Embracing My Something: Maddie’s Iceland Adventure


Trekking with T1D

Iceland is known for its serene views, incredible hikes and active volcanoes, which is why it deservedly has the nickname “The Land of Fire and Ice.” Iceland holds so much to do and explore, and I was fortunate to spend two weeks this summer on a teen tour of this amazing country. Hiking, trekking glaciers and swimming in ice-cold fjords imposed challenges, but the biggest challenge I faced was explaining my type 1 diabetes to others. Having type 1 isn’t new (I was diagnosed in November of 2015) and while I understand I should not feel ashamed about having type 1, I still get anxious when I need to share.

Sharing my secret

My first day in Iceland had me very shaken up. Straight from the airport, we made our way to the famous Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, home to a luxurious geothermal pool. I felt self-conscious in my bathing suit because my Dexcom was visible. I figured people would notice and say something, and then I’d have to explain what type 1 was… but no one ever mentioned it. I did not know how to bring up diabetes to these strangers, nor did I feel that comfortable sharing. Ultimately, I knew I needed to tell my roommates for my own safety—they needed to know what to do if I had any problems, and also what that blaring sound was if my Dexcom’s alarm went off in the middle of the night. That night I told my roommates about diabetes, but in a pretty uncomfortable, awkward way. It’s a hard thing to talk about! Thankfully, they were very understanding.

Everyone has something

Still, it took me until almost the end of the week to tell the other girls on the trip, but again, my worrying was for nothing: it turned out they both had friends with type 1 diabetes (T1D). A few days later, while we were walking around the town of Stykkishólmur, a pen needle fell out of my friend’s pocket! Of course, I got very excited and asked what it was for. It turned out it was not for type 1, but we laughed about both having “something” we hadn’t shared with everyone. It turns out everyone has a something about themselves they are embarrassed to share. Mine just happens to be type 1 diabetes. Before I headed to Iceland, I knew I was going to learn about hiking, backpacking and the history of this beautiful country. I didn’t expect to learn so much more: I now feel more comfortable being away from my family and managing my diabetes myself, and I am slowly becoming more confident in owning the fact that I have diabetes. It’s my something, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

WRITTEN BY Maddie Aibel, POSTED 10/16/18, UPDATED 11/05/22

Maddie Aibel is 15 years old and on the BT1 Family Council. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in November of 2015. She is from Santa Monica, California and is a rhythmic gymnast and dancer. You can follow her adventures on Instagram: @t1dsweetlife.