Type 1 Diabetes: Ellen's Story

In the spring of 2013, Ellen Pighini had been working hard to manage her diabetes, but she still hadn’t achieved the control she wanted. 

She found the perfect way to get back on track, working at a camp for kids with diabetes.

Who says that everything can’t change in one summer?

Transition from high school to college

An aspiring athlete in high school, Ellen ran, lifted weights, and worked out hard every day, playing field hockey and rowing on the crew team. She loved every minute of the intense, physical activity, and worked hard to keep her type 1 diabetes in check through every season.

ellenIt was when Ellen graduated from high school and moved on to attend college in Richmond, VA, that diabetes management became difficult, especially being so far away from home and her support system. After a year and a half in Virginia, she decided to take time off to focus on her health and figure out what she really wanted in life.

Ellen had specific goals: she wanted to reinvigorate her love for her diabetes and learn to manage her blood sugars better. She also wanted to give back to the diabetes community, which was the support group that had always helped her care for her diabetes and appreciate the opportunities that she had been afforded as a type 1 diabetic.

Headed to summer camp

In the spring of 2013, Ellen applied to work at the Clara Barton Camp in North Oxford, MA, a place for kids with diabetes to learn how to manage their disease while surrounded by people like them. In a flurry of paperwork and recommendations, Ellen found out she was accepted, and prepared to spend the summer working with kids, and working on her own diabetes care.

Ellen started the summer as a counselor in a cabin of girls. She loved their energy and enthusiasm, and she was excited to take on the challenge of leading them on their adventures.

Shortly after the summer started, Ellen was asked to be a head counselor for the counselors in training (CITs). As a leader for a group of future counselors, Ellen took another look at her own diabetes — how could she improve her own diabetes management in the same way that the CITs were?

And so, a new chapter started. All summer, among the fun and bonding and activity-filled days, Ellen tested and bolused, working hard to regain her diabetes control — and it worked!

Back at college, with more control

Upon returning home and beginning her first semester at a new college, Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Ellen had her best A1c since the beginning of high school! Her hard work had paid off.

Now, as she completes her first year at St. Joe’s, Ellen is confident that her key to success was trying something she had never done before.

Take a chance, and you may be surprised. It might just change your life in a way you never thought possible.


Originally posted: March 2014