Did travelling help get my diabetes under control?

I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of 12. That was very nearly 13 years ago now and it’s safe to say I haven’t always had great control over my diabetes. 12 is quite an awkward age to be diagnosed with a condition which requires constant blood glucose monitoring, injections etc. But in the first few years I plodded along quite compliantly until at some point I seemed to fall off the bandwagon and I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to do the finger pricks, I didn’t want to do the injections, I didn’t want to do the carb counting, I just wanted to be normal.

Over about the last 10 years my control has been up and down, and as I left my teens and entered my 20’s I started feeling the guilt of not looking after myself. I would ‘turn over a new leaf’ and start testing my blood sugars regularly, only for a few days later to be back to my old routine again. I dreaded going for appointments with the specialist nurses as I knew the results wouldn’t be what I wanted to hear and I would start my new leaf cycle all over again.

In September last year I went to the Hospital for the first time in about 5 years to get back into the system, and saw the Specialist Dietician. They took my HBA1C and the results came back as 9 (I still work on the old numbers). I left once again feeling deflated and knew I needed to change something, before I ended up doing myself some irreversible damage.

At this point in time I had just booked the trip of a lifetime with my boyfriend to travel around the world, something I had been desperate to do for so long and now it was reality. I had an appointment with the community nurse at my GP surgery, and we went through everything, from ingenious ways previous patients had kept their insulin cool to a reminder of sick day rules, and not to mention the rather large prescription I was going to need to cover me for the 4.5 months I was away. She even arranged another appointment for me to bring my boyfriend along so they could talk about what to do in the event of a hypo, if I was ill and give him some reassurance that I would be fine and he could handle anything that happened.

We set off on our trip on the 31st of October, our first destination was India. I started to test my blood sugars a few time a day, to see how the jet lag, heat and different food was affecting my body. As the weeks went on and we were visiting new places all the time I started to test my bloods a bit more, I found it frustrating eating out and not counting the carbs right, and having to take some guesses at what word meant ‘Carbohydrates’ when we were in Asia. By the time we had made it to New Zealand I was testing my blood sugars 4 times a day. I didn’t ever think I would find myself in a routine where I was checking my bloods as I should be, and I was starting to see the results of going back to basics with carb counting (probably because I felt I didn’t know the food very well and needed to pay more attention).

I then became even more curious and starting doing tests 2 hours after my lunch, to see if I was definitely getting my dosage right and try to understand what different foods did to my body. One downside to this was that I found myself giving lots of correction doses to clear up any shortcomings I had made on my initial insulin injections. The constant injections were starting to take their toll on me and my sore fingers were getting worse by the day, when it all got too much and reduced me to tears, but I carried on, determined that when I got home my next HBA1C  reflect my determination and perseverance.

At one point I found I was having a lot of hypos, which was unnerving after a particularly bad hypo several years ago led to an ambulance. I think I was trying so hard to give the correct doses of insulin that I wasn’t taking into account the 30,000+ steps we were walking some days which meant lots of ups and downs.

At the end of our trip I wondered whether or not I would carry on with my new-found testing routine and whether starting at a new job would see me slip back into my old ways. I went down with tonsillitis and a sinus infection the day before I started my new job, which meant I had to keep a close eye on my blood sugars. So from the onset my new colleagues saw me pricking my finger and giving myself correction doses of insulin to combat the high readings I was getting from being ill.

Thankfully I’ve carried on my with testing routine, and recently nearly had a meltdown in the pharmacy after they mixed up my prescription (thankfully it was sorted before I ran out of strips!) and yesterday I had my first appointment back at the hospital since I’ve really started taking care of myself. All of my efforts weren’t in vein and I was extremely pleased to get a HBA1C reading of 7.5 yesterday – Which is my best reading for years!

So not only did travelling give me a lifetime of memories, it also helped me regain control of the condition I neglected for so many years and long may it continue.

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