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Back in the Slipstream

On Friday morning, most people were starting the daily grind, commuting to work, riding the rails in the underbelly of the city, clogging the arteries of roads on their way to office towers and boardrooms – fighting the bitter cold winds as they crossed streets with coffee and paper in-hand.

A select few, however, were getting ready. A select few, felt the crisp cold day and thought it invigorating…their excitement was building for what was to come.

In Windsor, London, Stratford and Ingersoll, Bradford, Brampton, Bracebridge, St. Catharines….in Unionville, Pickering, Waterloo, Toronto and Guleph…in Prince George and Victoria, Calgary and Philly…we were getting ready….setting wheels, wings and rails in motion, across borders and countries – all with a common destination.

The Slipstream.

By 8pm, thirty people with Type 1 diabetes had converged on YMCA Wanakita in Haliburton, Ontario for Connected in Motion’s 2nd Annual Winter Slipstream Event.

After warming up over homemade chili and low-carb hot chocolate, the formal introductions began around the fireplace…well, as formal as a game based on eating M&M’s can get. We found out that we were teachers, nurses, diesel mechanics, ropes course builders, students and more. We were well traveled, accomplished athletes and proud parents. We learned that, collectively, we were a pretty positive bunch…except when it came to bad drivers. And we learned the importance of articulating when talking about our passions to avoid misunderstandings (Ahem, Hank). But most importantly, we were reminded that each and every one of us knew exactly what it was like to live life with diabetes.

With the ice broken, and a clear sense of our group’s humour, we spent the rest of the evening hanging out around the fire and, for some, getting started on Medtronic CGM’s (continuous glucose monitors) which we would wear for the duration of the weekend to track the fluctuations in our BG’s.

Saturday arrived clear, crisp and cold. Vivid blue skies and a brilliant sun rising over the lake was the back drop for snow covered trees and cabins. The keen in the bunch were in the lodge at 7am for Zumba with Jaime and Yoga with Chris, enjoying the warmth of the first rays of sunshine streaming through the windows as they shook their booties to latin-influenced music, followed Jaime’s lead and invented some new moves of their own.

The day was jam-packed full of activities and workshops. Chloe told the story of how ‘Slipstream‘ came to be and Chris led a session on making insulin adjustments  for exercise and activity. Armed with new new tips and ideas, we bundled up and headed outside. Some of us chose to head out on a snowshoe trek, while others hit the cross-country ski trails. We all reconvened at lunch time, frosty-lashed and rosy-cheeked, comparing CGM graphs and high-fiving over good BG’s.

Shawn Shepheard kicked off the afternoon with an engaging ‘Sweet Success’ session on goal setting. He encouraged us to define ‘success’ in all aspects of our lives and we dared to write our dreams down. Using teamwork, accountabilty partners and the prospect of small daily changes, he set us on a course for achieving our goals.  We then switched gears, got into teams and took on a new challenge – ‘Diabetium’. Jen’s diabetes-themed version of the popular game ‘Cranium’ had us running all over the lodge. The life-sized game board and massive dice caused quite a stir and the tricky diabetes trivia had people learning, laughing and layering-down. A board game that made you sweat!

Next it was out to the high ropes course to take on the team Tower. Teetering 30ft above the ground, we bonded in a physical way – clinging to one another in groups of four on an impossibly small platform, overcoming fears of heights and harnesses. Then it was on to play broomball for some, and off to hurl themselves down the toboggan hill for others.

Soon it was time for dinner and a chance to relax, but the day was by no means nearing its end. After the sun had set, we bundled back up for a lantern-lit ski across the lake to a bonfire on the far shore. The full moon illuminated our path and glistened wildly on the snow. Having worked off our dinner, we returned to the fireplace for a celebratory toast and some hysterical, out-dated readings from Dr. Alice’s 1940’s book on managing diabetes. Although we laughed ’till we cried over the obsurd instructions, it was a serious reminder of how lucky we are to live with diabetes TODAY, in this country. And how fortunate we are to have the technology, knowledge and means to manage our diabetes that those who came before us (and even those who live in other places around the world) did and do not, have the luxury of.

The remainder of the evening was spent re-living the day’s events, making new connections and listening to the musicians in the group play guitar, sing songs and write new ones! There was also a chance to demo Bayer’s “A1CNow” technology and most people eagerly took advantage of a sneek peek at their current A1C. The revelations spurred in-depth conversations about diabetes management strategies, techniques and motivation amongst many.

On Sunday morning, the snow began to fall in huge fluffy flakes. We started out with a brown-paper brainstorming session, followed by a host of exciting news and announcements about upcoming CIM events and initiatives. The snow falling outside was just too tempting, so we wrapped up as quickly as possible and headed out into the freshly fallen snow on the lake for an intense game of ‘kicking a boot ‘- you have to play to understand. Completely exhilarated from slide tackling, running and diving in snowbanks, we headed back inside for our final lunch and goodbyes.

Leaving ‘the Slipstream’ is a tough thing to do.

For one weekend, we live in complete and utter diabetes bliss. We live in a place where Dex 4 flows freely from everyone’s pockets, where test strips on the floor can’t be blamed on one person alone and where drinking juice in bed in the middle of the night is normal. A place where others recognize the tunes of your pump alarms, where you can lick blood off your finger without even a sideways glance and where no one judges when say you’re ‘so high’. We draw up insulin at the dinner table, get excited over straight lines on CGM graphs and for one whole weekend, we let our pump cords hang loose.

That’s what being in the Slipstream is all about. Being a part of that world for just a few short days is what keeps us cruising all year.

This year’s Slipstream drew people from across Canada as well as the States. And the momentum of our Slipstream is spreading. The excitement of being a part of the movement is drawing people from their daily routines. Those who have been can tell you, the anticipation is nothing in comparison to the inspired, motivated and elated feeling you have post-Slipstream.

So a year from now, on a cold, crisp January morning, make sure you have a hidden agenda.  Make sure that as the people of the world prepare for just another day, you are putting your plans in motion. Make sure you clear your calendars now for 2011. Make sure that next year, on the last weekend of January, your final destination is The Slipstream.