Glucolift, checklists, and a lot of luck

My Glucolift is packed, I’m ready to go…

glucolift
I love Glucolift. It’s the only glucose tab that I don’t dread eating. I buy it on Amazon. Vegan, gluten free, no artificial flavors or colors.

I’ve been marking through checklist after checklist for the last two weeks. The nice man who works at CVS doesn’t need to ask for my card number anymore, he just remembers it.

Today I went to the pharmacy twice, yesterday once, and the day before, yep, at least once.

The last time I traveled out of the country was in 2011. At that time I was preparing for a three month long trip. I quit my job, packed up a huge suitcase and my backpacking pack and filled a lunch box sized cooler full of insulin. This time it’s just a three week trip, and yet I feel like my wheels are spinning as I try to get organized with all these medical supplies.

It’s my first trip out of the country since getting the Omnipod insulin pump. I wore it when I flew to San Antonio for a business trip and to San Francisco to visit two great friends, but never on an overseas adventure and never to a place where I’m not sure what obtaining supplies will be like.

diabetesmeds

These are some of the diabetes-related supplies I have to carry, and yes, before you say anything, chocolate is a necessity. In the past, I’ve felt so burdened by all of this ‘stuff,’ but in this moment, embarking on this project, I feel so exceptionally lucky.

I am so lucky to be able to afford and obtain these supplies. I am so lucky that this technology is available in the U.S. and that my insurance covers at least a portion of it. And I’m lucky to have so many amazing friends and family supporting me.

When I was diagnosed with T1D 10.5 years ago, a doctor looked at me in my hospital bed and said, “You know, it could always be worse.” At the time, that was not the wisdom I was hoping to hear (actually I was hoping for, “most cases of diabetes clear up in two to three weeks…”). Yet, nearly a decade later I realize how right those words were, although maybe not in the way that doctor intended. I am so very lucky to have been born in this time, with these resources, and this support network, and have such a good starting point for managing diabetes. Not everyone is.

One more thing this time: if you enjoy my blog please go ahead and become an official follower (see the little button bottom right of the screen). It’d be a big help to me and I’d really appreciate it! You can always unfollow or change your email settings if you feel like you’re getting too many notifications from me, but I rarely write more than once a week.

Heading South for the Winter

I’m so excited that in a couple of weeks I’ll be traveling to Bolivia to explore the Altiplano and do work that is very near and dear to my heart. Once again, I plan on blogging intermittently about my experiences traveling with diabetes. In the past I’ve lived in and traveled around Costa Rica four months and through France, Switzerland, and Austria. With international travel there is always a little bit more to consider. For one, I have to pack all the insulin and medical supplies I’ll need for the whole trip, or at least I have had to in the past, because getting these abroad can be a challenge. Then there is the altered schedule and different food options that traveling presents.

photo (9)
Bedtime reading for the next two weeks (although I should also be studying Quechua, Aymara, and other indigenous languages).

The way I’ve decided to blog this trip is by one picture a day while I’m there. I’ll post again at least once before the trip, and I’ll be reading blogs to find out what others with T1D have done when traveling in South America. This is new terrain for me! Thank you in advance for any comments you have that might be useful tips for a person with T1D managing blood sugars at high altitude. Or if you can recommend a high quality, affordable digital camera!

Oh also, about the title of this post, it’s going to be winter there. I’m anticipating a nice cool down from the glorious, yet humid NC summertime.

A misty summer day in Austria

…that looks not very different from this misty winter day in North Carolina. Except for the cows, and the ice cold glacial stream and the rugged evergreen peaks.

In this mountain town in Austria the water was piped directly from the source, glacial springs high in the mountains, and poured out of copper pipes into intricately carved basins. Here in NC I can turn on my faucet and fill up my water bottle and not worry about bacteria and contamination.

Managing Type 1 diabetes or any chronic condition in an area where you don’t have access to clean water would be terrifying! Today I am so grateful for water.

Can’t stop thinking about…

Costa Rica right now. It’s cold here in North Carolina! Here are some pics now and then, side by side. It’s crazy how much our climate shapes us. Right now I’m going to the gym or bundling up for walks, down there I was rambling outside and running by the surf.

Diabetes was wild in Costa Rica. It was the first time I’d ever introduced myself to new people as a person with diabetes. Before that it was all about telling people who knew me that I’d been diagnosed. In some ways, it was sort of a relief to not have to explain how I got sick, stayed sick, and was finally diagnosed. To not have to fight people’s expectations of how I would be based on how they knew me before.

It’s nice to have better words to explain diabetes now. It’s taken me ten years – there have been a lot of hard emotions to sort through when it comes to how much to share, how much to ask for help. Being vulnerable with friends though, and there is a lot of interesting research right now about vulnerability that seems to confirm this, in my experience has blessed me with deeper relationships and more trust.

Good Morning 2016

Even though I know it works, I forget that gratitude is a choice, like a lens you put into your camera to brighten the vibrancy. It always works, sometimes more than others, to heighten our focus on the present and make life something solid to hold on to.

During the two weeks I was traveling over my break between semesters, I slept on 2 different sofas and 6 different beds. The hospitality of my friends and family was heart rendering. I rolled in like a rambler and left full of good food, laughter, and strong coffee. I carried an increasingly buoyant load of love around with me from house to house. I am so exceedingly grateful that in my life I have people who I can feel connected to even when I’m miles away.

These are the people who bring a smile to my face as I’m falling asleep and whose very presence makes me feel healthy and whole. I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate the power of being present with each other, here at the start of this new year.

On the Road with Diabetes

Lately I’ve been on the road a lot. Which is a way I love to be! I love the adventure of navigating a new place. I like to go at it without a GPS (which is good since I don’t own one) and ask for directions as many times as possible from as many different people as I can. This seems strange, I know, but it is a fabulous way to discover the hidden nooks of a place and to get a sense of the general friendliness and openness of a community.

When you ask a local for directions, you can often tell right away how they feel about that place. People will light up when describing a route to you through a town or countryside that they love. They will shake their heads and look down and make scoffing, grunting sounds, or else, like when I landed in the worst neighborhood in San Francisco dragging my big red suitcase, with no cash, they will make purse-lipped, “Mhmm,” sounds with a furrowed brow and tell you not to make eye contact and to just keep moving. That’s not my style, so I asked a cop for directions further down the road hoping he might offer to transport me in his squad car. He didn’t, he just made more, “Mhmm,” sounds of worry and confusion for me.

When I’m traveling half of my mind is engrossed in the outer landscape and the other half is engrossed in my inner physiological landscape. I simultaneously hate and appreciate this. As much as I try to tell myself beforehand, “I’m going to just not care what my blood sugar is on this trip,” I always still do! When I have high blood sugar and have an hour or two of a drive yet, I feel like frustration is swelling inside of my heart. Having high blood sugar already makes me feel like a caged animal, and having it while being in a car is like that feeling times two. I can’t even (quite literally) shake it off, by going for a walk, or jog, etc. And I’m always puzzled between the fine dance of ‘conservative’ bolusing, so that I don’t go low if I’m driving, and extra bolusing or increased basal for the more sedentary time of travel.

Diabetes management thrives on routine or else requires the operator (me) to become a lot more involved. Which is the opposite of what I want to do on vacation. I want to say to my friends, “I don’t care where we go to dinner, take me to your favorite place!” Or, “Yeah, cheesecake sounds great!” Sometimes, I have an impulse to do that thing called…relaxing, where your mind sort of goes blank and you stop strategizing for the best possible way to achieve balance and you just sort of…veg.

But instead I pack a rigorous cooler full of literal veggies and nut butters, snack foods of all kinds, instant coffee (can’t really attribute that to diabetes, but it helps), and try to picnic as much as possible. The picnic is key because usually a good spot for picnicking is also a good spot for walking, which is a really useful tool on car trips. Often I park far from my ultimate destination and play the ‘ask for directions’ game on the way to wherever I’m going, which usually helps me get a good walk in. But I think the best outcome for me on the road comes from that good cache of snacks that I can use to fill-up a little before and meal at a restaurant that might not have as much to offer in the way of non-spiking foods or to munch on in the morning before my companions wake up. I would recommend the noble avocado, as the perfect snack for morning, afternoon, or night, compatible with sweet and savory, filling, and rich in happy making omega-3’s. I have more to say on this topic, but for now I’ve got to move.

A Backpack and a Paper Home

September 2011

Well, it’s been a long, busy road since my last post – taking me out of N.C. and into France. From there I traveled through Switzerland, into the edge of Austria, up into the corner of Germany and back again to my home base in the Loire Valley. Along the way I stopped in Zurich, Montreaux, Chamonix, and other parts of France. I carried my insulin in frio packs from hostel to hostel, sometimes finding a refrigerator and sometimes continuing to re-wet the pack every day or so to keep them cold. I ate an elaborate array of cheeses and pates in Paris, sausage and pretzel breads in Austria, and not much in Switzerland since everything was so expensive! It was a bread-filled time for me, lots of baguettes and butter, but also a lot of walking. Traveling for 2.5 months without a car necessitates a lot of time on your feet. And for a month of that I carried a 40 lb. backpack with me, full of medical supplies, clothes, hiking boots, and the essential memory recording equipment; a journal, camera, and two sketchpads. This was a solo adventure for me in many ways, even through the times that I was with friends or my french family. It was part of my journey towards feeling unrestrained, and yet in many ways I did feel constricted for parts of it. I realize in hindsight how that has opened up my life now; how like in yoga class after an intense twist your body is filled with oxygen and energy once you release the bind. I feel a new sense of direction and motivation after my trip that releases at unexpected moments.

Diabetically speaking, carrying my supplies was less of a hassle and challenge than I expected. I guess I’m getting better at it. When I traveled in Costa Rica during my Junior year of college, I had a lot of scary lows, a lot of fear over not having my supplies or finding myself unprepared and without access to what I needed, food or medical-wise. But even though I traveled for much of the time alone, staying in hostels where no one knew I was diabetic and even if I’d wanted to tell them I might have had to do it in German (French and Spanish I can do, but there are so many languages in Europe!), I don’t have any poignant memories of diabetes impeding what I wanted to do. Realizing that makes me want to shout with joy. I have become accepting of this condition to the point that I was surprised to suddenly recognize at some point that I had not been thinking about it. That is like stage three acceptance! (I have a feeling there are many more stages).

So I want to talk more about the trip, but my brain is already catapulting into the future with dreams and plans of my life as a nutritionist, diabetes educator, and food policy activist. Maybe I’ll never call diabetes a blessing in disguise, but it is really powerful for me to admit that having this condition has and still is shaping my passion, my drive, and my relationship with my body for the better. It is even shaping my career choices at this point, and I am so excited to be on the cusp of dealing with this global epidemic that is such an indicator of the pressing issues of our time. The rise in diabetes correlates with our disconnection and disharmony with the Earth, it follows poverty and economic inequality, it speaks to racial and economic separation, it illustrates how our lifestyles and priorities have so rapidly changed, largely affected by media and marketing.

Whoo, I feel I’m off on a tangent. I am experimenting with using this technology information share free-for-all as a way to be more connected, not less so, and I think blogging is an amazing way to empower the individual. Between managing a new job and diabetes it’s hard to find time to write, but writing is one way I manage my stress, and stress is the main culprit in my diabetes management. I kept a journal all through my trip and wrote in it nearly everyday – I think it served as a friend and comfort to me through my lonely times, of which there were many. Journaling for me is a way to jump into a self-expression that requires no explanation, no background, and no structure; no sense has to be made. It almost always grounds me when I am floating for some reason or the other, maybe it’s traveling, searching for a job and purpose, or uncertainty in my relationships. It is for me, and it is simple. In a world of complicated diabetes management that changes everyday, my journal is stable and always ready to listen. In a strange way it holds me accountable to myself as well. I have read back over past journals and realized that at some level I knew all along whether a situation was going to be healthy or sustainable for me, even if I have not always heeded that intuition. I’ve realized too that I have the power to view diabetes as a blessing and the lessons that it has brought to me as gifts, all through reassuring myself before I ever needed reassuring. It is powerful and amazing to honor yourself by recording whatever speaks to you in the moment.