There are so many surprising and wonderful D-stories out there. Sometimes you just have to share. Andy Tiedeman, a 28-year-old self-proclaimed “geek” from the DC area, was 13 years old when he was diagnosed. We found each other recently through the web, and his unusual campaign to raise awareness. Dodgeball for diabetes, really? (I hated that sport in school) But each one of us has to find our own way to cope, and to turn our lemons into lemonade. Today, Andy shares his journey with us…
Dodging Diabetes, A Guest Post by Andy Tiedeman
I can remember the day that I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, there were more than a few questions on my mind that I wanted answered! Would this be a valid excuse for me being late in handing in my biology homework? Could I still go down the street to the diner and get that chocolate malted milkshake that I had been thinking about for so long? “Hmm” and “Maybe…” were my responses. Further back in my mind were more questions that I hoped would be answered. Was this why my vision had been so blurred lately, or why I had been so tired and thirsty? Was this why I didn’t want to go out to hang out with friends when they called me? Or was it just me? More questions kept coming up in my head, and the more knowledge that was doled out to me the more questions I had. Meanwhile, my body and mind were going through an awakening. As I was hydrated and put on insulin I felt like I had woken up from a dream and awakened to a world that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was not so much that I was a new person, it was more like I was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (a movie I had watched numerous times growing up), and I knew that I was not in Kansas anymore. The question was: where was I now? Did anyone really know?
In the first few weeks after diagnosis my body went through a metamorphosis as I scarfed down whatever food was put in front of me and I put on pound after pound. Likewise, my mind became like a sponge soaking up whatever information it could about diabetes from doctors, nurses, books, TV, friends, and family (and the Internet, but I just had dial-up back then so I wasn’t patient enough for that). I was learning and growing very much at this time, and it was at this time that my parents made a very important decision that shaped me and has had a huge impact on who I am today. They that what they thought that I needed at that point in my life was to find a community that could better accept and understand what I was going through in my new life with Type 1 diabetes. My parents knew that I loved going to summer camp, that this was a place that I felt free to be adventurous, independent, and really happy. I had gone to camps for soccer and basketball, day camps, and sleep-away camps. Now, my parents wanted to know if I would consider traveling all the way to Massachusetts (far away from my home in Washington, DC) to a camp for persons like me with Type 1 diabetes. I said “Yes!”
Joslin Camp for Children with Diabetes was, as it turns out very much like other camps I had been to before. There were cabins and canoes, sports and camp fires, and friends and adventures. Of course, one difference was that the other campers here had diabetes in one shape or form, and so in addition to playing hockey and basketball and eating s’mores over a camp fire, we could talk about how these things affected our bloodsugar levels. I went back to Joslin for a number of years as a camper and later a counselor myself, and I will never forget those summers as some of the best times in my life. As I grew older and went away to college, I ended up going to undergraduate university at a place not so different from the camps where I’d spent so many summers: Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio (affectionately called Camp Kenyon by many alum). At Kenyon College, I decided to pledge the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, a decision that I made for similar reasons that I went to summer camps, to make friends and to grow as a person. Now, six years out of my undergraduate education, I look back on the bonds that I formed and am reminded of a motto instilled in me by the brothers of Phi Kappa Sigma: “Once a Phi Kap, always a Phi Kap.” We would always be brothers, and we would stay in touch and be connected even after we had parted ways for whatever life had next in store for each of us.
Likewise, my family and I have retained a very close bond with the Joslin community. A few years back, my family and I started to talk about what could be a way or ways that we could stay in touch with and support the community better. My sister, who had undergone her own metamorphosis from a would-be engineer to a public relations guru, encouraged us to find a way to support Joslin that in turn would allow us to bring together our other friends, family, and communities that would also be new, fresh, and fun. We both loved silly and quotable movies, which we would often memorize and recite to each other ad infinitum, so when she suggested that a charity event be started based upon “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” I knew something great was at hand! My sister Anna Tiedeman Irwin and Elizabeth Kramer founded the Dodging Diabetes charity in 2005 to raise money and awareness to defeat diabetes for good. Dodging Diabetes has netted over $40,000 for the Joslin Diabetes Center through its annual charity dodgeball tournaments.
In its first year, I remember that none of the people involved had any idea what to expect at this event. Would people take it seriously? Would we raise any money? Would we have fun doing it all? The answers to these questions have been “Yes,” “Yes,” and “You Betcha!”
Now, in our fifth year, we have seasoned players coming from up and down the East Coast as well as plenty of local businesses and our friends and families that come out to participate in this positive and very fun event, which raises money and awareness about the need to support the incredible research being done at the Joslin Center to find a cure for diabetes.
“So Dorothy,” you may ask, “have you found the yellow-brick road yet, and the emerald city?”
Well, I think that I have! “How about those creepy flying monkey things, what do you do about those?”
Humph, well you’re never gonna stop all of them. How about this, if the yellow-brick road is good blood sugar control, and the creepy flying monkey things are your fears about what diabetes can do if not under control… then the Emerald City is the support of your friends, family, and other communities (online or in person).
Thank you for sharing, Andy!
Andy Tiedeman is a Senior Consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton and lives in the Washington, DC area.