CDN Retreat 2017: The Power of a Fiery Type Three

Melissa Bucklin, University of Rochester '20

As over twenty young adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D) gathered in in Maine for the CDN Annual Retreat, I found myself being a rarity- quite frankly the opposite of the world outside. This being said, five energy filled days have been beyond a rewarding experience for me as a “type 3” - someone who does not have T1D but who is a passionate advocate for it. As taken from a fellow retreat attendee Bridget and her previous blog, “I cannot relate but I can advocate.”

While Bridget did an amazing job of summing up the experience of a type three at the summer retreat, I wanted to add on to her points and to share how important a type three role is every day. If I wasn’t positive before, I am positive now that the College Diabetes Network (CDN) is far more than a way to feel supported as a T1D moving into and out of college, but it truly is a connected family that helps one to feel accepted. As a type three, I try to work to advocate for this acceptance in the real world.

As with any chronic disease, it’s so easy to feel “othered”, but when you are a part of CDN you are completely the “norm” and I a type three am the “other” of the bunch. Yet, I wouldn’t trade my role for anything. It is so crucial to find people without diabetes who “get it” and continue to show support in ways that can be just as rewarding. Even if you don’t have diabetes, it’s possible to be a part of the community.

Stigma exists around T1D (a sad reality) and being a part of a large group of passionate young leaders, we have the ability to continue to affect and change this. The past week solidified that T1D is not advocated for nearly as much as it should be.. The more people who start talking about diabetes, the more stigma will end and normalizing will begin.

I must admit, I cannot help but finding myself feeling “guilty” when I am able to thoughtlessly grab a snack without accounting for the carbs in it! Yet, I find myself challenging my own thoughts every day and hope you will too. I realize the reason I feel “guilty” is because when I am surrounded by people with diabetes, I become aware of my “normal health.” Yet, I must retract these thoughts realizing that maybe “my normal” is not the same “normal” as the individual to my left or my right who has T1D. I think it is safe to say that while it is good to acknowledge and be thankful for good health and “normalcy”, something more needs to be done to change how people with diabetes feel socially every day. Diabetes is not leaving anytime soon, so we better start changing the environment of it.

Needless to say, it is crucial to “get it” in regards to T1D especially when you don’t have diabetes yourself.  Type threes need to continue to work just as hard as people with diabetes to spread basic information. This needs to be talked about and by starting the conversations.

The CDN Retreat left me feeling renewed in knowledge and hopeful for the future. The people I have met in CDN inspire me and keep me going. It shows me just why I became passionate about diabetes to become a leader at the University of Rochester CDN Chapter and to intern with CDN this summer. I look optimistically forward in time to keep the momentum of CDN going, but of course I cannot do that alone!            


Editor's Note: Like all of our resources at the College Diabetes Network, all aspects of the CDN Annual Retreat (from transportation to lodging to meals) are provided to students free of charge, thanks to the generous support of our donors and partners. Please consider donating to CDN to help us continue to offer and expand this impactful and foundational piece of our programming to students in the future. Thank you for your support!

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