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A Most Special Valentine’s Day Abroad

By the time you read this, we’ll be on our way to Panama. I don’t say this to rub it in, although I’d recommend NOT checking the weather in Panama if you’re anywhere in the American northeast. I say this because of how far we’ve come since one year ago today.

Valentine’s Day is a special day for so many reasons, the most apparent of which is Hallmark. It’s a day for purchasing flowers and cards for your loved ones, largely because this is the commercial romantic thing to do. Cassie and I have always enjoyed Valentine’s Day, and we make sure to buy each other something small when February 14th rolls around.

But last year, our Valentine’s Day was very different. It was exactly one year ago on Valentine’s Day that I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and began a week-long stay at two different hospitals in Nepal. It was, as I once wrote, the hardest week of my life (and it has not been surpassed… not even close). We finally made it home about a week later, and I began to learn about my disease and how to manage my blood sugar. A month later, we were back on the road.

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It’s crazy to think about everything we’ve done since the diagnosis. Machu Picchu, the Great Wall, Angkor Wat – the list goes on. I made it my goal never to let diabetes slow me down, and it hasn’t. As a promise to myself and to Cassie that it will always be that way, we decided to travel abroad on the first anniversary of my diagnosis. (It certainly helps that Cassie has a week off following President’s Day.)

Frankly, we chose Panama because it’s cheap and close. We don’t have all that much time to travel, and we want to maximize our time abroad without blowing too much money. Panama looked like the perfect option. We’ll do a bit of everything – outdoor activities in the jungle and complete relaxation on the beach. Panama is one of the best places in the world to eat ceviche, so I expect to eat my favorite form of raw fish (with sincerest apologies to sushi) at least three times a day. Failure at this culinary mission is not an option.

A year into my diagnosis, I want to say thank you to everyone who’s followed our adventures and to everyone who sent me get-well messages when I needed them most. This past year has been a fantastic journey, and we’re glad you could be a part of it. More than a few people have said, “That would be a great story!” when I tell them about our year abroad and everything that happened. I’ve taken that to heart, and I’m proud to say I’ve written 12 out of a planned 25 chapters of my (hopefully) forthcoming book. I apologize to all of the trees I have killed. Printing out drafts of chapters to edit and re-edit is not easy on the environment. I will make this up to you, Mother Nature. I just haven’t figured out how quite yet.

valentine's day-lots of words

Lots and lots and lots of words.

I don’t regret my decision to keep traveling post-diabetes at all. In fact, I think it is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I attribute that in no small part to Cassie. She has been the best part of this journey, from the beginning to the end. Long-term travel is the ultimate test of a relationship, and I’d like to think we passed that test with flying colors.

For those who are familiar with diabetes, I “passed” my latest blood sugar test as well. My latest A1C is 5.6, which is pretty damn near normal. In layman’s terms, A1C measures how well you control your blood sugar over the long run. Anything below 7.0 is good. Anything below 6.5 is great. I’m certainly not perfect (and the Chinese food from Xi’an Famous Foods that spiked my blood sugar to 186 didn’t help), but I’m doing well, and I’m not at all worried about the future.

cassie-oren-reykavik-last-pic-together

cure-oren-cassie

As of the time of this writing, I have 4 hours and 10 minutes until our alarm goes off and we catch an outrageously early taxi to an outrageously early flight to Colombia, then on to Panama. We will explore. We will experience. Most importantly, we will live. We will celebrate Valentine’s Day as it was meant to be celebrated.

Together.

-O.L.

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