To Diabetes UK,
Hello, my name is Alice Rolfe, I’m 12 years old and I just went on a Diabetes holiday camp last week (2nd-9th August) organised by Nigel Jenner
I had so much fun I didn’t want to leave!
The activities were awesome! e.g: Giant swing, trapeze, zip wire, quad biking, raft building and rafting, canoeing, Jacob’s ladder, vertical challenge, rock climbing, aeroball, bowling, the safari, tunnel trail and so much more!!!
I loved meeting other diabetics and also the volunteers!
Being surrounded by people that have the most important part of me in common felt so nice and I felt normal!
Thank you so much for letting Nigel organise it!
I was not sure what to expect from the weekend and did not really have any goals, other than for Alice to meet other people with Type 1 diabetes, and for all of us to move forward in our "grieving process" since Alice had been diagnosed on 23rd December 2013. Information is power, as they say, and I had been a massive user of the resources on the Diabetes UK website since Alice's diagnosis, as well as books and other resources. I hoped that we could all learn from the weekend about management of the condition but also about how to deal with issues such as when Alice becomes a teenager!
The weekend brought clarity right from the start. We met up with other parents - and splitting partners up was a stroke of genius too as we doubled the amount of information and possibly took slightly different, more rounded viewpoints away from the weekend as a result. The other parents and grandparents were a huge source of comfort - I expected to be one of the more recent initiates to the world of T1 diabetes, but that was not the case. I could see the raw emotion of the newly diagnosed, even though I was still not at the "acceptance" stage of the grieving process. Hearing similar stories from others, and some more scary stories, also helped to "normalize" the condition. In terms of management of the condition, it was a huge boost to the reserves of information and knowledge at our disposal, and we made some very useful and helpful contacts at the weekend too. Alice was scheduled to move on to a pump just after the weekend, and meeting other parents who had kids on pumps was extremely useful.
Alice herself felt at home, and it certainly sped up her ability to live with the condition - even mealtimes were terrific for her, seeing other kids check their BGLs and even some of the volunteers, too. Alice felt normalised - being isolated and different is one of the hardest things for her to live with, and the weekend made her - briefly, at least - feel normal. She also felt encouraged to be freer with mealtimes, as she saw other T1's eating what they wanted, but still having good control.
It was a fantastic weekend, and I really could not fault it, but it was also fabulously useful. I cannot thank you enough Diabetes UK.
Children's Care Event - Liddingston
I am fortunate to have known Nigel Jenner my whole life, but even before we knew that he was running the Liddingston week, Alice wanted to go. She had a great time meeting other kids and still contacts them now on various social media platforms. The activities seemed to be adventurous and she came back regaling us with tales of using her pump light to find her way in some sort of tunnel maze, trying out the trapeze, and crate building as a team. It has clearly given Alice confidence to live with her condition and yet live her life the way she wants to live it. I read somewhere that it is about controlling the diabetes, not having the diabetes control you, and I believe that the week in the UK gave Alice more confidence to live life that way.
Alice had a pretty good understanding of controlling her diabetes before she left for the camp, but she has certainly gained in confidence as it gave her some affirmation that she was doing all the right things. She is already keen to go back, and her elder sister is now keen to become some sort of volunteer when she can (Emily, DOB 17/5/2000), too.
A recurring theme in these events is that Alice is never happier than when surrounded by other diabetics! My wife asked her if she would like to go to a school only for diabetics, and she was adamant she would (were one to exist). I cannot begin to comprehend what it is like to be Alice, and living at her age with T1, being different, adolescent and all the associated issues with that time of life anyway, but I can see that she desperately wants to be "not different". The week in Liddingston gave Alice that, for a short time, and that has really helped her. She also seemed to come back more mature, and confident, leaving the Diabetes aspect aside.
Once again, thanks Diabetes UK for organising this event. I hope that you will let Alice go again - I know she would be devastated to not get a place next year!