How optimism empowers children living with type 1 diabetes

By Lindsay McCarthy, with The Barton Center for Diabetes Education

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Be so happy that when others look at you, they become happy, too.

The glass is half full.

Life is good.

We’re surrounded by positive messages. Just a quick search on Instagram will bring up thousands of positive quotes, uplifting stories, and beautiful photos of happy people. But what you’re not always seeing are the challenges; the parts of each day that make you want to start the day over.

These challenges are more common for some than others, making optimism an essential strategy to staying hopeful and happy. In each of the Barton Center for Diabetes Education’s camp programs, we use optimism to empower children with type 1 diabetes. These children are as young as six-years-old, but they face challenges that even a full-grown adult would struggle with.

Here’s what a typical school day may look like for a child living with type 1 diabetes:

  • 3:00 a.m. – Mom or Dad comes into my bedroom to prick my finger for a blood sugar test. But, I get to go back to sleep.
  • 7:00 a.m. – Wake up and prick finger before having breakfast. But, I love waffles.
  • 11:30 a.m. – Dismissed from class and visit the school nurse for a blood test. But, my blood sugar was in range.
  • 2:30 p.m. – Sitting in class. I feel sweaty. I have the shakes. I need to visit the nurse and eat some glucose tabs. But, I know I’ll feel better soon.
  • 3:00 p.m. – It’s time for soccer practice. The team is running drills, but my blood sugar is still low, so I’m going to sit on the sidelines until I’m feeling better. But, at least my friends are supporting me.

This daily schedule is a constant battle for children with type 1 diabetes. But, guess what gets them through? Optimism. For kids with type 1 diabetes, the Barton Center’s programs are a long-awaited break from this daily grind. Kids arrive at camp, and are immediately surrounded by peers, older campers, summer counselors, and adults all thriving with type 1.

Campers are taught to use optimism as a tool to stay positive, especially on the hardest days. Have lunch in the dining hall and you’ll often see a counselor jump up on a table and exclaim to the entire room, “Attention, everyone, we’ve got a camper first! Sophia has tried a new pump site for the first time today!” And the room goes wild. There’s no other place for a child with T1D to feel this level of positivity and love from so many other T1Ders who simply get it.

This past summer, a new camper arrived and was ready to go home even though they had registered for a multi-week session of camp. After the counselors worked their magic, this particular camper decided to try and stay until their second week. The second week became the third week and, before we knew it, this child stayed for the entire session. Because of the patience and love of the counselors, this child made lifelong friends, gained some independence with their diabetes management, and, for the first time, felt like a normal kid.

One young camper put it simply: “The best part of diabetes is camp.” Now that’s a glass half full.

This content was provided by The Barton Center for Diabetes Education.