There’s a Reason We Don’t Call it “Hibegon”

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"What do you do at camp?" Liz’s endocrinologist asked her when she told him she was headed for Camp Lobegon. "Do you go to meetings? Attend lectures?"

"We eat," she responded.

“It’s good food,” says Cheryl, who married into the “family” last year and had…er, got…to come to camp this year.

“Eventually,” Liz predicts, “we’ll learn about the carb count in hard lemonade.”

Camp Lobegon (where the lancets are sharp, the carbs are counted, and all the BGs are in normal ranges) is a group of friends who load up the family and trek to a private lake in the Midwest every summer. We rent however many cabins we need, depending on the number of people coming, and take the trek through the country and down a dirt road to the middle of nowhere. Cell phones don’t generally work there, clocks are difficult to find, the children run amok, and there is no pizza delivery.

We come from all walks of life and from all over the country and we met on the Internet. There aren’t many criteria—mainly that at least one person in each family uses an insulin pump—and it helps to be nuts. Or at least to have a very good sense of humor.

But back to food. Yes, we do cook some up, but we do not eat 24/7. In fact, we never got around to making the jalapeño cornbread, jalapeño cole slaw, tomato and mozzarella salad, Kentucky Hot Browns, chocolate frozen yogurt, pound cake, or saffron risotto. No pancakes, either, but that was because we ran out of milk.

What did we eat? Fresh corn on the cob so good it didn’t need butter. Tomatoes from Carolyn’s garden. Roger made his five-bean chili while his bride, Cheryl, showed off her South African roots by making bobotie. Whole-grain baguettes seasoned with butter, garlic, and herbs picked from Carolyn’s garden and slid under the broiler. Barbecued brisket. Pasta with a choice of sauces. Made-to-order waffles with syrup created with sugar, water, and Mexican vanilla that one of the children deemed “better than maple syrup.” Plenty of fresh fruits and as much salad as you wanted to eat. And very important: Rachel’s birthday cake. She turned 11 on the first day of Camp Lobegon.

OK, we had a chocolate fountain, too. It was put together and mostly utilized by the children. I’ll always have a mental image of 8-year-old Zoe, head tipped back to accept a chocolate-covered Rainier cherry, with a stream of chocolate running down her chin.

In addition to—and sometimes during—eating, we talk. While we don’t have meetings or formal programs or lectures, our informal talks tend to impart a lot of knowledge.

You’re likely to find us discussing how the different rapid-acting insulin analogs work for us, or how people’s reaction to pramlintide (brand name Symlin) differs.

Roger, who’s had Type 1 diabetes for 60 years, can be good for a history lesson. In the “good ol’ days” of urine testing, he related this year, he would “run around the block and run around the block some more until the Clinitest wasn’t orange any more.” At which point he’d be hypoglycemic.

At Camp Lobegon, a rowboat or canoe ride or a walk around the lake usually does the trick. Unless you’re Randall, in which case a canoe ride is likely to end in a swim, and we have the pictures to prove it.

Liz learned how to insert a sensor and calibrate a continuous glucose monitor. Unfortunately, the first sensor didn’t work at all, and the second one gave about 15 minutes’ worth of numbers and then quit. And then we were out of extra sensors for her to try. She never did find out what her blood glucose did overnight, but we tried.

It would be nice if we could figure out how to make our spouses who have diabetes pay a bit more attention to their eating habits and behaviors but, in the meantime, we take Carolyn’s advice to “just make sure [their] life insurance is paid up.”

Getting a bit hypoglycemic? There’s no better place to be, since a number of people are likely to notice before you do that some juice or another form of fast-acting carbohydrate is in order.

“Blast it!” somebody might say (not necessarily in those exact words). “My batteries are low and I forgot to remember to bring extras. Did anybody bring an insulin syringe like you’re supposed to?” And, yes, somebody did.

Alas, camp is over for this year, but another is coming up in 2008. Cheryl has mentioned curried chicken and Carolyn is already planning to practice making roti to go with it. And maybe by then we’ll have figured out how many carbs are in hard lemonade.

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