IN BIKE FOR DIABETES – PROJECT
We are Ulises Caula (28 years old) and Alina Genesio (24 years old), an argentinian couple, who in March 2014 sold all their belongings and started traveling around the world whithout a returning date.
We have been volunteering in Australia and working in Denmark with a Working Holiday Visa for one year. We are working as full-time dishwashers and doing extra hours to earn the money we need to do the project “In bicycle for diabetes”.
Ulises requires insulin every day since he was 22 years old and his dream has always been to travel around the world. A dream that had been frustated when he was diagnosed with diabetes. A few years ago, Ulises realized that there was not a traveller who recieved insulin shots (with the word “traveller” we do not mean a person who travels for holidays with a specific plan, we mean someone who does it without a routine or knowledge about what the travel would be like), maybe because nobody had had the courage to travel in that way because of the medical care (regular checkups, healthy diet, a routine wich allows the patient to keep good blood levels of glucose and, the most important, the insulin which is very expensive).
He changed the question “why is this happening to me?” into “what do I have to learn or teach about this?”, and, together, we developed the idea about riding a bicycle around Europe and Asia for one year to help people who suffer from this condition and also depresion, to understand that they can live the life they have imagined if they take care of themselves.
I (Alina) am a journalist and the owner of a web page (viajeroscronicos.com) since March 2014, which has more than 200 visits every day, and a fanpage (/viajeroscronicos) with more than 4000 followers. Both websites have information about our trip as globetrotters and seem to be attractive for young people from different countries, especially from Latin American countries.
IN BICYCLE FOR DIABETES is a project that we will be starting in May 2015 in Norway and It would continue in Finland, Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Italy (because we do not want to miss the deadline, we will be travelling by train when the distances are more than 1000 kilometres). The challenge will have a duration of one year but It can be longer if we find the resources we will need.
To attract attention from the media, especially from social networking, to include diabetes in the global agenda.
To give further information about what diabetes is, how to prevent it and necessary care.
To teach diabetic patients how It is possible to achieve personal goals by accepting the disease and having regular checkups.
People who suffer from type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetic’s relatives and friends.
People aged between 18 and 35 years old who are interested in travelling and do not know about the illness.
To reduce the percentage of people who suffer from this condition and are not conscious of that. (According to the International Diabetes Federation there are approximately 347 million diabetic people around the world and half of them do not know it.)
To reduce the number of diabetic patients who do not take care of themselves. (“To know about diabetes is the first step to prevention, diagnosis and treatment”, said Alberto Barceló, Non Communicable Diseases advisor, WHO.)
To reduce the percentage of diabetic people who suffer from depression. (Recent research has shown that people with diabetes are twice as cases of depression than people without diabetes of the same age.)
PLANNED ACTIVITIES TO ACHIEVE GOALS
To insert information on a special section of our website (viajeroscronicos.com) and fanpage (/viajeroscronicos) about Ulises’ story, a man in his twenties who needs daily insulin injections and is living his dream of travelling by bike through Europe and Asia, something that nobody with diabetes type 1 has done before.
To publish articles about Ulises’ story on newspapers and magazines of the cities we will be visiting and to have interviews on TV programmes when it is possible.
To post information about the disease (prevention, treatment, healthy diet etc) and the journey.
- WHAT DO WE OFFER?
To achieve our goals we need your help. We arrived in Denmark with 400 Euros in our pocket but, even working extra hours for nine months in this country, we could not get the money we need to travel for one year. It will be a cheap trip: we will sleep in a tent, ride our bikes to move from one place to another one and cook our food. But we will need some money to spend on a healthy diet (which is very important for Ulises) and the insulin (he can not live whithout it).
In exchange for your help we offer:
- Advertising on our websites.
- Proffessional photographies of your brand and website.
- Talking about your brand in every article and interview we will have.
If you support us, we can increase the number of our followers to 10000 by June 2015.
We are open to answer questions by E-mail, Skype or in person. We are also open to accepting suggestions, ideas and opinions.
This is a project that transforms every day and to be nourished by what our readers share us, the information that we acquire and advice we received.
PERSONAL BACKGROUND: ULISES CAULA
I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 22 years old. At that time, I was a Paddle proffesor and I had started to study to get a degree in Physical Education. To start college I had to make some checkups and the doctor found out that my sugar levels in blood where too high. The doctor was wrong and said I had Type 2 diabetes (an illness that commonly affects people who have depression, a sedentary life and obesity during the second half of their lives). I was medicated with pills, healthy diet and exercise for six months, but then, on a bussiness trip to Uruguay, the glucose levels in blood started to rise very fast and I had all the symptoms that I had had six months earlier: excessive thirst, frequent urination, tiredness, hunger and weight loss. After that (December 2009), in another city (Córdoba), a diabetes specialist told me what I did not want to hear: I had type 1 diabetes and would need daily insulin shots to remove the excess glucose.
According to WHO “Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.”
The patient becomes vulnerable due to lack of information, ignorance and because he/she usually does not have a relative or friend who has the illness. The diabetic must learn how much sugar and carbohydrates has eaten to know how much insulin he/she needs and when it has to be supplied. It is a long process of trial and error and strong will. Also diabetes has a psychological effect on people.
I did not know a lot about the treatment. I thought I should go everywhere with a syringe but, fortunately, thanks to science and modern medicine, the most common form of insulin delivery are insulin pens.
Recent research has shown that people with diabetes are twice as cases of depression than people without diabetes of the same age due to the thought their lives are now limited and also because is complicated to keep their boold sugar levels within a healthy range. Many patients think they have to work less because it is dangerous to do a lot of activities or because it is difficult to eat on time when they are out and about.
Yes, It is true. I puncture my finger six times each day to know my bloog sugar levels and I get an insulin injection at least three times. There is one type of insulin which I need every morning, long-acting insulin (even when my glucose levels are ok), and there is another type, rapid-acting insulin, which I need every time I want to eat something with a lot of glucose or sugar (such as bread, potato, rice, crackers or cake.)
At the begining, I was really embarrassed when I had to inject myself in public because I did not want people asking about it or just looking at me.
In January 2012 I travelled to Machu Pichu. That was my first trip being insulin-dependent.
There are two big challenges of being an insulin-dependent globetrotter. First, I need to find ice or refrigeration because insulin must be refrigerated and It can not be exposed to higher temperatures than 30°C. Second, I must have something sweet to eat or drink in my backpack. This is essential.
A person with type 1 diabetes needs insulin shots every day to keep his/her glucose levels whithin a healthy range, but a blood sugar concentration too low is more dangerous. When this happens, the person may lose consciousness and finish in a diabetic coma. The patient presages when his/her glucose levels are very low because he/she perspires excessively, is hungry, feels weak and his/her hands start shaking. At that moment, the patient must eat or drink something that contains high levels of sugar. These episodes happen due to lack of information. The hot weather and the state of mind also affect the blood glucose levels; usually, anxiety rises blood sugar levels and depression or sadness lowers them.
In February 2012 (when Alina and I were a recent couple), she started motivating me to do a trip to a distant country whithout a returning date. At the begining I refused to it. I thought It was not possible because I need regular checkups and insulin. But nothing is impossible so I stored insulin during one year, went to the doctor for a complete checkup, sold all my belongings and took a plane with my girlfriend to Sidney.
Far from any recommendation, we begin a new life without a routine or certainty. We spend the money we earn on my medicine and a healthy diet. I have stored 2 types of insulin for one year and a half but I do not have as many test strips as I need (I need them to measure my blood glucose levels every day) so we know this is a fixed expense . Each box of test strips costs U$D 30 and I use four of these boxes every month. The health insurance for travellers does not cover pre-existing conditions so we can not count on that.
The psychologist Laura Foster said on an interview that social networks have an important role related to diabetes: “patients can know about stories from other people who have been through this illness […] When after the diagnosis surges the anger, the question “why to me?”, when the horizon is dark, when it seems all dreams are broken, to know that other people have gone through it and have survived is an inspiration.”
I would like to say that It is easy, that It is simple to live day after day with hyper and hypoglycemia, that we can travel as any, that we do not have limitations, but It is not like that at all. Hypoglycemia episodes can occur at any time every day and every time we prepare our backpacks we do not know where to put eighty insulin pens. We must go everywhere carrying the glucose meter, insulin and sugar. We have to eat healthy food every three to four hours. We must calculate how much we will walk and what we will do before and after breakfast and lunch and we have to be sure that we have enough test strips. If the first glucose measurement of the day is high, that means a day in a bad mood and a low glucose level means standing for several hours. We do not think twice before going to the doctor or buying a soda in the most expensive store of the city if something goes wrong. It is not easy and many times It results in negative responses to invitations of other travellers because “we want to be alone.”
I am a patient with type 1 diabetes who knows the risks and complications of this condition but in 2013 I decided (or WE decided) that this could not prevent us to fulfill our dreams. While we were planning our trip, we tried to contact any traveller who had type 1 diabetes but we could not reach anybody. We had many doubts and fears but the fact that there was not an insulin-dependent traveller did not discourage us.
“When a mother with a diabetic child listens to another one says that her son is living a normal life, the anxiety levels decrease due to the break up of negative thoughts she had about the disease.” Laura Foster.
“ It hurt me a lot for two reasons. First, because he is my son and I preferred that to happen to me and not him. In second place, because of his age; he was too young. When he started with insulin shots I cried a lot and I did myself many questions: “Can he have children?”, “Will he find a woman who supports him?”, “Will his friends help him?”. Today we are happy because my mom can tell other mothers that my friends helped me, that I found a woman who understands my situation and also that I am travelling around the world fulfilling my dream with her.
It was not easy for me and It is not simple for us right now but it is not impossible. We have to be more careful than a normal traveller and our fixed expense is higher. There are things we can not leave it to chance. There are bad days but also good ones. There are moments of decayed when I feel bad physically and, suddenly, we think money is worthless and we spend it on a dream (like our trip to Iceland). Some people may ask why we spent the money we had earned on a four-day trip. Some people may think we have other incomes but we do not. We just decided we are going to enjoy every minute of it. Maybe in five or ten years we will be stuck in one city with regular checkups and being more careful than today. If we do not do it now, when then?
Before the journey I had moments when I thought I would overcome by depression and sadness. Low blood sugar levels, a headache, ten insulin shots a day do not compare with the fact that I am fulfulling my dreams.
I always wanted to be like those people who inspired me at the International Forum for Entrepreneurs. To do something special, to fulfill my dreams and to inspire others. Today I know I can make it.
Maybe in front of the screen there is someone who has had diabetes for many years or who was recently diagnosed. Maybe a patient’s parent, sibling or friend is reading us. That people we want to reach to let them know that It is possible. It is not easy but neither impossible. They do not have limits, they do not have to change their projects or lives because of this condition. You must not adapt to the disease or resign. You have to learn to adapt the diabetes to your lives, to your plans and to your dreams.
Thank you very much for reading
Alina and Ulises