In the Keys with the D

Last week I went to Key West, and after much consideration, I decided to go ahead and take my diabetes along for the trip.

My other, more preferred travel partner.

We hear it — and we say it — all the time: you can’t take a vacation from diabetes. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a perfectly acceptable travel partner when it feels like it.

My two friends, husband and I started out the right way: by driving to our destination. It always makes things easier when you’re packing 2 bottles of insulin, six spare infusion sets, an extra box of test strips, a dozen alcohol swabs, 8 juice boxes and a few spare syringes. Oh, and enough feminine hygiene products to successfully stop the Gulf oil spill. (You can never be too prepared, right?) It’s a 10-hour trip from the Northernmost tip of Florida down to the Southernmost, but it’s worth it for the sense of control alone. The view from the Overseas Highway isn’t bad, either.

Looking back on the whole voyage, I’m a little amazed at how un-diabetes-eventful the whole thing was. The only time I really got nervous was right before we jumped into the sea at Sand Key for a snorkeling trip. Even though I’d just inhaled a small cup of disgustingly sweet ice cream, my blood sugar was 66 when we embarked on the snorkeling boat. While I nursed a Coke and watched the snorkel instructor demonstrate the international rescue signs for “Holy shit, I’m 70 miles from land and my blood sugar is low, please come out here with a life preserver and a sandwich,” I was starting to wonder if I should get into the water at all. But by the time we’d reached our destination, I was hovering in the low 100s, so I disconnected my pump, jumped in, and watched parrot fish and and snapper nibble at the coral reef. When I boarded the boat and checked my blood sugar an hour later, I was at a happy 109. Perfect.

Pre-snorkeling, with shamelessly easy pump access.

I think part of the reason I had such an uneventful experience is the “Who cares?” mood that seems to permeate Key West. I mean, I was riding a bike and swimming multiple times each day, I drank shameful amounts of beer and other alcoholic beverages, and I ate like every meal was my last. But as far as I can tell, I never went over the low 200s or under 50 the entire time we were there. That’s magic.

So sure, you can’t ever take a vacation from diabetes – especially Type 1. But maybe, if you give it enough sunshine and fancy fish dinners and buy it a new pair of flip-flops, you can bribe it into cooperating once in a while.