What CDN means to me as my daughter graduates college

Contributor
Karlyn Gale, T1D parent
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As my daughter, Courtney, prepares to graduate from college this week, I have been reflecting upon the past four years wondering how we made it through college with our daughter having type 1 diabetes. I’ve thought of the support, and the travel and the connections she has made and they all led me back to the College Diabetes Network.

I’ll never forget the first diabetes conference we went to shortly after Courtney was diagnosed in 2013. We walked around the tradeshow floor and walked up to almost every booth trying to learn as much as we could. We stopped at the College Diabetes Network booth and briefly talked with the two young ladies who handed us a brochure – I quickly added the brochure to my bag not having a clue about the instrumental role the CDN would play in Courtney’s life.

The following year we went on several college tours and as the actual decision deadline approached in the spring of 2015, I laid awake at night running every possible scenario in my mind, but they all ended with the same question: “HOW AM I GOING TO SEND COURTNEY OFF TO COLLEGE?!?!”. Courtney did not wake up to her lows and she was only diagnosed two years before going to college so as far as I was concerned we were all still new at this. My husband and I wanted her to have the full college experience and have no regrets, so we sent her off – fortunately she chose a school only 45 minutes from home! Oh, I cried…before, during and after dropping her off...but I knew it was the right decision seeing how happy she was. She had met a girl at one of the orientations and she asked Courtney if she wanted to be her roommate. This lifted one of the burdens as this girl already knew Courtney had type 1 diabetes.

Before we left campus once dropping her off, I made sure I had her roommate’s phone number and YES, I was THAT mom who introduced herself to the residence life director and asked the procedure for calling an RA to check on Courtney if needed. I soon learned that if I needed someone to check on her I would need to call the Department of Public Safety (DPS). I made sure their number was in our phones before we left campus. And just so you know, I only had to call them three times in four years.

I quickly became even more of a helicopter parent and was calling and texting her frantically every time I saw her number high or low. We were lucky that she let me and my husband follow her on Dexcom Share. One day I got a text from Courtney asking if we could talk later that night. Thankfully Courtney and I have a great relationship and she explained in a very nice way that I needed to BACK OFF. It wasn’t easy but I respected her wishes and I did in fact back off…but not without a plan in place. Our plan is highlighted in the College Diabetes Network’s “Off to College” booklets, but basically we came up with a plan to address lows during the day and at night. It worked out great then and still works out great now.

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She made it through freshman year and it was a success!! She had gotten a little involved in the College Diabetes Network national organization since there wasn’t yet a Chapter on her campus and met a few people from the organization at meetings, and had the opportunity to tour a medical facility in Boston. As we plunged into Sophomore year things began to change.

Courtney experienced Diabetes Burnout for the first time since diagnosis now that the newness of college had worn off and the diabetes routine was getting old. We talked about Courtney starting a College Diabetes Network Chapter (CDN) on campus to help find support in others dealing with type 1 in College. She started working closely with CDN and worked effortlessly to get a Chapter up and running. In the meantime, someone from the College Diabetes Network had reached out and talked with Courtney several times about a retreat they were holding in Maine – there was an application process, so Courtney decided to apply. She got accepted and this is when her life began to change. I’m not going to lie, she was anxious and nervous and everything else in between as she drove over three hours by herself to Maine while wondering what the week would be like. She very quickly learned that being with a group of college kids, all who have type 1 diabetes, who live all over the united states, for an entire week was the best thing that had ever happened to her. She cried when she left Maine at the end of that week, but she left with a new group of friends that she will have for life. BUT it didn’t end there. So excited about the adventure she had just taken, she also decided to apply to a few CDN events, one that would take her to the ADA Scientific Sessions in San Diego as a CDN NextGen student in the summer. I had already signed the two of us up to go to the Friends For Life Conference in Orlando, FL before I knew about Courtney being accepted into the retreat in Maine and the ADA Scientific Sessions. It was a summer of travel, a summer of experiences and a summer of meeting new friends. She went to Maine in May for the CDN Retreat, a month later went to the ADA Scientific Sessions in California, and a month later went to the Friends For Life Conference in Orlando where she spoke on the CDN panel about going to college with type 1 diabetes.

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To say that Courtney is always happy when she is around the people who run CDN and people who are members of  CDN and people who she has connected with through CDN is an understatement. To this day, she still has all of those friends who she texts when she is having a rough day, or week, or month. Thankfully, the CDN continues to have focus groups and retreats on weekends which has given them the opportunity to all see each other again.

As we approach Courtney’s college graduation, I’m sad but happy. I’m sad this journey of college life is over but I’m happy for the successes and experiences that Courtney has had with CDN. I wish I could reach out to every parent out there who has a child with type 1 in college or heading off to college soon and say, “Do everything in your power to get your child involved in  CDN while they are in college!” – they can do as much or as little as they want but they should get involved. Courtney never would have made the connections she did or had the experiences she had if she didn’t get involved with CDN, and if that one person hadn’t reached out to her.

When Courtney walks up on stage to receive her diploma on Saturday, she will be wearing a blue stole and white and blue cords representing her journey with the College Diabetes Network throughout the past four years. I want to give a huge thank you to  CDN for giving Courtney the opportunities to represent them by writing, speaking, traveling and touring several diabetes medical facilities on both the east and west coast. And most importantly, I want to say THANK YOU CHRISTINA ROTH for creating an organization that allowed my daughter to go off to college for four years and have the best experience of her life.

 

 

 

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