Just when I thought I knew everything about living with diabetes, just when I thought, “Hey, I’m pretty good at what I do. I certainly eat well, exercise every single day, my attitude is in good perspective, my last A1c was 5.9, and I love my pump. I’m OK,” I learn something new.
It was when I volunteered to edit a quarterly newsletter called The DESA Challenge for the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association that I began to see yet another level of diabetes care. The stories and articles people sent me really turned my head around. Athletes and achievers who not only accept the challenge of diabetes but as the song goes in Man of LaMancha “reach for the unreachable star” are the norms in this organization. Extraordinary mountain climbers, boxers, master swimmers, iron men and women, triathlon competitors, cross country cyclists, cross country walkers, marathon runners, river raft adventurers, and Olympic contenders in cross country skiing and rowing, to mention a few. Wow!
This elite group seems to possess a background drive that catapults them into a state of focus and single-mindedness of purpose beyond the capacity of most mortals’ imagination. It’s as though they’re saying, “Diabetes, yeah, just watch what I can do because you’re coming with me!” Some in this group are inspired by the noble mission of encouraging other diabetics to reach for the top of their potential, despite diabetes. Some just do it for themselves. It is quite fortifying and gratifying to have such leaders walk among us to inspire and motivate.
I recently spoke with Chris Jarvis, a 23-year-old engineering student from Victoria, Canada who has made final cuts for the Canadian Olympic rowing team and will be rowing in the prestigious 2-man boat and going for the gold in Athens this month. Watch for him. He told me a little about his grueling practice schedule and I could hear his fine-tuned determination between the words. Chris has had type 1 diabetes for over 10 years. He talked about how difficult it is at times to keep blood sugars within the target range during practice and competition. But he understands how to live with and treat diabetes, partly because he lived with it even before he was diagnosed. Chris’ older sister has type 1 diabetes also.
He is very philosophical for such a young man. He does his very best to make his family and his country proud of his achievements in rowing. He hopes to win gold but understands that things can happen at any level. He is honored that he can be a roll model for young people with diabetes.
After speaking with Chris Jarvis, I wanted to go out and row! I called a friend who has a canoe and we went paddling on the Manasquan River in New Jersey for an entire morning. It felt great. Good exercise. Fresh air. It made me feel how lucky we are to live in a time when we have so much information about diabetes at hand. The importance of exercise is an area that is finally becoming recognized as an integral part of diabetes care.
My bg level was 135 at the start of the canoe trip. After an hour of paddling, I tested and it had dropped to 85. Exercise is a terrific tool to use daily. So is blood glucose monitoring.
When we pulled the canoe out of the water we were very hungry and dashed home thinking tuna fish. What inspired tastes could we make with a few cans of tuna for a delectable summer lunch on the front porch? Stop by Cyber Kitchen to learn what we ate and how to make it.