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The DX Diabetes Dish: Erin Spineto

Solo sailor and author on life with type 1 diabetes

Erin Spineto, who lives with type 1 diabetes, is the author of Islands and Insulin, a chronicle of her solo sailing adventures and the ups and downs of life with diabetes. Erin, who is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, works as a science teacher and with the non-profit organization Insulindependence. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Back in December, Erin dished with us about sea, sun, and the excitement of being a first-time author.


What is your state of mind today?

On the first day of Christmas vacation, I am thrilled. I teach junior high for my day job, so I end up with two weeks off for Christmas break.

What three words would you use to describe who you are?

Sarcastic, loyal, adventurous.

How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?

Diabetes has made me more humble. Before diabetes, I was nineteen and thought I was invincible. Now I realize what a gift every day is and how easily it can all be taken away.

What inspires you to do what you do?

I love to be out to sea. It is in my blood. So sailing, for me, is a no-brainer. Writing didn’t come so naturally. But I knew I had a story to tell that might encourage others living with diabetes to get out and find their own adventures.

What do you appreciate most in your friends?

Honesty. I like to surround myself with people who will tell me the truth at all times, especially when it’s hard to hear. I also appreciate an amazing sense of humor. There is no better way to wind down from a stressful week than goofing off with funny people. Readiness to go on adventures with me on a moment’s notice is important, too.

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

A bathing suit, surfboard, sailboat, and my husband Tony and our two kids. I would go somewhere warm and surrounded by water.

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

I get most of my nutrition from plant-based sources, so my fridge is loaded to overflowing with veggies, quinoa, beans, apple juice for low blood sugar and, unfortunately, a ton of Diet Dr Pepper1 (that may be on my list of things to give up or at least severely limit in 2013).

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?

Open ocean swimming, surfing, and chilling on the couch with Tony.

What is your idea of happiness?

My family with me on a boat somewhere tropical. My kids aren’t bickering. We don’t have to worry about money. And absolutely nothing is scheduled for the day. We do whatever we feel like doing at the moment.

What do you most dislike?

Fake people, selfishness, and the cold.

What words do you try to live by?

It comes from an old catechism question by Pastor John Piper, slightly altered: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him fully.”

What is your greatest fear?

Going low in my sleep.

What is your greatest extravagance?

We live modestly, so I don’t have much extravagance in my life. Most of my spending goes into finishing my wooden boat and saving up for travel.

On what occasion do you lie?

I value honesty, so in very few situations do I think lying is acceptable. Maybe I’d lie to a clearly evil person who is trying to do me harm.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

I would like us all to spend less time at school and more time together. I have toyed with the idea of taking a year off to sail around together as a family.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Bill Carlson, who was the first man with type 1 diabetes to complete an Ironman, back when insulin pumps were as big as a phone book. He opened up a whole world of endurance sports to those living with diabetes.

My husband Tony is also one of my heroes. He was born with bilateral clubfoot, which is a foot deformity that alters the way the foot moves, and flexes. Doctors told him he shouldn’t run, that he would probably be in a wheelchair by the time he was thirty, and that he would be in constant pain for the rest of his life. He just finished Ironman Arizona in November. He is super disciplined in his training and diet, which is something I could use a lot more of. And he does all of this to set a good example for our son, who was also born with clubfoot. He also raises money for Miraclefeet to send doctors into third world nations to treat clubfoot.

What would you choose for your last meal?

Fish tacos and a huge soda on a sunny patio next to the ocean.

What are you looking forward to right now?

The release of my first book, Islands and Insulin, in February 2013. It’s the story of the four-day solo sailing trip I took in 2011, and about living with diabetes. It’s a project I have been working on for three years, and it is so exciting to see all the hard work finally paying off.

All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

1Dr Pepper is a registered trademark of Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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