A Breath of Fresh Air


Editor’s Note: Beyond Type 1 is partnering with Canadian non-profit Connected In Motion to co-produce FOUR Slipstream Weekends for adults with type 1 diabetes in 2019. Read this, then come join us for a weekend of fun and learning.

On paper, I seemed to have everything put together. I was a division 1 NCAA student-athlete studying pre-med, I was the president of an honors society, I worked a part-time job, I was doing my internship in cardiovascular surgery and was on route to start my master of science in experimental surgery. From the outside, I appeared to be a role model because I was thriving as a student-athlete, but what everyone couldn’t see was my uncontrolled diabetes. My HbA1C was above 11, I was always in a mental fog, my mood swings were consistent and I barely slept. My overall health was spiraling out of control, and I needed help before I caused permanent damage to myself.

When I heard about the Beyond Type 1 bike across America, I was inspired to reach out to the diabetes community and came across an opportunity to apply for the Connected in Motion adventure team. I was fortunate to be picked as one of the team members who embarked the North Coast trail on Vancouver Island.

To prepare for the hike, my innate characteristic of being an athlete took over, and I spent the summer improving my physical endurance. When we arrived as a team in Vancouver, I figured the trip was nothing more than a hiking vacation.

Was I ever wrong.

The trip transitioned into my diabetes resurrection. Within a few hours, I felt a sense of safety and comprehension. Everyone felt comfortable in the power of unity and were able to be vulnerable by sharing triumphs, struggles and embarrassing stories. Without judgment you’re sharing out loud blood glucose levels, proudly telling your diabetes hacks and expressing your fear of having the disease. Verbally talking to other people going through the disease helped me in ways a clinic could never do. At the end of the rigorous hike, I felt more energized than when I started, I felt lighter and found a breath of fresh air I never knew existed.

Post-trip, I couldn’t explain the energy that came into my life. I could post pictures and videos of the incredible landscape, but I couldn’t put in words the hike impacted my life. Immediately, I started to be more diligent with my diabetes management by testing my blood glucose more, setting temporary basal rates and taking into account what foods would impact my blood glucose levels. For once, I was working with my diabetes, instead of working against it. Not only did my HbA1c drop to an 8; my vision improved, my process of thought was translucent and I felt comfortable in my happy body.

This was just the beginning. Connected In Motion gave me the opportunity to attend a Slipstream in California and Ontario, and once again I went into the event with ignorance. The weekend is essentially an adult diabetes camp where you do a variety of activities throughout the day, such as yoga, snorkeling, canoeing, hiking, painting, educational seminars, etc.. and at the end of the night you sing Kumbaya with wine around the fire. It’s all fun, but most important is the power of everyone altruistically sharing their vulnerability of learning and teaching one another. At the end of the weekend, you find the community and connection you have been searching for without knowing you were even looking.

I was looking for a new challenge, and Connected In Motion allowed me to co-guide a hiking and canoe trip where I once again changed my perspective about living with diabetes. I learned how to cook, guide and be a leader in the wilderness, but more importantly the trip taught me respect, responsibility and maturity I could not have learned alone.

I cannot express my gratitude for joining the Connected In Motion family. Diabetes is hard, but if you surround yourself with positive people undergoing the same struggles and triumphs, you’ll find managing this complex challenge much easier. Not only do you learn how to live without limits through outdoor activities, you’ll be able to escape society for a moment and connect with real people who are living with diabetes. The connections you make are approachable, comfortable, unique, inspiring and instantaneous, regardless of your age, career, interests, personality, age of diagnosis or anything that may get in the way of reaching out, because everyone in attendance are now a part of your diabetes family.

If you find yourself alone or struggling with your diabetes care, please attend an event, because it’ll have a greater impact on your health than you could ever imagine! Get connected in this motion.

Beyond Type 1 and Connected In Motion are co-producing four Slipstreams in 2019—retreat weekends for adults with type 1 diabetes. Learn more + register here!

WRITTEN BY Anissa Gamble, POSTED 12/03/18, UPDATED 08/04/23

Anissa Gamble has had type 1 diabetes since she was 8 years old. She grew up in New Brunswick, Canada, where she left home at the age of 15 to attend school in Ontario called Appleby College. After high school, she played Division 1 NCAA hockey at Robert Morris University situated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Today, she's doing a master's degree in experimental surgery at the University of Alberta researching islet cell transplantation. Her goal is to take her knowledge and experience in the field of diabetes and help other people with diabetes fight this disease.