provides an opportunity for you to come together with other young adults for a 3-day program where you can talk through issues with peers and get real-life advice. DTreat provides support and the tools for healthy living that give participants positive well-being and connection to supportive social networks. At DTreat young adults will have the opportunity to partake in a series of discussion style groups, workshops, and sessions geared toward life-affecting topics such as:

  • Health insurance and finances
  • Diabetes “burn out”
  • Time management with diabetes in your life
  • Stress management
  • Partying
  • Sexuality

I wish so much that something like DTreat had existed when I was transitioning into adulthood. I could have learned a lot about how to manage diabetes in my own life, and I also feel like it would have helped me to open up about my diabetes with others.

I know that parents worry about their children moving into the independence of adulthood and dealing with all the responsibilities of diabetes, and not being able to be there to help them. As a young adult, I know that we want to experience the excitement of life, our first job, college, relationships, traveling and adventure, and not let diabetes hold us back. DTreat is something that can help both parents and young adults alike by teaching and demonstrating to young adults that the responsibilities of diabetes absolutely do not have to hold you back from a life full of amazing experiences.

I hope you will attend this event. I hope that if you know of someone that would benefit from this event, that you will send them a link to this blog post. I hope that you will help me spread the word about DTreat, and help make a statement about how important programs like this are to the future of people with diabetes.

Like these people with diabetes.

DTreat Tampa Attendees - July 2011

DTreat Tampa - July 2011

Cake Balls - by Catherine Jane Vancak


At DTreat in Tampa, Florida over the July 4th holiday weekend, I got to meet some incredibly special people with Type 1 diabetes. It wasn’t their diabetes that made them special, or that they had superpowers, or even that they had three hands and could magically put in an arm site for their Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) sensor without having to ask someone else for help. (Okay, maybe that last one is just my wishful thinking.)

What made these young adults special were the fantastic things that they were doing with their lives while living with diabetes. The majority of the folks there were college students, who were preparing for awesome careers in their not-so-distant future. There were young adults there who were transitioning from college, who were getting prepared to or already dealing with diabetes in a full-time job role. I looked around, and I saw lawyers, nurses, teachers, psychologists, dancers, librarians, social workers, and even baristas. (Believe me, if you don’t think a barista is an important job, apparently you’ve never been around me in the morning before I’ve had my coffee.)

Two weeks after DTreat, I got a notification on Facebook that I had been tagged in a photo by my friend Catherine Vancak. Because I’m a complete photo whor…um, opportunist…and I like to be in as many of them as I possibly can (just ask Scott Johnson), I traveled over to Catherine’s page to see what Kodak moment I had been captured in this time. That’s when I found the shot of her balls. (Yeah, you try working that line into a blog post and get away with it…that just happened!)

Cake Balls - by Catherine Jane Vancak

Cake balls! Made by my friend and bolusing ballerina ball baker Catherine Vancak.

While in Tampa, I was asked to speak to the group about how to connect with others who live with diabetes, the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), and ways to take the DTreat experience home. One of the things I talked about pulled from my own personal experience of not having anyone with diabetes to connect with for 28 of my 30 years with Type 1. I stressed to my new, pancreatically challenged friends the importance of not letting the opportunity that they had to connect pass them by. I encouraged them to exchange phone numbers, email addresses, become friends on Facebook, follow each other on Twitter, sign up for TuDiabetes, or Juvenation, or get involved with Students with Diabetes. Whatever way they could to keep in touch.

I wish so much that I had had the opportunity to know more people with diabetes earlier in my lifetime, and that makes me eternally grateful for those that I have become so close with in my life now.

Catherine had made these cake balls, and had tagged each ball with the name of a friend that she had met at DTreat that she had gotten to know and who had made an impact on her life with diabetes. They were her way to connect. To me, it was a clear indication of how important it is to have other people with diabetes in our world, and the positive impact we have on each other.

As Catherine said, “I need to make more balls so I can add more diabetic friends!”

Don’t we all.


P.S. – Remember I mentioned that there were dancers at DTreat? Catherine is a trained ballerina, with Type 1 diabetes. Proof that with diabetes, motivation comes from what we can do, not from what we can’t do. Dream big. There is nothing you can’t do with diabetes.

Catherine Vancak - Ballerina

Catherine Vancak

DTreat - Tampa - Day 1 Circle

DTreat: With Diabetes

After an amazing evening Friday, on Saturday we started the DTreat day off with Joe Solowiejczyk (who has had Type 1 diabetes for over 50 years) talking about the psychological aspects of diabetes. With diabetes, we get a lot of feelings. It is a struggle sometimes to not let the negative emotions overwhelm us: Anger, sadness, depression, frustration, exhaustion, fatigue, and sometimes even boredom from feeling like we’re doing nothing but the same things over and over.

Joe encouraged us to allow those emotions to come up, because they will lead to what is really going on and the things that we really need to give attention to most. Whether you have diabetes or not, it’s important that we learn to deal with our emotions in a healthy way so that we don’t adopt a more detrimental pattern of behavior.

Something Joe proposed to our group at DTreat really stuck with me. I don’t think there is one person that doesn’t get depressed at some point in relation to life with their diabetes. It is okay to feel that way, and something we need to be okay with dealing with. It is a progressive and all-consuming disease, and sometimes we just don’t have the strength to push back. He suggested that when we’re starting to feel this way, we should schedule a Diabetes Depression Day.

We all do so well taking care of our diabetes day in and day out, going to work, school, church, raising children, traveling, and everything else that comes are way. As a group of people, the things that people with diabetes are able to accomplish truly defines what it means to be heroes. We save our life with every decision we make throughout the day, and it’s often a thankless job. It is hard for us to appreciate what we do because we HAVE to do it. We work so hard day after day to avoid complications, not to win a prize. The prize is when we don’t get anything at all as a result of diabetes. When you take a Diabetes Depression Day, it forces you to take the day off from work, or school, or other previously scheduled activity and take a day for you. You can even take more than one if you need it. You have the choice of a day to give in, where with diabetes, you did not.

Joe said that on his day, he tells his friends and family ahead of time that he is going to take whatever day off for his diabetes day, and he has them call every hour to tell him how awesome and courageous he is for what he has accomplished in his life with diabetes. Then, on the night before, he goes to the store and gets two different kinds of ice cream and movies to watch. He said, “I didn’t have a choice with the diabetes, but I have a choice in what type of ice cream I want and what movies I want to watch.” By the time he starts his day with ice cream and movies, and folks calling him and telling him how awesome he is, it doesn’t take long before he is in better spirits.

Speaking of spirit, Joe also explained to us that there is a spirit of powerlessness that is at the core of diabetes, and something we fight every single day. He said at one point, “There is nothing more helpless than an adult with a low blood sugar.”

I can certainly appreciate that, because yesterday morning (24 hours after Joe’s talk with us), I had a severe low BG myself. Thank goodness I was around people who “get it” and understood that I needed some help. One of my three roommates, Tremayne, found me on the floor after I had gotten out of bed, dressed, brushed my teeth, and that was the last thing I remember before seeing him, my other roommate Zack, and Mike who works with people with diabetes every single day. They stuck me with glucagon, and were patient with me and eventually helped me to get back to normal.

This low BG was the same as others that have put me down before in that I’m still sore all over from the seizing up, and my tongue is swollen and hard to talk and chew from the involuntary biting, and I was super nauseous (I suspect from the Glucagon). What made this low BG different (and so great!) was when I joined back up with my DTreat friends, not one single person made me feel guilty, or embarrassed, or anything less than a part of the group. I think that is because we all know that it could be any of us in that severe low BG situation, and we all know that it is nobody’s fault, especially not our own. As Joe said, “There is no one that judges us as harshly as we judge ourselves.” We can only do as best we can with all of the unpredictability that comes with a life of diabetes. If anything is to blame, we should leave that burden right where it belongs…with diabetes.

DTreat - Tampa - Day 1 Circle

Our first circle of support at DTreat Tampa, 2011.

Welcome to DTreat

Welcome to DTreat

I worked last night until 11 o’clock trying to get things that I absolutely had to do accomplished. Then I went home and did laundry, and I was supposed to pack and get all my stuff together for the DTreat. But I didn’t. Nope. I fell asleep before anything sensible like that could be accomplished. That’s what happens after you go full throttle all day and night.

Know what else happens? You wake up low and move at a snails pace with the half realization that there is no possible way you’re going to get everything that you failed to accomplish the night before done in time to get to where you’re supposed to be later in the day. I scrambled around and finally managed to leave the house in time to get to DTreat in Tampa before things kicked off at 6 o’clock. However, I forgot that it is the Friday before the July 4th holiday weekend. I ran into more traffic and accidents than I had budgeted time for, so I finally made it to the DTreat almost two hours after registration had been scheduled to close. At one point I was sitting on I-75 with my car parked and turned off, ten miles away from the DTreat, and no way to get there but wait for the Florida Highway Patrol to clear the accident that was ahead. I called A-Flizzle practically in tears of frustration, I had a massive headache from not eating all day, and I was so close, yet so far way.

It was a horrible day. Until I saw this…

Welcome to DTreat

…and that made all the difference in the world.

I arrived at DTreat just in time to miss dinner, but also just in time to get to meet other people with Type 1 diabetes who are just like me. We started with an exercise that was an icebreaker, basically introducing ourselves. It occurred to me as we were doing an exercise that demonstrated our strength and ability to make things happen as a group that even though I didn’t yet know the names of most of the people there, there was not a stranger in that room. Every single person within those four walls “gets it.” They understand the seemingly random beeps of a pump and CGM monitor. They don’t think twice about pricking a finger and testing before having a snack. They know what it’s like to be “low” and “high,” and have wildly entertaining stories to go with each.

These are my people.

I am so thankful for the folks here who are in college, transitioning from life with parents to life on their own, and the fact that they have something as amazing as DTreat to help them deal with their diabetes while they deal with their new found independence.

I am so thankful for those folks here who are just beyond college, and are transitioning into a professional life of a contributing adult in society, and that they have this amazing opportunity to meet other adults who are doing and have done that same exact thing.

I didn’t have this opportunity when I was in those various transition stages of life. I didn’t have anyone. That’s why I am so very thankful that I have this opportunity, to be a part of something bigger than just me, and to be able to see, hear, touch, and be touched by others and know without a doubt that I’m not alone with my diabetes.

Nicole Johnson, former Miss America, and pretty much boss of breaking the mold of what you can and can’t do with Type 1 diabetes, is greatly involved with the DTreat. She talked to us a bit tonight about finding the fire to fuel your life with diabetes. You don’t have to be perfect with diabetes. It’s okay for all of us to identify things that we suck at, especially with our diabetes. (Side note: Nicole didn’t say “suck,” because she is more eloquent then I am. That’s all me, Martin Wood, paraphrasing by using words out of my full color English dictionary.) Nicole stressed that if you can find the strengths in your life with diabetes, and use that perspective as fuel, it will make you stronger and help you overcome those days when diabetes wins.

DTreat - Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson at DTreat

There was one exercise that we did tonight that identifies some of the big issues we deal with while living life with diabetes. While this event does focus on Type 1 PWD’s, many of the topics identified resonate throughout the diabetes community, regardless of type. Things like traveling with diabetes, exercise, relationships, insurance, stress, diet, family, work, technology, myths and misconceptions. I’m looking forward to the discussion about these topics over the next couple of days.

Something that I realized when I was looking at all of the notes on the walls and seeing all of these other amazing people adding their thoughts to them was that we are most assuredly not alone with diabetes. Looking around the room, everybody there has as many questions about their diabetes as I have about my own. Those that have lived with diabetes only a few months, and those who have lived with diabetes for decades, we all have questions.

I know that this DTreat is not going to answer all of those questions. Just knowing that someone else is asking the same questions about their diabetes as I am makes me feel a whole lot better about not knowing all the answers.