Amy’s T1D Adventure: Party like it’s 1599

Handstand - Amy T1D, one with nature

[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 high and low blood glucose incidents and can effectively reduce blood glucose levels overall. 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.]

Festival of Parachicos & a Brief T1D detour!

It was January 8, which means the start of the Festival of Parachicos in Chiapa De Corzo. The fiesta runs for almost the whole month of January — men dress in traditional clothing and face masks that resemble Spanish features, taking the tradition back to the Spanish conquest of Chiapas (c.1523-1695) when the natives attempted to look like their new counterparts. The women also dress in beautiful traditional dresses with bright floral colors and patterns. We head there in the evening for the kick-off parade and celebrations.

I switched to injections for the evening and of course it my luck that my pen wasn’t working – which I realized AFTER I ate some corn. I went back to the house in Tuxtla to get a new pen, and by that time my blood glucose was already in the high 300s. It was frustrating, but luckily a quick fix and a new pen in my handbag!

Staying in fiesta mode, my friend’s aunt visited from Cintalapa to dress me in traditional Chiapeneca clothes. They fuss over me, doing my makeup & hair and giving me jewelry to wear for the 5 mins of photo-taking! The family also bring with them enough food to feed the whole town. Lunch consists of refried beans and tostadas–I manage to avoid oil-cooked rice at least!

Man in festival wearMe in festival wear
Once our food is semi-digested, my friend Aldo and I head to the running park Cana Hueca for a slow run (on my part) while he rollerblades. He won’t exercise on his own so it was good to drag him out, even if my stomach was tumbling with the heavy food from lunch. I even got a compliment – “you are a good runner, especially for a girl”… made me laugh.

Before I know it, the week flies by with lots of morning runs, trying to avoid salt & oil and incorporate more spinach and raw veggies into my daily meals – I’m slowly getting there! The less fat I eat the better controlled my blood glucose is.

Canon & CloudsIt’s January 15 and before we head to Palenque for a weekend away we are back in Chiapa De Corzo for a boat ride down Cañon Del Sumidero. Wow, it was incredible! We saw at least 5 crocodiles basking in the shores in the sun, while I was praying we don’t fall in!

Before we head back to Tuxtla we wander the streets in ridiculous 90-degree heat with the sun streaming down to see the Parachicos dancing in the streets. My blood glucose is on the higher side, around 250, and I’m super dehydrated after the boat ride, meaning I’m not in the best mood. All I really want is to head back to Tuxtla, have a cold shower, plenty of water and pack for the weekend. Sometimes you don’t always get what you want.

One Drop Daily Blood Glucose Summary - T1DMe & ParachicoA lot of fuss is made and I begrudgingly take a photo with a Parachico. The family eats some carne asada (meat & tortillas) and sips on coca-cola while I wait it out.





Riding into Ruins and Insulin Resistance

I know we have a big weekend ahead and I’m already feeling a little smothered, with a lack of me time, even though I know it’s coming from a good place, I really enjoy having independence and freedom to be on my own. I remind myself it’s all okay, and before I know it we are at the bus station waiting for our 10-hour overnight trip to Palenque, at least with good blood glucose levels! “Reassuringly,” they film us as we are in the bus. As the mom tells me, if the bus is taken hostage, that’s how people will know who was on it. You can imagine the thoughts going through my head, particularly being the only white (and female) foreigner on the bus — hello prime target! After a safe ride, we arrive in Palenque around 9am with a slightly elevated blood glucose of 170 – correction dose and some walking before my breakfast of fresh fruit puts me on course for a post-meal blood glucose of 120 – hallelujah!

Me + ruins
One Drop Food Log - T1DFirst stop – Palenque archeological ruins! Wow! These are incredible. I love the ruins in Mexico, even after visiting 5 different sites, the energy and magic still captures my heart. With lots of walking up and down the ruins I snack on two apples and put on a temp basal of 50% to prevent low blood glucose and it seems to work as before lunch I hit a 130. Before we leave Palenque we walk along a beautiful river covered with lush rainforest-like trees and plants. This is where I feel at home, in this type of nature.

Next stop – the famous waterfall Misol-Ha, and boy was it big and magical. We walked underneath the waterfall, enjoying the fresh sprinkles of water as we got a different perspective from inside the cave. Many many many photos were taken and we even snapped the two of us and this gigantic force of water.

Final stop – Agua Azul, and yes, it was blue. By this time it was 3pm and I was famished, having had only a couple of apples since breakfast. We find the first food place we see which equals empanadas with potato for me! Eeek the oil and carbs puts me in a “strategy” mindset to manage my insulin and keep my blood glucose in range as it is currently sitting at a perfect 91. Having eaten at least 300g of carbs I only give 5 units of insulin upfront knowing that the fat will delay the release of carbs into my blood stream and create some insulin resistance.
Me & Aldo sitting in Agua Azul

Yes, the agua is really that blue.

We walk around Agua Azul immediately after lunch to check out the numerous waterfalls. This nice, low-impact exercise straight after eating definite helps to keep my T1D in check. Before we head into the cool, magical water for a swim. I give myself another 5 units of insulin (2-hours post-meal), even though my blood glucose is sitting at 170. Pump disconnected, I jump into the large bright blue pool and fight the force of the waterfall to reach a nice rock in the sun. It was a perfect way to end day 1 of our adventures.

Agua Azul

So exhausted, I skip dinner, give a little more insulin (BG at 160), and fall asleep after meditating. Aldo and his mom headed out for dinner as I drifted off. A moment of quiet makes me fall peacefully asleep in preparation for tomorrow.

Day 2 in Palenque and one destination in mind – Roberto Barrios – more cascadas! A low at 5am woke me up earlier than expected—I sometimes wonder if it’s a delayed affect of the accumulation of insulin trying to fight the high-fat, high-carb meal. Delayed lows have happened to me more than once in these situations. Some cranberries later, I was back asleep and awoke at 9:30 with a blood glucose of 93. Breakfast consisted of an apple, a pear, a banana and a sweet pepper. As I was munching on these delights, I was told I shouldn’t eat them because they have many pesticides, I try and make a concerted effort to explain that fried meat and cheese burgers for breakfast will do a lot more damage. I guess it’s a good way for them to justify no fruits or veggies.

The more the merrier!

We jump in the combi van taking us to Robertos Barrios, and upon arrival I decide not to swim with a long, cold 10-hour return bus ride tonTuxtla. I try and balance being in the moment and thinking of the future results. I didn’t want to get a cold. I enjoyed sitting in the sun admiring the waterfalls, snacking on apples (as always!) and talking to some Argentinian tourists. An Argentinian brother and sister were traveling through Mexico and Aldo’s mom invites them to stay with us for a couple of days before they continue with their travels. It’s going to be a tight squeeze with the 5 of us in the one room house! But they are sweet, kind people and I’m looking forward to having some variety in company.

By 9pm it’s time for us to leave Palenque and head back to Tuxtla to prepare for the arrival of the guests in a couple of days. The bus ride is long and sleepless, with a busted tire emergency change in middle of nowhere Mexico around 2am! Blood sugars on point until we arrive in Tuxtla and I can feel the symptoms of a low. I manage to hold out until I can get an apple into me at the house and crash out for a few hours.

Look out for my next blog on my final week in Tuxtla before I head to San Cristobal – craving some me time!



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.