The first time I felt something wrong was in Canyon lands National Park Utah. We were on a hike circling a huge crater, it was called the sync-line trail it was listed as only 8 miles round trip so we didn’t think to much of it.
As the hours passed and the trail showed no signs of ending we started to get a little worried, we were a long ways out in the wilderness, the trail was hard to find and the sun was starting to set. We just went deeper and deeper into the canyon and we all started to wear out a little. Eventually we came to the part of the trail that started upwards, a trail sign said 4 km to the trail head. We thought we would be back in an hour or so until we realized that the trail was 4km straight up the canyon wall.
That’s when I felt something wrong, I just started to lose all of my energy rapidly and cramped up to the point that I just stopped. My Mom stayed back to encourage me and she gave me some energy gel. That got me going again. My dad went on ahead to see if he could mark the trail before it got dark. When he saw my predicament he climbed back down to where we were and carried my backpack on top of his own. Eventually we all made it back to the end of the trail.
Watch the YouTube video of our epic hike here: https://youtu.be/lE9HrbHNC2E
I had never felt that way before and I was embarrassed about it so I said nothing. I would have good days and bad days, one day I would be surfing all day without any problem and the next day I would sleep in and stay in our RV. They say once you finally figure out whats going on it all makes sense, but at the time we just chalked it up as the signs of a rapidly growing teenager.
My birthday party was at my cousin’s house in Salem, Oregon. Most of our West Coast family was there. I looked fine on the outside, but I noticed that I was drinking water obsessively and going to the bathroom a lot. One time when I went to the bathroom I looked in the mirror and opened my mouth because my tongue was hurting, and it had a white film on it. I didn’t know why and didn’t think much of it, so again I didn’t say anything.
I woke up the next morning , looked outside and noticed that I couldn’t see more than 5 or so feet in front of me. These symptoms had slowly worsened but I felt so tired all the time I didn’t really notice till then. I thought it was from over sleeping and not being really active, because every time I would start to do something I would cramp and get even more tired.
I discussed my vision issues with my parents and we agreed that maybe I should wake up earlier and go with them on their morning bike rides. At this point I had been feeling every symptom of type one but had no idea that I had it.
We headed down to Yosemite in California and set up camp in the National Park. The next day, everyone was excited to hike the amazing Yosemite falls trail except me. This trail is a strenuous 6-8 hours round trip, 7.2 miles (11.6 km) , 700 ft (823 m) elevation gain. Normally I would be at the front leading the way but this time I could barely muster up the energy to go. That’s when we all agreed that we better pack up and head out to get a Doctor’s opinion on whats going on.
We were 5000 kms away from our family doctor, so we probably delayed the visit to the doctor longer than we would have done if we were at home. We found a clinic in the tiny town of Oakhurst CA and waited 4 agonizing hours until a nurse finally saw us. She listened to my description of symptoms and suggested that I go to the Valley Children’s Hospital near Fresno to be tested for diabetes. Amazingly this hospital specializes in
Pediatric Endocrinology and was only an hour way. Once we checked into the hospital I was immediately put on an IV drip to help re-hydrate my body. I was also given blood glucose test which showed my blood sugar was very high. The doctor confirmed that I indeed had new onset Type 1 Diabetes.
We were in shock.
(Watch youtube video blog of that moment here: https://youtu.be/YC0nk-AHnLs)
He assured us that there was nothing I did to cause it and nothing I could have done to prevent it. It is an auto-immune disease where my immune system accidentally attacked the beta cells in my pancreas stopping them from producing insulin.
Thankfully I recovered quickly and my family and I have since been learning to manage my blood sugar levels through, diet exercise and by administering my own insulin injections. It is not easy though and takes a lot of self-discipline. Thankfully my family is very supportive and together we have all adapted to a diabetes friendly low-carb diet.
Two months later I was feeling well enough to join my family on a climb of Oregon’s third highest peak. It is 10500 ft to the summit. Every time we stopped for a break I would test my BGL levels and eat something to bring up my level to where it should be. At 9300 ft. (Pictured here) I was feeling a bit off so I made the decision to stop and rest rather than carry on to the summit. You have to listen to your body and not be afraid to make the right decision. My Mom and Brother stayed with me as Caroline and Dad summitted and then rejoined us for the long descent.
See our YouTube video of the climb here. https://youtu.be/aIOZwI-3PMM
In the past 7 months since my diagnosis I have climbed several mountains, hiked, mountain biked, rock climbed, traveled the ultimate road trip to Alaska and flown across the globe to New Zealand and Australia.
My goal is to encourage other young people with Type 1 to carry on and be strong. You may have diabetes, but it doesn’t have you! I wish you all the best on your adventure. – Peter Jr van Stralen