Welcome to my attempt at Diabetes Blog Week 2014. I signed up for Diabetes Blog Week to become a part of the larger diabetes online community and provide some inspiration for some interesting topics. So that being said, let’s get started! We kick the week off with the topic post – “Change the World”. Or, in other words, what causes am I passionate about, what gets me fired up? Well, judging from the title of this blog, I think one of the main causes that gets me fired up is physical activity. But it’s more than that. Physical activity is just one of the many ways that diabetics can wrest back control from this disease. What I truly am passionate about is becoming an empowered diabetic and helping other people develop the energy and the ability to take control of this disease.
I refuse to subscribe to a victim mentality. But I wasn’t always this way. In fact, I was the poster child of someone with a victim mentality. I ate poorly, I rarely exercised, I had poor control and I actually used my diabetes as an excuse at times. One of my favourite climbing books is “The Rock Warriors Way” by Arngo Ilgner. It’s a wonderful book on realizing your mental boundaries and pushing past them. It’s a wonderful treatise for the mental aspects of rock climbing, but many of the lessons in it can be applied to everyday life and the challenges we face. The chapter on “Accepting Responsibility” really spoke to me. Here’s one gold nugget, “In Accepting Responsibility, you will use your attention – your power – to cut through delusions and misconceptions in the situation facing you, replacing them with useful facts and an empowered approach.” So much of this chapter speaks to me as someone living with a chronic disease and not just a rock climber trying to figure out how to deal with issues of imminent mortality on the sharp end of the rope. This quote, to me, says it all, “The most passive of all delusions is victim thinking. We pretend that so much misfortune has befallen us that we can no longer be held responsible for taking charge of our lives and improving our situations.” When I read that chapter, I was gob smacked. It hit home. It wasn’t an overnight shift (more like several years), but I began to work on taking responsibility for my actions, empowering myself as a diabetic, and to stop making excuses and start taking action. All of a “sudden” I felt like I had wrested control of this disease and my future back into my own hands. How did this happen?
I started become truly aware of my poor control. I had all the tools in the world to manage this disease. So why couldn’t I? I was FILLED with excuses – “I don’t have time” – but I still watched TV and played video games. “It’s hard” – but I never tried more than once. So I started incorporating more things into my lifesetyle – I was already climbing at the time, but we started pushing our limits more, and took up outdoor climbing. We got hiking more, and even though I feared the low’s at time, I stopped using those as an excuse to eat more, and started adjusting my insulin management to better plan. I started taking ownership and adapting. I empowered myself, rather than making excuses. I started noticing I was enjoying physical activity more and more, and adapting my diet to help with optimal performance. It’s easier to climb when you have less weight to pull up. 🙂 I started finding that anytime I sat down to watch TV I felt guilty. I felt like “I should be moving”. Video games began to feel like the biggest waste of time I ever took part in (Note: I still play an IPad game every now and again 😉 ). That’s around the time I started adding new activities – running, cycling, swimming, you name it. But as any diabetic will tell you, a new sport is just another opportunity to ride a roller coast of high’s and lows. And it was frustrating.
And this is the point of this post – what am I passionate about – well, around this time I found the community of diabetics. I discovered the power of “the village”. I learned how fellow diabetics can empower each other to help ease the fear and confusion around exercise. You see, as I got into cycling I met a great group of folks. These were the Dallas-Fort Worth Red Riders. A “Red Rider” is a diabetic cyclist in the many American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure events. It’s a wonderful gesture to recognize every one of us – it’s emotional seeing so many people in red, out there, doing their part to fight the disease for themselves and others. The DFW Red Rider’s would organize training rides to help out other diabetics. For me, it was the very first time I interacted with another group of diabetics and it was a truly gratifying experience. People would talk about blood sugars. Stops would be made to test. Dosing strategies were shared just as frequently as sugar pills and stinger waffles. This was a pivotal moment for me – I was so inspired by it that I changed from being a recreational cyclist on a hybrid to a full fledged roadie. 🙂
I hope to some day have a guest post from my true inspiration and mentor, Lew Alexander, who drove me to my first training ride, but suffice to say that active diabetics helping out each other is what I am passionate about. Lew showed me how to take that passion and channel it into advocacy. I learned so much from all my newfound diabetic friends – it helped me not just participate, but excel.
My wife and I became involved with the ADA – she volunteered and organized the food for the 2013 TdC, feeding over 1200 riders and families, while I rode in two (supposed to be 3, Houston rescheduled for weather) TdC’s to get the message out, all the while raising over 6500$ for the cause. We believed in the TdC because of the message – physical activity is a corner stone for a life well lived. And me? I lost weight, I got way better control, I became active in the local diabetic community, and I just felt like I had a better life.
At the end of 2013 we moved back to Canada. We are happily located in St. John’s, Newfoundland. We’ve traded tornados for fog, sweltering 100F weather for rain and drizzle. We love it here. However, the support groups that I had become a part of in DFW had not quite evolved yet. However, I’ve luckily met some wonderful diabetics (Penney, Allison, Ashley, Morgan, Megan) who I who have come out on weekly training runs to help inspire an active lifestyle. This branched off from work Penney was doing to make a Type 1 Diabetic Adults Networking/Support group. These efforts have been phenomenal, and I’m so glad to have met these wonderful individuals. I am very passionate about these efforts, and I will continue to pursue them and hopefully make a dent in Newfoundland’s diabetes stats – which are unfortunately not good (highest per capita diabetes rate in the country). Still, the efforts of these people give me hope that we can start something big!
So what am I passionate about? Taking ownership of this disease, wresting control back, and realizing we have the power to conquer it all. We can’t all run across Canada like my newfound idol and fellow Canadian T1 diabetic, Sebastian Sassesville, but we can choose to get off the coach and walk around the block, jog a 5k, or hell, train up to run across the country. You can wake up each day and say “I’m going to succeed” or “I’m going to fail”, and either way you’d be right. You are what you want to be. What I am passionate about is helping people get to that mental state where they know they can make a positive impact on this disease and start the thrive in their own individual ways.