A reflection on my summer interning at CDN: Rafael's story

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Four years ago, I wished I could have said goodbye to the day I found out I had type 1 diabetes. I wished I could have erased the entire trek to the hospital, and the moment an endocrinologist broke the diagnosis to me, from my memory. I wished that the illness was something I could just buy a pill for and make disappear. Adjusting to the new lifestyle was the hardest task I’ve ever faced; I remember when diabetes burnout hit me like a freight train. But here I stand today, proud that March 15, 2015 is still alive and well in my memory, and proud of everything that has come after.

After all, if I had never been diagnosed, I probably never would have applied to work at the College Diabetes Network. And working for CDN has been nothing short of a life-changing experience for me. 

Ever since my diagnosis I have wanted to find any way I could to impact the diabetes community. CDN helped me do that in a bigger way than I envisioned. There are so many words that I could use to describe the experience. The staff is so welcoming and hilarious! Each person clearly has a unique personality, and we all have this common struggle that bonds us together. In my previous internship experiences I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin. There is something simply empowering about everyone pulling out their PDMs at lunch just like me, having insulin pods beep or click just like me, and discussing weird topics like the humongous hazard doorways impose to our pods. No one even bats an eye when you make a sound (unless of course it’s a low glucose alert!), and if you forget a pod, a CGM sensor, or any diabetes supplies, I knew I could always reach out and someone could help me out. That’s a level of inclusivity I haven’t felt anywhere else.

Beyond the staff, I felt so privileged to partake in CDN’s mission. Brett and I both helped make improvements to the Chapter Handbook. I personally enjoyed working on the statistics side of things. In addition, Brett and I were able to go out into the real world and interact with so many individuals from health services and disability services from various universities and reach out to them with our resources. So many of them saw huge spikes in diabetic students on their campuses, but were unaware that such resources to help them existed. This is the exact situation that CDN helps to prevent, and it was so amazing to be a part of that prevention. Never before have I felt that my own work has made a tangible difference in the diabetes community, so getting to actually go into the world and see the difference was incredible.

I want to thank every single person at CDN for making my experience what it was. I learned something from all of them, whether it was a personal life tip, a work-related tip, or a diabetes management tactic. These are real people making a real difference in the real world, and they are all so inspiring. 

Christina’s story in beginning this organization and building it over the past several years has inspired me to see what I can accomplish even though I’m just a college student. I will be the founder and co-president of the brand new CDN Chapter at Harvard University this fall, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Four years ago, everything started with a desire to say goodbye. The exact opposite is true of me with my CDN internship. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, and while my internship comes to a close, I know the mission doesn’t stop! I look forward to seeing and continuing to be a part of CDN’s plans for the future, and seeing all of the friends I made here very soon.