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When a Camp is a Support Group

Jan Chait

August 22, 2006

We—my husband, our grandchildren, and one of their friends—recently returned from our annual week at the lake with friends from here and there from across the country. It’s more than just a gathering at the lake, however. It’s a family gathering in more ways than one. That is, entire families come and, together, we form a larger family. We also have a couple of things in common.

For one, in each family there is at least one person who uses an insulin pump. Imagine: a place where diabetes is normal and people who don’t have diabetes are the weird ones. We call it Camp Lobegon (where the lancets are sharp, the carbs are counted, and all the BGs are in normal ranges). One person calls it his annual support group.

And the other commonality? We all have computers. In fact, that’s the way we met. As one of our group, Liz, wrote about the first weekend we got together: “Some of us were a bit leery—and understandably so. After all, we were going to a small lake centrally located in the middle of nowhere to spend the weekend with a bunch of people we had met on the Internet. At least one of those people had repeatedly mentioned a fondness for explosives.”

Thankfully, the only explosions were those of friendship.

“Saying the people at camp liked each other is a bit mild,” another camper, Randall, wrote. “It was like discovering that you’d suddenly been stuck in the middle of a whole pile … of best friends … We were blessed with an abundance of good humor, balanced with a little off-the-wall craziness and a bond of abandonment of our fears. It was a safe place among good-natured people and we all responded in kind … What other environment would have given people the freedom to ask some of the questions that were asked and give the honest answers? Now if we could just make camp a few days longer…”

Well, we did make camp a few days longer after that first weekend. As for the questions, the one I remember most went like this:

Sara, to the Southern Baptist minister, referring to his insulin pump: “Do you disconnect before sex?”

“Depends on how much of a hurry he’s in,” his wife retorted.

At Camp Lobegon, the children aren’t the only ones who have fun with water balloons. “Look at me!” Deb once shouted as she came loping across the yard, the top of her bathing suit bulging with filled balloons, “I’m Jan!” (She’s just jealous.)

Once, when Randall tipped his canoe over before he could leave the dock, we rushed to … get our cameras.

Blood glucose levels always seem to drop shortly after people arrive at Camp Lobegon, but it’s unknown whether that’s due to that “abandonment of fear” thing or to the lure of the traditional triple-chocolate fudge.

Support is not confined to those of us who have diabetes. As the men were sitting around a campfire the first year we met, they began talking about dealing with their wives’ lows. In that moment, each discovered he was not alone: Each had experienced the concerns and the frustrations of dealing with us.

(I wonder if they know we sometimes discuss the concerns and frustrations of dealing with them dealing with us.)

Now that camp is over for another year—I can’t wait for the next one!



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