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Guest Post: Setting Sail with Diabetes.

Happy Monday (if such a thing exists)! This morning, I wanted to introduce you to the captain of the sailboat Wondertime - Sara.  Sara has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986, and she is planning a two year sailing trip with her husband, her two daughters, and Xena the sailing cat onboard. Take it away, Sara!
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I was diagnosed with type I diabetes on October 11, 1986 at the age of 11. In October of this year, my 25th living with diabetes, I will sail across the US border into Mexico for several years of traveling with my husband and two daughters aboard our sailboat Wondertime. It will be a time of celebration for sure as our years-long dream is realized even with the challenge of living with diabetes.

My husband Michael and I have been sailing and living aboard various sailboats together since shortly after we first met in 1998. For our honeymoon in 2000, we spent three months sailing up to Southeast Alaska and back to Seattle. Two years later, we sailed down the Pacific coast to Mexico where we spent seven glorious months exploring this warm and delightful country by sea.

Sara and her gorgeous family!

During our first cruise to Mexico, we observed families sailing with their extremely bright and joyful children and simply knew that one day we would do the same. Our first daughter was born in 2006 (pregnancy by far my biggest challenge with T1!) and our second daughter was born in 2008. Soon after our family was complete, we sold our house we’d settled down in for several years, purchased another boat and soon moved aboard. This summer, we will finally set off on our dream of sailing as a family for the next two years, exploring Mexico and Central America, and if we are still having fun, the South Pacific islands.

Of course, there is that diabetes thing.

When I tell someone that I live on a 38 foot sailboat with my husband and two young daughters, at the same time dealing with the day-to-day rollercoaster of diabetes, they often are shocked that we are able to make our life work. Frankly, so am I on many days. If you have diabetes, or love someone who does, you know how all-consuming this disease is. It truly affects nearly every moment of my life in some way. But having close to 25 years under my belt, it is all I know. Living with diabetes makes everything more difficult, whether it is going outside for a walk, shopping for groceries, caring for children, or simply eating pancakes. It comes along with me in everything I love to do, including sailing.

There are many days when I want to throw in the towel, and just live a life that is more routined, with a house and garden and a 9-to-5 job. Diabetes can be so unpredictable that it certainly helps when life is more so. But after all these years I know that this simply is not who I am. I adore boats, sailing, the sea and communing with all the fascinating characters who also spend their lives afloat. I love experiencing the wonder of the sea right alongside my two- and five-year old girls. As one of my favorite sayings goes, it’s not easy, but nothing worth doing is.

Traveling with diabetes is a huge challenge in itself; I will be spending time both at sea and in port. Just like life ashore, I will have to adjust my management tactics regularly, and take it day by day, meal to meal. Cruising by sail is physically active with the sailing of course, but also lots of walking and hiking and taking public transportation. I plan to carry jars and jars of glucose tabs with me. Also coming along will be a year’s supply of pump and CGM supplies (am I excited to have my Dexcom along with me this time!) I’ll check in with my local doctors regularly and visit them when I am visiting local family next year. The best part will be my having my husband with me full time to help; he is truly the most important member of my diabetes team.

I recently asked myself an interesting question: do I sail in spite of having diabetes or because of it? Truly, I think it is both: one of the many beautiful things diabetes has taught me is that life is short and precious and must be spent doing what you love, today.
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I love this, and I really love hearing from PWDs who are doing exactly what they want to do, despite any diabetes hurdles that may present themselves.  Thanks for your story, Sara!  Have any of you guys taken extended trips with your diabetes on board?  What are you doing in spit of diabetes, or maybe because of it?

And if you'd like to submit a guest post to SUM, feel free to hit up Abby at abby (at) sixuntilme (dot) com.  She's good with email, unlike me, who tends to suck it up a bit.  :) 


I loved reading this, so thanks for sharing, Sara! Since I'm getting ready to embark on my own two-year journey out of my comfort zone, I'm trying to learn everything I can from others' experiences.

Sara, how on earth were you able to get a year's worth of pump supplies?? I don't think my insurance would ever go for that, and it's been one of my bigger concerns lately.

How cool! What a wonderful example of not letting D stand in the way of what you love. And what a great experience for your daughters... can I come too???

This is sooooo awesome! Even though I am a lot less reserved about what I do as a diabetic than I was in the past (scared of so much!), I am absolutely in awe of this life. So cool. And I totally get the "because of diabetes" part.

I did the Peace Corps, sadly it was cut short. I also did about four months of traveling through Africa. Both were worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Wow! So amazing!

such an inspiration!

What a great post, Sara! I'm so impressed.

YOU are my hero! I am leaving for Europe in a week and have been agonizing over EVERYthing...so afraid I'll forget something vital. And it's only ME I have to be responsible for. You are AWESOME!! Have a wonderful, amazing time with your family! You inspire me to do more.

Also interested in how you are managing this from a medical insurance / pump & insulin supplies point-of-view. Can you share information about getting and keeping coverage despite having non-traditional employment or other access?

I'm older than you, but can I PLEASE be adopted so I can go too?! :D

Safe travels!!

Thank you for the comments everyone! Regarding supplies/health insurance: we're going to have an international health plan for our family but I'm not sure at this point what it covers for D. stuff. We've pretty much just made room in our monthly budget to pay for things out of pocket. I hope to get as much healthcare outside of the US as possible (i.e. dental work & eye checkups) as it is SO much less expensive than here.

Wow! I am in delighted awe of you and the way you are grabbing life by the horns and living it!! Well done! Your children will surely be enriched by your approach to life!

I think diabetes tends to make people realize what you mentioned: that life is short and must be lived NOW. I have developed a similar philosophy with my family and my little girls (I have a five year old with T1D.)

Out of curiosity, have you had any nay-sayers or people who are critical of your lifestyle?

Safe journey and please keep us updated so that we may live vicariously...

What an amazing post! Thank you Kerri for finding Sara and asking her to guest blog. I think this is an amazing example for other type 1s, and I'm thrilled to hear about Sara's family. Please ask her to keep us updated on her journey as she travels.

WOW! What a fantastic post. Your life sounds so amazing. I really appreciate hearing that diabetes doesn't stop you from leading this amazing unique life!

Awesome! Way to go Sara!

Wow, have a great time. This blog was suggested to me because I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and am insulin dependent at age 54--and in June I go on Sabbatical and plan a RTW trip involving lots of remote travel--it has been hard to find information like "is Lantus available in Vietnam" (it is). A year ago I became friends with a guy who sailed around the world with his family--I reviewed his book here: http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2010/05/sailing-faith-book-review.html

Have fun on your trip.

What I want to know and can not find anywhere are meal plans for the boat for people with diabetes. I have high blood sugar and not on medication yet but mornings are 120-130 adn evenings 90 to 100 readings. I have been controlling with diet, but with no refridgeration and only ice what do you eat for two weeks on vacation.


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