(My latest story in Diabetes Health)
The search for a cure for diabetes is a noble pursuit, but a cure always seems to be another ten years down the road. Finding a way to be healthy in the here and now is what matters for people with diabetes. In 2005, Peter Nerothin started Insulindependence (iD), a nonprofit organization that aims to “revolutionize diabetes management” by leading experiential diabetes education expeditions for type 1 youths.
This program reminds me of something I did when I was in high school at a liberal, private boarding school in New Hampshire. I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a freshman, and during my junior year, I took part in an outdoor program called Mountain Classroom. The mission of the program was to “combine outdoor education and academic inquiry, so students can examine the complex and intricate connections between nature and culture.”
On my trip, there were 10 students and two instructors. We set out in a van in the dead of winter with tents, backpacks, and hiking boots. Over nine weeks, we traveled to a ranch in Texas, spent a week in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, rock climbed in Arizona, and paddled through the bayou in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.
My memories of this trip are vivid, but the one that will remain clear in my mind forever is the day I hiked out of the Grand Canyon. We’d been in the canyon for a week and were dirty, exhausted, and emotionally on edge. The climb up the South Rim was grueling, harder than anything I’d ever done before, and there were moments when I thought I couldn’t make it. But even though I stopped to rest, I was the first girl in our group to reach the top, and the only one with diabetes. As I stumbled onto the parking lot, I had never felt so much pride in all my life. It was the hardest thing I had ever done, and I knew that if I could do this with diabetes, I could do anything.
That trip out of the Grand Canyon was more than twenty years ago, but I still remember it. I think about it when I’m frustrated with my blood sugar or when I’m feeling overwhelmed with the regular demands of my life. I remind myself that if I climbed out of the canyon with diabetes, I can do anything (help my kids with homework, cook dinner, go for a run while pushing the jogger, turn my story in on deadline, ask my husband about his day and still have a moment for myself).