As I packed my suitcase, I looked into my carry-on bag and wondered what people without type one diabetes take on the plane with them. I had practically filled a tiny bag with a mini-hospital; I had my mini cooler full of extra insulin, my pump supplies, insulin pen supplies, and snacks galore. It was definitely going to be a struggle, but I was headed to Israel for 10 days with a group of teenagers for hiking, kayaking, and sight seeing in every terrain possible from mountains, to cities, rivers, and deserts, and type one was not going to hold me back!
During the trip, I never knew how intense a hike, tour, or day would be, and I was never sure how anything we did or saw would affect me. Add in a change in time zone, excessive heat, and new types of food, and this was a challenge I was ready to accept! I have wanted to go to Israel my entire life, and I was not going to let diabetes stop me. Because of the heat, my group was constantly taking breaks during any hikes or walking tours to refill water bottles and sit in the shade, so I would make sure to stay hydrated, grab a quick snack, and check my blood sugar. I was also lucky enough to have my continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS) in for the 10 days, so most of the time I was alerted when my sugar was going low or high.
Still, within the first few days in Israel we had hiked Mount Arbel (pictured below), gone kayaking, and stayed on a kibbutz. I had my itinerary before the trip and although I thought I planned for everything, I learned soon enough that I would have to take each day in stride. On the kibbutz, there was no freezer for the ice pack I kept my insulin in, so I kept the entire container in the refrigerator and tried my best to keep it cool. Before our first hike, I gave myself less insulin than called for in preparation for the exercise, then during the hike, my blood sugar rose to almost 300, so I had to correct. When we went kayaking, I knew I had to leave my insulin pump off the kayak so it did not get wet. This left me with the question of letting my blood sugar go high due to me not receiving my insulin for 2-3 hours, or passing up a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the breathtaking Jordan River. In the end, I decided to go kayaking…I made sure that my blood sugar was on the lower side when I started, brought a glucometer and snacks on the kayak just in case, and corrected for the high blood sugar when I got off. In this instance, I could not keep my blood sugars in perfect control, but that is just a part of traveling and trying new things that we sometimes have to accept after weighing our decisions. On any hike, no matter how long or intense, I always had my backpack with me. I was with a tour group so I could never go back to the hotel or to a pharmacy if I needed something, so I had to be prepared 24/7, which meant carrying my bag at all times.
On the 6th day, my group was going rappelling off a cliff in the Golan Heights. I had planned to keep my blood sugars in check before I actually repelled, and was prepared for that when I got off the bus. I did not realize that I would be hiking up to the cliff, which was a very intense, steep, and hot hike! Before I knew it, my blood sugar was 60 and I was out of juice and snacks, I had to stop and tell the staff on our trip, who knew about my diabetes, and ask them to try to find snacks from some of the staff and people on our trip. Finally, when my blood sugar was back up I was able to hike up to the rappelling (pictured), but it was a scary moment for me…and I'm not very keen on thinking about what could have happened had nobody had a snack. Of course, I had my glucagon shot with me in case of emergency, but I have never used it and would hope to never have to.This truly convinced me that I always have to be over prepared for anything that can come my way, and that even if you are ready for every other day, diabetes does not take a break. It proved to me that if you're not prepared, diabetes has the possibility to damper a vacation, especially one with such intense activity. Thankfully, I was able to snap back into it, and I can still confidently say that T1D has never stopped me because I was able to make it to the top and go rappelling!
Despite these and a few challenges I faced along the way, traveling to Israel and traveling with diabetes were both life-changing expiriences. I rode a camel, hiked Masada at sunrise for the most breathtaking view I have ever seen, swam in the Dead Sea, and did everything I have wanted to do for so many years and more! Seeing the country and learning about new cultures and lives was so interesting, and learning to control my diabetes on the go was a test I can proudly say I aced. At home I always had my mom there to rely on, knew I could run to the pharmacy for supplies if I needed to, and was used to my daily life…so traveling without my family halfway across the world for a jam packed 10 days was extremely daunting and frightening, but I was confident in myself and knew I could take care of my health. In the end, I had the most amazing 10 days of my life, and after traveling and doing so much activity with diabetes I feel like I can accomplish anything…so what’s next?!
At last night’s meeting, we talked a lot about our HbA1c. I was so proud of everyone had learned so much about their HbA1c and how they had worked so hard to lower their level. Getting to hear how everyone managed to reach their goals was really inspiring, even for me. Three weeks ago I had my HbA1c checked, and it was 5.8. That’s great, right?! In terms of numbers, yes, a 5.8 is great. But hearing about how everyone had achieved their goals made me reflect on my own diabetes care. It made me think that I was maybe having too many lows and too many highs, or maybe I’m doing everything just right for myself (which is different for everyone).
So, because of all of you incredible diabetics who inspired me, I am also challenging myself for these next three months to monitor more closely my diabetes. I’m going to try to write down everything I eat, how many carbohydrate servings are in each meal, how much insulin I am giving myself, etc. I hope to learn something new from doing all of this, and I hope it will help me achieve a great HbA1c the next month! Do you have any advice or tricks for me or for other diabetics about how you achieved your goal? Did you do anything special? Did you talk to anyone in particular who helped you reach your goals?
Today, I decided that I would post about making one of my favorite breakfast recipes that is healthy and delicious!! Ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes, I have made a big effort to eating healthy and taking care of myself, so I have gone through a lot of recipes to find food that I like. This is one of my favorites: banana strawberry muffins. Here’s the recipe (and a picture of them!):
1 cup of milk
1 tbsp baking powder
3 cups of oats (or flour)
2 cups of strawberries (cut)
½ cup of honey
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas.
3. Mix in the milk, eggs, baking powder and vanilla.
4. Slowly add in the oats and chopped strawberries.
5. Divide into baking cups, filling about 3/4 full.
6. Bake for 25 minutes.
Something I like about eating muffins (especially when you make them) is that you can easily prepare food for many days or for many people. They are also really delicious! Is there something that you like to make for breakfast, lunch, or dinner that is easy to make and that can be made in a big quantity? Or what is your favorite recipe, and how can you make it a little more ‘diabetic-friendly’?
I’ve found that meeting people can sometimes be really hard. Even though sometimes it can be really easy, there are some people who you simply cannot talk to without trying really hard. Since you don’t know the other person, knowing what to talk about can be challenging, especially since you don’t want to say something that will make them uncomfortable. Sometimes, I find it really helpful to talk about something popular, such as your favorite food or movie, but even that doesn’t always work! Lately I’ve been trying to make lists of things to talk about when I know I’m going to meet someone new. It has topics like books or the classes I’m taking at my university, and all of them are things that relate to me and possibly the other person. Also, these topics are always ones that keep the other person from judging me. This is one of the most important things to me because I want the person to be willing to meet me without any negative ideas in mind.
One thing that I don’t mention, unless I’m asked about it, is my diabetes. I’m not trying to hide it, and I’m certainly not ashamed of it, but this is something that I also don’t feel the need to let everyone know. Often times people have a bad idea about diabetes, whether it is that it is a contagious disease or one that someone develops because they didn’t live a healthy lifestyle. Not talking about my diabetes is a way that I can prevent others judging me before getting to know me. If someone asks me about being a T1 I’m always happy to tell them all about my diabetes, but this is something that I do carefully and I always make sure they understand what it is really about. I know that this may seem crazy to some people (I know several T1 who are happy to let everyone know about their disease), but dealing with T1 is something that every person deals with differently. What do you do when it comes to meeting people? What do you talk about or not talk about? Do you openly share your diabetes story, or do you wait to tell someone, like me?
Sometimes, it can be really hard to explain what it is like living with diabetes. People who don’t have it don’t really understand what we have to do every day to live a good life. Besides our every day struggles, we all know that there are ‘bad’ days, when we just can’t manage our blood sugars and we feel horrible about everything. Those are the days when we most want to talk to someone because it makes us feel more at ease with what we are going through, but it can be hard to feel better when no one understands.
I don’t know many people with diabetes, so I find that my diabetes-struggles can sometimes be harder to handle. When I try to explain living with diabetes, I often end up frustrated and tired because people just don’t seem to understand. One day, I told my sister all of this, and she suggested that I start to keep a journal. She said that I could mainly use it as a place to write down all of my thoughts and it could help me get through my challenges as a diabetic.
The first day I sat down to write, I didn’t know where to begin. I simply wrote down what my day was like and anything else that came to mind. Honestly, nothing I wrote had anything to do with my diabetes. I didn’t see that this journaling was helpful. I didn’t clear my mind or help me think about my day, so I only did it once or twice a week.
But suddenly, my idea about writing changed when I had one of my ‘bad’ days. Actually, it was an awful day. I couldn’t manage my blood sugar, I wanted to lie in my bed all day because I wasn’t feeling well, and all of this made me cry for an hour! The next day I sat down to write, and I found myself writing everything that had happened. Seeing all of my thoughts on paper felt incredible!
Ever since that day I have been writing in this journal, and it’s helped me a lot. It has helped me think a lot more about my everyday life and my diabetes life, and it has helped me figure out how to make them work together in better ways. It feels really great to have somewhere that I can write down my thoughts and figure out what I want to do.
I think that this could be a great activity for anyone to try, and I think it is definitely worth a try! Maybe this could help you with your diabetes, or maybe it can help your friend with dealing with their every day life problems. It can be a simple notebook, or several sheets of paper. Wherever you write, all that really matters is that you can have something to help you through anything in life.
Hello everyone! My name is Isabella, and I am a senior at the University of Georgia with type one diabetes. Unlike a lot of people with T1d I was diagnosed when I was 19 years old, which was really scary because this meant I had to completely change how I lived my life. At first it was really hard. But I eventually settled into my new life. This was thanks to my family and friends who have supported me every day. My grandmother had diabetes, so having a mom who knew how to deal with lows and highs made things slightly easier. If there is something my diabetes has taught me it’s that this disease shouldn’t define my outlook on life. I know that T1 can be hard to manage sometimes, but I think that working every day to be more confident about living with the disease makes things better.
Being in college can be stressful, and having diabetes can be stressful, but putting those together can make things a little crazy. Especially when you want to be a doctor, like me! Like I said, I take everything one day at a time, and I do this by balancing everything with doing things that I enjoy. I love playing the piano, playing tennis, and doing yoga. Apart from my hobbies, something that I love to do is working with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind to raise puppies into working guide dogs. My first dog, Kepler, is now a working guide dog, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.
I’m really excited to be working with Penpals United to lend a supporting hand to other T1s. We all need to support one another, and I hope to help as many people as I can by staying positive and confident with my blog!
Hello everyone! My name is Isabella, and I am a senior at the University of Georgia with type one diabetes. I was diagnosed at the age of 19, but don't let diabetes define me. Currently, I volunteer with the Guide Dog Foundation to train puppies to be working guide dogs. I am so excited to be a mentor with Penpals United!