Type 1 Diabetes Camp on Catalina Island

I just had my first ever camping experience, and it was AMAZING! I attended an Adults-only Type 1 Diabetes Slipstream by Connected in Motion.

SoCal SlipstreamSlipstream is a camping weekend for adults living with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). It includes outdoor activities and opportunities to socialize, learn, and share experiences.  We took a ferry to a camp site on Catalina Island, just outside of Los Angeles, California.

I wanted to attend this event for several reasons, including:

  • I want to connect with with others with T1D
  • I want to learn as much as possible about how to manage T1D
  • I want to get back into being active and fit
  • I want a holiday with some fresh air
  • I want to be on a boat and an island
  • I want to experience camping for the first time!

The weekend met all of theses desires, plus much more. I laughed, I learned, I got inspired. I ate, I exercised, I slept, I wept, and I connected.

I laughed.

Laughs were plentiful throughout the weekend. In particular, Tom always had something funny to say, and he has a joyful story about his diabetes alert dog (lucky them to have each other). I also was fortunate to spend some time with Melva who was inspirational and funny. Generally, everyone was in such high spirits, so smiles and laughter were just par for the course.

I learned.

Libby Rome and Adam Brown
Libby with Adam Brown

The first book I read after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) in June 2017 was Bright Spots and Landmines by Adam Brown. I didn’t know this when I signed up for camp, but Adam was one of the presenters. He shared useful tips for having tighter control of your blood sugar levels via Food (he promotes <30g carbs per meal), Mindset, Exercise, and Sleep. One simple tip I found useful is to stop considering pricking my finger as a “test,” but rather a “check” of my blood sugar. A test implies that I could pass or fail. A check implies gathering a number simply for data analysis. No judgment, no emotions.

Adam also had a session on the latest trends in technology to manage T1D. Between that session and many discussions with actual users of the technology, I learned all the different brands along with real-life pros and cons.

Camp Emerald Catalina Island Wonderful People, Learning About Medtronic vs. Tandem CGMs
Erik and Geneva sharing their experiences with their CGMs

Although only about 1/3 people with T1D wear pumps, I think around 55 out of the 60 people at this camp wore pumps. (I assume it’s because this group is a bit more active and also working hard to control their diabetes.) Most of the group also had a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) attached.

The weekend actually convinced me to move forward with trying both a CGM and a pump. I am going to request to see an endocrinologist (a tip from everyone!) and try out different devices. I also learned about DIY options that are quite interesting, too! I’ll be researching and sharing as I go.

I also gained many other tips, tricks, and general wisdom from many people who have had diabetes for many years. Erik and Geneva were quite helpful in explaining the differences between their CGMs. By the way, Erik has a great blog at DiabetesAbroad.com

I got inspired.

Panels of Inspiration
Hikers and cyclists who met inspirational goals

There were people there that have cycled across America and hiked for 6 days in the wilderness. They shared their stories of how they prepared and then tackled this intense activity. It gave me inspiration and confidence that I can be fit and active again too.

By participating in the outdoor activities, I also feel more confident that, with diligence, I can get back into a fitness routine. I am ready to be strong again!

 

I ate.

The food was much better than I expected. There was always a hot meal along with a salad bar, consistently served on time at meal times. My favorite meal was curry with brown rice. There were also desserts, which I easily ignored by filling myself up with plenty of veggies. We also had wine and cheese the first night, and some of the cool ladies brought extra their own bottles of wine to share the second night. (Thanks, ladies!)

Camp Food

I exercised. (Really?!)

It didn’t feel like exercise! It felt like having fun and enjoying life! I enjoyed yoga on the dock first thing in the morning. I loved listening to the waves and seagulls while moving, stretching, and breathing in the cool, clean air.

I later went on what was described as a “moderate-level” hike. I was quite winded the whole way because I haven’t been in my regular fitness routine for several months.  In the end, I’m glad I challenged myself and did it.

Hiking Catalina Island

My favorite activity was kayaking. I had never tried it before, and my new T1D friend Gayle helped me get started. I loved moving around the water in my little kayak, and on such a beautiful day with ideal weather.

Libby on a Kayak

I slept.

I paid a bit extra to get an upgraded cabin, which I think meant that we had our own indoor bathroom and shower. Well worth it! It was fun sleeping in a sleeping bag for the first time in my adult life. I didn’t sleep great, but well enough to have FUN!

I wept.

The weekend brought out an intense, complex set of emotions in me. I was doing fine emotionally for the first 24 hours. Then I walked away from the group after dinner, feeling pretty down, both physically and emotionally. I began to cry and couldn’t stop for about an hour. I was finally able to compose myself, just long enough to get back to my cabin and cry some more. Then my suitemate Kathi walked in. She kindly sat with me and said all the things I needed to hear.

The next day, I attended a Mental Health session. I actually wasn’t going to attend because I really wanted to try archery. However, I had hurt my hand in a fall the day before, so I chose to go to this class instead. Thank goodness!

Mark Heyman, a diabetes psychologist who has T1D himself, led the session. He started by asking the group if anyone had anything they wanted to discuss. I started to cry as soon as I just thought about speaking up. A few minutes later, I shared with the group that I was basically bedridden with depression and anxiety for the first few months when I was first diagnosed with T1D. I’m doing much better, but it’s still a challenge coping. I listened intently as many people offered kind words of advice and support. This was the best therapy session I could have asked for. I learned so much from the stories and tips people shared, and my heart grew bigger from all the support people provided me and each other.

I also wept for others, as unfortunately there are a lot of sad stories in the world of T1D.  Generally everyone looks on the bright side though, and there were lots of hugs available for any consoling needed.

I connected.

This was my first time physically meeting others with T1D. Our disease enabled an instant connection, and many of those connections became deeper as we talked.  I suddenly have a large network of people I can call on to ask a question or just to say hi.  I previously felt like I could handle this disease by myself, along with a few connections on Facebook. However, this network provides an invaluable abundance of support and experience.  Simply being connected to others again has given me new hope and perspective.

Camp Emerald Catalina Island Wonderful People, Valuable Conversations
Wonderful conversations with wonderful people

(By the way, for the nice woman who took this picture above, I’m so sorry to have not offered to take a picture with you included. How rude of me!)

Guess who’s planning on going to future Slipstreams?  Me!!!

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3 comments

  1. Libby….I am so glad that you experienced such a caring and supportive group which will continue…..and fun times as well! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. I am proud of the positive, corageous way you are living your life.
    My Love Always,
    Mom Whitehawk

    Liked by 1 person

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