I’m currently travelling for business for the first time since my diagnosis. (The picture above was taken whilst wondering round Montreal.) The challenge of managing diabetes in this scenario is best explain by way of example.

The first morning of the conference started with a “continental style buffet breakfast”. It’s an opportunity to meet the other participants whilst getting fed. I first had to identify some suitable to eat. I’d been running for an hour just before so was starving. The selection looked pretty poor for a diabetic though: granola (way too sugary), muffins (ditto), various other cakes and brown bread. Bam! Perfect. I piled my plate high with bread, and added pineapple, melon and a cup of coffee for good measure.

I was doing all of this whilst introducing myself to assorted central bankers and academics. Bluffing that one is an expert in one’s field, desperately trying to remember that bloke’s name, holding a cup of coffee and a plate and trying to eat (conference organisers always cater for people with three arms but I’ve never actually seen any three-armed people turn up) is hard enough. Then try remembering the carb content of bread, pineapple and melon and estimating how much it all weighs simultaneously.

I do all the calculations. I factor that I’ve just finished exercising, am eating 100*0.45 + 7 + 10 grams of carbs so need: 1 unit of insulin! As I’m halfway through congratulating myself on how clever I am, I’m aware of silence falling. I tune in again, and realise that a question is being repeated: “So what’s your view on the issue, Alex?”

There’s another silence while I ponder my options. I decide to bluff and give my view of the issue I’m guessing they’re talking about. I also whip out my insulin pen and stick it in my stomach. I have no idea whether this puts off the group. I’m multitasking on injecting myself, looking at people’s faces to see if they’re surprised about me injecting myself, looking at people’s faces to see if I’m answering the right question, and actually talking.

Like most men, I can’t actually multitask, so I achieve none of those things. I have no idea what expressions are worn on the earnest faces around me, I have no idea what dribble is coming out of my mouth, and I stab myself in the finger whilst trying to put the top back on my insulin pen.

I’m relieved when the spotlight of conversation illuminates someone else. I take a bite of my bread. It’s banana bread. Great. Six months ago I would have loved it but instead I’m inwardly cursing the organisers for putting on such a spectacularly unhealthy breakfast. I’ve got no idea how much sugar is in banana bread, but a lot more than normal bread so I recalculate carb content and leave half of it.

Things got a lot better after that, but travelling and meeting new people when one has diabetes is a challenge. Firstly I have to guess how much carb is in food all the time. Then giving blood tests and injecting is a bit more awkward in front of total strangers. I’ve decided that I’m just going to be open about it and not worry about people reactions. But I am testing myself less while I’m away. The main thing is that I haven’t had a bad hypo. Although my blood sugar has been a little higher than usual, which I find mildly irritating in my impossible quest to achieve the same glucose control as a healthy person.

On the plus side, the running training is going well, and I’m in near the best shape of my life. I also found out today that my brother has also been accepted to run the London marathon for team JDRF. Go team Collins!!


  1. Speaking as someone who would find a networking breakfast challenging even with 3 arms can I just say well done you. And go team collins. Xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s