I received the labels of “fencer” and “type 1 diabetic” virtually simultaneously. One by choice, after becoming obsessed with fencing while watching the Olympics. While I was looking up Youtube videos about fencing parries and practicing in my kitchen with a wooden spoon, I had no idea that my body had turned against me and was starting to attack itself. The other label, type 1 diabetic, was thrust on me randomly and a huge shock. I think I only had three or four fencing lessons before my diagnosis.
Fencing and diabetes is a bit messy. White fencing gear and checking my blood sugar between bouts isn't the best combo. Plus, shaking an opponents hand after the bout with a finger still spewing blood isn't that great!
I thought lancets kind of looked like sabers. Sabers looked kind of like giant needles. Those three hours of fencing a week became the best part of my week. I can't thank my fencing group enough for not minding me stopping at random times to check my blood sugar or minding all the blood that didn't always stay on my meter or hand. Everyone was supportive but not overbearing and I still can't thank them enough.
One time, I felt really tired, shaky, and nauseous during a bout and my opponent kept asking me, “Are you okay?” I thought I was just tired from an hour and a half of fencing, but when I checked my blood sugar, it was 2.3 mmoL/ 41 mg. That's really low. I showed her my glucose tab stash after that.
At my first fencing competition, my blood sugar had the opposite problem, shooting up to 14 mmoL/ 252 mg. I had heard that adrenaline could change your blood sugar, but I was surprised to see it shoot up that much over nothing but the adrenaline of competing. I won my first bout, made it to the semi-finals, won my semi-final bout, and advanced on to the finals. The final bout came down to two Americans, the other was a type 2 diabetic! We got to 14-14 and I lost the final point, so I ended up second. My first fencing tournament was a lot of fun, but it was only when I was translating the back of my medal that I saw “Icelandic National Championships.” Wait, had I just competed in the (adult beginner category, but still) Icelandic National Championships? I asked my fencing instructor the next practice if it was really the Icelandic Nationals and learned that yes, it was. My fencing class remains one of the things I miss most about Iceland!
I've joined a fencing league back in Colorado and so far, my blood sugar has cooperated fairly well. As far as my white uniform goes...the tiny blood stains from testing my blood sugar in the middle of practice have not cooperated so well!
Hi, I’m Crystal! I love to travel and am currently a graduate student in Scotland. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 27 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: email@example.comHappy Travels, Crystal
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