If you, like me, have diabetes, you realize upon reflection that you are, despite the constant demands of the disease, blessed. Somewhere, sometime, you have benefited from the kindness, professionalism, and genuine concern of a medical professional, be it a nurse, pharmacist, dietitian, physician, therapist, or supporting staff.
Tony Flores is a 50-year-old native of El Salvador who works as a construction foreman. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 12 years ago, after an eye doctor told him it would be a good idea to get his blood sugar checked. He recalls, "I did the test, and they got all freaked out and told me, ‘Oh my god, your A1C is at 12%. You have diabetes type 2. You've got to cut the sugar, you've got to stop drinking orange juice and soda."
Since 1970, Joslin Diabetes Center has awarded a 50-year bronze medal and certificate to recognize the remarkable achievement of a successful life with insulin-dependent diabetes for half a century or more. To date there have been approximately 2,663 50-Year Medals awarded by Joslin Diabetes Center. Joslin Diabetes Center has awarded medals to recipients throughout the world, including individuals from Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South America, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
There's nothing quite like a dip in the Mediterranean Sea at sunset. The warm, clear water, shimmering clouds, and sound of families enjoying aperitifs at beachside cafes--it was the perfect start to a late-summer Italian holiday. We were visiting my boyfriend's brother, who had moved from England to Genoa a few years prior. It was my first time across the Atlantic, so my boyfriend Dunstan and I tried to make it count with 10 days filled with dinners, family celebrations, a road trip to Rome, hiking, and plenty of swimming.
My diabetes and I have traveled a lot of miles together in nineteen years. Racing Ironman triathlons in Australia, Europe, the Carribean and all over North America, climbing and camping at the top of 14,000 foot Mt. Whitney, and of course dozens of family vacations and business trips. Packing equipment and supplies for an Ironman triathlon and 3 weeks in Australia requires a bit of planning and preparation, but when you have diabetes you feel like you do that for just a weekend out of town. Meters, strips, insulin, syringes, infusion sets, pump supplies, snacks . . . a simple weekend trip becomes a lunar expedition.
Diabetes is often perceived as a physical disease, an issue with one's body. But those of us with diabetes know that it affects every area of our lives, including our emotional, spiritual, and mental health. People with diabetes are more likely to experience depression than the average person, and it doesn't take a doctor to explain why. Diabetes is daunting, complicated, and confusing. There's no one-size-fits-all explanation or treatment plan, and even when we arrive at something that works, diabetes throws us a curveball and we are forced to reinvent our treatment regimen---time, and time, and time again.
As a type 1 diabetic, I have found that it's a good idea to plan for the unexpected when traveling. Life is full of surprises, and so are vacations. The flight is late. The flight has been cancelled. We had a flat tire or ran out of gas. There is an accident on the highway, and the traffic isn't moving. Who would have ever thought that airline flights would be grounded for five days in most of Eastern Europe because of volcanic ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland? If a diabetic had planned on going for a week-long vacation in England or France and had taken limited insulin, syringes, or infusion sets, he might have been in big trouble. Trying to replenish medical supplies in a foreign country could prove to be very difficult.
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