THE CHALLENGES OF TRAVELLING WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES
This months travel link-up topic is all about challenges, challenges which have been foreseen, faced or overcome. I have chosen to write about a topic that is extremely personal to me and share my quite frank experiences of living and travelling with the chronic condition, Type 1 Diabetes.
THE REALITY OF A DIAGNOSIS
Within a matter of days following my eleventh birthday, the stubborn little ‘nothing can beat me personality’ inside me literally saved my life. It woke me from a life-threatening coma faced with the diagnosis that I will have Type I diabetes for the rest of my life. There was and (despite a hell of a lot of research) still is no cure. The only way I would be able to manage the condition, would be with daily insulin shots.
My pancreas had stopped making insulin, which is required to regulate sugar levels in the body and there was no way on earth that it would ever work. For that matter, there was no way I would ever stop having Type 1 diabetes. I didn’t eat lots of sugar at all, I didn’t bring it upon myself, I was unlucky. I got the influenza infection and my body decided to turn against itself and attack my pancreas, hence why Type 1 diabetes is termed an autoimmune disease. Most people have their pancreas inside their bodies, I just happen to be able to show mine off plus it has a little bluetooth remote control! I mean how cool is that and seriously it’s no big deal!
But, upon receiving this diagnosis, you know what? I didn’t care, I was alive and the first question I asked my mum was if I could still go on my French trip scheduled for that Spring! I think it was evident then that I would always have a passion for travel and that absolutely nothing would get in the way of me living MY life how I wanted to! Infact I can quote my Diabetologist as saying, ‘Diabetes decided to pick on the wrong girl’! Ever since that day I have literally been trying to kick its ass and live the best possible life that I can by managing the condition, its trials and tribulations (boy, do they drop on you in abundance) and trying to follow my dreams and aspirations. But most importantly for me, I will never let it define the person I am, even though it is and always will be the greatest challenge of my life!
THE DAILY GRIND
Life on the daily involves, checking my glucose levels at least 6-8 times a day, if not more, then setting on the task of regulating them, treating hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia (lows and highs in glucose levels), counting carbohydrates, administering insulin via pump therapy, juggling snacks, meals exercise, disease related complications, coupling this with holding down a full-time job in clinical research and writing a blog! Honestly, I can say hand on heart that life is amazing! Yes, I said life is amazing. I know life no other way and well we all have different routines right? Well, this is mine. I just refer to it as carrying out a number of checks to make sure I feel OK. One thing’s for sure, when you work in Oncology research, patients tell you to make the most of everyday you are here! See, breath and feel it all because you will never know what will happen tomorrow, the day after or the day after that!
TYPE I DIABETES AND TRAVEL
Travelling is my saviour and diabetes is my life. The two have to be friends and I made a damn good job of introducing them to each other early on and now I’m happy to confirm they have an envious relationship!
I’m not going to attempt to sugar coat life or even travelling with diabetes, no pun intended!! Airports are very interesting when you are wearing an artificial pancreas or ‘pump.’ The whole security process is amplified! Everyone wants a glimpse of the little fella! Body searches are a given-I am always that person who by default gets selected to be searched along with all my entourage of baggage and medical documentation. My pancreas almost always goes through the explosives testing drill, which kind of loses its novelty when you travel as much as I do! Needles and sharps are removed from my possession on flights, a special diet is inflicted on me even though technically I can eat whatever I like because the pump mimics a pancreas! It’s difficult trying to explain in a foreign country that you can eat an entire dessert trolley and it would be fine! However, that would not be recommended diabetes or no diabetes!
Beach holidays are always interesting when those around you insist on gorping at the cannula they see sticking out of your bikini bottoms (tankinis and one-pieces are my go-to swimwear) and then the barrage of FBI-style interrogation! I mean just lock me in a room and shine a light in my face!! The final decent comes in the form of THAT ‘I feel so sorry for you’ look on their face! Listen up people, I know life no other way so I’m happy! Super happy! I can’t really say that enough! I always say that because travelling is my love, (second to my husband) I will work with the anomalies it brings and the havoc-causing time zones just become part and parcel of ensuring that my condition is well controlled. The fact that I’m a bit of a control freak also helps!!
ACHIEVING CHALLENGES LIVING WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES
I have always been one for desiring to or doing things out of my comfort zone, whether that’s been changing jobs, meeting new friends, travelling to remote locations, scuba diving (ticked that off) and skydiving (celebrated 25 years of Type I Diabetes throwing myself out of a plane over Lake Wakitipi, Queenstown)! or climbing Kilimanjaro (still to do) Challenges don’t have to be as crazy as some of mine but life is certainly more interesting promotes awareness of self-development if you! everyone is different.
I am lucky, I knew that my greatest passion in life would be to see the world, In fact it’s a priority. Maybe having diabetes has made me go out there and try even harder to fulfil my dreams. I will always hope to maintain a positive attitude for the future as research is ongoing and opportunities are plentiful and they say, you do make your own destiny! But one thing’s for sure, I am one insulin junkie (you can read more about my diabetes on my post entitled, ‘Type 1 diabetes and the adrenalin-fuelled junkie‘) who will never give up on the positive attitude that I’ve been blessed with, the most amazing pinch-me moments I’m experiencing, and the prize-worthy individuals that have to put up with me (Dr C!). Just the other day, I think I found MY song, ‘this is me’ from The Greatest Showman!
For now, this is ME and I accept challenges positively, they provide us with a platform that enables us to grow, learn and develop.
I hope you enjoyed my frank post about my challenges of living with Type 1 Diabetes and fulfilling my hopes to travel. Please do feel free to drop me a comment below as I’m always up for a little chat! By the way if you fancy asking any questions about Type 1 diabetes, go for it! I would also be really interested in knowing what your challenges are and how you face or overcame them.