Embracing the Unknown and Beyond with T1D
I was diagnosed in the 80s. Not that long ago, but T1D and I go back to a time before the internet, smartphones, and CGMs (luckily I didn’t have to suffer through a time without home glucose meters).
Growing up as a diabetic before all of this technology came into play meant that things took a bit longer and required a bit more blood, but, in hindsight, it also meant freedom. I had to learn quickly to handle this disease on my own because I couldn’t share my sugars with my mom while I was at school and she was at work, and I couldn’t send a quick text asking anyone how much insulin I should take. And that freedom meant that I was confident to take my diabetes and explore as my world grew.
It’s not that my parents didn’t care, they just did a really good job of hiding that concern and worry from me. Really, without all of that technology the only way they could be hyper-vigilant is if they followed me around 24/7. I never thought twice about whether or not I could do something with diabetes because nobody ever told me I couldn’t.
I wasn’t reckless with my T1D except for a few of my teenage years, I am human afterall! I travel with extra supplies and backup plans. I always make sure at least one person around knows about my T1D and what to do in an emergency. When I wanted to get my first tattoo I contacted my doctor to make sure it would be okay. (Remember I couldn’t just Google it and I didn’t know any T1Ds with tattoos!)
I left home to attend university and never looked back. After graduation I moved overseas for a couple of years. I’m pretty sure I spent more time figuring out which clothes to bring than I did thinking about diabetes supplies. I’d just figure it out when I got there. And I did.
When I decided to spend three nights trying to survive in the jungle in Belize with with only a machete and my Bushman guides I insisted they let me take snacks and low supplies in case we weren’t so great at hunting and foraging.
The first time I tried mountaineering my guide thanked me for being so responsible with my T1D. Yes, he was trained in first aid and he was there to keep me safe but, just like always, I’m the one ultimately responsible for my sugars. Especially so when medical help is at least a day’s helicopter ride away!
I’ve travelled to over 30 countries and have had some amazing experiences. From scuba diving with sharks, eating my way through Italy, mountaineering in Canada, volunteering at an animal shelter in Nepal (where I also survived the earthquake), rock climbing, and now cycling across America with Team Bike Beyond.
When I first learned about Bike Beyond I actually didn’t want to apply. But my reasons for not applying had absolutely nothing to do with diabetes. (It was more because I had convinced myself that I hated cycling but that’s a different story for another time.)
Spoiler alert though: turns out I do not hate cycling. Just like before, I knew I’d figure out how to manage my sugars, even with all of the unknowns that will inevitably come up on this epic adventure. There’s a saying about a ship being safe in the harbour but that’s not what ships are built for. T1D or not, I have no plans to just sit safely in any harbour.