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As a pharmacist in New Brunswick, Katie Doyle thought she knew a fair bit about diabetes. That is, until her daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12 in August 2021. “Now that we are living with diabetes, I realize that I knew nothing at all,” she says.

Katie and her husband, Brett, barely remember the early days after Hannah’s diagnosis. “It was all a bit overwhelming. Every day, from meal to meal, we were in survival mode.” Hannah’s determination to start Grade 7 with her peers just over a week later added an extra layer of stress.

But, as her mom says, nothing keeps Hannah down for long. Although she was terrified of needles when she was younger, Hannah soon learned to give herself insulin injections. Within months, she started looping a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and an insulin pump, which has simplified her diabetes management.

The biggest challenge for Hannah and her parents has been learning to prevent low blood glucose (sugar) levels as the result of activity. From hockey to badminton to golfing and biking, Hannah is on the go a lot. “It is so important to balance her food and exercise,” says Katie. “We don’t want her to miss out on anything or have to sit on the sidelines because of diabetes.”

That includes not missing out on summer camp. When Hannah heard about Diabetes Canada D-Camps from a SnapChat friend who also lives with type 1 diabetes, she was eager to sign up. “I wanted to meet my friend in person, and I was excited to meet other kids like us who have diabetes,” she says. “My other (non-diabetic) friends are really supportive about my diabetes, but they don’t really understand what it is like.”

In March 2022, Katie, Brett, Hannah and her two younger sisters excitedly made the three-hour trip from their home in Moncton to Diabetes Canada’s Maritimes Family Camp in Nova Scotia.  What they didn’t know beforehand was how much the whole family would benefit from the experience.

“It was awesome! We all had an amazing time,” says Katie. The Doyles bonded over fun family activities like archery and canoeing, and then parents and kids went their separate ways to connect with their peers.

Like Hannah, Katie really appreciated the opportunity to talk with others who really understand what it is like to live with diabetes. “We arrived at camp at 7 p.m. on Friday and left at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and every minute was amazing,” she says. Both mother and daughter agree that one of the best parts of family camp was forging new friendships that will last long beyond that weekend.

The other bonus was the huge boost in confidence Hannah gained in managing her diabetes. “She saw other kids her age treating their lows independently, and realized she could do it too,” says Katie.

Hannah will have a chance to grow and become even more confident when she attends Camp Lion Maxwelll this August. She is excited to go to sleepover camp for the first time, to meet more kids with diabetes and to have the opportunity to practise some of the independence that she gained at Maritimes Family Camp. She says,

I saw other kids using pumps, testing their sugars, doing all the things I do. They know what I am going through, and I know what they are going through. I have more trust in myself to look after my diabetes now.

Did you know?

Diabetes Canada runs family camps across the country for families with children living with type 1 diabetes. Visit Family Camps to learn more.

Author: Elizabeth Soutar

Category Tags: Camps;

Region: National

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