Holidays are every person’s ideal time to loosen up and relax each year. Some may have a few holidays each year, some may have the occasional weekend break or what have you. Personally I’ve been fortunate through my childhood to have parents that have always been eager to go on family vacations, and I’ve seen some amazing places; over the past few years I’ve been away by myself with friends and have had, shall we say, a different kind of experience with those. There are many forms of breaks, but my point is having diabetes doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy those breaks like anybody else – but perhaps one or two acts of responsibility are required, which friends or family members don’t have on their shoulders.
The first is sorting out the bloody medical insurance. It can feel quite a robbery when there are extra charges for having medical insurance to go on holiday with, which is something that is very much a must need and is through no faults of our own that we have to have this! – and it’s a lot of effort talking to machines on the phone and then listening to some dodgy classical music for ten minutes before being put through to then pay £20 or so, which probably seems better spent on a few summer holiday drinks rather than any kind of insurance; however, as tempting as taking that risk may be, it is quite essential that although the likeliness (with diabetes) is you won’t need to use it, I did once get trapped abroad and had to extend a holiday by a week back in April 2010, when I only intended to visit my sister in Venice for a weekend but some Icelandic Ash Cloud managed to block the skies and cancel all flights. I won’t complain… I got a free cruise for a week from it… but no thanks to RyanAir who left us stranded –never book anything with them!
My recent holiday was very luxurious indeed, not the kind of holiday I’ve been used to for a long while, but a last family holiday perhaps in a very proud family year in which we took a 9 day vacation and had a week’s cruise. It was the kind of lifestyle I could get used to, seeing Barcelona and places there such as the Nou Camp, and then Monte Carlo with all the Formula One tracks in the roads, the flash Ferrari cars driving about, the yachts in the port – my thoughts were: this time next year… also Florence, Rome and Pompeii made a very interesting trip! Onboard the ship it is very tempting to just eat, eat, eat, eat and eat some more. So I did. Being diabetic, again it is caution as to what exactly you eat, however, making sure each injection was taken in my case, with the two daily intakes of Levermir; once in the morning, the other half taken 12 hours later (approx) in the evening, and in between, with which ever meal I had, my injections of Novorapid to counteract the amount of carbohydrates and glucose I was chomping through. I’m a long distance runner, so maybe I shouldn’t over eat, but to be honest I lost a lot of weight after Hastings to Brighton and never really gained too much back. This helped! By injecting sensibly, even if I wasn’t dieting all that sensibly, I maintained good control.
The other aspect was the heat. This can really affect diabetes levels. In the day times I often found myself becoming drained for energy despite all the food, the temperatures were usually around 35c mark, which combined with the humidity can take it out of anybody, but especially those with diabetes. This meant that a stop in the cafes with a drink or an ice cream was good from time to time and I didn’t always need to inject for it. Exercising in such heat, well that’s another level. It can completely take the energy out of you. On the ship I wanted to maintain some levels of fitness, and so using the running track on 12th deck I went for a run one afternoon. It was a hot day, 37c… a nice breeze cooled it slightly as we sailed by from the sea, but nonetheless challenging – especially when you’re used to running in lovely English rain. The deck equalled 4.5 laps a mile and I ran 24 laps in 40 minutes, which isn’t too bad, but there were a lot of people onboard and they kept getting in my way to slow my pace down. I also ran in barefoot, but I coped well with the heat, my engine did not tire at all, I sweated, but the only reason I stopped was because people were beginning to look at me funny as I continued to pass them and it gets quite boring going past the same thing every few minutes. (probably a good reason why I run the crazy routes I do). My BGL were 14.1 when I started running, 5.2 when I finished, and 20 minutes later I needed more food as I was in a hypo at 3.2.
I’ve always had good fitness that can deal with any condition, my diabetes doesn’t stop me. In this case yeah I went low afterwards, but this is also because I didn’t take on gs in carbohydrates to match my body weight in kgs – so weighing 66kgs I need 66gs an hour to avoid dropping my levels when running long distance, and in that kind of heat in which I sweat a lot, maybe 10gs or so more. I didn’t have this intake and so my blood levels dramatically dropped. In the past I was in Goa in India and I played football in the humidity, but football is a different sport to long distance running and so my blood glucose levels rose before dropping later on, because I was sprinting and not burning the fat but the glucose in my body, which my body then replaced without the insulin in my body to deal with it temporarily. (read my blog on Goa at bottom of page).
I’ve also had the experiences of crazy lads holidays which consist of alcohol, alcohol and a lot more alcohol. Ayia Napa last year and Zante the year before that. I think they are something that every young adult should experience, even if it isn’t necessarily your cup of tea, and having diabetes doesn’t prevent that either. However, it is easy to forget that your friends aren’t diabetic and you are, responsibility of being a diabetic is always needed. My problem I think was I didn’t check my blood sugar regularly enough, and in those bar places with the good deals that give you absolute **** to drink, like sugar-filled cocktails, which just send blood glucose into orbit. I think avoiding those kinds of drinks, or at least the less of them and more kind of beer/lager/wine drinks are safer to stay on, but on holiday most deals lead to cocktail mixes, which for a diabetic is very damaging. I’ll enjoy a few cocktails on holiday but it’s important to remember what is in that crap. Upping the long lasting insulin, Levermir that I inject in my case, maybe for others it is Lantus, by a unit or two may be the answer when long nights drinking is concerned.
So, happy holidaying you sugar-free-Ds and I’m not saying behave yourself on holiday at all – I certainly never have done that – have fun, be crazy, enjoy it all but remember your responsibilities for your own sake as a diabetic!