08.12.16 By Sanofi Le Hub
Diabetes may be a lifelong condition, but if it’s well-controlled, then nothing is impossible for people living with it. To prove just that, 12 people from 10 countries – all aged 17-25 and living with Type 1 diabetes – climbed Iceland’s Hekla volcano over five days in July 2016.
The event – called the ‘Type 1 Diabetes Challenge’ (T1DC) – was organized by SWEET, a group of European and national institutions working to improve the management of diabetes in young people, in conjunction with the World Diabetes Tour and Sanofi.
The annual event is a personal challenge for the participants, as well as a common experience – proving that diabetes doesn’t have to place limitations on your life.
One young person somewhere in the world is diagnosed with diabetes every 10 minutes.
Young people like Théo Locastro, from Paris, who was diagnosed at 15. Now 17, he says the Iceland expedition has given him the confidence to help him better manage diabetes.
“It shows me that I can do everything I want – even really crazy things,” he says. He added that the challenge would also help him to better manage diabetes in “extreme situations”.
For other participants like Hanna Kinn Bjørnøy, from Haugesund in Norway, diabetes was the least of her problems on the walk. Instead, it highlighted that diabetes is just one of the many everyday challenges that people face.
“It’s challenged me in different ways, for example to only speak English for a long time and to get physically ready for all the walking,” she says. “I wanted to prove to people who didn’t expect this from me – and also to myself – that I could accomplish a challenge like this.”
Bruno Helman, 22, from São Paulo in Brazil, combined the walk with his love of travel and running.
“I love travelling and meeting people from different cultures, so hiking with other people with diabetes and proving that it’s possible to live an even better life with diabetes really inspired me to reach the peak of the volcano.
“I ran three times a week and worked out in the gym three times a week to prepare, in addition to eating a really balanced diet. In five years’ time I would like to complete an ironman so the volcano hike has helped me to monitor my glucose levels over a long period of activity to give me an idea of how my sugar would behave during an Ironman event, even though I know the effort needed is different.”
For Michele Tessari, 21, from Verona in Italy, the hike was about challenging his own fears about diabetes.
“I wanted to touch the limit of my fear of being in hypoglycemia and to see that is just an illusion – even in extreme situations like this,” he said.
Gavin Griffiths, from London in the UK, says the challenge was about “flipping the ugly side of diabetes on its head”.
“There was a great, unclear depth of uncertainty regarding my future when I was diagnosed at age 8,” he says. “This challenge was an exciting adventure, brought about through something which initially in life – being diagnosed with diabetes – is a negative.
“While one side of this challenge is to show that living with type 1 diabetes cannot prevent us from achieving any goal in life, what I hope this challenge will represent is global unity. We worked together to complete this – and I was prepared to drag the rest of my hiking team up the mountain if I had to!”
He said he knew the consistent climbing would slowly decrease his blood sugar levels, so he worked to decrease his basal insulin a few units in the lead up to the walk.
He then kept very close eye on his blood sugar levels throughout the walk, proving that good diabetes control is all about knowing your body, as well as monitoring and managing the condition.
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