Amy’s T1D Adventure: Cuba – Torn, Worn Out, and Broken

Clouds over Cuba

[Here’s a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 27-year-old ex-advertising executive who recently swapped her NYC apartment for an oversized backpack to explore the streets of Latin America for six months. Amy has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years and tries her best to balance blood glucose levels, marathon training and a high-carb raw-vegan diet. Now she has thrown travel into the mix. EDITOR’S NOTE: Amy is a performance athlete and consumes a high carb diet. At One Drop, we believe that a low carb approach to food reduces the risk of hypo and hyper glycemic incidents and can effectively reduce blood sugars. However, we want to share a variety of personal experiences so we can all learn how other people live their lives with diabetes. Always consult your doctor before making changes to a prescribed regimen.]

Still no cash, but T1D turbulence subsides

One Drop Diabetes Log It was Monday morning and I was sending positive vibes out to the universe almost begging it to send some back to me. Breakfast was the usual but less bread which subsequently resulted in a low post-breakfast blood glucose. At least I wasn’t high!

Most of my morning was spent briskly walking back and forth between Western Union and a fancy hotel with wifi to let my parents know if I received the money they were trying to wire to me through my cousin in the United States. It was a team effort and, after 5 hours, it did not work. Evidently, contrary to what we were told, you could only receive money via Western Union if you were a Cuban citizen.

The only positive was my blood glucose levels — finally in range due to the continuous walking.

Free at last!

Orange Building on Corner in HavanaAfter I got to the point where I was exhausted, in tears again and on the phone to the Canadian embassy (again), they finally agreed to give me enough money to pay for my accommodation in Cuba and get to the airport tomorrow so I could return to Mexico!!! Hallelujah!!

The first positive sign from the universe since I’d arrived in Cuba! I was dancing inside my head.

I showed up to the Canadian Embassy so emotionally and physically broken, my body cramping from dehydration and unhealthy foods. It took 3 hours, and when they handed me $300 precious Cuban dollars, I held it like it was $3 million.

Back at my room, I felt so relieved about finally being able to leave. I was no longer trapped!

Torn, worn out, and broken

My body was so broken — bloated, cramping, and I was almost bringing up my last dinner from the Casa (the vegetarian soup was made with chicken broth and I had no choice but to spit it out in front of everyone at the table).

Rubble in front of a building in Havana (i.e., how Cuba made me feel - T1D rollercoaster, unhealthy food, bloating, cramps...)I knew there was a lesson in this experience, but I was yet to learn what it was exactly. I also knew that Cuba wasn’t for me, at least not now or in the near future. Every opportunity or way that I tried to stay got thrown back at me, like I was trying to push through a brick wall.

As I lay in bed that night, it was the first time in a very long time that I felt truly alone. I was ill with no one to look after me or to even speak with (the joys of no internet, when you actually need it). I kept reminding myself that once I was on the plane back to Mexico, everything would be okay. I fell asleep with a cool damp towel covering my sweaty cramping body — not really an image we want to envisage!

The next morning as I walked from my room to the Internet hotel, I captured how Cuba had made me feel this last week.

Destination: Cancun

I was still anxious as I ate a very small final breakfast and waited for my taxi to the airport. I wasn’t going to feel comfortable until my feet were on the ground in Cancun. After a long, long, long day filled with worsening stomach cramps, continued dehydration, and exhaustion, I arrived at my hotel in Cancun at 7pm.

My Cuban adventures ended with food poisoning and endless trips between the bed and the bathroom. At this point I didn’t care how sick I was – I knew I could start the healing process in the morning, both physically and mentally. I just needed to get some nutrients into my body by means of fruit and vegetables, and start to heal my state of mind with some positive self-reassurance and meditation.

Pre-Cuba tummy v. Post-Cuba tummy
Pre-Cuba Tummy v. Post-Cuba Tummy

Everything was going to be okay.

Hola mi amigo Mexico.

Me alegro de estar de vuelta. (I’m glad to be back.)




Amy McKinnon
Amy McKinnon

Amy McKinnon is a One Drop user, marathoner, ex-advertising executive, and has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years. Amy is currently exploring the streets of Latin America for six months.