1 Diabetic – 1 Bike – 1 World

Coming in 2016 hopefully, a lone type-one diabetic will set off to cycle around the world. No support vehicles, just himself, a bike and a 44,000Km adventure before him…

 

Of course though, if that wasn’t a big enough challenge he’s also going to do it in the wrong direction.

Whereas most travelling around the world do it travelling East or West, he’s doing it from the most northerly point in mainland Europe, down to the most southerly point in Africa, before travelling back up from the most southerly point in South America to the most northerly town in Eastern Canada. A journey expected to take 18 months which will be followed on this page daily (or as close to as possible due to communication restrictions in some areas).

The planning has been very extensive to say the least over the last 6 years since this little idea was first hatched in my head…and no before you ask it wasn’t during one of my falls into trees!

Starting out at Nordkapp in Norway my course weaves it’s way south along the fjords and down into Sweden and on into Denmark and Germany. From Germany it’s on into the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. Before moving onto Romania…yes I have to admit it the thought of doing a BG test on Dracula’s doorstep has come to mind! (watch this space). Then onto Bulgaria and Turkey.

This is where the initial plan goes all whacky as initially the route had me going south into Syria…that’s a bit of a snag these days sadly, thus a slight detour to Cyprus and then on to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And across the Saudi desert to Dubai then onto Dijibouti. And yes I know you looking at a map now wondering what the blazes I’m doing here, but there is no other way as far as I’ve found due to current political situations! And yes, this section is going to remain very fluid due to how things in this regard may change.

From here on it’s directly south to Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. Then it’s a trip around South Africa to arrive at Cape Point.

It’s then a flight over to Ushuaia in Argentina and the return trek begins. Argentina into Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. Then up through Mexico and into the United States visiting Houston, Mephis, Indianapolis, and Buffalo as I make my northwards to Canada. From here on it’s on to Toronto and Cartwright in Newfoundland overlooking the Atlantic and Greenland.

The initial plan for this little trip was for 2015 for a start, but as those of you who have been following my planning process on Twitter will know for all the great support I’ve gained so far from cycling and camping companies, I’ve yet to get any backing from any Diabetic medical companies. Do I need them? Frankly yes since it’s not really possible for the NHS to send me pump supplies or insulin when I’m not in the country. It’s added a massive issue to funding for the trip but as ever, it’s another challenge and one which will be overcome!

About Me

Well, guess this is the bit of the site where I should witter on a bit about myself. So I guess the first place to start is I’m a type one diabetic…although the domain name might of given you a clue. I was diagnosed back when I was four and to be honest I can’t really remember too much to be honest, but for strange little memories of torturing oranges with injections and getting a load of Lego for it. What’s so hard about this condition anyhow if you just have to attack oranges?! I also remember a thing about sitting on the window sill of the hospital watching for the food wagon which was a blue van, I guess I didn’t have my vertigo as I do now.

Primary school was pretty good, a few hypo’s and strange moments. But oddly not too many for a time when blood testers weren’t available readily and test strips were something you had to cut up and piddle on while trying to figure out a reading by a colour guide which never matched. But overall can remember it being pretty smooth but for a few silly hypo moments while out in the playground or on long walks. Secondary school was also pretty smooth. A few moments but nothing major really considering blood testers where provided in something resembling a small suitcase at the time so still never bothered with while I was at school.

Diabetes wise I think my biggest problems came along in my twenties. A long story short most of my problems came about just after the turn of the millennium and I had just had my insulin’s changed from Actrapid and Protophane to Novorapid and Lantus. At the same time the consultant who I had been seeing for most of the previous decade also left and got replaced by this strange pair of doctors. They seemed to replace the entire team of consultants who I had been dealing with.

My levels were bouncing around pretty much all day every day. I tweaked doses at meals to correct to some degree but nothing much more. My HbA1c was floating around 6.8-7.0% so the doctors were happy even if I wasn’t with all the bouncing levels. I asked my new consultant when I’m high is there a set amount I can inject to bring it down so much, or even if I eat something is there a set amount I inject for it. “Oh no, it doesn’t work that way”…hmm yes, got to wonder about the quality of this healthcare from a “consultant” who says things like this don’t you?!

Next time I go into the clinic, you know something’s up when the usual nurse who takes your blood sample isn’t there. Actually there was no nurses, no HbA1c’s, no nothing, and everything just feels “wrong”.

Five minutes later I was sitting outside with a bit of paper being told I had been discharged and wasn’t to come back. All my care from now goes through my GP only. To say my GP wasn’t happy about this was an understatement. She kept trying to get them to deal with me again, but to no avail. And again I seemed to get caught in the retiring doctors net and she retired. My replacement GP kept trying but again to no avail.

I looked at my life. I would go to work, I went home, I played games all night and every day was the same. I was fat, just over thirteen and needed to do something about it. Honestly all this gaming was a problem, and I needed a new hobby and maybe something to get this weight off me also. I tried going for a few runs with the dog, but running felt just wrong and wasn’t me. I needed something technical, and something fun as well. So browsing eBay far too much I came to the conclusion I wanted to get into biking, and I would build the bike myself! While this seemed a good idea at the time, there is quiet a variety of bike components and many don’t fit together which I learned the hard way. Stupid I know but I learned a lot. Doing  three miles and I was tired out. But I pressed on and was soon doing ten miles if I drank enough Lucozade. Couldn’t really get much further though without really bringing on the hypo’s unfortunately.

By this time my control was really a mess. Hypo’s were very regular with many severe ones each week. My GP kept attempting to aid me with tweaks to my doses a few units here and there, but to no avail. One week I got picked up by paramedics three times. It had got so bad one of the paramedics actually got quiet annoyed about how often I was having to need assistance and accused me of trying to commit suicide through a hypo and my insulin levels. While yes, I was massively depressed at the time, yet most of this was being caused by my heavily fluctuating levels causing problems with my general emotional state. My GP kept trying to get help from the local diabetic department, but kept being ignored with every call he made. He kept trying to get me onto the DAFNE (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating) course, but kept being refused as I wasn’t “severe” enough according to the powers that be due to having a HbA1c in the 7’s! While as many of us know a HbA1c means very little with wide swings in levels.

As mentioned, my levels were rather erratic. I was having lots of problems with hypo’s and the swings in my levels were really getting to my emotionally. I was a mess. Hypo’s where getting quiet stupid. I would go to the toilet and have a hypo. On one occasion it all turned out that it was the emergency services training day so since I was locked in a brick toilet, the fire brigade and the paramedics came, and the police and mountain rescue tagged along to use it for training. To come around from a hypo with your pants around your ankles and a group of eighteen surrounding you is a tad embarrassing to say to least!

My brother came up with a wonderful idea to make money for the local primary school. We’d both ride the coast to coast! It would of been if he bothered to ride a bike which he didn’t so it ended up with my and a bunch of others raising money for the school. It was spread over three days, which should of made it easy but by lunch time on the third day my levels where crashing. By mid afternoon they were through the roof and I was vomiting in the hedgerows. Most thought I should give in but that’s something I never do! The second day was hard going but blood levels were better. By the third day I was flying. Everything was clicking and coming together. I had stopped taking my Lantus on the second day and that really allowed me to have better control come the third day. A huge improvement and I learned a lot. Looking back, how I managed this ride with my control back then I have no idea!

But my control continued to not improve. Coupled with work being “fun” and causing little things like “I’ll cover your lunch in five minutes” and forty-five minutes later finally getting cover and going missing at lunchtime. Then getting caught up with a friend for a chat and never making it to the sandwich shop. With the police looking for me an hour later and while taking a description for this short-arsed diabetic in a day-glo jacket, over the radio comes “There’s an incident involving Easter Egg’s at the local supermarket”. And as you might of guessed, that’s me! So there I was down at the supermarket, from all accounts I had decided to go and wonder around with a basket doing my shopping before “acting all drunk” and launching myself into an Easter egg display. Guess that’s the good ol’ diabetic homing signal for chocolate 😀 If this wasn’t bad enough the paramedic who picked me up and took me to hospital just so happened to be a girl I had a crush on in high school and I made an utter Muppet of myself. It never improves does it?!

Eventually though, my GP’s patience snapped and in May 2010 he sent me to a diabetic department out of Cumbria, and to fantastic care of the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. In the first thirty minutes of discussions they pretty much corrected a huge number of the problems I was having by pretty much ripping up all my doses and going back to the beginning and starting from scratch. They explained that seven years earlier when my insulin’s changed, the doses were also supposed to be altered quiet massively, but never were. Working out my insulin to food ratio accurately also made things incredibly easier to handle. The department in Lancaster were quiet simply brilliant.

I’ve not had a hypo needing assistance from anyone other than myself from that first day I visited Lancaster! Thankfully the “Easter Egg Incident” was the last one (so far), and I hope to keep it that way.

My condition improved staggeringly. I lost four stone in a matter of months as I was no longer eating to keep my hypo’s at bay. The doctors in Lancaster put me on a DAFNE course and it aided in smoothing over kinks in my carb. counting which had roamed a bit off over the years. My ride distances also increased with my now able to ride up to 50 miles. Pushing further was a problem due to being unable to carry any more in carb. drinks without stopping taking my Lantus two days before a ride to flush it from my system. But even doing that would only gain me a further 10-20 miles in range.

A year after first going to Lancaster I was riding in my first sportive bike ride, and finishing in the top thirty out of three hundred riders.

 

And yes I know a sportive is not a race but it was something which I felt very proud of considering my time also included numerous stops for blood tests along the way.

By June 2011 Lancaster warned me that Cumbria was trying to reclaim its “lost” diabetics. Guess I wasn’t the only one it seems?! And they had been making requests for me to return to Cumbria’s care. Told them no and that I didn’t trust them in the slightest and wanted to stay. All seemed fine. Lancaster felt that a move to an insulin pump was best for my continued care, and booked me in to get me transferred to using a insulin pump for October.

October came and I was set to do the blood tests they need in preparation for the pump. But no appointment. I didn’t really think anything of it, and thought they must just be busy and I’ll get an appointment later. November came and went, nothing. So I asked my GP what was going on and he contacted Lancaster only to be told that Cumbria had “reclaimed” me and my previous appointment for October was supposed to be still valid with them according to the note on my records. Neither I nor my GP had been informed about this transfer which grated massively with me.

The records even showed the letter from Lancaster to Cumbria, marked as URGENT and putting it clearly that they were meant to keep the meeting for October for the pump fitting.

Numerous phone calls to Carlisle’s Diabetic Department resulted in “oh we’ll return you call later”, no reply. This continued on until February 2012 and guess what? Nothing!  My GP wasn’t even getting a response to a phone call or email off Carlisle either. In the end all I could do was to request that my GP transfer me back to Lancaster.

A month later, March 2012 and I was nicely back under the control of Lancaster…and strangely enough Cumbria suddenly decided they want to contact me again, and that they can now fit me into an appointment in October. Explained I was back under Lancaster and didn’t need them anymore. A week before my appointment in Lancaster I received another call off them, this time stating they had a free appointment come up a few days after the upcoming Lancaster appointment. They recommended that there was no need to tell Lancaster, just ignore that appointment and come to theirs instead.  Not like that was going to happen!

By June 2012 I was getting to grips with a Medtronic Paradigm insulin pump. And loving it! Making control much better.

The following month I was really getting to grips with the Pump and did the Coast to Coast again, but this time with a group of Scouts and a Cub (my nephew who was 9 at the time). They did utterly brilliantly and well done to them all. We had a few minor accidents, and also one major one with one poor girl breaking her wrist which was awful. But utterly fantastic to see she made it to the end in plaster. Brilliantly well done to them all!

Come August and I had slid off the road under braking and hitting some gravel on the road, before find myself dangling upside down from a tree looking into a stream below as my food supplies and blood meter bobbed up and down in the water. I had managed to break my clavicle, four weeks before the Jennings Rivers Ride also…and the doc says I shouldn’t ride for five weeks  My trust steed had also taken a major bash also. A huge gouge down the top tube and the brake/gear lever bashed right in, but nothing the guys at KMB couldn’t fix.

September came, and so did my first attempt at the bigger Jennings ride. Yes I still wasn’t supposed to be on a bike yet *whistles innocently* but I still went in it though. Got some questioning looks at the start setting off though dressed head to toe in waterproofs. But you know what? Come Bassenthwaite I had made the right decision as the heavens opened and it began. And from then on it continued to come down. By Seaton my eyes were bloodshot with the pelting off the rain (yes I know I need better riding glasses!). By half way round I had almost giving up if it wasn’t for a girl who cheered me up by riding with me for a bit and saying if she could do it so could I. So I plodded on. Made it to Swinside and they were turning folk around the lake as a shortcut back to town. Only those who are utterly crazy could continue on the full route…I had made it that far so nuff said, I went on! By the top of Newlands there was a waterfall flowing down the road, and Honister was worse. Must of been a good inch of water flowing down it, right over my rims on the climb. But this crazy nut on a bike still went on and made it back to town. Slow, but I made it!

May 2013 saw me ride John O’Groats to Lands End, on a bit of a not totally direct route but a lot of fun and an amazing experience. You can see the adventure day by day in the blog, but in brief it was fantastic. Just one diabetic, one bike unsupported on its own, travelling 1000 miles down the full length of Britain. Suffering the usual Diet, not so Diet Coke confusions, camping on the sides of roads, getting attacked by a snake and even crashes and accidents but pressing on pushing in personal bests time and time again. Climbing the Cairngorms, completing the Caledonian Way en route, meeting some fantastic people throughout.

June 2014 along with others from the JDRF I completed the first stage of the Tour de France course in Yorkshire. The only diabetic who did the full stage of 132 miles over all the passes, even with having a pretty awful mornings blood glucose readings which lead to trampolining levels for most of the ride. Suffering a front wheel blow out on the descent at the Côte De Grinton Moor also proved very panicking but thankfully proving to be nothing more than very irritating for the delay it caused.

While I did enjoy meeting so many people all working to aid the JDRF I also learned that on my rides I much preferred to ride solo. I can tolerate sportives but really it’s the freedom to stop and chat to people, the exploration which I prefer on a bike. And that’s what I want to do more of, much more.

 And the challenges continue!