Type 1 Diabetes is a multi-talented killer. It kills quickly, it kills slowly and it can kill by stripping you of any desire to truly live. One slip up in your dosing math, one time you forget your safety sugars, one underestimation of how hard that workout really was and the amount of sugar in your blood plummets to the point where there is not enough to support your brain and heart function. I’m sure you can guess the outcome of that, and it can happen in the blink of an eye. We all do a pretty good job of staying on top of it, but slipups do happen in the diabetic community. It’s a tribute to all of us that it doesn’t happen more often.
But even if we can prevent the Superlows from happening, it is virtually impossible to keep from getting too much sugar in your blood from time to time. Whether its that hot fudge sundae you’ve had your eye on for a week, a forgotten bolus of insulin because one kid’s crying, one was screaming and that pesky telemarketer just knew it was the right time to call, or you got sick and your body decided that it just doesn’t feel like responding to the triple dose of insulin you had to give it. Then little by little your blood gets thick with those killer glucose molecules that like to attach themselves to any available red blood cell like an over-40, still-single, overeager, “my-biological-clock-is-ticking” woman when she finds any man who shows even the smallest smakeral of interest in her. So what if your red blood cells get a little bigger? So what if trying to pump those enlarged cells around your body will wear out your heart a little quicker or that they start to tear at the littlest capillaries like a three-year-old through presents on Christmas morning? Those capillaries aren’t in anything really important anyways, just your kidneys, eyes, hands, feet and one other really important part. And so very, very slowly Diabetes silently wears out your body. We all work hard to slow this process. We all use the latest technology, we analyze all sorts of data and walk around like Robo-diabetic with pumps, meters, and continuous glucose monitors strapped to our bodies, belts, and in every bag, backpack and purse we own all in attempt to slow the coming tide.
But, I think worse than both of these, is Diabetes’ ability to strip you of all desire to truly live. Your doc tells you never again walk barefoot, no flying or scuba diving, forget Ironman training, just walk for 20 minutes a day. Everything in moderation, he tells you. And that’s the killer, Moderation. When was the last time you got the least bit of a thrill from Moderation? Have you dreamed about your Moderation for two years straight, saving every extra penny, telling everyone you know, being possessed by your Moderation? Never. But talk to any diabetic who has stepped out of the cloud of Moderation and they will turn your ear bloody talking about their training plan and what their blood sugars were every 15 minutes during their last sub-4 hour marathon and every detail of their next trip climbing Machu Pichu. They are truly living. And they are talking to anyone who will listen. But for years they were talking to those who didn’t know much about diabetes, those who don’t know Type 1 from Type 2, those who couldn’t help with the right basal rate reduction for an 11 hour hike, those who don't know a thing about the low blood sugar induced Midnight Munchies. That is until a few of these diabetic athletes happened to sit down together at a table together at a conference and started talking. What was born out of that conversation was the plan to build a community to get diabetics together to talk and to support their moderation-busting adventures.
I, too, have been bit by the bug to abolish moderation. For me its a sailing trip. Four days, alone on a 22 foot Catalina, in the Florida Keys. To sit alone for 96 hours, to sail, to think and to write. To get a grasp on what diabetes has done to my life and what I am going to do to diabetes. And to support others who want to do the same thing in their own way. I have decided to use this trip to raise funds for Insulindependence and to spread the word that Moderation will never win. We can't let it.
There are those runs every so often, when you feel like you can run forever without even a hint of fatigue. Where your mind drifts off into that happy place and your body just relaxes. I’ve gone to that place a few times while running but never when swimming. Its kind of hard to get into a groove when every 18 strokes a huge wall looms and forces you to break stride to turn yourself upside down in some elementary school style pool trick just to put in another 18 strokes and hit the other wall.
It’s been 15 years, 25 yards at a time and no happy place. That is until last week when I took my Christmas gift to the deck. I had my eye on it for over a year when my parents found out and gave me a waterproof case for my iPod, an H2O Audio case for my third generation Nano and the Laird Hamilton earphones to match.
I figured if I was going to meet my goal at Wildflower this year, I needed to put in some major yardage at the Y. So I situated my Nano inside the case, locked it down, slipped the neoprene belt around my waist and fiddled with the earphones for a bit. The first few laps were less than enjoyable trying to get the volume adjusted, the earbuds set just right and the pressure fixed in my ears from the watertight fit. But once I got set up, I was immediately in another world.
The experience of counting my strokes- 1,2,3; 2,2,3; 3,2,3; 4,2,3; Flip- was instantly replaced by the feel of the tepid water gliding across my skin. With Jimmy playing, I could see the sun streaming in from the open roof as if it were shining down from a tropical sky. The water suddenly was the clearest ocean water I had ever seen. I was swimming around some tidal island in the Keys just a few feet from shore. No more stroke counting and flips, just a constant revolution around the island. When I pop my head out of the water for a moment to breathe I catch a glimpse of a Key deer nibbling some grass just below a patch of palm trees moving ever so slightly with the Prevailing Westerlies. I had just slipped into the water from my 22’ Catalina anchored offshore to wake up with the feel of the coolness of the sea and get a little exercise in before lounging the rest of the day away in my topside hammock, writing and enjoying being in one of the coolest places that God has made.