Don’t Feel Ashamed or Embarrassed, Embrace It! Paige Clements Talks About Returning to Camp Needlepoint and Her First Walk in Step-Out

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Diabetes changed my life and Camp Needlepoint and the ADA might have saved it. I have had diabetes for over 15 years and I started going to diabetes camps that very first year and every year after that until high school. I lived in Texas for half of those summers and tried many different diabetes camps down there. However, Camp Needlepoint was always special. I even traveled to Minnesota from Texas one summer just to spend that magical week in the best diabetes camp I knew. Camp was always a time to feel normal, get silly, and meet lifelong friends.

Unfortunately, I stopped coming to camp during high school because I did not want to miss any sports practices. Not going to camp those years is one of my biggest regrets. During that time away my diabetes got out of control. You could say it is because of high school “changes”, hormones, or being lazy. But I know it was because I was embarrassed. I was so embarrassed to be “that diabetic girl,” so I hid it. My friends parents tried to accommodate me by buying sugar free syrup for sleepovers, having healthy food instead of birthday cake at birthday parties, and constantly asking me to check my blood sugar. I know that they had good intentions but I felt like I was the only one being singled out for a condition that I could control on my own. Because of that, I chose to not control it. I checked my blood sugar very little, only put my pump sites where my friends wouldn’t see them, and never talked about my diabetes.

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After my freshman year of college my A1C was 11 and I knew that I needed to control myself and remembered those amazing summers at Camp Needlepoint. I was nervous going back to camp as a counselor after being gone for so long but once I arrived in Hudson, I immediately remembered why camp is the best place on earth: the people. They brought me back into the Needlepoint family like I had never left. We talked about everything from school to our anticipations for the next two weeks at camp to the last time we changed our lancets. It became clear that diabetes was not something to be ashamed of. Diabetes is the one thing that brought this special family of ours together so it was to be embraced, not hidden. My first two weeks as a counselor will never be forgotten and they were just what I needed to get back on track. I dropped my A1C 4 points after camp and all of a sudden desired to be this huge diabetes advocate again. I checked my blood sugar in public with pride, showed off my pump sites, and educated my friends about diabetes every chance I could.

Now, this year is my first time walking the Step Out Walk. I am excited to walk for such a great cause and being able to do it alongside my Needlepoint family makes it even better! Not only do I get to walk with my dia-besties (a term we came up with at camp), but I get to spread awareness and raise money towards a cure that would help not only myself, but the rest of the family that I have made at camp.

Diabetes is a tough condition. I would never wish it on anyone. However, I feel blessed to have had it because of the things I have learned, the memories I have made, and most importantly the people I have met. Camp is the best place on earth and I know I will never miss a chance to go to camp again!

– Paige Clements

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*Help us reach our $20,000 by joining the Camp Needlepoint team and fundraising! http://main.diabetes.org/goto/CNP*

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