Tag Archives: travelling with diabetes

10 Random Things from the Author of The Girl’s Guide to Diabetes

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Hi!  I’ve been away from the blog longer than ever since it started 3.5 years ago.  That ends today.  But, here is what has been consuming my thoughts and making writing about diabetes a lower priority:

1.  Travelling with diabetes is challenging.  I’ve really been working at getting the knack of it.  I don’t want it to be bad for my health you know?  The other day, I tried my best to check my blood sugar in line at the airport where you put your things in cubbies to get scanned and just as I put the blood in the strip the scanner sucked my cubby with my meter in it inside to be scanned and I had to ask the lady at the scanner, “Excuse me, what number do you see on my meter?”  She lifted the scanner flap and peeked inside and said, “911 I think?”  Huh?!  It came out a few seconds later and I saw a 116, phew!  People behind me looked a little nervous and I don’t blame them.  One TSA agent said, “We need to do a pat down, do you mind?”  I said, “Of course you need to now, go ahead.”  What was I doing checking at the most inappropriate time?  I felt really off like I might be very low and ready to pass out and didn’t want to hesitate with checking because I had to run to the next gate so I felt I needed to just do it then.  I get sick to my stomach with flying so I take dramamine and that makes me kind of loopy…but I still love it.  Flying that is, not the dramamine.

2.  My favorite number is two.  I know that’s random but-My dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  It’s really scary because even though surgery removed the tumor, the likelihood of return is very high.  I’m making him vegetable juices and hoping that does something to help.  This has made me have a heart to heart with myself about my diabetes because I can do so much to make my outcome a good one-I really need to remember that and be grateful for it.

3.  My kids being 3.5 and still at home with me all day is driving me nuts.  I hate feeling nagged because I really am very happy to have them with me, to read books and play games all day, mold their minds into caring, open, patient people, watch them impressed as they have expert command of the computer, but at the same time, I know I’m not enough.  And I’m not sure how to solve this which leads me to:

4.  My husband Alex and I are having a hard time deciding where to live.  We can’t decide whether to rent or buy, to get a house or condo or loft.  And its because what we want doesn’t exist where we live.  We want to buy a really small place (so that the cost is low and the space is just for basic needs) and then we want to use our extra money to eat well (for health’s sake) and to travel (for our kid’s mind’s sake).  And I don’t mean travel abroad, I mean anywhere.  Right now just driving to a neighboring town to visit isn’t doable because rent is so high (since we want a nice and safe area-gee are we just asking for too much?).  When we walk out of our front door we want to be around people, a community.  I live in a place that is too large to be a town and too small to be a city and so we don’t have any of the best of either world.  Others would disagree but I must be ambitious because I want more.  Alex does, too.  We’re lonely.  There, I said it.  My kids are lonely.  School is coming for them and I’m sure they will love it.  Maybe that’s all we have to wait for.  In the meantime daycare/preschool is too expensive here and we make too much to get federal aid for it-nor do I want it.  Stubborn Sysy strikes again.

5.  I’ve noticed there is a back lash online towards people who are health coaches or something similar.  Usually, the most upset are those who studied for years to get an accreditation of some kind.  I can understand.  However, what someone like myself does as a health coach is in no way a threat to what a dietitian or a nurse or a diabetes educator does.  Think of what a coach does?  Supports, cheers, listens, encourages.  I’ll write more about this soon.  And I’d like for people out there to know that vocation has a lot to do with how good one will be at their job.  Just think, we all took math in high school but how many of us could teach others that math?  I couldn’t to save my life.  My health coaching training took one intense year but I’ve been reading and training on the subject my whole life as if I grew up knowing what I wanted to do only not knowing it actually existed until recently.  And I think that goes for many people of all types of professions and work.  I may write more about this later in detail but for now, I just want to say that health coaches don’t take the place of the other health care professions, they just want to help alongside of them.  And there is a need for them otherwise so many people wouldn’t be calling us for help and leaving happy and satisfied.  And we deserve to make a living off of it because we’re working hard, helping people (isn’t that the point?), and can’t do our work as homeless people.  We don’t have huge loans to pay back but that’s not our fault.  We do have to struggle more to find work since so many are still skeptical however.

6.  I’d like to remind you all of the website Guerilla Goodness.  It’s awesome and inspiring and really cheers me up this time of year.  Great ideas here for spreading around secret acts of kindness-which I agree with the author-do change everything.

7.  I’ve been thinking about how to reconcile my love of fashion and quality clothing while not spending much and while buying from small businesses and while keeping my closet simple.  A friend from France emailed me explaining what most girls there do:  They buy a few pieces a year that they carefully select while walking around town, making sure they fit perfectly and they get shoes that are comfortable but exactly what they are looking for.  Then, they wear the same few outfits over and over and over.  It keeps things minimal, lets them wear what they love, and keeps costs down.  And at the end of the year, they have completely worn out their shoes and clothes and can start anew the next year.  I read the same thing in a book recently, too.  Just thought I’d share because I think too many of us have too much clothes and we don’t even love most of it and then our closets are overwhelming, we’ve spent too much, and for what?

8.  There is a website I want to share.  My type 1 friend Cynthia Zuber is on a holistic health journey.  She is doing great and it’s been very inspiring to get to know her and see what all she does to regain her health and maximize it.  She shares the most delicious recipes I’ve seen and just want to let you all know to check out Diabetes Light.

9.  Did you get the flu shot this year?  I didn’t though I can understand why some do.  I haven’t in many years.  So far, so good.  Things have been great since getting my Vitamin D levels up with Vitamin D3 supplements.  Oh and frequent hand washing.  Just wanted to share.

10.  My most popular post is about nerve damage reversal.  I am submitting an update here that as of December 2012, I have less foot pain than I have ever had.  In fact, I have had none this year.  I don’t know why.  I wonder if running bothers me (I’ve been doing more yoga and walking and less running).  For years I had tons of foot pain, tons!  Then as I regained control of my blood sugars the pain increased (which doctors told me could be due to healing of nerves)  Then the pain went away for 99% of the time.  I credit this lack of pain now to well managed blood sugars.  I thought I would halt damage by improving my sugars but it seems I’ve reversed some because of the lack of pain?  Pretty fantastic what great blood sugars can do.  Makes the discipline and healthy lifestyle so worth it.  Even if I just do it most of the time Winking smile  Anyway, I share because the possibility of less pain is a big motivator.

Take care, all.

xoxo,

Sysy

Travelling with Diabetes…and other Health Issues

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I haven’t travelled by plane too much in my life.  I’ve been to visit relatives in Venezuela, gone to Aruba with my pump (would have loved the Omnipod for that trip), went to Mexico for business and my honeymoon, and just this past week, Kansas City for A1c Champions training.

For this trip, I was so nervous about forgetting my insulin that I instead forgot my anxiety and allergy medications.  So not only did I not have my anxiety relief, I endured awful withdrawal symptoms like nausea, extreme anxiety, sweating, insomnia, and dizziness.  And since I didn’t have allergy relief, I got a sinus headache, sore throat, and swollen limph nodes.  Thank goodness the training and the people there were all splendid because without all that going well I would have cried the entire time.

Thanks to that anxiety I was having, my adrenaline sent my blood sugars skyrocketing.  Oh and plane rides seem to make my blood pressure drop, too.  I was almost sure I was going to pass out a few times and since I had forgotten my medic alert bracelet (another genius move), I had to write type 1 diabetes on my wrist with a permanent marker.  Geez, diabetes, how I’d love to leave you at home.

I’m better now and very equipped with information on how to not forget things when I travel again next month (aka, make a travel check list!)  Fingers crossed for a better travel experience.

Any tips for dealing with low blood pressure and motion sickness on planes?  I’m going to be travelling more and could really use some advice on what helps.  Asking the stewardess for a vomit bag does not make the poor soul next to me feel very comfortable.

By the way, if you’re curious about the A1c Champions program, it’s AMAZING.  Seriously, AMAZING.  You can learn more here: A1cChampions.com

Interview with Chris Scully, Adventure Seeker

Chris at the Himalayas right before snowboarding down
Chris at the Himalayas right before snowboarding down

 

Chris Scully writes at her own blog Canadian D-Gal.  I have been following her posts for some time.  After reading I frequently come away with a feeling of “whoa this is girl power and diabetes power’”. You see, Chris, despite being a type 1 diabetic, is very in active outdoor sports.  She caught my attention big time when I learned she had backpacked for 4 months in South East Asia and lived abroad in Taiwan for two years while teaching English. It’s not an impossible feat.  Yet, I feel extremely intimidated just thinking about going off into the wilderness as a type 1 diabetic. Or living in another country, for that matter.  Even for a day.  So her experience means a lot to me.  It says, “you can do it”.  We diabetics can use that reminder every day.  We can’t let it hold us back from what we really want to do.

I’ve asked her a few questions about her experience and here are her answers:

GG: Chris, I’m curious, what are all the outdoor activities you do? How do you manage your diabetes on those activities?

Long distance running and cycling, spin class, stair climbing, mountain biking, rock climbing, rollerblading, snowboarding, snow shoeing, hiking, back-country camping including backpacking and canoe tripping.  I’m sure I’m missing a few things. I manage it all quite differently since the activities differ greatly.   A lot of these things I do alone and that makes some activities harder than others. Since the pump, the Temp Basal Rate option has become my best friend.  I owe all my successes to having that feature.  It requires careful pre/post-planning and constant monitoring throughout.  Protecting my meter also being my number one priority.  Keeping it dry or cool/warm.  Keeping it close and protected while always having spare batteries, lancets and strips just in case.  Without being able to check my blood well then I’d be going at it blind.  Which I’ve done on many occasions and where I learned most of my lessons from.  Always having different kinds of fast-acting sugars depending on the situation.  Most importantly being able to address the situation no matter what might arise.  Contingency plans whether it’s carrying too much glucose or notifying family of a possible phone call is key.  Knowing that things can and probably will go wrong is not something to ignore but something to keep in mind at ALL times.  If I didn’t go out there with the utmost confidence that I will do my best to handle whatever situation arises I would never go out.

GG:  How long have you engaged in outdoor sports?

Since I was a young teenager.  I started rock climbing and back-country camping at 14.

GG: Ok, so you spent two years in Taiwan teaching English.  How did your life take you there?  And how did you do with your diabetes management while there?

My boyfriend at the time and I thought it would be a neat experience to teach English in Taiwan.  As far as diabetes management it was hell at first.  I went with all the supplies I had which was only a few months worth.  Once I got settled I had to find out how the “system” worked. My mum was back home frantically trying to find a way to ship it to me but it was too much trouble requiring import/export licenses.  I qualified for a Taiwanese health card.  I had to go to the hospital (only on Tuesday nights) and wait in up to a 3 hour cue to get my prescription.  They would fill it right there in the hospital and it cost me almost nothing.  There was a language barrier, so once they got used to me coming once a month there weren’t many questions.  They would only ever give me 1 month at a time. I had to buy my test strips at the store for full price.  I never got blood work done the entire time I was there because of the language barrier and I was a pretty irresponsible diabetic back then.

 

One of Chris's Kindergarten classes in Taiwan
One of Chris’s Kindergarten classes in Taiwan

 

GG:  Did you discuss this trip with your health care provider before taking it?  If so, did you receive any help or guidance?

I came home for a visit from Taiwan after the 2 years teaching before I went back to travel.  I met with my CDE at the time.  I had no travel plans set in stone but I told her all the countries we may or may not visit. She then contacted Lily and got a list of which countries had what type of insulin.

Some countries had only the old school “N” stuff where you must wait 30 minutes before eating.  Some countries didn’t have pens or some had only Novo insulins.

Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan

 

GG:  When you backpacked through South East Asia, what places did you travel through?  What was the most “diabetic friendly” place?

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and India.  None of them were diabetic friendly as far as food options but Thailand was the most diabetic friendly for medical care.  I quickly learned how to read “carbs” in different languages.

Southern Thailand
Southern Thailand

GG: I understand you were on MDI (Multiple Daily Injections) while in Taiwan and during your 6 months backpacking.  How did you keep your insulin?  Where did you buy it?  Did you need a prescription for anything while abroad?

Wow.  This might take awhile to answer, I apologize in advance! Well Bangkok is basically the hub of south-east Asia for backpackers. We used to go to Bangkok for the weekend since it was a cheap 3 hour flight from Taiwan.  Needless to say I knew it VERY well and treated it like my second home.  The first thing I did once arriving was to go to the recommended hospital for foreigners and start poking and prodding around to get some information.  Armed with my “list” from my CDE I knew that Bangkok would be my best bet.  The doctors I saw here were extremely friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  This is where I was first introduced to Lantus! I received a months worth of supplies.  Pen cartridges, pen needles, bottle of Lantus and syringes.  It wasn’t cheap, I had to pay full price for it. From here I decided it would be easiest to just return to Bangkok once a month for refills. The other countries were much lower class and it was unlikely I would be able to find what I needed. Also, traveling 16 hours on overnight buses/trains/boats and staying in cheap guesthouses with zero luxuries meant that carrying more than a months supply was impossible. We had, however, planned on spending 2 months in India in which getting insulin there was going to be a necessity since Bangkok was now an expensive flight away.  I spent the first two days in New Delhi traumatized by the insanity of the city all the while getting sent on wild goose chases just trying to find where I could buy it.  I couldn’t get it through hospitals like Bangkok (I was led to believe) and although Indians speak a lot of English they were the least bit helpful.  I eventually found some random little apothecary/booth thing that looked eerily untrustworthy and they sold me a disposable Novorapid pen at an outrageous price.  Luckily I never had to use it because I cut the India trip short.  I don’t remember him pulling it out of a fridge either.

GG:  Now that you use a pump, do you think you would have been able to do all this on the insulin pump?  How do you think having a pump would help or hurt experiences like the ones you’ve had?

I don’t think a pump would make it any more difficult except the fear of what happens if the pump malfunctions.  This was also a number of years ago and who knows what’s changed as far as insulin availability in other countries.  I would still need to get vials of insulin somehow.  Pump supplies I would certainly carry them all with me.  It would probably be easier with a pump.  It might even be easier to research it nowadays. It would require a bit more careful attention.  Like when swimming around in waterfalls/oceans or scuba diving.

GG:  What was the hardest thing, diabetes-wise, about your experiences abroad?

Knowing I couldn’t travel on a whim.  Everybody else was just going with the flow and I envied that.  I never got to visit Vietnam like we had planned because of time constraints on my insulin.  I spent an extra two weeks in Cambodia before going back to Thailand because we were having such a good time and we were days away via bus/train/etc.  I had been running my insulin for over 6 weeks in insane heat.  I know I wasn’t feeling so hot. Keep in mind I didn’t know nearly as much as I do now. Oh the other hard parts were having hypos in strange places like the killing fields in Cambodia, or the middle of the night in a sweaty strange grungy guest house.  Oh and its hard to drive a scooter hypo.

GG:  What advice would you give to a diabetic interested in doing something similar?

  1. Have a plan.For example, I used the “shoestring lonely planet guide to South-East Asia”.  So I was following dirty hippy cheap backpacker routes (YAY!) So I knew I couldn’t rely on refrigeration.  I went armed with some decent health insurance also.  Traveling in 3rd world countries as an insulin-dependent diabetic just meant I had to be extra careful which I was.
  2. Have a friend.My boyfriend at the time was always looking out for me.  He understood the dangers of traveling with a type1 diabetic.  Trust me, I needed him on more than a few occasions.  He was often running around in search of sugary drinks when I ran out of whatever I had with me.

GG:  What is your greatest memory from your trips?

Climbing up the Himalayas with snowshoes above the treeline in Northern India and experiencing a touch of altitude.  Then snowboarding back down.

Was diabetes there?  I can’t even remember!  I can’t forget all the adventures of teaching English in Taiwan.  That was an experience I’ll never get again and I loved it all.

GG:  Would you do it all over again, diabetes and all?

Mekong River, Laos
Mekong River, Laos

 

 

MOST DEFINITELY!  These are some of the best memories I’ve ever had. I’ve daydreamed about doing something like this again ever since.  I laugh now at the gallivanting around Delhi in a rickshaw trying to find an insulin pen. Most importantly, I barely remember diabetes distracting me.  It certainly wouldn’t have been the best for my Diabetes management to do this for say a year.  We gotta give in somewhere.  I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.  Even if I did end up in a strange room half passed out in some mountain village in India with a doctor spending an hour trying to find a vein to insert an IV into me.  I’m happy to forget that experience though.

 

Thanks so much for answering all these questions, Chris!  I never realized how hardcore you are until now.  I’m sitting here quite amazed.

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