It wouldn’t be fair to say that I was the type of person who dreamed about going to Machu Picchu my whole life. It wasn’t my absolute must-do destination on our trip around the world. But I was still pretty darn excited about it. After all, I did minor in Architectural History, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my trips to see other world-class ruins in Greece and Italy and Mexico.
As we actually arrived in South America and started planning our Machu Picchu visit, I became that much more excited to see the site. We booked our tickets a month in advance, and as that month ticked by, my husband and I ran our countdown:
4 weeks to Machu Picchu!
3 weeks! Machu Picchu!
On the morning of our visit, we bounded out of bed at 3:30 am. Yes, 3:30 in the morning, without a promised cup of coffee! But we wanted to be at the entry gates by 6 am, when Machu Picchu opens. For anyone who knows me, I only get up that early for a flight or something I’m really, really excited about.
The night before I had packed an excessive amount of back up diabetes supplies, because I was determined to not let that interrupt my day. I was ready to go!
When the gates opened at 6 am, we rushed inside to see Machu Picchu when the site was practically empty, and it was BEYOND gorgeous. Seeing Machu Picchu really does take your breath away. After an initial walk through of the ruins, we hiked up Wayna Picchu, a mountain on top of Machu Picchu. The hike was worth every excessively tall Incan step that it took to get up it. My blood sugars fared nicely, with no highs or lows despite the hour-long workout.
We were enjoying ourselves so much, in fact, that we decided to hire a private guide to tell us more about Machu Picchu. The tour was two hours, and about an hour and a half into the tour, I felt a tap on my back and turned around.
It was an older woman, pointing at my OmniPod. “Excuse me, but can I ask what that that is on your arm?”
Being as we were in the middle of learning about astronomical pools and how they were used at Machu Picchu, I quickly answered, “Oh, it’s an insulin pump, I’m a diabetic”. I was kind, but quick. I wasn’t interested in discussing diabetes. And it was obvious I was in the middle of a tour.
But as you can guess, she did not stop. “Wow! I didn’t know they had those. I wish they had those in my dad’s day!” she replied.
I’m sure this woman was a lovely person, and just wanted to talk about her dad and diabetes. However, this day was not about diabetes for me and I did not want to let it turn into that. So I quickly answered, “I’m so sorry to hear about your dad”, and then I turned to follow my husband and our tour guide.
At which point, the woman left her group and actually started following us! To continue talking about diabetes! While I was on a private tour! She proceeded to tell me about her dad’s poor control over his diabetes, how he lived to 80 but his later years were full of complications. And how I really need to take good care of myself, didn’t I know?
I’m sure this woman was well intentioned and on any other day, I would have been happy to talk about diabetes for hours. But I really resented the intrusion on my life when it happened, and writing this, I resent it still. It felt (and still feels) like she shoved diabetes back into the forefront on a day where I would very much have liked it to play as little of a role as possible.
It already feels like diabetes gets to control or direct so many days of my life. And I’m fine with that. But when I think back to my visit to Machu Picchu in 10 or 20 years, I don’t want to think about her 80-year-old dad with a ton of complications. And how that potentially could happen to me someday.
Instead, I want to think about the astronomical pools and the Wayna Picchu hike and all the beautiful views. Because my life is about more than just diabetes. And I wish she had respected that.