Living beyond T1D at music festivals

There’s nothing better than dancing in the sunshine to live music. My arms high above my head, eyes shut, completely lost in the moment. I’m able to forget all responsibility and the many things I juggle as a parent, an employee, business owner, homeowner and wife. I am surrounded by friends and strangers ebbing and flowing, moving to the beat, laughing, singing, all waiting in anticipation for the next beat to drop. Here we are. Present. Alive. 100% in the moment. What’s not to love?

Living with Type 1 diabetes has never stopped me going all-in at a festival (I’m sure my dance moves get better the older I get – #mummoves). I reflect on almost 20 years of mixing incredible music and experiences around the world with an autoimmune disease, knowing there were certainly moments where my T1D management was more luck than anything else. However, for the most part I try to be one step ahead, because we all know out of range blood sugars can quickly bring a great event to a screeching halt.

Last weekend armed with a backpack filled with enough hypo supplies to last an eternity, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), my blood glucose meter in case the CGM plays up – because it happens and an insulin pump, we made our way to Electric Gardens (a dance music festival in Auckland). The event website stated no BYO alcohol or food. No drama about the booze I knew there was a bar inside, but what NO FOOD? We walked straight to the bag check and played the ‘diabetes card’.

NOTE: Not an actual card, but rather an opportunity to either bend the rules or get yourself out of a situation because you are a total Diabadass. I use this ‘card’ every time someone tries to break out tequila shots.

Diabadass: A person with diabetes who is also a hardcore badass.

My husband very loudly says ‘she has Type 1 diabetes’ while I show the event staff the contents of our bag. (The volume was more to do with the Red bull vodkas before the event, rather than any need to stamp our authority). The man checking our bag simply smiled and said no problem and in we went!

We set up base and hit the bar. The conversation was loud and fast as the temperature rose. I kept a close eye on my blood sugar levels thanks to my CGM and felt confident the BBQ we’d had before arriving would keep them stable for the first couple of hours, despite having alcohol on board. As the day progressed, I switched to water knowing that my sweet dance moves were going to reduce my blood sugar levels. I wanted to make sure I was still in control. It blows me away how much dancing can affect a person’s blood sugar levels, but upon reflection of course it would.

I didn’t really appreciate this link until a recent outdoor gig with Salmonella Dub and Tiki Tane. I’d danced the entire time, teetering on the edge of going low and had consumed all my hypo supplies. It wasn’t until the end of the night the penny dropped, and I reduced my basal rate (therefore reducing how much insulin I was receiving). GAME CHANGER! I do this before heading out for a big walk and dancing (another form of exercise) should be no different.

Therefore, as the sun began to set at Electric Avenue, I applied a temporary basal rate to my insulin pump. I continued to keep a close eye on my blood sugar levels all while soaking up the sounds of Dick Johnson, Sigma & Bag Raiders. I managed to avoid going low thanks to my stash of juice boxes, Mentos and muesli bars. In hindsight utilising the food carts at the event would have helped too.

My blood sugars were sitting around 4.5 mmol (81mg/dL), lower than I would have liked just before the headline act – Fat Boy Slim. I knew that things were about to be turned up a notch. With that in mind I removed my pump completely and let loose. Surrounded by great friends and thousands of avid Norman Cook fans, it was the right thing to do. There’s also something extremely empowering and rebellious about removing your insulin pump (not something I do lightly). I’d love to say during his 90-minute set with my pump detached, I could almost forget I lived with Type 1 diabetes – but nope my CGM let me know I was dropping. So, there I was in the middle of the crowd, dancing my arse off, while eating a muesli bar. Doing my best to live well and truly beyond Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 certainly adds a layer of complexity to attending any event outside of your normal routine, but it’s totally worth it. It’s these incredible experiences and moments that remind us we are alive! With a bit of forward planning and extra monitoring we can ensure T1D never takes this away from us.