Diabetes Forecast

The Photographer: Lisa Seaman McKendry

Snapping photos while skiing the backcountry and climbing peaks

By Tracey Neithercott , , ,
Lisa Seaman McKendry

Lisa Seaman McKendry
Photograph by David Clifford

I love the idea of inspiring people, through some of the experiences I’ve had, to get out more and test their limits more.
—Lisa Seaman McKendry

Snapping photos doesn’t sound like an adventure sport—unless you’re capturing shots while climbing Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, or skiing the Canadian backcountry. Those are just two of the experiences Lisa Seaman McKendry has had as an adventure photographer.

A nature lover since childhood, Seaman McKendry, 38, gravitated toward a career that would allow her to stay active and motivate others to do the same. “I love the idea of inspiring people, through some of the experiences I’ve had, to get out more and test their limits more,” she says.

Seaman McKendry tests her own limits along with her blood glucose: She’s lived with type 1 for 18 years, but says it doesn’t affect her hunger for adventure. “Theoretically, [managing diabetes] would be easier if I were doing the exact same thing, eating the exact same thing,” she says. “But that’s not the lifestyle I want.”

 To maintain her active lifestyle, Seaman McKendry must keep her blood glucose in range between trips and prepare for excursions well in advance. “The more remote you are, the longer the preparations take,” she says. She’s no stranger to isolated locations: One of her last big adventures was a group ski trip to an area of Canada so remote that the team arrived by helicopter.

Before such adventures, Seaman McKendry makes a spreadsheet of diabetes supplies she’ll need, including her CGM, multiple meters, a couple of insulin pumps, syringes, insulin, energy bars, and extra glucose. “I always have a backup of everything, and backups of backups,” she says. “You don’t want to be days from civilization and not have supplies.”

During trips, Seaman McKendry checks her blood glucose more often—about six to 10 times a day, and that’s while wearing a CGM—and makes sure the group understands how to use glucagon in an emergency. “I’ve gone low at some point during every activity I’ve done,” she says. “A lot of times when you’re doing these activities, you don’t feel the low because you’re already sweating. You’re already tired.”

Through the years, Seaman McKendry has learned new signs of hypoglycemia. When she’s at the back of the pack, she knows there’s a good chance her blood glucose is low. Keeping blood glucose steady isn’t easy, but it’s doable, she says. “It takes extra discipline and preparedness and diligence to keep you and your teammates safe,” says Seaman McKendry.

And safety—for herself and others—is Seaman McKendry’s top priority: “I don’t want to be the one to ruin the trip, and I don’t want to put anyone in danger because I didn’t plan properly.”

Where she stashes supplies depends on the trip. When she’s ski mountaineering (climbing a mountain, then skiing downhill), Seaman McKendry takes care to keep insulin close to her body so it doesn’t freeze. On a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, she was more concerned with keeping it cool and dry. “I went as far as putting my insulin on different rafts so if we had a flip I wouldn’t lose everything,” she says.

With a newborn son, Seaman McKendry is staying near her Golden, Colo., home for a while, but she keeps active by mountain biking and trail running. “I’m kind of an outdoor junkie,” she says. “And I know I feel better, that my blood sugar is better, if I exercise.”

Safety Note

Talk to your doctor to make sure engaging in extreme sports is reasonably safe for you.



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