Sunday, December 6, 2009

Celebrating Diabetes

Celebrating my one-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes probably seems strange to most people. How can being told that you have an auto-immune disease for which there is no cure, you will have to take insulin several times a day for the rest of your life and you'll need to check your blood sugars constantly - be any reason to celebrate. Let me make it simple - TRIABETES.

Shortly after being diagnosed, my wife Carlene found out about a group of Type 1 diabetics who had raced Ironman Wisconsin in 2008. The Triabetes captains each also mentored a young Type 1 (triabuddies) and in doing so inspired everyone who heard about their story. Fast forward to March 2009 when I was lucky enough to attend Diabetes Training Camp in Tucson with the 2009 Triabetes captains (some of who had been on the original 2008 team). Attending camp and meeting those athletes changed my life - from a diabetic, athletic and personal perspective. After that, both my wife and I followed the months of training - struggles and triumphs -of those captains preparing for Ironman Arizona in November. Along the way we encountered other Type 1 athletes on the Phrendo network and the camaraderie and sense of unity grew. When I completed my first Ironman in September - even though I was in Wisconsin with just my family, the support of other Type 1's involved with Triabetes was shared via twitter and really made me feel part of something bigger.

The weekend of November 22nd Carlene and I travelled to Tempe, Arizona. It was an unbelievable way to celebrate diabetes. On the Saturday morning we went to the Valley Art Theatre to watch the premiere of the Triabetes documentary. It was an emotional experience to watch the journey that those athletes had taken in 2008 preparing for and racing Ironman Wisconsin. I couldn't help but relive my past year and my time in Madison. Afterwards we attended a reception where I was able to meet up with those I had met in Tucson and wish them well for their race the next day. The support of all the families and friends in the room was evident and I was so happy that we had made the decision to come to Tempe and cheer them on in person.

Race day was incredible. We arrived just before the start of the swim. It was my first time witnessing as a spectator the thrill of seeing over 2500 people swimming at once. My adrenaline was pumping and my heart went out to all the Triabetes athletes - especially those who had been concerned with the swim portion of the race. We found a place to watch the athletes coming out of the water and cheered wildly as we watched each teammate come through. We stayed there until the swim cutoff time 2 hours and 20 minutes later - - Carlene's eyes welled up with tears when we realized that one of the Triabetes athletes hadn't made the cutoff. She had been particularly moved by his blog posts throughout the past months, chronicling his determination to swim well enough to complete that portion of the race. Even though his race was cut short when he was just ten minutes from the swim finish, his story is one that touched us most.

The next fourteen hours were a roller coaster of excitement as we tried to catch every glimpse we could of the 14 athletes on the course. We met up with Peter Nerothin, who showed us where the Triabetes support tent was along the race course. We kept going back there to check the whiteboard they had on display -charting everyone's progress with time and blood sugars. It really was amazing how all the friends and family members kept texting in their updates so that we all knew how the race was progressing for everyone. Later we stayed with the group at the tent and waited for each athlete to pass us along the run course. At one point I was able to lend my meter so that Kevin could check his sugar, and later when we noticed John needed help, I ran to get him some GU, while another supporter got him some Smarties. We stayed with him for ten or fifteen minutes while his sugar stabilized. It was another reminder of how much we all support each other -both on and off the course.

At the end of the day, when all had crossed the finish line, it truly was a celebration of diabetes. I've never felt more a part of a team as I did that day in Tempe. We all have the same diagnosis to live with, and we will continue to prove that we won't let Type 1 stop us.

Congratulations again to everyone on their phenomenal races!

1 comment:

  1. Saci,
    That is an incredible write up. I'm glad we're on the same team and you are a complete inspiration on how you have dealt with being a T1 in your first year. Congrats to you on all of your wonderful accomplishments this year!