For Ian Faulds, 62, living with diabetes is all about community. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12, Ian remembers the fatigue, thirst, and lack of energy and appetite. “My teacher called home at one point because I was constantly asking to leave the classroom either for a drink of water or to use the washroom,” he says. She wasn’t the only one who was concerned. “When my family doctor learned of my symptoms he asked that I bring a urine sample to his office. After he tested my urine, I remember him appearing devastated by the result.”
Dealing with a diagnosis
Ian’s diagnosis took him to SickKids hospital in Toronto where he spent three weeks learning how to manage his diabetes. Having no friends or relatives living with the disease, Ian and his parents knew very little about diabetes.
During his stay, his parents, Alex and Marita, received information from the Canadian Diabetes Association (now Diabetes Canada) about the support available for kids with type 1 and their families through their camps. Ian was one of the first campers at Camp Huronda, which moved to its current site on Lake Waseosa in 1971. The camp, which first started in 1964, is one of nine Diabetes Canada’s D-Camps across the country. “My parents believed, correctly, that I would benefit from meeting other children who were living with the challenges presented by type 1 and come to understand that I was not alone on this journey.”
After his first day at camp, Ian says he was “hooked.” During those two weeks at camp, he learned how to canoe, sail, ride a horse, build a fire, put up a tent, read the stars, and enjoy the outdoors. Ian says, “It is where I learned to play the guitar. It is where my love affair with the natural world was firmly established. It is where my fear of standing before a group eventually evaporated with the right costume or role in various skits and dramatic events.”
He also found a community with his cabin mates and later with fellow staff members, many of whom became friends for life. The inspirational camp leaders he encountered he calls “my heroes to this day.”
With permission from the camp director and his parents, Ian stayed for two more weeks. He returned for the next two summers before becoming a counsellor-in-training and then counsellor for three more years.
Diabetes management success
Ian’s time at camp also helped him learn to manage his diabetes with confidence. He says, “The greatest gift that a camp experience bestows upon children with diabetes is supporting their growing independence living with type 1, and learning how to manage their condition in ways that will allow for limitless possibilities in their futures.”
Since his diagnosis, he has managed his diabetes without using an insulin pump, and instead gives himself multiple insulin shots daily. His A1C levels (the average blood sugar levels over a two- to three-month period) have been in his target range and he has experienced no major complications. Ian believes his active lifestyle has played an important role in his diabetes management. “When you are active, you have to be constantly aware of your blood sugar levels and your food intake if you want to take full advantage of your activities,” he says.
Until about six months ago, Ian tested his blood throughout the day using a blood glucose meter. Since he started using a continuous glucose monitoring system, he says, “The control that I am able to have over my blood sugar levels has greatly improved as a result of this new technology. The feature that is extremely helpful is the alarm that sounds when my blood sugar levels get too low.” The alarm has come in especially handy when he is travelling solo on canoe, cycling and hiking trips.
Making a difference now
That first summer at Camp Huronda was the beginning of a 50-year relationship with Camp Huronda and Diabetes Canada. For more than 20 years, Ian was a member of the Camp Huronda Camp Committee, a group of volunteers who ran the successful camp operation until 2008 when full-time staff were hired. “Ian is a passionate member of the Camp Huronda alumni. His tremendous support over the years is something we are very grateful for,” says Ted Lockie, camp and youth programs director for Diabetes Canada.
In addition to being a founding member of Friends of Camp Huronda (FOCH), which supports alumni and the success of the camp, Ian is also chair of “Huronda’s 50th,” a celebration that’s being planned for September 2021. The year will also mark other milestones, including his 50th year of living with diabetes, and the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin.
Attending Camp Huronda completely changed my life and was directly responsible for the many positive outcomes that I experienced as my life progressed,” Ian says. “It provided an opportunity for me to become the person I was meant to be.
He turned his passion for the outdoors and for working with children into a job as an elementary school teacher and outdoor educator with the York Region District School Board. Now retired, Ian works part-time at the Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan, Ont. His wife, Heather, whom he met while working at another camp, shares his love of the outdoors, as do their three children, who all attended and worked at an Ontario summer camp.
Ian also works hard to help today’s kids enjoy similar benefits to those he gained from his Camp Huronda experience. He is currently cycling across Canada over six summers on a D-Camps tour, with his project, “Discovering D-Camps: A Cross-Canada Cycling Adventure,” helping to fundraise for families needing assistance with camp costs.
Each summer he has visited D-Camps in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, talking to kids and teens, and sharing his positive message as a former camper. “My basic message is to learn all you can so you can be the boss of your type 1 diabetes rather than type 1 being the boss of you.”
Throughout the pandemic, Ian has kept busy, getting out every day for a hike or bike ride. Connecting with his community has become even more important during this uncertain time. He has been in close contact with his type 1 adult community, which includes many people from Camp Huronda, through Zoom. “In helping to create Friends of Camp Huronda, I discovered a real need for the adult type 1 community to be able to engage and connect.” He’s also using Zoom to meet with the Huronda 50th Anniversary planning committee. The celebration will take place from September 10-12, 2021 and will, in Ian’s words, “mark 50 amazing summers at Camp Huronda that have touched so many, and provide a much-needed opportunity for camp alumni to become re-acquainted, and help revitalize support for the camp in the future.”
Because of COVID-19, he was unable to visit more D-Camps locations this summer since they were closed. In response, he created a virtual bike tour to continue to fundraise for Diabetes Canada. In the next two years, he hopes to resume his fundraiser in person and cycle through the Maritimes.
An inspiring role model
Community and the power of connection is a message Ian shares every chance he gets. Not surprisingly, one of his favourite places is at D-Camps. “One of the remarkable parts of my cycling [journey] is having the privilege to speak to an entire camp community. I share some stories about my own camp experience, ones that I know they can all relate to. I ask, ‘Who will be sad to leave camp at the end of the week?’ and then, ‘Who can’t wait to get back next year?’ I remind them that they are part of a cross-Canada camp community where they will find friends [everywhere].”
Ian’s efforts have done more than just raise money. “His bike ride, story, and enthusiasm for life is inspiring to our community of people with type 1,” says Ted. “Ian is a real inspiration and role model of living a full, limitless life with type 1 diabetes.”
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