Oh. I think my arms are gonna fall off, but I've got so much-- too much-- to type about! Get ready for a long one.
On Friday I skipped school to pack up some stuff for a trip this weekend (it's currently Sunday) at a local ranch. I went to a diabetes camp (just got back, actually), and I think that I've never had so much fun and so much misery mixed together. Mum took my brother and I in the car down to the Triple R Ranch nearby (my brother is thirteen and diabetic, I'm not diabetic), and we sorta juggled our multitude of luggage into the main lodge. They assigned us nametags and cabins, I was a Tender Foot Girl along with Mum, and Ben was a Tender Foot Boy. Then they gave us club teeshirts, bright yellow, and directed us to a golf cart to take us where we needed to go. I went to my cabin, and there were two counselours, one was 47 (I believe that's what she told Mum) named Celeste, and she immediately reminded me of a friend of mine from school, by looks and mannerisms. The other counselour was 18, and her name was Britney. She was like an older teenager, still young and sweet and happy but a little smarter and more under control. There was also a 12-year-old girl with the same initials as mine (her first name was even Amanda), her mom, a young-teen named Natasha and her mom, and me (I'm 17) and my mum. Eventually the other Amanda and her mom left our cabin. I can see why, we were all kinda old and didn't wanna talk about Hillary Duff and teeny-bopper stuff. That night we went for a hay ride, and Mum picked on me because two guys were "checking me out." *sigh* Like that'd ever happen!
When I woke up on Saturday, I was really excited about all the activities planned that day for us. The shower water was really nasty smelling, and there was a spider the size of my fist on my shower curtain (I killed it, my brother told me that it was a poisonous brown recluse later when I showed him the remains on my flip-flop). All in all, I felt dirtier after the shower than before. Then I got dressed in a pair of pants and the yellow club shirt, put on my name tag, and we went out to breakfast. The food was yummier than how Britney remembered it, but everything was sugar-free. Something I'm used to by now, but a lot of rude parents grumbled. Then we went out to the horse-track. They made me wear a helmet because I was under 18 ("C'mon, do I really need one? I'm a year away, I've ridden before!"). My brother got a fiesty red horse at the front of the line, I got what I thought (at the time) was a tame horse named Mercy. When I climbed under the fence, I had a hard time of it because I'm 6-feet-tall, and I kinda spooked her. Then the horse trainer had to adjust my stirrups, and we were off! My horse didn't like the flies that were biting us both, but she didn't stop when we were in the woods. Nor would she listen to me! I would try to turn her away from the ditch, but she followed the horse in front of me exactly (coincidentally enough, ridden by one of those guys Mum was picking on me for... my brother picked up on it too, and said he must have liked me, because he was showing off). I eventually gave up and let her do whatever she wanted.
So then we went up the stairs in an old building where we made leather-crafts. These neat little ovals of leather, and we hammered designs on them and stained them. That was relaxing. Then we went to the rock wall. I think two people made it to the top in my group (the tenderfoot girls and tenderfoot boys did everything together, from the horses all the way down to rope-exercises), so I got brave. My brother refused to do it unless I did, so I let them hook me up. I got sooo nervous because I have no upper-body strength, but I got a little over half-way up before my feet got too big and my shoes too floppy for the tiny little rocks at the top, and I slipped and had to repel the rest of the way down. But I had so much fun doing it! I just have to convince my mum to let me join a rock gym. One of the instructors laughed when I told him my horse's name, and he said, "That was the horse that took four years to break, and she's still a little rough, but much, much better," (something to that effect). Why is it always me? So my brother tried, and he got pretty far, a good quarter of the way up, before he got scared. Then I think we got lunch. Hamburgers. Mmm.
After lunch we went down to the rope place, where they had exercises with ropes and logs. The first one we had to (as a huge group) balance ourselves on this sort of teeter-totter for long enough to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Then we went to this log that was slung between two trees on a rope like a hammock/moving balance beam. Everyone lined up along the log, girls on one side, boys on another, and we took turns crossing. I tried to hastily explain, "I used to iceskate..." but they cut me off and said, "Well, you don't need us!" before I could get out, "...but I haven't done it in years, and my balance is off." But they stood there anyway, and I did pretty well. Then we lined up on a stationary grounded log and we got into partners (Mum and Britney were partners, Ben and I were partners). We had to somehow, without getting or falling off the log, get around our partner. Ben and I tried hugging each other and shuffling around, but he kept loosing his balance. So then, since I'm so tall, I made him crouch down and I climbed over him. We won! WOO-HOO!
Then we got to do what I really wanted to do, archery! The guide explained how to hold the bow and set the arrow, and he explained the bow sizes. One was a women's short bow. He said women who were beginners should use that one. Then there was a man's short bow, which he said men who were beginners should use, and some of the stronger women could try (and he pointed me out specifically). So I tried the women's short bow, and couldn't pull the string back all the way because it was too tiny, and ended up missing the target because my aim was too bad. Then I tried the men's short bow, and that was still too tiny, but I got closer to a bullseye. Then he got me a large men size, and I got bullseye after bullseye with that one! It felt fantastic! I mean, my brother and I were really, really good at it. No lie. We rocked. So I called him Arwen, and he hit me.
Then we went canoeing. Celeste steered while I front-paddled, and we beat all the other women. My little brother almost tipped us a few times while he was in his friends' boat. He thought it was pretty funny, but there were leeches in the water. But we still had a lot of fun! By then my arms were really hurting! So then we went to dinner, because everyone was running low blood-sugar-wise (I'll get to that later). We had chicken that was kinda, err, interesting, but very tasty rolls.
Then we got to practise our skits! Woohoo! Each cabin had to present a diabetes-related skit, and we wanted ours to be kinda short but funny like an SNL skit. After we were done practising, we went to the lodge and listened to a lecture on low-blood sugar (that's called hypoglycemia in reference to diabetes, or hyperglycemia... but there's also another disease that's the opposite of diabetes called hypoglycemia... I'll explain it later) from Celeste. Then (remember that there were 42 families and lots and lots of little kids there) all the cabins started their skits. My cabin was the last girl's cabin to go, so we sat through these excruciatingly long (but usually cute because of the little kids) skits about losing insulin pumps and stuff. Finally it was our turn. So I stood up while we got out some chairs, and I said in the mic, "We now interrupt your regularly scheduled program for this commercial advertisement." I sat down with my electric guitar kinda hidden behind me (that was difficult), and my face buried in People magazine. Natasha wandered onto the scene and walked up to the doctor's receptionist, Celeste, and said, "I'm here to see Dr. Kevorkian." (if you don't know who he is, you'll have to look him up to get the joke, he's also known as the doctor of death) All of the adults laughed. Celeste said (and this was all ad-libbing, mind you), "I'm sorry, hunney, Kevorkian's running a little late today. Why don't you take a seat?" She sat down next to me, and I asked, "Are you a diabetic, here to see Kevorkian?" "Yes," she replied. I tossed aside my magazine, "I HAVE to tell you about this new insulin I just went on, called bumpalog!" (every insulin name is ___alog, e.g. novalog, humalog, unless it's a pump insulin) "It works wonders for me!" Then she asked, "Is it fast-acting, or long-acting?" (those are the two types) "It's sooo fast acting," I replied, "that I can eat in two seconds. No lie." "Where can you get it?" she asked. I laughed and replied, "Kevorkian hands it out like candy." Hahaha! Then she's like, "How long have you been on it?" I whistled and extended a watchless wrist to check the time, and said, "Ten minutes now. I feel great!" She said timidly, "How great does it make you feel?" So I jumped up with my guitar and played a buncha really outta tune chords and screamed, "I-N-S-U-L-I-N! BUMPALOG!" and froze mid-motion (making sure to scratch my nose periodically, getting some laughs from the kids). Britney walked out and said, "Warning, do not take bumpalog if you are pregnant, nursing, or breathing. Please consult your physician if bleeding from the eyes, puss from the ears, or swelling of the head do occur." Everyone got the biggest kick out of my over-acting (trust me, I can act, and getting up in front of all those people again felt great, even if it was just in jest). People were telling me all day afterwards, "You rock! Great job! You guys were so creative!" I felt kinda bad going up against all those little kids, though.
Then we watched You've Got Mail for teen movie night. Some of the boys asked us if we wanted to play man-hunt (I suppose they liked our skit, and thought we were cool enough), but Britney and I didn't feel like getting poison-ivy and running around with flashlights. The kids all got busted anyway. And my brother's counselour ran in through a door mid-movie to scare us, but it didn't quite work. I dunno, the movie was nice. It was sweet and endearing and blah blah blah because Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks were "skirting around romance" again. But I thought the saddest part was when she had to close her shop. Anyway, it didn't give me that feeling of utter loneliness like Sleepless in Seattle did, when they're just terribly alone in the world, and they just need each other as more than just lovers, but as really good friends. I was never one to believe in love because my parents fight, but I think that if ever it did exist, it would be that friendship kind, you know? Anyway, everyone fell asleep 'cept me. And we had popcorn and Diet Pepsi. Then we had breakfast and said our good-byes, and my brother finally learned how to draw his own insulin.
I guess this is where I get into the part where the weekend was miserable. You see, I've never, ever, known a diabetic but my brother. I've met them at conferences, but they're all adults. Diabetes is a disease, a disease of two different kinds, kinds 1 and 2 (I really hope someone's reading this, because it's important). For adults, there's a third kind, type 1 and a half (that's what my uncle has). Type 1 is called juvenile diabetes mellitus (my brother suffers this), that's the kind where you get it when you're little because it's passed down genetically, and you need to prick your finger with a needle and check the amount of sugar in your blood with a machine, and before (or after) you eat, you have to take a shot of insulin because the pancreas that makes insulin has completely stopped workin, and there's no natural insulin to eat away at your sugar. If your sugar levels are too high, you can become comatose, and your body will eat your muscles (this is called ketones, you check this by peeing on a stick). If your sugar levels are too low, you can die. The type 2 of diabetes is for children and adults that are overweight, and their pancreases can't make enough insulin to go around, or the insulin gets stuck, and these people have to prick their fingers, but they don't usually need shots, just pills. Type 2 can turn into type 1. Type 1 and a half is type one for adults.
That being said, all weekend I had to remember what my brother went through since he was diagnosed. When he first got back from the hospital, his blood-sugar was hard to maintain, and he could never concentrate (one of the symptomes of high or low blood sugar) on his homework. Eventually he told my mum, "I don't need to do it anymore, I'm going to die soon anyway." That was really hard to hear. Then there are the people he's had to deal with. Other kids love him because he's a savvy, cute kid (blond hair, blue eyes, he's a heart-throb), but there are some parents that won't let their kids hang out with him because they think that diabetes is contagious. Ignorance is painful. His current girlfriend (that's right, girls, he's taken) had to print out info on the disease and yell at her mom just to be able to talk to him. He can never go to parties because he's afraid to eat the cake or feel different from everyone else, because no one else in our area has it at his age. Discrimination is rampant in our town, teachers are imcompetent about his work, and people are just generally stupid. But he loved it at the camp, even though he felt bad because he still doesn't give himself shots. He told Mum happily, "Nobody here cares that I can't give myself shots yet! They even offered to teach me!" He had so much fun showing off his magic tricks (and I'm telling ya, he can pull one over on David Blaine, he's that good... no lie!) and trying new foods and meeting kids just like him. And it was strange for me, too. I felt enriched and yet... condemned. See, all weekend people were asking me, "Do you have diabetes?" or "What were your sugars at bedtime after that snack?" because I was helping a lot of the kids with equipment and looking at neat little testing machines from Freestyle that can fit in the palm of my hand perfectly (and I have tiny little hands, actually). "Oh! You're Ben's sister? And you don't have diabetes? Well, you don't... yet." Celeste jokingly said, "We should check your sugars." I said that it was no problem, I do it all the time at home. But, when I do it, I've never been above 100. 60-160 is the normal range. One time I was 32. That's near coma for a diabetic (for anyone), but I felt fine. I'm usually 64 or something after a cup full of orange juice (and that's what they give diabetics near comas to quickly raise their sugars). After all that, "My sister wasn't diabetic for a long time," my mum got really scared for me. I don't think that I'd be diabetic, though. I think if I had anything, it would be hypoglycemia, which means my pancreas would make too much insulin. I think I would have to have shots every now and again, but I'd just have to eat every meal. But I already show all the signs. I have low-blood flow to my feet (they're hard and calloused all the time), I can't concentrate a lot (forgetting stuff easily), I suck up liquid like a sponge, and I get really, really, really shaky just an hour or half hour after eating. I think I'm fine, though.
There were some kids with type two that were over-weight, but I saw a lot of kids that were newly diagnosed with type 1, and they looked like the emaciated Jews at Nazi death camps (it sounds harsh, but I'm not lying). My little brother used to look like that, so thin that he looked as if he had never eaten. You think that I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. I could see nearly every bone in his body. Now he's got chubbish cheeks and some meat on his bones, and he's finally getting taller. For awhile, he wasn't growing at all. He'd go a year without growing half an inch. He shot up quite a few inches last year! He's a normal size and a normal weight, for once. And now he wants a pump. A pump is a beeper-sized machine that constantly feeds insulin through a tube into the stomach, wherein lies a tiny little tube of plastic inserted by a removable needle every three days. That's all taped down. A lot of the kids had it and loved it. But it was so, so sad to watch these thin little kids try to pinch up any body fat on their stomachs and legs and arms to inject stuff through a needle. Kids who were three, four, five, doing this on their own. It was really very overwhelming.
I dunno, I guess you'd have to be there.
But I want to go back next year! And I'll be prepared with my skit this time. My brother's already counting down the days. He's a brave little kid.
And today's title is via Will & Grace, because I really wished that "You've Got Mail" had been "Speed" so I wouldn't have been the only one awake. Toodles!