October 4, 2013 Facebook Twitter Linkedin

A year ago, the last thing on Kayla Brown’s mind was mountain climbing.  Now, she can boast being part of the elite club who have successfully made it to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  No one is more surprised than Kayla on this new chapter of her life story as a young adult living with Type 1 diabetes.

“I wasn’t even a camper,” she laughs.  “I had never camped, hiked,” she admits.  But when the offer came for her to be part of the World Diabetes Team, a selected group of 14 adults from around the world, to climb the famous Tanzanian peak, she didn’t hesitate to say yes.  “It was like it was meant to be,” says the fourth year English student at King’s. 

The story started back in 2009 when Kayla was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 18.  Struggling to understand this new challenge in her life, she found a “diabetic pen pal” online: Krystal from Barbados.  The two enjoyed online chatting and exchanging hand written letters. This spring, Krystal was chosen for the World Diabetes Team.  Hearing they wanted a Canadian to join the group, Krystal got Kayla on board.  “This was the first time we could actually meet in person, so we were very excited about that,” says Kayla.

Little did the young women know how much more the trip would become.  Sponsored by Sanofi, a large pharmaceutical company based in France, the trip was documented by a film crew.  Kayla also blogged about it via kaylaslifenotes.blogspot.ca and now she plans to write a book about the adventure.  After a few short months of mental and physical preparation, Kayla flew to Tanzania on August 27, 2013.  With the assistance of Nature Discovery guide group, the team was carefully equipped with special foods, water, medical supplies and had the assistance of medical doctors who were also diabetics.  Kayla and Krystal joined a group of people from Belgium, Australia, France, Brazil and the United States for the climb.  After five days they reached the summit – with Kayla being the first of the group to reach the top.

“It felt great.  Obviously, I had moments along the mountain where I didn’t feel great.  But, all in all, I thought it would be worse.  I needed a lot of self-talk, which really helped me through.”

She managed to keep her diabetes in check despite challenges with blood sugar drops because of the long stretches of activity.  Kayla’s only problem was losing a toenail from her big toe during the two day decent after having some problems with her boots.  She returned to London on September 7th and was back at King’s to start her fourth year of English on September 9th.

“Now, I really appreciate the experience.  It was so overwhelming and intense while we were on the mountain.  The adrenaline had really kicked in.  Now, I know that I’ll never say no to trying things.”

During her student career, Kayla was also the President of the Western Diabetes Association.  She also runs her own social group for young people with diabetes in London. In December, she will attend the International Diabetes Federation World Congress, representing Canada, in Australia.