Coming to college, I was sure that I would be able to handle my diabetes all on my own. It had been 12 years, I had been to sleep away camp, traveled to Europe, and grown up with this. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) had never been a huge burden in my life and I did not expect much to change when I moved out. However, after just one week, I humbled up. I could tell right away that this was a new life. My numbers were fluctuating from 400 to 50 within hours, I was lethargic, drinking juice constantly, and changing my pump site almost every day. The worst part was that no matter how hard I tried, I could not crack the code. I was testing my blood sugar more than ever, counting my carbs as best as I could with the new mysterious dining hall food, exercising… you name it. There seemed to be nothing that I could do.
When I moved in, I jammed four months of every diabetes supply possible in tall plastic drawers that I hid in the back of my closet. I knew that I had to tell my new friends about diabetes, but I wanted to do it on my own time. Soon enough I realized that I could not hide this part of my life. After one month of this challenge, I had to do something. Not only did I absolutely need to find people on campus who could relate to me, but I had a feeling that there were students on campus who were experiencing the same thing. Maybe, diabetes wasn’t so much of a struggle my whole life because I had a community to support me? Maybe, I needed that at college?
I contacted the College Diabetes Network (CDN) the first month of my first semester at school, and one month later, the first CDN meeting at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) was held. I got to the meeting spot 20 minutes early, had a box of cookies, and expected absolutely nobody to show up. I knew some of my non-T1D friends were coming to support me, but if nobody with diabetes showed up I was going to be so disappointed. I had advertised as much as possible within all the legal boundaries of a non-official club at TCNJ. To my surprise, two girls with T1D showed up, and two more messaged me on Facebook that they would make the next meeting! We sat and talked about what we wanted the club to become, introduced ourselves, and decided on another meeting date. I had so many thoughts running through my head, “Is it awkward? Why did they come? Is this going to actually work?” But, after one semester, we had formed amazing friendships, talked about everything from “touchy topics with diabetes” to eating with diabetes, and even just had meetings where we got together and ordered pizza! By the end of the semester we had more members and people knew about our club. Even more important than the popularity gain on campus was the benefit that CDN gave to all of its members. My friends that had joined just to support me still come to all of our meetings simply because they enjoyed learning about diabetes and being there for the members with diabetes. The members with diabetes have shared endless useful tools with each other and have helped encourage each other in tacking diabetes in college.
Starting a club in my first semester was definitely a scary and daunting task. I still wanted to join other clubs, meet new people, find my niche on campus, and continue to adjust to college life. However, I knew that this would become part of the role I made for myself on campus and I knew that unless I managed my diabetes, I was not going to be able to do any of these things. CDN eventually became something that I felt I had to do to something that I wanted to do. I enjoyed advertising, planning meetings, and seeing all of my new friends. Eventually, CDN became one of the most exciting parts of my first semester at college. What I got out of CDN in a few short months was invaluable, and I cannot wait for what will come in the next 3 years.
Editors Note: Did you know CDN has Off to College Booklets for parents/caregivers and student?. They cover everything from what to pack to how to talk to your roommate about T1D to managing T1D on campus. Check out a preview of the parent one here and the student booklet here. You can request you copy by filling out this form.