As a 20 year old with a zest for an adventurous lifestyle, I am determined to let nothing get in my way. So when I saw the advertisement for a spur of the moment trip to New River Gorge, West Virginia I jumped at the opportunity.
I had never been white water rafting and to my horror the prior trip-goers had enlightened me on the number of capsized rafts and concussions years prior. Not to mention the guides failed to mention we would be sleeping in a platform tent, and the 90% chance of rain. Naturally I was a little nervous.
When we arrived at New River Gorge National Park I was stunned by its beauty. We took a large well-loved school bus up and down the narrow, winding mountain roads to the river entrance. In which the bus driver earned the name “wizard” for precariously making it around the narrow turns. When we got our raft out on the river, I noticed how the ripples were beautifully sparkling in the sun. Small, brightly colored swallows peppered the sky like confetti and fluttered happily about, chirping to each other. Large, jarring rock formations stuck out from the river in every which way, and our raft guide told us the names of each one based off which animal it resembled.
Earlier that morning I had done a careful dance of calculations in my head prior to eating breakfast. I had set an activity profile for 50% of my normal basal rate and reduced bolus rates. Like clockwork, immediately before we left camp for the rafting trip, my blood sugar read 94 arrows down with 4 units on board. I panicked and started drinking Gatorade and eating an energy bar.
Now my anxiety was higher than it was before. If I was too low, I wouldn’t be able to paddle or participate in the activities for the day, which I did not want to do. I had no idea what the rigor of the activity would be or the impact it would have on my blood sugar, so I began talking to one of the trip guides about what the day would entail and explained that I was diabetic. She didn’t seem to understand and was shocked that I didn’t tell her sooner, even though I had written it on the medical form and discussed it with another guide. This only escalated my stress even more, and caused me to feel a bit shameful of my condition because she didn’t know what I was experiencing. I took a deep breath and let some time pass. The plan was that we were going to be spending the entire day on the river so I knew that I needed to have my supplies with me. I then went to the raft guide and told him that I’m super athletic and able to paddle but I just need a place to put my bag during the paddling trip. He was much more understanding and showed me which raft I would be in and where to place my bag. Another raft guide, seeing the ziploc bag of snacks exclaimed- dang girl, you need all of this?! And I replied, “Trust me it’s better for all of us this way.” Lol.
Things I learned through this trip:
1. How to advocate for yourself by expressing your needs and stick your ground when questioned by others. (This can be difficult as a diabetic because we are often misunderstood.)
2. That it is better to be prepared and ask questions in advance about the schedule.
3. It’s okay if you don’t have everything figured out because most people want to see you succeed.
Things that made the trip more stressful:
1. Not knowing the exact schedule of activities and meals so that I could plan ahead with my insulin timing.
2. Not knowing anyone prior to the trip made asking for what I needed a bit more difficult, especially in a camping scenario.
3. Having never white water rafted before, I had no idea how the experience was going to affect me or others if it turned out that I needed to take a break from paddling.
On trips like these, diabetes has a way of rearing it’s ugly head and making sure that you do not forget about it despite the challenges of a new circumstance. Even with so many unknowns, I still had a great time and enjoyed learning something new while overcoming the challenges of diabetes. I think that life with type 1 is about learning to embrace the unknown factors while making decisions based on the known factors.
Every time I do something new that scares me a little bit, I find more faith knowing that I accomplished something great. I leave with more faith in God for carrying me through the stress leading up to the event and sustaining me throughout it. I leave with more faith in myself knowing that I tackled more obstacles than the average bear, which helps me become a stronger diabetic warrior day by day.