A few months ago my family took advantage of an incredible opportunity—a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina. We also visited Chile and the Falkland Islands during this unforgettable two-week trek across South America. My mom kept a journal about the experience of watching my younger type 1 brother Will and me, travel the world as adult children. Here's what she had to say:
Our family life took a sharp turn when our youngest son was diagnosed with diabetes at five years old. How is this going to change our lives? Will our lives shrink keep him safe? What if his sugar went too high or low? What if we broke the insulin bottle? I ran through every catastrophe.What about travel—one of our family's passions? Will it be too dangerous?
Willy seemed the least concerned of all of us. He continuing to barrel through life with enthusiasm and energy. His sister, Quinn, was diagnosed not even three years later. Double shock because our doctor said the odds of having another child with diabetes would be almost impossible. We were worried about leaving the house and guarded the small bottles of insulin like they were as precious as gold.
Fast forward to two decades later: I'm writing this on a cruise ship hugging the South American coastline heading down to the end of the world—Tierra del Fuego. The entire family is together. Will, now 25 and Quinn, 30 have learned to manage their disease with practiced ease. We made a choice early on that we would not limit their lives or ours because they have a chronic illness.
Will and Quinn are old pros at their diabetes regime. Days and weeks go by now when I don't even think about their diabetes. They live on their own and Will is in a different state. They are responsible, and both maintain an A1C in the six range. We tried to impress upon Quinn and Will that they could do anything they wanted to if they stayed on top and properly managed their disease.
Tomorrow we are going to jump in a speed boat and thread our way through icebergs and glaciers to see an island populated by penguins. We won't give diabetes a second thought. Will and Quinn will pack their meters and insulin and snacks in their knapsacks. They won't be feeling sorry for themselves. The next day we'll hike in Patagonia, supposedly one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Could something happen to one of them? Of course. Or, maybe I'll fall off a mountain and break a leg. Life can be dangerous. But don't shrink your borders just because of diabetes. Don't let it win. Will is an accountant by day and an adrenaline junkie on his off time. He's jumped out of planes and trekked with gorillas in Rwanda. Quinn showed up for a zipline through the Thailand jungle in spite of the written notice advising diabetics not to participate. Quinn read the warning then buckled up and zipped away with her cousin. She is not foolish, but she counts the cost. Quinn packed an additional set of diabetic supplies, including a the number to a reliable service that guarantees diabetes shipments anywhere in the world.
My father—Quinn and Will's grandfather—may have instilled a sense of adventure in the family. He, too, enjoyed globe trotting and lived every day to the fullest. When my mom protested about the many obvious dangers that could be realized at any time during his ocean voyages on his sailboat, he liked to tell her that he could get up every morning spend the day in the basement lying between two mattresses to keep him safe and sound but what kind of life would that be? There's certainly no fun or excitement doing that. That's the legacy for all three of our children as well as my husband and me. Our rules to live by:
Don't give up.
Live your life.
Manage your disease.