Special events, travel & type one
Updated: May 8, 2022
As some of you know, Jake (my now husband!) and I got married a couple of weeks ago. We didn't have a wedding planner, though received lots of support from a number of fantastic vendors and family members, so we spent a lot of time and effort planning for the big weekend. As an added layer though of course, was all of the planning that went into making sure I had a Diabetes plan for the weekend and for the travel we had planned for after the wedding.
A big shoutout to our wedding photographer Molly Anne Photography for our incredible photos!
I've been in and attended lots of weddings, and we've been lucky enough to travel together a number of times over the years. This time though I put a lot of thought into how I could make things as seamless as possible for both the wedding and the travel. I thought about how I could prepare for "any scenario" and prioritize my Diabetes ahead of time to allow myself to put it on the back burner during this important time.
As promised, I wanted to share how I prepared for these big events, and then the things I learned when the events actually came. Whether you have upcoming travel, are attending a big event, or are getting married yourself and have Diabetes or one if your loved ones has it - I hope these learnings and my thought process will help!
Before we get into it: I am NOT a doctor or a care provider. I wanted to share my learnings and experience in case it can help others for their big events, but this is not a replacement for connecting with your care team ahead of or in preparation for events like this.
For the big day specifically, here is what I planned for ahead of time:
A fresh (but not too fresh) CGM site: I changed my Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on Thursday morning knowing that we had a welcome event on the Friday evening and our wedding was on Saturday. I wanted at least 24 hours to make sure it was working well in case I needed to change it again.
Back up materials:
I brought 4 extra sensors, an extra transmitter, and a back up monitor in case everything failed and I needed to rely on finger pricks.
I use pens (or multiple daily injections / MDI) so I brought a backup pen of both my short and long acting insulins.
Aim for a steady blood sugar leading into the day: I know, this may sound like a silly thing to list because of course it’s always something I focus on, but this was really important to me for the weekend - knowing too that only so much of this would be in my control. My goal was to keep my blood sugar as close to 150 in the early afternoon going into our first look, family photos, and the ceremony so that I could feel confident that my numbers were steady - not too low not too high - when I would be without easy access to my phone, snacks, and insulin. I also wanted to feel comfortable leaving my phone outside of the ceremony room without worrying that my blood sugar would plummet.
A lot of this planning helped me to prepare for our travel too - extra supplies, aiming for steady numbers on plane days. If you're reading this and you're Diabetic (or live with someone who is) you might be saying, well this is all nice but how did you actually do it - particularly with the steady numbers. So many times, especially when under the stress of a big event or travel, our numbers have a mind of their own. Because of this, I wanted to share what ACTUALLY happened and how I managed this all during the big weekend and for our travel. There was no magic here, but a lot of the prep and thinking ahead of time really did make a big difference in making sure I didn't feel the full pressure and anxiety of Diabetes during this exciting time.
So here were my big learnings, and how I made things work.
Have familiar snacks and food available if possible. This one is semi dependent on if it's your special event vs. if you're attending someone else's event, but you can achieve this depending on that to varying degrees. For snacks, as much as possible I like to have three types on hand: carb heavy, low carb/protein heavy, and something that is a mix. At a minimum, I always make sure to have sugar tabs on me in case of emergency. For our wedding, I chose to get bagels for the bridal party for breakfast but I went with my standard breakfast (a perfect bar!) because steady numbers were my priority and I wanted to remove that stress, knowing too that I would get to fully enjoy the food that evening! I also got the bagels from our favorite spot near where we live, so I knew I'd be getting them again soon. For lunch, I went with Sweetgreen because it allowed me to pair rice and greens together for a well rounded and still delicious meal, and it's a restaurant I eat from with some frequency so I knew I'd feel comfortable dosing and that it would keep me satisfied. Knowing that a main goal of mine was to have a steady blood sugar heading into the early afternoon, having familiar foods for breakfast and lunch really helped me to achieve that goal - especially given that I'd be eating lots of unfamiliar food throughout the evening.
Bring more supplies than you think you need, and then add to that. I talked about this a bit in a past post, and though I didn't need any extras this time around, it gave me peace of mind to know I had more than enough on hand. Thinking about the many things that could happen ahead of time allowed me to be prepared and know I had what I needed - this includes things like Neosporin and Band-Aids, more than enough needles, lots of extra CGM supplies, and more. This way you'll know that even if you rip your CGM off or you lose your insulin pen, backup is available.
Be sure to have a smart storage plan. I have a black pouch that I use for every day storage of my supplies, but for special occasions and travel we sometimes need to switch things up based on the size of the bag we’ll be able to carry and also as mentioned, I always have a lot more on me than I would as compared to running an every day errand. When you pack, make sure all of your materials can be easily accessed (e.g. not in a bag you plan to check on an airplane!) and if appropriate, make sure a trusted family member or friend also knows where your supplies are in case you need someone to grab something for you in a pinch. I usually keep my snacks in one spot in my carry on and then all of my supplies together in another spot in that same bag within a sealed plastic bag. Think too, if you‘ll be carrying a purse or bag during your special event or travel, about what will fit in there for when you’re on the go and what is absolutely necessary to keep with you at all times vs. what can stay in your hotel or housing.
I was able to keep my insulin in the purse I wore for our wedding as well as a tube of sugar tabs and I knew there would be no shortage of food and snacks around. When traveling, I’m always sure to bring a slightly larger bag so I can fit a snack or two in there as well - especially if we’ll be far from our hotel. But for example, if my CGM falls off and I'll be within or close to our hotel room (like I knew would be the case at the wedding and on vacation) I'll have time to run back to our hotel room or to send someone to grab it for me. If I'm in a situation where I know we'll be far away from our hotel room, like on a day trip, that's when I might consider bringing a backup meter and/or sensor with me along for the ride.
Pause and think about the next few hours before you dose your insulin. Though I did a lot of this pre planning so that I could try to have a seamless diabetes wedding weekend and vacation, it’s really never possible to fully put diabetes on the back burner. Be extremely mindful when you’re giving insulin during an event or when traveling, even more so than your typical day. Be sure to pause and think about what’s coming in the next few hours - will you have access to snacks easily, when is the next meal, will you be drinking, will you have easy access to your Dexcom / CGM / meter?
I also found personally at my wedding that my numbers were running lower than usual I think due to a number of things - we were walking a lot, the overall excitement, and also even though there was a lot of food around I found that we were so busy talking to folks that I was unintentionally eating smaller portions! Once I realized this, I made sure to take that into account when dosing. As some of you know, my dad is also diabetic so it was really nice to be able to talk through some of this with him too!
For my long acting insulin, I use an app on my phone called Round Health because I’ve had situations where I can’t remember if I’ve taken it that day. I made sure on our wedding night to take my long acting insulin when Jake and I were seated alone (which happened to be a bit earlier than usual, but was a time where I knew I'd be able to be most present), I verbally told him I was doing it and I checked it off on the app just in case I had any question later if I had taken it and then went on with the evening!
Be comfortable with the unknown while relying on what you know. At the end of the day, when we’re attending an event or traveling, it’s just like going out to a new restaurant. We might not know the exact carb count or how our bodies are going to react to the food so we have to use what we know to dose our insulin and allow ourselves to be flexible. You can do all of the preparation in the world, but the most important thing is that you allow yourself to enjoy while balancing your diabetes needs and giving yourself some grace if things don’t go exactly as planned.
Diabetes can be difficult to manage on any day of the week, but it is especially tough to deal with when you’re part of a big event or are traveling and out of your typical routine. If you have something like this coming up, think through a plan ahead of time, let yourself remain flexible throughout the event, rely on your care team, and be patient knowing that some of this is totally out of our control!