A childhood in Florida is amphibious. The summer heat is suffocating, and the only way you feel you can breathe is to keep yourself submerged in the cool water of pools, lakes, and oceans.
All of my fondest childhood memories involve the water. I would jump and doggy paddle and dive and dunk to my heart’s content. Hours later my parents would shout for me to come inside the house, but I would quickly duck under the water and pretend I never heard it.
Only diabetes had a real way of pulling me out. But not for long. Keeping juice near the edge of the pool or next to the beach chair would have me back in action minutes after a swimming-induced low. As a child, I felt invincible in the water.
But it wasn’t until just prior to my wedding that my now-husband convinced me to try SCUBA diving. He is a diving enthusiast, but I had never given it much thought before our relationship because no one close to me was a SCUBA diver. I finished my certification a few weeks before our wedding, and after the ceremony we jetted off to beautiful blue waters to try out my new skills. It was love at first dive.
I am extra vigilant of my diabetes before I dive. I check my blood sugar just prior to jumping in to be sure I am running between 200-220 mg/dl before the 45 minute swim. Sometimes there are strong currents that force me to work harder than expected and it can zap my blood sugar. Rising to the surface for a glucose source during the dive is not an option for risk of getting the bends, so I pack my dive vest with one or two 30g carbohydrate gel packs that I can squeeze into my mouth in case I go low under water.
I am also sure to be extra vigilant once I’m out of the water, again checking my blood sugar and treating any residual high or low blood sugars.
But being under water allows me to feel free in a way that I never am when I am above it. My oxygen tank and BCD replace my pump and CGM. Any electronic beeping comes from dive computers and underwater cameras, not high and low alarms. The only thing stinging my skin may be an occasional brush with fire coral, not pricks of a lancet.
The shouts and demands of life above are replaced by the calm sound of the bubbles flowing from my mask. I float effortlessly over underwater landscapes and creatures, the weight of the life with diabetes washed from my shoulders.