The Reflections of A Diabetic Abroad

Maddy Mulder
October 25, 2019
My Diabetic Go-Bag

I have had type one diabetes since I was four years old, so it’s safe to say I cannot even remember a time when I was not living with diabetes. My relationship with diabetes has not always been great; I spent the first ten or so years of my life with diabetes feeling resentful and frustrated towards it. My diabetes management got so bad that my doctors started to warn me that my bodily functions would start to shut down if I did not change something soon. Hearing that only set me deeper into a spiral of anger and resentment, but then I caught a break with a good streak in my blood sugar readings for a couple of weeks. After seeing that having good blood sugar levels was possible, I became hungry for better control. Today, and for the last couple of years, I have been able to maintain stellar blood sugar numbers and going to the doctor no longer feels like an appointment with the firing squad.

Having gained and maintained such good control of my diabetes in the last few years, especially through the tough transition into college, made the crazy blood sugar levels I experienced once abroad all that much more frustrating. Upon my arrival in Nice, I began experiencing prolonged periods of high blood sugar readings and random incredibly low blood sugar readings. This really surprised me as since going abroad my schedule and diet had not changed a whole lot, but it seems that even the smallest changes I had made were making a big difference. I had to re-learn how my body reacts to different foods and I had to start tracking my blood sugar levels again.

Having to track my blood sugar levels again made Calorie King and MyFitnessPal my new best friends. I cannot even express in words how much I abhor tracking my blood sugar readings (its time consuming and can really put a damper on my day when I have some bad readings), but getting in the habit of using these apps helped me become more mindful of my diabetes. Another habit that absolutely changed my life was bolusing before meals. I was already doing this before I left for Nice, but once I got here and got caught up in the excitement of being abroad, I quickly fell out of this habit and suffered for it. Bolusing before meals was a hard habit to get into but even bolusing as I am simultaneously taking my first bite of a meal (a skill I have perfected over the years) makes a huge difference in my readings compared to bolusing even just two minutes after finishing a meal.

Moreover, I had luckily packed with me a few other things that ended up being a huge help in managing my out of control blood sugar readings abroad. For one thing, I brought a ton of little tubes of sugar pills with me. They have been a convenient way to ensure that I am prepared for any low blood sugar readings no matter where I am or what I am doing. I have not been able to find any in France, so when I run out of tablets I just stuff as many sour patch kids in the tube as I can, which works just as well as the tablets. I also brought with me a few reusable bags (though you can always by Ziploc bags once abroad) so that I can always have a snack with me to help keep my blood sugar levels steady (my friends always laugh about the fact that I literally NEVER go anywhere without some food!). One last thing that made my life abroad with diabetes a bit more manageable was having a little pre-packed go-bag filled with necessary supplies for day or weekend trips that I could grab at a second's notice without even thinking about it.

All of that being said, everyone who has been living with diabetes knows that despite what the doctors say, diabetes is far from an exact science. You can do everything perfectly and still get bad numbers or you can always do everything the same way every day and yet still get wildly different numbers from day to day. Though I did not change my lifestyle a whole lot once abroad, even the littlest changes had a big impact. Getting into a predictable pattern, forcing myself to be more mindful of my blood sugar readings by tracking them and having a few key supplies on hand has helped me get a hold of my diabetes again. Plus, since going abroad I have become a pro at knowing exactly how any type of crêpe will affect me, so it's safe to say life has been pretty good lately.

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Maddy Mulder

<p>Hello! I am a junior at the College of William and Mary studying global studies and data science, but my true loves are language learning and map-making. I enjoy reading and playing soccer, and I also love to bake, though I more resemble a candidate for Nailed It! then an actual baker. I am excited to go to France this fall so that I can practice my French with locals and eat some good food. For my next adventure abroad, I would love to go to China as I have recently begun to study Chinese and fallen in love with the Netflix show Wild China.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
College of William & Mary, The
Washington, D.C.
Global Studies
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