30 Stories of Diabetes Education: Mallory Dahlquist

Mallory Dahlquist:
20 Years Later

On November 8th of this year I celebrated my twentieth anniversary living with type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed in 1993 when I was 6 years old. My parents realized something was wrong when I didn't want to go trick-or-treating or eat candy with my friends at Halloween. I was also chugging water so much; they thought I had a bladder infection. Little did we know that after that doctor visit turned hospital stay that our lives would be changed forever. The social worker helped my parents better understand what was needed to take care of me, and all I remember from my week-long hospital stay was my friends all writing me get well soon cards, sending me stuffed animals, and a grand total of 52 balloons from family and friends.

I started poking my finger 10+ times a day and taking insulin shots 4-10 times a day. I hated it. I am not a fan of needles and was so scared to get a shot; I didn't want to accept that this was what I had to do every day. Luckily, a few months after diagnosis I attended the American Diabetes Association Camp Confidence day camp in Des Plaines, IL. I was still very afraid of needles, but was able to finally meet other kids just like me. These other campers and counselors were huge role models in my life and helped me to want to take better control of my own diabetes.

When I was in 8th grade I started on an insulin pump and it changed the way I saw diabetes. It was so much easier to handle, but the site changes were still not my favorite. My friends even threw me a surprise party to congratulate me because they knew how scared I was.

When I had aged out of day camp I became a junior counselor, senior counselor, and teacher counselor and never left Camp Confidence. It was always my favorite week of summer-getting to be a role model and help kids with diabetes and gain knew knowledge each year from the nurses, parents and campers/counselors with diabetes. Each year I grew more confident in myself and what I wanted to do with my life.

I have my Masters in Social Work so that I can continue to help families and children impacted by diabetes. I celebrated my 20th year at Camp Confidence as an employee of the American Diabetes Association as Associate Manager of Youth Initiatives (School Walk, Family Link, and Camp). After a summer at all of the Association camps I was able to face my fears and start on a CGM and start the Omnipod and new site locations. I never would have had the guts to do that without the amazing support of everyone at Camp.

In the last 20 years no matter how bad it got at times I learned so much, met so many amazing people, and really grew into the person I am today. ADA Camp Confidence changed my life and made me realize what I was passionate about in life- educating and supporting others with diabetes and I am so thankful to be where I am today. I still hope for a cure every day, but things have improved so much and I am so grateful and hope that I can instill the same confidence and positivity in today's youth with diabetes.