DSOK Spotlight: Chelsea Bullard

My name is Chelsea Bullard. I was diagnosed with type-one diabetes at age 7, nearly 17 years ago. First, I must emphatically state my love of Camp Endres and everyone who runs it. I’ve attended as both a camper and a counselor for nearly 16 years straight. The ability to go to camp with others like myself, has, in many ways, shaped many aspects of my life. I love the outdoors, love to counsel, and do not let diabetes hinder my goals- all because of camp.

Camp Endres has always made me feel normal; everyone at camp could speak my language. I carried the sense of community and pride developed at camp to every aspect of my life. I never wanted pity or special treatment because of my diabetes. I never wanted to stand on top of a mountain and say, “Look what I did even though I have diabetes!” I just want to stand on the mountain and say, “Look what I did!” I know that I am more than my diagnosis; it does not need to define nor limit me.

I earned a degree in Sociology and a minor in Spanish at Oklahoma State University. My educational focus was on deviant behavior and law. During my sophomore year, I started a health education student group. I attribute starting this program to my diabetes. Diabetes has caused health to always be on my radar. I want other people, even those without illnesses, to be conscious of what they do to their body and how to keep it healthy. Starting the group gave me the pleasure of speaking at conferences and educating many students on campus.

One summer, I used my experience as a diabetes camp counselor as a gateway into a counselor position with a delinquent youth wilderness program. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life, but I can now boast that I can create fire from sticks. After many hours into my first attempt to start a fire, bruised knuckles from previous failures, I thought, “If I can persist and do this, I can do anything”. My counseling experience also recently opened the doors to a summer gig as a park ranger in Colorado.

I am now in the process of completing a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology at OSU-CHS. My research is focused on prison diversion programs for the mentally ill. Not exactly, related to diabetes, but that hasn’t stopped me from assisting with diabetes related research.

Most recently, I was given the opportunity to go on a medical mission trip to Nicaragua with a group of students from Oklahoma State University and JustHope Inc. With the generous contributions from Diabetes Solutions, I assisted in a study on the prevalence of type-2 diabetes in the small rural community of Chacraseca, a town with only one full-time doctor for a population of about 8,000. I felt I brought a unique view to the study. While the other researchers had medical school backgrounds, I utilized my personal experience to notice diabetes-related symptoms and blood sugar levels. I was also one of the few people who could talk to the patients without a translator. In addition, I taught all the “newbie” doctors how to check blood sugars. While in Nicaragua, I couldn’t resist the temptation to climb and then surf down a volcano. Talk about stress induced low blood sugar! Luckily, they gave everyone a cookie once we made it down the mountain.

All and all, my interests are a bit of everything: diabetes research, adventure, outdoors, and forensic psychology. Camp Endres taught me that there are many people like me out there and I should never limit myself because of what others think. Word of advice for my fellow people with diabetes: If you want to do it, just do it! There is absolutely nothing stopping you from living exactly the life you want.