Type 1 Diabetes Camp Changes a Major League Baseball Player’s Life
When I describe to others what having Type 1 diabetes is like, they always marvel at how many finger pokes and insulin injections I give myself (of course they’re also shocked that I actually eat things like carrot cake and mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I could write an entire book about those sorts of comments). As we all know, the challenges presented by having Type 1 diabetes extend far past the physical demands. I think most of us T1Ds would double the number of finger pricks and shots or site changes we have to administer to ourselves if it meant we didn’t have to stress about our glucose levels throughout each and every day.
As emotionally and mentally taxing as T1D can be, I’ve found that surrounding myself by other T1Ds gives me great comfort and relief. As a youngster, I never had a single classmate, teammate or family member who shared my disease. I had my uncle’s cat to confide in, and that was it. Even in college, I encountered just one other Type 1, an athlete at that, but he didn’t seem particularly interested in sharing his experiences with me. It wasn’t until I started my professional baseball career that I learned how powerful the presence of other Type 1s could be.
A few months later we hosted our first annual USF Diabetes Sports Camp. Wow! I can’t think of too many experiences that stack up to that weekend in Tampa. Yes, I felt overwhelming relief and pride from all the hard work we had put in and from the fact that we had kept all of our 100 campers out of the hospital. But I also came away feeling uplifted by the sheer number of T1Ds. A lot of it was very much tangible. Meeting all of our awesome diabetic coaches and sharing stories of our high level competition while dealing with unpredictable stress and sleep schedules is something I’ll always cherish. The seminar we held for campers’ parents brought to light some very real issues and reminded me of some of the fears that my mother and father had endured. And watching the campers delight in each others’ company — and knowing that we were responsible for this — was both exhilarating and humbling.
Beyond that, the mere presence of all those T1Ds in one location empowered me. Much like a sold out baseball stadium or a political rally or even a concert, the power of surrounding yourself by like-minded (or in our case, like-pancreased) people can be very palpable. I remember watching our cheerleading campers perform a cheer at the end of the weekend in front of all the coaches, campers and parents. The cheer was a very cute, touching tribute to me and the whole camp staff, and as I looked around at the bleachers full of kids and saw the smiles on all the cheerleaders’ faces, I felt my eyes watering. How could such a frustrating, horrible, unforgiving disease like Type 1 diabetes possibly bring me such joy and satisfaction?