Once a year, when the year is still new, an amazing group of winter-loving folks gathers in the wilds of Central Ontario. They travel by plane, by train, by bus, and by car, just to be together. They travel from the West. They travel from the East. They even travel from countries other than Canada. They carry backpacks and suitcases, duffel bags and tote bags, and the contents of each person’s luggage looks remarkably similar. There are, of course, snow boots and snow pants and warm winter toques (it is Ontario in January after all). And there are, of course, sleeping bags and pillows and cozy pajamas. There are also a few things in everyone’s luggage that make this gathering especially unique. Every single one of these winter-loving folks travels with insulin, test strips, lancets, and insulin pump supplies or pen needles. Every single one of them carries what would appear to the average citizen to be an inordinate amount of snacks. Between the granola bars, the juice boxes, and the glucose tablets, these people are well-prepared to be snowed in for the weekend, or even for a full fortnight; they certainly would not starve. These people are drawn together by one considerable commonality, and it is this final aspect of their luggage that, in some ways, defines the entire weekend. Every single person – no matter their career, athletic ambitions, gender, age, personality, or favourite number – has type 1 diabetes. Not one of them is defined by the disease, but it is what brings them together at this event they’ve trekked across the country to attend: Winter Slipstream.
Winter Slipstream. Have you heard of it? Everybody – whether they have diabetes or not – should know about this event. Just watch this video and you’ll understand why.
Diabetes may be what brings us together, but Winter Slipstream is so much bigger than a disease. Winter Slipstream is about being inspired and uplifted. It’s about marvelling at the beauty of our country and playing in the snow. It’s about reaching our goals and dreaming big. It’s about not feeling like the odd one out when you’re cranky and have a parched throat because your sugar is 17.2. It’s about not feeling guilty because you need to take a quick break from snowshoeing to treat your reading of 3.1. It’s about confidence. It’s about laughter. It’s about not shying away from the miserable aspects of this disease, and it’s about telling the miserable aspects of this disease to take a hike. It’s about taking a hike. It’s about celebrating ourselves for slogging through every single day, even though diabetes tries its damnedest to get us down. It’s about learning from one another, and being empowered by one another.
I’ve written about the organization behind this event before. As its tag line says, Connected in Motion really is “breathing fresh air into diabetes education.” In my nearly-eighteen years with this disease, I have never felt so welcomed, or taken so much confidence and strength from a diabetes group. These people like to have fun, they like to describe each other with terms like “diabadass,” and they love to be outdoors. What better way to take on your diabetes than to go skiing across a frozen lake with 44 other diabetics? What better way to learn how snowshoeing affects your blood sugar than to tromp through the woods with a group of well-seasoned, and novice, type 1 snowshoeing friends?
Since its inaugural year, I have wanted to attend Winter Slipstream. From a distance, I have known the people involved in its inception and evolution and, for quite some time, I have wanted to meet them – face-to-face and pump-to-pump. Amongst other things, living on the far side of the country has been a significant impediment. This year though, things fell into place. My schedule was wide open at the end of January and, after fleeting deliberation, I registered for the Slipstream. I exchanged excited emails with Chloe (the contents of which read something like, “Yaaahooooo!” and “Yeeeeehaaw!”).
I trekked to the wilds of Central Ontario – toque, sleeping bag, and insulin in tow – and I was finally able to connect, in person, and in motion, with this necessary piece of my diabetes puzzle: the greatest finger-poking crowd this side of anywhere.