Guest Post: Jen Hanson
When first offered the opportunity to do a guest blog in celebration of World Diabetes Day for DSMA, I was pretty excited. For quite some time now I’ve been a ‘reader of blogs’ and as much as I have learned from them and felt connected with the topics and writers, I’ve still felt like somewhat of an outsider—a ‘reader’ not a ‘blogger’. I remember recently reading a particular entry in SaucyGurl915’s blog—hearing her write of the therapeutic nature of ‘telling your own story’. I am excited for the chance to try this out for myself! And so begins by blogging experience.
I have spent quite some time thinking about what to blog about; in fact, I’ve taken much more time than I ever imagined I would. Several times a week I feel compelled to sit down and share my own diabetes experiences, sparked by something I’ve read, or something I’ve heard, or something that’s happened, or even something that might happen; however, up until now I’ve always pushed the urge aside and replaced it with ‘what I should be doing’—writing my thesis. But now that it has come time to actually put pen to paper (or perhaps, fingers to keyboard) I feel stumped. I must admit, I’ve done so much in my diabetes life that it is almost embarrassing to now, find myself struggling for a topic of interest.
When first offered the chance to blog, Cherise asked me to write about whatever moves me. As I think about ‘what moves me’, I find my thoughts constantly falling back to not only ‘what’ but ‘who’ moves me. It is with this realization that I have decided to share with you all the story of the biggest ‘mover’ in my life—an active, enthusiastic, energetic, fun-loving group of amazing adults with Type 1 diabetes yielding from across Canada and beyond—Connected in Motion.
Before getting too much into the ‘story’, I should probably share a bit of my own. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 3. Growing up with four other siblings kept me beyond active. I am pretty sure that, collectively, we have tried out every sport under the sun. When I turned eight, my parents gave me the most wonderful gift—summer camp. I headed off to Camp Huronda, the ‘local’ summer camp for children with diabetes and never looked back. I spent 18 irreplaceable summers of my life at the camp and wouldn’t trade them for anything. When my time at camp was drawing to a close, however, I was scared. I had grown up with such a remarkable group of friends—so amazing that I can’t even find the words to describe them. They were different from anyone else I had ever met in my life. I wasn’t scared that I would lose these friends, but I was scared that I would lose the sense of community that camp created each year.
It’s funny how things just sometimes seem to fall in place at the perfect time.
Unbeknownst to me, as I was preparing myself to say goodbye to camp—my childhood (and teenage, and young adulthood) home—an amazing idea was growing some 200km away.
Chloe Steepe was diagnosed with diabetes at 18 years of age. It is still amazing to me that we had not, until the Fall of 2009, yet met. I mean, we were both teachers, were both outdoor enthusiasts and were both members of the small (but mighty) ‘Ontario young adults with Type 1 diabetes’ community. Unlike me, however, Chloe had not grown up among other people with Type 1 diabetes. It wasn’t until she was 25 that Chloe met her first real ‘friend’ with diabetes—someone else she could relate to, someone else who was out adventuring in the world, someone else who was living life to the fullest with diabetes. This meeting of people started the wheels ‘in motion’ and set Chloe off to achieve her dream of connecting young adults (and soon, all adults and even occasionally youth) with Type 1 diabetes and using outdoor and physical activity as a forum for experiential diabetes education. And so Connected in Motion was created.
By the Fall of 2008, the first ever (and now annual) ‘Winter Slipstream’ event was in the works. I have to admit, when I first heard of the idea, I was a little hesitant. I mean, I already had a group of 50+ friends with Type 1 in Ontario, who else could there possibly be out there? I’d been networking with people with diabetes for the past 18 years, what else could I possibly learn? How naïve I was…
In January 2009, I attended my first ever ‘Winter Slipstream’. The three day ‘retreat’ was so cleverly named after Chloe and co-founder/fiancé Rob traveled to Australia in 2008. While cycling in a with the Australian Type 1 group Hypoactive, Chloe formed her own definition of the term, Slipstream (see the full definition, here):
1. the airstreams generating reduced air pressure and forward suction directly behind
a rapidly moving person with diabetes
2. to ride in the slipstream of a fast-moving person with diabetes
3. the momentum that created Connected in Motion
That January, 25 adults with Type 1 diabetes got together and shared in the most amazing experience. Whether we were snowshoeing or skiing; skating or tobogganing; climbing to the treetops (with harnesses, of course) or sitting around chatting at the campfire, the experience was something I had ever felt before. An overwhelming sense of community was developed by the simple act of bringing people together. Each individual brought to the group something amazing and played an irreplaceable role in the success of the weekend. Although some individuals had accomplished some amazing feats as people with diabetes (like cycling across Africa, dog sledding in the Arctic, running in Iceland) everyone in the group was treated as an equal and each person’s experience was valued as much as the next. Although we only spent two full days together, when we drove away from (or, had our cars pushed away from… black ice is not to be underestimated!) the snow-/ice-covered road in Haliburton, Ontario that Sunday, we all knew how lucky we were to have connected with each other. We knew that we were part of something incredible. And we knew that the (snow)ball was rolling and would only gain momentum. (Check out the 2009 and 2010 video of the events, created by fellow T1 and ‘Slipstreamer’ Hank Devos)
Since that weekend, I have been so lucky to be involved with the many wonderful events (that word—events—serves no justice) Connected in Motion has facilitated and to have met the many amazing people ‘connected’ through the events. With Connected in Motion I ran my first 10k race, I climbed my first real mountain (check out the video!) and I paddled the waters of Frontenac Park (there’s a video of that too!). I took part in my first adventure race, I rock climbed at Lake Louise and I attended many diabetes conferences. Most importantly, though, I have met the most amazing and unique group of people—people that inspire me every day to live my life to the fullest.
I’d like to send out a huge thank you to everyone who has ever been involved with, or who will ever be involved with, Connected in Motion (or really any group that fosters similar experiences—you deserve a huge shout out!). The experiences I have had have showed me that I really am living an amazing life… And not despite diabetes, but because of it.
Jen, Living with Type 1 Diabetes
Check out Connected in Motion by visiting-http://www.connectedinmotion.ca/