As the expression goes - "you've come a long way baby" - the "you" here is diabetes which has indeed come a long, long way from the time back in 1552 BC Egypt when a physician imprinted on papyrus a condition of frequent urination. The Chinese, Indians and Persians also had their say about this condition. The ancient Greeks and Romans gave it a name - diabetes, from the Greek meaning to siphon or pass through and the Latin word mellitus, for honeyed or sweet. The name diabetes mellitus has withstood the test of time, although there was a period in the 17th century when diabetes mellitus was commonly called "pissing evil". The cures during those ancient times were - well let's not even go there - except to say that most of them were brutal and barbaric. However there was one cure that the ancient Greek physicians prescribed - exercise, notably horseback riding, as a way to alleviate frequent urination caused by diabetes. Exactly how and if this worked who knows since there doesn't seem to be any more documentation about it. The one thing we do know from medical history at that time is that there was no awareness of variations in blood glucose levels and the impact of exercise.
As decades and centuries slipped by and numbers of cases of diabetes increased, science and research stuck with it and great strides were made in understanding the condition and treating it. Perhaps future generations who learn the history of diabetes will wonder how we in the 21st. century could have been so barbaric doing things like blood letting multiple times a day as we pricked our fingers? Yikes!
Fade to Black
In 1940 an organization was formed by twenty-eight physicians called the American Diabetes Association. In 1948 they published a magazine called Forecast. National Diabetes Week was established in November of that same year. It became National Diabetes month and continues today to bring worldwide awareness and recognition to diabetes. There are many diabetes organizations in today’s’ world. We like to form organizations for a number of reasons: to bond, to kvetch, for support and to make the diabetes world a better place to live in. We’ll save talking about the many arms and outreaches of diabetes that abound in 2013 for another column but let’s go back to that horseback riding moment prescribed by the Greeks.
There is a woman named Camille Izlar who I’d like to introduce you to today. Camille is a T1 equestrian who has lived with diabetes for over forty years. The diabetes community became her focal point since college days when she worked at a diabetes summer camp teaching children how to manage their diabetes. At the time she was on her way to medical school but felt so inspired by the work at camp that she changed course to a career in diabetes education. After achieving a psychology degree from the University of Virginia, Camille went on to amass an impressive list of degrees and certifications, MS, RD, CDE, and BC-ADM (board certified in Advanced Diabetes Education).
As a young girl Camille’s parents encouraged her to play sports and be athletic since her T1 diagnosis at age eight. She rode her bicycle and ran around like any eight-year old but when she turned ten she started riding horses and for her thirteenth birthday Camille’s parents surprised her with her very own horse, Tom Terrific. It was then that she began competing in the sport of Eventing. Eventing consists of dressage (ballet on horseback), cross country jumping (jumping 12-16 obstacles over a 2-3 mile course) and stadium jumping (jumping fences in a standard ring). Riding had many positive effects on her life. Besides the rigors of being in shape physically for competition and keeping her blood sugars well controlled, there was the joy and responsibility of nurturing another creature. It was a great motivational tool for Camille. Throughout her high school years she competed and worked in the barn to help pay for the upkeep of Tom Terrific.
As time went on there were many ups, downs and changes in Camille’s life. There were periods of time when she wasn’t able to be around her beloved sport of riding but she always kept active running and doing other sports to keep her diabetes in check. These days she is back in the saddle again riding, training and competing as she keeps up a full, rich and responsible life. To have diabetes, to live with it as part of who you are, then jump that hurdle, that fence and dedicate yourself to teach and counsel others how to manage their diabetes takes a strong bright light that glows from within this enlightened diabetes educator. She teaches by example that you can do anything just be sure you are prepared because sometimes there are bumps in the road. Camille cautions "don't turn the bumps into mountains." This little bit of Camille’s very interesting story is excerpted from the book The Sisterhood of Diabetes.
MO TO MOVE TIP
If Camille’s story has set a spark in you, Fall is a great time to for horseback riding. Find a friend to go with you. Proceed with caution and have a great ride. Fall is also a time for terrific colorful super foods worth adding to your seasonal diet. Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, butternut squash, kale, apples, cranberries and brussel sprouts. Yum!