The idea of a Diabetes Vacation has been tossed around for years. It makes sense that a 24/7/365 disease would be exactly what we need a break from. And I would be the first to sign up if we really could take a vacation from Diabetes.
But we can't just demand that a disease be gone for five days. We can't proclaim a working pancreas and all of a sudden, on day one of our vacation 'Ol Pancky finally shows up for work. So instead, some people choose to get away by reducing their management tasks for a given amount of time and that gives them break of some sorts.
For me, that sounds like torture. Not test for a day? I would be so scared of an impending low or the dehydration and nausea from a high. Some people detach from their pump and go on shots. The moment I realize I might be separated from my pump due to mechanical issues, I am in tears and so fearful I cannot sleep. To bring this on purposely would not be a vacation from anything but peace and security.
The worst part of diabetes for me is not the shots or changing pump sites or CGM's or testing. It's the isolation of trying to do it alone. The lack of a compadre to commiserate or rejoice or brain storm with. It's having to leave a restaurant table to test and shoot up in the bathroom stall because I am not in the mood to explain myself. It's having to alter my plans when my blood sugar gets out of whack.
Diabetes brings me down when I let it determine my life, my energy and my limits. When I feel like it controls me. On my Diabetes vacation I want to get away from the stronghold that diabetes has on my emotional life.
And, boy, have I started planning this vacation.
June 26th, 2014 I will take off for adventure and five days outside of the grasp of diabetes with a team of swimmers and crew to take on my next big challenge, The Swim Around Key West. And it has all five of the ingredients of my Happy Cocktail.
1. FUTURE PLANS - A recent study stated that vacations are not only a mood boost while you lie on a tropical beach, but they also provide a mood boost for up to eight weeks before you go. I need to look forward to something when the days grow short and cold. It fills my daydreams with sunny warmth and tropical breezes. Five days in the Keys will definitely give me something to look forward to.
2. SUNSHINE - No place better that Florida for sunshine. It should be in the 90's in June with ayer temps hovering around 86. It's so sunny that swimmers in this race have to coat themselves in Zinc Oxide so they don't burn to a crisp.
3. MUSIC - Going to Key West always fills my brain with the lyrics of those Jimmy Buffett songs that have been cemented there by repeated exposure over the last 25 years. training for hours on end looking at the black line on the bottom of the pool can get repetitive and boring without the right music on my iPod. So I have been filling it with happy music to liven up my workouts that will get up to 120 laps long.
4. EXERCISE- It's a given in training for a 42 mile swim.
5. PEOPLE (who I actually like) - Anyone crazy enough to swim 4.2 miles in the open ocean goes on my list of pretty cool people. I just have to make sure I fill the roster of 3 swimmers, 1 boat captain, 1 photographer/media captain, and any other crew with people ready to relax, slow down and create that vacation attitude that will recharge us all.
The next six months will be filled with conversations about how to train and the obstacles that try to derail our training. We will discuss our travel plans, those must-see spots for each person. And we will try to solve the problems that being a diabetic swimmer presents. How do you test if you're not allowed to touch the boat and you're wet in the middle of the ocean for two to three hours during your leg of the race? What should our nutrition look like during that time? What procedures should we have in place to ensure everyone finishes safely and happily.
Racing will be exhilarating, but the five days surrounding the race will be filled with even more fun, starting with a 150+ mile drive down the backbone of the keys on Friday with the warm tropical wind in our hair, Jimmy Buffett on the radio and laughter from the future inside jokes brewing in the car. Saturday night we will stand together at the pre-race meeting, knowing the challenge that lays ahead of us the next morning is just a little tougher for us because of the extra burden we carry.
Sunday morning, bright and early, we'll begin our race with seven hours on the water and in the sun followed by an amazing celebration dinner in one of the Key West restaurants in town (and if I have my way, that will probably be Margaritaville Cafe). And Monday is open to find someway to give back to the diabetic community in Key West (contact me if you know of one).
Each day we'll be part of a team where we are the normal ones. Where pumps and CGM's beep freely, blood is tested and the table and where getting high is a sometimes unavoidable side-effect of being normal. We won't have to explain when we get overly grumpy due to a low, because we've all been there before. We don't have to feel like we're letting down the team taking time to test during a race, everyone will take that same time when it is their turn. And we won't be left alone to find solutions to the diabetic swimming problems. On this team, that is just how we roll.
Tuesday we will go back to our normal lives knowing that we did something great. We kicked diabetes right in the arse. And we can use that confidence to make diabetes bend to our will, to test more, to analyze data more frequently, to continue exercising so we can live healthier, longer, happier lives.
And we can continue to drink our Happy Cocktail each and every day.